Ravenswood Run 5K Race Recap

I closed out my month of short, painful races that remind me why I prefer long distances on Sunday with the Ravenswood Run 5K, one of my favorite events of the whole year.

To be honest, I don’t know why I enjoy Ravenswood so much. I don’t particularly enjoy any of the “actually running the race” aspects of it, given that it is a 5K, and the only part of 5Ks I enjoy are the parts that take place about two or three minutes after I’ve finished, once my heart rate as descended from cardiac arrest levels and I can actually breathe again. But regardless, I’ve made a point of running Ravenswood every spring I’ve lived in Chicago thus far.

I picked up my packet at Fleet Feet in Lincoln Square Sunday afternoon and was quite pleased to find no line whatsoever. When I picked up my packet at that store two years ago (I went to Lakeview for packet pickup last year), the line was bonkers. Apparently showing up at 1:30 rather than 10 a.m. makes a difference!


What I was not pleased to find, however, is that the race shirt is COTTON. And I don’t mean “cotton-feel, but actually polyester, so we’ll call it a tech shirt.” I mean 52% cotton. What is this?! 2003?? Does anyone wear cotton to exercise anymore? You would be very hard pressed to find any sort of article about what to wear while running that in any way suggests you should wear cotton these days. We’re not even supposed to wear cotton socks or underwear! And this race–not some rinky-dink, suburban, obscure charity fundraiser with 25 participants race, but a reputable, CARA Runners’ Choice Circuit race–hands out COTTON shirts?! I know plenty of runners say that they don’t want or need another tech shirt, and quite frankly, I would agree with them. I have more tech shirts than I can go through in an entire month. HOWEVER. That doesn’t mean I want a cotton shirt instead!! When am I ever going to wear this? Answer: I’m not. Maybe to dance, if I think I won’t sweat much. But I’ll never wear it on a run. I’ll never wear it to the gym. I’ll never wear it climbing. I’d never wear it to a fitness class. Just because I don’t need another tech shirt doesn’t mean I’d rather have a shirt I’ll never wear as a replacement. Obviously this is a pretty minor issue in the grand scheme of things, but it still irked me.

Anyway. On to race day. It was 40-something degrees when I woke up, which is my least favorite temperature to dress for, because I never have a clue what to wear so I don’t freeze to death while waiting to start running, but also don’t melt during the race itself. I settled on crops, a [tech, because duh] short sleeve shirt, and a lightweight pullover, along with yoga pants and a fleece for getting to the race. I felt too warm as I headed to the race area and felt even warmer after doing a light jog around the block to get my legs moving, so I ended up ditching my pullover at gear check (shout out to the volunteer who took my pullover and put it in my bag like 10 minutes before the race started, long after I had initially checked my gear).


I didn’t have any real plan for this race, though I did hope to run faster than I had run at Good Life two weekends ago, if for no other reason than that I really wanted to break 25:00 to keep my sub-25 streak alive (all of my 5Ks since last April, with the exception of Rock ‘n’ Roll in July, which isn’t really fair to compare to my other ones because it was about 60 degrees warmer at that race than at any other 5K I ran in 2015, were sub-25), and since I ran a 24:59 at Good Life, it’d be difficult to break 25:00 if I didn’t run faster than I ran there. I also wanted to not freak out over my mile splits, as I have a tendency to do during 5Ks.

I went through the first mile in 8:04, which made me happy. I went out with a 7:50 mile at Good Life, which I knew I couldn’t sustain, but I felt pretty good about my chances of sustaining an 8:04 (or 8:00ish) pace. Ideally, I wanted to negative split the race, but through that second mile I was really feelin’ it. I glanced at my watch and noticed I was running a 7:50 pace, which made me feel better about how tired I felt (it wasn’t just fatigue that made me hurt more–I was running faster. Or at least that’s what I told myself.), and then decided I wanted to take 10 seconds off/mile for the rest of the race. I hit the second mile in 7:55, putting me right on track for that 10 seconds faster/mile goal, and then, as always, dropped the hammer (as much as one can drop a hammer in the last half mile of a 5K…so more like slightly lowered the hammer) once I got to Damen. I turned in a 7:52 mile, which wasn’t ~perfect~, but at least meant that I had negative split the whole race! I don’t remember the last time that happened, so that in and of itself made me quite happy.

The official clock still read 24:xx when I crossed the finish line, so I knew I had run a sub-25, since I didn’t start at the front of the pack. It took me a little while to collect myself after finishing, but when I finally looked down at my watch, I saw 24:35 (24:36, officially). While that’s 19 seconds off my PR, it was, nevertheless, the fastest 5K I’ve run since my PR two years ago, and that made me quite happy! Even though I’ve run lots of sub-25 5Ks, I’ve been having some doubts lately about my ability to PR my 5K again, since, prior to Sunday, the closest I had come to touching it was a 24:5x. Nineteen seconds, however, is only about seven seconds/mile faster. And while I loathe 5Ks and have absolutely no intention of running another one until December, it’s nice to see that maybe my PR wasn’t such a fluke after all.

After stumbling through the post-race food, I gathered my gear and made a beeline for, let’s be real, the only reason I actually run this race:


Ann Sather. #willrunforcinnamonrolls

And thus concludes my month of racing! I have two more events coming up before marathon season kicks off, but those aren’t until late May. I’m hoping with a few more weeks of training, and a few more weeks of maybe not stuffing my face with chocolate chips, I’ll be able to keep up these sorts of times a month from now. We’ll see!

Good Life Race Race Recap

After years of having the Good Life Race (or The Race That’s Good For Life, as I still tend to accidentally call it), I finally bit the bullet and registered this year. The fact that the race takes place in Oak Park has, historically, been enough to keep my carless self from wanting to haul it all the way to the ‘burbs on a Sunday morning, but I care more about getting into the Chicago Marathon in 2017 via CARA’s Marathon Incentive Program than I cared about the race’s location, so the Good Life Race it was!

I’ve heard nothing but good things about the Good Life Race, and man, now I understand why it often wins CARA’s Race of the Year Award. From top to bottom, I could not have been more impressed with this event.


I waited until race morning to pick up my packet, and I’m glad I did. The race used a virtual goodie bag this year, so the only items you received at packet pickup were your bib, pins, and your race shirt. I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to go all the way out to Oak Park twice just to get those things, so having day-of packet pickup was fantastic.


Also fantastic: the fact that the race starts and ends at Oak Park River Forest High School. The race takes over the high school’s…I don’t know what it’s called. At my high school, we called it the commons. Basically the main entryway area. Anyway, the weather was absolutely vile on Sunday, with temperatures in the mid-30s and precipitation of whatever variety the sky felt like spitting out at that particular moment (either sleet or rain), so having all of the usual non-running-part-of-the-race stuff (gear check, info, packet pickup, almost all of the sponsor tents, post-race refreshments, etc.) inside was clutch.


The Good Life Race has two separate races for men and women–a first for me–and the women’s race started at 9:10. I hung around inside until 9:00, and didn’t get nearly as cold as a feared I would standing around. The race started with a gunshot (like from a starter’s gun, not an actual, literal, bullet-included gunshot haha), which was also a first for me to my memory outside of cross country and track meets, and off we went!

The start line area didn’t have any signs directing people where to line up by expected pace, so I just guessed based on how serious other women looked where I should be. I didn’t feel like I was getting passed a lot nor was I passing a lot of people at the beginning, so I must’ve guessed fairly accurately. The first mile dragged on and on forever, as the first mile of a 5K is apt to do, and I was equally stunned and concerned when I went through mile one in 7:50. I have run a 7:xx mile maybe once or twice during a race over the course of my entire running career, and it was always at the end of the race. I did not have any sort of hope that I could maintain a 7:50 pace for the remainder of the run (though if I had, I would’ve only been three seconds off my PR), so I tried to rein myself in a bit.

We continued through the streets of Oak Park–which, side note: I thought this course was BEAUTIFUL. Oh my goodness. Love me some old houses, and the streets were just lined with them for all 3.1 miles. I was a huge fan.–and once we made our first turn south, I realized both why I had gotten so warm in the first mile that I took my gloves and headband off before we even hit the Mile 1 sign and why I had run a 7:50 mile to start: the wind was coming in hard from the south, and I’d have to fight it for almost the rest of the entire race. Fabulous.

I did my best to hang on for dear life, turning in an 8:09 mile and an 8:03 mile as things went on. The final stretch of the race was this long straightaway, which I personally loved, because for me, seeing the finish line makes a big difference. I was giving it everything I had, and honestly felt like I was going to throw up (see: reasons why I hate 5Ks). I glanced at my watch far enough away from the finish line to know I wouldn’t PR, but I did still hope I’d log another sub-25 5K–and I did, just barely, at 24:59.

I huffed and puffed through the finish line area, grabbing a cup of Gatorade, a banana, and my carnation as I tried to regain some semblance of composure. I eventually made it back into the school, collected my belongings from gear check, and wandered over to the cafeteria, where a treasure trove of goodies awaited me.


Whaaaaaaat is this real life?!

I’ve never seen such a post-race spread! Gatorade and water and crackers and hummus and Jimmy John’s and pizza and bagels and rolls and bread, all for ME! (And everyone else who ran the race). And all for FREE! I was flabbergasted.


Yes plz.

The race (or, more specifically, Erin) posted printed out race results outside the cafeteria, so I was able to verify that I did, in fact, run a 24:59, and it wasn’t just my watch being generous and saying that. I finished within the top 100 of the 500+ women who ran the race, which I was pretty proud of, considering that this was a CARA Circuit race, and I tend to finish…definitely not within the top 100 at those sorts of events. We won’t talk about how poorly I did in my age group, however. #25to29problems

Honestly, I cannot say enough good things about this event. When your only complaint is the weather, which the race obviously cannot control, I think you’re in a pretty good position. This very much felt like a run by the runners for the runners, and I would recommend it to anyone in the Chicago area.


Jingle Bell 5K Race Recap

Oh, Jingle Bell, how you break my heart.

After walking away from my first Jingle Bell 5K in 2012 with a surprise third place finish in the 20-24 age group, this race has been on my calendar every year. Knowing the 25-29 age group is typically much more competitive than the 20-24 age group, I had every intention of not running this race after my 25th birthday (because in all honesty, I was primarily there for the potential to do well in my age group. Sorry not sorry.), but had I been 25 last year and run the exact same time I ran last year, I would’ve won the 25-29 age group.

Breaking from the theme of bare-bones goodie bags, Jingle Bell actually had a plethora of things to give us, including a nice bag and an another cotton long sleeve t-shirt to add to my collection. I love my Jingle Bell shirts!


I got to the Nature Museum just a little more than an hour before the race began. I didn’t really intend to arrive so early, but I don’t mind getting there with a lot of time to spare since the race opens up the entire museum. I sat around for awhile, played with my watch for awhile, did some PT exercises for awhile, and then headed outside to do some dynamic stretching and get my legs moving.

Though I’d hardly call Saturday “beautiful,” in terms of temperature, this was just about the sweet spot. It was a tiny bit misty/foggy, but there was no wind, and we had a real feel of about 48 degrees or so. Yes. Please.

I lined up one or two rows back from the very front and sized up my competition. Last year I finished in the top 10 women and I was hoping I’d be able to pull that off again, but my primary concern was women ages 25-29. I saw one Three Run Two girl I worried may be in my age group, and one other girl who looked like she could be my age as well, but other than that, it looked like I stood a decent chance at placing.

I…have multiple GPS watches and for Jingle Bell, I chose to wear a newer one to my collection that features wrist-based heart rate monitoring. To be honest, I’m not all that wild about this watch or its running functions, and generally only wear it indoors when I don’t need GPS but would like heart rate monitoring (since my Polar HRMs all bit the dust. Still smarting over that.). I don’t like any of its displays for running, and I don’t like that you have to finagle with it mid-run to get it to display your time/pace/distance. I’ve taken it out for a few runs before and have never once noticed it telling me when I hit a mile marker, so I was very surprised on Saturday when my watch vibrated just before I got to the one mile sign. I was even more surprised (and concerned) to see that it told me I had run a 7:57 mile. I wasn’t opposed to running that fast, but it has been quite some time since I last ran that fast, and I wasn’t 100% sure that I’d be able to maintain that kind of pace.

Well, I wasn’t. I slowed to an 8:12 second mile, which is really probably more of where my 5K pace is these days, and hoped with all I had that I could hang on for the last 1.1. I actually don’t have any watch stats on my last mile, because for whatever reason, my watch thinks I only ran 2.85 miles o.O. #notimpressed. The course for Jingle Bell has been the exact same for the past three years, so I know the course distance is right, meaning my watch is ridiculous, and I’m probably not going to wear it for running outdoors any more, because .25 miles over the course of 3.1 miles is WAY too inaccurate for my liking.

Anyway. The last .2-plus-a-little-change miles of Jingle Bell are more or less a straightaway, and I was trying my hardest through this stretch, particularly after we hit the 6 mile sign for the 10K. Right around here, a woman passed me, and I didn’t get a good enough look at her to estimate her age, so I kicked it into high gear. Unfortunately, high gear only lasted for a few hundred meters before I thought I may throw up, and then she passed me again. Womp.

I finished in 24:54, which was a huge surprise for me. Out of all of my 5Ks, only two have been 24:xx, and both of those have been Ravenswood, where the competition was stiff and I had months of run-specific training under my belt, rather than a few weeks of haphazard sorta ish training for a half marathon. Granted, I’ve done a fair amount of interval work since…the week of Thanksgiving (lulz. Oh, this half marathon training cycle. I’m so behind.), so it’s not like I’ve been phoning it in on all my workouts, but I certainly didn’t expect the few interval workouts I’ve done to pay off that quickly. Three cheers for non-steady state cardio!

I wheezed my way through the finish area and eventually headed upstairs to the big event room the Nature Museum has on the second floor, where the timer was stationed to give you a receipt with your finish time and place (I knew he would be there from last year). Unfortunately, they were having some technical difficulties, so I ended up sitting around for a little while metaphorically biting my nails in nervousness over my age group finish. When he finally had results available, I headed over to get my receipt, and…


😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦

Disappointed, I put on my sweats and headed for home.

Obviously this race is not the most important thing in the world, but damn was that a bummer. Even though I’m quite happy with my time, it was tough to take much consolation in “third fastest 5K ever” when I was ultimately more concerned with my age group placement than my finishing time. I looked up the full race results, and I would’ve just about had to PR to take third (the third place girl ran a 24:22; my PR is a 24:17). The woman who passed me near the end clearly wasn’t in my age group, so that made me feel a little bit better. Still sucks, though :/

But, it is what it is. I know I left everything I had on the course, and I do not at all think I could’ve run 33 seconds faster. This is actually the second time I’ve gotten fourth in my age group at Jingle Bell, which, if we look at the pattern (2012: 3rd, 2013: 4th, 2014: 2nd, 2015: 4th), clearly means I’m due for an age group win next year 😉

Speaking of age group wins: if I were a mere three months younger, I would’ve won the 20-24 age group by four minutes. This is why I didn’t want to turn 25!!


Humana Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago 5K Race Recap

A variety of circumstances have kept me from running Rock ‘n’ Roll in any capacity in the past, and I really didn’t expect to ever have the opportunity to run Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago (nor did I see myself heading elsewhere to run a Rock ‘n’ Roll race). Most of those circumstances, for a variety of reasons, became irrelevant this year, so when I found myself presented with the chance to run Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago, I figured I may as well go all in and do the Remix Challenge, which, uh, challenges participants to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll 5K on Saturday followed by the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon on Sunday.

I went to the expo on Friday with one of my coworkers who was also running the race (and offered to drive, thus saving me the headache of getting to McCormick Place via the CTA). Since I was there with my coworker, I didn’t have much opportunity to do my own wandering, but I have to say, I really liked Rock ‘n’ Roll’s expo! I’ve grown quite bored with the Shamrock Shuffle and Chicago Marathon expos, since I’ve been to…four each, I think?…and it is always the exact. same. thing. Rock ‘n’ Roll, on the other hand, has basically none of the same sponsors as Bank of America races, which meant new things to look at and try! PowerBar! Toyota! Brooks! (Oh, how I loved not seeing a Nike shrine at this expo). I actually wish I could have spent more time there!


Though our participant bags actually had nothing in them, I left with an armful of things–two bibs, two shirts (I LOVE the 5K shirt. Love, love, love it), two pin packets, and a wristband–to accommodate for my insanity Remix Challenge participation.


Fun fact: never once, in four years + one month of running, have I ever, in any capacity, exercised the day before a race. I’ve made questionable decisions (ahem, a late night a gala before the Chicago Spring 13.1), but none of them have involved exercise, and they have especially not involved hard exercise.

Saturday morning dawned hot and sticky. Friday had been hot and sticky as well, and while I suppose it cooled off marginally overnight (i.e.: it was no longer 93), it was still FAR toastier than I like it to be–well, far toastier than I like it to be ever, but particularly that early in the morning. The sun was out and blazin’, though, which meant we were going to do this thing.


I was in corral three, though to that seemed to mean basically nothing. I’ve never seen more lax corral entrance enforcement in my life. To be honest, I’m not even entirely sure lined up in corral three. There were plenty of people around me with bibs in the 2000s, 4000s, and even 5000s (the first number in your bib number indicated your corral assignment). I worried that this would make the start of the race a nightmare, but things actually sorted themselves out within the first half mile or so, which was a nice surprise.

The race started on the Lakefront Trail between Randolph and Monroe and first took us south on the trail to the Museum Campus, where we ran under Lake Shore Drive and did a bit of a lap around Hutchinson Field (and I got giddy thinking about two weekends from that moment when I’d be in the same place for LOLLA!). I was counting this as my speed workout for the week, and I wanted to keep myself at a tempo-esque effort: comfortably hard, or maybe slightly-uncomfortably-hard, but not killing myself. I expected that kind of effort would yield times somewhere in the 9:00-9:30 range, so I was pleasantly surprised to hit the first mile in 8:23. It has been a LONG time since I ran a mile that fast! Because the weather was lousy, I definitely wanted to run by feel more than time and expected I’d slow dramatically in the second mile, but somehow ran an 8:39. The last mile was BRUTAL. I suppose the last mile of any 5K always feels brutal, but I’m struggling to remember another last mile of a 5K that was this all-around awful. For the return to the finish line (which was right next to the start line, but on the lower Lakefront Trail rather than the ~official~ Lakefront Trail), we ran directly along the lake. The first two miles had included plenty of shade to break up short sunny stretches, but there was not ANY shade to speak of in the third mile until probably about mile 2.9 or so: just early morning sun bouncing directly off Lake Michigan and onto our poor, overheated bodies. I was BURNING UP, but being able to see the finish line made the experience the teeniest tiniest bit manageable. And, despite feeling like my skin was melting, I somehow pulled out my fastest mile of the race with an 8:20. I finished in 26:29, both officially and by my watch (that never happens!). While that’s nowhere near my 5K PR, it is MUCH faster than I expected I’d be able to run, especially given all the extenuating circumstances (the weather, my ill-timed hormones, the fact that I was up for a solid 90 minutes the night before because my brain decided we were overdue for a panic attack). I was hoping for a 28:30ish, so to run a 26:29 was a fantastic surprise.

Meb Keflezighi was this year’s elite “headliner” at Rock ‘n’ Roll, and paced the 8:00 group for the 5K (if only this had been in November, when I definitely could’ve run an 8:00 pace!). Afterwards, he was available for photos and autographs (kind of – the cards were all pre-signed, but in comparing my card to others’, it looks like he actually did sign the cards), so naturally I continued to throw caution to the wind and opted to stand in the sun for an extra 30ish minutes so I could chill with Meb.



And then I headed home to rest, recover, and gear up for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half, which you can read all about tomorrow! Hope you like race recaps… Haha.


Ravenswood Run 5K Race Recap

Oh, 5K. How I loathe thee.

I ran the Ravenswood Run for the third time on Sunday, and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure why I continue to put myself through this. Maybe for the same reason that I put myself through the marathon – I can’t imagine not running the race, so I choose to run the race, knowing full well that it’s going to hurt and be one long mental battle. I even have a tendency to say this is one of my favorite races, which is even more absurd, since I enjoy very little about it, except for it being over. I guess you could say Ravenswood and I have a complicated relationship.

Regardless, because I enjoy torturing myself, I signed up once again for Ravenswood. I picked up my bare-bones packet at Fleet Feet on Southport, as that is now the most CTA friendly running store in the city (and also, I would argue, the smallest running store in the city. It made Universal Sole look enormous, which is really saying something.)


Just a shirt and a mini Clif Bar this year, which is a-ok with me. Do not be fooled: there is no Clif Bar inside that wrapper. I was STARVING on Friday afternoon when I picked up my packet, and that Clif Bar was gone before I got back on the Brown Line. Actually, they did include a nice sheet full of course information, which I really appreciated.


As always, I had thoughts of PRing at Ravenswood, but I knew that was a bit of a stretch given my whole lack-of-speed-training thing this year. I ran two 5Ks last December in the low 25:00s with very little training at all, so I figured a 25:xx would be a more attainable goal. If nothing else, this would be my first 5K of 2015, so I’d at least get an automatic yearly PR 😉

I got to the race site a little late for me–about 30 minutes before the race began–but still had plenty of time to check my gear and do a little bit of a warmup around a couple blocks in the neighborhood. I lined up near the start of the 8:00 pace sign, figuring that was probably a bit ambitious but also knowing that the best way for me to run fast is to surround myself with fast people and that I could most likely manage to hang on to a bit-ambitious pace over the course of 3.1 miles.

The start was CROWDED. Thinking back on it, I’m pretty sure this always happens at Ravenswood, but I nevertheless panicked that it would ruin my chances at…finishing? I don’t know. It’s not like I was actually gunning for a PR. But it was still annoying. Fleet Feet does everything they can to organize this race well, but there’s nothing you can do about people who are all, “LOLYUP, totes gonna line up at the front of the race!” and then proceed to take off at like a 10:00 pace. Which is not to knock people who run a 10:00 pace, but if you’re going to run a 10:00 pace, then gosh darn it, line up by the sign that says 10:00 pace! And if you don’t have any clue at all what you’re going to run, maybe don’t assume you’re going to be fast enough to be at the front of the race! /endrant

My legs felt dead…oh, maybe all of .25 miles into the race. I probably should’ve skipped breakdance on Saturday, or skipped running on Saturday, or both, but whatever. No use having regrets at that point! I chugged along and hit the first mile at 8:01 while trying to come up with positive things to think about other than how much 5Ks hurt, like the fact that I chose to run this race, the fact that the weather was PERFECT, the fact that I only had to maintain this pace for three miles instead of, say, 26.2 (5Ks are always great for crushing my Boston hopes and dreams), etc. But man, that mental game on race day is REAL. Is anyone able to turn their brain off during a race, and if so, can you teach me your ways? I think I’d run faster if I didn’t spend so much energy trying to get my mental game in place.

I split 8:18 for mile two, which was a little bit of a bummer, since it meant I wouldn’t negative split the race. However, it was just about at this point, where my mind finally started believing the lies I was telling it (“This is fun! You’re almost finished!”), and my legs responded in kind. I wasn’t flying like I flew at the end of the Lakefront 10 last week, but I was doing pretty great, and ran a 7:47 third mile. Heeeey! By that point it was too late to PR, but I did have a *little* bit left to give for that last .1, and I finished in 24:50 for my second fastest 5K ever.


True life: I switched from my on-its-last-legs Garmin to a Polar M400 in February when I began this training cycle, and so far, I LOVE it. Granted, my Garmin’s old (2012), and I never really took the time to figure out how to use it as more than a very, very expensive stopwatch, but in my opinion, the M400 is far superior to my Garmin 210, except for one glaring design flaw. The start and stop buttons on the M400 are not one in the same, like they are on every other stopwatch in the history of stopwatches. There’s a red button on the right side that you use to start and lap, but a silver button on the left side that you use to actually stop your timer. I’ve worn this watch for literally every single workout, running or otherwise, I’ve done since February 25, and I STILL mix these buttons up, particularly when I’m not paying attention, like, say, at the end of 5Ks when I had just given it everything I had. FAIL. Thank goodness for chip times!

I stumbled through the finish chute, panting like a dog, and was much dismayed to find an ENORMOUS line to retrieve my checked gear. Once I did finally get my bag, I immediately proceeded to what, realistically, is probably the actual reason I continue to run Ravenswood:



All in all, I’m really happy with how things went at Ravenswood. I did not at all expect to break 25:00, so that in and of itself makes me happy. Add to that the fact that I finished within the top 15 of my age group, thus earning myself even more CARA Runners Choice Circuit points to add to the ones I earned at the Lakefront 10, and I’m one happy camper 🙂 (One happy camper who DOES NOT want to turn 25 in September and graduate to the 25-29 age group, where my 24:50 would’ve earned me a solid…31st place. OUCH.)

Jingle Bell 5K Recap

Once upon a year ago, I spent two months in physical therapy after the Chicago Marathon with one goal: rehabbing my hip strain to the point where I could defend my third place age group title at the Jingle Bell 5K. An ill-timed snowstorm thwarted that dream, and ever since then, I’ve had my age group hopes and dreams pinned on the 2014 Jingle Bell 5K.


I opted to pick up my packet before race day this year, which proved to be a wise decision.


Yikes. I don’t remember the setup inside the Nature Museum being nearly this…crowded…last year, and I hope in the future, they’ll move day-of packet pickup somewhere else, since this (right by the entrance to gear check) was stressful, and I didn’t even need to pick up my packet.

Because I wanted to do quite well at this race, I spent a fair amount of time warming up. I even did a few strides, which I had never done before (since, as we all know, the best time to try something new is immediately before a race you care about :P). They didn’t have any pacing signs in the start corral, so I lined up near the very front and hoped for the best.

Per usual, my grand plans to hold back at the beginning and gradually increase my pace over time immediately went out the window once the race began. Someday I’ll develop self-control. My Garmin, which I could have SWORN was all set and ready to go, never started, so I don’t know my actual splits. I passed the one mile mark somewhere around a clock time of 8:08, though.

My one and only priority for this race was placing in my age group, so the only competitors I really cared about were women who appeared to be between the ages of 20 and 24. As we approached the turnaround, however, I realized I didn’t see that many women, period, heading back towards the start line. I didn’t count them, but there were so few that I figured I may have a decent shot at cracking the top 10.

I ran an 8:01/8:02ish second mile and pretty much felt like dying, but hung on as best I could to the finish. Jingle Bell has both a 5K and a 10K, and right around the 6 mile sign for the 10K (so .2 miles left in the race total), I just about caught up with a girl in front of me. I really did not feel like I had much more to give, but I worried that beating her could be the difference between 10th and 11th place, so I forced myself to run as hard as I could and passed her (though not in nearly as dramatic fashion as the girl I passed at the Santa Hustle last week 😛 ).

I finished in 25:12 for an overall 8:07 pace. Since I ran the Santa Hustle in 25:10, I think I have a pretty solid idea of where my 5K fitness is at the moment haha. A small part of me is frustrated that that’s the best I can do at the moment, since I ran a 24:17 earlier this year, but I need to remember that I have now only run six times since the marathon, and when I ran that 24:17 in April, I had been training hard, including weekly tempo runs and intervals, since January 1. It’s probably not at all fair to compare the two situations.

I heard my name as I crossed the finish line (!!), and as I panted my way through the finish area, an older gentleman came up to me and said, “I tried to catch you, but I just couldn’t do it!” I’ve never felt so legit in my life! Haha. I assured him I wouldn’t have minded if he passed me, because I was really only concerned with my age group, and as it happens, he was only concerned with his, too, and wanted to know if I had seen any other 60-year-old men ahead of me 😛

I was pretty sure I had at least placed in my age group, so I headed back into the Nature Museum after the race, where they were printing out receipts with your results, to make sure. And sure enough…


😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

While I was quite excited about my second place finish in my age group, I was absolutely OVER. THE. MOON. about finishing in the top 10 women. I’ve managed to squeak out an oddball age group placement every now and again, but I’ve never finished in the top 10. I…may or may not have almost cried. Haha. (But only almost!)

(And for those concerned: the man who couldn’t catch me found me at the awards ceremony and was happy to report that he got third in his age group. Happiness all around!)

The funny thing about all of this is that I had every intention of never running Jingle Bell again after this year. The 25-29 age group is always so much more competitive than 20-24, and I really only run this race for the chance of nabbing an age group place. Well. This year, not a single 25-29 year old woman even made the top 10. Soo…guess it looks like I’ll be back at Jingle Bell again next year 😉


Santa Hustle 5K Race Recap

The Santa Hustle has been on my radar for the past couple of years. The cost and obviously gimmicky nature of it kept me away, but when my CARA friends mentioned that several of them wanted to do the race, I threw all my normal hesitations out the window.


As it happened, two of my roommates ended up doing the Santa Hustle as well. One of them was kind enough to retrieve all of our packets, saving me a trip to Fleet Feet.

The goodie bag was very straightforward: no inserts or advertisements aside from a Determination bib. We received plenty of swag, though, in the form of a tech-ish sweatshirt (it’s more fleecy on the inside, so it doesn’t really feel tech) that fits SUPER small in women’s sizes (I normally wear a women’s small or medium in tech gear. My sweatshirt is a large and is quite cozy.), a Santa hat, and a Santa beard.


Race organizers sent us all a pre-race email last week, telling us we should wear our sweatshirts and other Santa gear at the race. While I will break some rules of running one could argue are not worth breaking (the 10% rule, for example), there is one rule I REFUSE to break, even for the most gimmicky of gimmicky races, and that is that you DO NOT, under ANY circumstance, wear the race shirt on race day (unless it’s post-race, of course). Therefore, I was That Person, decked out in regular running gear like the Very Serious Runner that I am.

This race makes no claims of being anything other than a good time, so the “fast” corrals (anything 9:00 or faster) were delightfully empty. Though I said time and again that I was only doing this race “for fun,” I don’t do races for fun: I do them to do them to the best of my ability. I lined up towards the back of the 8:00 minute corral and decided that I would see what I could do.

The race started at Soldier Field and went south, taking us through the tunnel under McCormick Place and making my Garmin lose signal, per usual. I didn’t want to get too bent out of shape over my time, so I had my watch tucked away under my sleeve anyway. We hit mile one soon after emerging from the tunnel, but not before passing an on-course cookie station (which I skipped. See: Very Serious Runner.)

We continued south to 31st, and during this stretch I started the mantra I would repeat for the rest of the run: “I love 5Ks.” This could not be farther from the truth, but I hoped some positive thinking would distract me from my burning lungs and overall misery haha. All the misery I thought I felt before getting to 31st paled in comparison to what I felt after the turnaround, however, when I discovered much to my dismay that we’d be running directly into an unobstructed wind right off Lake Michigan for the next mile and a half.

I skipped the aid station and candy station around mile two and kept chugging along. I felt like I was fading a little with half a mile or so to go, and right after the three mile mark, a girl who looked to be about my age passed me, seeming (from my perspective) intent on beating me. Never one to turn down a challenge, I kicked with everything I had left, passing her maybe 10 meters before we crossed the finish line, which I counted as the most important victory of the day 😛

I finished in 25:10, making this my second fastest 5K. It’s a ways off my PR, but it was also only the fifth time I had run since the marathon almost two months ago, so I’m quite happy with my time and my splits (8:13, 8:20, 8:20, 6:38 for the last .03). My Garmin did measure the course at 3.03 miles, but I’d imagine the McCormick Place tunnel contributed to that.

The race had a great spread of post-race refreshments, including water, bananas, granola bars, apples, and, most importantly, the candy and cookies I skipped while running 🙂


I bundled back up in my sweats and coat and then headed back to the course to cheer for my roommates, who declared the race their worst 5K ever and that they hated it. Haha. Winter running definitely is not for the unenthusiastic! (Or the sane, depending on how you want to look at it 😉 )

Even though I thought the race was excellently staffed and organized, I doubt I’ll do it again. Gimmicky races have never been my thing and continue to be something I personally don’t enjoy. (Though I do enjoy the opportunity to be way more competitive than at a serious race. I finished within the top 10 of my age group, which doesn’t happen all that often, because the VAST majority of participants don’t run this race for time. Great for me! Haha.) I think they’re an awesome way of encouraging fitness and introducing people to the running world in a low key environment. I already drank the Kool Aid and don’t need convincing anymore, so I don’t feel like this sort of race caters to what I’m looking for. Nevertheless, it was a nice way to start my Saturday.