Sunday, May 26, 2013

Soldier Field 10 Mile Race Recap

My second go at back to back weekends of racing. My first time was in April with the Lakefront 10 Miler followed by the Nashville Half Marathon. I'm trying it the other way around this time with a half marathon being followed by a 10 miler.

I had the day off work on Friday so volunteered helping set up for the race at Soldier Field. I spent my day opening and shifting the boxes of medals and then unpacking said medals.

There were a lot of medals.

It was a little strange holding the race medal before the race

I also had a peek at the playing field as it was my first time there.
The plastic mats reduced the experience somewhat.

And after all that work I was tired so spent the rest of the day lying about and getting my legs prepped.
Compression sleeves and a wall. Get ready legs.

On a side note, I've seen quite a few people wearing these sleeves back to front. I'm not sure if they don't realise or if they're doing it on purpose. While I can't guarantee the science, it does sort of defeat the purpose of wearing them if you don't wear them the right way.

I have been trying out different running related things since moving to Chicago, with one of the them being signing up for Spring Training with Chicago Endurance Sports. The Soldier Field 10 Mile was the goal race for the training season which meant I got a few perks for the race.

Packet Pick Up:
Didn't have to do it - got race day pick up with CES.

Race Tshirt:
It's a Nike technical top and I like the design and colour. High likelihood of being worn.

Gear Check:
There was a CES area with gear check for the Spring Training members. I used this which was awesome because I could wear my jacket right up until the time I wanted to enter the start corral. No gear check line and I was super close the the start line.

It wasn't the nicest of days and there was a forecast of rain. Luckily that never eventuated and it was just overcast and cold. I felt terrible before the race and couldn't decide whether to go with a short sleeve or long sleeve top. In the end, with my stomach feeling decidedly off, I went with a long sleeve.

The race:
Getting to the start corral was a bit chaotic. I couldn't get into my corral so was hovering just outside. There were marshalls telling people to get into the corral but it was just too crowded. As they released groups from ahead of us, space opened up and I got into my starting area.

My wave was sent off to the sounds of Kickstart My Heart by Motley Crue - perfect race starter for me as I love me a bit of 80's hair band action.

I wanted to do this race as an experience, rather than a PR attempt, especially as I haven't been feeling that great when running recently. But I wasn't going just make it a walk in the park either.

As with any big race, the first mile was congested and that kept my pace down. We also had a stretch where we ran under the McCormick Center which restricted the flow. Mile 1 was my slowest for the race (actually a win after last weekend).

From there we ran along Lakeshore Drive until just short of Mile 5. One of my favourite parts of a big race is being able to run on the streets, so I enjoyed this. I had forgotten my music, which wasn't a big concern for me as I usually have it down so low I can't really hear it properly anyway (safety first!), but they had DJs and music playing a various places for a great pick me up and entertainment. The Lakeshore Drive stretch was visually fairly bland and I spent my time focussing on staying relaxed and running a solid first half of the race. Looking at my splits, it is very clear that I ran two races on Saturday - the first five miles and the second five miles.

Losing satellite reception under the McCormick Centre threw of the distances.
This ties in perfectly with my mental state during the race, as I really did just focus on the first five miles initially and only thought about the second five miles once I passed half way. Very useful learning for race strategy and pacing going forward.

The second half of the race came north along the Lakefront Trail. This provided a more scenic route but also tightened up the course and resulted in me having to run a bit of cross-country to maintain my pace.

Coming into Soldier Field to the finish line wasn't quite as exciting as I had hoped it would be. It was a novelty to do it and I'm glad that I can say I've had the experience. Maybe it's because I don't have a connection to American Football that it lacked the same excitement that I have got running into the MCG at home?

Finish time: 1:41:09. Solid effort and I'm very happy with the result on my overtrained legs.

Making my way to pick up post-run water, my finishers medal and food bag was tricky with people all over the place and no clear sightline to where I needed to be. I got through it in the end and headed back to the CES area to pick up my bag and put my jacket back on.

CES also provided a food voucher which meant I got a free burger after the race too. Not the world's best but putting something solid into my system is required to stop me from getting very sick.

This was a fun novelty race. It confirmed to me that I prefer the smaller races where I don't have to wait around for hours just to start the race and where I have some more room to move.

Probably wouldn't do it again next year as I've got my novelty factor done now but would definitely recommend it to anyone who was interested in participating.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Chicago Spring Half Marathon Race Recap

What to say about this race?

It was both good and bad - some of which was related to the race itself and some of which is related to how I felt running it.

Let's start at the beginning...

Packet pick up:
Easy, low-key, no complaints here.

Race shirt:
Hmm, this one is going in the cleaning rag pile. Neither the color (yellow) nor the material (weird poly/lycra combo) work for me.

Chicago finally worked out spring. It was warm, sunny and a little humid. This combination is not my ideal running scenario (which will come up again later) but as far as a weather for being outside in, it was pretty good.

Waiting for the race to start

Gear check:
Easy, low-key, no complaints. Added bonus of the volunteers being super nice about retrieving my bag for me when I realized I checked it with my Shuffle still inside.

The race:
The course was an out and back along the Lakefront Trail, starting at Lakeshore East and heading south with the turn around at 47th Street.

I ran into a friend from my training group at the start line and we ran the first mile together. Our paces were a little different so we didn't stay together after that.

The early miles went OK but I did start feeling the warmer temperatures after a couple of miles. The scent from the flowering trees combined with the humidity made me feel a little nauseous too. Which meant by the turn around I was beginning to feel a bit off.

I was experimenting with race strategy and trying to run at a consistent pace from start to finish. This worked pretty well and I was very pleased with the consistency of my splits, even when I was struggling with the heat/flowers impacts.

Then at mile 8 my running nemesis reared its head. GI distress. The heat makes it much worse, so in some respects I'm happy I made it so far before I had problems. But I'd be even happier if I could make a whole race. My number one goal for the next couple of months is to try and resolve this (definitely need to fix before the marathon).

So mile 8 was well off my goal pace. Mile 9 was better and by mile 10 I was back on track...or so I thought. During mile 11 the wheels fell off again - I just wanted sit down next to the path and cry. Of course, I didn't. I pushed on, running when I could and dropping back to a walk to calm my stomach down as required.

So pretty. But would be better if the flowers were odorless.

Unfortunately, things got even worse after this. About a quarter mile after the 11 mile marker the path got confused as there was another race being run walked (Move for the Kids, I think). The entire path was taken up by groups of people, including small kids, who were meandering along the trail. I called to try and get people to allow me to pass but effectively was darting in and between groups, trying to avoid the little kids who were running all over the place and keeping an eye on my footing as we were right on the lake where the path is very cracked and uneven. I think it was terrible planning to have two races on at the same time and on the same course.

Once the paths diverged again, the remaining mile of the race was uneventful.

My final time was 2:23:18. Not my best. Not my worst. And in the grand scheme of things, pretty respectable given how terrible my last five miles were. This was just preparation race for marathon training so didn't have any PR plans.

Good points - nice weather, good crowd, well organized for 93% of the race
Not so good points - weather not ideal for me, two races on at the same time (compounded by being at the end of the race when I was hot and tired and unwell), disappointing race shirt

Would I do it again - probably.

And on an only vaguely related note, while resting up on Saturday before the race I read this 26 Everyday Occurrences in Australia article which made me laugh. And miss home. And then laugh some more.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

This is not about running

In addition to my problems with entering races...

I also have a problem when it comes to buying racing gear. I have spent a ridiculous amount of money on gear since moving to Chicago. I think overall it was money well spent. Without most of my purchases my winter (and let's face it, spring) would have been spent indoors. There is little need for long tights and jackets back in Australia.

But I haven't made a similar investment in my non-running wardrobe. Sure, I bought a winter coat (Best. Investment. Ever.) and some waterproof boots but there hasn't been much else. This primarily stems from my innate inability to visualize how something will look off the hanger. I can't imagine how the item might look on me and definitely can't see how it might work with other items I own.

So, when I heard about Stitch Fix, my curiosity was piqued. Their website says:
Stitch Fix is a personal styling service that delivers a curated box of accessibly priced items directly to doors across the United States. Stitch Fix hand picks pieces for each client, to ultimately help them look and feel their best.
There is a fee for the service which can be applied toward the purchase of the items in the box. For my birthday, my grandma had sent me some money and rather than use on the 'same-old same-old' I thought I'd give Stitch Fix a try.

You answer some questions about your personal style and preferences and can give direction on the types of items you would like to try. You can also provide links to your twitter, Pinterest or LinkedIn to give further information about yourself.

My box of items arrived today and I was very excited to see what was inside.

I got a nice variety of items - three different styles of tops, one pair of pants and a blazer. Each item also comes with suggested styling to help you see how it could be worn.

So cute. And very spring (which was what I had requested).

Also cute. And versatile.
Could be worn to work or on the weekend (again, one of my style requests).
Unfortunately, the tops I received were all too big. This was my fault as the sizes sent matched the profile I set up on the site. I just haven't got my head adjusted to the difference in US and Australian sizes. So I will be returning them in the supplied prepaid USPS satchel (handy!).

I did decide the purchase the blazer they sent, though.

One of the outfits I created in my closet.
I would probably have never picked any of the items off the rack myself were I in a shop. But having them sent to me meant I tried them on with various items I already had in my closet. The blazer was a royal blue, not a colour I typically pick. But it went with so many things I already own. And I've been thinking of getting a blazer as I don't have any season transition clothes - it's summer or winter all the way. Had the tops fit, I would likely have kept at least one of them too.

Overall, I found the pricing to be a little higher than I would regularly shop at but not ridiculously over the top. You can select your preferred price-point as part of the style profile too.

I'll be trying Stitch Fix again later in the year, as I was very pleased with the way it opened my eyes to some new possibilities. If you are shopping/styling challenged like me, you might find it handy too.

Thanks to Stitch Fix for the great suggestions. And thanks grandma for the birthday blazer.

My grandma (with my sister) on her birthday this year

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