Race Recap: Chi Town 10K 2015

I spent 2014 busting out PRs left and right, and it felt fairly incredible. I became faster, stronger, even happier. I was proud of myself, proud of the way I rose to each challenge and recorded more notches in my racing belt.

Then last weekend, I busted out a “reverse 10K PR” — a.k.a. my slowest 6.2-mile race ever — and I still felt completely victorious. Fancy that.

My finish time at Saturday’s Chi Town 10K was 17 minutes slower than last year’s PR at the same race and 7 minutes slower than my previous 10K reverse PR (2012 Polar Dash, in a snowstorm).

Saturday’s race wasn’t about time goals, though; it was about running 6.2 miles without literally limping to the finish.

Coming back from injury has been difficult, to say the least, and I’m still not healed. But I needed this race to prove to myself that I truly am on the road to recovery.

Mags Chi Town 10K 2015I didn’t have my usual pre-race jitters, and I lollygagged a little getting down to the start line. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been less nervous about a non-goofy-5K race. I was excited about returning to the Lakefront Trail for the first time since marathon training, and despite the brisk-bordering-on-cold early-morning air, it was a beautiful day for a run.

I made my way back to the 10- and 11-minute start corral, and my ego took one on the chin as I pined over the Ghosts of Races Past, when I was way up front with the rabbits. Then I told my ego to shut the hell up, stop worrying about the past and live in the now (as Garth Algar would say).

I glanced down at my Timex watch as I crossed the start line: 8:22 a.m., 7 minutes after the gun went off. After that, I just ran. My ego would crop up every so often when someone would pass me, and I’d forcefully remind myself that it didn’t matter. I checked my watch a couple times to estimate how much longer I’d be running (the miles were not, shall we say, very clearly marked). I reveled at the new construction and paving on the trail. Damn, it HAS been a long time since I ran here.

My pace was steady, and the pain stayed away until about mile 4, when my left hip flexor started to feel little sore. Sonofa. It wasn’t awful, though, and all of my other “problem areas” felt fine, so I pressed on. Endurance-wise, I felt surprisingly strong — especially considering that I just started running regularly three weeks ago after five months of very little cardio of any kind.

When I reached the final stretch, I picked up my pace and picked off a few people to beat (hey, it WAS still a race), and I finished with a smile.

I hope all my races this year have the same happy ending. — Mags

ChiTown10KSwagA few notes about the race:

  • There were nearly three times as many runners for the 10K and half marathon races this year. Plus, they added the Deep Dish Dash 5K to the mix (which only had 50 finishers, but still). So much for my quaint little neighborhood jaunt. (I’m guessing it’s because everyone read my NBC Chicago Stride post, in which I sang the event’s praises, so I really only have myself to blame and/or congratulate.)
  • When we reached the Lakeshore Drive underpass near North Avenue beach at mile 3, a shouting volunteer informed us there was knee-high water in the tunnel. Um, what?! So we were re-routed out to LaSalle Drive and met back up with the course. It turns out, a pipe burst after the race started! Race organizers said it happened so quickly that the water in the tunnel was only inches deep when the lead runner went through and it was impassable just a couple minutes later. (My friend Troy was with the 8-minute pace group, and they trudged through ankle-high water). Volunteers and race organizers acted as quickly as they could, and police got in position to re-route runners through traffic. All told, it added .12 miles onto the half marathon and 10K courses. Never a dull moment, kids!
  • Once again, thumbs up on the race swag. The medal is fast becoming one of my favorites, and I also enjoy the light-weight zip hoodie race shirt.
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Surviving the Trail

If you’ve ever taken to Chicago’s Lakefront Trail on a summer Saturday morning, you know it’s a jungle out there. Runners, bikers, strollers, dogs, tourists and even the occasional rollerblader (seriously, people, just stop already).

Sharing the road.

Sharing the road.

I’ve seen the world through the eyes of most of these people, but almost always, I take the role of runner on the trail. And while, yes, some bikers are obnoxious, and yes, most tourists are clueless, I have encountered enough idiot runners to know my kind is not an innocent bystander in the ails of the trail.

So listen up, kids. Here’s how to properly navigate the trail on your long run.

(Note: This post refers specifically to the Lakefront Trail in Chicago, but really, these rules can and should be applied to all recreational trails.)

Stay to the right. Just like on the highway, run on the right and pass on the left. The Lakefront Trail even has a gravelly “shoulder” that you can run on to get really over to the right and stay out of the way.

Run in a straight line. Why is this so difficult? I don’t get it.

No more than two across. We’ve harped on this before, but if you’re running in a group of more than two people, sorry, folks, you have to stagger. Deal with it. Oh, and your two across cannot span the entire trail. If you’re friendly enough to run together, you’re friendly enough to run closely together.

Throw away your trash. There are trash cans EVERYWHERE. There is no excuse for jettisoning your GU packet in the grass. This is not a race, so if you do that, you’re just straight up littering. Boo on you.

Look before you do ANYTHING.  Look before you turn around, look before you pass someone, look before you spit, look before you start walking, look before you veer off for a water stop, look before you cross the street, look before you stop to tie your shoe. LOOK! I know it’s easy to disappear into “your own world” when you’re logging 14-16-18 miles, but you are not in your own world. You are in my world and the world of hundreds of other trailgoers. So, for the love, be aware of your surroundings and watch what the eff you’re doing.

Got it? Good. — 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.

1:48:59.

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

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.

Image

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

 

Rave Run: Chicago’s Lakefront Trail

As Maggie so eloquently stated in Bad Angel Rule #9, some of the best runs can happen when you’re on foreign territory. So this past weekend, as I headed to the Windy City for good times with my girlfriends, one of the main things I wanted to check off my to-do list was a run on the Lakefront Trail.

I ran the Lakefront Trail for the first time last year when I was in Chicago for business, and it was all I had dreamed it would be — and more.  You’re right next to the water, gazing at sailboats, yachts and a vast expanse of Lake Michigan. The trail itself is flat (added bonus: there’s a gravel “shoulder” off to the side if you want to give your joints a break from the pavement), equipped with water fountains and, of course, chuck-full of runners.

Needless to say, this haven for athletic endeavors is right up there with Garrett’s Popcorn on my list of Chicago must-do’s.

This time, though, I was a little apprehensive. I was going out for my first run in a long time with Maggie. Normally, I’d be stoked for a run with her, but right now, she’s in the throes of marathon training, while I’m just trying to get back into race shape.

We set out bright and early on a beautifully overcast Saturday morning. Maggie was slated for 16 miles, and me, a measly seven. We started out together and made it to the four-mile mark like we’d been running together for months. Isn’t it funny how you can run with an old friend like no time has passed at all?

I knew Maggie wanted to ramp up her pace, and I was enjoying the scenery, so I sent her on her way and forged ahead on my own. And then, something awesome occurred: I found my happy pace and finished a full 10 miles with some juice left in the tank. Man, I love when that happens.

Until we meet again, Lakefront Trail. — Aidz