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.
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 🙂
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, 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.
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 😉 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!!” 🙁 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. 🙁
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 😉
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.
While EdS comped my race entry, these opinions are my own. Promise.