Saturday, February 28, 2015

F^3 Lake Half Marathon race recap

Since I've been in major catch-up mode with blogging, I am FINALLY sharing my recap of the F^3 Lake Half Marathon that I ran on January 24. (I've been working on this in bits and pieces for weeks.)

After I officially registered for F^3, I spent the next several weeks quaking in apprehension, thinking, "What did I just get myself into?" However, Mother Nature blessed us with absolutely fantastic weather for race morning. It was sunny, the temperature was in the upper 30s, and there was almost no wind. For a late January race along Chicago's lakefront, I couldn't have asked for anything better! I was so relieved. Now that I didn't have to worry about the weather, I was so excited to enjoy the gorgeous scenery.

The nice weather actually made for some other challenges, though. All along, I was thinking that I'd need to wear a full arsenal of my best cold-weather gear. I wasn't sure what to wear for the warmer temps. I debated across a dozen combinations of what types of layers to wear. I finally just stuffed a bunch of options into my gear check bag.

The race started at a very comfortable 10:00 AM. Can I just say how much I love having this late of a start time? I didn't have to set my alarm, I was actually hungry for breakfast when I got up, and I had ample time to hydrate and then let nature run its course pre-race. Since we'd literally be running into lunchtime, I had a heartier breakfast than usual.

Adam dropped me off at Soldier Field at about 9:15. I went into the race headquarters at the United Club, which were SO NICE. It was a heated, carpeted, roomy indoor space with ample bathrooms; lots of tables, chairs, and couches; bars and TVs; indoor gear check; and plenty of room to stretch out. All of us F^3 runners were living large in that club.

Check out the mural of Chicago BEARS players behind the info desks.

I could already tell just from the walk in between the car and the building that I was overdressed. Therefore, I popped inside one of the bathrooms (almost no lines!) and changed things up. Then, I took care of my last minute gear prep and dropped my bag off at gear check.

The crowd began making its way to the starting line.

Runners packed inside the United Club

On the way, I ran into Pete, and then a few minutes later I saw Erica! It's always so great to run into friends at these races. It makes the events feel much more personal.

I emerged outside. Ahhh, sun and visible blue sky at the starting line!

After waiting about 15 minutes in my corral, I got underway with a loop around Soldier Field.

I was feeling good all around. I was so buoyed by the unexpectedly pleasant temperatures that my mind started running away with possible goals. I'd heard of many other folks who had PR'd or run very strong races at F^3. Even though I was not in peak training mode by any stretch of the imagination, I entertained the idea of trying to go for a PR.

The course was an out-and-back along the lakefront path. The path was not closed to the public, and usually races along the path are plagued by bikers and other non-race users jockeying for position. The relative solitude of the path this day was nice.

Near McCormick Place, I saw a familiar owl hat and did a double take. Sure enough, it was Xaarlin!!! What a wonderful surprise to see her! She jumped onto the course and ran with me for a a little bit. It was fabulous having her company and having the time to catch up with her. The first few miles flew by as a result.

Race runfie, courtesy of Xaarlin!
Xaarlin stepped off the course around Mile 4. Then it was on to my own devices to keep the pace going. I was reasonably on pace to attempt a PR, but I knew that I might be dealing with some headwind after the turnaround point.

The course turnaround point was at 63rd Street. The numbered streets are nice since they make it easy to count down the distance. =D

As I started seeing oncoming runners, I began looking for familiar faces. I saw Pete looking like he was in the zone, and exchanged a high-five with him. Then I saw Erica looking strong amongst a pack of runners, and shouted a hello to her. Later, I saw Kelly, who also looked like she was in the zone. I think I caught her off guard when I shouted hello. I was keeping an eye out for Lauren, who I knew was out there somewhere, but unfortunately I did not see her.

I think this picture was taken somewhere around Mile 6:

Rocking the obligatory race photo body spasm, sans gloves.

Volunteers were handing out miniature Clif Bars at the Mile 6/8 aid station. Such a treat! I elected to stick with my GU for fueling purposes, but I pocketed two of the Clif Bars for afterwards.

Close to 63rd Street, my right knee started hurting. This made me nervous. I thought, "I'm already near the turnaround point, I have to get back to the start line somehow." I tried to change my footstrike so that I was hitting more of my forefoot instead of my midfoot. That did seem to help. A mile or two later, the knee pain dissipated enough that I stopped worrying about it.

After the turnaround, I did indeed start feeling the effects of the headwind. I got cold enough that I put my gloves back on for the remainder of the race. I wasn't feeling terribly fatigued, but was not ready to attempt the negative split I would have needed to PR. I decided to just try to finish strong.

Approaching the finish line

My final chip time was 2:17:31. This will go down in the books for now as my fourth-best half marathon finish ever. Not bad!

The finisher medal, which also doubles as a bottle opener.

I had a great time running the F^3 Lake Half Marathon! It was very well-organized with enthusiastic volunteers and great swag (technical gloves and a beanie instead of the usual race shirt). The pre- and post-race set ups at the United Club in Soldier Field were such a luxury.

Folks talk about this race as a "badge of honor" race for good reason. I was petrified of what the day might bring, so I was extremely relieved to get away with taking the risk. Admittedly, I would probably only choose to run this race again via a last minute registration (aka having a better idea of the weather forecast). Weather risks aside, though, this was really an awesome event. What a terrific way to keep the training motivation high during the wintertime!

Thanks again to the folks at REM-Fit for sponsoring, to all the organizers and wonderful volunteers, and to Agnes for bringing me into the fold!

My next race: The Rock N Roll DC Half Marathon on March 14


  1. Congrats on your fourth-best PR! Hey, I want a free F^3 entry! :) Maybe I'll win your raffle next year! Anyway, it was great seeing you out on the course and pre and post race. The weather was unbelievably warm for mid-January. I also faced that dilemma of what to wear for the race. I kinda overdressed, probably because I didn't want a situation where if I pulled up limp, I would have to walk/crawl the final six miles to the finish line in the cold. Thinking about if later, I probably could have found a cab somewhere on the other side of LSD! Looking forward to seeing you again and having similar sunny weather for the Shuffle!

    1. Thank you so much, Pete! I was very lucky that Agnes connected me. We'll see if I'm lucky enough to host another giveaway next year (especially given that it took me, oh, five weeks to write my race recap?) It is always so great to see you at these events and you looked like a beast out there on the course!!! That is a very comforting thought about easy cab options on LSD, too, if things get too rough on course. =) Looking forward to seeing you again and having great weather for the Shuffle, too!!!!!!!!! Oh, and can't wait for post-race BRUNCH!!!!!

  2. When I saw you registered for this race, I thought you were nuts! You are so lucky you had such great weather. Way to run a great race!

    1. LOL, I AM certifiably nuts, I admit it! But for once, we all really did luck out with good weather (maybe this is to make up for the torrential rain that we had at the Chinatown 5K, et al?) Thank you so much! And CONGRATS TO YOU TOO on your first triathlon this past weekend! Your new jacket looks FIERCE!!!

  3. Congrats on rocking yet another race! And in the brutal Chicago winter too :) Isn't it crazy how skewed our perception of "cold" and "warm" is living in areas with winter? I get super excited when I see the temps climb into the twenties (and thirties are such a gift haha!). Anyway, congratulations again on owning this race! It's a total Chicago winter right of passage :)


    1. Thank you so much, Irina! YES on how much our weather perceptions change. Last weekend, it was in the 20s and everyone was out in shorts, washing their cars, saying how much it felt like springtime. After so many weeks with temps in the single digits, the 20s really did feel balmy! And I can't wait to hear about how YOU are going to own all of your races across NYC this year, too. ROCK ON!!!

  4. I'd love to do this race one day if only we could guarantee the weather. Gosh you lucked out with that. Nicely done Emily!

    1. Thank you so much, Marcia! If you get a chance to run F^3, I think you'd really enjoy it - and you are so hard core that the weather wouldn't have anything on you anyways. =) The event actually reminded me a little bit of the Soldier Field 10 (probably because of the start/finish at the United Club at Soldier Field, but also because it was so well organized)!

  5. Congrats in a great race for you! And it did look like you had nice weather that day.

    1. Thank you so much, Zenaida! We got SO lucky with the good weather. Maybe it's some pay back for the awful weather we had at Disney Wine and Dine!?!?!?

  6. Great race! I am so happy you had good weather for it! I never thought about the benefits of running on the lakefront for a race in the winter when less people are on the path! Nice!!!! :) I hope your knee hasn't spoken up since the race :)

    That medal is super cool!

    1. Thank you so much, Kim! It is amazing how possessive non-racers can be of the LFT on race days. Granted, I can imagine it would be daunting to have to weave through a sea of runners, but it's literally a two-way street, right? The knee is feeling good, thanks! Fingers and toes crossed and knocking on wood. =)

  7. I never really thought about running F^3 this year, but MAN was I bummed on race day that I hadn't registered! You guys just had perfect weather for a half. I can't imagine that F^3 will ever have that great of weather again! (Also, looking at the 5K results, I totally could've cleaned up in the women's race. I easily could've taken fifth, maybe even fourth. Alas!). Congrats on such an awesome race -- hopefully RnR goes even better for you :)

    1. Thank you so much, Bethany! Likewise - the F^3 was a race that I've always been too nervous about the potential weather to run! You have NO IDEA how relieved I was on race day. Not a bad way to squeak by on the badge of honor, eh? It's like winning the lottery.

      Yes on the 5K! Some friends and I were once talking about picking the "secondary" distance of a multi-distance event because the field is so much smaller. Or, just picking smaller events in general. What a difference it makes!!! (Although, from a glass half empty perspective, one friend said that it also puts you at greater risk of finishing in last place... but even so, a last-place finish is still better than a DNF, which is better than a DNS, right?)

      What is your next race? Shamrock!?!?