Running pic

Running pic
Yup, that's me!

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.