Saturday, July 28, 2012

Casting call, pack muling, and the truth is out there

CARA recently announced an upcoming opportunity for runners to be cast in a film production:

"The marketing firm Culture22 is looking for runners for a Chicagoland video shoot.  The organization is recruiting male and female marathon runners of all ethnicities. Runners will be supplied with apparel, shoes and accessories and be paid $35 an hour.  Runners will be able to keep the apparel and shoes after the shoot."

To apply, you are asked to provide contact info, headshot, and 2-3 photos of you running, preferably in a past race.

HOT DOG!!!  I've always wanted to be an extra in a movie or music video.  This is also is one of the items on my life's to do list!  So I applied as fast as I could.  Now I am waiting to hear if I am fortunate enough to get selected.

It ended up being a much bigger challenge than anticipated to find good photos of myself running.  Case in point: I wear Cho-Pat knee straps on both of my knees when running.  I realized after looking through my race pictures that the double-knee-strap look is actually kind of dorky.

Urkel understands.

Aside from my fashionable knee straps (and the sexy knee-strap tan lines that come along with them), I have also had issue with my SPI belt (aka my runner's fanny pack).  The main problem is that the SPI belt is not big enough to hold everything I want to carry.  When you attempt to stuff it with
  1. GU packets in assorted flavors
  2. Mobile phone
  3. MP3 player and headphones
  4. Keys
  5. A wad of cash the size of your head.  (OK, OK, wishful thinking.  A wadded-up dollar bill or two.)
  6. A wad of Kleenex the size of your head
  7. ID
  8. Salt capsules
  9. My lucky black nylon spatula in the shape of Darth Vader's head
you end up with something like this:

Wearing something like this around your waist does NOT help you look stylish.  Quite the contrary, in fact.  ("Ladies, and gentlemen, welcome to our journey into uncharted Dorkdom...")

This got me thinking more about appearance.  One of my coworkers was telling me about how since he has a very lean build, people assume that he is a good athlete and runner.  He said that contrary to what appearance might dictate, he can barely run a mile.  Another coworker overhead this discussion and said, "Oh yeah, I'm the same way.  We're fat-skinny."  (Interesting description!)

My coworker then mentioned that he turns into such a sweaty calamity when he does run, that he tries to go running when nobody else is around to see him.  This made me realize that I have grown to care very little about what I look like when I run.  When I'm trying to knock out double-digit mileage in triple-digit temperatures with quadruple-digit humidity, practicality wins out above everything else.

Well, almost everything else.

In all seriousness, though, I can't do anything about the knee straps for awhile.  But I do want to upgrade the pack mule accessories.  Never mind appearance, the gaudy SPI belt monstrosity doesn't work very well for me.  When stuffed very full, it bounces and twists - plus it's hard to pull things out of it.  I fear that my keys will tear the pouch, and that my phone/MP3 player will get wet or scratched by my keys.  As a result, I always end up carrying my keys and my electronics by hand instead.

As far as upgrade alternatives, I've started doing some research and Irina had good things to say about the iFitness double-pouch.  I am thinking very strongly about giving it a go!

Now, back to the casting call.  In a valiant attempt to improve my odds of being selected, I strategically submitted photos that didn't show my knee straps, the SPI belt around my waist, or my usual look of sweat-ridden, windswept agony.  This took some creative selection combined with a little bit of photo cropping.  What do you think of the results?

Kidding, kidding.  I submitted photos above the knee in which the SPI belt wasn't visible, and didn't worry too much about facial expression.  After all, even the world-champion athletes don't smile when they are pushing themselves to their limits, right? 

For now, fingers crossed!

Although, I am sure that by being forthcoming here with this info that I have just ruined my miniature chances at being selected.  But that is okay.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon Recap

Half marathon #5 completed this morning!

The 2012 Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon finisher's medal

After doing 12-mile long runs three of the last four weekends, all in uncomfortable heat and humidity, I was feeling as prepared as I've ever felt going into a half marathon.  Unfortunately, my left knee was feeling a little off in the days leading up to the race.  It felt fairly good this morning when I got up, but I was still praying that it would hold up throughout the race.

I got up this morning at 5:15 AM and had my usual prerace breakfast of cereal and a banana, plus an enormous glass of diluted orange juice.  I had laid out my gear last night, so after finishing breakfast I went to get dressed.  For some reason, it was a struggle this morning to get my bib pinned on straight.  First it was off center, then it was too low, then it was too high, then it was crooked.  Sigh.  Thankfully I had allowed myself plenty of time to get ready before the race.  Lesson learned: When laying out your gear the night before, get your bib pinned on your shirt, too!

These can be very tough to deal with at 5:30 in the morning.

As usual, Adam willingly and very graciously woke up at an ungodly hour on a weekend morning to be my chauffeur.  He is truly amazing.  He has never once complained or showed any signs of grumpiness at having to deal with my crazy running antics.  It must be so hard for him to keep doing this when he works so hard during the week and doesn't sleep much on weeknights to begin with.  God bless him for being so giving.  Lesson learned: It's a good idea to be considerate of others who may be impacted when you decide to run three gazillion races that all start at 5:00 PM Tbilisi Standard Time (i.e., 7:00 AM CST) or earlier.

Tbilisi (near Russia)
When it's evening there, I'm starting an early morning race in or near Chicago.

Adam dropped me off near the start of the course downtown, then very unfortunately got caught in a maze of race-related road closures going back home.  =(  Meanwhile, I was meandering around the race start area, which was quite large (easily 12 square city blocks).  I was battling the crowds, trying to find paths to cross through the starting corrals, trying to find the portapotties, trying to find water.  I missed another Chicago Running Bloggers photo meetup, argh.

THERE WAS NO WATER TO BE FOUND.  I saw several booths with big "Water" signs on them, but there was no water at any of the booths.  There were no water fountains.  I asked a few volunteers and they just directed me back towards the booths that had no water.  I passed by one of the medical tents and even stopped in there to ask if they had any water (I just needed a few sips so I could take a prerace GU), and was met with blank stares.  Unbelievable.  Finally I broke down and asked a fellow runner with a sports bottle if I could get a quick squeeze of water.  Sigh.  Lesson learned: Don't take for granted that the race will have water available before the start.  Bring your own water just in case.

I was in Starting Corral 18, but I decided to forgo my corral and go with one of the 2:30 pacers, which were in Corral 23 or 24.  I'd never run with a pacer before, but decided to give it a go with the 2:30 run/walk pacer (5:1 run/walk ratio).  My goal was to break 2:30, and hopefully 2:28.

I felt good for about the first six miles or so.  The streets was pretty packed with runners and unfortunately I was weaving a lot to get to water stations, cooling stations, etc.  But the weather, which was supposed to be very hot, actually didn't feel too bad, and the crowd was great.  I was having fun high-fiving lots of onlookers, and the pacer was cracking jokes and doing a great job keeping us pumped. 

The course passed right in front of my condo building once, and then again a few miles later on the course just a few blocks south of the building .  It made it easy for Adam to cheer me on along the course at those points, and it was great to see him.  The course even ran past the Hilton Chicago, where the 2012 Blackhawks Fan Convention was being held this weekend.  I enjoyed seeing all the onlookers there wearing their Hawks attire.  (A bellowing "Go Blackhawks!" cheer may have come from my general direction as I ran past...)

The crowd inside the Hawks convention.  This isn't what I saw on the street in front of
the hotel, but it gives you a sense for what the crowd looked like in their Hawks attire.

Around mile 7, it started feeling like the pacer was going too fast during the run portions.  I couldn't tell how much of it was just me getting tired versus if he really was going too fast.  I know that my Garmin is not completely accurate, but I kept looking at it and seeing paces as fast as 8:20 per mile (WAY too fast for a 2:30 half-marathon).  I started having trouble keeping up with the pacer, so I had to run an extra 15-20 seconds during each of the walk intervals just to keep up.  Mentally, it was frustrating that I kept falling behind and literally having to run to catch up, but I kept at it.

Around mile 10.5, I passed the pacer while everyone was slowing down at a water/cooling station.  I decided to try to keep ahead as much as I could, figuring that he would quickly catch up to me anyways.  But he didn't.  I was buoyed by this, and kept trying to push it a little bit more while resisting the urge to look back. 

Miles 12 and 13 were tough; we were going up some inclines and the sun was beating down.  I could see the finish line from about the 12.4 mark.  It looked so far away, but at least it was in sight.  I tried to just keep my focus on the finish line.  I knew that I was ahead of the 2:30 pacer and that if I could keep it up, that I would make my time goal.

My official finishing time was 2:29:04.  And very thankfully my wonky knee and hip ended up holding up throughout the entire race.  Huge relief!

I was happy that I had run with the pacer, otherwise I am not sure I would have met my time goal.  However, in looking at my official splits, there was definitely some pickup between the 10K mark and the 10-mile mark.  So it turns out that I wasn't just imagining what seemed like an uncomfortable pace for several miles.  Lesson learned: Pacers are a good guideline for an overall final finishing time, but they do not necessarily run completely even splits.

Final thoughts:
Overall, this race was enjoyable and they did a lot to make sure that the runners were well-hydrated and kept cool and comfortable to the best extent possible.  One of the medical tents even had big jars of Vaseline out in case anyone had forgotten to put on BodyGlide, which was very thoughtful of them.  The cool sponges, towels, ice, and sprinklers provided along the course were very well appreciated.

Also, out of the five half marathons I've run, this was the first half marathon that provided GU along the course.  Fantastic.  I also really enjoyed all the post-race refreshments offered - chocolate milk, popsicles, Jamba Juice smoothies, Dole fruit cups, popsicles, chocolate protein bars, and Chobani yogurt, in addition to the usual bananas, pretzels, Gatorade, and water.  I forgot to mention earlier that I enjoyed the race expo very much, as well.

In short, while this race is on the pricier side compared to most half marathons, you do get a LOT for your registration fee.  Therefore, it's all the better when you can take advantage of a great discount code to run this race at a reasonably competitive rate!

Final final thoughts:
I still find the half marathon distance to be challenging, even after pretty significant training and running my third half marathon in five months.  I am still having trouble comprehending the idea of doubling this distance for a full marathon... and I only have 2.5 months left to get myself up to that level for the Chicago Marathon.  I still have a lot of training ahead of me. 

Time for a stepback week to try to get my wonky knee under control again.  Then, back to work!!!


Closing side note: I have had a very busy week with a few more coming up, so I am behind in reading some of your blogs and responding to comments, etc.   But please know that I am not ignoring y'all - I do hope to catch up with all of your blogs as soon as I can!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Race Rambling

Lots of race talk today!

Chicago Half Marathon
Thanks to Nina, I won a free entry to the Chicago Half Marathon on Sunday, September 9! 

It will be the fourth half marathon I run this year, which is a huge accomplishment for me.  The timing of the Chicago Half Marathon is also perfect within my marathon training schedule (wonder if the organizers planned it that way?)  I am super excited because now I will be able to complete the Windy City Challenge, too!

Some personal history as it relates to the Chicago Half Marathon:

The Chicago Half Marathon was the first half marathon I ever ran many, many moons ago.  Two friends and I were discussing on a Tuesday night how we thought a marathon would be incredibly difficult to do, but that a half marathon seemed doable.  (All three of us were accustomed to running about 6 or 7 miles at the time.)  Then one of my friends called the next night and said, "The Chicago Half Marathon is this Sunday.  Want to go for it?"  We all decided on a whim to sign up for it that Thursday.  Then all three of us went out and ran the Chicago Half Marathon just three days later... with pretty much zero training. 

It wasn't pretty.  In fact, it was downright ugly.  But all three of us did all finish.  Never mind that there was considerable trouble walking for a good week afterwards.  Bygones!

Lesson learned:  Training is kind of important.

Cookie Classic 5K
I was in Girl Scouts when I was much younger!  And Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana has asked me to share with you that they are hosting a new 5k race this September! 

Here are the details:

Girl Scouts is launching a movement to achieve gender equity in leadership in just one generation. This mission bursts into action on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012, with Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana’s inaugural Cookie Classic 5k in Chicago’s Grant Park.  It is a great race for beginners, an enjoyable race for seasoned veterans, and an event to which you can bring the whole family! Each runner receives a box of Girl Scout cookies and a T-shirt, and there is a celebration afterward with food, entertainment, and fun. Interested participants can register here.

Sadly I will be out of town that day so I won't be able to run this race myself.  But if anyone has an extra box or twenty of Thin Mint Cookies, I would be happy to take them off of your hands.  (Yes, yes, someone's gotta deal with all those extra cookies and I'm a very noble person.  When you look in the dictionary under the definition of "philanthrophic" you'll see my picture.  =P )

Mad Dash to Madison
I've been debating back and forth on whether or not to sign up for this race, which takes place in conjunction with the annual Blackhawks Training Camp Festival. 

I've already got so many races on the calendar this year.  Plus, this race takes place two weeks before the Chicago Marathon.  I am also realizing more and more that I am not a huge fan of the 5K distance in general - I prefer longer races.  But this race is hosted by the Blackhawks!  Normally I don't care very much about race t-shirts - but this one I would love because it'll have a Hawks logo!  If ever there was a race that I should run because of my rabid fandom of the organizers, it would be this one.

Tickets to the Festival go on sale today and will probably sell out quickly.  Unfortunately, Mad Dash registration will not be opening until later.  However, registration for the Mad Dash does include entry into the festival.

What to do?  What to do?

Rock N Roll Chicago Half Marathon
Coming up this Sunday!  I've been looking forward to running this race for several weeks.  It's got easy logistics and the course runs right past my home! 

I am heading to the race expo shortly for packet pickup.  This is actually the first true race expo that I will have ever attended (the tiny "expos" with two booths don't count).  I am very excited to check out some of the vendor booths that will be there (namely, runDisney).

The weather is not supposed to be great this Sunday.  High temperatures are going to be in the 90s again.  Thankfully I am finally getting to the point where I'm somewhat accustomed to running in the heat and humidity.  However, one of these days it really would be nice to run a half marathon with ideal weather conditions. 

I seriously can't wait for fall... cooler temps, hockey season, that crispness in the air... sigh.  But that's a ramble for another day.

Happy Racing and Happy Friday to all!!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My physical therapy routine

I've been in physical therapy twice in the past two years for my knee and hip problems.  My basic PT routine at home usually takes me a good hour to complete thoroughly... but it does work!  Therefore, I am a huge fan of physical therapy.  This is especially the case because I hate taking medication.  So any successful methods to treat physical injuries which don't require medication get an A+ in my book.

Over time, I've amassed quite the repertoire of PT exercises and stretches.  I thought that I would share my standard physical therapy routine.  This routine was prescribed to me based upon a diagnosis of IT band syndrome and some muscle imbalances (i.e. weaknesses in my hips and glutes).

In general, I do all of these stretches in two or three sets of 30 seconds per leg/side.

1. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

2. Piriformis Stretch

3. Hamstring Stretch

I usually foam roll each side for about 1-2 minutes per side, or until I can't stand it anymore, whichever comes first.  My left side, which is my injury-prone side, always gets more foam-rolling time than my right side.

On a side note, I used to use just a standard white 36-inch foam roller.  But a few months ago I got a Trigger Point Foam Roller, which has been great.  The best part about it is that it's easy to travel with (it fits into a suitcase and you can stuff socks or t-shirts into the hollow center).

4. Foam Rolling - IT Band

The model is smiling. 
Comparatively, I never smile when I do this.  It hurts.

5. Foam Rolling - Quads
My form is typically not this good.  I usually hold 
myself up on my elbows instead of on my hands.

6. Foam Rolling - Hips

I do these exercises in two to three sets of 12-15 reps per leg/side.

7. Clamshells
You can do this with a resistance band around your knees, too.

8. Squats

I do several variations of squats.  Sometimes I'll do them while holding the exercise ball in different ways against the wall, while squatting at an angle, etc.  Other times I'll do the squats with hand weights.


9.  Monster Walk

I use varying levels of resistance bands for these.  I'll also do
these on a direct side-to-side basis, as opposed to at a diagonal.
I have a long hallway at home in which I'll do two round-trip laps of the monster walks.

10.  Planks (Front and Side)

I hate doing planks.  Hate them.  They are by far my least-favorite PT exercise. 
Because of this, I will never have abs of steel.  Ever.
I usually try to just hold these planks for as long as I can.

As noted above, there are several variations for almost all of these stretches and exercises, but you get the basic idea. 

Even though I do get bored of doing all the exercises and stretches day after day, I am so thankful for how much PT has helped me.  When going through injury, there have been many times in which I feared that I would never be able to run long distances ever again.  But PT has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me.

Stitch (from Disney's Lilo and Stitch) holding the world.
(Stitch is one of my absolute favorite Disney characters.
He's "also cute and fluffy!!!")

I would love to hear about different physical therapy exercises/stretches others have been doing which they've found helpful.  Please do share!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Blackhawks Prospect Camp

This post has pretty much nothing to do with running and everything to do with hockey and my beloved Chicago Blackhawks.  Hockey enthusiasts, read on.  Non-hockey enthusiasts, I'll be back to my regular programming soon!

Last week the Chicago Blackhawks hosted their annual Prospect Camp for their draft picks, free agent invitees, and up-and-coming players in their system.  Prospect Camp takes place at Johnny's Icehouse West, the Blackhawks' practice facility, which is just down the street from the United Center.  The event is open to the public, so being the rabid Hawks fan that I am (who is in severe offseason hockey withdrawal), I went to go check it out.

Upon entering the viewing area at Johnny's Icehouse West, I was immediately met by this:

Brandon Whitney
He is an intimidatingly large and towering
goalie, especially when viewed up close.


Johnny's Icehouse allows fans to view the action from behind the glass right at ice level.  It was by far the closest I'd ever been to a hockey goalie in playing mode.  I stood right behind Brandon Whitney and took in the view from his perspective (pucks coming at you in all directions at lightning-quick speed).  It was unbelievable to see the reflexes that these guys have to have in order to play the game, and how scary it is to have pucks, players, and sticks flying directly at you.

Here are some action shots taken from ice level:

Getting instructions on the next practice drill.

Lining up for one of the practice drills.

Goalie tandem stretching out while watching shootout drills.

Practice drills in motion.

2012 Blackhawks First-Round Draft Pick: Teuvo Teravainen.
He reminds me of Patrick Kane in the sense that they
both have slight builds, but are very skilled and quick.

Defensive drills.

I am very used to watching hockey from the nosebleed seats in an upper deck.  When viewed up close, you realize how unbelievably fast the players and the puck are moving at any given moment, how physical the game is, and how loud it is when the puck or the players hit the boards.  I was close enough to see the expressions on the players' faces and saw how they were all truly giving their all for every drill.  You could see how completely gassed they all were after each play.  It was fascinating watching the team dynamics, the players interacting with each other and the coaches, and all the little details that go into a practice.  It gave me a whole new level of respect for the level of athleticism, stamina, and willpower that these hockey players demonstrate.

I went upstairs to catch some action from the stands.  I caught a few more drills, then got to watch a scrimmage game.

Goalie drill where the goalies practice sliding from side
to side in between some pucks laid out on the ice.

The red team, playing on the "Home" bench during the scrimmage.

The white team, playing on the "Visitor" bench during the scrimmage.

It was an exciting scrimmage game which ended up going into overtime and a shootout.  Every time either team scored, the crowds in the stands and at ice level went nuts, just like at the United Center.  All that was missing was the huge airhorn and the echoing rendition of Chelsea Dagger.

There was great people-watching at the camp, too.  I got to see a number of the Blackhawks' front office members up close and personal:
Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville, aka "Coach Q"

Coach Q in action

General Manager Stan Bowman getting his daily potassium.
(Isn't it great that there are rabid fans and their cameras who are
ready to catch ANY and EVERY candid moment on film?)

CEO John McDonough in the stands.

Former Hawks defenseman Chris Chelios.
His son Jake was one of the players participating in the camp.

At the end of the day's practice, some of the players came by to say hello to the fans.

Brandon Whitney signing autographs.  He chatted with the fans
for awhile and posed for pictures.  Seemed like a very nice guy.
(Sadly I didn't bring anything autographable, so I missed
my opportunity.  =(  Note to self for the future.)

I thoroughly enjoyed attending Prospect Camp.  It gave me so much new respect for the players and the game - they are phenomenal, phenomenal athletes in every sense of the word.  I also loved being surrounded by other rabid Hawks fans again.  Prospect Camp was the perfect remedy for my off-season hockey blues.

Before attending the festivities, I thought that the collective player skill levels might be noticeably more junior compared to the official Hawks team members that you see at Training Camp Festival.  I was very pleasantly surprised to see how incredibly, amazingly talented all of the players were.  It blows my mind knowing that many, if not most of these guys, will be playing in the minors or in juniors next season as opposed to the NHL.  Some guys are just going to be sent home afterwards without even getting to play in the minors or juniors.  It really gives you a perspective for how elite and how competitive it truly is to play in the NHL.  I can't even imagine what it would be like to watch NHL players in this setting.

I've been reading the book 100 Things Blackhawks Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die (great book, by the way).  Attending prospect camp was on the list - and for very good reason!  Next on the wish list is to go watch an actual Blackhawks team practice.  Either way, I can't wait to go back to Johnny's Icehouse again to see more.

Just a few more months until hockey season starts!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Strike Out ALS 5K Race Recap

Last night I ran the Strike Out ALS 5K

The race took place at U.S. Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox.  I was excited to run this race for many reasons, primarily the easy race logistics, 6:30 PM start time, and fun course (getting to finish on the warning track inside U.S. Cellular Field!)

I hadn't run a 5K in quite some time, but I knew that this was going to be a challenge.  Many people might think if you run longer distance races like 10-milers or half marathons, that 5Ks should be a piece of cake in comparison.  Not the case for me.  I actually think 5Ks are much harder, given that you are basically trying to sprint for 3.1 miles.  I find the more relaxed pace at longer races to be much easier by comparison.  But I was looking forward to mixing up the focus for one night's race.

Flashback to high school physics and algebra

Prior to the race, I looked at pace calculators and saw that a 30-minute finish meant an average pace of 9:40 per mile, and a 29-minute finish meant a 9:20 pace.  I've been doing my tempo runs at around a 9:30 pace, so I was fairly confident that I could break 30 minutes.  I thought that maybe if I pushed myself, that I could break 29 minutes.  So I decided that breaking 30 minutes would be Goal 1 for the night, and breaking 29 minutes would be Goal 2.

I drove down to U.S. Cellular Field and enjoyed the free parking and the many very helpful and cheerful volunteers helping to guide us.  Packet pickup was a breeze.  Unfortunately, one of the women at packet pickup was warning everyone to "save some energy for the stairs at the end of the course!" 

STAIRS?  I had read some recaps of last year's race, and had indeed heard that the course included some stairs throughout the ballpark.  Immediately I started thinking that maybe Goal 2, and maybe even Goal 1, would be too ambitious for the day if stairs were involved.  Stairs and me don't mix well!

Flashback to high school geometry

After packet pickup, I stored all of my gear in my car and went to go warm up.  This was a first for me - prior to last night, I've never warmed up before any race.  But I knew from experience that it usually takes me a mile or two to start feeling good while running, and I didn't want to go into the 5K with a cold sprint.  I took a GU for good measure, then ran easy for about 10 minutes, followed by some light fartleks for another 5 minutes.  Afterwards, I headed to the start line.

The DJ at the starting line announced that there were no stairs on the course this year.  But I didn't really believe him.  I thought he was pulling our collective legs.

Foundation ALS Patient Kaylynn Van Driest gave the welcome address.  It was very touching to hear her story.  I got tears in my eyes listening to her, as did many around me.  Many runners were wearing shirts with pictures of friends or family members that had been impacted by ALS, for whom they were running the race to honor.  I could see how impactful and meaningful this event was to so many people whose lives were personally impacted by ALS.

The airhorn sounded and we were off!  It was fairly crowded at the start, so I had some trouble getting going for the first minute or so.  But then the crowd started spreading out and I was able to get my pace up.

Mile 1: 8:50.  My thoughts: "Wow!  For a sub-29-minute finish, this was a well-cushioned mile!  But I hope I didn't start out too fast.  I don't know if I can maintain this pace and the first mile is always the easiest!  OK, let's keep 'er going here, push hard but not to the point where you feel like you're going to vomit."

It definitely started getting harder during the second mile.  Mile 2 seemed to go on forever, and I was sure that I was slowing down.  There was a water stop around mile 1.1 but I didn't take any.

Mile 2: 8:58.  "Not bad at all!  If I can still maintain this, then maybe I really can do a sub-29 minute finish!  But I need to be ready just in case there really are stairs at the end of the course.  That would add some extra time.  Ugh.  This is hard.  This is why I don't run a lot of 5Ks.  Just one more mile to go.  It's going to be tough but hang in there and keep at it!"

Around mile 2.2, we took a turn INTO the ballpark, which I didn't anticipate.  We were running through corridors inside the bowels of U.S. Cellular Field, past offices and equipment storage areas and breakrooms and everything!

This is not an actual picture from the race, but this gives you a
sense for the areas we were running through inside the stadium.

Prior to the race, I had remembered to turn off the auto-lap function on my Garmin.  But I lost the signal on my Garmin while inside the ballpark and hadn't thought to turn off the auto-pause in advance.  So at this time I was running "blindly" without knowing my time, pace, or distance.  This was especially hard since the indoor corridors had some sharp, blind curves and turns and we couldn't see very far ahead (see the picture above to get an idea, as well).  I had no sense for how much distance I had covered or how much still lay ahead.  I just tried to keep at it, although at this point I knew that I was slowing down.

Finally, we took a sudden quick turn and were outside on the playing field!  I saw the Mile 3 mile marker.  The start of the MLB All-Star game was already being broadcoast from the Jumbotron and I could hear the commentators.  The final 0.1 of the course wound around the warning track on the outfield to the finish line. 

I picked it up as best as I could and sprinted to the end.  My clock time was around 28:25.  But, I knew that my chip time would be even better - so I was very happy!  (Plus, it turned out that the DJ was right after all about there being no stairs on the course.  Yay, and huge relief!)

Volunteers handed us water bottles.  Right at that moment, the MLB All-Star game's national anthem singer began singing the Star-Spangled Banner.  The timing was absolutely perfect for the national anthem as I stood at the edge of the outfield trying to catch my breath.

It was an incredible moment.  By far the most inspiring moment that I've ever experienced immediately after finishing a race.

There were a few computers set up near the finish line where you could enter your bib number and get a printout of your unofficial time (AWESOME!).  I waited in line to get mine.  Based on what I could recall of the time delay between the clock time and my chip time, I was anticipating that I'd finished around 28:05.  Imagine my surprise when I got my time card and it read 27:52.

Not too shabby for a race in which my biggest goal was to break 29 minutes!  Woo hoo!

Estimated Mile 3: 9:14
Estimated Mile 3.1: 0:50

Runners with their friends and family were starting to gather in the seats to watch the MLB All-Star game on the Jumbotron.  There were a few concession stands selling food and beverages.  I changed out of my running shoes into some sandals, went to the bathroom to splash some water on my face, bought a pretzel with cheese, then settled into a seat to eat and enjoy the game.  Ah, life is good.

Some pictures from the post-race party:

The MLB All-Star game on the Jumbotron

The playing field

Stadium lights and decks

The broadcast booths and fellow runners

The weather was absolutely gorgeous out.  It was a perfect summer night to be outdoors hanging out at a ballpark.  There was something so magical about being at the park and seeing the perfectly manicured grass, the pitcher's mound and bases, the outfield, the scoreboard.  I looked at the field and thought of all the amazing athletes that have displayed their talents in those very spaces.  It was awesome.  As I've mentioned before, I'm really not into baseball very much - but now I am definitely starting to see the appeal of great ballparks.

I hung out and watched the MLB All-Star game through the end of the 5th inning, relishing the beautiful evening.  Then I came home very happy.

I had such a great time at this race!  It was a fantastic event for a really good cause, and I was proud to be a part of it.  This is definitely a race that I would enjoy doing again in the future!