Saturday, May 21, 2016

2016 Ravenswood Run 5k Recap

My recap of this year's Ravenswood Run is much later than usual, coming almost a full month after the race, but I wanted to make sure that I got it posted, as the Ravenswood Run is one of my favorite races for a few reasons:

1. It has always been well run and organized.
2. It is a nice flat course that is entirely on city streets.
3. It has a lovely start time of 8am, so I don't have to wake up at the crack of dawn.
4. It is in my neighborhood, so I can walk to the race instead of taking the train/bus.

This year was my third year running the race, and it was, as usual, a really lovely race. My body wasn't too happy with my efforts, as I experienced more than usual discomfort during the race, but I still enjoyed myself. 

Packet pick up was a quick and easy affair. I stopped by Fleet Feet's Lincoln Square location (packet pick up was also available at the Old Town and Lakeview locations), said hello to all the friendly faces I know from spending way too much time at Fleet Feet, made my way upstairs, and left a few minutes later with my race bib, shirt, and clear gear check bag.

Although I was once again disappointed at gender specific colors for the shirts (men's shirts were grey and women's shirts were purple), I was pleased that at least this year's shirt wasn't bright pink. I really dig the purple color and the overall design and fit of the shirt. It is 52% cotton, however, so I don't think I'll be wearing it as much for running as previous years' shirts. It is shaping up to be more of a running errands and/or the occasional gym shirt than a running shirt.

The day of the race, I woke up, had a quick breakfast, got dressed, grabbed my previously packed gear check bag, and started the walk over to the race site at Wilson and Hermitage. It was a gorgeous day! The sun was shining, there was a light and pleasant breeze, and the forecast called for a low in the 50s and a high in the 70s. I actually found myself wishing that I had opted for shorts and a tank top instead of the capris and short sleeved shirt that I was wearing.

Once a the race site, I made use of the port-o-potties, threw my jacket into my gear check bag, and scoped out the area.

The great thing about a neighborhood race is seeing a ton of friendly faces. There were plenty of ladies from Chick's Night running that morning, as well as some of my friends from Chicago Endurance Sports.

When it was announced that it was almost time to start, I made my over to gear check. This was my first time utilizing gear check at the Ravenswood Run. Being so close to home means that I usually don't have any unnecessary items with me, but I was planning on doing my grocery shopping on the walk home from the race, so I had a few extra items with me this time. Gear check was quick and painless. The folks staffing it were fast and efficient and generally awesome, wishing everyone a good race.

Start corrals were self seeded, but they had placed handy estimated pace signs along the street to attempt to help people find the right starting position. There were repeated announcements to find your way to the area closest to your estimated pace and for walkers and those pushing strollers to start at the back of the pack.

I found my way over the start line, and lined up for what should have been a good but conservative 5k pace for me. I was planning to run somewhere between 9 and 9:30 per mile. Though I really wanted to PR, I knew when I woke up that morning that a PR just wasn't in the books for me that day. I had been slacking off on my speed work and generally not feeling that great, so my primary goal was to simply to finish in less than 30 minutes.

After opening announcements and the national anthem, the race began. As usual, there was a lot of weaving during the first half mile. I tried to stay to one of the sides to minimize weaving, as the bulk of the crowd around me seemed to be keeping fairly center.

Unfortunately, I made the classic mistake of going out too fast. I hit mile 1 in 8:36, which I knew was not a pace that I was going to be able to maintain, as my body was already rebelling. My lungs were already burning, my legs were already tired (partly because I did my long run the day before), and I had a side stitch. One day I'll be able to do 8:30s, but that day was not this day.

I slowed down to a more comfortable pace and focused on my breathing. When I hit the aid station, I slowed down to a brisk walk and grabbed a cup of water from one of the friendly volunteers before falling back into a comfortable 9:30 pace.

We turned on to Lincoln Ave, ran by the Fleet Feet store, where staff were all gathered outside to cheer on the runners, before we hit the mile 2 marker and were in final third of the race.

As we turned on to Lawrence, I had to pull over to the side to stop and tie my shoe, which another runner had thankfully pointed out had come untied. I was feeling good, despite mile 1 being too fast and briefly entertained the idea of speeding up to try for a PR before my body once again began to rebel.

My stomach started to churn right as we turned and started heading down Damen. We were so close to the end of the race! I tried to breathe and fight through it. I haven't had to walk during a 5k in over a year, but I realized that I would rather walk for a minute or two than throw up in front of everyone. I once again pulled over to the side and slowed to a walk and focused on taking deep breaths. Right before the final turn, I began to run again, as there was no way that I was going to cross the finish line walking.

Making my way down Wilson, I tried to pick up the pace as I kept my eyes on the finish line. I gave one final burst of speed to make it over the finish and was just happy to be done. I slowed down, grabbed the first bottle of water that I could, and tried to get my breathing and my stomach under control. I hadn't felt that sick and shaky after finishing a race in a long time, so I found a shady spot to sit for a minute while I sipped some cold water. Luckily, it didn't take too long to start feeling better, and I was able to grab my bag and visit with some friends, one of whom was beaming after snagging a new PR.

Once my stomach was no longer churning, I visited the most popular tent at the race site: the post race cinnamon rolls!

Let's be honest. Everyone really runs this race for the cinnamon roll at the finish. I didn't buy the optional pancake breakfast this year, but there were plenty of folks who were enjoying their breakfasts, the proceeds for which benefited our neighborhood's food pantry.

My last stop before leaving was the kids' race. It doesn't matter the race, if there is a kids' race before or after, then I want to watch. I love seeing the looks of joy on the kids' faces as they run. They aren't running to lose weight or hit a PR, they are running because it is fun, and that is always a refreshing thing to see.

I really enjoyed running the Ravenswood Run again this year, even though my run was plagued by problems. I learned a lot from those problems that I can use in the future. For example, I will be much more careful about not going out too fast in the future. I also need to start running more by how I feel and stop paying so much attention to my watch.

Although I now find myself gravitating towards longer distances, I do love a good 5k. It makes for a quick and fun race, and I love that the 5k distance gives me a chance to see what I can do in terms of speed, though I can't continue skipping my speed work if I ever want to get a new PR. I know that I am capable of more. I just have to put in the work.

I finished the race this year in 28:31, which gave me an average pace of 9:11. Though not a PR, I'm extremely happy with my time. Because I run this race every year, it serves as a really good marker of the progress that I've made. My first Ravenswood Run was completed in 35:22.  Last year, I finished in 33:39. So this year's 28:31 feels pretty great.

I look forward to running the Ravenswood Run again next year. Maybe I'll be able to drop that finish time a little lower.

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