Tuesday, May 26, 2015

JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge

My history with the Corporate Challenge:

The first time I participated was 2005 and I ran the (odd) distance of 3.5 miles in 36:24 - but I think that was before they chip timed the event and you self reported your time, so who knows how accurate that is. I know I ran several times between 2005 and 2011 - but for some reason none of my times are showing up on the Corporate Challenge website.

When I joined my current company, I became the Corporate Challenge team lead, so I managed getting our tent and food and registering our company. That was in 2007, and I know I ran it that year. I'm pretty sure I ran it the next year too. I know I did not run it in 2010 because I had baby H. the Monday before the race. But 2011 I ran with a recorded time of 35:57. I skipped 2012. I ran in 2013 (35:52), but I skipped again last year because honestly I had begun to hate this race. But this year, after a debacle of having no one in our office sign up and then needing to find ways to get people to sign up, I signed up and ran in 35:07 - so at least I am getting faster - but I still hate this race.

Reasons I don't like the Corporate Challenge:

  1. After having to be the team lead for several years, I'm kinda just through with it.
  2. It used to be too hot, but then they moved it to the Thursday before the Memorial Day weekend. But now the weather is so unpredictable it's still too hot, or it's freezing cold or it's raining. It seems like no matter what, there is some sort of extreme weather Memorial Day weekend.
  3. It's too crowded.

About 25,000 people sign up for this race; a good number of them walk it. I have no problem with walkers, and I understand why they want to start at the front just as much as someone who is going to run wants to start closer to the front. They don't want to be stuck behind so many people that it takes 30 minutes to even cross the start line. They'd like to be done walking as quickly as possible to get back to their company tent and enjoy the food. I get that. But that means walkers are going to be interspersed throughout the course. That means if you're running, you're weaving. And walkers are three and four people abreast because it's much easier to carry on a conversation when you're walking and not actively trying to pass people. I seeded myself correctly with my pace, and I spent the entire race weaving in and out of walkers. There was never a time where I wasn't passing someone who was walking except maybe the last half mile. It's frustrating to say the least. And running when you're frustrated isn't fun. Each year I try to go into this "race" with a zen attitude of just treat it like a run not a race. But you know how it's hard to not "race" when you're running a "race". Yeah, that. And so I want to "race" and then I get frustrated because even though I'm actually running a pretty good pace, there is a lot of stopping and starting, it's just not that much fun. So that's why I'm not a big fan of the Corporate Challenge. Do I think there is anything they can do to help? Well for some reason this year they only had two bibs - people running uber fast and the rest of us. So even though technically there were seeded corrals - you could get into any one you wanted. Going back to at least trying to have different pace corrals would help. Other than that, no, there probably isn't anything you can do except maybe let the walkers all start at 6 and then the race could start at 7 and we wouldn't be in each other's way.

This year's Corporate Challenge:

  1. I wasn't the "team lead" but was partially responsible for getting people to sign up - which no one wanted to because the company was no longer sponsoring the cost of registration. This changed when they had a whopping five people (me included) signed up. 
  2. The weather was actually good running weather.
  3. We had lots of food (too much as usual)
  4. We were able to listen to decent music courtesy of the Hyatt tent next to ours.
  5. In the end we had 50 people sign up for the race. However we had 25 people show up - a little disappointing. 
  6. I was the third girl in my company to finish - I tried to keep up with our intern, but just couldn't hold out at the end.

Now I don't have to think about it anymore - until next year.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cleveland Marathon - 10k

BIL, SIL, me and nephew pre-race.
So last year, Mr. H. totally rocked this marathon and set an awesome PR in which he missed BQ'ing by 3 seconds. As you already know, he was trying to actually qualify for Boston during the Wisconsin marathon a few weeks ago, so he had no intentions of running the Cleveland Marathon . However, because of a sister-in-law's law school graduation, we had need to be in town, and because a different sister-in-law and her husband had recently taken up running (possibly getting swept up in the running fever watching Mr. H. last year), we signed up for the 10k held in conjunction with the marathon and half marathon.

Unfortunately, Mr. H. has not yet fully recovered from his marathon, so he bowed out of the race. He ended up making the smart move, because despite the fact that it is 40 degrees right now and was in the 40/50s the week before the race, race day it was in the mid 70s with 90% humidity. Yeah, we basically ran in soup.

This being Cleveland, even with three races at one time, the number of people running the race wasn't too bad (about 12,000 overall). Of course, it's all relative, because my relatives mentioned how much larger this race was than their last (and only) 5k. Corrals were self seeded, so we got into our mid-pack corral and waited. While standing around, there was a 2-3 minute downpour that I both wanted to continue and wanted to stop. I don't mind running in the race, especially when it's hot. But then again, I had my phone on me and had forgotten to put it in a plastic bag, so I didn't want to risk it getting wet.

We started downtown right next to the Q (where the Cavs - boo - play) and then wandered around the west side of Cleveland before heading back downtown. All three races were on the same course until mile threeish. My sister-in-law had a dream about not making the 10k turn and finding herself on the marathon course. I told her it would most likely be clearly marked. And it was. As we ascended a bridge, marathon/half marathon runners were directed toward the left, 10k runners on the right even though the bridge wasn't divided. There was another sign directing us to the correct path at the bottom of the bridge where the split actually happened. After the race she laughed and said the signs couldn't have been plainer. Of course, I've seen courses that aren't well marked, which is never fun.

At about mile 4.5 we went back up another hill - an entrance ramp to the Shoreway (kinda their Lake Shore drive, but more a highway than LSD). The last mile and a half mirrored the marathon and half marathon course. We had the marathon flags on our side, so it was kinda fun pretending that I had run 25, 26 miles when I actually actually run 5, 6 miles. With how hot it was, it felt like I'd run more. And I honestly have no idea how the marathon and half marathon runners did it. Last year it was cool at the beginning of the race, I remember having on a coat and gloves to watch Mr. H.

My finishing time was 1:01:47. I finished 30/176 in my age group, 351/1,520 gender, 808/2,478 overall. I'm happy with this time. I know I could have gone faster, but am glad I didn't push it.

So this is what I've learned from this race:
  • I really need to do some hill training if I'm going to run in other cities. Seriously, we have no hills in Chicago. 
  • It does not matter if the week leading up to a race has been 40 degrees and cloudy. If it is April, May, or maybe even June, on race day it will most likely be above 70 with some ungodly amount of humidity. There is nothing to do about this but get used to it. 
  • Marathon Photo does not like me. Pictures of the rest of my family. None of me - apparently not even the one that I am actually in with them because while they were tagged in the photo, I am not (yes, my bib is clearly showing).

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Wisconsin Half Marathon

I have a long list of excuses why I didn't meet my expectations for this half marathon. They are, in no particular order: the weather, the hills, over training, under training, exhaustion from a recent work trip to NY, swimming in the pool at the hotel, sitting in the hot tub at the hotel, being in Kenosha, being tripped (accidentally) by Mr. H. as we walked to the start line. I don't know what combination of or if any of these things played a part in how I felt on Saturday. Maybe it was just one of those days.

We drove up to Kenosha on Friday afternoon and enjoyed ourselves in the hotel pool. I didn't actually do any strenuous swimming; we mostly just stood around watching Baby H. swim across the pool. Afterwards we enjoyed a pasta dinner at a local restaurant, eating early enough so as not to have any digestive issues.

Saturday morning we woke at 5, had a normal pre-race breakfast with the exception of it being in a hotel lobby. We made our way into Kenosha, found a place to park and walked to the start line a few blocks away. It was warmer outside that we were hoping for, being already in the mid 50s when we woke so I went with the lightest option of clothing, shorts and a short sleeve shirt. Pre race was pretty normal. Mr. H. and I just barely got a porta-potty trip in before the start, but we managed it and other than me tripping, it was all good. The race was a couple thousand people total in both the half and full marathons, no too big, but enough people - at least in the half - to not be lonely. 

Going out, the first couple of miles I had that heavy leg thing where you're getting warmed up, but I was managing to keep the 10 min pace I wanted. I actually had a few extra seconds to spare, and by the time I got around to mile six, I had about 30 extra seconds. But then this is where things started to get interesting. The course wasn't hilly in the true sense of the word, but I would call it hilly in the Chicago sense of the word. And the hills weren't that steep, but there were several rolling type hills. Added to that, the temperature kept going up. Again, I wouldn't actually call it hot, but certainly warmer than what we've been used to running in lately.

Around mile eight or nine we're out of these rolling hills and headed back into Kenosha. Though the course was flatter, my pace started slipping and I am eating into my cushion of maintaining an even 10 minute pace overall. As I got to mile 10, I can see the finish line across a small bay, which I considered swimming across just to be done. At this point I'm not trying to really meet my goal of 10 min splits, I just want to stay under my PR. I did have a few minutes of trying to figure out how to make my body believe I hadn't already run 10 miles and I was just out for a quick 5k. But my body's not dumb and the next couple of miles I see my hopes of even PRing disappear.

At mile 12, as the course finally turns back to the finish line, I look at my watch and figure out that if I pump out a 10 minute mile I could at least PR by maybe a few seconds. I actually got up to a 9:45ish pace for a while, but it was not to be. Finishing time 2:17:16. Off my PR by a little over a minute.

Mr. H. has a similarly disappointing marathon. One in which he had hoped to BQ, but ended up running 9 minutes slower than his PR.

Knowing that, and seeing so many people walk in, I do feel a little bit better knowing it was most likely the heat (and hills) that made this not the race for me to PR. It's disappointing, but it's also funny that I'm at a point that I can be disappointed with a 2:17 half. That is by no means anywhere near my slowest half marathon. In fact, it's my second fastest.

Would I run this race again? Probably since it's not a bad course overall and I could count as hill training. And since it's Kenosha, we were home by 1 pm. But then again, I suspect I will harbor resentment towards this race and will be happy enough never to go to Kenosha again. Oh well, there are other halfs out there. Plus - the medal has a bottle opener on it and we all know I have enough of those. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Ravenswood 5k

Who needs a picture of me running when you can look at
this cutie finishing a 50 yard dash.
Last year, the day before this race I severely bruised one of my toes. I was worried it might be broken, so I didn't run the Ravenswood 5k. This year, instead of walking around my house with bare feet exposing my toes to stray toys Baby H. leaves lying around the house, I wore my slippers most of the time. I was taking no chances.

Because of these precautions, I awoke with 10 strong toes and a hankering to run around my neighborhood. I live basically next door to the Ravenswood neighborhood and can walk to the start line. An added benefit, my friend and morning running partner Sara always runs Ravenswood and she has the ability to push me to go just a bit faster.

I'm in taper for my half marathon coming up next week, so Saturday's mileage was an easy six. Only two people from the 10:30 pace group showed up, so we decided to run with the 10 min. pace group, who in turn, were running with the 10 min. pace group from marathon training (the only difference being they were going to run eight instead of six) - basically it was cold and rainy on Saturday and most of the people didn't come to the final Spring Marathon/Half Marathon training run.

Because I ran with the 10 min. group (and not because I didn't run at all during the week), my legs were a bit tired Sunday morning. Sara assured me this was OK with her because she had a couple more glasses of wine than planned the previous evening. I was determined this year to at least finish with her, not behind her. Now that she'd handicapped herself, maybe I had a fighting chance.

Our first mile was right at 9:30. Even though people actually seeded themselves pretty well and we didn't spend a lot of time passing walkers or those who were clearly going slower than the pace sign they were standing next too indicated, it was still a crowded race. Once the crowd thinned a bit, Sara and I were able to run slightly faster than 9s; our next two miles were 8:58 and 8:42. There were a few moments heading east on Lawrence in the last mile that I was thinking about giving in - the same place I gave in two years ago. But by focusing on the bike lane line and telling myself I just needed to make it to the turn onto Damen, and then the next and final turn onto Wilson, got me to the three-mile mark. The final dip under the el tracks at Ravenswood is always so deceiving. You get a nice down hill, but then there's that little bit of an incline before the finish line. Knowing this, I waited until we were just at the tracks to start as much of a sprint as I could. Sara and I crossed the finish line together...of course it was her name that was called out as we finished. (You realize this rivalry is completely in my head - Sara's the best running partner a girl could hope for.) Final time 28:11 (a full second in front of Sara!), 51/272 in my age group 1125/3171 overall.

But this race was never really about me. It was all about Baby H (BH) defending his win from last year in the kid's races. This year's distance of 50 yards was more than double the distance he ran last year. Watching little kids run is pretty much the best thing ever. They get so excited and really enjoy themselves, smiling the entire time. Of course, I'd enjoy myself a whole lot more if I was running 50 yards too.

BH didn't quite come in first - he finished just a hair behind two other little boys, securing third place. He was gaining on them pretty quickly at the end, and had he a few more feet, he may have passed them. Of course, he thinks he won the race. We keep telling him that winning doesn't really matter and that even though mommy and daddy never win their races, we still have a lot of fun. But apparently the only thing 4-year old boys care about is winning. He'll learn soon enough.

Next up: Wisconsin Half Marathon on Saturday. This is what I've been training for. The question is, can I keep a 10 minute pace for the entire race and set a PR? Check back next week to find out.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Why I'm not a musician

I've been taking a writing class at Story Studio. It's called Memoir(ish). It's about writing memoirs, personal essays, true stuff. This is my latest assignment: write the smallest, most specific scene possible. Focus on the details and let us see the scene.

I am suddenly nervous. All day I had been excited, bragging about how cool this was. Talking about how much fun it was going to be and how good I was going to be. I put on a dress and probably knee socks and most likely my mom put my long blond hair into some sort of do. Something with curls and barretts. But now, walking into the auditorium - not even the auditorium, the corridor that leads to the auditorium, I am nervous.

I feel my heart start to race. Typical nervous stuff. But this time it's different. I can't breath. Or it feels like I can't breath. I stop. I don't walk forward anymore. My mom and my sister, not realizing I'm not there anymore keep going a few steps. Then they turn around and see me just standing there. What's wrong they ask. I can't move anymore. I can't go. I'm pretty sure my palms have begun to sweat. I set the violin case down.

I can hear all the instruments - kids taking their instruments out of their cases and tuning them. I can hear the excited voices of parents saying good luck to their kids, or people asking directions to their seats. I look around at all the people. There are so many people here. So many more than I thought there would be. Why didn't I realize there would be this many people?

I knew that it was going to be several elementary and high schools coming together for a recital. I knew that my elementary school string students, about 20 of us, were joining at least a dozen other elementary school students. We had all been practicing the same songs for these many weeks. We had all been doing the same drills and learning the same fingering. We were going to be playing the theme to Dallas - no that's not right. But something, something famous. I want to say the theme to Star Wars, but I know that's not right. I know that the high school students learned that and I was so jealous of them. I'm sure we didn't play anything that complicated.

We could have been playing mary had a little lamb for all I cared, it didn't matter, because I wasn't going in. I was going to turn around and walk out and leave and go home.

My mother walks over to me and asks what's wrong. I don't remember what I said but i'm sure it was something along the lines of - yeah, this isn't going to happen - except how a 10 year old says that. Maybe "I don't want to."  Now she's mad. I'm sure she tried to coax me for several seconds. But now she's mad, and yelling. Well, doing that quite intense and serious voice parents do when they're trying not to make a scene. I don't want to make a scene, that is the last thing I want. I don't want anyone looking at me, I just want to leave.

I figure no one will miss me. There are at least six girls at my school alone who play the violin. Multiple that by 12 and there are a lot of violins in the middle school orchestra. It will be one less little girl screeching her way through a song. But she won't let me back out. She keeps telling me I have to go. She keeps telling me that this is something I want to do and she says I have to do it. I don't know why. It's just a stupid recital. We have had other recitals at school. I don't know why this one is so important to her. She says she doesn't understand how I could be so excited during the day and now not want to do it.

I'm on the floor crying. Not like a little kid having a temper tantrum. But slunk down, refusing to move, crying, pleading, to leave. I think she tries pulling me to get me to stand up. But maybe that's just my faulty memory projecting how terrified I feel and how much I don't want to go and that it should take her dragging me to my seat to get me to go. She doesn't. She doesn't have to drag me to my seat. I don't know how, but somehow I get up the nerve, or she says the right thing or I realize there is no way out and I might as well go and join the rest of my classmates and get it over with. I can sit in my chair and pretend to play if I want. No one will ever know.

Finally, after what seems like an eternity, but is probably all of five minutes, I get up. I wipe off the tears and my mom gives me a hug and says it's going to be OK, that I'm going to be good. I don't believe her, but I walk through the big auditorium doors and find my seat among the hundreds of other kids and wait for the recital to start.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Live Grit CARA Lakefront 10 Miler

Sister and me pre-race.
Instead of doing a long run on Saturday and then some race on Sunday, I decided to just do a race on Saturday. It made my Sunday a lot less tiring. And, since it was CARA's Lakefront 10 miler, it counted at a long run.

Saturday morning Mr. H. left the house sometime before 5 a.m. to set up down at Montrose. My alarm went off at 6, and as per usual, I laid there an thought about sleeping in. After about 20 minutes, I rolled out of bed and got ready. I am lucky enough to have a mom that lives close to me and who is willing to come by and watch Baby H. while I go run. As sister ran the race also, once mom and sister were at the house, we headed out, Ubered down to Montrose and began our pre-race preparations; basically gear checking, peeing and running into a bunch of people you know from summer marathon training.

I really enjoy going to races and seeing people I know from training. It makes the waiting that much more fun, and you have the possibility of finding someone to run with - as I did this time.

As I said last week, my goal was to keep a 10-minute pace to prove to myself that I can run a half marathon at 10s. I started out with several people from my training group and my sister. While it was crowded at the beginning, it spread out fairly quickly and our group separated. I informed one of my summer/winter/spring training buddies, Jen, that I planned to run 10s and she promised to stay with me as long as she could. Sister and one of the other women sped off, while the others were not far behind.

The first couple of miles came and went quickly. The course headed north on Simonds Dr., turning around Lawrence, making a quick detour over Cricket Hill then heading south on the lakefront path. Before we knew it, 5 miles had come and gone and we were both feeling really good. By the time we turned back north, at about 7 miles, we knew we had this race in the bag (and by 'knew' I mean we started to hope that we weren't going to hit some unseen wall).

I was pretty surprised we managed to chat throughout the race. For once, I was that person who seemed to be barely expending energy while running and actually able to keep up a conversation. We were actually the people who were passing people the last couple of miles (that's some real motivation I tell ya) Of course, this being Chicago, when we turned around we were running into the wind. I worried this would be the end of my 10-minute pace since the gusts were pretty strong, but Jen and I pushed through and we managed to negative split the last couple of miles. I had never felt so good and positive at the end of a race. I even had enough left in me to sprint to the finish. Finishing time: 1:38:3, pace 9:51, 29/82 in my age group (ever the show-off, sister finished 14th in our age group!).

I now feel fairly confident that I can run a 10-min pace (2:11) half marathon. If I do that, that's another 5 minutes off my PR. Of course, I don't want to get too hopeful, you never know what's going to happen, and I've never run in Kenosha before, so who knows what that course is like.

Of course, this race course was a complete known. The path was a little crowded in spots with all the extra runners, but honestly it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I had thought doing 10 miles on the path was going to be a little annoying. I mean I run that all the time. But maybe that's precisely why it was so much fun. I didn't have to concentrate on the course so much as just going out for a Saturday run.

Next up, the Ravenswood 5k.

UPDATE: Apparently two guys tried to weasel their way into my age group, so even though I didn't go any faster, I did move up two spots in the ranking. Also, I may have had the best ever race photo of me taken while running up Cricket Hill: http://endurancephoto.smugmug.com/Races/Live-Grit-Lakefront10-Miler-41/i-L4S5LHW/A

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Good Life Race


I went back and forth on whether or not I was going to run this race. It's the second race on the CARA Circuit and in Oak Park, so not too far away. On the other hand, I am still training for a half marathon, and it fell on the day after a 10-mile run. I hemmed and hawed so much that I missed on-line registration (and hence the CARA discount) and the kids races were closed. So I decided, nope, wasn't going to run. But then Sister J. decided that we were going to run, and despite the fact that she drove to Oak Park on Friday to sign us up in person but was turned away because they didn't take credit, we made the trip back to Oak Park on Saturday to sign up. Why we torture ourselves like this is beyond me.

With a 9:10 a.m. start, I didn't have to wake up too early to pick up my sister and get out to Oak Park. Because there is no traffic at 7:30 a.m. on a Sunday, we made it there in no time and had about an hour to kill. This was pretty easy because I ran into several people I know including former and current CARA employees and people who live on my block. Because the race starts right by the high school, they had gear check and the sponsor booths inside. 

One of the interesting things about this race is they have a separate men's and women's start, with the women starting about 40 minutes before the men. With a smaller field than a co-ed race, sister and I were able to make our way past slower runners after the gun went off without too much effort despite the fact that we started toward the back. 

Much like when I ran the Shamrock Shuffle, I told myself I wasn't going to push myself too hard since I had just run 10 miles the day before. My plan was to stay around a 9:30 pace. Apparently this is what I need to tell myself before running a race because my splits were 8:48/9:05/8:54, finishing 27:41:2, 30/92 in my age group, 196/567 overall (women). This isn't a PR for me (if the 27:18 time is to be believed for the Run for Boston), but it feels pretty good to be running a sub 9 pace and not totally dying (though boy it was rough that last 10th of a mile). I'd like to get my 5k under 27 minutes, but of course that would entail me doing some speed work, which doesn't really sound like fun.

A lot of people said how much they really liked this race when I talked about signing up. It is really nice to run some other place than the lake front path, and the course is pretty flat. For some reason, it's a lot of fun running without men, especially when you get a flower at the end of the race. Plus, because the men went off after us, sister and I were able to head to the finish line and watch them come in. I always think it's cool to see the really speedy people finish. In the end, I'm glad I ran this race, even if it meant being pretty tired yesterday.

Next up on the calendar is the Lakefront 10. This is in lieu of our Saturday long run next week for half marathon training. Again, right now my plan is to go out and run a slightly faster training run, but not race - since it's 10 miles it's not like I'll be getting anywhere near 9 minute miles. On the other hand, I could use this as a test to see if I can keep up my goal race pace of 10 minute miles.