Thursday, October 13, 2016

2016 Chicago Marathon

Night before race!
My plan for running the marathon this past Sunday was to finish. Given my not so stellar training this summer, I wasn't expecting too much. I was going to run in the 10:20 -10:30 range for as long as I could. I knew that the chances of me running running a 4:30 or getting under last years time of 4:31:08 were pretty slim. So, like I said, I was just going to go out, run for as long as I could and slow down or walk if I needed to to finish.

Leading up to the race I didn't really feel like I was going to be running a marathon - it just seemed like another 'long run.' I didn't have that nervousness or doubt. Sure, I wasn't sure how well I was going to do, but I knew I could cover the distance. Saturday morning I did a two-mile shakeout run with the girls. I've never done a day before marathon shakeout run. It was fun and relaxing. Afterwards we hung out and had donuts and coffee and talked about all the stuff one talks about before a marathon: what we're wearing, what the weather is going to be like, where and at what time we were going to meet up. 

The rest of the day we just hung out. Baby H. and I watched 'Monsters vs. Aliens' and we went to Target - nothing too exciting. One of the running ladies hosted dinner and we had some great pasta and meatballs with everyone. After dropping Baby H. at my sister's house for the night, we headed home. Though I had been feeling fine, now the nerves started to kick in. My back was hurting and I was feeling really bloated. I retired to the couch with a heating pad hoping that it was temporary.
Making sure we're ready to run!

The morning started the usual way. We got up, ate, got dressed all that stuff you do before a race. I wasn't feeling bloated nor was my back hurting anymore so that was good. Since Mr. H. wasn't working the CARA VIP area before the race, we didn't have to rush to get downtown, which was nice. After many 4:30 a.m. alarms, having to get up at 5 and out the door by 6 really doesn't seem that bad. 

Once downtown we hung out at the CARA VIP area, and I met up with the other 10:30 group. There were a few first timers that were nervous, and a bunch of us that were at least pretending not to be nervous - or forgetting how hard this was going to be. It's weird, you think you'd remember that feeling of hitting mile 20, 21, 22 and the way your body just aches and longing to be done. But you don't. Even now I don't really remember it. It must be how I am able to do this every year. Anyway, we hung out until it was time to go, Mr. H. and I said goodbye to each other as he headed to corral B and we made our way to corral G.

Waiting for the race to start.
And then we stood around. We joked, we took pictures, we listened to Born to Run. Before we started, Laura said she was going to stick with me because I said I was going to run 10:30s. For the first 5k we stayed pretty much at that pace clocking a 10:27. A couple of our group had already lost us as they went off much faster than that. By 10k we had lost the group that was behind us. Our second 5k was at a 10:12 pace and the next 5k at a 10:11 pace. 

As usual, the first 10 ,miles seem to go by so quickly. Laura looked for friends through the Gold Coast. We saw a running buddy at the turn around at Addison and then I saw several groups of friends as we made our way back up Broadway and Clark. 

The distance on both of our watches was off because being downtown always messes with the GPS, and I of course forgot to turn off the auto lap on my watch. So each mile we looked at the time on our watches, calculated what time it should be if we ran a 10:30 and tried to keep ourselves on pace. Realizing we had a few fast miles, we slowed down a bit and ran the next 5k at a 10:21.

Somewhere around mile 12 I think I noticed I was chaffing under my arms. I asked Laura to remind me to get some Vaseline the next aid station. As luck would have it, a woman was bringing out a fresh batch of Vaseline (if you'v never seen how they hand out Vaseline during a race it's pretty weird. They have pieces of cardboard with big globs of it that you can just scoop up. Sometimes there are tongue depressors stuck to the boards for applying it. Apparently some people aren't familiar with what it is and I've heard stories of people trying to eat it - ugh). Anyway, I grabbed a glob, spread some under my left arm pit, tried to get a little bit under my right one (which really wasn't bothering me at the time but I figured better safe than sorry) and went on my way.

At the half way point I was feeling pretty good, and happy that we had been able to keep an average pace of 10:17 - on pace to hit a 4:30. But I wasn't letting myself think about that. I know that the real race doesn't start until mile 20 and that's what I was telling myself - I just needed to get to mile 20 and then I could asses how I felt. Meanwhile Laura and I continued to have fun, dance to the music as we went through the charity block party and laugh at the great posters. As we headed East on Jackson Blvd. a runner came up yelling "I'm loving Chicago" to the crowds. We asked where he was from, Tennessee maybe (totally can't remember), and told us that Chicago had the best crowd support. I couldn't agree more.

Between miles 15 and 19 we sped up again, averaging a 10:11 pace btween 25k-30k. I blame how boring Ashland and 18th street are at that point. We made it to mile 20 and the aid station that directly follows it. Up until this point, Laura and I had been discussing what we were going to do at each aid station - if we were going to gu or get water or Gatorade. This was a gu station (most likely the last) and I didn't think I could handle anymore Gatorade. We had been only walking as much as we needed to to get water. I started to take my gu, but I couldn't really stomach it so only got a bit down. I grabbed one of the bananas, took a bite, had a couple sips of water and started off again. Because I had walked more than I had been, I lost Laura. I probably could have caught up to her - I saw her colorful capris ahead of me - but it was time to let her go.

I feel silly saying this, but I knew Laura could run a sub 4:30 and I didn't want her to miss that by staying with me. I had told her earlier that if she needed to speed up then she could, and she kindly said the same thing to me. We agreed we were happy at a 10:30 pace, but clearly we had been going faster than that, and I wasn't sure how much longer I could keep it up. So I didn't work to catch up knowing that I needed to slow down and she most likely didn't. The next six miles were pretty much running from aid station to aid station. From kilometers 30-35 I slowed down to a 10:30 pace on the nose. I allowed myself to walk a little bit longer through the water before starting off again. But as I rounded 35th and turned onto Michigan, those walks got longer and longer. The next 5 kilometers I had slowed to a 10:59 pace. 

At mile 24 I had looked at my watch and, if my math is right, which if you know how difficult it is to do math while running long distances you'll know that's a big if, I was still within striking distance of a 4:30. I just needed to run the last two miles at a 10 min pace. Was this within the realm of possibility? Who knows. Probably not. But for a few seconds at least I was going sub 10. But yeah, my body and mind was like, nope, that's not going to happen, and so I tried to figure out if I could still PR. There's a whole minute and eight seconds after 4:30 that would mean a PR. I didn't let myself stop for the second to last water station while I was trying to figure all this out knowing that if I came close I'd be mad at myself for giving up without at least trying. But as I hit mile 26 and the final aid station, I knew it was not to be. And I was actually relieved. I would still run, but I wasn't going to kill myself for a time that I wasn't going to hit.

In the end I finished at an overall pace of 10:23 - better than the 10:30 I said I was going to run and way better than the finish I expected. Happily, Laura did just as I suspected and finished in 4:28:11.

All of our group had pretty good runs, and several, Laura included, had whopping PRs and went under 4:30.

Mr. H. and me goofing off after finishing the marathon!
So all-in-all a much better run than I had anticipated. It's easy to second guess myself - could I have gone faster? Should I have pushed myself more? But in the end, I did what I did and I'm proud of that. I have been much sorer than in previous years and I'm taking that as a sign that I pushed myself as hard as I could. Of course, there are lessons to learn from this training season, and I have lots of time to think about that. Sometimes I wonder if I should stop running so much. I enjoy it, I enjoy the camaraderie and racing, but it takes up a lot of time. Something to think about.

For now, I'm happy that it's over. A bunch of us are running the Country Sole Half Marathon on October 22. It's a long story about how I ended up running this race which I'll save for another day.

Oh, finally, one other piece of news - Mr. H. had a GREAT marathon. Not only did he PR, but he qualified for Boston by several minutes with a finishing time of 3:08! I'm so happy and proud of him and can't wait to go to Boston in 2018.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Marathon Training 2016

I wanted to cry on Sunday. Actually, I did cry on Sunday. First, I ran on Sunday instead of Saturday because we were unable to find someone to stay with the boy on Saturday morning. The good news is one of the other Saturday runners turned up on Sunday, so at least I had someone to talk to for the 18 mile run. I’ve been better this last week about getting my mid week runs in and doing my stretching and strength exercises - and when I say better that means that I’ve been doing them occasionally rather than not at all. So the good news is my piriformis, which had been hurting, felt pretty good all week. 

The first half of the run was OK. I was feeling a little winded or sluggish or something. In addition to not getting as many mid-week miles as I should have, I think one of the reasons I have been having bad long runs is that I’m not fueling enough. So I made sure to take a Gu before the run, and then at 5 miles and then at 10ish miles. But that third Gu didn’t give me the burst of energy that I wanted and by the time we got to mile 12/13 I was done. We were back at North Ave. and I told my running partner to go ahead without me. She had been slowing down with me, even walking when I wanted to walk, and giving me encouragement. It helped, and it was sweet, but at this point I was feeling defeated and just wanted to be alone. I told her I might take a cab back so she didn’t worry and went into the bathroom.

After making sure the group left, I called Mr. H. to let him know that it was going to be a while before I got home. He offered to hop into a cab and come get me, but I said no. I was going to sit for a while and then run walk back to Montrose. I’d make it, it would just take some time. This is where the tears came in. I told him I just didn’t know what was wrong with me. The last several weeks I have been off, and I keep waiting to have that one good run to make me feel better. Since I don’t run with my phone, I had borrowed the hydration station worker’s phone, and she was nice enough to ask if I was ok and reminded me that some days your body just doesn’t want to do what you want it to do. I get it, I just seem to be having a lot of those days.

So I walked down to the water, took my shoes and socks off, and waded out into the lake. It was nice to cool off and just relax for a bit. Sitting there in the water I ran through all the things that have been going on - being sick, having an injury, stress of work and buying a house and the million other things that come up and thought that maybe marathon training is too much. Maybe it's time to give up this pastime. Eventually I started walking back to Montrose. I walked for a mile or so and then finally decided I could run. I don't know what pace I was going those last couple of miles, I didn't bother looking at my watch. When I made it home, I was tired and defeated.

Now that it's a few days later I'm still tired and defeated, but I managed to get through a five mile run today. We'll see how tomorrow's nine mile goes. I haven't given up yet - not totally anyway - but I'm not predicting a PR this year. At this point I just want to finish marathon training and finish the marathon. 

So that’s where I am. Not where I want to be, but as they say, life is a marathon, not a sprint. And nothing is more of a marathon than marathon training. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

My little earthquake

This morning I felt the earthquake. Did you know there was an earthquake this morning? There was. It was in Pawnee, Oklahoma, which is north of Oklahoma City. It happened a few minutes after 7 a.m. I felt my bed shake, and I thought it was a truck, but then the bed didn't stop shaking, and I didn’t hear the rumbling of a truck. Then it did stop, and I didn't really think anything else about it, until I got on to Facebook a minute or two later and there was my aunt who lives just outside Oklahoma City saying that she was just woken up by an earthquake, and I thought ‘woah, seriously, did I actually feel that?’ 

I kept waiting for people to start reporting that they felt it in Chicago, but no, no one was doing that, and so I made a joke on my aunt’s post about how I either felt the earthquake in Chicago or I am so in tune with my family in Oklahoma I feel it when they are shaking. 

I didn’t really think that I had just imagined it and it was pretty coincidental for me to feel shaking at pretty much the same time that there is an earthquake in Oklahoma, and so I searched for other people saying they felt it in Chicago. Did you know there are website that you can go to that lists out all the earthquakes (over 1.5) all over the world? I mean, of course there is. And so yes, the Pawnee earthquake showed up, right about the time I felt it, but I already knew that. Then reports started coming in that people felt it in North Dakota, which is pretty far north, but also much further west than Chicago. And my friends on Facebook began to question if I really felt it, asking if maybe it wasn't a garbage truck or perhaps a disturbance in the force (both viable options). 

By this point it was after 8 and I needed coffee. So I bribed the child with a donut and got him out to Starbucks. I wanted to ask everyone I passed on the street “did you feel the earthquake?” When I went into Starbucks I was a little let down that one of the usual Saturday morning baristas wasn't there because I could have asked him, he at least kinda knows me. Anyone else would probably just think I was a weirdo - I am a weirdo, but still. I saw a neighbor - but we’re waving neighbors, not cross the street to say hi neighbors - and plus he had his headphones in, so I didn’t ask him.
Oddly, my sister is in San Francisco. So while there’s a good chance she will feel an earthquake, she wouldn’t have felt this one. My husband is out running along with a good portion of my friends, so I have few people to ask if they too felt it. Returning home, my downstairs neighbor was in the yard and I asked her if she felt it. Nope, she was up, but didn’t feel anything. 

Maybe it was a truck, or I was asleep and I dreamt it. How could I be the only person in Chicago to have felt that? But finally, finally, there were reports of other people in Chicago saying they felt it. And maybe we all felt the same garbage truck, but at least I know I wasn't imagining things. 

It’s a funny thing to be waiting for someone else to confirm that no you are not crazy and yes we believe you. It was like it didn’t happen if I couldn’t share the experience with anyone else. Of course, if literally no one else in Chicago said they felt it, then I probably didn’t feel the earthquake and it was a silent slow, but shaky truck. But others did feel it. No one I know, which is kinda disappointing for some reason. I want that sense of a shared experience of knowing that we both went through the same thing. And unfortunately (though of course, very fortunately for me), the experience my family members went through isn’t the same. Because mine is much less exciting and traumatic - though thankfully all of my family is okay. My aunt and cousins and other family in Oklahoma, they know they went through an earthquake. They had no doubts. My little bed-shake was probably what Regan first experienced when she was initially possessed. A minor shake, a truck going by, nothing to worry about. Certainly not a demon possessing my soul - and definitely not an earthquake.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Ravenswood 5k

I do love this run. It's my neighborhood run. I love living in a neighborhood that has a run. It's so much fun to just walk to the start line, see my neighbors and other running friends, take a jog around the hood and then watch my son in the kid's dash before heading back home for breakfast and a Prince dance party.*

For the first time, since I've been doing the run at least, Ravenswood had a t-shirt rather than a technical tee. Now that t-shirts have become these ultra soft, fitted pieces of clothes, I find myself wearing them a whole lot more. There was a time when i think I had two t-shirts in my drawer. Now I have so many I have two piles - plain ones and ones with stuff on the front of them. I regularly make decisions about what shirt I want to wear. Is it a Monkees kind of day or is it a CARA Six Series kind of day? Do I want a plain shirt because maybe I want to look a little nicer or is it after work and I'm just changing into something more comfortable that I may or may not end up sleeping in? This is why it's not a good idea to have too many t-shirts; you have to make decisions. And now I have another one to add to the rotation. Good thing it's cute.

Packet pick up was easy as always and I liked the inclusion of our names on the bibs. My son was also happy that he had a much higher number on his bib than either of his parents. These things are important to a 5 year old.

The morning of the race we walked over with my mom, who would be watching S while we ran, and my sister, who would also be running with her daughter, and headed to the CARA tent. On the way there I did a few warm up blocks and realized that my left hamstring was still sore from the Saturday 12 mile long run with the half marathon training group even though I am not actually training for a half marathon. Sore enough that I made sure to roll it out and ice it when I got home on Saturday, which helped, but apparently didn't solve the problem.

Staci, me, CJ - Photo courtesy of Staci.
Once at the tent I met up with Staci, my sister's daughter showed up, I said hi to a bunch of people and then we headed over to the start. We were able to find CJ close to the 9 min mile marker and so snapped a few pre-race selfies. I knew Sara was around, but due to logistics, we missed each other, so for the first time in several years, we didn't run this race together.

I looked at my splits from this race last year, and my first mile was 9:30ish, mostly due probably to having to weave through people at the start. I also looked at my 5k PR which was not from Ravenswood but from last year's Good Life 5k. I ran that race in 27:44 last year. So if I wanted to PR, I would need to keep my splits under 8:56. Staci and I were both noncommittal on how fast we were going to run, but I think we were both pretty much on board with an 8:50ish pace.

We spent minimal time weaving at the beginning, and we got into a rhythm fairly soon. We weren't chatting too much, but we were on the lookout for the Mayor since he lives along the race route. Apparently he ran the race (supposedly, there doesn't seem to be any record of him in the results) so he wasn't on his usual corner or Berteau and Ravenswood waving. Though my leg was hurting a bit, I was OK with it for the time being. First mile: 8:49.

When I looked at the first mile split, I thought, woah, I feel like I'm going too fast, which might be because we sped up a bit after that. The first quarter of mile 2, we were doing about 8:30. But then I started to slow down, and by 1.5 had gone back down to a 8:50. I walked through the water stop (which had Nuun instead of Gatorade, an interesting choice, and apparently the hydration of choice for all Fleet Feet/RAM races going forward) and with Staci gone, I decided that my leg had had enough. Second mile: 9:26.

Now I had never fully mentally committed to PRing in this race. But every race is a chance to PR - or at least try, otherwise I wouldn't push myself at all. And there is part of me that thinks maybe I could have run through the pain since it actually hurt more the slower I went. But once I made the decision to slow down, there really wasn't anything to make me speed back up. Mile three: 9:43. Final time: 29:08; 60/222 age group; 438/1647 gender; 1200/2984. Well off my 5k PR, but over my finishing in the top half of my age group and gender general goal.

My leg was pretty sore the rest of the day, but seeing S win his 50 yard dash took my mind off of it. He was super happy and kept telling everyone how he won his race. Also, Mr. H. did PR, and my sister beat her daughter (in the race, which isn't always a given when you're running against an 11 year old) so all in all, not a bad way to spend a Sunday morning. Now for a few rest days to see if I can work out my hamstring and not let it derail my marathon training.

*Prince dance party not an annual tradition, but may become one from now on.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Partying like it's 1999 - not 2016

There's this thing called impostor syndrome. Basically, you downplay your accomplishments as being just luck, or not real, anything other than what they actually are, the result of hard work and perseverance. Unless you are an impostor; then it's the result of you understanding that you cheated your way to the top. One hopes that at some point Donald Trump will come to terms with his own imposter syndrome and drop out of the presidential race, but that's besides the point.

And the point certainly isn't that Prince was in way an impostor. No, he was the real deal. A true artist in every sense of the word and our world will be a little less funky without him in it anymore.

No, I am the one feeling like an impostor. I have felt like an impostor in many ways at various times during my life. I know I have written about how I often don't feel like a 'runner' because I'm not the type of runner that one thinks of when they think of a runner. This is something that several of my other 'runner' friends and I have discussed. We don't run fast, or at least not as fast as the people who run faster than us. I think if you run faster than me, then that makes you a 'real' runner. Of course, I don't feel like the people who run slower than me aren't runners. And so one would think I could figure out that if slower than me runners are real runners, then I must be just as much of a real runner as they. But no, I apparently hold myself to a different standard. In reality, I have run three marathons and a whole bunch of other races and I can call myself a runner if I want to and if there is someone out there that thinks I'm not a runner because I'm not fast enough then they probably aren't a runner because runners aren't like that.

I could go on the same way about writing. If I'm not writing enough, producing enough words, well then I shouldn't be able to call myself a writer. There are things that I feel you must achieve a certain amount of success at before one can be that thing. I'm not sure how true it is. It's not like I'm trying to pass myself off as the answer to this nation's problems and get elected to the highest office in the country or anything. If I were doing that, without having any real reason for people to believe that I would be able to handle, say, an international crisis or a natural disaster because my background is primarily being rich and going bankrupt a few times and saying things that people seem to want to hear because I'm 'telling it like it is', well then maybe I was just being honest with myself when I felt like an impostor - but you know, that's not me.

But I am questioning if it is OK for me to be sad that Prince has died; that another light has gone out. It's not like I was the biggest Prince fan in the world. I have listened to, and loved, and sang and danced to much of his music. Though I'll admit that after Diamonds and Pearls and (Love Symbol Album) I haven't really listened to much of his newer music. And a quick search through my iTunes reveals not one Prince song in my library. However, I do know that down in the basement are at least two Prince CDs (I know I have Purple Rain and Batman down there somewhere). And I do know that I had at least one, Purple Rain, maybe 1999, album when I was a kid. I remember Purple Rain coming out at the movie theater and making a pact with my friend Becky that we would go to see it together. She went and saw it without me and that is why to this day I no longer speak to Becky (that and we went to different schools after 6th grade and never saw each other again). But is that enough? Is it enough that Prince was one of those artists that shaped my childhood? That his death is a reminder of my own mortality. The artists that I grew up listening to are suddenly not only old, but sometimes even dying. Maybe I just haven't shown enough devotion to him to actually be sad.

For the record, not one person is questioning my veracity in being sad that Prince died. No one is saying - Hey Melanie, you weren't really a Prince fan, take down that silly Facebook post. I mean, maybe someone is, but they haven't said it to my face, or to my FB page. But there is part of me that thinks maybe I don't have the right to be upset. To the point that I've found it necessary to sit down and write about it on the internet. How self indulgent can I be?

Of course, if there was anyone who appreciated self indulgence, it had to be Prince. And while I'm sure he had his human foibles just like the rest of us, I like to imagine him waking up each day and saying - fuck it - I'm going to do me and everyone else can just deal. And if that meant that people thought he didn't have the right to do this or that, then he just didn't care, because he believed in himself (please don't ask me to bring this back to how DT clearly doesn't care if people believe he has the right to do what he wants to do and how that is somehow different - I can't right now, but just believe me it is - let's just say: Prince = good, DT = not good).

So I'm going to keep on doing me. And that means when Lin Bhremer plays Let's Go Crazy and tells us all to turn up the volume and sing and dance, then I'm going to, and S and I are going to listen and dance and sing to a great musician and be happy he was able to make music while he was here on this earth.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Spring Break

If you live in the city of Chicago and you send your kids to CPS, you know that this week is spring break. Even if you don't live in the city of Chicago and don't send your kids to CPS, but spend any amount of time in the city, you might well know this because hey, there are a bunch of fricking kids walking around the city not in school - what the hell.

Anyway, my son is out of school for his very first spring break, which he has been really looking forward to. Maybe he's seen too many shows on MTV (not) or maybe it's because so many of his friends have actual trips planned to places like Disney (likely) that he has an unrealistic view of what spring break should be like. Unfortunately for him, I do not subscribe to that style of spring break. No, our spring breaks consist of him continuing to go somewhere during the day because his parents need to go to work. However, I actually don't have to go to work, I took the week off. So technically I could be planing adventures for us around the city. Monday we go to Maggie Daley Park, Tuesday we go to the Field etc. But nope, that's not happening either. Instead I signed him up for camp at Lillstreet Art Center. This, in my mind, is the best of both worlds. 

First, he gets to go do something totally different than what he normally does. And there isn't any 'work' like at school. It's all art. Second, his day is shorter, as drop off isn't until 9 and pick up is at 3:30 (which is technically when he gets out of school, but we don't normally pick him up until 5:30 because you know, work, so he spends time doing after school stuff during the week). And third, and this is the best part, I still have time to myself and also with him. We get to have slightly more relaxed mornings; I drop him off; and then I get to go do whatever it is I want to do; then I pick him up and we still have a few hours of play time to go to the park.

What am I going to do during that six and a half hours of free time? Well, I'm glad you asked. Usually I plan my days off with a million things to do and then I don't get through all of them and then I feel bad like something terrible is going to happen because I didn't get through my completely unattainable list. But of course, nothing terrible happens. No one notices that the refrigerator isn't clean or that I didn't dust the base boards or wipe down that one wall that's always dirty. No one except me of course. 

Rather than make a list of all the things I think I need to do before I can do the stuff I want to do, I'm going to do it the other way around. First I'm going to do the stuff I want to do. I'm going to do yoga or run and write and read. And then, if I have time leftover, then I'm going to clean or organize or something, do one of the things on my to do list. And that way I get the stuff for me done first, and I'm not always putting it off. It's a novel approach, and not something I've really tried before. I'll let you know how it goes. 

So far today I have run (which I did at the usual before everyone gets up time so it didn't eat any extra time out of my day). Then I threw in a couple of loads of laundry while I made the reservations and sent the invites to S's birthday party. I know that doesn't fall into the category of 'things I want to do for myself' but it needed to be done and I've also learned (let's be honest, am learning) how to be flexible. Now I'm sitting outside, watching the birds play in the birdbath, eating some lunch, and writing (this blog you're reading - this is the fruit of my writing labor for today). Now that I'm done with this, I may move on to some reading for a bit, then yoga and then we'll see how it goes. I still have more than three hours to do stuff. And it's just day one!


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Chi-Town Half Marathon or Skating 13.1 miles on the lakefront path

As I mentioned at the end of my post about the Shamrock Shuffle, I signed up for the Chi-Town Half Marathon mostly out of peer pressure. In all honesty, there was little to no pressure actually applied. I told my friends that I had an event on Saturday night (a charity auction for my son's school, where parents who pay taxes for public schools give money to the school because we don't value education enough in this country to fully fund our public schools...but that's a blog post for another day). Anyway, when I told my running gals that, they were all - yeah, makes sense, I can see why you wouldn't want to do the half that morning. And then I went and signed up for it anyway because I figured I'd be sad if they all ran it and I didn't. Little did I know.

Since I signed up last minute, the price of the race was a little high, but, you know, that's what I get for waiting. I really like the long-sleeve technical shirt and it came in a reusable (not plastic) handle bag with the bib and one other give away which meant I didn't have to throw away a bunch of stuff. Going to bed on Friday night, I knew it was going to be cold the next morning so I laid out my winter tights, a long sleeve insulated shirt, gloves, and ear warmers. I woke to 25 degrees (on April 10!) but I've run in colder - way colder. No big deal.

On my way down to the lake, I stopped to pick up a runner who was standing at a bus stop. I asked if she was headed to the race, she was, so I offered her a ride. Usually I don't pick up strangers, but you know, she's a runner, it's freezing outside, runners stick together. While it was pretty crowded once we get to the lake, I easily found a parking spot on Montrose off of Simmonds Dr. I texted my friends to let them know. They said they were by the start and I figured it should be easy to find five people. Nope, wrong. I walked around for a bit, ran back to my car to text again (I hate running with my phone) and then went back to the start, and still couldn't find them. 

By this time, people are jammed into one of the three corrals that are set up. No one seemed to know what the other two are for. The corrals were next to each other, parallel to the start line, so naturally everyone went into the one closest to the start. But then, the announcer (who had a love of the words 'whoop' and 'whoop') tells us that the first one is for green bibs, second is for red and third is for blue. OK, so I had a red bib on and that kinda sucks that I snaked my way toward the 10-minute pace flag thinking that's where my friends would be (annoying the shit out of all the people that I was going around because I know how much it annoys me when people do that to me), but whatever, I moved over to the next corral. Amazingly I saw Aliza, who told me that the rest of the gals are going to run 10:40s because of the ice. I told Aliza I can start with her, but I wasn't about to run a 2-hour half, which I knew she wanted to do. We stood around for an extra 15 minutes after the scheduled start time for unknown reasons, during which time Mr. Whoop Whoop reminded us of which colors go in which corrals. Except he started mixing it up. He told us that the first corral is for the red bibs, second green, third blue; or was it first green, second blue, third red? He said different things, seemingly unaware he was being inconsistent, and that he was pissing off a bunch of runners until finally, without much fanfare, they started the race.

We headed north the first couple of miles on the path that hugs the lake. It was covered with crunchy snow/ice that wasn't great to run on, but better than the sheets of ice we encountered when we transitioned to concrete. Most everyone moved up to the grass turning the race into a semi trail run. As we made it up to Hollywood, we went back and forth between icy, crunchy snow and just plain ice. A lot of us ran in the grass so we weren't slipping. But that meant it turned into mud. The sun was out, but nothing had melted much, which was a good thing because you could see where the ice was and avoid it. Heading back south, I began a regime of running from water stop to water stop. I got to the water stop, drank some water or Gatorade (I like to go back and forth) walked through the stop a bit, and then started running again with the mantra, just get to the next water stop. I also kept reminding myself to concentrate on the moment and not think about my pace too much. To not worry about the finish or if I'm going to PR or fall on my ass. Just be where I am. This got me pretty much through mile 8ish. Up until this point, I had been keeping a pretty even sub-10 pace - I had a 9:38 mile and a couple of 9:40s and three miles in the 9:50s. My slowest mile in this stretch was mile 3, due to lots of ice on the path; I ran a 10:32. I'm pretty sure that's the mile where the first of the two runners I personally witnessed, went down on a huge patch of ice. Luckily he was able to get right back up and seemed okay.

The course took us south on the west side of the Diversey Harbor Lagoon and then through Lincoln Park. As we went under Lake Shore Drive at LaSalle, there was, thankfully, a person from the race at the bottom of the ramp letting us know it was icy and to be careful. I have to wonder how many people fell there before they put someone there. Maybe she was there the entire time. It's hard to know. But unfortunately, there wasn't a whole lot of support out on the course. But more on that later. 

Turning back north, I knew we'd run into wind, and pretty much from North Ave to Belmont was a wall of wind, coupled with a sheet of ice. Thus I entered my "I hate this, why do I do this to myself, I'm going to walk the rest of the way" phase. Somewhere in mile 9 or 10 I did actually walk and figured I'd just walk until my friends who were behind me caught up. I slowed down considerably, miles 9 and 10 being 11 min miles. And, even though the sun had started to melt the ice, and we had moments of running on actual pavement, it was pretty much impossible to see the black ice so every fifth step was a mini slide and the feeling of having just enough control to not fall on your ass. The problem with running this way, in addition to slowing you down, is that it's hard. I probably expended twice as much energy just keeping myself upright. My whole body was tense and I was getting pretty fricking tired of slipping on ice. Despite that, I soldiered through and as I got to mile 11, I found a little bit more strength to finish the race. I ran 11 and 12 in about 10:25 minutes each. By mile 12, I knew that while my goal pace of 10 minute miles was gone, I was well within reaching my PR. The last mile I tucked in behind to wonderful women, told them I was going to follow them in, and we sped to the finish. My last mile, 9:34. As I crossed the finish line, my watch said 2:13 official results were 2:12:57, besting my PR by almost 4 minutes. 

Aliza was at the finish, she managed to PR as well, hitting her goal of running a sub 2. Not all the rest of the ladies were behind me though. Unfortunately we had one casualty; Adrienne fell around mile three and she and Laura made their way back to the start line in an epically ridiculous fashion (their story to tell, so I won't rehash it here, let's just say they found very little support on the course and had a really hard time finding any medical assistance). Being cold and fairly annoyed, I headed back to my car. I was going to go straight home to start all the other stuff I needed to get done, but before that I met everyone for coffee, was glad to see that Adrienne was OK, and then headed home.

So yeah, I PR'd. My official stats are: 34/114 age group; 577/1433 gender; 1223/2426 overall. But there's more...

It's hard to say this, because I did PR, but I don't really think the course should have been opened. At least not without All Community Events having done something to make the path better. As far as I could tell they did nothing to salt or clear the path. I've run races in winter before. I've run races in colder temperatures with ice and snow. And the race directors for those races, they got out the night before, in the middle of the night, and the early morning of the race and did everything they could do to clear the ice, to salt, to ensure the path was safe. As I mentioned, there was little presence of support outside the water stops on this course. It took Adrienne an hour to have someone look at her to make sure she was okay. I can't imagine what would have happened had she been hurt worse. Obviously Laura or someone else would have actually called an ambulance if it really was an emergency, but there should be race support there for that as well. From the very beginning it seems All Community Events had problems with this race. 

I'm not entirely sure why the course was changed, but it's bad form to advertise a specific course and then have to change it because you didn't get the permit. To be fair to them, they did at least provide shuttle buses from the original start to the new start. The start corrals were a joke. They weren't labeled. There wasn't anyone there telling people why there were three different corrals. And when they did finally tell us, they said different things at different times. Everyone was confused. I had pace group leaders, people holding signs, pass me well into the race that were pacing 9 minute groups, 9:30 groups. I didn't start (or intend to start) so far up front that I should have been in front of those groups. And I'm sure they didn't intend to start so far back. I don't fault them for the weather. But you have to know if the weather doesn't cooperate, and you can't provide runners with a safe course, then you call the race. It's not like they would have had to pay us back the money. We all signed something that said the race wasn't liable in case they needed to cancel. 

When I first made it down to the lake, I saw a pickup truck on the path at Montrose and figured that it was a course truck going over the path making sure it was salted. When we started 15 minutes late, I assumed we were waiting because they wanted to get an all clear that the path was safe. The only place I saw any salt on the course was at North Ave. and I doubt All Community Events put that there. 

I'm willing to give race directors the benefit of the doubt. It's hard to put on a race. There are a lot of moving parts (figuratively and literally). But All Community Events is a company that is in the business of putting on races. And if I'm going to pay $80 for a race, I want it to be a well run race, even if that means they have to make the tough decision to delay the race or even cancel due to course conditions. Maybe this was a one off. Aliza said she had run the race before and it was fine. I've run the Turkey Trot and liked it. Regardless, I hope they take this experience and learn from it. Until then I'll be hesitant to sign up for another of their races.

Next up, Ravenswood 5k.