Sunday, September 23, 2012

PAWS Run For Their Lives 8K Race Recap

It was an absolutely gorgeous morning in Chicago to be running the PAWS Run For Their Lives 8K.

My stubbornly lingering groin pain had persisted this past week.  My biggest fear was that I would sustain an injury just two weeks out from the Chicago Marathon.  Therefore, I went into this race debating whether I would "race" it.  I was also debating whether I should even run the 8K or drop down to the 4K walk, just to be safe.  I decided that it would be a race-time decision.

The race had a very friendly 9:00 AM starting time this morning.  Adam dropped me off near the starting line, then went to go find parking nearby.  Packet pickup and gear check were a breeze, and there were no lines at any of the portapotties, either.  AWESOME.

People were welcomed to bring their pets along for the race festivities, which included a costume contest, agility course, and pet massages.  Therefore, it was also awesome to see so many adorable, energetic, wriggling dogs of all shapes, sizes and colors, many adorned in cute costumes.

I did about 15 minutes of easy jogging to warm up.  Then I took a GU and headed towards the starting line.  I was feeling pretty good and my achy groin seemed to be holding up allright.  So I decided that I would go ahead and try to "race" the race, but would slow down if I needed to. 

Prior to today, I have never done the 8K race distance.  Therefore, I wasn't entirely certain if I should treat this more like a 5K where I basically try to sprint the whole distance, or if I should treat it more like a 10K where I would try to semi-sprint the entire distance.  I decided to treat it more like a 10K, with my first goal to break 48 minutes and my second goal to break 47 minutes.

Adam found me near the starting line, and hung out with me until the race began.  I've grown accustomed to the enormous races where the starting line is too crowded for any spectators to wait with you, so this was a very welcome occurrence.

Here's a picture of me waiting to start.  Notice some of the dogs in the background?

The airhorn blew and off we went.  I had positioned myself near the back of the pack, as usual.  I was surprised at how many people I was passing at the start, though.  It made me wonder if I'd gone out too quickly.

Our race packets had included maps of both the 8K course and the 4K walk.  Before starting, I had very quickly glanced at the first map I saw, which indicated that the course was an out-and-back starting northbound on the lakefront path.  I had also heard another runner describing the northern route.  So I was surprised when we started running southbound on the path instead (I later realized that I had been looking at the 4K walk map).  In the meantime, though, I had no idea how far south we were going, at what point we were going to turn around, or where any aid stations were located.  Oops.

I kept trying to push myself at a comfortably hard pace.  I walked through a water station around mile 1.7.  By around mile 2.25, my lungs were starting to feel it and my groin was beginning to feel tight.  I wasn't enjoying the exertion and was starting to wonder why I did things like this "for fun."  I started telling myself that after this was over, I would never run another race again.

Glad that at least one of us is enjoying the couch!

Rather abruptly, I reached the turnaround at the southernmost point of the course.  I tried to make the turnaround as tightly as possible.  In doing so, I nearly lost my balance, twisting my ankle in the process.  Oops again.  Thankfully no harm done.

I reached an intersection where course marshalls were shouting for runners from some other race to turn left.  Apparently there were multiple races going on at the same time along the lakefront path, although I only saw PAWS runners.  I pushed on, selecting random runners that were ahead of me and making it my goal to pass him or her, then selecting another runner to try to pass, etc.

Dogs are runners, too!
(Although, due to the amount of race traffic, pets were not actually permitted on the 8K course.)

We came back to the same aid station we'd passed on the outbound trip.  I walked through and grabbed some water, then had a little trouble getting my pace back up again afterwards.  But shortly after passing the mile 4 marker, I glanced at my Garmin and saw my time was at 36-something minutes.  Not bad!  Maybe I'd be able to finish between 45 and 46 minutes?

I could feel blisters forming on my feet and the sun was shining right in my eyes.  The distance on my Garmin was off, but we were approaching familiar territory so I knew we were getting close.  I kept pushing at a comfortably hard pace, figuring that once the finish line was in sight that I could really gun it.  Then all of a sudden we turned a corner and I was startled to see the finish line less than a tenth of a mile away.  I gunned what I could of the remaining distance, during which I saw Adam near the finish line and waved at him before crossing.

According to results posted near the finish line, my time was 44:12.  Much, MUCH better than I had been expecting!  (And I quickly changed my mind about wanting to run races again.  =) )

Woo hoo!

While waiting in line to view the results, they announced that any dogs wearing yellow bandanas were ones that were in need of good homes.  They said if anyone was looking to adopt a dog today, or was looking to bring home a second or third dog, to please consider one of the dogs that were there.  Hearing this and then noticing many dogs wearing the yellow bandanas immediately brought tears to my eyes.  I used to volunteer for an animal shelter, so this really hit home.  I am not running the Chicago Marathon on behalf of any charitable causes, but now I understand how meaningful it would be to do so for a cause that you care about.

I was very happy to have run this race, especially given the easy, worry-free logistics.  I had donated some extra funds in addition to my registration fee, and was glad I did.  In the end, I had a really great time at this race and would definitely run this race again if for nothing but the cause.

Such a good cause.

Some other training notes:
  • I'd read somewhere that it is a good idea to run shorter-distance races towards the end of your marathon training. This is because so much of marathon training is done at very slow, easy paces. Therefore, the shorter races serve to help remind you that you can actually run fast, too. I couldn't agree with this suggestion more.
  • I tried a Jet Blackberry GU (which I'd received as a free sample elsewhere) for the first time.  I have very low caffeine tolerance, and the Jet Blackberry has double the caffeine of the usual GU flavors (excluding the caffeine-free flavors).  Therefore, I was a little nervous that it would make me jittery.  But no issues.
  • My PT had recommended that I try dynamic stretching for my hip flexor, instead of my usual static stretches.  The dynamic stretch basically consists of standing on one foot with one hand on a chair or wall for balance, then swinging the other foot from side to side in a pendulum motion.  I think it works well.
  • The groin pain persists.  With the clock ticking down on two weeks remaining until the Chicago Marathon, I may take the entire next week off of running and just cross-train instead.
  • As I mentioned, today was the first time I've ever run the 8K distance.  I do still like longer distances (e.g. 10-milers) a little better.  However, I've never run Chicago's Shamrock Shuffle, which is the largest 8K in the world (more than 34,000 runners).  Now I am inspired to run it next year!


  1. Congrats on a strong finish! I really wanted to be out there because pups in need of shelter and good homes is a cause close to my own heart. CB was adopted from a shelter in south Carolina. But my ankle is still cranky...

    Take care of your issues this week so you can be 100% for October 7! Maybe go see a massage therapist- it certainly helped with my hip flexor.
    Jet blackberry GU are my favorite! Yum!

    1. I am so glad to hear that you adopted CB from a shelter! There are so many pets in need of good homes so every adoption makes such a huge, huge difference.

      So sorry to hear that your ankle is still cranky. Take care of that ankle so you can be 100% for October 7, too!

      The Jet Blackberry GU is quite good, indeed! Alas, I have a whole box of Mandarin Orange GU and three-quarters of a box of Mint-Chocolate GU at home to eat through, LOL.

      A massage sounds AWESOME... sigh...

  2. Congrats on a great race!! By the way, you beat my PAWS 8K PR :-)

    Where does your groin hurt? Mine hurts sometimes because my adductors are tight. And my PT also recommended the active pendulum stretch. My favorite thing to do post run. I hope it helps you!

    1. Thanks so much, Erin! Thanks again for sharing the info about this race with me, too! I think this race is going to become one of my staple races every year now. =) And your PAWS 8K PR was from three years ago, right? So I am sure if you ran it again now you'd blow me out of the water. ;)

      My groin hurts in the spot where my left inner thigh meets the trunk of the body (if that makes sense). I'm glad to hear that the active pendulum stretch works so well for you! I think I'll be penduluming my free time away for the next two weeks. =D

  3. WOW congrats on the amazing finish!!!! Looks like the 8K distance suits you quite well. And the race was for such a great cause too, although my heart would've been breaking if I saw all those homeless animals :( Sorry to hear about that pesky groin pain. I've dealt with it randomly before too, and would love to hear how you manage/eliminate it (because it WILL go away...think positive :) ).

    You MUST run the Shamrock Shuffle next year. I had a blast running it, and it will now be one of my staple races.

    1. Thank you, Irina! I actually think these shorter races are much tougher than the long races (5Ks are the worst), but it's nice to have a well-balanced race portfolio, yes?

      The groin pain is really starting to scare me. I've dealt with it randomly in the past, but this is the first time that it's lingered over several weeks. Will let you know if I can come up with a reliable solution for it - for now I'm hoping that resting and stretching will help. How have you dealt with it in the past yourself?!?!?! All suggestions are very welcome!!!

      Yay for the Shamrock Shuffle! SOLD. =D

  4. Congrats on a great race! I've been allowing myself to run a little bit faster during some of my runs lately, and it's nice to see "fast" splits once in awhile! I'm so ready for the marathon to be done so I can start doing intervals and tempo runs regularly again! It was too hot (for me) to do them over the summer, but now it's too close to the marathon to start throwing them in.

    1. Thanks, Maggie! Congratulations to you too on your Fort2Base!

      I am so with you on looking forward to doing speedwork again. I have been getting the hankering to do some already in the last month, since the weather has been much nicer, but definitely wanted to play things safe. Just two more weeks!!!

  5. What a great race! Congratulations!! I totally agree with you - this is the PERFECT time to run fast! I always surprise myself at this point in marathon training.

    I hope your groin pain goes as much as you need to - it won't hurt you at all, and you need to get that healed up...

    1. Thanks, Bobbi! HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to you too on your sub-2 half last weekend! I read your recap but haven't had the chance yet to post a congratulatory comment. I will do so later today. =)

      I was planning on just biking or using the elliptical to try to heal things in lieu of running, but those areas still use thy groin! I would love to take the entire week off of any cardio that involves the legs, but that's probably too much of a risk. =( In any event, here is hoping that the rest works miracles for all of us!

  6. Congrats on the awesome race time! No wonder you had the "I hate racing" thoughts! You were running with a jetpack!

    I feel so bad about your groin. Ugh. Yes - take off the time you need and continue those dynamic stretches.

    Are the new shoes still giving you blisters? :(

    1. Thanks, Kim!!! These shorter races are seriously so painful - and then the worst part is that the next time you run that distance, you feel inclined to beat your previous time!!! Give me the 10-milers or the half marathons any day over the 5Ks!

      I actually wore my Brooks Glycerins for the race this past weekend (and I think the shoes wear differently when you are sprinting vs running easy, too). The Asics are for sure the go-to shoe on marathon day! I just felt like changing things up a bit for this particular race. =)

  7. That race sounds fun! I really like the 8k distance. A couple miles to warm up, a couple to speed up, and one to run like a bat out of hell! Hope to see you at the shamrock shuffle - its a great race!

    1. I think you would really enjoy this race, especially since you've got Waffles! It was well-organized and such a fun atmosphere for pet-lovers. I hope to see you at the PAWS race next year, too! And I am about 99% sure I'll be running the Shamrock Shuffle next year so will see you there. =D

  8. While I was out for my run, I saw people running the PAWS race. I was wondering where all the dogs were. Now I realize that dogs weren't allowed on the 8k course!

    1. So you were out on the lakefront path yet again at a time when I didn't know we might cross paths! Once again I would have looked for you had I known!

      Yes, sadly the dogs weren't allowed on the course, but it was so crowded that it would have been too much for them to be on there. But the dogs were allowed on the 4K walk and that must have been an awesome sight!