Saturday, July 23, 2016

2016 Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon race recap

Remix Challenge recap continued from here.

Prologue
As some of you already know, I have a rain jinx when it comes to running races. This year my race weather has gone smoothly, though. So smoothly that I was allowing myself to think that perhaps I'd finally kicked my rain jinx to the curb!

I was feeling good because the weather forecast for the morning of the Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon was showing 0% chance of rain. ZERO. Zilch. No chance at all.
I told Kayla that if the meteorologists were THAT confident there'd be no precipitation, you could blame me in the impossible event it did rain.

Lest I get too carried away with abolishing my rain jinx, the Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon proved I've still got it!!!
On half marathon race morning, Kayla and I rode Divvy bikes down to the starting area. As expected, the scene was significantly more crowded and frenzied than the 5K the day before. This was one of those days I was grateful for chip-timed races and being in a later starting corral.

In the nick of time, we ran into Marcia!
From L to R: me, Kayla, and Marcia
Then we all split to head to our respective starting corrals. 

For a mid-July half marathon, the weather was about as ideal at the start as anyone could have asked for. The temperature was in the low 70s, and it was overcast with some mild breezes. I thought, This is really good! I can actually go out and really enjoy yourself!
My view as I was approaching the starting line
I crossed the starting line and started at a comfortable pace. Almost right off the bat, I had trouble getting fired up. The streets were comparatively quiet compared to my past runnings of Rock N Roll. I was still wearing my sunglasses despite the overcast skies, and it made the streets look very dark. There weren't a lot of spectators, and I don't remember hearing any music for at least the first few miles.

Somewhere around Mile 2.5 I remember seeing a stand with a guy dressed up as Mike Ditka. This made me smile. In retrospect, I should have stopped to take a picture!
Da Coach in all his glory
Around Mile 3, I was already doing the math in my head as to how much time I had left on my feet. Adam said he would try to spectate around Mile 3.5, so I focused on getting to that point. Sure enough, I did see him on the course, which lifted my spirits briefly.

Afterwards, I went back to thinking about how much time and distance I still had left. The course was making all kinds of turns back and forth through downtown streets. I knew at some point it would exit downtown and head south, but it felt like we would never get to that point.
I tried to remember all the mental tricks I'd heard over the years for getting through the mind-numbing miles. I told myself to take it incrementally. At Mile 5 you can take a GU! Around the 10K mark you'll pass by the Hilton Chicago where the Blackhawks Convention is taking place! 

Around Mile 6, I saw a runner collapse onto the pavement. She was holding one leg and writhing in agony. It was scary. Half a dozen runners stopped to help her, and others shouted to some nearby police that she needed medical assistance. The police immediately got onto their walkie talkies and radioed for help. It brought tears to my eyes to witness the scene.

I kept pushing on through the miles. Physically, I felt fine, but mentally, my heart just wasn't in it. My mantras: There will be a day when you can't do this, but today is NOT that day. Just get to the finish line. You'll get some sweet medals at the finish line!
Around the Mile 9 mark, there was an awful half-mile out-and-back along Martin Luther King Drive. All I could think about was how the race organizers had to somehow find a way to add an extra mile onto the course, and this was it.

Then, the course ran through the dreaded McCormick Place tunnel around Mile 11. It was stuffy and extremely dark with very rough pavement. I had to be very, very careful of my footing.

The course is set up so you can see the finish line from literally almost a mile away. The vision is deceptive because you think it's a lot closer than it really is.
Can't remember where this photo was taken, but I think it was around the Mile 12 area?
Around Mile 12.5, one of the deejays suddenly stopped his music. He said, "Ladies and gentlemen, I have an announcement to make." Then there was dead silence for such a long moment that I thought it was a joke. He finally came back and told us the race had been suspended due to approaching storms. He (correctly) noted it probably wouldn't change much for the runners who could hear him at that point on the course, but that everyone should seek shelter immediately.

WHAT?!?!?

Granted, the skies looked like this:
All I could think was, Please don't turn off the timing mats! I didn't come this far to not get an official time! Am I still going to get my medals? Please, please, please keep the timing mats on! Other runners near me echoed my sentiments out loud. That last half-mile felt like it took an eternity.

When I crossed the line I was happy to see volunteers were still handing out medals. Meanwhile, more announcements were being made warning everyone to take cover somewhere downtown, not under the tents. They told us that based on the size of the pending storms we wouldn't want to be there in a few minutes. I managed to collect some refreshments before the skies opened up and rain started coming down in torrents. Within a few seconds I was completely soaked.
I scurried towards gear check. It was chaos. I ran into Erica along the way, who had come down to spectate. We wanted to get a post-race picture with Marcia, but it was raining so heavily that we couldn't.

After reclaiming my bag, I took cover in a tunnel walkway, all the while worrying about Kayla still being out on the course. I later found out that Kayla was around Mile 10 when the rain and lightning started, but hadn't heard the race was suspended. Therefore, she just kept on going until she finished. Way for her to push through! From Kayla's race recap:
That says it all right there, doesn't it??? =D

Thankfully the rain didn't last long. Many thanks to Erica, who had given me a VIP wristband which she had received from PowerBar. While I was waiting for Kayla, I went to check out the tent.

Oh my goodness, what a privilege that area was! They had an extensive catered assortment of food including various breakfast/lunch offerings, fruit and veggie trays with dip, cookies and brownies, you name it. This picture doesn't even begin to do the offerings justice:
They also had ample beverage options, a full bar, a phone charging station, massage tables and foam rollers, private portapotties, a changing area, and plenty of tables and chairs to sit down. They literally thought of everything.
It was an enormous treat to enjoy the generous offerings for a little bit. Huge thanks again to Erica and PowerBar for the wonderful experience!!!

I met back up with Kayla, who looked terrific considering the weather conditions she had just run through. Here we are post-race with our medals:
Below is the total haul from the weekend. Once again, the Rock and Roll race series does the medals incredibly well.
Finally, this is how we celebrated the successful completion of two races and 16.2 miles in one weekend:
Lou Malnati's deep dish pizza for the win!
And that concludes my 28th half marathon! The race organizers and volunteers really did a terrific job, especially amidst all of Mother Nature's challenges.

All in all, the weekend was a lot of fun. I had a terrific time hanging out with Kayla and the time went by so quickly! I am very relieved the Remix Challenge is over, though. Now I am excited for a few weeks where I don't have to worry about any long runs. =)

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Linking up with HoHo and Tricia for the Weekly Wrap (even though this recap is technically from last week), and with Angela and Ilka for the Sunday Fitness & Food Linkup.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Rock N Roll Chicago 5K race recap

Many thanks for your support and encouragement in response to my last post. I really do appreciate your kind and thoughtful words!

Quick update: I have almost completely kicked the cold now, save for an occasional lingering cough which I expect will be gone soon. I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with my current busy period at work. And I haven't run a single step since completing the Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon last Sunday! It's been glorious. =)
With the recent craziness of work, I'm falling behind on blogging. I've got both the Rock N Roll Chicago 5K and Half Marathon to talk about, plus I'll be running the PAWS Run For Their Lives 5K this Sunday (purely for the charitable cause). So let's recap some races, starting with the Rock N Roll Chicago 5K.
Just after the starting line at the Rock N Roll Chicago 5K
Source
I was very excited to welcome Kayla to town for the weekend! I think the last time I saw her was at the 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon, so I was looking forward to catching up. Kayla was also tackling the Rock N Roll Chicago Remix Challenge. After picking her up from the airport on Friday night, we grabbed some food at Ram Brewery before heading home to hit the sack.

On Saturday morning, the weather was absolutely gorgeous for a summertime 5K. The skies were clear and sunny, and the temps were in the 60s when we got up. It was cool enough out that Kayla and I both wore jackets as we rode Divvy bikes to the course.

While we were walking towards event-day packet pickup, we saw a runner who was busily puffing away on a cigarette. WOW. Never, in my entire running life, have I ever seen a runner smoking! I overheard him telling someone how he was hoping to improve his race times. I told Kayla, "Maybe it would help if he stopped smoking???"
After going through event-day packet pickup, gear check, and the portapotties, we headed towards the start line. Here's a picture of Kayla and me pre-race:
While making our way through the starting corrals, I heard a familiar voice. That familiar voice belonged to Tracey, a friend and colleague from a prior firm. What a wonderful surprise to run into her! I haven't seen Tracey in probably 4-5 years. She was also doing the Remix Challenge. =)
Photo by Tracey
I am borrowing this snapshot of the starting line from Kayla. Look at the beautiful clear blue sky!
The starting airhorn blew. A few minutes later, Kayla and I crossed the starting line and settled into a comfortable pace. We both wanted to keep things easy, knowing we both had a half marathon to cover the next morning.

The course started north on Columbus, initially following the same route as the Chicago Marathon, Shamrock Shuffle, and the Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon. We then headed east on lower Randolph before merging onto the southbound lakefront path.

Kayla and I were both bracing ourselves for a crush on the narrow path, which was still open to the public. While it was indeed crowded, thankfully it was quite manageable. I don't remember seeing any oncoming bikes swerving through the crowds, et al, which is a rarity on a Saturday morning!

The lakefront was beautiful and serene. This picture gives an idea of what the view looked like:
Source
Kayla and I walked through a water station around Mile 1.5, then picked things back up. The course wound near the Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum before heading back northbound.

Close to the turnaround point, we observed not one, but two men dressed as Elvis, holding plastic guitars, and running barefoot! One of them was displaying an Instagram handle so here's one of his post-race snapshots:
Apparently there was a third Elvis that we missed out there?
Source
In the final half-mile, Kayla and I came across some official event photographers. Race photo body spasm time! I tried to do a leap in the air while clicking my heels, but 1) the photographer didn't catch it, and 2) I wasn't able to achieve the leap with even the slightest hint of grace. We did get this quality snapshot, though:
Joint race photo body spasm attempt turned out very well!
Then, it was around the corner to the finish line. Here's an action shot of us crossing:
and here is our triumphant post-race finisher's photo:
My final finishing time was 34:00 on the nose. Interestingly, Kayla had entered a predicted 34-minute finishing time when she registered, so that worked out very nicely! =)

Admittedly, I feel a little silly for getting a medal at any race distance shorter than 15K, but I do love the beautiful Rock N Roll medals. Kudos to their medal designer for a fabulous product this year:
Source
I loved the 5K race shirt, too:
This woman knows how to represent with the matching Chicago-flag running shorts!
Source
All in all, it was a really fun, laidback run with Kayla, and a perfect shakeout for the next day's half marathon.

After the race, Kayla and I headed to the expo at McCormick Place to pick up our half marathon packets. The expo was better than usual this year! The goody bag had an unusually nice assortment of samples (including a packet of probiotic prunes! ;-) ), and the vendors were ample with their giveaways.

We ran into Erica (who very generously gave me a wristband to the half marathon VIP lounge - thank you so much, Erica!):
and Kayla and I enjoyed some of the fun photo opps:
You knew I wouldn't pass up any opportunity to rep the Blackhawks, yes?
Humana did a very nice job with the market-segmented photo props. =)
Then it was back home to relax and prepare for 13.1 more miles the next day!

Coming up: The Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon

Monday, July 18, 2016

July 4-17 training recap, and some truths

It's been a rough stretch for me, folks, hence my recent blogosphere disappearance. I'll talk more about that in a moment. First, I'm linking up with HoHo and Tricia for the Weekly Wrap.
Since I'm behind a week in recapping my workouts, here is a summary of my last two weeks:

Week of July 4 - 10
MONDAY - Run 1 mile on treadmill, 30 minutes of strength training
TUESDAY - Run 3 miles on treadmill
WEDNESDAY - Cardio kickboxing class
THURSDAY - Yoga class
FRIDAY - 10 minutes stationary bicycling, 30 minutes of strength training
SATURDAY - Rest
SUNDAY - Rest

Week of July 11 - 17
MONDAY - 10 minutes stationary bicycling, 40 minutes of strength training
TUESDAY - Yoga video
WEDNESDAY - Zumba class
THURSDAY - Run 3 miles on treadmill, 20 minutes of strength training
FRIDAY - Yoga class
SATURDAY - Rock N Roll Chicago 5K
SUNDAY - Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon

Full recap of the two Rock N Roll Chicago races to come. In the meantime, here is the weekend's haul:
The Rock N Roll race series continues to provide terrific medals.
Now, onto everything else!

In general, I always try to stay positive, both on the blog and in person. At the same time, I want to keep things real. I was inspired by Marcia's post from awhile back where she shared some heartfelt truths. Here is my spin.

The truth is... I've been under the weather for the last five days. It's rare for me to get sick, and the times when I'm not 100% I usually bounce back fairly quickly. This time the bug has been stubborn. On top of a stuffy, runny nose and hacking cough, I've had a near-constant headache which migrates to different parts of my skull depending on the day. My head hurts even more when I blow my nose or cough, and I have a rash under my nose from so much Kleenex usage. I'm trying not to let the symptoms mar my days, but it hasn't been easy. Wah, wah, wah.
The truth is... I've been going through a challenging transition in the office. The learning curve has been steep and I've worked some very heavy hours. When stress is high (which is often), I'm frequently trying to remind myself to take a deep breath. Thankfully, I work with a terrific team and we're all in it together. However, the combination of stress while fighting a bug has been a lot to deal with. Because the timing of life is always perfect in that way, yes?

The truth is... I'm growing increasingly frustrated with my diet. I mentioned how I started using MyFitnessPal.com several weeks ago to track my food intake, and how rude of an awakening it was. I've worked to reduce my sugar consumption, increase my vegetable intake, and become much more conscious of portion sizes and unnecessary snacking. Unfortunately, the scale refuses to budge. In fact, despite all my efforts, it's still even showing trends of upward mobility. It's really discouraging.
The truth is... I was shaken up to learn about the shooting incident in St. Joseph, Michigan last week. Adam and I got married just a few blocks away from where the shooting occurred. Southwest Michigan is one of the most peaceful places I've ever been, so this incident was very tough to swallow. I don't know why I even bother watching the news anymore these days.

The truth is... I've been feeling extremely ambivalent about running yet again. I have no motivation to train and zero desire to set or work towards any goals. It's to the point where I've contemplated hanging up my running shoes altogether. At the very least, I'd like to take a real break from running - at minimum, two or three months. Simultaneously, I don't want to lose my conditioning entirely - especially since I still have a couple more races on the calendar to prepare for this year. But man, oh, man, I was so incredibly happy to finish yesterday's half marathon. Not because of the accomplishment, but because now I can take at least a little bit of time off from running.

I'm more fun than a barrel of monkeys today, aren't I? How about three barrels?
In any event - I hope everyone had a terrific weekend and is getting a good start to the workweek. I hope to catch up with all of your blogs soon. Tell me what's new with you at the moment?

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Three Things Thursday - Travel edition

4-day workweeks are awesome. I vote that we all start a progressive movement towards having 3-day weekends every weekend. Who's in?
In the meantime, it's already time to link up with Amanda's Thinking Out Loud Thursdays!

I am going through an extremely busy stretch at work, so we're going to keep things very short today.

1. My travel bug - especially my international travel bug - has gone from biting me to downright devouring me alive. Every time I turn around, I see or hear about another friend traveling to some amazing vacation destination. I seriously can't remember any stretch of time in the past where it seemed more like the whole world was on vacation except me. Sigh.
2. I'm interviewing for Global Entry next Friday. Maybe this will help the travel bug or maybe it'll make it even worse? My money is on the latter (both literally and figuratively). In the meantime, I need to research how to "prepare" for my Global Entry interview. Any suggestions from folks who have been through it before?
3. International destinations aside, I am counting down the hours until I can depart for Saugatuck tomorrow. Additionally, I had mentioned both here and here how I've been wanting to go to Memphis. Yesterday, I finally snagged decent airfare for decent flight times - so Adam and I will be heading there for a weekend next month. I am super excited. Look out Graceland and Beale Street, here I come!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Training week recap: June 27 - July 3, 2016

Happy July 4th to all of my American comrades!
Popping in for a quick hello and recap of my training week.

MONDAY - 10 minutes stationary biking, 30 minutes upper-body lifting
TUESDAY - Yoga class, run 3 miles
WEDNESDAY - Zumba class
THURSDAY - Run 3 miles on treadmill, 15 minutes lower-body lifting
FRIDAY - Rest
SATURDAY - Run 12 miles
SUNDAY - Rest

It was a pretty uneventful training week. The only item of note was my long run on Saturday morning. I mentioned here that I ran part of the Chicago Marathon course, which took me past a crowd of elderly Chinese folks doing tai chi in the U.S. Cellular Field parking lots. But let's talk a bit about other factors of the run.

In short, I just wanted to get the run over with so I could relax and enjoy the rest of the long weekend. Normally I'm not big on getting up before sunrise on weekends. However, the motivations change when the alternative is to slug through a long run in blistering heat and humidity. That morning, I set my alarm for 5:30 AM and got myself out the door as fast as I could.
Thankfully, weather was not a factor this day. The skies were overcast and the temperatures stayed in the mid-60s throughout the entire run. It felt quite nice!

The much, much, much bigger factor was fueling. As I mentioned here, I've been trying to be better about my eating habits, most notably my portion sizes. However, I am learning it's a very, very fine line between fueling properly to do a double-digit run versus eating too much or not enough.
Before departing, I ate a sandwich thin with peanut butter, plus a banana. Normally, this plus a mid-run GU is sufficient to get me through a long run. Unfortunately, I didn't realize until mid-run that my dinner the night before wasn't going to hold me over.

I started feeling hunger pains around Mile 7. Based on my intended 12-mile distance, at that point on the route I was almost 5 miles away from home. In the interest of hauling around as little gear with me as possible, I wasn't carrying any money, extra gels, food, or my phone. Definitely not my smartest decision, especially considering I've made this mistake before.
DERP!!!
I had little choice but to push through the remaining 5 miles to get home. As you might expect, those 5 miles were tough. Really tough. Thankfully my legs and the rest of my body felt comparatively fine, but it was hard to ignore my growling stomach. It was so loud that I was probably turning the heads of anyone I was passing on the sidewalk.

Of course I kept running by all kinds of street vendors, businesses, and restaurants emitting delicious aromas. Tacos, grilled meats, bakeries, you name it - everything smelled amazing and I wanted to devour it all. I felt like one of those cartoon characters that floats in the air towards the smell of food, e.g.:
When I finally got home, there has never been a time in my life when food tasted so good. I was so ravenous that you could have given me a plate of gruel with a big cup of sludge to drink, and I would have downed it all in a New York minute!

Note to self (again and again) that as cumbersome as it is to run feeling like a pack mule, it's better to be prepared than to run on empty. Either that, or I do need to stick with the smaller, more boring loop routes where I can stop back at home if anything arises.
Now that we've got that story of craziness out of the way - once again, happy July 4th! I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and enjoys all of the fabulous outdoor festivities! I'm on my way out the door now. =)

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Linking up with HoHo and Tricia for the Weekly Wrap.