Monday, April 28, 2014

Illinois 5K race recap

This past weekend I headed down to my dear alma mater for Illinois Marathon weekend.

The weekend's agenda? Run the Half I-Challenge. This consists of the Illinois 5K on Friday night, and the Illinois Half Marathon on Saturday morning. Total race schwag to be earned? Two race shirts and three medals.

Bring it on!!!

Let's talk first about pre-weekend prep and the 5K portion of the I-Challenge. I'll cover the half marathon in another post.

On Friday morning, I was up early to spend obscene amounts of time deliberating what clothing/gear to pack for the two-race weekend. The forecasted race-time temperatures ranged from low 50s to the mid-60s, and temps in the 50s are my tipping point between wearing shorts or capris. I considered bringing different pairs of running shoes to wear for the 5K and the half marathon. I also wanted to wear something in UIUC's school colors (orange and blue), but also wanted to wear outfits that didn't clash with my running shoe colors. However, some of the right-colored shirts didn't have pockets, which would then lead to the question of whether or not to wear a running belt. First world runner's problems, right?

After an embarrassing amount of time, I finally decided to keep things simple. I brought two pairs of black shorts, one pair of black capris as a backup, one pair of running shoes (my turquoise/orange Asics), a turquoise shirt, an orange shirt, and my i-Fitness belt.

I worked a half day on Friday and then went to pick Adam up from his office. We zipped through the cornfields on Interstate 57 down to Champaign-Urbana, arrived on campus, and hit the race expo at the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC). The ARC is a relatively new building, but it is right across the street from where I lived my freshman and sophomore year of college. Cue the nostalgia!

The expo was very well-organized. I rarely purchase things at race expos, but this time I did pick up a couple of items - most notably, "The Stick." (It's basically the equivalent of a rolling pin for your muscles, similar to a foam roller. More about this another time.)

Looks a little scary, no?

Erin's parents live in Urbana, and she had very graciously offered to host us there for the weekend. After the expo, we headed over to their (gorgeous!) house to get ready.

Jason dropped Erin and me off as close to the 5K starting line as possible, then he and Adam went to find parking as close to the finish line as possible. The 5K corrals were crowded and the emcee kept asking everyone to make room for other runners. There were only about five corrals. Surprisingly the first corral was for anyone with an expected finish time of 27:00 or faster. So, I relished one of the very few times in my life that I'll ever be in the first corral of a race. =) The weather was beautiful - clear, very mild breezes, and temps in the 60s.

After the starting gun went off, Erin and I set out at a pace that was a bit faster than I would have done had I been running by myself. Given that my weekend focus was on the half marathon the next morning, the 5K was by no means intended to be a PR attempt. I knew that I had to be careful not to get too ambitious if things went well. But, I felt good so I told myself to just go with the flow. Mile 1 was done in around 8:45 and actually felt surprisingly easy.

We saw Adam and Jason somewhere along the first mile. Here are a couple of pictures that they took:

In front of Assembly Hall

The 5K had started at 7:30 PM. The sun was still up when we were heading to the race. But, as you can see in the pictures, the sun was setting as the race was underway. Enroute to the race I was wearing my prescription sunglasses. I forgot to leave them in the car, and I didn't have regular glasses or contacts lenses to swap into. So I ran the race holding my sunglasses in my hand. My eyesight is reasonably good to the point where I can still function without wearing any prescription eyewear. But, unfortunately it made it more difficult for me to fully enjoy the scenery on campus while running.

The course passed by the residence hall complex that I lived in, as well as many buildings where I had attended class. We saw a bus filled with students dressed to the nines, presumably for a formal event of some sort. This included some students who were unhappy about the race blocking the streets and were being halted at the crosswalks by police officers. We ran through Green Street (aka "Campustown"), and I marveled at how much nicer it has gotten since I was a student. Somewhere along the way I bypassed an aid station and I also completely missed the Mile 2 marker.

The 5K course did not pass by the alma mater, unfortunately, but I loved seeing her decked out to support the runners.
(Photo from the Illinois Marathon Facebook page)

We saw lots of fraternities and student apartment buildings with plenty of folks hanging out on their front lawns, beer containers in hand, cheering us on. As timing would have it, the Blackhawks were playing Game 5 of their playoff series against the Blues that night. The University of Illinois attracts a lot of folks from both Chicago and St. Louis, and I saw many folks wearing items proclaiming their hockey loyalties. There were a few other runners near me wearing Blackhawks jerseys. They drew raucous "Go Blackhawks!" cheers from many of our spectators. Someone even yelled, "The Hawks are up one to nothing! The Hawks are currently up one to nothing!" as we ran by. I didn't hold back my natural reaction, which was to scream, "YEAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!" at the top of my lungs (eliciting a chuckle from Erin).

Around mile 2.25 I was starting to feel the exertion, even though I didn't really know what pace I was holding. Erin was starting to inch ahead of me and I didn't push myself to keep up with her. I hadn't looked at the course map and I didn't know what was ahead. I started focusing more on the spectators.

Somewhere in the last half mile, there was a guy wearing a Blues t-shirt along the course. A runner just ahead of me yelled "Go Blackhawks" at him, and he responded with, "Go Blues!" Not one to let that pass me by, I also yelled "Go Blackhawks!" at him when I ran past a few seconds later. He again dutifully responded, "Go Blues!" to which several folks around me starting laughing.

We made a turn into Memorial Stadium, ran through a corridor, then all of a sudden found ourselves on the field.

Taken from the Illinois Marathon Facebook page:
A view of the field from Race Operations in the press box at Memorial Stadium.

The finish line was at the 50-yard line and the runners could see themselves being broadcast on the scoreboard as they crossed. Wow! I didn't know that the 5K finished on the field so this was a very cool surprise. What an amazing experience to be running on the field amidst the stadium spotlights!

Erin and me on the field after our finish (photo by Jason)
Me with the finish line in the background (photo by Adam)

Erin and me in the stands with our medals, plus the scoreboard behind us.

Our race bibs had a QR code printed on them which you could scan with your smartphone to immediately obtain your race results. LOVE!

My final finishing time was 27:03, and thanks to running with Erin I believe my splits were pretty even. What a difference it made in overall effort and exertion. I was very happy with the results for a 5K in which I did not push myself to the max. It was a great way to kick off the weekend!

Coming up next: the Illinois Half Marathon.


  1. This has got to be SO much fun for an alum like you to go back for. Well done! I'm paying close attention to this as my Flying Pig 3-way is this weekend I have no idea how the old bod will respond to 3 races in 2 days.

    1. Thanks Marcia! Oh my goodness, there really is something so special about going back and seeing your old campus via your running shoes! And you are going to do AWESOME at Flying Pig. My humble suggestion is to not try to PR all three races, maybe just pick one of the three as a goal race. But since you are an experienced runner, I'm sure you've already got that strategy down. Can't wait to hear how your weekend goes!!! =D

  2. Great race! Totally loling about your cheer for the Hawks! Hee hee! I never would have thought about the prescription sunglasses thing being an issue when you have to take them off at a night race! I hope you got to see a lot of the things you missed during the HM :)

    1. Thanks, Kim! When you're running down fraternity row, you generally feel freer to express your enthusiasm for your favorite sports teams, no? ;-) And I really do love evening races. It's a shame that there are so few of them out there because they are so festive!

  3. How fun! I was there at the marathon helping friends. I did the full 2 years ago and the half last year. Great job on the 5k!

    1. Thanks, Amanda! Oh my goodness, you were there this past weekend!?!?!? I wish I'd known so we could have met up! Wasn't it crazy how much the temperature changed between Champaign-Urbana and Chicago!?!?!? It was a good 30-degree swing!

  4. Awesome job at even pacing! Looking forward to your half recap. Go Hawks!

    1. Thanks, Pete! I was truly amazed at how much better it felt to run the 5K with even splits versus my usually horribly positive splits. After my last 5K, I had felt like I had gotten run over by a truck! But this time I felt like there was almost no recovery needed, yet I only finished 30 seconds slower. YAY for even splits! And GO HAWKS!!!! =)

  5. Congrats! I was considering signing up for the I-Challenge this year, but didn't go through with it. Your pictures have inspired me to sign up for I-Challenge 2015! Looking forward to the half-marathon recap!

    Oh, and Campustown has completely changed since I graduated in 2003. Murphy's, one of my favorites as an undergrad, is still there...and they've expanded. Hopefully, it will still be there in 2015. :)

    1. Thanks, Jeni! It's so great to hear that you are a UIUC alum, too! Where did you live on campus? I lived in Snyder my freshman/sophomore year and then I was an RA at LAR my sophomore/junior year. Murphy's was one of my favorites, too (love their burgers!) and I didn't know that they had expanded! Unfortunately I didn't get much of a chance to check out the Campustown hangouts this past weekend... but it really is amazing how much nicer the campus has gotten over the past few years.

      YES, I vote that all Illinois alumni who are runners do an I-Challenge at some point in their running lives. We can put it on the Illinois alum runner bucket list. =) As the Illinois Marathon logo goes, C-U there next year?!?!? ;-)

  6. You totally look like you are having a blast!!

    1. There really is something about going back to your old campus that brings out the college student still hidden in all of us. Ah, the good old days!!! =D

  7. Congrats on a great race! I would love love love to do this running challenge!!! I've never experienced U of I as a runner (I started running only after graduating) and it must be an amazing experience. Definitely a bucket list item! I also heard that the campus is completely changed...and I only graduated back in 2011. I haven't been back since!

    The Stick is amazing. I bought one last year before the Nike Women's Half Marathon and love its portability and effectiveness. It's incredibly painful but great for traveling.


    1. Thanks, Irina! Oh my goodness, I think you would LOVE all the events they have during the weekend! I felt so much pride seeing all the runners wearing Illinois gear, shouting I-L-L along the course, etc. It was so much fun seeing the campus in that fashion! It is definitely an Illinois alumni runner bucket list for all of us!

      Glad to hear that you have a Stick, too! I was hesitant to buy it at first because I already have a foam roller. I ended up going for it primarily because it's so much easier to pack into a suitcase. But I am really loving that I can use it while sitting on the couch, instead of writhing all over the floor!!! You too?

  8. I've done combo races before, but not where the first race was in the evening. That's interesting! Other than the sunglasses/glasses issue, it looks like that actually worked out pretty well. And you had fun running a 5k! Yay!

    This has me seriously wanting to do a race at my alma mater. There is a full/half around the town in May, but I'm not sure if it goes through campus or not. It's definitely moving up the ranks of possibility for next year after reading how much you enjoyed your alma mater race!

    1. Thanks Amy! Ah yes, I remember you doing the combo race over New Year's. That was two half marathons on consecutive days, yes? In my experience, a 5K is actually pretty easy to do the day before a half marathon. You could use it as a supported shakeout run. But to do consecutive half marathons? THAT is a combo race!!! WHEW!!!

      Ooooh, definitely look into the full/half around the town of your alma mater! And please share more details when you learn more about it!!! Even if the course doesn't go into campus, it's still fun to see all the locals and spectators decked out in their campus gear. Also still a great opportunity to go back and visit your old stomping grounds!!!

  9. Oooh, you picked up The Stick! I love that thing for working out shin splints, it hurts so good :)

    It's so awesome you and Erin did the I-Challenge! I've only done back-to-back races once, and ended up hurting myself that way (the long distance, a PDR, was first - I think that may be some of it), so I'm hesitant to do one. But those medals were pretty sweet! Next year you should tack on a third day to do the Ravenswood Run, ha!

    You forgot to recap our tasty dinner, where a bunch of Hawks fans squinted at the TVs at the bar across the street - we'll have to take playoff games into account better next time ;)

    1. Oooh, I didn't know that you had the Stick, too! "Hurts so good" is EXACTLY the way I would describe its effectiveness, too. At the expo, the guy working the booth demonstrated usage of the stick on my left IT band. I nearly fell over from the pain. But I felt great afterwards! =)

      I hear you on the back-to-back races bringing up some nervousness. My right knee has been acting up so I was praying it would hold together for the weekend. If I had had to do the half marathon first, then the 5K would have been really really ugly. So yeah, I'm all about getting the shorter distances out of the way first. =) And it really is a bummer that Ravenswood is the same weekend, and that Wisconsin is the next weekend, because I would have loved to run both of those, too. So many amazing races, so little time! Also, so many body parts that can't handle that much racing in such a condensed timeframe, LOL.

      Never fear, I was planning on including the recap of our tasty Friday night dinner as the prelude to my half marathon recap!!! =D And come on, Anne, what kind of people would be so ridiculously fanatical about their hockey team that they would do something that insane? That's just CRAZY. ;-)

      (By the way, at some point I'll have to share with you the story about how Adam and I tried to figure out the timing of when we would have our wedding. ;-P )

    2. Yep, Bob picked it up for me at the Shamrock Shuffle expo last year. I use it in conjunction with a foam roller (I like to roll out my quads and ITB because, yeah, the Stick HURTS there!). I'm eyeing the Addaday stick, since it's supposed to be good for Achilles/calf issues. I tried it out at Fleet Feet, it's pretty awesome.

      Yeah, Bob's 5k on Sunday was a little slower than if he hadn't run a half the day before, so it's not too bad as long as you don't care about your 5k time. I think if I were to do the half or especially the I-Challenge next year, I'd probably just walk the Ravenswood Run (because I can't not do it!).

      I was surprised that a place with "Tavern" in the name didn't have TVs! We were watching the game at Guido's while you guys were doing the 5k, we probably should have stayed there for all the hockey fans ;)

      Our wedding was planned around the election, since our officiant (Rocket, who you met on Saturday!) works in politics. An October date was available, but we weren't sure he'd be able to do it then since he as campaigning. And our photographer was concerned that he'd miss the Michigan game that day too, LOL.

    3. The Addaday stick, eh? I've never heard of it but I'm off to google it! And the name "Addaday" is just awesome. =)

      Yay for Bob completing his own challenge of a half and a 5K on consecutive days! What a great way to cap off the weekend. Between you and Bob, you completed three races in 36 hours that weekend. Totally bad-ass!!! I really want to run Ravenswood next year, especially to be able to hobnob with Rahm the way you all did. =D

      Yeah, it was a bummer that the Big Grove TAVERN didn't have any TVs. How was Guido's? Next time we make a sojourn down to UIUC, I'd love to check it out. It sounds like a place that would have good pizza and I'm all about that. =)

      Oh wow, how cool that Rocket was your officiant. I did not know that! That must have been so meaningful to have a good friend take care of you in that way. And Michigan football fans really do take their games very, very seriously!!! They are no joke!

    4. I saw the Addaday at the Ravenswood Run, I think it'll probably show up at any Fleet Feet race if you want to check it out :)

      Well, Bob's a little crazy - he's doing the Wisconsin Half this Saturday too! And to be fair, we did 4 races over the same weekend last year (relay + Ravenswood), so we backed off this year ;)

      Eh, Guido's was okay - the beer was cheap and the bar food I did see looked good. Nothing special, but I also really love bar food so I would have been fine with it.

      Rocket did an awesome job too! Another college friend of theirs suggested we have him do it, kind of as a joke, but the more we thought about it, the more it sounded like a really good idea.

      My family is all Michigan fans, so I know they're pretty crazy about it :)

  10. Sounds like you need an evening race with a rabbit (aka me) to chase and you'll get your 5K PR :-)

    1. I think you are absolutely right!!! I was just telling Adam that I wished 5K races provided pacers. Maybe we can find a nice PR-friendly evening race later this year where I can utilize your rabbit offer!?!? If the Strike Out ALS 5K wasn't in mid-July I would say that would have been a great pick!

  11. Love and hate The Stick!

    Looks like a fun weekend!!