Friday, October 9, 2015

Pre-race jitters

Happy Friday, everyone!

Sorry for falling off the planet this last week. It's that magical period known as quarter-end close. This translates to me trying to meet lots of tight deadlines in the office.

First off, GOOD LUCK to everyone running the Chicago Marathon on Sunday! You've all got this and you are all rockstars. I hope to do a little bit of marathon spectating in Greektown, which is around the halfway point. Look for me near the Mile 13.1-marker or within a block or two afterwards.

Isn't this sign the best? This woman GETS it.

Now while I am not running the Chicago Marathon this year (flashback to my recap from 2012), I am running the Prairie State Half Marathon tomorrow morning.

This will be my 24th half marathon. However, I am still nervous. (I actually still get nervous before ANY race, regardless of distance!)

I know halfs are nothing compared to fulls (edited:) in terms of distance. But my thought process during the past week was still nutso.

Originally, I entertained the thought of taking things easy this week to rest my legs. Then, I got antsy. I felt like I wasn't doing enough to keep the blood flowing. So for the most part, I stayed with my usual workout regimen, but took a few things down a notch. Now, in retrospect, I'm wondering if I still did too much. Sigh.

I believe yoga is a cumulative practice that grows over time. Sadly, my yoga practice has taken a big hit during the past few weeks. This is due to class cancellations in combination with schedule conflicts. I'm apprehensive that the reduced yoga will start showing its negative effects now.

Even when I am doing yoga regularly, nearly all of my entire lower body muscles are almost perpetually tight. I've been trying to stay on top of foam rolling. Unfortunately, my muscle tightness is like a springboard. I'll foam roll before bed, then wake up the next morning feeling tight again. Or, if I foam roll during the day, the tightness comes right back a few hours later. It truly never ends.

The ghost injuries are real. Yesterday, I took a Zumba class and at one point I thought I had twisted my ankle. The day before, I was lifting weights and thought I had tweaked my shoulder. Another day, I was on a Divvy bike running some errands, and thought one of my hamstrings felt weird.

Today I am debating whether to take a total rest day versus an easy 3-mile shake-out run. There are pluses and minuses to both, of course. Because of all the ghost injuries, I'm leaning towards resting. But even so. Thou shalt never underestimate my ability to still feel phantom pains simply by, say, pushing the buttons on the microwave too quickly.

Historically I haven't had recurring issues with pre-race fueling or hydration (knock on wood). But lest I add to the list of jitter sources, I'm very conscious today of what I am eating and drinking. My workplace is a beacon when it comes to free food. I'm trying to be prudent today. Chocolate-chip cookies, be darned.

I am already fearing the inevitable pain that ensues somewhere between about Mile 10 and Mile 12.5 where I swear I'm never going to run again.

In summary - all of these nerves for a HALF MARATHON that I'm doing for FUN!!!

Amidst all the madness, I am also already eagerly awaiting that post-race moment where I think, "When can I sign up for another race and do it again?" =)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Meet me in St. Louis

I am so far behind on all the things I want to share! We'll start with a quick recap of last weekend.

Adam and I went to St. Louis and met up with our friend Lindsay to watch the Steelers vs Rams.

After a long drive through fields of corn and soybeans, Adam and I arrived in the Lou on Saturday early evening. My friend Steve had recommended Pappy's Smokehouse for barbeque, so for dinner we took him up on the suggestion.
The decor - shelves displaying jars of vintage BBQ sauce, and menus signed by visiting celebrities
Pappy's is exactly the type of no-frills, local joint that I love. I had been warned the wait would be long, and it was. We were in line for over an hour! I got the smoked turkey, which was amazing. I was so hungry that I didn't bother taking any pictures before scarfing it all down. (If I go to Pappy's again, I would probably call ahead and do a take-out order to save time.)

The next day, I was up and at 'em early in the morning to log a few miles before the football game. There is no better way to see the area than in your running shoes, yes?

When in St. Louis, thou shalt run to the Gateway Arch, of course. Prior to this weekend, I'd only seen the Arch from a distance. This time, it was cool to stand at its base and actually touch it. I thought it was much wider in person than it looks in pictures.

There were lots of runners around the Arch. It seems to be a popular resting spot due to some portapotties on the premises! =)

Next on my run agenda - Busch Stadium. This was another thing I'd only ever previously seen from a distance. The night before, the Cardinals were in town. Adam and I debated trying to go to their game, but ultimately decided not to. I still wanted to see the stadium, though.

I was hoping to get a picture of Busch Stadium's marquee entrance, or something similar. Unfortunately, the stadium's front entrance is right underneath some highway overpasses. It didn't make for a very good picture. Therefore, I settled on photographing some of the nearby fan party zones:

After I got back from my run, it was time to get ready for the football game!

Here I am with Adam and Lindsay in front of Edward Jones Dome. (Lindsay flew in from San Francisco the night before after attending an AC/DC concert!)

From L to R: me, Adam, and Lindsay
We weren't the only ones who traveled to the Gateway to the West for the game. The city was crawling with Steeler fans. I conservatively estimate the ratio of Steelers fans to Rams fans at the game was at least 2:1, if not 3:1.

Here are some of the visiting tailgaters in action (notice the Arch in the background!):

Game Time! Kick-off was unceremoniously delayed due to the turf catching on fire during the pregame show. Ooops. Here's an action shot of the dome staff remedying the damage under the not-so-watchful eye of the refs:

30 minutes later... Game Time take two! 

Here's the view from our seats. The Steelers were making a goal-line push during the first quarter:

Steeler aficionados, we obviously saw Ben Roethlisberger take the hit that resulted in him being carted off the field in a stretcher. We were too far away to see the details, though. Here is hoping and praying he will make a quick recovery.

After the (stressful) Steelers win, we headed over to Baileys' Range for some burgers, fries, and shakes. Baileys' was a recommendation from both Maureen and Steve, and it was excellent. Loved the creative decor and the food.

The upper deck view at Baileys

The classic post-game eats: a burger and fries.
Not pictured: Milkshake (I finished it in about 5 seconds flat)

Time to sojourn back to Chicago! Through the cornfields and soybean fields we went. It was a quick, but very fun weekend! It is always great to catch up with Lindsay, too.

In addition to Steve and Maureen, thanks go out to Deidre, Scott, Beryl, Tien, and Margaret for all your local recommendations. Noted for the next time to meet in St. Louis!!!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Ninja Warrior fitness competition

Yesterday, my workplace hosted a "Ninja Warrior Challenge" in our fitness center.

I wasn't originally planning on participating. Then, a couple of my teammates competed and were talking about the experience. I also found out contestants received a really nice red long-sleeved tech shirt and a phone armband.

Allright, what the heck. I am in need of a phone armband and I like red shirts. So I went to the fitness center and signed on up as a walk-in.

This picture was taken a few years ago, but I think it represents well. ;-)

Ninja Warrior contestant and/or bank robber? You decide!
I'd seen an episode or two of American Ninja Warrior on TV. But since this competition was taking place in a group exercise room, I figured we couldn't possibly be doing anything too crazy. Right?

One of the contest coordinators, Willie, walked me through the course. This is what it entailed:

  1. Zig zag run with bear crawl on the return - 2 laps
  2. Shuttle-run sprints - 3 laps
  3. Step-ups onto a bench while holding a 25-lb plate - 50 total, 25 on each leg
  4. Crunches - 50
  5. Squat jumps - 50
  6. Burpee on Step 360, followed by hopping over the Step - 2 laps, 10 burpees/steps each lap
  7. Tricep dips - 50
  8. Jump rope - 50
  9. Push-ups - 50
  10. Plate push - 3 laps

Good lord. What did I just get myself into?

The competition was based on how quickly each of us could complete the course. I had heard the current leader finished in approximately 8 minutes, but most people were finishing around the 15-20 minutes range.

I didn't have much time to think about it. Willie told me I'd be starting in about 2 minutes. I hadn't done any warm up, so I tried to quickly stretch out my calves and hips. Then I hit the course.

The zig zag run and bear crawl were pretty easy. Obviously, it's always going to feel good when you're starting out. I was able to move the bear crawl along quickly by keeping most of my weight in my legs.

The shuttle-run sprints were also no big deal. It was a flashback to gym class growing up, when we had to do a Presidential Fitness Test every year.

Then, things started getting real.

The bench onto which we had to step was higher than my knees. Yowza. It was no joke to step up 25 times on each leg while carrying a 25-lb plate. I alternated and did two sets on 10 step ups on each leg, then finished with 5 each. Unfortunately I had done some serious lower-body strength-training the day before. My quads and hamstrings wasted no time reminding me of this.

Next, the crunches. This was a nice break for both my legs and my lungs. It was the easiest of the 10 activities on the circuit.

During the squat jumps, my legs once again loudly reminded me who was boss. Towards the end, I was barely getting off the ground. I was faking it somewhat by swinging my arms with gusto. =D

Burpees were next on the Step 360s. UGH, I HATE BURPEES. We had to do the burpee on the Steps, raise the Step into the air above our head, then put the Step back down and jump over it. At first, I put the Steps down neatly in front of me. After a few burpees, I stopped caring and I started flinging the Step down to the ground. One time it bounced back and caromed off to the side. This meant I had to go chase it down. Willie cheerfully told me to be careful.

I made the tricep dips that followed as easy as possible by bringing my feet close to my hips. Boom!

Jumping rope again reminded me of gym class growing up. I tried not to waste too much energy by jumping too high. But I didn't want to get hit by the rope, so I overcompensated. Once again, my legs unwittingly screamed at me.

We had the option of doing the push-ups on our hands or our knees. You better believe I did them on my knees, haha! It felt like the longest set up of push-ups, ever. I was dripping sweat onto the floor.

Finally, the plate push. I think it was a 50-lb plate that was set up on a towel on the ground, which we had to push back and forth. I had a heck of a time getting it started. I had to lean into the plate with all of my body weight, and leverage the wall behind me. I screamed, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?" Once I got started, momentum helped. But having to do 3 laps with all the requisite starts and stops was literally a momentum killer. "HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO DO THIS???" I feared slipping and falling flat onto my face.

After completing the circuit, I was SO BEAT.

All the strength work involved made the finish feel worse than how I usually feel after finishing a race. And believe me, that is saying something!

I told Willie I was ready to go home and pass out. He asked me if I wanted to guess what my final finishing time was. I said, "19 minutes?" He said "Nope. 13 minutes flat!"


What an INSANE fitness challenge that was. In the end, I am glad I did it! And I don't know if I'd ever do it again. =D

I did hear there was at least one DNF from a man who threw up mid-course. Yikes.

Thank you to all the organizers who put this event together! I'm currently waiting to hear how I stacked up against all of the other competitors. In the meantime, I am thrilled to have finished ahead of the curve!

This picture was taken at the PNC YMCA Turkey Trot a few years ago, but you get the idea =):

Thumbs up from the Ninja Warrior/bank robber =D

Monday, September 21, 2015

Volunteering at the ITU World Triathlon

I had a bad experience volunteering at the ITU World Triathlon this past weekend.

I'm linking up with Wendy and HoHo to vent my frustrations.

Having run so many races in my life, I know how important and valuable race volunteers are in ensuring a successful event. I had been wanting to give back. After I attended the ITU World Triathlon training celebration, I learned the Chicago Grand Finale event was in need of thousands of volunteers. What a great opportunity (or so I thought!) I've never seen a live triathlon before, let alone one of this magnitude, so I was very excited.

That's where the fun ends.

I signed up for two volunteer shifts: 1) Friday night packet pickup; and 2) Saturday afternoon finish line.

We were under a local flood watch starting at 7 PM. I'm used to these events going on rain or shine, so I packed a bag full of rain gear and braced myself.

I was at the Chicago Cubs game for a work outing that afternoon. Reluctantly, I ducked out early and battled Friday night rush hour traffic to get to my volunteer shift.

When I arrived, the woman in charge was in a state of distress. She told me everyone was evacuating due to pending storms, she had just sent out an email notification a few minutes ago, and she really just needed time to think and figure everything out.

On one hand I was frustrated to have wasted so much time going there. I was unhappy to leave a company function early for nothing. But on the other hand I was relieved I didn't have to volunteer in the rain. I absolutely understand that weather emergencies happen.

However: 1) I NEVER received the woman's email notification, even in my junk mail; and 2) I later learned the decision to evacuate had been made several hours preceding my arrival. Why didn't anyone send out that "notification" sooner and/or make a stronger effort to save us the time and hassle? They already had all of our email addresses and cell phone numbers for race-day needs.

The poor communication foreshadowed my experience the next day, which was much worse.

I arrived for my afternoon shift and checked in. Nobody seemed to know what was going on. A few other volunteers were sitting around, and the folks working the volunteer check-in were milling around. This is what it was like:

I stood there awkwardly waiting. Finally, the same woman from the previous night came by and asked whoever was ready to come with her.

When we signed up to volunteer, we were told we would have a pre-volunteer meeting to discuss the details of what we'd be doing. That never happened. Instead, I was just sent on my merry way to work one of the aid stations.

I was certainly there to help out in whatever way. But I had signed up to hand out medals or refreshments at the finish line, and I was dressed with this in mind. Had I known I'd be at an aid station, I would have prepared differently. E.g., I wouldn't have worn jeans, since aid station volunteers get splashed all day long.

I got to the aid station and received ZERO direction.

Folks were barehandedly mixing Gatorade in a couple of vats, then communally dunking cups to fill them. Nobody was instructed to wash their hands beforehand. Even if they wanted to, the portapotties nearby had no handwashing facilities. I shuddered at how unsanitary the process was.

Nobody wanted to handle the Gatorade due to its stickiness and all the bees it attracted. As a result, most folks gravitated towards handing out water. There were times when I was the ONLY one handing out Gatorade.

Normally, races have the water/Gatorade distributors grouped in some way, which makes it easier for the athletes to get what they need. Here, everyone was just randomly handing out whatever.

There were three volunteers who were standing there chatting while the rest of us worked.

Some folks sweeping discarded cups frequently stepped right in front of me, obstructing the cup hand-offs without warning.

All of this resulted in a lot of confusion, ample cursing, countless unnecessary collisions, and floods of spillage.

I was literally covered head to toe in Gatorade. This made me quite the magnet for bees.

In short, the aid station was a disaster.

VUIP ("Very Un-Important People")
We were told that volunteers who worked two or more shifts would receive VIP status, with "extra swag, a drink ticket to be used after your shift, extra raffle prize entries, and additional snacks and treats in the volunteer tent. We are also working on securing a small section of the bleachers for our VIP volunteers." (I copied/pasted this directly from a pre-event email.)

What did I receive? A grand total of two water bottles, plus my volunteer shirt. That was all. (At the aid station, I was offered a sandwich box, but never actually received one.)

I had to ask even to get those water bottles. Otherwise, I would have walked away with literally just the shirt on my back.

To be very clear, I volunteered at this event for philanthropic purposes. The swag was not my motivation for being there. That said, I thought this was a ridiculous bait and switch.

In conclusion...
I will never volunteer at an ITU event ever again. When races lack organization, it is ultimately the athletes who suffer. As a runner, I was extremely disappointed to witness an event of this magnitude be organized so poorly.

On Saturday, I wrote an email to the volunteer organizers sharing my experience and frustrations. To date, I have not received any response.

On a positive note: I have a very renewed appreciation for the hard work that goes into race volunteering. Working the aid station was no joke. Thank you so much to all of you who DO volunteer!!!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Hub City Half Marathon race recap

I'm going to go out of order recapping my events from this past weekend. Yesterday, thanks to Erica, I ran the inaugural Hub City Half Marathon in Crown Point, Indiana.

Crown Point is about 50 miles southeast of Chicago. On race morning, I was in the car at 5:45 AM to make the trek. Thankfully I hit zero traffic and zero road construction enroute. I got treated to a beautiful sunrise along the way, too.

When I arrived onsite, I was thrilled to be able to park right next to the starting/finishing lines. There were zero lines at packet pickup and the portapotties, too. Smaller races rock!

A few minutes later, Erica arrived on site. She introduced me to her friends Wendy, Ryan, and Josh, who were also racing.

Wendy took this picture of Erica and me:

You can see Wendy's shadow in the picture. ;-P

The temps were in the upper 40s/low 50s, which was much colder than I had originally anticipated. I enjoyed being able to hang out in the warmth of my car while I was waiting for the race to start.

I was wearing capris and a short-sleeved short, and considered wearing my jacket and/or my arm warmers. I decided to ditch both - which turned out to be the right decision. Less than 10 minutes before the gun went off, I got out of my car and lined up.

The start
Earlier, I heard someone say they thought the race was being gun-timed instead of chip-timed. I thought this couldn't possibly be the case. My bib had a timing device, and the website said it was chip-timed. Unfortunately, it turns out the person was right. There was no starting timing mat. I was dismayed when I realized this. I had lined up pretty far back, and I knew that this would cost me at least 20 seconds right off the bat.
Miles 1 - 4
After months of running in heat and humidity, the cool temperatures and shade were heavenly! I wanted to run by feel instead of relying on my Garmin. My goal was to run sub 2:10, which meant an average pace of 9:55 or better. 

When I hit Mile 1, I was shocked to look down and see 9:13. It felt effortless. I tried to slow down a smidge. I hit Mile 2 in 9:30, and then Mile 3 in 9:50. At that point, I tried to lock in my pace. 

The course ran through residential neighborhoods. It was very winding, to the point that you could never see more than two or three blocks ahead of you at any given point. This is what most of the course looked like:
There were almost-constant rolling hills, but at that point they didn't scare me. I was enjoying the very-frequent aid stations and the wonderfully friendly volunteers and spectators.

Miles 5 - 8
There were about 200 half marathoners on the course. As you can see in the above picture, the streets were very open. We headed into a subdivision which I believe was called Wingate - and at that point the hills started getting more and more pronounced.

Volunteers were handing out PowerBar Power Gels at two points along the course. Since the course was an out and back, we had four opportunities to get gels. Many thanks to the woman who, when I missed a gel handoff, actually ran back to catch up with me and made sure I got one.

There were so many aid stations on the course. They were never more than 2 miles apart!

Around Mile 5 I saw Erica and Wendy tearing it up on their way back. They both looked fantastic!

I was still maintaining my pace, but the hills were making me fight harder and harder to do so. I hit the halfway point on pace for a 2:09 finish. I thought to myself how great it would be to run an even split and achieve that time. At that point, I believed I could hang on.

Unfortunately, the temperature was rising and I was starting to feel too warm. I hadn't brought any salt capsules with me. With the cool temperatures, I didn't think I would need them. That was a mistake.

Miles 9 - 12
Around Mile 9 was when the hills started doing me in. One of the volunteers told me, "The hardest part is over!" but the course was still plenty challenging. Every time I turned a corner, there was another hill. At one point, I actually said out loud, "Are you kidding me?" My hamstrings were screaming bloody murder and my paces were getting slower and slower.

I hit Mile 10 in 1:40:XX and knew that I didn't have it in me to finish sub-2:10. Mentally, I gave up. I told myself, "It isn't chip-timed anyways, so whatever." I hit Mile 11 in 1:50:XX and was hurting so badly that I wasn't even sure I could beat my previous PR (2:12:40 at the Sunburst Half Marathon).

I plodded along in a fog, lamenting the pain and swearing to myself that I would never run again, ever. I stopped looking at my Garmin since I figured it would only make me feel worse. My sole focus was how closely I could run the tangents to minimize the remaining distance. Every time a car or other object obstructed the tangent, I inwardly grumbled. 

One bright moment during this time were volunteers handing out cold towels near Mile 11. Again, I missed the hand-off and again, a volunteer ran back with me to make sure I got one. Much appreciated!

The finish
Around what I thought was Mile 12.5 or so, I saw Erica and Wendy. They had come back on the course to cheer me on! They both ran with me for a bit, which was awesome. I was really, really grateful for the distraction. I found out that Wendy was the Overall Women's winner, and Erica was the Master's winner and 3rd overall female. HOLY SPEED DEMONS!

They told me that the finish line was just up ahead and to the left through some grass. Was I really that close??? When spectators or volunteers tell me I'm almost there, I usually don't believe them - but I knew Erica and Wendy wouldn't lie to me. This lifted my spirits.

Erica said she would get some pictures of me at the finish line, then she and Wendy sprinted ahead. Sure enough, I turned the corner and there was the finish line. I looked down at my Garmin and realized I could still PR. I picked up the pace and was surprised how much my legs actually still had in them.

Erica got this shot of me shortly before I crossed:
The race photo body spasm lives on.
My final gun time was 2:12:30. Comparatively, my self-chipped (aka Garmin) time was 2:12:04. Either way, I did manage to earn a small PR on an unexpectedly very hilly course!

Had I not given up during a few of those final miles, I could have done even better. And honestly, had I known in advance how challenging the course was, I don't know if I would have tried to achieve a time goal. More lessons learned. =)

A swimming pool was right near the finish line and was open for runners to enjoy post-race. That was a fabulous perk.

Everyone just wanted to refuel, though. Erica, Wendy, Ryan, Josh, and I went for brunch at the Main Street Cafe, a cute little restaurant in downtown Crown Point. 

Great food, great company! At brunch, I learned that Josh and Ryan both also placed in their age groups. Talk about a speedy group of folks, eh?

Afterwards, I hit the road back to Chicago, enjoying the beautiful day while listening to the Bears radio broadcast. Ahhh, life is good. =)

Thanks again to Erica and the race organizers and volunteers for a fantastic time at the inaugural Hub City Half Marathon! It was an amazing event!

Linking up with HoHo and Tricia for the Weekly Wrap.

My next race: Probably the Prairie State Half Marathon on October 10

Friday, September 11, 2015

Super Bears Shuffle 5K race recap

Last night, I ran the Super Bears Shuffle 5K. What a fun way to kick off the start of the NFL season!

Leading up to the race, the weather was sketchy. We had some torrential rainfall earlier in the day. I spent the afternoon watching the radar screen like a hawk. I was relieved and happy that the skies cleared up by late afternoon. It ended up being a gorgeous night for a race - temps in the upper 60s/low 70s, a scattering of clouds, and a light breeze.

Ready for a ton of pictures!?!?!?!?

The atmosphere was super festive. I felt like I was at a giant tailgate party with a few thousand of my closest Bear fan friends! The sidewalks were filled with grills wafting delicious aromas; bars and beer vendors aplenty; music; and lots of fun football-themed activities.
Bears tables in the seating area!

Miniature field-goal kicking area.
Chicago Bears mascot, Staley, was hilariously zipping around the crowds on a scooter:

One of my favorite moments was watching the Chicago Bears Drumline in action. Here they are entertaining the crowd in front of Soldier Field:

Wayne Messmer sang the national anthem before the start. It was a very special moment for me to hear him live. He is an incredible singer and very symbolic of Chicago sports. For those of you who are unfamiliar, here is one of his classic renditions:

The starting area was emceed by Fox Chicago's lead sports anchor, Lou Canellis, and former Bear Tom Thayer. Some big local names! Here they are with Fleet Feet's race director:

Video consoles were set up near the starting line. Before the race got underway, they showed video clips of Bears players wishing us a good race and telling us to represent Chicago proudly.

The start line was set up underneath a giant Bears inflatable. This was my view from the corrals as we were approaching:

The race kicked off with fireworks and runners holding giant Bears flags. On the other side of the inflatable, here's what the start line looked like:
And we were off to rousing cheers and high-fives all around!

I had no intention of trying to "race" this race, but I got swept up with the energy of the crowd. I decided to test my legs a little to see how it felt.

Within the first few minutes, my Garmin was showing a pace of 7:58. I tried to slow down a little. Running through the McCormick Place tunnel helped ground me.

Mile 1: 8:36.

My hips were sore and I was already feeling the exertion. I am clearly NOT in any shape to challenge my 5K PR! (That would require an 8:20 pace or better.) OK, test completed. From there, I took the pace down. I began keeping my eye out for the "Combine" course offerings.

The second half of the race included beautiful views of the lakefront and the city skyline. Near the Mile 2 marker, tackle dummies and crash pads were set up:

I veered off course to participate. I saw one guy get all into it, hurling himself face-first into the dummies. Comparatively, I just gave some light good-natured punches to a few dummies. =)

Mile 2: 9:41

Around Mile 2.25, I saw a selfie photo station! You could pick from about 8 different player banners. I enlisted one of the race volunteers to take my photo:

A few minutes later, Staley was out on the course giving high-fives and cheering on the runners. Here is my sad attempt at a selfie with him:

Near the Mile 3 marker were step-over pads:

Those pads are deceiving. They look like they are low to the ground, so I thought they'd be no big deal. I was literally jolted by how high I had to lift my knees to run through them!

After clearing the pads, I could hear the finish line emcee in the distance. I quickly got back on course and tried to pick up the pace.

Mile 3: 9:55

A race emcee was calling out our names as we approached the finish line. I always enjoy this touch. It was great to hear the bit of recognition in that final stretch!

Mile 3.1: 0:52

My official finishing time: 29:04.

Check out the awesome finisher medal:

Post-race, I hung out for a little bit, enjoying the energetic crowds and the music. Then I met up with Maggie and her husband, Robert. Here's a picture of Maggie and me:

Robert was proudly wearing a Packers shirt. It made him easy to spot in the crowd, LOL. Maggie said he was talking smack on the course, too! Let the fun begin as we prepare for the Bears home opener vs. the Packers this Sunday!!! ;-)

The Super Bears Shuffle was a BLAST. I thoroughly enjoyed the festive, game-day party atmosphere; the awesome race swag; and the football-themed course offerings. I would highly recommend this race to all Chicago Bears fans!

My next race: The Fit Foodie 5K on September 12 (tomorrow!)