Friday, June 27, 2014

2014 PAWS Run For Their Lives 8K race recap

Last weekend I ran the PAWS Run For Their Lives 8K.

This was my third consecutive year attending the event and my second year running the 8K. (Last year I did the 4K walk, since I ran a half marathon the day before.) This event is one of my very favorite races and has become a must-do for me every year. (Check out my recaps from 2012 and 2013.)

Proceeds from this event go towards homeless pets and animal welfare in Chicago. As I've said many times, this is a cause that I wholeheartedly support. I am especially reminded of this each year when I arrive at the race site and see the hundreds of happy dogs enjoying the day!

This year, the PAWS organization was attempting to break the Guinness world record for most costumed dogs in one location. As a result, everywhere you looked there were dogs dressed in darling little outfits. Here are a few. (Adam took some of the pictures that I am sharing in this post, but most of the photos are courtesy of Jason):

Dino-dogs, hot dogs, dogs in their pajamas, dogs in ethnic attire, cowboy dogs, Santa dogs, and more!

PAWS hasn't announced yet whether or not the event successfully set the new world record. Regardless, it was fun witnessing the attempt!

I'll talk first about the race itself. Then, I will share more dog costume pictures. =)

We've been getting an onslaught of insanely fog-covered days in Chicago this summer. (Blame it on last winter's polar vortex, apparently.) As timing would have it, Chicago was under a severe-fog advisory on the morning of the race. I woke up to see this view from my balcony:

The temperature was pretty good, at least, for a late-June race. It was forecasted to be in the upper 60s/lower 70s during race time.

Adam and I navigated the fog-cover and drove to the race site at Montrose Harbor, where we met up with Erin and Jason.

On a related note, Erin just adopted a dog named Chewie a couple of weeks ago! I got to meet him earlier in the week and he is adorable. Check out some pictures of him here. Erin had been debating whether or not to bring him to the event. However, Chewie is shy and still trying to get used to his new home and surroundings. Therefore, she opted to let him relax at home. Maybe next year!

Here's a picture of Erin and me before the start:

Erin and I lined up at the start line about midway through the pack of runners. I asked Erin if she had any time goals for the race, and she said no. I didn't really have any major goals for myself, either. Although, I was thinking that it would be nice to beat 44:12, which was my time from when I ran this race two years ago. However, it wasn't an entirely level playing field. In 2012, the race took place in late September when I was at the tail end of my training cycle for the Chicago Marathon. The temperatures were much cooler on race-day in 2012, as well. I wasn't brimming with confidence that anything spectacular would happen this day.

(I have actually been feeling pretty spooked these days about shorter-distance races in general. But, that's a topic for another time.)

The PAWS mascots and New Balance (shoe sponsor) mascot hanging around near the starting line

The starting horn blared and the crowd slowly started moving forward. Here's a picture of Erin and me right after we crossed the starting line:

The path was packed at the beginning and we were all pretty hemmed in. I tried not to waste too much energy bobbing and weaving. Erin had more success working her way through the crowd and within a few minutes she zipped ahead.

It was very humid and the fog was so thick that it felt like we were running through a stream of mist.  I wasn't feeling particularly great, but I was doing okay.

Initially, my left piriformis and hamstring were feeling sore and tight. Both have been persistently troublesome for me for the past several weeks. Clearly I need to spend more time stretching these areas out. Much to my relief, things did start loosening up after a couple of miles.

The race took place on the lakefront path, which was not closed to the public. We were all trying to be cautious of bikers and other folks on the path who were not part of the race. I saw a number of near-misses. (Not surprisingly, some folks got into some heated debates about who had the right-of-way and who should be watching out for the other.)

The course was an out and back which passed by one aid station twice. I opted not to stop either time. As I approached the course turnaround, I looked for Erin but did not see her.

My splits for the first four miles were pretty even. As I approached the Mile 4 marker, I looked down at my Garmin and realized that I still had a chance to break 44:12. It would be close, but it was doable. I tried to speed things up.

Adam, Erin, and Jason were all standing near the finish line and they cheered me on as I approached. Here's a picture of me as I was sprinting towards the end:

Here are my splits:

Mile 1: 9:07
Mile 2: 8:59
Mile 3: 8:56
Mile 4: 9:03
Mile 4.97: 8:11

My official time was 44:16. Just four seconds slower than my time from 2012! In retrospect, I know that I could have pushed just a little harder to meet that goal. Grrrrr. Ah well.

After getting some water, I met back up with Adam, Erin, and Jason. I had made a donation to PAWS along with my race registration, which gave me access to the VIP Life Saver Lounge with post-race refreshments. I made a quick stop to check it out. On top of the usual water and sports drink, they were serving fruit salad, muffins, pizza, pasta, gourmet pretzels, and adult beverages with keepsake mason jars. They were also handing out doggie treat bags which included what appeared to be the canine version of an energy gel. Who knew there was a market for doggie "GU"? Very interesting, to say the least.

Now, time to get back to sharing pictures of dogs in costume!

While Erin and I were on the course, Adam and Jason had walked around the premises taking pictures for us. I am sharing just a handful of their photos here.

I noticed a few costume themes in general. For example, there were lots of dogs in dresses/tutus:

Many dogs adorned Chicago sports-themed attire:

Da Blackhawks, Da Bulls, and Da Bears

Many dogs were out enjoying the ride:

And many dogs looked like they were ready to be heroes for all of dog-kind and human-kind:

I especially love the doggie sunglasses!
Super cute and adorable! Many thanks go out to Jason for sharing his amazing selection of photos.

Here's one last set of photos:

Me at the start line, plus hanging out with the two PAWS mascots

This race was a great time, as always. I am looking forward to participating again next year for the fourth consecutive year. For all pet-owners and animal-lovers out there, this race is for you!

My next race: the Chinatown 5K on July 12


  1. What's with the short race phobia?!

    1. Sigh. I dislike having to run the uncomfortable tempo speeds that short races demand. Plus, there is so little room for error in short races. As I've said many times, I'd pick running a half marathon over a 5K anyday!

    2. Yeah, I know what you mean... But there's also an advantage to knowing you'll be done in less than an hour (or maybe even 30 minutes if it's a 5K). Some days, that's about all I'm in the mood for anyway.

    3. This is very true! The one drawback to the longer races for me is that they require more attention to night-before preparation. E.g. eating properly, hydrating, getting enough sleep, etc. Comparatively, the night before a shorter race, I don't do anything special. So that part is nice!

  2. Ahhh! You were so close to your previous time! Good job! I bet it's a lot harder to run a fast pace with the trail being so crowded, and with the race being in a more humid time of year. I wonder why the moved the race back. I was surprised to see this report pop up - I was remembering it being in Sept!

    I was reading an article about the polar vortex and the fog, and how the lake being 25 degrees cooler than normal is causing it. Nutso! Of course, I immediately thought of all the triathletes who swim in Lake Michigan. Brrrr. ;)

    LOL, are you "over" short races and how hard they are (and not as enjoyable as long ones)? Or something else?

    My favorite dog is the one with a cowboy riding on his back. Cuuuuute!

    1. Thanks for the encouragement and positivity, Kim! I am enjoying the cooler temperatures we've had this summer from a running perspective, but this daily fog-cover has really been something else. These days it feels like we live in San Francisco! OMG, I can only imagine how frigid it must for the triathletes swimming in Lake Michigan. Time to bring on the most heavy duty wetsuit on the market!

      I was surprised about the earlier timeframe for this race, too. I personally prefer September for the cooler temps and because I tend to be more well-trained in the fall. But, someone from the PAWS team was saying that the June timeframe was more broadly appealing to their general audience (kids being out of school for the summer, et al).

      Yes, you nailed my short-race spookage as being fearful of how hard they are. I don't enjoy the discomfort of running at tempo speeds, and how there is so little room for error. =( But I've currently got only short races on the calendar until the end of August. So I need to buck it up eventually, sigh.

      The dog with the cowboy is so adorable, indeed! =D

  3. Nice even splits! Way to go. Despite the near-misses on the LFT it looks like a fun time. :)

    1. Thank you, Pete! I was remembering how you said that on your best 5Ks, that you ran all your splits within about 5 seconds of each other. That is science in motion!!!

  4. Nice work Emily! Sooo close! Looks like such a fun event. I did not know the fog was related to the polar vortex.....but of course it is! Ha!

    1. Thanks, Marcia! Yes, apparently the polar vortex brought Lake Michigan's water temperature down, which is wreaking havoc from a weather standpoint. Here's one of the articles I read about it:

  5. Great job Emily!

    I am the opposite of you. I'll take a 5K over a half marathon. :-) Have no fear for the Chinatown 5K.

    1. Thanks Zenaida! You like 5Ks better than half marathons, eh? I would never have guessed that, given how many halfs you run!!!

      Yeah, we'll see how things go at the Chinatown 5K. Is it sad to say that since the race is in mid-July, I'm already planning on blaming the summertime heat if things don't go well for me that day? LOL

    2. I know what you mean about the weather. Hopefully this year Mother Nature cooperates and doesn't gives us too much trouble.

    3. Fingers crossed! Given that it's been such a cool summer after last winter's polar vortex, I am hopeful. =)

  6. I feel like this race should comp your fee and consider you a race ambassador. You so clearly love it and speak so highly of the race. I'd never travel that far for a short distance race, but you almost make me want to!

    You were blazing during that final mile! That's something to be proud of. It's hard to gun it at the end, which you totally did. Another job well done!

    1. You are too kind, Amy! (PAWS Chicago race organizers - ARE YOU READING THIS?!?!?!? =D ) Oh my goodness, if you are ever able to make a visit to Chicago in June, then YES - you and G-Mo would absolutely love this race!!! Given that G-Mo was a rescue, I know that you truly appreciate the animal welfare cause, too.

      Thank you for the kind words on my last mile! Honestly, after running such a hugely positive split on my last 5K PR attempt, I think that I am now scared to push too hard at the start and risk falling apart. When you know you've only got a mile left, THEN you feel more comfortable leaving it all out there, LOL.

  7. Wow! Those are awesome splits! I'm not feeling too fast these days. And yes, only 4 secs would really get me after but you didn't know that would happen! Way to bust out that last mile though!

    1. Thanks Amanda! I hear you on the not feeling too fast these days. I have never been a fan of doing speedwork, especially in the summertime. So I don't have a lot of confidence in improving my speed since I haven't put in the work for it, you know? If it were up to me, I would much prefer just trying to crank out increased mileage as a means to getting faster! =D