Monday, July 14, 2014

Chinatown 5K race recap

This past Saturday I ran the Chinatown 5K.

This was the design on the race shirt, which I LOVED.
(The actual race shirt was red and black, which made the design pop even more.)

The race took place on July 12, which is my birthday. (In case anyone has ever wondered what the "712" on my blog URL stands for, it represents July 12.) I was also born in the year of the horse, so I was absolutely thrilled to get a race shirt that commemorated my Chinese zodiac year. =)

I will admit that I had entertained the notion of trying to attempt a PR at this race. After all, what better time to get a new PR than on your birthday, on your zodiac year, in a neighborhood of your ethnicity? The pressure was on to earn a picture perfect ending!

But then the day of the race arrived. And it was raining. And raining. And raining. It was relentless. It wouldn't stop.

[NOTE: Unless otherwise noted, all pictures are from the Chinatown 5K Facebook page.]

I drove down to Chinatown with Adam and my mom. After we found parking, I stayed in the car for as long as I possibly could before venturing out into the elements.

Prior to the race, I had been debating which shoes to wear. Under normal circumstances, I would have worn my Saucony Kinvaras, which are very lightweight and great for racing. They certainly wouldn't stand up too well to extreme elements, though. Comparatively, my Brooks Ghost GTX shoes are waterproof. What better time to wear them? However, the Brooks are much heavier shoes and not nearly as nimble.

I put on the Ghosts and brought the Kinvaras with me in the car, just in case. But, it became very obvious very quickly that the Ghosts were going to be the choice for the day. There were not going to be any PR attempts in the flood-threatening conditions.

The pre-race scene - runners trying to find cover wherever they could.

All too quickly, the time came for me to hit the portapotty and head to the starting line. When I stepped out of the car, I got soaked within mere seconds. 

Adam asked if I was really certain I wanted to do this. I didn't hesitate before saying yes. It would have been different if it was a cold-weather rain - but the temps were in the 70s. I could handle a summertime rain. Plus, I had already come this far!

Adam then smartly asked if I wanted to keep my Garmin on during the race. Indeed, my Garmin is water resistant but not waterproof. Since I had already sent one Garmin to the graveyard by wearing it in pouring rain, I agreed. I took off my Garmin and gave it to him to keep in the car. This would be the first race that I had ever run while intentionally NOT wearing any kind of a timing device. I left my phone in the car, too.

Runners starting to line up

As I was walking towards the starting line, my Goretex shoes kept my feet dry... for all of about 10 seconds. Lesson learned: Goretex shoes are helpful only up to a certain point. Even waterproof shoes can't help when you are trudging through ankle-deep puddles! As I lined up at the start line, my shoes were already squishing water with every step I took. Blech.

The starting line

After waiting at the starting line for a few minutes, we were off. I quickly spotted Natalie in the crowd with her Sriracha leggings. Woo hoo! I went to catch up with her and joined her on the course. Yay for having some company while running in the torrential downpour!

The course started on Archer Street, near New Chinatown Square, before turning south on Wentworth Avenue where we ran underneath the Chinatown gate.

Natalie and I chatted as we ran. It was then that I got to hear the story behind her surprise visit to Chicago. It turns out that her husband, Brent, had been in Boston on business the week prior, but had gotten diverted to Chicago on the way home to Minneapolis due to flight issues. In lieu of him dealing with further hassles trying to fly from Chicago to Minnesota, she told him to stay in Chicago while she drove down to meet him. What a great idea! I was very happy that it worked out for me to run this race with her.

The course was an out and back. It went south on Wentworth to approximately 34th Street before turning around. At first I was trying to dodge the pools of standing water on the streets. Eventually I gave up and just ran through whatever water was on the path. Since I wasn't wearing my Garmin and I missed all of the mile marker signs, I was relying entirely on my knowledge of the course to estimate our progress.

I was grateful to the race volunteers and police officers stationed along the course amidst the pouring rain. They really went above and beyond the call of duty to be working the course on a day like that.

Course marshalls doing their thing

Somewhere around Mile 1, Zenaida caught up with us along the course and said hello. I was happy to see her and I introduced her to Natalie. Zenaida mentioned that she had seen Erin whiz by earlier on the course, too. This was helpful as I had not seen Erin at all, so I knew to look for her up ahead. Natalie mentioned that she'd run into Erin at the starting line, too. Those Sriracha pants apparently made Natalie quite easy to identify. =)

Zenaida went on ahead. As Natalie and I approached the turnaround point, I looked for Erin but did not see her. However, we did see a race photographer stationed just past the turnaround.

Time for a race photo body spasm!

Natalie mentioned that she had never been to Chicago's Chinatown before this day. I said, "Wow, what a great way to experience it for the first time!" Unfortunately we were both so busy watching our footing that neither of us got to enjoy the scenery as much as we would have liked.

Natalie and I counted down the streets from 34th Street to Cermak Road (22nd Street), then made the turn back onto Archer Avenue. There was the finish line, along with a crowd of spectators cheering us on through the final stretch. It was invigorating to get the crowd support at the end.

Natalie and me approaching the finish line.

I looked for Adam and my mom near the finish line, but did not see them. However, Natalie did see Brent. He took this picture of us:

I had no idea what my finishing time was. When I looked it up later that afternoon, it said 31:11. This was actually better than I had anticipated considering how poor the weather conditions were.

Water, bananas, and apples were being served at the finish line. Each race finisher also received a goody bag with a individual-sized carton of soy milk and a can of energy drink.

I found Adam and my mom in the post-race crowd. A lot of other runners were departing right after crossing the finish line. However, the race was hosting a post-race raffle drawing. I had heard that they were raffling off a lot of great prizes, so I wanted to stick around for it. Natalie and I enlisted the help of our family members to take more pictures of us while we were waiting for the raffle to begin.

There were a couple of kids races that took place after the 5K was over. It was cute watching the kids racing down the street. Then, there was a lion dance performance. It had originally been scheduled to take place prior to the race but was postponed due to the rain.

Finally, the awards ceremony started! First, the male and female winners were announced. Then, the kids' raffle prizes were given away. These included an enormous Hello Kitty, which was heavily coveted by many attendees. The crowd gasped as the winning child came forward to claim the Hello Kitty.

The Hello Kitty is literally three times the size of the winning child!

The crowd waited impatiently as the 5K raffle prizes were being announced. There were some very nice giveaways such as mini-iPads, gift certificates to local businesses, and race entries to the Oak Brook Half Marathon.

A sea of anxious raffle-prize entrants

I was getting progressively more and more uncomfortable standing around in my wet clothes and shoes. Adam and my mom were visibly uncomfortable standing in the rain, too, which was making me feel bad. I was fighting the urge to leave before all the raffle prize winners were announced. But, everyone's patience ended up paying off as I got called as one of the winners!

Me claiming my raffle prize on stage

I ended up winning a basket with two coffee mugs and a book on Asian art from the Chinese American Museum of Chicago. Yay!

Big cheers to the race organizers, volunteers, and all the race participants and spectators (especially Adam and my mom!) for so cheerfully taking things in stride despite the torrential rainfall. Natalie actually registered for the race the morning of, when she already knew how impactful the rain would be. Kudos to her and Brent for persevering!

Despite all that Mother Nature threw at us, I enjoyed the local neighborhood feel of the Chinatown 5K. The race shirt is an instant new favorite! I definitely look forward to running this race again in the future (albeit preferably under better conditions).

My next race: The Strike Out ALS 5K on July 15 (tomorrow!)


  1. Best race ever!! Thanks for running with me, and again - HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

    1. Best race ever, indeed!!! Thanks again for the birthday greetings and thanks for running with me, too! I hope you and Brent enjoyed the rest of your weekend. Did you get out to see your other family in the area? How was the ride home?

    2. We had fun once the rain cleared. Turns out no one wants to be at the Hancock when visibility is so-so, and we got up without a wait. Plus, as our drinks came, the clouds lifted and we had a great view. We tried for a boat tour, but the river flooding meant no tickets we available. So, we opted to drink some more at Billy Goat's on Navy Pier instead. Hahaha, I sound like a lush. Turns out my BIL was going to Willy Nelson, so we went to Chuck's: A Kerry Simon's Kitchen for dinner instead. The drive home in the AM was a breeze - we made great time! How was the rest of your birthday?

    3. That is awesome that your timing at the Hancock worked out so nicely! The view there is fabulous, but usually it's hard to see through all the crowds perched at the windows! Billy Goat's at Navy Pier is a classic. Did you get a cheezborger, cheezborger, cheezborger, too? I've actually never heard of Chuck's but I'll have to look it up now! And yay for a smooth drive home on Sunday!

      The rest of the birthday was low-key (which is what I wanted). We tried to go to the Taste of Chicago in the afternoon, but found at when we arrived that it was closed due to flooding. So we ended up just walking around Millennium Park and Navy Pier, then went to Furama for dinner. Relaxing! =)

    4. Sounds like you had a nice day!! Chuck's wasn't SUPER cool, but they had some interesting things on their "tastes" menu. We shared three things - the hamburger that won Iron Chef, a crab cake and the "sausage pail" (think corn dogs for grownups, served with some interesting mustard sides). They also had "Not Your Dad's Rootbeer" on tap. I had to make myself set the glass down because it went down WAY too smoothly... ;-)

    5. Ooooh, an Iron Chef reference! Now, the plot thickens. (I used to watch Iron Chef religiously every Sunday. This was before they started going all crazy with their competition themes and before they brought on like 25 Iron Chefs!)

  2. First of all, congrats on rocking a race in pouring rain! It sounds silly but I've always had the fear of having to run a race in crazy weather (especially a longer race like a half marathon). It looks like you had a blast though :) And winning that raffle was an added bonus! Good luck on your race today!


    1. Thanks, Irina! Oh yes, it's a huge fear of mine to run races in crazy weather, too. 5Ks aren't too bad since they are so short, but half marathons can be torturous in bad weather! I once ran a half in 33 degree temps, 40+ MPH winds, and sideways sleet, and it was MISERABLE. In the future, I would definitely take a DNS over putting myself through something like that again!

      Thank you for the good luck wishes on tonight's race!!! =)

  3. What a fun race with Natalie! And what a fun reason for her to be in Chi-town! I love that you got a raffle!

    Smart move on taking the watch off. Interesting to think about the pain of a 5K and not being able to glance down and see how much is left though, lol!

    I wonder if they gave soy milk at post race cause that is very prominent in Asian culture. Hmmm.

    1. Yes, running with Natalie seriously made the race for me! If I had to run through the rain alone, it wouldn't have been nearly as enjoyable. And there is something so cool about winning ANYTHING that you get to go up on stage to claim, even if it's just a plastic comb or something really small. Call it the 5 seconds of fame, yes? =D

      Oh yes, I completely agree that if I was trying to meet a time goal, it would have been very mentally challenging not to know how much time was left! Actually, I've heard some folks say that they race better when they run by feel instead of numbers - but I've never tried it, even in training. Have you? Maybe I should experiment!

      Interesting theory about the soy milk in Asian culture! You are very observant and I think you are right!

    2. I have been running w/o numbers lately. I just set my screen to overall time so I don't fret pace or distance. I do that a lot in the summer. And before I had a garmin! It's refreshing ;)

    3. I have a regular sports watch which just measures time elapsed. I might start using it more often on set routes where I know the amount of distance. One of these days I'll get around to running without knowing the amount of distance. ;)

  4. Looks like a fun time, despite or because of the rain! I love running in the rain, it is much better than running in the humidity and heat. Congrats on winning the raffle. It's amazing how many people will wait around in the rain if there is a chance they will win some free stuff! :)

    1. Running in the rain is really fun in the summertime! In cold weather it's not nearly as fun. But I completely agree, I'll take summertime rain over heat and humidity any day! Everyone has been complaining how cold the summer has been, but it's great for us runners. =D

      Thanks! And YES - I am the case study of a person who will wait around in unpleasant conditions for potential free stuff. The thrill of victory!!! LOL

    2. Well, if there was a free giant "Hello Kitty" to be had, I would have waited around for a couple of hours in the rain! :)

    3. Oh yes! The sight of the giant Hello Kitty was pretty much my sole motivation for sticking around. If you don't win the gift certificates, you can still go check out the local businesses out of your own pocket. But you can't always find a giant Hello Kitty!!! =D

  5. Oh man. Props to you for getting out there in Saturday's weather. The rain on Saturday was so crazy! I absolutely cannot imagine running a race in all of that. Good thing you followed your gut and stuck around for the raffle, though :)

    1. Thanks Bethany! The rain actually made it kind of fun and comical for all of us. It really set the tone for everyone to just let it all hang out - especially since very few people would want to run for time goals in those conditions. Us runners are crazy like that, aren't we? =D

  6. Happy birthday! I have wondered what the 712 was for. Now it makes sense (duh), but I assumed it was your telephone prefix. Haha!

    What a fantastic race! I mean, it sucks that it rained, but you almost look like you had even more fun that way! This is definitely a memorable race. I'm also loving the t-shirt design. And how cool that you won the raffle!

    1. Thanks Amy! After you mentioned it, I was curious what the 712 area code would be for. I looked it up just now and it's the "western fifth of Iowa." Interesting!

      YES - the rain made the race festivities even more fun and laidback, and WOW what a race to remember indeed. The t-shirt design is amazing. Props to the designer! There are very few race shirts that I truly love, but this is definitely one of them. And YAY for free raffle prize giveaways! I think if more races had them, they'd have great turnouts for all of their post-race parties. =D

  7. Happy birthday! Running in the rain is always an extra challenge when you're racing. Congrats on your finishing time!

    1. Thanks, Tina! It's amazing how much of a difference it makes to run through puddles of water versus dry asphalt, indeed! Flashback to my high school physics teacher who taught us about the coefficiency of friction on wet surfaces vs dry surfaces. Totally random, I know!

  8. Great seeing you on the course! You enjoyed the race much more than me. :-) However, it is a race I would definitely do again.

    1. It was great seeing you on the course, too! Congratulations on running such a strong race despite the conditions! I would definitely run this race again, too. It was great seeing you at the Strike Out ALS 5K on Tuesday night, as well. See you at ZOOMA. =D

  9. So. Much. Rain. Sorry I missed you at the race! All I could think the whole time was that well, we all must be crazy since we're all out here! Jason dropped me off and asked me why I was doing it and I didn't have a good answer for him :-)

    1. Torrential downpour! Go figure that it only poured buckets like that during the morning, and then cleared up that afternoon, right? I am sorry that I missed you too! Yes, us runners are very, uh, COMMITTED to these events. That's our story and we'll all stick to it. =)