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Esprit de She 10k recap

Esprit de She 10k recap

Spoiler alert: the 10k never happened.

Actually getting on a “real” computer (read: not my phone) is something of a big deal for me now in my current SAHM state, so I apologize for the delay on the recap. I know, I know… that I’ve made you lose sleep for the past week is so incredibly thoughtless and selfish of me. How heinous am I.

If you follow me on Twitter or Dailymile, you might have seen my somewhat quick-and-dirty rundown I posted that night, after the race. I’ll go into more detail here, as well as throw in some pics for good measure (and so as to avoid completely annihilating your precious eyesight).

As I wrote about before, the lovely staff at Esprit de She, or Athleta, the main sponsor of the event, comped my 10k race entry because I had signed on to be a social media ambassador (of sorts) for the race. For me, that just amounted to talking about the race a little bit in my blog and DM entries in the weeks leading up to the event, since I wasn’t training for the 10k per se.

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Going into the 10k, then, I was really itching to see where my fitness levels were, since I had been in full-on maintenance mode for the previous three weeks and was straddling the line of maintenance ending and marathon training commencing. Of course, if the stars aligned, and the weather cooperated, I was really wanting to see how close I could come to PRing because I was pretty sure I was in better shape now than I was when I ran my last 10k, in February, just a couple weeks after Houston (and in the snow, no less).

Well, that whole thing about the stars aligning and the weather cooperating? One of those things didn’t happen.

If you were in, well, probably anywhere in the midwest or east coast last week, you probably recall the steamy temps and super high heat indices. I really try quite hard to not bitch about the weather because, really? you’ve got the time and energy for that?, but last week was pretty rough. Every run I did, of the few I did leading up to the race (as part of a mini-taper), felt like a slog. The day of the race, the race directors for EdS made the wise call to nix the 10k entirely and drop everyone down to the 5k. I immediately felt like that took the pressure off me (the pressure that only I placed there, mind you), and I was glad that someone else had made that decision for me.

All I could think of that afternoon, though, was that I had a 5k ahead of me, and we all know how “true” 5ks are supposed to feel.

That made me begin to wonder if I wouldn’t have been better off in the 10k…

Anyway. A and I got to the race site, adjacent to the Nature Museum, around 6pm and met up with C. I did a warm-up mile and felt pretty good; by then, it was probably in the mid-80s, so it wasn’t completely as sauna-like as it had been earlier, but by no means was it 40s and overcast, either. Prior to my warm-up, I chatted with Erin, a former DePaul colleague of mine and fellow blogger, and as I was standing in the starting corral, I reconnected with Erica, a long-lost training buddy of mine from Boston Bound in 2010. It’s nice to see familiar faces on the lakefront and at races; statistically, it seems unlikely, which makes it all the more awesome when it happens πŸ™‚

I should also take a minute to talk about the EdS environment, what they billed as a pre- and post-race “party” for runners and their supporters. The race atmosphere was really different from the standard race circuit, since this was a women’s only event. EdS catered more to the “be empowered, have fun, take care of yourself, celebrate your victory” crowd than the “go break your soul in this race” stuff that you usually see at ultra-competitive races.

Don’t take that as a knock to EdS; it’s definitely not.

For as competitive as I am (and really, it’s just with myself), I find these types of race environs to be incredibly supportive and, more importantly,Β if it gets someone to toe the line for the first time, in an environment where she feels safe and like “a runner” for the first time in her life, then I am 110% for it.

EdS also had some premiums and giveaways that were unusual for a race–like manicure touch-ups, a hair braiding station, a “bubbly bar” with champagne and mimosas, and some catered food items from Pampered Chef (I think)–as well as the somewhat more typical Gatorade, water, and mini massages. Again, if having these types of amenities at a race is the impetus to get someone to take charge of her health and lead a healthy lifestyle to be able to participate in the event in the first place, then by all means, we should have more of these events.

Digression.

Erica and I quickly caught up on the past four years of running, talked about NYC in November, and decided that we should be at the front of the pack (scary) when the gun went off. The race began at 7pm, and by then, the temperatures hadn’t really dropped much from when I did my warm-up around 6:30: still sunny, still 90s+ heat index. The course announcer mentioned that the RD had set up additional misting fans and water on the course and stressed to everyone to just run “for fun” that night and not to expect any PRs. My goal wasn’t to PR, but I wanted to put in an honest effort to see where my fitness was. I also really wanted to run a 5k intelligently–something I consistently fail to do–so I pretty much promised myself not to leave the gate like I was on fire, something I am wont to do in these “go break your soul” races (my term of endearment for all 5ks, regardless of their level of competition).

I also recalled that the course was pretty messy and ugly, replete with some weirdo turns, out-and-backs, and the always crappy overshooting the finish line and then backtracking. Once the gun went off, Erica, two other women, and I were in the lead pack, and Erica and I were talking to each other–yes, talking, during a 5k–which internally, made me ridiculously happy because all I could think was “you’re doing it! you didn’t blaze out of the gate like an idiot! it’s all downhill from here, baby!!” Soon after going under the Fullerton bridge, Erica, another woman, and I broke away, and were in the lead. As we approached the south entrance of the zoo, near the Grant Statue, a little after mile 1 and change, the other women dropped back, so suddenly, and unexpectedly, I was in the lead of a race that I didn’t intend to run particularly hard or try to PR, especially to the backdrop of a hot and humid Chicago night.

We ascended the Grant statue hill and then quickly cross country-style ran through some brush to connect with the newly-redesigned south pond and boardwalk at the Lincoln Park zoo. By now, I was chasing the bicycling course marshalls, though I could still hear Erica pretty close behind me. As we ran through the boardwalk, we began the very hard turns on the course–so hard that I almost came to a complete stop, in the interest of not wiping out in the pond marsh–and I knew I’d be losing time in that mile because of it. Just as soon as we had entered the zoo’s southern campus, we exited, and ran around the baseball fields parallel to LaSalle and started making our way back north. I was still leading by now and feeling pretty well, so I began to crazily think that maybe I could pull off an unexpected PR that night and maybe even a first place OA, the latter being something I have only ever done once before.

As we ran north and passed by the fields, the North Avenue bridge that connects the inner and outer lakefront paths, and the zoo parking lot, many folks on the path not associated with the race were stopping in their tracks to cheer for the runners. I love it when that happens and always acknowledge them with some gesture of gratitude, like a thumbs-up, a wave, or whatever goofy remark I can conjure in that moment (depending on how much I am focusing or how tired I am). I think I even got a few “is she winning? SHE’S WINNING!” remarks as well by then πŸ˜‰ We hit mile 2 once we were parallel to the racers still heading south, and by then I was definitely getting tired–so much for my intelligent racing goal–and began cursing the 5k distance.

Note: don’t curse the race distance when you’re still doing the race or when you’re in the freakin’ lead.

For whatever reason, my watch had been wonky all week and unsurprisingly, wasn’t matching up to the mile markers. Not long after I had internally cursed this godforsaken race distance, probably around mile 2.25, another runner passed me, and not Erica, whom I thought was still very close to me. I wasn’t disappointed that I wouldn’t win, but I knew that the race still wasn’t over and that I had to really concentrate on locking in my pace and bringing it home, laying on the line whatever I had left in the tank, whatever that hadn’t evaporated in the heat.

Remember when I said that the course had that crappy feature of overshooting the finish line? Yeah, it’s crappy, and even when you know you’re going to do it, it’s still crappy. What I wasn’t expecting was to be running on the crushed asphalt path and then have to cut across, through the grass (again, cross country style), to the other side of the path so as to avoid running through the exit side of the finish line. This wasn’t a huge deal–mostly an annoyance–but I don’t think the RD realized that having runners cut across like that would also make them run parallel to the line of port-o-potties as well: problematic because if you were a spectator going to the bathroom at the wrong time, you’d kinda be stuck for a while…in a port-o-potty…in the heat and humidity. Ick.

Right before we made a hard left to go west before making another hard left to go south, back to the finish line, at the first driveway after the CARA water fountain (tedious details, but the Chicago runners will appreciate it), C and A were sitting on the bench and saw me in the #2 spot. He quickly yelled out “look, A! It’s Mommy!” to which she screamed, in her best toddler-sized Bloody Mary voice, “Moooooooooommmy!!” πŸ™ I felt pretty guilty running away from her like that, and Erica, who was behind me, even yelled something to her along the lines of “Mommy’s kicking butt!” I knew I’d see my A soon, once I finished, and C informed me that she had cried for me the entire race. It was a hard twenty minutes to be a toddler, apparently. πŸ™

The winner clocked in around a 20:30, +/- a few seconds, and I followed her shortly thereafter, at 20:43. Honestly, for as horrible as this race could have been, given the conditions, I am really pretty satisfied with it. My PR is from Mother’s Day 2012, a 20:31, and in May in Ohio, on a hilly course, I clocked a 20:40, and at EdS, in horrible conditions, just a few seconds slower. This makes me really optimistic that I can still lower my 5k, and if I actually do 5k specific training, instead of relying on my marathon fitness, I think it’s even more feasible. All told, EdS was a really enjoyable way to spend a Thursday night with C and A and an awesome (and gratifying) way to officially begin my Chicago and NYC training.

Shortly after I finished, I grabbed some food (more for C and A than myself, since my stomach was churning), an ice-cold and dripping wet towel, and headed for a 5 minute chair massage that was delightful. Not long after my cool-down mile, EdS held their awards ceremony, wherein the winner, Erica (who finished #3 and not that far behind me), and I were presented with our prizes: a voucher for a free pair of Skechers GoRun running shoes (retail at $80 and have some great reviews), a $10 gift card to Athleta, and a white EdS technical hat. And strangely, once I finished and reconnected with my family, A was happy again, and when I left to go do a cool-down, she didn’t seem to mind at all. How me doing a cool-down mile at a pace minutes slower than my 5k pace is worse than me racing 3.1, I will never know, but I also (usually) don’t have a toddler mentality πŸ˜‰

with the OA winner (center) and Erica (#3, right), and A. Her attention was had at the sight of the pink gift bag.
with the OA winner (center) and Erica (#3, right), and A. Her attention was had at the sight of the pink gift bag.

The EdS race is one that I’d recommend for the female runner set, but the 5k course, with its messy design, isn’t conducive to super swift times, even on the flatlands of the lakefront. It does, however, boast an extremely positive race environment and would be a wonderful “first race” for any woman interested in beginning running/walking, or some combination therein, or foraying into endurance events. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with EdS and am optimistic that future years’ races will be even better.

how this doesn't pull her arms out of their sockets, I will never know. She LOVES it, though.
how this doesn’t pull her arms out of their sockets, I will never know. She LOVES it, though.
with Erica and A afterward. See, everyone's happy :)
with Erica and A afterward. See, everyone’s happy πŸ™‚

While EdS comped my race entry, these opinions are my own. Promise.

Ragnar Madison-Chicago 2013: meet the San Diego Yogging Club

Ragnar Madison-Chicago 2013: meet the San Diego Yogging Club

A week ago at this time, I was trying to rest up some, in a mustachioed van, before I started running my second leg of the Ragnar Madison-Chicago 200 mile (approximate) Relay through a very dark, very starry sky somewhere in rural Wisconsin. Now, with my legs propped up, horrible TV on in the background for noise, and from the comfort of my in-laws’ home the night before *another* race weekend, I can finally catch my breath and tell you all about last weekend’s running adventure.

You might recall that I did Ragnar 2012 with a bunch of perfect strangers and that my only “connection” on the team I met for the first time as we were loading up our suburbans for the trek north. This year’s Ragnar stranger round-up was a little less awkward. Of the nine other people on my team, I had only met two others once before in real life (having run with Mere for about 11 miles out in Barrington in February and later that morning, meeting AB in the Barrington High School parking lot for about 30 seconds), yet when AB posted on twitter that she wanted a female “competitive” runner to fill-out her Ragnar team, I told her I was in… and then asked what “competitive” meant.

Anyway, our 10-person team of awesome carried on the legacy that is the San Diego Yogging Club, a team that has been around, in some iteration, for at least the past five years, even predating #ragnarchi to its predecessor race (whose name I can’t recall… MC 200, perhaps?). Some of the teammates had been part of the SDYC family for a few years, and the rest of us were new to the Channel 4 newsteam. (And if you don’t get the references, watch Anchorman again, and it’ll all come flooding back. Promise).

the 'stache. Interestingly, we were about one of 3-4 vans with 'staches this year.
the ‘stache. Interestingly, we were about one of 3-4 vans with ‘staches this year.
#hurl
It might be a soft ‘j’
Not many Ragnarians played their cards right, evidently.
Not many Ragnarians played their cards right, evidently.
I enjoy running for an extended period of time.
I enjoy running for an extended period of time.
Our beloved van; enjoy the Anchorman references.
Our beloved van; enjoy the Anchorman references.

Come Friday afternoon, after a fun night with Colin, Justin, Casey, and later, Chris and Tim, and a morning fire drill at the hotel, the rest of the SDYC, AB, Meredith, Scot, and Liane, and we got to the start, took some awesome pictures, and sent off Meredith as our lead runner. This year’s weather was approximately a million times better than that of 2012, though during the daytime on Friday, it was still a bit steamy… but again, in comparison, nothing.

Let the games begin... pre-2pm start time on Friday in Madison
Let the games begin… pre-2pm start time on Friday in Madison
Meredith getting ready to rock with the help of chief SDYC Yogger Captain, Colin
Meredith getting ready to rock with the help of chief SDYC Yogger Captain, Colin

Meredith (purple, left, side-five) kicking off the SDYC awesomeness
Meredith (purple, left, side-fiving Annabelle [AB]) kicking off the SDYC awesomeness; notice my excitement on the other side of the screen. Clearly, I did not take this picture.
Being in van 1 this year meant that after the start, we had to hustle over to our exchanges quickly, especially since our team was pretty swift. My first leg was my shortest, just shy of 3 miles, and once I got my pace under control (after going out too quickly and then, randomly, having to stop to tie my shoe), it was a fine run, just a bit boring (country roads) and warm (it was around 3, I think). Best pic ever of me running came from this shot that AB scored of me handing off the “baton” to Casey (or, me almost running the poor guy over. Holy brakes, batman!).

kudos to AB for capturing this. This was my first handoff to Casey. All I can say is... quads.
kudos to AB for capturing this. This was my first handoff to Casey. All I can say is… quads.

We had a good amount of downtime between our first and second legs, so after we did the hand-off to van 2, we ventured to get real food (Noodles & Co.), wherein AB set an amazing PR in fashion.

Fashion PR (w Mere in the blue jacket)
Fashion PR (w Mere in the blue jacket)

Our second legs weren’t until after dark, which meant that it was time to break out all the required safety gear–a reflective vest, a headlamp, and a tail light–and not think too much about the fact that we were all running essentially in near-pitch-darkness, in a rural area, on a path through a forest preserve/trail area, where there are bears that can smell the menstruation. My leg didn’t start until close to midnight, and didn’t finish until after midnight, so I guess I can now disingenuously say that I have run overnight before. As with 2012, though, this overnight leg was my favorite (and fastest) one, no doubt thanks to the cooler temperatures and the novelty of running under a dark and starry sky.

We didn’t have a huge gap of time between legs 2-3 like we did between legs 1-2, and before we knew it, we were off and running again. My third leg started as the sun was rising, around 5am, through some country roads, and by then, we were finally beginning to catch-up to, and pass, other runners and teams who had begun several hours before us. Though we were competitive, we weren’t really into making a public declaration of announcing how many “kills” we had (though some of us did try to keep track). Really, it was just fun to be able to run in the presence of other runners because for most of our/my earlier legs, we were the only ones out there for most of our miles. About two miles into my four mile leg here, I could begin to feel that my stomach was getting wonky, and I contemplated pulling over to take care of business in someone’s woods (yard?) or just seeing what would happen if I waited.

Suffice it to say that I’m glad my run was only 4 miles long and that the GI distress didn’t set in until I was more than halfway done.

Justin excitedly about to pass another runner during leg 3. Note the requisite reflective gear and headlamp, even though it was light out (approximately 5:30/6am)
Justin excitedly about to pass another runner during leg 3. Note the requisite reflective gear and headlamp, even though it was light out (approximately 5:30/6am)
Safety first for Casey who, like Justin, still had to wear all the required safety gear for leg #3 since he started before the 6:30 cutoff
Safety first for Casey who, like Justin, still had to wear all the required safety gear for leg #3 since he started before the 6:30 cutoff

Between legs 3 and 4 marked the beginning of some nasty GI thing I had going on, perhaps due to the frequency of running in 12 hours, the mileage I had accrued by then (10 seems to be the lucky number for my GI to kick in and give me a ‘fuck you’), or because of what I was eating (lots of simple carbs and sugars) in relation to when I was running (probably too much, too soon). At any rate, I was still able to keep up a sub-8 average on my leg 3, closer to my 10k pace (but still a little slower), so despite the beginning of some GI catastrophe, I was happy, and beginning to get tired. My longest run (6 miles) was waiting for me on what I thought was my final leg.

We finally had a healthy amount of downtime between legs 3 and 4, so we got over to a Denny’s in Gurnee, (in Illinois by this point), and tried not to pass out. Some of us were more successful than others.

Poor Justin. At a Denny's in Gurnee between legs 3 & 4, I think
Poor Justin. At a Denny’s in Gurnee between legs 3 & 4, I think

We probably hung out at this exchange for at least a couple hours on Saturday morning, which gave us plenty of time to try to relax, stretch, rest, and fantasize about almost being done. The most I had slept was about 90 minutes, and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to sleep any longer, but I was feeling pretty well overall: just tired. And probably sleepy. I didn’t want to think that my hardest leg was probably ahead of me, since it was my last one AND the longest, but it was *only* 6 miles… as I told myself…

Van 1, waiting for our fourth legs at the N Chicago HS. L-R, Justin, Mere, AB, me, Casey. This is what about 90 minutes of sleep looks like.
Van 1, waiting for our fourth legs at the N Chicago HS. L-R, Justin, Mere, AB, me, Casey. This is what about 90 minutes of sleep looks like.

Before I knew it, and after several (a lot… like, a lot a lot) rounds of GI “fuck you”-ing, I was off on my penultimate jaunt… penultimate because in the time that I was waiting to start, Chris, another (super incredibly holyshit fast) Yogger got injured on his leg and wasn’t able to do his final leg from Glencoe-Evanston. I told him/the SDYC that I’d be up for covering for him, since my total mileage on the relay was originally only around 16 and change. Fortunately, I knew before I started leg 4 that I still had another 5 miles after my North Chicago-Lake Forest run, so I could try to plan and pace myself accordingly.

Just got the baton from Tim, so now it's time to leave the N Chicago HS and get to my old stomping grounds in Lake Forest
Just got the baton from Tim, so now it’s time to leave the N Chicago HS and get to my old stomping grounds in Lake Forest. I look ridiculously serious here. I promise I was having fun.

I worked in Lake Forest for my first two years post-college and was familiar with the area, which made it kinda cool to be running through it years later (sidenote: I started this whole marathoning jig when I was working at Lake Forest in 2007, so to be back here, in the same year that I’m going to be running my 20th marathon this fall, made it kinda cool and nostalgic). I felt pretty ok on this run, but the lack of sleep was definitely beginning to show. I really didn’t want to throw down any 8 minute+ miles, because I hadn’t yet, and fortunately, I was able to hang on. Having an impromptu water stop from my van was also pretty badass and way unexpected. πŸ™‚

I think this is the end of my 4th leg in Lake Forest...
I think this is the end of my 4th leg in Lake Forest; I think I just handed off to Casey.

After my fourth leg, I had about an hour to recoup before getting shuffled over to Van 2 to get ready to do my final final leg from Glencoe-Evanston, which was my final leg last year, coincidentally. A good runnerd friend of mine, David, lives in the Glencoe/Evanston area, so he managed to squeak over and say hi before I had to get back to van 2 and get ready to run again. David saw me after my final leg last year in Evanston, so it was cool to repeat that new-found tradition this year as well πŸ™‚

I knew leg 5, through Evanston, would be challenging because of the mileage (just under 5 miles, but putting me over 21 for the relay), but also because the route is damn confusing, based on my experiences there last year. To be safe, I actually tore the running directions out of the Ragnar handbook, so I’d always know where to turn, and despite my best intentions, I *still* managed to somehow botch things.

There were always runners ahead of me, until one time, there weren’t.

I kept going, following the instructions I had, until things began not seeming right, and no one was in front of me, and the only guy who was behind me told me he was just following me.

Fuck.

Well, at the end of the day, I cut-off about .9 of the 4.9 mile course, but my new buddy got me on the right direction. This was my only leg of the entire relay where I threw down a couple 8-minute+ miles thanks to fatigue (of course) but also due to getting stopped by stoplights and cars (drag). I couldn’t believe I had messed up my final route of the relay, even though I FREAKING HAD THE DIRECTIONS WITH ME AND WAS FOLLOWING THEM, but I later learned that there was some construction (or something) on the course that made following the directions unwise. Ah well.

Once we all got to Montrose Ave beach, we had just a few minutes to spare before our fearless and crazyfast captain Yogger, Colin, came barrelling in. Unlike last year, it was badass to have our entire team there, ready and stoked (though very, very tired) to take the obligatory post-race pictures, get the free beers and pizzas, and try not to fall asleep standing or sitting up.

It was a big deal.

IMG_20130609_224203(team SDYC: back- Tim, Justin, Colin, Scot; middle- me, Mere, Liane, AB; front- Chris, Casey)

This year’s relay was a really fun and positive experience. Since it was just over a month after Eugene, I didn’t really do anything in the way of training specifically for it; I just tried to maintain a base of 35 mpw, but in the absence of any formal or super-structured speedwork. Should I do this (or another) relay in the future, I’d definitely want to include some sort of structured speed as part of my training; I didn’t this time around just because I was in Eugene recovery (read: no speed allowed) for a self-imposed 4 solid weeks. It was a really awesome experience though, and we even fared pretty well as a team: 33rd/448 teams, 13th in our division. Not bad.

Post-relay, I’ve been feeling well, just tired, and I think it took my body a good couple days to get caught up on sleep and to begin feeling normal again. My quads were pretty fatigued on Saturday afternoon and Sunday, but I was able to casually run again on Monday and Tuesday of this week without consequence (besides more GI issues… eff off, digestive system). It’s funny; in the recent past, I have felt less tired after a marathon than after a relay. I would run marathons way more frequently than I would run relays. I think the combination of sleep deprivation, trying to run at pace, and figuring out nutrition (and ensuring my GI system doesn’t implode) puts way more stressors on my body than just running at MP for 26.2 miles in the confines of <4 consecutive hours.

…but maybe that’s just me.

Next up for me is a 15k tomorrow morning in Rockford, wherein my only goal is to have a new PR by the morning’s end, only because my only other 15k was when I raced at about 16 weeks pregnant. I’ve still got a few more weeks before I’ll commence training for Chicago and NYC, so until then, it’ll just be more fun running and racing (after the 15k, but before marathon training begins [I think] is a 10k).

I’m in a glass case of emotion, kids.