Running pic

Running pic
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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Lake Mills, WI Tyranena Beer Run recap

I have to say that I run a ton of races in Wisconsin.  They usually have lower entry fees, they are always on a course that I don’t train on, the people seem to be nicer (sorry Chicagoans) and less pushy, and I enjoy making a weekend out of a race.

That said, I ran the Tyranena Half-Barrel Beer Run on Saturday – here’s my recap:

Registration: I had heard that this race sells out quickly so I made it a point to stalk the registration page around the time that they said it would open up and I’m pretty sure I registered on the first day.  I signed up for the half-marathon distance and signed my husband up for the shorter race. It was through so there were some irritating fees, but it went smoothly. I think it was something like $58+fees.

The weekend: The race gets you a discount at a motel somewhere nearby but I thought it would be more fun to stay at a B&B so I found a really nice one walking distance from the brewery and from downtown Lake Mills. We drove up on Friday night – it takes about 2 hours – checked inot the B&B and headed into town for a fish fry. Usually I’d be adverse to eating somewhat greasy dinner, but the race had a late start so I wasn’t too concerned.

Race morning: There was another couple staying at the B&B who were running the race and the B&B owners made a special carb-load breakfast that was just perfect – a baked pancake: pancake batter poured over chopped breakfast ham into a baking dish and then sprinkled with shredded cheese on top. Served hot with maple syrup it was DELICIOUS. Plenty of coffee, water, orange juice and whole wheat bagels completed the offering.

Packet-pick-up: They started at 9:30am so we opted to drive over about 9:45. We were early enough to snag a parking place in what can only be described as a VIP lot – the closest parking to the race site. Originally we had thought of driving to get the packet, driving back to the B&B and changing into running clothes and then walking back, but our primo space and the lack of gear check changed our plans. We opted to leave the car after pick-up and walk back to the B&B (10 min. at most), change and then walk back. Since just about everyone drives to this event they don’t have a gear check – people just leave their stuff in their cars. It was cold enough that I knew I’d want my heavy coat and a pair of sweatpants after the race so it made sense to leave the car there so we could leave warm clothes in it.  
Pre-race: There were about 900 runners for the half (which started an hour before the shorter race) and the line up was orderly and not too crowded.  We actually started about a minute early by my Garmin which was fine.

The course: Very nice – but a little hilly.  The first half of the race went mostly around Rock Lake which was very scenic: pretty lake, nice colors on the trees, beautiful lake houses. This was the hilly portion of the race – nothing absolutely brutal but it did slow me down a little. The second half of the race was mostly on the Glacial Drumlin Path and it was almost totally flat and very shady which made it kind of cold. My second half was way better than my first – my first 10K split was something like 59:02 which is kinda sucky until I factored in the hills.  I finished in 2:02 so I was pretty happy – if it had been a flat course I might have squeaked under 2 hours! There were four water/porta-potty stops on the course stocked with water and Gatorade, but no gel was given out – a fact that was mentioned in their e-mails so I assume most runners planned for that and if not a local running store had a tent up selling last minute supplies – gloves, hats, gels, etc.

Post race: after crossing the timing mats you were directed to a tent where you were blanketed with a mylar wrap (the first race I’ve had this and it was really great) and went through a food line with bananas, peanut butter sandwiches, packets of cheese, cookies, water and Gatorade and then a volunteer handed you your medal .

Post race party: this is why you do this race.  2 beer tickets for a Tyrenea brew of your choice – I had a Rocky’s Revenge and a Sheep Shagger and both were delicious.  You also got a lasagna lunch: salad (mostly iceberg – but that’s pretty common in Wisconsin), meat or b├ęchamel sauce lasagna, and a garlic breadstick. The lines were very well managed – beers were being pre-poured from the taps and put by variety on banquet tables and then a volunteer would retrieve the beer of your choice.  The lunch line was equally efficient with self-serve salad and volunteers dishing out squares of lasagna and a breadstick. The lunch was held inside a huge tent with rows of banquet tables and chairs and while it was a little chilly hundreds of hot runners managed to bring the air up to a reasonably warm temperature.

Additional festivities: Tyranena had a booth with beer specials – a flat $7 for six-packs of their regular beers or four-packs of their specialty beers – that’s a pretty good deal.  They also had specials on their logo apparel.

I’m absolutely going to put this race on my calendar for next year – I had a great time and it was a really nice getaway weekend.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pumpkins in the Park 5K recap

I was thinking that I wouldn’t be back with a race report until next week after the Tyranena Beer Run ½ Barrel – I forgot completely about Pumpkins in the Park!  I’ll just do a quickie recap for you all.

Registration: Full disclosure – I do some work helping to promote the Chicago area Fleet Feet stores so I usually get a code to register for their branded races either for free or for a pretty major discount. I actually paid full price for this race because I wanted to get my registration in early because I asked them to assign me the number 666 so I could indulge in my devilish ways. Registration was easy and on-line.

Packet Pick-up: Very easy.  It was held at all three Fleet Feet locations and when I went there was no line.

Shirt: A long-sleeved cotton ‘lifestyle’ t-shirt – black with a cute Halloween themed logo on the front and a minimally logoed back – just the FF logo and the Chicago Park District logo. As is the case with most shirts it ran a little small, but more on the fitted side less on the obscenely tight side so it’s ok – I’ll probably wear it to work on Halloween.

Getting there: I was going to take the bus with my friend Becky, but we decided to drive to avoid waiting at cold bus stops.  We were pretty early so we didn’t have much trouble finding free parking close to Lincoln Park Zoo.

What I wore: It is a costume race although I’ve never run it in a costume before, but since I had #666 I had to go all out. I bought a devil costume on eBay (think Jon Lovitz as the Devil on SNL) that consisted of a fabric hood with horns, a cape, and a pin-on tail.  This was perfect as it allowed me to wear regular running clothes underneath – I wore a pair of old Nike full-length black tights and a black long-sleeved tech-t from a race that I turned inside out to hide the logos. I wore my Adidas Boost shoes which I frankly don’t really like running in, but they are all black so they completed the look.  Since it was chilly I wore my Smartwool knitted glove liners. Since I didn’t want to wear any kind of make-up that would sweat away and into my eyes I wore a pair of zany cats-eye sunglasses.

Pre-Race: We had our IDs checked so that we could get our post-race beer without any hassles, walked around and visited with a few friends and then headed to the Farm in the Zoo to stay warm. 

The race: They changed the course up a little this year and it was way better.  I had run 10 miles in the morning so I knew that I was just going to be treating this as a jog with a friend – I almost ripped off my timing tag but really, who cares – not me! We started at the back and although it was crowded it did open up enough that we could pass people when we needed to. There were some annoying strollers and weaving kids, but it is billed as a family friendly race so that was to be expected. I have to admit that I was hurting from the 10 miles so even if I wanted to bust a move and run fast there was no way it was going to happen.  I have got to remember to stretch after long runs – the older I get the more important this seems to be. Running in costume presented a couple of issues.  The hood made my head really hot – lucky it was a chilly day or I’d have been a sweaty mess.  I had to hold each side of the cape in my hands so that it didn’t strangle me and I would up having to grab my tail and hold it too since it had the unfortunate habit of coming between my legs and looking very much like a penis – plus it was threatening to trip me. But, since it was only a 5K it was no biggie – I figure I can suck it up and do or wear most anything for a half-hour.
Post-Race: The line for professional stretching was small so we each got stretched out and picked up our beers (Harvest Ale for me, Green Line for Becky). I didn’t eat any of the food, but it looked like there were packages of cookies, pretzels, and bananas – somewhere there was popcorn being given away too. We didn’t hang around for the Thriller dance-off or the costume contest because we were both pretty cold and I had a pumpkin carving party to get to.

Friday, October 25, 2013

New Glarus Knights Run Half-Marathon recap

I almost don’t want to write this review because I want this race to stay small and sort of like the best kept secret around, but then again with such a small turnout I also want to make sure that the race keeps happening because it was AWESOME!


A month or so ago I saw a listing for a half-marathon/5K in New Glarus, Wisconsin – The Knights Run.  I looked at the course map to make sure it was a trails race and not a road race because New Glarus has some hills that even my car doesn’t like to go up.  Trails it was, so I e-mailed a college friend/running buddy who lives in Janesville to see if she would do the race with me and provide housing for me for the weekend . Aided by a few factors: $30 entry fee, 9am start, and mostly flat course she agreed to sign up. My husband and I have been vacationing near New Glarus for over 10 years and we love so many things about the area: the beer, the Swiss-style restaurants, the beautiful trail system and the super-nice people and I was really excited to find a race up there.


Registration: I printed out the entry form and mailed it in with my check for $30 made out to the New Glaurs PTO. Adorable.


The drive up: I went up to Janesville on Friday night after work and thanks to a ‘secret’ route that kept me off of IL-90 I made it up there at 7pm.  My friend and I hustled off to a supper club for an amazing fish fry and I went for the full Wisconsin experience by having an Old Fashioned before dinner and a Pink Squirrel for dessert.  I was pretty pooped so we headed back to her house and I cozied up in her amazing guest room. Tip: keep the house cool but put flannel sheets on the guest bed.


Saturday: Probably not the best idea before a half, my friend took me to the barn where she boards her horse and we took a 45 minute lesson followed by a 15 minute cool-down in the pasture.  I knew this would kill my leg muscles, but it was so much fun to get a chance to ride again.  We had lunch at a great deli and hit a few resale shops (Goodwill & Threads) where I scored a real Armani sweater for $9.25. Again: I love Wisconsin. We also stopped by a local running store so I could buy a pair of gloves because the temperature was dropping pretty precipitously and managed to recruit the store owner to do the race as well.  We stopped back at the house to clean up and change and headed off to a party her friends were having called Porktoberfest (I’m totally appropriating that party theme/name for an Illinois version next year) where all manner of porky deliciousness was served.


What I wore to the race: It was obviously going to be colder than I thought and I consider myself lucky that I’m a chronic overpacker and had enough gear to layer up.  I didn’t have the foresight to pack tights or gloves, but I did have a pair of North Face capris and a pair of Zensah compression calf sleevesto go over them which kind of counts as tights anyway.  I wore a short sleeved Icebreaker shirt with a Nike ¼-zip over it. I used my new Saucony gloves and a bright orange Saucony baseball cap. I wore Balega socks and my Mizuno Wave Sayonaras.


Morning of: since the race didn’t start until 9am we didn’t have to leave Janesville until 7:30.  Naturally with much dawdling that turned into 7:45.  I was having some pretty major digestive distress – thank you Porktoberfest  now officially known as the worst pre-race meal of all time. My GPS, Judith, (what? you didn’t name your GPS?) said we’d arrive at 8:55 which seemed wrong but I still drove like a bat out of hell since I didn’t want to be late.  We wound up arriving at 8:35 so we were totally safe. The race started on a small street that runs between a park and the high school and there was plenty of parking in both the school and park lots.


Packet Pick-up: It was kind of a cluster-f. I’m not complaining – it was a small race so it was a very minor inconvenience that they seemed to have set up everything about 30 seconds before we got there and were sort of disorganized about how to distribute the packets.  I saw my packet and just plucked it out. Besides the bib there was a unisex cotton t-shirt that wasn’t horrible looking, a beef stick, and a bunch of coupons for local businesses.  They had hot chocolate available and they opened up the school so we could use the bathrooms (I was still in the throes of GI unhappiness – I took a couple of Immodium and luckily it solved the problem). The high school mascot – The Knight – was milling around doing a meet & greet and posing for pictures.


Start: spoiler alert: it didn’t start on time. At about 9:05 they started the kids race. About 20 kids ran out about .25 miles, around a cone, and then back.  They were adorable – one girl crossed the finsh line and got all weepy because they she didn’t win.  Oh girl – there aren’t enough tears. No fear, since this is modern day America all they kiddos got ribbons.  About 9:15 they gathered the half-marathonners (all 16 of us – I shit you not) and let us know some course specifics and set us loose. I believe they started the 5K about 10 minutes later after we had cleared the general area.


The course: it was an out-and-back that broke into three segments. Pt. 1 started behind the school and headed to a paved trail that runs alongside WI-69 – a little over 1-mile. Then we crossed WI-69 with the aid of a crossing guard and got on the Sugar River Trail. The SRT is a rails-to-trails project  so it’s mostly flat and has a crushed gravel surface that has seen some better days – most of the gravel is gone so it’s more like packed dirt – but it’s still pretty nice on the joints.  We stayed on the SRT for about 4 miles and then turned onto a small country road. We were on the road for about .25-mile and then turned on to the Badger State Trail another r-to-t project with a similar surface. This portion was a very slight uphill grade. Right before the turn around was an old .25-mile railroad tunnel that I know from bike rides is completely dark and has a pretty rough surface.  Cuteness alert: there was a volunteer standing right before the tunnel with a bucket of flashlights and they had thoughtfully placed LED puck lights every few feet inside the tunnel.  The turnaround was about 10-yards after the tunnel so once you were back through you just handed the flashlight back to the volunteer with the bucket. 


Water stops/bathrooms: There were 4 water stations on the way out, so the same 4 on the way back.  Each stop was manned by a pair of high school cross-country runners and they had water and a choice of Gatorade – red or blue.  Since this was truly a tiny race the Gatorade was from bottles – not the nasty stuff made from powder or concentrate. As you approached they would ask you if you wanted anything and what flavor of Gatorade you wanted – nice touch.  They used plastic cups – not my favorite because you can’t pinch the cup to drink from without breaking it – but that was a minor inconvenience.  Now what could have been a major inconvenience was the complete lack of porta-potties.  Not a single one.  However, there are ample places to dart off the trail into the bushes if you don’t have a problem with that and there was a cornfield on the road that connected the two trails. Thankfully the Immodium worked its magic and I didn’t have to try to find a secluded spot to relieve myself.


Awards: this was not a chip timed race (duh) and because it was so small there weren’t really age groups. I think they gave awards to the first man & first woman, but that was it. I came in 12th out of 16 total runners and I think 4th out of 7 women with a time of about 2:05-ish.


Post race: massages (no wait!), cheese sticks, beef jerkey, more beef sticks, cheese dip & crackers, orange slices, bananas, and mini sandwiches. The only thing missing was New Glarus beer but we remedied that by immediately heading to a local restaurant for lunch.


I would totally do this race again and I think you should do it next year too – I want them to keep having this race because it’s so much fun and has such a great small-town feel.  Here’s what I recommend: drive up on Saturday to explore the town and the brewery – it’s really beautiful. Book a room at the quaint Chalet Landhaus and have dinner at their excellent restaurant.  Don’t forget a swimsuit because they have a really nice indoor pool/whirlpool/sauna/steamroom (great for after the race!). Do the race and marvel at what a $30 race gets you in Wisconsin then eat at the Glarner Stube for lunch - order the house-made fried cheese curds. You will certainly have ingested more calories than you burned but it will be so completely worth it. Hit Roy’s Market on the way out of town (great selection of NG beer and slightly cheaper than the brewery) and be on your merry way.


I spoke to the ‘race director’ after the race – she was just a mom from the PTO – and suggested that they do just a little marketing next year. I told her to send out a few posters to running stores and sporting goods stores in surrounding towns and to market the race as the New Glarus Knights Tunnel Run because the tunnel was a really unique feature and runners love quirky features and gimmicks (at least I do).

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Madison Mini-Marathon recap

Despite being sorely undertrained I ventured up to Madison this past weekend to run the Madison Mini Marathon (really a half – why do they have to say it’s ‘mini’?). Here’s my thoughts on the race:

Registration: I wish I could remember – it was so long ago.  I do remember thinking it was cheap (compared to Chicago-area halfs). It was on-line so I’m sure it was pretty easy and standard.

Packet Pick-up: I hear the parking was a complete clusterf*ck. Luckily for me one of my fellow racers offered her husband as pick-up lackey.  He works in Madison so it wasn’t horrible for him, but he did mention that it took him awhile to find a spot to park.  Sadly this meant I missed the expo (because I am an total sucker for expo deals & steals) but if I had to pick up my packet I couldn’t have done this race because I’d have had to take Friday off work and I’m running out of the precious vacation days. They did have a will-call option for race day but I believe that it was extra $$.

Goody-bag: Not much here: a shirt that is OK but huge, and a drawstring bag. I suppose there weas stuff I could have bought at the expo, but again: didn’t go.

Getting to the race area: One of my college buddies offered to host me for Friday night – she lives in Janesville. I drove up using her secret route that kept me off of 90 and away from most of the construction and was actually fairly pleasant.

Dinner: We went to a place in Janesville called the Speakeasy and had an ill-advised pre-race dinner of fried cheese curds (what? You just can’t get them like that at home in Chicago!), a salad, pasta with a cheese sauce and a New Glarus Spotted Cow.  Not my finest moment as far as pre-race food goes, but the choices were kind of limited.

Getting to the race: We got up at 5am and each had a piece of peanut-butter toast and some coffee.  The coffee ‘worked’ for my friend but not me.  Wah, wah. Our ride showed up at 5:40 and we drove to Madison. The same husband who picked up our packets was our driver so he dropped the three of us off near the start and went to find parking. We got there about 6:30.  This is where my first bad thing happened.  When I got out of the car I shook off my jacket because we weren’t going to gear check.  I walked a half block away from the car and realized my iPod shuffle was in my jacket pocket. I hate running distance without music.  DOOMED!

Bathroom situation: Not good. Porta-potty lines were LONG, and it seems that Wisconsin racers don’t get the concept of the multiple lines for each bank of porta-potties with each line ‘in-charge’ of two or three porta-potties. So it was one long line for the whole bank. At least people were well behaved and no-one cut in line because my coffee had finally kicked in if you know what I mean – and I think you do.

Start area: I think we were in corrals G, H & I so we all stared in I so we could start together. The corrals weren’t heavily policed (or crowded) so we could have probably started anywhere except right up at the front.

The course: Absolutely beautiful. We ran past the UWM campus, their football stadium, the farmers market, the capital building, through the arboretum and next to the lake. Rolling hills but nothing that was too Alpine. I’d say 75% shaded. Luckily I ran with one my friend’s friend (now after two hours of running, my friend too) and she kept me company, but she also was running a tad bit slower than I could have mustered for the day (2nd bad thing to happen) and then I had to use the porta-potty again on course (3rd bad thing if you’re keeping track). This all equaled a time that was not my best but I’m fine with that – I have several more halves this season and I’m hoping for betting showings in those.

Post-race:  Short organized beer line for a large, draft, craft beer in a commemorative cup plus cookies, granola bars, bananas and Bucky Badger popcorn (2 flavors!). The post-race gathering spot was on the UWM terrace (apparently a hot spot in Madison) overlooking Lake Mendota.

I would absolutely do this race again – next weekend if I could.  It was that good.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Quickie Elvis is Alive 5K recap

I am such a fan of the Elvis is Alive 5K – it’s so nice to take a break and just run a race for the sake of running with friends and not worry about trying for a PR or reaching a time goal. I’ve done it for the past several years and here’s my experience this year:

Sign-up: Easy on-line sign-up. I signed up both my husband and myself with one checkout.

Packet Pick-up: Also easy if you are located near one of the Chicago Fleet Feet Stores. They had pick-up Mon., Tues, Wed. of this week – all nights where one store or the other has a fun run or chicks night run.

T-Shirt:  A stylish cotton-blend charcoal grey t-shirt with an Elvis logo that is more subtle than in the past few years – very nice and a shirt I will certainly wear. The ladies shirts ran small as seems to be the trend recently, but I was able to exchange my shirt on the spot for a larger size.

Getting there: Parking near Diversey Harbor is pretty crappy so I took public transport.  Brown Line to the Diversey bus – last stop dropped me right at ground zero for the race.

Pre-Race: Lots of people milling around but I managed to find the friends I was meeting up with. The Elvis impersonator was warming up with a few classic Elvis hits. Always great people watching at this race especially with all the people in full-Elvis costumes.  Plus,  it seems that there are a ton of non-racers/non regular runners that show up and some of what they wear is pretty baffling.

The Course: Crowded. I’m happy this was just a fun run – if I was busting a hump to get a PR or hit a goal time I’d have been pissed. Other than that the course was well thought out and has some nice turns to make things interesting. It did eventually thin out and I can blame some of the crowding on the fact that I waited a long time to get into a the coral and had to start pretty far back.

Post-Race: THE BEST. Fleet Feet was giving away award poker chips for the race in the previous few weeks so I had extra beer chips. Foodwise they had: peanut butter-banana sandwiches, Snyders pretzels, Clif Bar minis, bananas, and watermelon. They also had bottled water and Gatorade if you weren’t a beer drinker. Plus you get the free Elvis impersonator concert and it was such a nice night we all stuck around to listen for awhile. There were two food trucks there selling something, but my group had dinner plans for after so I didn’t investigate too closely – it was a nice touch though for hungry people who wanted to hang around for the festivities.

Yeah, it’s a crowded lakefront path race – but it’s not timed so you can just run for fun.  You might say, “hey, I can run the lakefront path for free any time I want to – why pay for an untimed race?” To that I say how often is your lonely run finished up at a party? 

Homestretch for Heroes 5K Recap

I am truly a sucker when it comes to running – I can almost never say no if someone asks me to do a race with them. My sister-in-law told me that she was doing the Homestretch for Heroes 5K at Arlington Park so of course I could not say no. I’ll admit I’m also a sucker for a good gimmick in a race and the prospect of getting to run a half-mile or so on the polytrack surface intrigued me. 

Sign-up: I missed on-line registration so I headed to packet pick-up at Runner’s High & Tri in Arlington Heights.  Luckily that’s only about a 10 minute drive from where I work.  It took just a few minutes to fill out a form and hand in my check for $35. I was able to get a t-shirt (not gender-specific and cotton, but with a cute jockey-style design silk screened on the front).  There was also a re-usable grocery tote as the goodie bag.

Getting there: After work on Tuesday I drove to my s-i-l’s house and carpooled to the race with her family. Since the race was at Arlington Park Racetrack, there was ample parking close to the start. If you worked downtown you could have easily gotten here by Metra as the train stops right at the park – not sure about the return trip though.

Pre-Race: They had the grandstand area open so you could use the flush toilets – this has been a theme for the past few races I’ve done and nothing says “I care” like letting runners use flush toilets. There were only about 450 runners registered for the race so the start area wasn’t crowded. This was a gun-timed race so I tried not to start too far back but still staying about where I thought I should be considering my pace.

The Course: I guess I didn’t realize how much land it takes to have a racecourse because I’d say that 90% or more of this race was on Arlington property.  We started in the parking lot, headed out on a service road past the stables and practice track, onto a regular road (shut down for the race), back past the other side of the stables, around the parking lot and then for the gimmick: onto the track for the last ~.75 mile.  The track has a polyform surface – basically fake dirt – that they rolled for the race so that it would be hard enough to run on without sinking into it.  I assumed that by the time I came along it would be kind of churned up but that was not the case.  It had the give and feel of a well-padded running track but there were treadmarks all over from the tractor or the roller so it wasn’t the smoothest surface – and no shoe marks (I guess runners aren’t heavy enough to make a dent in the surface).  It was not so uneven so that you had to worry about tripping, but you did have to watch so that you wouldn’t roll an ankle – I tried to pick out a particular tread mark and run on that for as long as I could and then pick out another one. I will say that there was never a time that I felt crowded and the roads we ran on were wide enough to pass and be passed as necessary. One water stop about half way through.  This race is not for the OCD runner though - no mile markers or time clocks that I saw so you had either better know your own pace or have been running with a Garmin.

The Finish: I’ve done chip-timed races aplenty with all manner of chips: Champion, B-Tag, ankle chips, shoe chips, etc., and I’ve done completely untimed races before but this was the first old-school style race where they wanted the rip-off part of your bib to put on a spindle to record your time that I’ve done.  Frankly I still don’t get how they match your bib-tag to the finish time,  but they did have my time accurately as to what the finish-line clock said so I’m not going to ask too many questions. Of course I had pinned that part of my bib underneath but as I approaceh the finish I saw what they were doing and managed to reach down and unpin the bottom of my bib.

Post-Race: The free stuff was apples and granola bars from Whole Foods, mini Jelly Belly packets, cold bottled water and one free beer. They also had the concession stands open and you could buy their totally overpriced food and more beer. They had a DJ playing music and she was really trying to drag out any song that had the word ‘horse’ in the lyrics.  I wanted to let her know that White Horse by Laid Back isn’t really about riding THAT kind of horse.

I’d definitely do this race again next year – I like smaller, uncrowded races and like I said, I’m a sucker for a gimmick. Plus with the 10K they plan on adding it would be a fun way to get the mileage in.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Effingham, IL Bulldog Challenge 10K recap

I often have trouble motivating myself to run while I’m on vacation so if I can find a race of some sort wherever my destination is I’ll try to fit it in.  Every year since I since I’ve known my now-husband we have spent a long weekend in Effingham, Illinois at a sort of informal family reunion. Most of the weekend is spent hanging around by his aunt’s pool and trying to ace out old ladies at the church picnic BINGO tent, but we also have made it an annual event to run the Colin Woods Memorial Bulldog Challenge 10K. It’s unlikely that you’ll ever be down in Central Illinois, but you never know – and just in case here’s a race recap for you:


The Good:

Sign-up: It’s not like the race is EVER going to sell out, but I still dutifully print out the registration forms and mail them in a few weeks before the race.  It’s also possible to register the morning of the race. The race is a paltry $25 whether you do the 5K or the 10K and you get a small-town style goodie bag with a tech-t, a can coosie (or whatever you choose to call them), a mini-flashlight, and some race flyers.  The race is put on by the St. Anthony High School Booster Club in memory of a student who died shortly after graduating and I’m sure the money raised goes toward a good cause.

Getting there:  Effingham is known for the fact that two major highways cross, and at the cross someone paid to erect a HUGE cross statue.  It’s seriously big. But, because of the two major highways there is just about every kind of hotel you could want. We stayed at the Holiday Inn and the start of the race was about 10 minutes away by car. Since it’s held at the school there is plenty of parking.

Packet Pick-up/Pre-race: I got the most sincere thank you I have ever received when I picked up my packet – the volunteer was truly grateful that my husband and I were participating. There was no line and I had my bib# in seconds.  They open up the school so that racers can use the flush toilets – always appreciated.

The Bad:

Start: The race starts at 8am which is not such a great idea for a sunny course in central Illinois.  Every year I try to find someone to suggest that they start at 7 or 7:30, but it hasn’t happened yet.  I think the race used to start at 8:30 when it was only a 5K, but there was one super-hot year and I think some people didn’t feel so great when the race was over so they moved the start to 8am. The race never starts on time because the priest does a blessing and the family of Colin Woods also speaks about him and thanks everyone for participating.


The Ugly:

Course: Nobody is doing this race for the awesome or scenic course. It starts out residential for a few blocks, goes though a small park and then it’s cornfields for a couple of miles. Another housing development with a hill, then a totally un-scenic mile along a highway access road (on steamy blacktop no less). Another little bit of cornfield and then up an Alpine-quality hill only to continue winding up yet another hill through another housing development. Then through a small grassy area to the high school track (also steamy and black) where you have a humiliating lap with everyone watching you. I’ll assume it’s not humiliating for everyone, but this is consistently one of my worst races every year and I’m usually gasping through the last ¼ mile.


And Back to the Good: The race is the kick-off to the church picnic and after the race they open the beer tent so that racers can pretty much have unlimited beer.  They also have plenty of cold water bottles, bananas and granola bars.  The male & female winners for the 5K & 10K each get $100 and since my nephew-in-law won the 10K he took us all out for breakfast – it’s good to know speedy people.


What I wore: I almost don’t even need to say it, but I wore my black Oiselle Bum Wrap skort along with their Mio Mesh Tank in dark pink. A Nike Pro Compression sports bra, Balega socks, and my Mizuno Sayonaras completed the outfit. I should have worn a hat or sunglasses because it was BRIGHT out there.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

4.1-Mile Run for Walk review

To continue with my weekend theme of Northwestern University races I also did the 2nd annual 4.1-mile Run for Walk on Sunday. This race is in memory of Northwestern Football Coach Randy Walker who passed away unexpectedly in 2006 and benefits the Evanston Animal Shelter where Walker and his family adopted a dog and where I volunteered for over 15 years.

Packet Pick-up:  Very easy if you live or work in the north suburbs. I picked up my packets at a running store in Wilmette but they also had locations at a couple of other locations and race-day pick-up was also available.

Shirt/Goody bag: A nice purple short-sleeved  tech-t and a ton of goodies: a stress ball, a tennis ball, a mini-flashlight, a packet of sunscreen, mints, a lip balm, an Northwestern pencil, Northwestern mini-tattoos and a bunch of flyers and coupons for local businesses. This is how I remember all goody bags used to be and often still are for smaller local races. With your race entry you also got a free ticket for a non-conference football game and I hope that I’ll be around on September 21st to watch the Wildcats crush the Maine Black Bears.

Getting there: I carpooled with my husband, our out of town guest and another friend.  Since the race starts and ends by the football stadium (sorry, I still can’t bring myself to call it Ryan Field – it will always be Dyche Stadium to me) there is a ton of parking nearby.  The L’s Purple Line and the Metra are also reasonably close by for those needing public transportation.

Start area: It was unseasonably cool on race morning so I was happy to see that they had Welsh-Ryan arena (where the basketball team plays and right next to the football stadium) open so that people could wait in the concourse. They also opened up the arena bathrooms so there were plenty of flush toilets and sinks for all – a very nice touch.

The course: Same as last year, but a really nice change from all the races on the Lakefront Path in the city. We ran south from the stadium and then east on Lincoln – a wide, tree-lined street with pretty houses – to the campus where we headed south on Northwestern’s lakefront path. We looped back (luckily there was only a short distance where there was 2-way traffic) and retraced our steps back to the stadium where we finished by running onto the field on the 50-yard line.

What I wore: A black Oiselle Bum-Wrap Skort, a grey long-sleeved Saucony shirt that was a mileage award for Fleet Feet’s Chicks Night runs, new 2XU compression socks (these are tester models for their new lighter-weight socks and whereas I usually hate the sock part of compression socks these were pretty awesome – excellent cushioning around the foot and the sock part wasn’t tight. The compression was great – medical grade and very supportive), an old Reebok sports bra (that chafed and went right into the trash at home), and my new Mizuno Wave Sayonaras (love, love, LOVE those shoes!). Not particularly showing my school spirit, but it was too chilly to wear the purple tank I had planned on wearing and I hate wearing a race shirt to the race so I just opted for what was on top of the pile of long sleeved running shirts.

Post-Race: The usual – bananas, bagels, water – plus a Vitamin/Mineral Water tent, Maxwell House iced coffee, and  AMAZING freebies – stainless steel travel mugs and coffee scoops from Gevalia coffee.

Amusing extras: I was running with 2 friends and we were just planning on jogging this race but we wound up running a little faster than planned. We kept picking people to pass – the guy with the rattling sports belt, the heavy breather, the woman with the wandering dog on a waist leash - until finally we were in the home stretch.  We passed a woman who then sprinted past us….and then slowed down.  So we passed her again. And then she passed us again….and then slowed down.  This drives me bat-shit crazy.  So I looked at my friends and said we should crush her soul.  Since we hadn’t been running at true race pace we all had enough left in the tank to speed up enough and muscle past her and stay in front of her to the finish line. I know – juvenile - but when you run 9:00 miles you take the little victories.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

BTN Big 10K Recap

As a proud Northwestern graduate I signed up for the BTN Big 10K - I even convinced one of my fellow alumni to come to Chicago to run this race with me.

Packet Pick-up: Super easy because I had someone do it for me. If I had to do it myself it would have been a pretty big pain because the only pick-up location was Fleet Feet-Old Town which is not particularly convenient for me.

Shirt/Goody bag: Thankfully, I like purple. When you registered you were able to choose a school specific shirt with a base or accent color that corresponds to your school color. It’s a nice tech-t and I’ll definitely wear it again. There was also a nice nylon drawstring bag.

Getting there: I shared a cab with two runner friends and it cost about $20 which would have been the same as the cost to park. Frankly, had I known it would have been $20 to park I probably would have driven down since after the race we had to walk to the L and shell out a combined $6.75 to get home.  Overall it wasn’t much of a problem though – our pre-arranged cab was on-time and the drop off area was close to the start area.

Start area: I’ll admit – I totally thought that this race was going to be a shit-show filled with a bunch of fratty douchbags, but I’ll admit that I was wrong. There were a ton of port-a-potties, and there were corrals for a well-organized wave start.  I had somehow qualified for Corral B (I have no idea……) but my friends were in Corral D & Corral I so we all just went back to Corral I and decided to jog the race and enjoy the run. Maybe runners further up were more uptight, but back in Corral I everyone was pretty nice and chill. The course was a little crowded – as all races that are on the path are – but it was never claustrophobic and we could always get around slower people when we needed to. The course was similar to Soldier Field – head south under McCormick Place keep going on LSD to the Path, cut over a small grassy area and back on the inner Path behind McCormick Place, around the Shedd and back by the Adler Planetarium where we started out.
Post Race: Bottles of water and Gatorade, great snacks - snack packs of Snyders Pretzel products and various cookies and crackers (Nutter Butters, mini Oreos, Cheez Its, etc. - and they had PLENTY - no stinginess with the snacks), and bananas. There was a little bit of a back up because the medals hadn't been unpacked, but the volunteers handing out the medals had a great attitude and were joking around so it wasn't so bad to have to wait a couple of minutes. According to the tabs on my bib I could have gotten a pair of cheapo sunglasses, a beer and some sort of sausage but since my friends and I were heading to brunch we didn't want to fill up - plus the lines looked pretty hellish.

Additional Stuff: All the Big 10 team mascots were there in varying degrees of creepiness. I went to NU but wasn’t much of a sports fan so this was my first close-up look at most of the other teams mascots. Goldy the Gopher looked sort of matted and worn, the Nittany Lion looked really chintzy, and the Purdue Boilermaker was absolutely terrifying – his big plastic head had dead-eyes. The Wisconsin Badger was pretty good as was Sparty the Spartan and of course, Willie the Wildcat brought his A-game. Apparently there are two new teams in the Big 10 and the Maryland Terrapin looks like a turd in a shell – sorry, but it’s the truth.

What I wore: I’ll admit to enjoying a good costume if it’s not going to get in the way of my running and since I knew we were just going to jog this race I went all out in the purple garb. Purple Saucony Kinvara 3’s, purple Balega socks, lavender Zensah compression calf sleeves, a lavender Lululemon running skirt, a lavender Nike Pro-Compression sports bra,  a real NU practice hockey jersey (white w/purple shoulders and N logo ), and a purple Sweaty Band headband. It’s kind of funny considering I never had that much school spirit when I actually went to NU. One of the BTN reps walking around convinced me to try for the female school spirit award but when I found out I would have to go on stage and mug for the crowd I declined – I’m not much of a showperson. The jersey was m-f-ing hot despite the little perforations in the fabric and I wouldn’t recommend running in one. Luckily it was fairly cool out and I didn’t overheat.

I understand that there were a number of runner complaints about this race but none from me – I enjoyed myself and would do the race again.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

F^3 Burgers & Beer 5K recap

I believe I signed up for the F^3 Burgers & Beer some time back in early spring – a friend noticed that there was a Groupon that made the race super-cheap so even though I am generally 5K adverse I agreed – after all, the promised food and beverage sounded pretty good.

Here’s the breakdown:

Packet pick-up: I picked up in advance at the downtown location of Universal Sole.  I think they had pick-up only at this store location – probably trying to drive traffic to this location as it’s in a sort of secluded spot that wouldn’t normally get any foot traffic. I took the L down and cut it pretty close – really, too close – to the end of Packet pick-up last Friday.  It ended at 7pm and I squeezed in at 7:05 much to the annoyance of the employee vacuuming the floor – sorry! The person running packet pick-up was able to get the two bibs/t-shirts that I needed with no trouble.

The Shirt: Ok, I get it – a recycled t-shirt to go with the green theme of the race.  But, this t-shirt is likely to get recycled without my even wearing it.  I usually take a women’s medium top. This medium *might* fit Barbie. It is very, very small.  My friend got a large and I’m not even sure I’d be comfortable wearing that shirt.  I’m pretty bummed that the shirt is tiny because it’s a nice shirt – soft cotton, cute design, OK color – and if it weren’t for the size issue I’d totally wear it.  My friend works downtown near the U-Sole store so she’s going to try to see if we can exchange the shirts – I’d even take a men’s shirt just so long as it fits.

Travel to the race: U-Sole arranged for discounted parking in a nearby garage but I took the L. There is a nice pocket park across from the store and that’s where they set up the vendor village, race day pick-up, gear check & porta-potties – it takes about 10 minutes to walk from the closest L station.  Again, I cut it pretty close (I work in the suburbs so to get to a downtown weekday race I usually have to change at work, leave 30 minutes early, drive like an asshole, sprint from home to the L and hope the L doesn’t have any delays) but I made it in time to use the porta-potty and heave my bag to the gear check people before walking the 5 minutes to the lakefront path.

The Course: It was a looped course – out on the part of the Lakefront Path close to the lake (not in the greatest shape – lots of uneven patches and missing chunks - it would have been a good idea for the race crew to use some bright spray paint on the worst areas to alert runners) and then back on the part of the path that’s close to Lakeshore Drive. This is a similar course to the Elvis is Alive 5K, but I actually like this course a little better because the Elvis course does that thing where you pass the finish line and then have to double back to cross it - psyche! The B&B course had a little hill to run down to get to the finish which was nice because it gave me a little extra oomph. The aid station was accessible from both sides of the course which is always wise – especially since it was hotter than balls last night and I’m sure that people appreciated being able to have water twice. The race started a couple of minutes late and the start area was a little bit of a cluster-f – there wasn’t enough room for everyone to line up on the path and so there were people milling around in the grassy area near the path waiting to filter into the start area. I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t be able to get up to a decent speed ever but surprisingly the course spread out pretty quickly and I did OK considering the heat – 25:55 (my PR is a little over 24 minutes) which was good enough for 15th out of 79 in my age group. Eh, not my best effort, but I’ll take it.

Post-Race: Again, I was sure that getting the beer & burger would be a shit-show (oh, RAM Racing how you have lowered my expectations for all races……) but there was an orderly line that moved quickly. The beer was a can of Goose Issland 312 (they didn’t take my beer tag so I was able to go back when the line was finished and get another….very sneaky) and there was a choice of beef, turkey or veggie burgers with slices of cheese to add (I had beef & cheese) and the buns were really good – not quite pretzel rolls, but way better than the nasty Wonder-bread kind. The biggest line was for the condiment table – maybe have two next year?  I hung around for awhile because there was a raffle but the dude reading the names for the age group winners needed to cut the commentary and just speed things up. Eventually it go to be close to 9pm and faced with a 10 minute walk to the L, a 30 minute train ride, another 10 minute walk and very necessary shower I had to get home or I’d never make it to my 6am class at the gym. So, if I won a lifetime supply of running shoes I guess I was out of luck.

What I wore: As little as possible. Ha! Just kidding, but I did try to wear my most comfortable and light running apparel. Big surprise - I wore a Oiselle Bum Wrap skort (black), a Oiselle Mio Mesh Tank (very lightweight) with a Reebok compression bra (I can only wear these on short runs because they chafe a little), Balega socks and Saucony Kinvara 3’s.

Overall impression: I’d do this again if the price was right.  Downtown races are a pain in the ass for me to get to but at least this one had a well layed out course and great food after the race.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Ode to the Oiselle Bum Wrap short

Since I didn’t do any races over the weekend and I’m totally dreading the Burgers & Beer 5K tonight (only because it’s freaking hot out and I’m afraid my head is going to explode during the race) I thought I’d do a little post on my absolute favorite piece of running apparel: the Oiselle Bum Wrap Skort.  If you are a dude and are reading this (unless you have a wife, girlfriend, sister or mother who run and are in need of a gift) you might as well go elsewhere and remember to come back tomorrow to see what I have to say about the Burgers & Beer 5K.

Anyway – I have long had troubles with summer running bottoms. Shorts are often too short and require copious amount of Glide to keep the chafing (less pleasantly called Chub Rub) on my thighs to a minimum.  And I’m not huge by any means – if they eat, most women have thighs that touch. I also hate that shorts often creep up between my thighs – a look that flatters no-one (this includes guys – I see a ton of guys who will probably need to have their shorts surgically removed when their run is finished). I also have a couple of pairs of compressions shorts – basically tights that only go down to about mid-thigh.  These are OK, but if you’re having a fat-day or have any body-issues they aren’t great.  Plus I only really feel like I can wear these kind of shorts with longer length tops that afford some ass coverage. Bully for you if you look like a fitness model from the Athleta catalog, but most of us do not and we prefer to camouflage our lumps and bumps.

Despite the hate from various bloggers (Angry Runner, I’m looking at you) running skirts/skorts seem to be the answer.  Skorts have either a boy short (not so great for the chafing) or compressions shorts under the skirt.  Over the years I have purchased examples from many, many of the running skirt purveyors:

Skirt Sports: Eh. They are OK. The undershort is long, but not the grippiest and it’s a little see-through for my taste – don’t try wearing this to an exercise class where you might have to lie on your back or expose your bum because you’ll wind up exposing more than you’d like. They do have cute patterns and a couple of lengths to choose from and because they are lighter weight they are good for hot weather.


Lululemon: Hands down the cutest skirts around.  And, often the most expensive. But, Lulu seems to assume most of us don’t deal with chafing because their undershorts tend to be on the short side.  You can get around this if they offer the skirt in tall sizes – the skirt and shorts will be a couple of inches longer. I love me some Lululemon but I can’t wear most of their skirts on really hot days unless I load up on the Glide.


Moving Comfort: I bought one of their Sprint Tech skorts earlier this year and it’s been a pretty good workhorse.  The undershort is long enough and stays in place. However – it just doesn’t excite me and they tend to use colors that match well to their own line but don’t lend themselves to mix/match with other brands.  The skort I bought is black but the undershorts are sort of zebra patterned – eh.


And now, on to my super-ultimate favorite, the Oiselle Bum Wrap Skort. This skort has it all – the undershorts are long and they don’t move, the fabric is sturdy (but doesn’t make me overheat) and mine have held up through multiple wear/wash cycles (note: I do not put my running gear in the dryer). The skirt isn’t tight and doesn’t hug so you get some cooling breezes and it’s long enough to cover your ass but because of the cut it looks fresh and flirty. It has a zip pocket that has enough room for $, a key, and a gel. It comes in three basic colors: black, graphite (shown in the picture) and an indigo blue. They go well with other Oiselle gear, but look equally great with tops & tanks from any other maker. Are they a little spendy? Yes – they are $56, but at least they back up the price with quality fabric and construction. My only request would be for an internal drawstring so I could tighten the waist if I wanted to clip on a pack and not have it jiggle. I’ve worn one of these skorts for just about every race I’ve done since the spring and all my longer runs too and it’s really nice to wear a piece of clothing that I don’t even think about while I’m running. I bought my first two from the Oiselle website, but in Chicago Fleet Feet carries Oiselle at both of their stores and that’s where I got my third skort – sizes run from x-small to x-large and tend to run just a little bit on the small side.


So, if you’re in the market for a running skort I highly recommend trying out the Oiselle Bum Wrap skort. They’re a smaller brand but they really make quality gear. I 'borrowed' the image below from the Oiselle website, but I don't think they'll mind since I'm gushing about their product.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Elmhurst 4 on the 4th review

Yeah, so I’ve been slackery about posting my review of the Elmhurst 4 on the 4th race, so I guess now’s the time! Plus, I have the Burgers ‘n’ Beer 5K coming up next Monday and I don’t want to get too, too behind.

Although I have known about this race for years, I’ve never done it before.  I guess in my mind Elmhurst was way far away – like Hoffman Estates or Batavia or something – but in reality it only took about 25 minutes to get there (granted there was zero traffic at 5:40 in the morning on a national holiday). I signed up for this race because a friend was doing it and offered to give me a ride. So here’s the deets:

Sign-up: Cheap! Hooray! I’m a CARA member so this race was only $20 + a small handling fee. Even at the undiscounted $25 cost it’s still a bargain. There was online sign-up so it was easy-peasy.

Getting there: As I mentioned, easy and closer than I originally thought. The race started right near a local college so there was plenty of parking – another bonus.

Packet pick-up: I work in the suburbs so I originally thought I could do a good turn and pick up the packets but then I looked at the directions from Wheeling to Elmhurst and decided that race-day packet pick-up would be just fine.  Since we were there early it was no problem.

Swag: A nice tech-t for the race ,plus I think some sort of energy bar in the bag, plus race fliers from races I actually hadn’t heard about. This is kind of a good thing because I maintain an e-mail list for my local running group that lists races in the greater Chicagoland area and I’m always looking for new ones to add.

Bathroom situation: Lots of porta-potties and the lines moved quickly.

Course: It’s a 4-mile race, so automatic PR! It was cool but kind of humid that morning and I knew there would be a few ‘hills’. We had to go under a train underpass twice (it’s mostly an out and back course with a couple of small deviations) and cruelly, the last ~.2 miles were a slight uphill, making (for me) a most unspectacular finish unless you count the fact that my face had turned entirely red and looked like I was going to burst. There was almost no crowding and people mostly lined up correctly for their pace.  The course was all streets so they were wide enough to pass people as needed.  One water station that could be hit coming or going (does that technically mean it’s 2 water stops?) and plenty of volunteers to make sure that people stayed on course.

Post race: It was really nice that they had three computers out near the finish line where you could put in your bib # and get a small printout of your time, pace, and the stats for your age group/gender, etc. The post-race food was pretty spectacular – almost worth it just for this.  Obviously you get the bottle of water handed to you when you finish and they had bottles of Gatorade, bagels and bananas too, but they also had a race sponsor handing out sno-cones, not one but TWO different and delicious cookies from local bakeries (HUGE chocolate chip cookies and red/white/blue frosted star-shaped sugar cookies). I think they were also handing out samples of a couple of different sports products (drinks/bars). I was most impressed that people weren’t being piggy about the food.  It always irritates me when I see people carting away 8 bananas, a box of bars, and a bag of bagels – c’mon! It’s not a grocery run and please leave some for the slower folks!

What I wore: Saucony Kinvava 4’s, Balaga socks, Team Sparkle blue w/white stars calf sleeves, my navy blue Oiselle Bum Wrap skort, a royal blue Nike Pro Compression sport bra, and a red Lululemon tank that has a split back – I looked to see what it’s called but they don’t seem to be selling it right now which is really stupid because I have two of them and I ALWAYS get compliments when I wear them. Obviously I went with a patriotic red, white & blue theme. My husband – who prefers a more minimalist running attire (and cotton t-shirts for running which I cannot even fathom) commented that, “there’s a lot going on,” with my outfit and I told him to can it because I was dressing for a theme. Men, they just don’t get it.

I’d absolutely do this race again – even if I did it by myself.

Back next week with the Burgers ‘n’ Beer review and maybe a local trail review.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Fleet Feet Women's Half-Marathon Recap

I signed up for the Fleet Feet Chicago Women’s Half-Marathon about 6 or 7 months ago – maybe even longer.  When they opened registration the price was the lowest it would ever be, so having done and enjoyed the race for several years (even back when it was a 5K/10K), I knew I’d want to run it this year.

Flash forward to last week when I knew that the weather would be hot and muggy and I also knew that the last time I had run over 10 miles was at the Green Bay half-marathon back in mid-May – I decided that instead of trying to race (and probably dying from heat exhaustion in the process) I’d just run with my friend Heather who would be running her first half-marathon. 

Heather wanted to run between 10:30 & 11-minute miles so I took off my timing chip so I wouldn’t be thinking of my own time and would be able to concentrate on running at Heather’s pace.  I’ve done this for a few friends and if I may say so myself, I’m pretty good at keeping up a constant patter of random stories and encouraging words to keep my friend’s spirits up.

Heather started out a little fast for her projected pace – she was doing 9:45’s – I mentioned this to her but she didn’t seem too concerned.  From past personal experience, I know that going out too fast comes back to haunt you.  We were doing great until the sun broke through the clouds and we hit about 6 miles.  Heather started to feel like her legs were heavy and she was heating up.  The turn-around helped – it’s always nice to know you’re headed back towards the finish line.  We hit a few ‘hills’ and Heather took walk breaks to get up them – we also walked through the aid stations. Around mile 9 my back started killing me – I think this may have been because I was running slower than I usually do and I was probably using different strides and positioning my back differently. Heather started to really feel crappy around mile 10, but she persevered and even picked it up a little bit when we had 2 miles left to go.  She wound up just squeezing in under 2:30 – off her goal a bit, but it was a lousy race to try to either PR or run a goal time – just too hot.

Quick Recap:

Packet Pick-up: Easy for me – one of the dates was at Fleet Feet-Lincoln Square on a night I’d be there anyway for a group run. But, for suburban runners it was probably a pain.  No race-day pickup meant that they would have to make a special trip down to one of the FF stores or arrange for someone to pick up their packet for them.


Transport: Yeah, I could have taken the CTA but I used the parking app SpotHero to find a sweet space in the garage at the Palmer House Hotel for only $14. I gave a ride to 4 friends so it was only about $3.00 per person. It was easy, cheaper than the CTA, and gave us the opportunity to use the flush toilets in the hotel before heading to the race grounds.


Swag: A nice short-sleeved Brooks tech-t (white for Half runners, grey for 5Kers), a custom race logo Sweaty Band, and a sweet, quality medal on a nice custom ribbon– free engraving today and tomorrow evening at Fleet Feet-Old Town if you want to commemorate your time. There were a ton of samples/food at the race – popsicles, frozen Kefir, ice cream, Luna products, bananas and probably more that I’m missing.  I also snagged some samples of gluten free products and a new Australian yogurt on the bridge heading out of the race area – probably guerilla marketing taking advantage of all the grocery deciders at the race. One complaint was that there was only water available at the race finish and it would have been nice to have an additional water station somewhere near the booths.

Course/aid stations: It started out on streets which was smart – start out with wide lanes and hope that it gets thinned out by the time we all get to the path.  I’ll admit – a wave start would have been nice because the path gets so crowded during races. It was a congenial crowd though – I got complimented on my shirt a couple of times and I told a woman she had a nice tattoo (a Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass window). In the last mile or so there was a little switchback that was kind of irritating – I hate running away from the finish line to have to double back – it’s like a mean trick that kind of sucks the life out of you. Overall, not a bad course though.  Plenty of aid stations and they all had port-a-potties, some misting stations too. One Clif Shot station. Since it was so hot it would have been nice to have an ice station or sponge station added – I’m thinking of the Green Bay half two years ago when it was hotter than balls and they really stepped up their game by adding an ice station or two – I don’t know what guys do with the ice, but for women it’s awesome to grab a cupful and pour it down the front of your sports bra.


Post-Race: An ice cold towel draped around my neck caused me to profess my love for some random volunteer.  There was a DJ playing pop hits and a stretching area. Plus a booth of mattresses that I was tempted to collapse onto but I felt like I’d just sweat them all up and that prospect was just too gross. Once I’d rounded up the friends I drove down I pretty much just wanted to get somewhere I could change into the dry clothes I’d packed and head to brunch.


CES Compound: The private compounds that they have a big races might be reason alone to sign up for their training programs. They had 4 porta-potties, private gear check, a tray of personal products in case you forgot something (Glide, Cotonelle Wipes, 2-kinds of tampons, sunscreen), food (Luna/Clif products, bananas, Skinny Pop popcorn, Gatorade & water, and probably more that I’m missing). They have a tent to keep you out of the sun and tables and chairs to hang out.  Coaches were present to answer last minute questions and to greet you when you got back to ask how your race went.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Chicago Running Bloggers Run for Boston 5K Review

So, despite it not at all being part of my fancy training schedule, I did the Chicago Running Bloggers Run for Boston 5K on Saturday morning.  When this race was organized I registered right away because, duh! - good cause! I also registered my long-suffering husband because I love springing on him that I have signed us up for races. I probably mentioned it to him at the time, but then two months passed and suddenly I got a reminder about the race and packet pick-up instructions. He wasn’t exactly thrilled about the race but he gamely agreed to do it – after all, it was just a 5K. The weather report didn’t look great and I declared that if it was raining in the morning when we woke up that we could bail.

Morning came and although it looked grey and a little threatening, it was not raining. The race was scheduled for 9am in Libertyville. I assume the 9am start was because many of the participants were probably coming from Chicago and it’s a 45 minute drive just to get up to Libertyville. Whatever – I was just happy it didn’t start at 7am. The race was held at a stunningly beautiful forest preserve. Seriously – it looked like a slightly less floral version of the Chicago Botanic Gardens. A tiny drizzle had started by the time we got up there but there were enough trees around to block most of the rain. Everyone was in good spirits despite the rain and about 4 minutes before 8am we all lined up in the start area. A couple of the organizers spoke, there was a moment of silence, and a representative from the recipient charity (Who Says I Can’t – they provide artificial limbs and support to those hurt in the Boston bombings) thanked everyone for helping to raise over $10K – pretty impressive! The race started right on-time at 8am and we all took off on a paved path that wound around the (man-made?) lakes and through the preserve. There were a few small hills and we crossed (I think) three bridges which luckily were not too slimey with mildew since the rain was starting to pick up. People had mostly lined up to their abilities and the pack thinned out pretty well after about a half mile.  My Garmin had crapped out right before the race so I didn’t have any idea of what my pace was or how far I’d gone – I was only able to judge a bit by how many songs had played on my shuffle.

 As with any 5K the end came pretty quickly.  There was plenty of post-race refreshments and I grabbed two water bottles and waited for my husband to cross.  He was about a minute behind me and we hightailed it to the car since it was starting to rain a little harder.

The low-down:

Packet Pick-up:  held at RAM-Deerfield I was able to get there on my lunch hour and pick everything up. I think they may have had some confusion about handing out the numbers to people picking up multiple packets because I realized once I looked at everything that I didn’t know which # was mine and which was my husband’s. No biggie – we asked at the race and they said it didn’t matter because times would be listed by # and not name. There was also race day packet pick-up and the line was very short.

Swag: a nice, gender specific tech-t in an unusual color – light grey. Also in the race bag were bars from Kind and Luna and a Biofreeze sample. There were also a selection of flyers from sponsors and a couple of nice coupons.

Setting/Course: really nice – I had no idea this forest preserve was even there and I’ll certainly bring my running group up here for a run later this year. The course didn’t have mile markers (at least I don’t think so, but sometimes I don’t really notice stuff like that when I’m running) but was well marked as to directions. The path was paved and about 10’ wide – plenty of room once the crowd thinned out.

Organization: Great – especially for a first time race. There were plenty of volunteers and they were all really nice, especially the ones near the end who were cheering runners .

What I wore: Oiselle Bum Wrap skort (still my favorite running skort), my 2013 Ragnar shirt, Balega socks and Saucony Kinvara 3s (closeout price $60 – what a deal!)

I’m still trying to find out my time – nothing has been posted yet – but I’m thinking it wasn’t a PR anyway and in reality, this race wasn’t about time anyway – more about coming out to support a great cause.
Lots of workouts this week and then the Fleet Feet Chicago Women's Half-Marathon on Sunday. I'm already thinking that this isn't going to be a superb race for me. I'm undertrained and it's going to be hot.  I'm thinking of ditching my timing tag and finding a friend who would like to be paced for a finish around 2:10 and see if they want some help.  We'll see how I feel on race morning.