Race Recap: Chi-Town 10K

So, um, I bailed on that 10K.

You know, that one 10K that was supposed to be my super-fast, destroy-my-PR race.

Here’s what happened: I was crushing my training plan, doing speedwork and surprising myself at the relative ease with which I was completing 400-meter repeats and tempo runs at a fast clip. Then, four weeks ago, I went on vacation, a snowboarding trip that I had scheduled into my training plan (high altitude cardio crosstraining!). And after that, it all went downhill.


I didn’t run the race, but I do love the 1/4 zip pullover (and I will feel like such a poser when I inevitably wear it.)

I was taken down by a sinus infection that was bad, got a little better, then got a helluva lot worse. I finally went to the doctor, got on antibiotics and started to fight it off. Saturday came, and I realized I was staring down a Sunday morning 10K in cold temps and high winds with a major time constraint (I had to be to work at 11 a.m.; the race was at 8:15) and a lingering illness.

So, I bailed.

I’m reminding myself it was only a 10K and there will be other 10Ks. I’m reminding myself it is more important for me to get all-the-way healthy. Though, it still stings knowing I fell short of my goal and that I kinda wussed out.

These things happen. Illnesses happen. Injuries happen. Life happens. And then you have to try to make the best decisions about what to do.

I don’t regret skipping the race; I think it was the right thing to do in this particular situation. I just hope I’m not faced with another decision like that again any time soon (and that my stupid sinus infection GTFO ASAP.) — Mags


Run Recap: The Chicago (Re)Connection

My husband and I recently went to Chicago to celebrate our anniversary. I forced him to pack his running gear.

Chilling (literally) on the Chicago Lakefront Trail.

Chilling (literally) on the Chicago Lakefront Trail.

Most people would cringe at the thought of running on the Chicago waterfront at the end of January. I get it. The sub-zero wind chill was threatening, and I’ve been running in the cold temps for years. With mild hesitation, Doug and I set out to meet Maggie, our fellow Bad Angel, who, like the other Chicagoans, didn’t bat an eye.  I figured we’d moan about the temperature the whole time, but once we started, it was the last thing on my mind. I realized that the weekend, and this run, was all about reconnecting.

Maggie and I talk every day on IM. If I don’t hear from her, I worry. If I’m too busy to check in, I feel like I’ve forgotten something. She and I have become close friends over the last few years; she is, hands down, one of my favorite people. I was so excited to spend a little time with her on her turf. This run was exactly what we needed: to be together, for a few hours. Reconnection complete.

My husband and I might be the busiest people I know. He’s running a small business during the day and coaching at night. I’m hauling ass at my job, tying up the loose ends at night, then running teenagers to drumline, study sessions, dances — you name it — all while taking care of two toddlers. Our lives require us to divide and conquer, as we manage our “well-oiled machine” (as my mom calls it). This run kicked off three full days of laser focus — on each other. Reconnection complete.

I loved this run, even though it chapped my face and froze my buns. Besides, I didn’t notice any of that. I was too busy soaking up the love. — Amie

Race Recap: Chi-Town Half Marathon

“Today is the day I break 1:50, dammit,” I said into the mirror on Sunday morning as I got ready for the Chi-Town Half Marathon.

No excuses.

Gotta write down your goals.

Even though it’s only been two years and three half marathons, it felt like I’d been trying to break 1:50 for an eternity. So I wrote four times on my hand. To run a 1:49, the splits were easy to remember: 25 minutes for every three miles.

My debate over what to wear was extensive. I can’t even tell you how many times I checked the hourly forecast between Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. It had rained overnight and into the morning, and there was a 50 percent chance of thunderstorms during the race. I finally settled on my favorite Sugoi shorts, a long-sleeve half-zip tech shirt with thumbies and a cap.

We got on the road to Lincoln Park. Oh no! I had forgotten my lucky hair ribbon! Yes, a hair ribbon. You see, I’ve worn it for every race since the Flying Pig 10K in May 2009. We had time to spare, so I asked my husband to turn around. Just a tiny 15-minute detour. Totally worth it.

After finding a parking space without too much hassle, I headed to the start/finish area. By the time I got through gear check, it was 8 a.m. and I had that all-too-familiar I-gotta-go feeling. Damn you, pre-race nerves! The port-o-john lines were really long, so I made an executive decision to go to the corral and stand with the 8:24 pace group (and crossed my fingers that it was, in fact, just nerves).

Waiting in the corral, I chatted with a few runners. I also began regretting my wardrobe choice. The clouds were clearing a little, and at 52 degrees with no rain and no wind, I was wishing I had gone with short sleeves.

The gun went off at 8:15 sharp, and the shuffle to the starting line began. The chute narrowed, so I ended up falling quite a ways behind the pace group. But I did not make the mistake of sprinting to catch them. Instead, I settled in for what I felt like was an easy first mile. When my Nike+ told me I’d run an 8:10, I shuddered. Whoops. Time to knock it back a notch.

The course weaved around the park, down through the North Avenue pedestrian tunnel and over to the Lakefront Trail. Even though there were about 2,300 participants between the half marathon and 10K races, it never felt crowded. It felt like just another busy morning on the trail — you know, with the occasional signs to follow, cowbell-waving volunteers and water stops. Also, when there’s a race on the trail, they still have to keep it open to the public. Random runners, walkers and cyclists blended into the race. (I’ve been one of those random runners before, and it’s actually kinda fun.)

The only sun we saw all morning, which was fine by me.

The sun started to peek out a little, and I was warming up fast. By mile 2, I had already pushed up my sleeves and unzipped my shirt. I was actually plotting the logistics of taking off my shirt when the sun went back behind the clouds to stay. Other than a little humidity hanging in the air, the weather was ideal: 53 degrees, 5 mph southwest wind, overcast. We lucked out.

As I neared the loop into Montrose Harbor, a little voice popped in my head. “Will I be able to maintain this clip? Am I saving enough for a strong finish?” I beat down those doubts and repeated my mantra for this race: I am in control. I can do this. I own this trail.

At mile 6, I was about 45 seconds behind on my splits. Excellent. I knew I could make that up over the next 6+ miles. After all, I have run negative splits during training runs on the trail countless times, why should today be any different?

Near mile 8, I caught a glimpse of bright pink compression socks and neon green shorts — it was the girl I was chatting up in the corral. Then I saw the 8:24 pace group leader, surrounded by a pack of about 15 runners. They were about a quarter-mile ahead of me. Excitement and happiness rippled through me. I was catching up to them, and when the time was right, I was going to pass them.

I stayed within striking distance and kept creeping closer. At mile 11, I made my move around the pace group, and “Africa” by Toto helped me do it. I felt a burst of pride and power, and I knew my goal time was in reach.

My next split at mile 12 read 1:40:06, giving me 10 minutes to run 1.1 miles. The question now wasn’t would I break 1:50, it was by how much.

The course wound back down the hill into the North Avenue pedestrian tunnel, and the hill coming back out was rrrrrrough. My legs were screaming and my breathing was heavy. No time to slow down now, though.

I weaved around the final turns into the park. With 400 meters to go, I saw two scruffy chaps — my husband and my dog — and I turned it up another notch. On the final straightaway toward the finish line, I raced alongside a gal in her early 20s. She beat me by a couple steps, but she helped push me there.


I smashed my previous PR, set at the North Shore Half last June, by three minutes. HELL YES.

Rad race swag.

This race was everything I hoped it would be. It was a flat, fast course; not too big; not too expensive; and on familiar territory. I also love the medal and the shirt. (In fact, the shirts are so rad — half-zip teal tech with thumbies — that I’d say about 1/3 of the participants were wearing them during the race. And I think you guys all know how I feel about that.)

And, of course, I am stoked about my time.

I’m sore, I’m happy, I’m proud — the best post-race feelings one can have.

Now, what’s this about the Flying Pig Half Marathon in a month? — Mags

Race Day Playlist: Chi-Town Half Marathon

I am entrusting this playlist to guide me to a PR in my race along the lakefront on Sunday morning. Don’t let me down, guys. — Mags

Playlist stats: 31 songs, 2:03:56 length. (Download the playlist here.)

1. Some Nights — Fun.
2. Helena Beat — Foster the People
3. Gold on the Ceiling — The Black Keys
4. Six Weeks — Of Monsters and Men
5. Midnight City — M83
6. We Still Got the Taste Dancin’ On Our Tongues — Wild Beasts
7. You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb — Spoon
8. Lights & Music — Cut Copy
9. Daft Punk is Playing at My House — LCD Soundsystem
10. Here’s a Little Something For Ya — Beastie Boys
11. Award Tour — A Tribe Called Quest
12. Can’t Get You Out of My Head — Kylie Minogue
13. Come Back Home — Two Door Cinema Club
14. Austere — The Joy Formidable
15. Ambling Alp — Yeasayer
16. Ghosts — The Head and the Heart
17. Traveller’s Digest — Library Voices
18. We Are Young — Fun.
19. Little Talks — Of Monsters and Men
20. You — Atmosphere
21. Juicy — Notorious B.I.G.
22. Howlin’ For You — The Black Keys
23. Sunrise — Childish Gambino
24. Run This Town Tonight — Rihanna feat. Jay-Z and Kanye West
25. Africa — Toto
26. Houdini — Foster the People
27. Scared as F$@! — An Horse
28. Intergalactic — Beastie Boys
29. Riot Rhythm — Sleigh Bells
30. POWER — Kanye West
31. Till the World Ends — Britney Spears

Runner’s Paradise

Judging by the weather and the crowd on the Lakefront Trail last night, it was a Saturday in June, not a Wednesday in mid-March. Holy smokes.


It was warm enough to run in just shorts and a sports bra.

Turns out, yesterday was the warmest March day in Chicago history, topping out at a whopping 81 degrees. Spring fever? Puh-lease. More like spring typhoid fever. And it was rampant.

I’ve literally never seen so many people so far north on the trail. Those crowds are usually reserved for North Avenue Beach and the like. But there we all were: running, biking, walking, tossing Frisbees, frolicking with dogs, shooting hoops, playing soccer, taking batting practice. Un-be-liev-a-ble. An army of pasty Chicagoans emerged to enjoy one of the finest not-quite-spring days this city has ever seen.

It’s pretty darn easy to get fired up about running (and life) when the weather is like this. I sure hope it sticks around for a while. Though, I can’t help but wonder what this means for the summer. Will we see the biggest heat wave in history? Will I be battling 90 degrees at 6 a.m. for my 15-miler?

Let’s not go there just yet. Let’s enjoy the gift of an early spring (what’s up now, Punxsutawney Phil?!). Let’s go for a run. — Mags


Race Recap: Polar Dash 10K

Polar bear at the Polar Dash.

Better late than never.

The inaugural Chicago Polar Dash Half Marathon and 10K was set to go off on Jan. 14. Then the forecast turned to crap and the Chicago Police Department made race organizers pull the plug and postpone it for a week. Booface.

The change meant Adrea couldn’t make it up to Chi-town for the race. Major bummer. I’m sure she was just one of many who couldn’t do the race for one reason or another — traveling, other plans, what have you — and of course, no refunds.

Wasn’t the point of the Polar Dash for it to be cold and snowy?

Well, guess what, CPD? The postponement only set the stage for an even snowier, polar-ier race. And I gotta say, it was awesome.

About 8 inches of snow had fallen Friday afternoon into Saturday morning, and it was still snowing when we arrived at the start/finish  on the south end of Grant Park. Although Adrea couldn’t make it in from Cincinnati, I still had my friend Will (of Cross Country Challenge 8K fame) to commiserate with.

Pre-race was smooth going. There were ample warming tents, plenty of port-o-johns and a well-organized gear check. (By the way, I’ve literally never had such a jam-packed gear check bag: extra shoes, pants, shirts, socks, gloves, hat. Good golly.) With temps in the upper-teens, snow and 10 mph wind, we opted to stay in the warming tent as long as possible before the 9:30 a.m. start time.

The course wound down Chicago’s Lakefront Trail past the museums and McCormick Place. Hang on. This looks familiar. Oh wait, that’s right, it was virtually the same course as the much-maligned Chicago Spring Half Marathon (aka The Most Miserable Run of My Life). I had to laugh.

The first two miles were log-jammed. The trail is narrow as it is, let alone when there is 8 inches of snow on the ground and 1,400 runners (it took me 4 minutes to cross the start line.) I encountered a couple of slippery spots, but it wasn’t too treacherous. I warmed up nicely and was pleased with my outfit choice: fleece-lined tights, mock turtle-neck base layer, my new envy-inspiring hooded Lululemon jacket, tech glittens and an apropos polar bear ear warmer.

That's me on the right, a bundled up ball of purple.

It was an out-and-back course, and the first half of the race was into the wind and snow. I actually had some accumulation on my jacket. I also got nailed in the eyeball by a few flakes. Julie Andrews definitely wasn’t a runner because, as it turns out, snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes are not one of my favorite things when doing a 10K.

Once the pack started thinning out, I picked up the pace. I felt surprisingly great. I hadn’t really raced since the Chicago Marathon, so I was pleased with how I pushed myself to negative splits without overdoing it. After all, it was the first race of the year, and more than anything, I really just wanted to enjoy myself.

It was a strong finish (I may or may not have listened to “Till the World Ends” by Britney Spears three times in a row). Though, I couldn’t help but feel bad for the 741 half marathoners. They basically ran the 10K course twice, which meant they passed the finish line and then went out for another 6-plus miles. That’s gotta be a real mental kick in the pants.

After the race, there were stations with hot cocoa, food bags (string cheese!) and water, and the warming tents were still rocking. It was funny to watch the steam rise off everyone as we changed into dry clothes.

Oh, and I almost forgot: Instead of race T-shirts, we got half-zip fleece pullovers. I’ve pretty much been living in mine since after the race on Saturday. Absolutely love it.

All in all, it was a great inaugural event and I plan to do it again next year.  I do have a few suggestions for future incarnations:

  • Race photos: There was a race photographer on the course — and they posted a couple hundred pictures on Facebook — but it was not the whole enchilada that Brightroom or Marathon Foto would provide. I think that with a “novelty” race like this, a lot of people would want to buy their photos. Look into it. (And yes, Will and I are a little salty because we’re not going to see our horns pics. So sue us.)
  • Packet pickup: It was fine once I got there, but I tell ya, getting to Michigan Avenue in the middle of winter is a big ol’ pain in the arse. If you’re absolutely adamant about not having race-day pickup, maybe have one day of pickup downtown and another day somewhere else in the city/’burbs.
  • Pre-race music: Guess what, guy? I know it’s freezing outside. I don’t need to hear “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” Try playing “Heat Wave” or “Hot in Herre” next time.


The Return of the Gym Rat

Before my running life began — and even for a while after it did — I was a dedicated gym-goer. Moving to Chicago changed that. Gym memberships were expensive (like everything else in this city), and the few options in my neighborhood were tiny, always packed and at least a 10-minute walk away. During a Chi-town winter, a 10-minute walk might as well be a 10-mile walk. Besides, I was running 3-4 days a week and doing what strength training I could in my apartment — pushups, situps, balance ball exercises, etc. — so I didn’t see the need.

Two years later, I am officially a gym member again. Our new house is literally a two-minute walk down the street from an Xsport Express, so we had to check it out. $20 a month, no contract — no-brainer. It’s a pretty small facility (no classes, no pool), but it will serve its purpose.

So far, it has been a strange transition going back to the gym. It’s a different crowd than I see on the streets and on the trail, and I don’t yet feel like I belong there. But it’s nice to have the option to hop on the treadmill instead of braving sub-zero temps and dangerously icy sidewalks. I find I am more inclined to stretch properly before and after a run, and I’m taking advantage of the medicine balls and resistance machines to strengthen my core and improve my stability. And I’m actually pretty fired up to tackle some speedwork on the ‘mill as half marathon training officially begins next week.

However, I am also quickly remembering the things I loathe about the gym. Waiting in line. Smelling other people’s sweat and bodily functions. Stifling air. Grunting dudes. Crappy pop music over the PA. The fear of having your stuff stolen. Judging eyes everywhere.

I think things will calm down a bit after the resolution crowd peters out. I will say this, though: joining a gym has solidly reinforced how much I truly love running outside and the joy it brings me. Hard to believe I lived without that feeling for so many years. — Mags