Race Roundup: Hot Chocolate 15K


Race bib, CTA fun pass & chocolate. Photo courtesy of Shila 🙂

I’m thankful for crazy friends who do ridiculous things with me – like drive to Chicago only to stay there for twenty-four hours so we can run a race…and not just any race, but a 15K.  Oh, they have a 5K option, but we figure that if we are going to drive all the way to Chicago for a race, we might as well make it worth it and be out on the long course.

This was my second time running the Hot Chocolate 15K in Chicago.  Last year we had a blast and decided we were gluttons for punishment and we had to do it again.  Except this time we both failed miserably in training for it – me, for mostly legit reasons (see last post), my friend…well, she at least did more than me.

I registered for the race in August in the middle of a health roller-coaster, during a moment of feeling well.  When I started to feel not as well again, I didn’t train.  Leading up to yesterday’s race I had done three (maybe four) 2 to 2.5 mile runs and one 5k – within the last six months.  Really, that is it.  I’ll have the race roundup post for the 5k I ran two weeks ago in a coming post…I ran it because I thought that I should probably run more than 2 miles in the lastsix months before going to run a 9.3 mile race.

Note to self and others: Do NOT, and I repeat do NOT, just go run a 9.3 mile race when you have run less than half a dozen times in the last six months.   I have run about 10 TOTAL miles in the last six month.  This is not me making excuses, because I am just fine with my time, this is me painting you a picture of reality.  I just figured I would ride off from my past running successes.  It was only 9.3 miles…no biggie.

Off to Chicago we went.

We got an email Friday night or Saturday morning that said the lines to pick up race packets on Friday were unacceptably long and that people were waiting 90+ minutes in line to get their packets…so they tripled the number of stations to pick up race packets. We arrived in Chicago at the home of my awesome friend who agreed to host us and jumped on the train to downtown.  We had to pick up our race packets at the south lot of Soldier Field.  We didn’t realize how far away that was from the closest train stop.  We walked, and walked…and couldn’t find the packet pickup.  We had to ask a couple of people because there wasn’t any signage to direct you to the packet pickup  only a sign or two near the lot to direct cars to park…nothing to direct people walking in from city center.  Not being Chicago residents, it was confusing.

We arrived at the big tent for packet pickup and that’s when we saw it.  The line.  It was HUGE!!  We waited 75 minutes in line OUTSIDE…when the sun was going down (last year…10 minutes, inside).  I was grateful I wore my ski jacket.

It took just a couple minutes to pick up our packet and be out of there once we got inside.  We made the trek back to the train stop, headed to my friend’s house where we ate, hung out (they were lovely hosts!) and went to sleep.

We got up crazy early, thankful for the end of daylight savings and for the extra hour of sleep, hopped on the train and headed to the starting line which was much closer to public transport.  We checked our gear easily and went to our starting corrals.  I was in “D” and my friend in “F.”  We now just had to wait…they spaced the corrals out by waiting 3 minutes and 30 seconds between each to reduce some congestion…probably a good idea because the start was still slow.

Finally it was go time for corral D.  The course was significantly changed from last year…and I wasn’t a fan of it.  The first 5k was alright but then the rest was not at all awesome.  It seemed we went through industrial Chicago and then we went up the lakeshore path – which was okay, but not very scenic at this time of year.  Last year the course went through the city.  I understand that it requires more road closures…but its no fun running a 15K when there is almost no one out there to cheer you on for over half the course when you are out in the middle of nowhere.  Last year running through the city and by homes and apartments people came out and were cheering for the runners…which is so. much. better.

Personally – I felt pretty decent for the first 10K.  The first mile was slow with the start, but then I started clicking off pretty consistent 8:45 miles…until I was in the middle of the wilderness it seemed, and I couldn’t find a new song to replace the one chorus that has been running through my head for four miles.  And then, I had to go.  You know…I had to go.  So just before mile 7 there were port-a-johns…I didn’t really care about my time all that much and I certainly wasn’t going to play chicken with my body – so I stopped for 2 minutes and 43 seconds.

I should also mention that over the past 8 or so months I have had problems with my left bum and upper hamstring….sciatic problems when I run and particularly when I run up an incline.  I could feel it nagging at me the whole race…but after my little pit stop the course started to pick up a few more rolling hills from pedestrian walk ways and such…and my problem area began to scream at me.  My last two and a quarter or so miles were really awful…I hurt a lot.  I had to take the uphills slowly to minimize the pain…if only I could have stopped at the 10K mark.  That would have been the perfect distance.  I finished anyway.  My overall time of an hour twenty-seven plus change was actually an hour and twenty four minutes and thirty seconds when I take out my bathroom break.  Overall pace was 9:22 but when you take out the bathroom break time I have an overall pace of 9:04.  I can’t complain…I hadn’t run more than 10 miles in six months.  I’ll take it.

Then came the post race food…the whole reason we even make the trek to Chicago.  It was delicious as expected BUT two things hampered a great review from this gal.  One: while they gave us a good amount of fondue I don’t think they gave us enough stuff to dip in our chocolate.  Last year they gave more, and even let us take a few extra pieces if we wanted.  The second was that we didn’t get whipped cream in our hot chocolate like last year.  I felt jipped.  Oh, and at the end of the race last year they were giving out chocolate squares left and right.  They gave me one this time.  And it was smaller.

Did I still have fun?  Yes.  And the sweatshirt we got in our goodie bag fits great and is nice – definitely a score.  I like that we get decent stuff for the price we pay.  Will we do the race again next year? It’s still up in the air.  It is still a fun race, but it wasn’t quite as awesome as I expected based on last year’s experience.  It seemed last year was more chill…I missed that vibe this year from the race.  Maybe we’ll try to find another Chicago race with an awesome goodie bag…any suggestions?


moving forward…despite challenges

It’s been a while ya’ll.  A good while.  It has been a bit crazy around here lately, but we keep moving forward!  I mentioned briefly in my Grosse Ile Duathlon post that I was having some health issues.  So today I thought I’d share some thoughts on how you (I) move forward when life deals you a sucker punch that totally derails your plans and goals…particularly your fitness goals.

Six months ago today (May 4th to be exact)…I started having some intense chest pain.  Like some one was stabbing me in the chest repeatedly.  Out of the blue.  That evening marked the beginning of a long roller-coaster ride that I’m not sure I’m off yet.  Over the past six months I have had varying degrees and types of chest pain…back pain…left arm pain.  I have had numerous doctor appointments, and I’ll spare you the laundry list of tests that caused me to rack up some pricey bills (that thankfully we’ve been able to pay!).  Through a few months of visiting different doctors and specialists, they found…well…nothing.  I don’t know if ya’ll have had any similar experiences, but it kind of makes you feel like you are going crazy.   I was having pain that would drop me to the floor and leave me in tears, but they couldn’t find anything.  Really?

I began to wish that a test would show something – isn’t that horrible to hope they find something wrong with you instead of praising God that they didn’t?  I’ve reformed my ways.  About 8 weeks ago I caved and went to see a chiropractor – I’ve been a bit skeptical, but figured I didn’t have anything else to lose!  The complete verdict is still out, but I think it might be helping.  I still get pain, but the last couple of months it hasn’t been as intense.  I’m praying I can hop off this coaster soon!


In the middle of it all I have been skittish to do any high-intensity workouts…not knowing how my body will respond.  I did the duathlon in May, but outside of that I haven’t done a whole lot until recently.  It is more than a little frustrating.  I had planned on at least 3 triathlons/duathlons this summer plus road races…those went out the window.  Working out as normal…out the window.  I even gained five pounds.  Super frustrating.

So what is a person to do?  You keep moving forward.

My identity is not tied to my athletic or fitness abilities.  I am so much more than my race time or my accomplishments.  I get that is hard for many to grasp…it took me a long time to get there.  My identity used to be so tied and intertwined with my running abilities that it was hard to see who I was without it…but I am so much more and so are you.  Forward progress.

You find out what you can do.  For a month we went rock climbing at Planet Rock one to three times a week.  It was therapeutic for me and put my mind at ease more than any doctor appointment.  We used to climb.  A lot.  Back when we could climb free.  It can get really expensive to climb – we don’t have a grand to cough up for a year climbing gym membership, but Groupon helps us out sometimes!  So we bought month long groupon passes and climbed like crazy.  It was helpful to see I didn’t completely lose all my climbing skills – in fact I was climbing almost better than I ever have and I felt good about myself and my body.  It didn’t make the pain disappear. but it made some anxiety disappear (early on in the ordeal I had legit panic attacks every day for about a week – another story, another day).  Climbing helped.  It wasn’t on my list of goals for the year, but it was what I could do, and it helped.  Significantly.  Forward progress.

From climbing I tried cycling – I did some shorter easy to moderate rides.  I occasionally lifted weights.  It felt good.  Forward progress.

I can’t say that those things were always easy – and outside of the month of climbing, nothing was consistent.  I still had days where I felt like I was going to die any moment, and days where I felt completely normal.  I went on a weekend backpacking trip. It wasn’t anything extreme and I convinced myself something was wrong the last day when every hill we climbed gave me a headache, but I was okay.

The single thing I couldn’t bring myself to do was run.

Running…the one thing I was, at one point, rather good at…and the one thing I could still count on to boost my self esteem.  If I was feeling totally out of shape…I’d go for a run.  I was still better than the average person, so I couldn’t hate on myself too much.  But now, running terrified me.  It was the one thing that still made me feel like if I did it I would have a heart attack and die on the trail…so I avoided it like the plague.

There happened to be one week in the middle of August that I was feeling good and a friend asked me to run a race with her in November – a 15K in Chicago that we had run the year before.  I thought – I’m feeling good, I’ll be through all this by then, let’s go for it.  So I paid $60 to register.  We’ve already established the fact that I don’t throw away $60 on a race and I will run unless I absolutely can’t.  Well…the good feeling I had only lasted a week and back on the coaster I went.  Running = still a big scary monster.  I’m not going to give a whole race report in this post, but let’s just say I did run that race this morning and I did finish, but I did not do any training before hand.

I survived the 9.3 miles. Without training.

I don’t think I’m scared of running anymore.  It is just hard.  Was my time awesome?  No.  Was it good enough?  Yes.  I’m content, because I’m more than that time.  I’m a fighter that conquers fears.  I press forward to regain fitness, to regain health and to thrive.  I will probably have more not-so-awesome days…but I’m not going to let them hold me back.  I’m making forward progress.

I won’t complete 12 races including 3 tri’s/du’s this year.  I won’t run as fast as I did last year…and I could beat myself up over it.  But I won’t.  Because it doesn’t define me and I am moving forward despite the challenges.  That’s more important than hitting specific numbers.  I’m not giving up; I’m simply readjusting and moving forward in the ways that I am able.

I pray that wherever you are at, with whatever is holding you back or derailing you, that you can still make small steps today.  Celebrate the small victories and keep pressing forward!

Race Roundup: Grosse Ile Duathlon

I realize I have been pretty lax on writing.  Maybe it was due to the fact that I recently bought a house and everything that goes on with it.  Perhaps because I have been traveling quite a bit for my job with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship over the past month and a half (I have spent most of a week outside of San Diego, two weeks in northern Michigan and the better part of a week in Pittsburgh…all fabulous, but they’ve kept me busy!).  Or perhaps at other times it’s because I just plain forget to when I have the time (but you know we always remember when we are running around and don’t have a spare second!).

My fitness movement (aka…exercise, working out, running, etc) has been pretty limited as of late.  The past five or six weeks I’ve been having some health issues (aka chest pain) that we haven’t figure out yet…maybe more on that later!  I see a specialist tomorrow so hopefully we can figure this out and I can get back to doing what I like to do.

In the meantime I did do a duathlon – early on in the whole health fiasco.  I almost didn’t do it, but my rational was this: 1. I paid $60 for it and I’m too cheap to let it go 2. I’ve been talking smack with a workout partner for a good 6 months and we’ve been running the numbers to see who would win…to not compete would mean a forfeit and an automatic win for him and 3. I knew there would be EMS on site and if I dropped (as morbid as that sounds) at least they would be there to revive me!  So down to Grosse Ile I went.

This I know for sure, I like duathlons MUCH more than triathlons.  If you’ve read my triathlon post you’d know that I’m not a huge fan of the water.  Not. At. All.  The duathlon is much more my speed, AND I can be competitive in it…not saying I’m throwing in the towel on tri’s at all…I simply like du’s more and might stick to them this season due to my lack of time in the water.  I don’t know that I’ve been in the water (outside of dipping into a lake on a HOT Memorial Day) since last June.

So a duathlon (for those of you reading this and thinking a duath…what??) consists of a run, then a bike, then a run.  This particular duathlon happened to consist of a 5k (3.1 mile) run a 20k (12.4 mile) bike and another 5k run.  I hadn’t done much in the three weeks leading up to the duathlon because of my traveling, but outside of the chest problems was feeling alright approaching it.

3 Disciplines, an organization that runs triathlons and duathlons around my neck of the woods, puts on well organized events…I’d recommend any of their events to anyone.  And they always have good post-race food!

First 5k: I felt pretty strong for the kind of training I put it (which was pathetically too little) and came through about 8 minute pace.  The course, although it was supposed to be a certified 5k was .1 miles to long…we were all pretty sure of that – after all, I’m not that bad a pacing myself and dropping from an 8ish minute mile to a 9ish minute mile the last mile was just not possible. I appreciated that most of the run was gravel/dirt.

Bike: I felt good on the bike – I wished I could have put in a little extra time in the saddle leading up to the race, but did fine all things considering.  I knew that if my training partner didn’t catch me before the 6th mile I had this race in the bag.  Mile number 6 came and went, then 7, then 8 and so on until I hit the transition area once again.  He never caught me.  I was a bit worried, maybe he crashed, maybe he got a flat, but off on the run I went.

Second 5k: I felt a bit funky on the last run.  Maybe I was being hyper sensitive, but I ran it much more conservatively, running a bit slower than 9 minute pace.  I finished the race feeling like I needed to throw up, not a normal feeling for me since I didn’t tap out my energy sources…but I headed to the food table to get something in my stomach.  After eating something I felt better and began looking for my training partner.

About seventeen minutes after me he crossed the finish line.  No flat tires, no crashes.  His run just wasn’t strong enough to put him in a position to catch me on the bike.  I think he was slightly surprised.  I can’t say that I was. 😉  I ended up winning my age group – there were five of us.  I felt pretty good about that.

And now I have a heavy glass that says first place to put in my cupboard to remind me that I love duathlons!

Race number 4?  I’m behind.  I’ll work on that.

Race Roundup: Martian Half Marathon

Ready to run the race!!

I signed up for the Martian half marathon about six weeks before the race (race number 3 of 12 for the year!!).  I had every intention of training well for it.  Too bad good intentions don’t get you anywhere.  Confession #1: my last run that came remotely close to 13.1 miles was the 9.3 mile hot chocolate race back in November.  I knew I could run 13.1 miles.  Been there.  Done that.  But I never got the t-shirt for all those long runs on Sundays during my cross country days.  This one was for the t-shirt.

I headed down to the race the morning of Saturday, April 14th to meet up with the lovely people above.  I don’t think they’ll mind me using the picture since it is already posted on facebook 😉  Four ran the 10k and two of us the half.  It was slightly chilly and damp and every once in a while it was misty.  The 10k went off first and forty-five minutes later the half marathoners took off.  I loved that the course was clearly marked with a blow up martian and the mile number.  When we ran past the 10k turn around there was a guy dancing and shaking a clapper – it was entertaining.  Confession #2: I wished I was turning around there.  I had run pathetically few runs since November and nothing more than 6 miles…but I kept putting one foot in front of the other.  I wasn’t really tired, I just mentally wasn’t in the game.

As we approached the turn around for the half – or maybe a little before the turn around – I saw a tent advertising chocolate milk, with a sign that said there would be chocolate milk at the end of the race.  Score.  Big time.  Confession #3: I couldn’t stop thinking about getting chocolate milk at the end of the race.  It is probably what helped me finish.

I think mile 8-9 was probably the best mile.  I got a good song in my head and rocked to it (Psalm 73 (My God’s Enough) by Barlow Girl – you should check it out)…but the song ran out after a few minutes!  It was about mile 9 that my hip flexors really started to ache…well ache might not be the right word – they were rather painful actually.  They had begun to slightly ache before then, but about mile nine…

At about mile 11.5 I told my running buddy to go on ahead, I could tell she was anxious to go and my hips were screaming.  The last mile and a half my motto was, “don’t walk and finish the race.”  Yep, they hurt that much.  Cardiovascularly I was doing just fine and breathing easy, but my hips weren’t moving easily!  My time tanked for the last mile and a half, but I think the chocolate milk helped keep me going 😉  After the finish I probably looked I belonged with people more than three times my age by the way I was walking.  Oh those hips.

All in all a great race.  Next time I might prep better.  The next day my hips were totally fine – but they weren’t fine for the 2 mile nature walk the hubby and went on the afternoon after the race, yikes!  All in all a well run race on a mostly flat course and a great time with friends!

And I have the t-shirt.

Race Round-Up: Sweetheart Run

What a gorgeous day it is this morning – it has me looking at the race calendar for 3 Disciplines – an organization that organizes and hosts over 30 triathlons each year in my region – and praying that I can make it out of the water faster this year than previous years!  This weather has made me want to get out into the water too!  But water aside, speaking of races, I didn’t post a race round-up for the Sweetheart Run last month.

I conned Dan into running this race with me on February 11th – after all it was called the sweetheart run!  They offered 5k, 10k and team competition events.  Dan and I entered in the team competition which meant we both ran a 5k and they combined our 5k times for out total team time and combined our ages for our total team age.

The night before the race it decides to snow….for almost the first time all winter in our area!  We had a slow drive about 40 miles north of us to the race.  Upon exiting the freeway we discovered the town it was in hadn’t plowed a single road…and it was cold.  The race went out on the roads so it was slow going.  Did I mention it was cold?  Dan wanted me to run the race with him “for at least the first twenty minutes,” so pretty much most of the race.  I conceded and said I would run the whole thing with him.  We took off and there were a few people that wiped out in the slippery snow while going around corners and such.  Oh yeah, it was cold.

The run was pretty good except one stretch of road was really windy and cold!  What frustrated me the most happened in the last 200 meters.  Dan and I were running together – remember instead of running faster I ranwith Dan (which I decided isn’t that fun…he doesn’t run in a straight line too well) but in the last 200 meters he decides to pick up the pace.  No problem I can match that – well in the last, probably 75 meters, he decides to all out sprint.  Have I mentioned that he can sprint faster than me?  Distance I’ve got him but he is a boy and naturally a faster sprinter.  So he decides to all out sprint, which I can’t match, and beats me by a second.  I was angry…he can testify to that.  I ran the whole thing with him and he decides to be a jerk and outsprint me at the end.  Not cool.  Then he gloats that he beat me.  Really?  He asserts that if he didn’t do that I would have tried to beat him at the very end…if I wanted to beat him I would have beat him a mile back.  Thanks sweetheart.

I guess I had to get over it.  No use staying mad at him forever…but I don’t think I’m running the sweetheart race with him next year!  Haha!  At the end of the race we were hanging out inside the school we started at, out of the cold, and someone comes in yelling for medic or something.  A guy who did the race was behind her with half of his hand frostbitten.  It was cold.  He didn’t wear gloves.  Brilliant.  I hope his hand was okay, they found a nurse.  I ended up winning a drawing for a little heart shaped dish and we landed in the middle of the pack for our team age and time.  I would have finished higher individually, but no worries.  We had fun and the roads were much clearer going home…although we did see a woman spin out in the middle of an intersection on the way back.  I’m glad I wasn’t next to her.  All in all a good start to the morning!  Next race: Martian Half Marathon next month!

2 races down 10 to go to complete 12 in 2012!