Bayshore Marathon Race Report

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The Bayshore Marathon was my 6th marathon so theoretically I shouldn’t have been that nervous, but the year and a half break from marathons after the 2012 Philadelphia Marathon left me a bit more nervous than usual. I kept reminding myself how I did EVERY training run and each long run went exceptionally well. I tapered smart and the weather report looked good. Logically, I had nothing to worry about. But if you’ve ever run a marathon you know logic goes out the window when you decide it’s a great idea and totally reasonable to pay upwards of $85 to run for hours.

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Getting to the start:

My alarm went off at 5:05am (mentally 5am sounded way earlier) and I went into the bathroom to change so Brett could sleep another half hour and avoid my mini-freakouts. Everything was set out so I didn’t have to make any decisions or root through my suitcase and by the time I was changed with my bib pinned on my mom came downstairs. She found it amusing I was so nervous after doing so many races and this marathon thing not being my first rodeo, not in a mean way but in a “you’re so cute” way that I didn’t find as amusing. The sun had started to come up and we couldn’t pass up a sunrise pre-race photo op.

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We left the condo a little before 6am and with the sun just coming up it felt pretty chilly at 44 degrees. I brought a throw away hoodie but I think my teeth were chattering more out of nerves than actually being cold. We assumed traffic would be a nightmare so allowed a ton of time for a 7:15 start, but we beat the traffic, found a spot in the nearby neighborhood streets and waited a half hour before heading to the start. The race started at Northwestern Michigan’s track where packet pick up was the night before. Mom and I made the short trek and as the sun started shining it felt better, also standing with 1,500 other runners helped. My nerves started to calm once I was among my own and Happy was blaring on the speakers.

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Miles 1-10

I lined up between the 8 min/mile and 9 min/mile pace signs since there were no pacers for this race, figuring I’d fall somewhere around there. I kept my hoodie on until 5 minutes to the start, got my Garmin ready and took a few deep breaths when the crowd of runners started moving towards the start. Crossing the start pad we were a thick group but not tripping over each other and the first 2 miles stayed pretty heavy but I never felt crowded or unable to go my desired pace. The first mile wound us out of the campus through a short neighborhood street, spilling us onto East Shore Road where the view opened up to a stunning view of the bay! The fog was still hanging on the water and did so the firt 5 or 6 miles. If I wasn’t going for time I’d have taken a ton of photos but instead I cemented them into my memory.

My first 2 miles were 8:58 and 8:40 respectively and by the time I reached mile 4 I felt settled into an 8:40-8:45 pace. I had 3 goals; A) Finish under 4 hours, happy and healthy B) PR (Sub 3:53) C) Sub 3:50. To PR I would need to average 8:53s and to reach goal C I would need to maintain an 8:46. According to my long runs in training I could do that as my long run paces were consistently 9:30s. But you never know how you’ll feel. Luckily even at 10 miles my 8:40s were feeling great! I know better than to assume that means I can speed up. The first 15 miles should feel easy. You should feel you could go faster which I did but I also was aware of my muscles meaning I was pushing myself just enough.

The views throughout were spectacular and I am not saying that lightly! I was afraid I was going to trip because I kept looking to my right at the bay and behind me to see the view. I realize I lucked out with the weather but it’d be hard to make this an ugly race. At the 10K mark runners are lead to Bluff Road which mainly has houses on your left and only beach on your right. I took deep breaths and focused on getting to mile 10 since I break the race into chunks and that was section one.

Mile 10-16

I felt great at mile 10 and was on the lookout in case my spectators made the first shuttle. There were throngs of people where the shuttle dropped spectators and for a bit it felt as supported as the Chicago Marathon! Since it’s only residences on Bluff Road there aren’t a TON of spectators but there were groups scattered throughout hanging out on their porches and playing music for us, handing out water (and beer, ahem, mile 21!) and cheering with signs. I didn’t see my fam but it’s never at mile 10 that I need them plus there were 2 kids with “touch here for power” signs that I hit so I was good. By mile 11 we started seeing the leaders pass on our left, already approaching mile 15. I love courses that do that because everyone claps and shouts as they blow by, it’s especially fun when you see the first female! I was feeling fresh at the turn-around and had my arm sleeves down since around mile 8. You could feel the sun but there was also a great breeze and being on the water helped it not feel hot.

Since I didn’t see my fans at mile 10 I knew they were sure to be at the next spectator spot between mile 15 and 16. This is the point in the marathon where you’ve been running a while and still have a good distance to go so I was looking forward to seeing a familiar face. I saw our tried and true neon signs and raised both my arms up high waving for their attention. I was happy for the boost and cheers!

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Mile 16-20

These are my dark passenger miles and I save all my reserves for them. Obviously you’re body is starting to really feel spent at 20 but mentally you can count down, but at 16 there’s still a lot of race to be run. I was amazed at how good I felt at 16 this time around. I could feel my muscles working and I didn’t want to speed up until 20 if that was even possible by then so I kept steady between 8:35-8:40. I would see signs in yards that I remembered from the first pass through and thought of how much closer I was since then. I high-fived all the kids with outstretched arms and enjoyed the view from the southward route. A few times I found myself thinking in terms of the race being in the bag, then a slight incline or seemingly long stretch between aid stations would knock me back to reality. I still had work to do.

Mile 20-Finish

A spectator cheered, “mile 20’s just ahead!” and I immediately said to myself (quite possible aloud), “there’s my white rabbit!” I get weird on long runs. Throughout mile 20 I was hanging on to another runner who surprised me by grabbing one of the aforementioned beer cups at mile 21. He turned and said it was a mental boost and that the carbs were energizing him. Whatever works! Coming up on mile 23 we were between aid stations but some awesome people (may have been a radio station or something?) had a huge tent set up with music blaring and I heard, “we have pretzels, MnM’s and oranges for you runners!” I got really happy when I heard the word “oranges” and scanned the supporters who had large bowls. Ahead on the right a man yelled that he had oranges so I pointed at him, yelled, “my man!” and he jogged with me until I got my fix. It tasted great and just around the next turn was the 23 mile marker. 5K to go!

My agility was starting to go and by mile 24 I was repeating aloud not to trip. My feet were slapping the ground (I usually run like a ninja) but I had no doubts on keeping my pace and actually held between 8:30-8:35s to the finish.  As we got back on campus I knew we were super close and the curves in the road kind of helped it not look so long. I could see the crowds as we headed under the start line banner and turned onto the track. The surface felt great, nice and soft and even, and the bleachers were filled with cheering spectators. Since you rarely have the chance to run into a stadium with people cheering I took advantage of the situation and motioned my arms up in the air for them to cheer louder. Then I saw my fam and waved and pumped my fist in the air, I was about to beat my PR by 6 minutes and my C goal by 3! It felt AMAZING!

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The post marathon feeling is something I can’t describe. It’s more than just accomplishing the marathon, it’s the end piece of having the courage to sign up, the dedication to train for months (and mostly alone) and the wherewithal to run a smart race. I was smiling a lot through this course, it’s impossible not to with the amazing sights, but nothing matched the smile on my face crossing the finish line! I stopped my Garmin – and race results confirm – at 3:47:13. I collected my medal and met my amazing support crew at the ice cream tent. Moomers has some luscious salted caramel! As satisfying my accomplishment is to myself it would not be nearly as enjoyable if I didn’t have my parents and my husband there to support me. From asking about training runs to calming me down that morning I loved having them to celebrate with!

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Moomers! And I found a nice stretch (notice the guy behind me is doing the same)

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Brett takes spectating to the next level!

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One happy girl!

Derby Festival MiniMarathon

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What a day for a race! 50 and sunny at the start with a slight breeze made it the complete opposite of Run the Bluegrass, the other half of the Kentucky Half Classic three weeks ago. The Derby Festival MiniMarathon was my first half marathon in 2008 and I’ve done it every year since making yesterdays race my 7th consecutive Mini. I love participating in my hometown race and being home around Derby time is nothing short of magical. This race has grown drastically and this year, its 41st, attracted 12,000 MiniMarathoners and 2,000 Marathoners (the full was introduced in 2002). The course takes you on a tour of Louisville that is surprisingly flat after taking out the hills of Iroquois Park a few years back.

Runners start in downtown Louisville on Main Street, right by the waterfront, and are actually entertained by local radio DJs who keep up the energy while you wait for the gun. There’s a wheel chair division that goes off at 7:25, signaling to runners 5 minutes until start time. 50 degrees may feel good after the first mile but standing in a tank top gets a bit chilly so I grabbed an old towel to wrap myself in and tossed it aside when they announced 1 minute until gun time. The finish line is packed with excitement but there’s an intoxicating mix of excitement, nerves and energy at a start line that I love being in the middle of!

We headed East, passing the new Yum! Center, Louisville Science Center, Frazier History Museum, and the Louisville Slugger Museum all in the first mile. My parents made it just in time to high five me within the first half mile as I started to warm up and settle in to a comfortable pace. This was to be a long run training run of a cutback week which would normally be done around a 9:30 pace but with the weather being perfect and the excitement of my favorite race I decided as long as I wasn’t pushing my limits I could enjoy a faster pace.

The driving drum beats of the Central High School band (one of the spots I greatly look forward to), 2 water stops and one Rocky theme song later, we passed mile marker 4 and I stayed to the left knowing my parents would be before the turn taking us South on 4th Street. We’ve done this enough times to have our spectator plan down pat. Depending on the weather I know I can hand off any gear I no longer need, but my fingers still wanted gloves so all we exchanged were high fives. I was feeling great!

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As we ran South on 4th Street and into Old Louisville as the sun came fully out and just enough to feel its warmth. Heading around Central Park and back to 4th Street I resisted embarrassing myself and dancing to Roller Coaster which the DJ at mile marker 6 was pumping. Sadly, it took a lot of energy to restrain myself! Another course staple is the string band playing on the sidewalk who set up every year entertaining runners and spectators alike. I was with the 3:30 pace team for the marathon therefore holding an 8 min/mile pace which normally seems fast but I knew I wasn’t pushing it too much when my immediate thought after seeing the 6 mile marker was that the race was going by too fast! I was thoroughly enjoying everything and didn’t want it to end.

We had 2 miles to go until probably the pinnacle experience – aside from the finish line – of the race; Churchill Downs. This year marked the first year runners were taken through the front entrance of the famous Race Track as opposed to a side gate in years’ past. I was excited when they announced that a few weeks ago but underestimated the difference it would make. My favorite thing about this part of the race is how they set up speakers blasting past Derby race announcer calls so you hear things like, “…and down the stretch they come!” or, “…it’s neck and neck as they approach the finish!” which brings the Derby atmosphere to a head as you’re running around the infield path. This year the speakers were on the front concourse, pumping you up as you run through the entrance. Very cool!

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via Blue Mile

To get in and out of the infield you run under the track so there are a few moments of being in a tunnel where the only sounds are feet pounding and the obligatory, “Wooo!!!”, I can’t get enough! Coming out of the track all runners head West on Central Ave briefly before the MiniMarathon and Marathon course splits, taking Marathoners right towards the hills of Iroquois Park and MiniMarathoners North on Third Street and mile marker 9. A spectator asked a runner on my right if they could run with them for a bit which confused me until I realized it was a news reporter who ended up doing a brief interview with said runner as we continued onward. I taped all newscasts and couldn’t find the encounter 🙁

Heading to mile 10 the course passes through the University of Louisville campus and if you’re a runner who can tolerate beer during a race this is your spot. While I didn’t take a beer I did high five a row of those offering it up as I headed into the last 5K. I had no idea what my time was – I wasn’t wearing a Garmin – but my legs still felt fresh so I picked up the pace figuring the 10 mile marker was an OK spot to do so. I had roughly 2 miles until I’d see my favorite spectators and I remembered my mom promised to have a peeled Clementine at the ready. Although she had to blatantly ignore the cop telling her to clear the course, we successfully completed Operation: Clementine!

I ate half and kicked into high gear with under a mile to the finish, turning onto Main Street I knew I had less than half a mile and could keep up the pace. “They’re racing at the end!” I heard the finish line announcer exclaim as I made the final turn and took full advantage of the slight decline, hearing the announcer say my name just before I crossed the finish line in 1:43:11! I enjoyed the sweetness of the rest of my clementine, collected my medal and snagged everything I could possibly carry.

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By running the Run the Bluegrass 3 weeks ago and successfully completing the Derby MiniMarathon I collected yet another medal at the Kentucky Half Classic tent!

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I felt great and enjoyed the walk back to the car while recapping the run to my adoring fans (ahem, parents) and, of course, stopping for a post race photo op by some dogwoods that screamed SPRING!

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I Ran the Bluegrass!

WOW! Not rain, nor wind, nor hills stopped over 2,500 runners from completing the Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon yesterday morning. All week rain had been tracked at a threatening 100% from 7am through the afternoon and I packed the largest assortment of running gear I could fit into my suitcase. The only way to wedge this race into my training schedule was to run the 4 miles from our hotel to the start line to accomplish a full 17 mile run for the day. That 4 miles turned out to be the easiest part. My parents left the hotel with me and drove straight to mile 8 as I took off for the start line at 8am, getting a prerace photo, of course.
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It was 50 degrees and the rain looked like it would hold off until the race was underway at 9am which I consider a miracle. The wind started to pick up as I approached Keeneland Racecourse where runners were deep into their prerace rituals of gear checking, stretching and impatiently waiting for porta potties. The music was going and I was happy to be amongst other runnerds who saw nothing wrong with venturing out early(ish) on a Saturday to run in potentially threatening weather.
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The drizzle started but was very light, making the wind the larger threat. My Old Kentucky Home was played on the bugle followed by the call to the post as we approached 3 minutes to race time. I was ready to get moving and we started at exactly 9am. I was not going for time this half and had to mentally focus on that as we took off towards the first farm on the route and encountered the first hill. Even in gray skies this course is the most scenic half I’ve ever run and was a great distraction from the wind we turned into past the first mile marker. It was misting but not raining and the temperature was cool when the wind hit you but I felt fine. We passed a few horses by mile 3 and I was happy they weren’t afraid of a little rain. Mile 2 to nearly 6 were windy. I kept checking in with myself thinking, “it could be so much worse”, which it could, it could be colder and it could be pouring.
The stables and fields stretched on as far as you could see so I focused on the beauty of the scenery, totally different than anything near Chicago. So were the hills. One runner quoted there were 21 hills and I don’t mean inclines… I mean solid hills. I think the hills would have been the focus of my woes if it weren’t for the wind. Give me another hill, just stop the wind! Approaching mile 6 we started turning out of the wind and my attitude of survival lifted and I began to enjoy myself much more (of course if could have been due to the Peanut Butter Gu I started eating). I had under 2 miles to see familiar faces and the rain seemed to have stopped. My parents proved their awesome-spectator status as they stood in the dropping temps and wind to cheer me on and snap some photos as I ran past! Mom also got some great photos of the course before I showed up and they’re the only ones I have since my fingers were too numb (despite 2 pair of gloves) to take any of my own.
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Such a pretty course!
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I came, I cheered, I passed.
At mile 8 I was full of positivity. The feeling in my fingers was coming back, it wasn’t really raining and the wind was at my back. 5 miles? Psh, I can do that in my sleep! I chatted with a woman as we climbed a tough hill at mile 9 that she wrongly identified as the last hill. NEVER listen to ANYONE who says it’s the last hill. Unless you can see the finish line it’s never the last hill. The hill after that one I heard one runner yell “quality hill!”. It was official, we were embracing the hills. As I turned left, running towards the mile 10 marker (and – shocking – another hill) the rain started to really come down…sideways. Instead of getting warmer I started to feel colder and realized the temps were definitely dropping and the wind was certainly picking up.
“5K to go”, I thought, “you can do this”. Mile 10-12 is the dark passenger of the half marathon distance. Once mile 12 marker was in sight I knew I’d be OK. I was cold and wet but was passing the 7 miler walkers and recognized they had it worse and stopped feeling sorry for myself. I heard a band playing the Rocky theme song (still never gets old) and started pumping myself up, “you are tough! you are doing this! 17 miles are done”. I crossed the finish line right at 2 hours (and 17 seconds) and saw my (poor, wet, cold) parents who quickly cheered and motioned where to meet them. I survived! The 5 minute walk to the car was tougher than the last mile but the seat warmers were amazing. Better yet was the hot shower back at the hotel!
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Soaked but proud!
Despite the weather I loved this race and not only want to do it again next year but would love to make a girls trip out of it and run with some friends. It’s not a course to PR on so we may as well talk the whole time! The medal is spectacular and I really feel I earned this one. I also have some race day weather karma in the bank and hope I can cash it in next year!
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Kentucky Half Classic

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The Derby Festival MiniMarathon of 2008 was my very first half marathon and I have done it every year since. It’s a great race that has grown so much since I used to cheer on the runners with my parents way before I became a runner myself (we’re talking wind breakers as outfits era). In the last 6 years they’ve changed the course featuring a new start location in the heart of downtown which removed the rolling hills in the first 5 miles and have grown to be a sell out race with 18,000 runners in the half and full combined (roughly 75-80% run the half marathon). The highlight of the course, a loop through the infield of Churchill Downs, continues to put this race on the map as unique and draws runners from all over. My favorite is how they have huge speakers blasting Derby announcers calling out races of Derby past; hearing historical horses names’ being called is a big motivator! If you look beyond the track you’ll see horses being worked out and walked on the track so keep your eyes peeled if you do this one!

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I signed up for the 2014 Mini back in the summer (during the first price tier of $55!) and that was my only half marathon I had planned for the spring. Then I received an email announcing the Kentucky Half Classic! Hold the phone; a new race challenge?! I looked up the other featured race, the Run the Bluegrass half marathon in Lexington, KY. I had heard of this race a few years ago but was unable to take off work and it fell off my radar. The course features – you guessed it – another horse race course! Keeneland is a beautiful race track in Lexington, KY (about 45 minutes East of Louisville) where the race will start and finish, but it’s the views throughout the whole course that dub this race America’s Prettiest Half Marathon. Runners will pass a number of horse farms and can feast their tired eyes on  fence-lined rolling Bluegrass hills!

I’m really excited to do this new (to me) race and see Lexington in a new way (the old way being a Backstreet Boys concert in 8th grade). Plus, after I complete both (fingers crossed, don’t jinx myself!), after the Derby Festival MiniMarathon I’ll be one of the select group receiving a medal for the very first Kentucky Half Classic! I mean, really, who can resist an inaugural event AND an additional medal?!

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Here’s some photos of Derby MiniMarathons past

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(for my Uncle Bobby!)

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(PR of 1:37:06!)

Thanksgiving Day Run

The last time I was in Louisville for Thanksgiving was 2010 when I discovered Iroquois Hill Runners’ 5 Mile Thanksgiving Day Run. It was raining but warm that year and this year’s race day weather was the exact opposite. When racing in KY I usually come out on top of my running buddies in Chicago in the colder months but not this year. Although it was sunny, which helped immensely, it was 24* at the start for moi and 27* for my Chicago friends. image (1)

The other difference of running in Louisville is the hills. Oh the hills. This 5 mile race hits you with that difference immediately after the gun goes off. The first 2 miles are up a winding hill and the thing about winding hills is they seem to NEVER end. It was cold and I could feel it in my lungs as I gasped getting my legs used to the incline. There was a band just before the first mile and I still wonder how they were playing their guitars with frozen fingers.

After you get to the top mile 3 is more rolling and nothing drastic. The views are so refreshing compared to the pancake flat Chicago scenery and since there are no leaves on the trees, but plenty to shuffle through on the road, you can see so much from the top of the park. There weren’t many costumes but one girl was running in a cooking apron which was cute. Once you get to the 3 mile mark you know you’re golden with the 2 remaining miles being downhill. I let my legs fly and felt like I was somehow cheating since gravity was doing the dirty work. Then I reminded myself the work I put in going up and my conscience was at ease.

I was happy to see the band was still there at mile 4.2 and not frozen to death, although they were playing a slow song so maybe they were subliminally screaming for help? The road somewhat flattened out and I tried to pick up my pace and catch the girl, seemingly 26-29, just ahead of me. I nearly had her but remembered we don’t turn into the lot where we started but had roughly .4 to go and that my pace was not going to be maintainable without puking. I held on as much I could, glanced when I heard my mom cheering and went through the chute on the heels of unknown F26-29. I thanked her for pushing me at the end and we “good race”‘d each other and went our separate ways. There’s no chip timing and results aren’t posted yet, but I finished around 37:15 and the card I was handed going through the female’s chute was 19 so I believe I finished 19th female. Don’t worry, there will be updates.

The sun felt great now and it was inching closer to 30*!  Mom and I headed towards the car but stopped for a quick photo op with my other love.

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Pumpkins in the Park 5K

Fleet Feet’s Pumpkin’s in the Park is one of my favorite races and I’ve been involved nearly every year I’ve been in Chicago. I’ve volunteered as a course marshal twice (sweet pumpkin hat and neon vest are included in this gig!) and this was my third year running it. It’s in Lincoln Park so the course is gorgeous and the start time is 4pm which means no 5:30am wake up call. Win-win. I’ve never dressed in costume for a race and hadn’t planned on it this year but upon waking I had an epiphany. Brett had ordered a Where’s Waldo costume for Saturday night but then got tickets to the World Series in St. Louis (where he originates) so wasn’t going to be using it. A friend with season tickets offered him one which is why I wasn’t able to go. This isn’t really important but I assume you were wondering why on earth I wasn’t invited. But it’s cool, and for the record, I’m over it.

Point is, there was a Waldo’s hat and glasses just begging to be used and I just so happened to buy a new red and white Lululemon top that week. Some refer to this as fate. The temp was perfect, 52, but the 15-18 mph wind made it feel pretty nippy so my arm warmers came in handy (or, army?) I had to get my packet so I arrived almost an hour before the start and took advantage of the FREE Stewart’s Coffee. They always say try nothing new on race day but my being cold trumped the fact I don’t normally drink coffee before a race. Don’t worry, no foreshadowing here. I watched the kids costume show and considered taking a few pics to add here but since I was alone and have no kids I thought better of it. I saw a few girls I knew from Fleet Feet’s Tuesday night Chick’s Night fun runs and chatted until the last minute before surrendering my warm jacket over to gear check. I huddled in the corral and although I love hearing the National Anthem before a race my shivering body wished the song were shorter. I found a few other Waldo’s in the crowd but I was the only one who worked in actual running gear. Winning.

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With over 1,800 runners and a few turns in the first 1/4 mile it’s amazing how smooth this race is organized. Although I probably could have shaved a few precious seconds off, I never had to walk and never tripped over anyone. That first half mile I kissed goodbye the tried-and-true advice “don’t start out too fast” as I dashed ahead of people purely to get warm. Before the 1st mile marker I had settled into a fast (for me) 7min/mi pace. My legs felt great. I was pushing myself for sure but I felt I could keep at it. I saw the lead runners heading south on the west path of the course and hoped that meant the turn was close ahead. It was! I don’t stop for water stops in the 5k distance so I positioned myself in the middle of the path and as I went through I heard a volunteer yell, “Where’s Waldo?!”. I pumped my fist without looking back and heard them all laugh. Hey, this costume thing is fun!

After passing the 2 mile marker I was actually warm and internally pumping myself up; “you got this!”, “hold on!”, “one more mile!”, as we headed towards the pond for a last hill (an incline for those not living in Chicago) and loop around towards the finish. I heard another spectator yell “It’s Waldo!” and while my heart wanted to pump my arm I could not muster the energy to make it happen. That was how I knew I was going all out. The finish line came in to view and I tried my hardest to move my legs faster. I crossed the finish, grabbed a water and leaned on the fence with a guy who also looked like he may puke. After collecting myself and getting back to even breathing I grabbed some Nutter Butters from a young volunteer who quietly told me I could take two. I asked for a recommendation and he pointed to the ‘Nilla Waffers. This kid’s going places.

Official time was 21:53. I placed 12th in my division of 228 and 99th out of an overall 1825. I love when I impress myself! I may never see a sub 20 but I do think that with some more attention paid to speed work and the dreaded tempo run I could get closer.

Pumpkins 5K