Posts Tagged ‘race report’

Army run 2019 – I love you BUT …

I am deviating a bit from my usual race report format, because this year the Army run made some big changes, and I wanted to touch on a few of them specifically while they are fresh in my mind.

This post is broken in two – WHAT I LOVED and WHAT YOU NEED TO FIX for next year.

What I loved

Partnering with OC Transpo

Having the ability to take OC Transpo to the start, instead of driving downtown and trying to figure out parking. I left my car at the Park N Ride in Fallowfield, hopped on a 95, got off at Pimisi and it worked great. On the way back, I took the O-Train to TUnneys Pasture (just so I could ride the O-Train), there were volunteers when I got on the O-train giving directions on where to baord, and volunteers when I got off the O-train letting us know which way to go to catch a bus or exit the station.

I ran the half marathon, so not having the LRT running until 8 AM really wasn’t a factor for me, and I just took the 95 all the way to the start. So it really didn’t bother me that OC transpo wasn’t in a position to open the LRT early. It was the first week of operations for the LRT after all.

The atmosphere of the race

Army run has a great atmosphere. Starting at the war museum and running through Beechwood cemetery all fit in well with that atmosphere. Personally, I don’t mind the extra hills on the route. This is not a good course to try and set a personal best (hilly, crowded, lots of turns), it’s a race to run and soak in the atmosphere. I still love the shirts. Cool hoodie style shirts for the Commanders challenge. Was nice to have the cannon back at the start line again this year. I adore the dog tag medals and all those touches that make the Army Run special.

The pacers

The pacers I met did a great job! Staying solidly on track for their predicted times. They even had their planned per km pace written on the signs, which was helpful for the 1:45 since the two pacers took different approaches, one did a 4:59/km pace, the other did a 4:55/km pace. So depending on whether you wanted to be aggressive or conservative you could pick your pacer.  Thank you, I met my race goal, and the pace bunnies helped with that.

Port-a-potty lines

For a race this size, I was impressed with how short the lines were! I just kept walking towards the back of the corrals until I found a shorter line. And my stops pre and psot race they still had toilet paper. Thank you.

WHAT YOU NEED TO FIX for next year

Okay, that’s all the good stuff, now I have to bring up some of the problems. There were some issues with the new location and route, that if not addressed will affect whether or not I recommend this race to others in the future.

Signage at the race expo and start area

I know that Friday noon is a madhouse to pick up bibs, so I specifically went at 2:30 PM Friday. It was nice and quiet. Due to construction traffic was a mess, but that’s not something the Army run can control. I found a parking spot on the street near the war museum and grabbed it, so I cannot comment on how parking worked if you drove into the actual museum grounds.

What I can say is once I got out fo the car, I had no idea where to go. There were tents and fences and people all over the place. But There were no signs outside saying Bib pick up this way – T-shirt pick up this way – Race Expo this way. Given that the bib expo was inside the museum, down the hallway, aroudn the corner, that would have been helpful. Then I was tol pick up your tshirt at the expo. Okay… so I figured out how to get to the expo and walked a loop around the expo but still could not find the t-shirt pick up, oh apparently I missed the little turn off 2/3rds of the way down the second tent which is a little tunnel that takes you to the t-shirt pickup. Again SIGNAGE PLEASE! Honestly, it took so long to figure out where everything was that I spent absolutely no time in the expo itself. I have been known to spend money in race expos buying shoes, sunglasses, shirts, gels, I didn’t even look around, I was so focused on trying to figure out where the heck to get my shirt. When I did get my shirt, I just wanted to get out of there before rush hour traffic set in.

Bag check

Signage on where to find bag check would have been nice as well. Once again I arrived with a bag, and no idea where to go. I did find a volunteer who told me it was where I picked up my t-shirt. So the volunteer was helpful, but really some basic signage would go such a long way!

It was a bit confusing when I dropped off the bag, do I ahve to drop it off a the booth with my race distance? OR can I drop it off with any of the volunteers?  It felt like you were supposed to go to the booth for your distance, but of course all the half marathon runners were dropping off bags aroudn the same time and the other volunteers had no-one coming up to them… you know what would be helpful? signage or a volunteer at the entrance letting you know the scoop.

I did not have a very long line for bag pick up or drop off, and the volunteers were great, but I did have friends doing Commanders Challenge and some of them were unable to get their bag between races. That’s not good! If you set the expectation that I can get my bag between races, and then I can’t get it… that’s a bigger problem than just telling me hey don’t expect to get your bag between races.

Hand cycles mid-race

I am 100% supportive of hand cycles and wheelchair racers! I also think it’s great to have people of all different levels of ability running the race, slow fast, doesn’t matter, you did it! good for you! You rock!

I don’t remember this problem before, but maybe it just happened to be around me, but I caught up to a couple of hand cycles around Beechwood cemetery. They were slower than me going up the hill. They were faster than me going down the hill. Faster than me and everyone else around me. This meant cries of “cycle on your left, cycle on your left” were a regular occurrence for about 8 km as we would pass him on the uphill, and he would pass us on the downhill. Of course the hand cycle was near the curb and lots of runners were running along the edge of the road (it’s a popular place to run for cutting corners, or just to find space on the road). Some runners heard us when we yelled out cycle on the left, some did not. We would yell over and over, and sometimes we had to jog over and tap a runner on the shoulder because they were in the zone, or just wearing headphones. Frustrating as it was for us, it must have been even worse for the hand cyclist who must have been constantly adjusting speed to avoid hitting someone.

The 5 km finish

A friend of mine had 2 kids running the 5km, he went to the finish to watch them run in and what he saw was a solid wall of people. You could not actually run to the finish line. I quickly did the math and wondered what happens when the fast 10 km runners start coming in to that mess? I gather things cleared up engouh or they made a path to the side for the 10 km finsihers zooming in which is good, but wow that 5 km finish was a mess!

The water stops

Okay I’m torn about mentioning this one. The volunteers at the water stops were great! They made sure you knew if they had Nuun or water. There were a good number of water stops on the course, and there was a sponge station and misters. ALL OF THIS I APPRECIATED THANK YOU! It was hot, and it all helped.

It was a little tricky to get water at some of the stops, and I wasn’t in the thickest pack of runners. There were a few water stations that were only on one side of the road, and the number of tables and how spread out they were seemed to vary. SO if it’s possiblew to have water stops on both sides of the road for all water stops and spread the tables out a bit more so we have a little mroe space to grab a cup that woudl be great. But this isn’t a MUST fix, this is a “if you want suggestions on how to improve this is somethign that could be even better.” I’ve seen WAY worse at other races.

Summary

So hey Army Run – I am sure you are getting feedback from other runners. There were some issues with the new location, but I think you can fix a lot of it with a little planning. These types of issues can really discourage someone who was doing their first race, or will make them look to other races instead. I hope we hear in the news about ‘improvements’ for 2020.

Sincerely – a 5 time Army run 1 time Commanders Challenge runner who has frequently convinced others they should run the race and wants to continue doing that in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beat Beethoven Race Report

Race bib and medalThe Beat Beethoven Race is a theme race in Kingston, Ontario. Runners are challenged to complete 8 km before the Kingston Symphony orchestra finishes playing 50 minutes of Beethoven’s best. I love a well organized community race, and this one was a lot of fun.

If you don’t keep an eye on the time, you could find yourself sprinting to beat the finish unnecessarily. I remember my mum telling me Beethoven pieces always sound like they are about to finish but then keep going.

Here’s the scoop on what to expect if you decide to take on the challenge.

The races

They had a kids 1 km race, a 4 km fun run, and the 8 km ‘main event’. Only the 8 km race has timing chips. The distance was a bit short this year for the 4 km, but since it’s not timed and the prizes are given out ot top 3 male and female based on gun time, it wasn’t that big a deal. The race organizer offered to add extra distance to the race next year so it averages out to 4 km both years 🙂  There are no finisher medals, only age group winners receive medals, so if you bring the kids you might have to go for ice cream post race as reward (or stick around for the draw prizes)

Logistics

With a race start time of 10:30 AM, and the option of race day registration and race day pick-up, this race is quite do-able from nearby towns like Ottawa, Cornwall, Brockville, and Belleville. Street parking is free in Kingston on Sundays, and it was not difficult to find parking an easy walk from the start line. This proved especially helpful as I could not find any sort of bag check. My car trunk made a convenient bag check.

Port-a-potties

There are no port-a-potties, but there are washrooms in the back of the tourist information building. I did the standard 20 minutes pre-race stop and was only in line behind 3 women waiting. The gentlemen did not have a line at all.

The shirts

I registered late so did not get a t-shirt. They had some wonderfully bright orange shirts, which the race organized blatantly admitted make for great advertising when you wear them around town. I have plenty of t-shirts, and I have no issues with races not printing a bunch of extra shirts for late registrations just in case. Like I said, most runners have plenty of t-shirts anyway.

The competition

I initially thought this might be a good race to place in my age group or maybe sneak in a podium finish. At smaller races I have placed in my age group, and at *really*small races I have managed a top 3 women overall (by really small I mean < 50 runners in the whole race). The website had a link to the 2018 results.

The top male runners in 2018 finished in 24, 25 and 26 minutes. The top women finished in 30, 31, and 32 minutes. Okay zero chance of a podium finish, how about the 40–49 age group? 32, 32, and 34 minutes! It appears this race brings out some very fast runners. I did not expect times that fast in a race with under 400 people unless they had prize money like Emilie’s Run (https://hockeygeekgirl.com/2019/05/01/emiles-run-race-report/).

The Kingston Symphony Orchestra

Unfortunately it was raining and the orchestra was hidden away inside a tent. We could hear but not see the orchestra as the tent walls had to be kept up to protect the musicians and their instruments.

The 8 km race

The town crier with a fine rainbow umbrella welcomed us all to the race, the gun went off, and off we went. The light rain was actually perfect for running. The route has a few odd little turns, no doubt to ensure you do the correct mileage, and it had a few decent uphill climbs. Since the race is a loop, all the uphill is rewarded with downhill later in the race. There were two water stops along the route, I think the first was around 4 km and the second was around 6.5 km.

The volunteers as always were much appreciated and cheered us on. Thank you volunteers!

I finished well under 50 minutes, but like many other runners I stayed around, intrigued to see how close to 50 minutes the orchestra would finish playing. There is only one pace bunny on this course: the 50 minute pace bunny! We saw him coming toward the finish line and we could hear the closing bars of Beethove emanating from the tent. The pace bunny’s foot hit the timing mat, the last note came from the tent and the clock turned to 50:00 at exactly the same time. I’m impressed!

Race results

Sportstats had results up almost instantly after you crossed the finish line. I was pleasantly surprised to see myself listed in 3rd place in my age group. The website did not mention whether there were age group awards but as I strolled over to the food table to grab a clementine and a roll (no bagels just rolls), I saw them laying out medals and envelopes. There were no finisher medals for the race, but the medals for the age group winners were really nice!

So, I waited around for the award ceremony. It was cold, and it was a bit of a wait. I think they started just after noon. Not unreasonable, I just wish I had known I had time to go put on warmer clothes, all I had done was grab a warm jacket.

Draw prizes and age group awards

Awards were given out for the 4 km first, and then a few draw prizes, then they worked their way through the 8 km awards, interspersing draw prizes in between age groups. draw prizes were awarded by bib number. It took me a couple of rounds to realize they were looking out into the crowd and calling out bibs they could see. He did tell everyone after giving out some draw prizes that everyone with jackets zipped up might want to unzip them 😉 Hey, I think that’s a great way to do it, I don’t want to sit there while they call out bib numbers for people who have left, and that way if there is a kid who ran a race lookign really excited about the draw prizes, or a runner wants to blatantly walk up and stand in front of the stage with their bib prominently displayed to try and win a draw prize, go for it! The prizes were a mix of shirts, water bottles, and race entries. Most of the medal winners had the opportunity to grab one of the prizes as well.

Summary

This is a fun but quite competitive community race. Race registration can be done right up to the day of the race so it’s great for those of us looking for a couple of fun runs to do after our big spring races. There are plenty of little shops and restaurants around the finish area if you want to make it into a day trip. If you stick around until awards I’d say there’s a good chance you can win a ‘draw’ prize just by standing in front of the stage with your bib clearly visible 😉

If you are interested check out my other running related posts and race reports.

Bay 2 Breakers race report – in San Francisco anything goes

I just ran the infamous Bay to Breakers. A 12 km spring race in San Francisco whose notoriety comes from it’s reputation as a clothing optional race.

There’s practical information at the bottom of this blog post in case you plan to run it yourself.

If you run, you probably have the same reaction I did: Male or female wouldn’t that be uncomfortable? Do you really want things bouncing around as you run? We runners happily splurge to purchase supportive undergarments to avoid that sort of thing.

And what do they do with their race bib? Are there race bib temporary tattoos you can apply? Or do they wear nothing but a smile and a race belt?

It does explain the market for the Body glide with built in sunscreen I saw at the Big Sur marathon expo. I was baffled when I saw it there, generally speaking Body Glide is applied where the sun does not shine.

So with these important thoughts occupying my brain, I met my friend Christopher in San Francisco to experience Bay to Breakers first hand.

Sparkly light up tutus anyone?

Since most of us have no intention of running naked, costumes are a popular alternative at Bay to Breakers. I expected the race expo to sell everything from sparkly tutus and tiaras to neon body paint. No neon body paint or tiaras, but we did find Christopher a fabulous rainbow light up LED tutu and I found a sparkly gold headband that would make Axl Rose proud.

Christopher was highly amused when someone working a booth approached me to ask if I would like more information on their anti-aging products. Hey! I’m walking through the expo in my Boston marathon jacket, getting older was the only way I can qualify for Boston!

Watch out for the flying tortillas!

tortillas in corral at bay to breakersWhen we got to the start corrals, there were cows, chickens, superheros, spacejam basketball players, lifeguards, Hawaiian shirts, grass skirts, and more.

Suddenly a tortilla flew past Christopher’s head. That was when we noticed an impressive collection of tortillas on the ground. So in addition to keeping your eyes open for beach balls bouncing you need to dodge a steady stream of tortilla frisbees. Pro Tip: When you actually start running, try to avoid stepping on the tortillas they are a bit slippery.

Who are these people in the middle of the road?

After a fine Corral sing along to Don’t Stop Believing we crossed the start line. There were two lines of people in cow costumes in the middle of the road creating a high five tunnel for the runners. On Hayes Hill we met a group of runners dressed as salmon (running the wrong way of course) running down the middle of the road high fiving runners. Later in the course we got another high five from Jesus, I mean how do you turn down a high five from Jesus!High Five from Jesus

Are there really naked people?

About half a mile into the race, I said to Christopher “since this is Bay to Breakers, I’ll be disappointed if there isn’t at least one naked runner”.  I was not disappointed.  Oh and it’s not just runners! Spectators  get into the spirit as well. Our favorite was the guy on the side of the street with a happy face shaved into his chest hair wearing nothing but a carefully placed Crown Royal Bag.

We started playing a little game: Would we see more people trying to save us from our sins, or naked runners. Final score was about 8-5 for the naked runners.

Oh and they wear their bibs on hats or visors, so now you know.

Brought to you by cannabis

The early start of 8 AM did not stop spectators from coming out to cheer. There weren’t as many spectators as I expected, but their enthusiasm, and costumes more than made up for it. The mylar blankets at the finish line were sponsored by a local cannabis store. I suspect both they and the liquor store had a good day.

Thanks for a great time San Francsico, and thank you Christopher for joining me on the adventure. I would run this again. If you are interested in running it yourself, read on for some practical information

Practical information for those planning to run the race

Can you race it?

Bay to Breakers used to be the largest footrace in the world. City 2 Surf in Australia has since taken over that title. But, at it’s peak, Bay to Breakers had 100,000 runners! In 2009 the city officially banned floats, alcohol, drunkenness and nudity because some residents complained the race was getting out of hand. They still get 30,000+ registrations every year, but they can have double that number out on the course any given year as many people run without registering.

That said, we were in corral B, we were never alone, but if I had wanted to run my own race, there was room to run. If you run a sub 7 minute mile and can provide proof of that pace you can enter the seeded corrals which are likely even more spread out.

Corrals are seeded based on your predicted pace, but corrals are not enforced, so if you want to go out fast, move to the front of your corral.

This race is meant to be fun, and if you race it and go home, I think you miss out on a lot. I would recommend you move back a couple of corrals from your usual pace, carry your phone and have fun. If you do race it, then do what I saw several other runners doing. Race to the finish then do a jog/walk back to the start line along the course so you can see all the runners behind you. I think you will enjoy that more than running the optional extra 3 km at the finish for the extra medal. Just remember if you turn around to run back the first 3 miles on the way back is going to be uphill.

How hilly is it?

There are rolling hills for a lot of the course, and one decent climb at Hayes Hill, but honestly if you run half marathons or marathons and have done hill training, it’s not that bad. If you normally run flat 5 to 10 km runs and don’t do hill training, then yes it’s going to seem hilly. It’s a great course to run a negative split, since a lot of the last 3 miles is downhill.

They have timing mats at the bottom and top of Hayes Hill so they can award the fastest Hayes Hill run of the race.

Water stops

There were water stops on the course, all the water stops are on the right hand side and they had enough tables you could run past the first two tables and grab water further down.

Port-a-potties

I was surprised by how few port-a-potties there were in the start area, but each corral had a different section so I only saw the port-a-potties on my street. There were a LOT of port-a-potties along the route.

Bag check (or lack thereof)

Because of the large number of runners they don’t have bag check unless you pay for VIP registration. Backpacks are not allowed either. You can purchase an approved clear drawstring bag at the expo to carry a change of clothes (or your clothes depending on how you plan to run the race). That does mean you run the race carrying a drawstring bag on your back which is irritating. Next time, I would probably splurge on VIP registration to get bag check.

Race Expo

The race expo is next to Pier 39, a popular destination for tourists seeking food, souvenir socks, and sea lions.

Bib and t-shirt pick up is well organized.

The only clothing on sale at the race expo was official race gear, but they did have a nice selection. The lack of bag check may account for the Flip Belt and Roo Pouch boots at the expo. We expected to find booths selling stuff for costumes, but there was only one booth selling headbands and tutus.

Transportation to start and from Finish

Because the race is point to point you will likely need transportation. “Muni” passes, in the form of yellow stickers to put in the corner of your bib, are available for purchase when you register online, at the expo, or beside the bus stop at the finish line. Muni passes provide transportation to and from the start by city transit. We had no trouble getting on a city train to the start race morning. They had a continuous line of buses at the finish, as soon as a bus filled up it left and the next one started to load. The bus ride back was slow, but that’s just because it is a city bus so it stops to pick up and drop off passengers at all the city bus stops.

Race Photos

Most of the race photographers I saw were on the left side of the road. Photos are free, this year sponsored by Strava. It’s a busy race so if you want race photos seek out the photographers and make sure they see you.

Should I wear a costume?

Absolutely. Even if it’s just a grass skirt, and hawaiian shirt, or a Forrest Gump costume. If you want to race, you can come up with something that is comfortable to run in. I recommend asking yourself a few key questions when choosing your outfit

  • Is it breathable?
  • Will it survive if it rains?
  • Will it survive when I sweat?
  • Will it chafe?

Should I run naked?

Hey that’s up to you, but if you do, you won’t be the only one.

If you enjoyed this post, check out other running related posts

Diefenbooker race report

Today was 23rd annual Diefenbooker race day. It’s hard to believe it took me this long to get out and do it!

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It takes a village of volunteers!

This is a community race. I was immediately impressed by their team of volunteers. As we arrived, volunteers directed us to a parking spot. When we walked into the building, a volunteer asked if we needed race day registration. We said yes, so she  provided us with forms to fill out, asked what races we were doing along with our shirt sizes then proceeded to fetch our t-shirts and bibs. Once we had completed our forms she directed us to another volunteer who took down our information and payment (cash only by the way). Additional volunteers were ready to hand out bibs and t-shirts to those who had pre-registered. There were also plenty of volunteers along the route managing traffic, making sure we did not miss turns, and cheering us on.

IMG_20190504_165733Race day registration runs from 7:30 AM to 8:30 AM. We arrived just before 8 AM. The line for race day registration was a bit of a bottleneck by 8:15, but they kept it open late so everyone could be processed. But, if you decide to race, it would be a kindness to the volunteers and organizers to pre-register or arrive early on race day to register. Pre-registration also helps you get your preferred t-shirt size. The smallest women’s shirt they had by the time I arrived was a women’s large. The shirts are cotton by the way, not technical shirts. Fairly common for community races.

 

A race for the whole family

This is a great family event, with races for everyone! There was a 5 km, 18km, and 33 km cycle. There was a 5km, and 10 km run for those who want to race. There was also a 5 km walk for those who prefer a more gentle pace. There are also shorter races for the youngest family members. A 1 km race for 12 and under, and the loonie loop for 2 to 6 year olds. The 2 yr olds do not race against the 6 year olds. They do one race for each age 🙂 Such fun to watch a line of 2 year olds race about 30 m across a field as fast as their legs will carry them. Parents, siblings, grandparents and total strangers stand on the sidelines cheering them on. Of course there are always one or two confused toddlers who stop and look around bewildered not entirely sure what is going on, but family are only a few feet away to rescue them if needed.

Running through the Diefenbunker

blasttunnelOne of the really cool things about the 5 km and 10 km races is that you get to run through the Diefenbunker blast tunnel.  The blast tunnel was designed and constructed to allow the pressure wave from a nuclear blast to enter and then be diverted away from the actual bunker itself where key members of the Canadian government would be relocated in the event of nuclear attack.

I did the bike ride instead of the run so I did not get to run through the tunnel. Clearly, I need to return next year to do the run so I can run through the tunnel!

The bike ride

The 33 km bike route took us along country roads. There was very little traffic and only a few hills. All the turns were clearly marked. You did need to keep an eye out for cracks and potholes. Not surprising for a spring race in Ottawa. I did the ride on a good road bike and would use the same bike if I return. I guess I should specify, what I mean by a “good” bike, since that definition can vary widely! My bike is is a Trek Lexa SLX :aluminum frame, carbon forks, Bontrager components and Bontrager alloy wheels, Shimano 105 drivetrain. Another cyclist who rode with us for a good part of the race did comment that he was glad he brought his “B” bike and not his racing bike given the road conditions.  Save that bike for riding in the Gatineau hills.

The 33 km cyclists started just ahead of the 18 km cyclists, and the 5 km cyclists started last. This worked out well since the faster cyclists tended to be doing the longer distances. By breaking up the starts, you don’t have an 8 year old on their mountain bike jockeying for position with my cycling commuter husband clipped into his pedals riding his Marinoni.

A community race with community sponsors

The cycling races are cycle tours which means, unlike the running races, they are not timed. As a result, I was surprised when they asked me to pull over at the finish line. Apparently I was the 2nd female overall in the 33km bike. I was presented with gift certificates for Kin Vineyards and The Cheshire Cat Pub (make sure you read their road sign when you are in the area). local businesses can be such great supporters of community races!)

Even if you don’t get a top three finish, the 2019 bibs included $20 off any purchase of $100 at Bushtukah. It is far too easy for me to spend  over $100 at Bushtukah, and it just so happens I need to buy a pair of trail running shoes. You also got a coupon for a free Kichesippi beer at the Cheshire Cat Pub (valid on race weekend). I also heard a rumour kids who did the Loonie Loop got a coupon for a free ice cream (but I have no way of fact checking that, so don’t make any promises of free ice cream to your kids, just in case I am wrong)

img_20190504_165718.jpgThank you to all the sponsors who contributed to this community event! Giving away gift certificates is smart, because now my husband and I are planning a return trip to Carp for dinner at the pub and a stop at the vineyard. Maybe we can combine it with an attempt on the Diefenbunker Escape room.

Washrooms and bag check

Yes there is a bag check inside the building

There are washrooms inside the building and they also had 5 port-a-potties in the parking lot.  I appreciated the indoor washrooms when I realized I had absent mindedly put my bib bike shorts on backwards when I got up in the morning and needed to remedy the situation before the race start. Glad I didn’t have to do that in a port-a-potty!

The Diefenchunk

img_20190504_165353.jpgAnother unique aspect of this race is the medals. In addition to receiving gift certificates for my top 3 finish, they also presented me with a very original medal. The middle of the medal has a small piece of concrete glued to it. Apparently I received a “Diefenchunk” 🙂  Presumably meant to be taken from the Diefenbunker, though my husband and I wondered if perhaps they were taken from some of the more impressive potholes on the course!

Diefenchunk medals are awarded to top three men and women overall in each cycling race, in the 5km and 10 km running races, the 5 km walk and to the first place age group winners in the 5 km and 10 km running races.

Summary

The Diefenbooker is a well organized, fun spring race for runners and cyclists of any age and ability. The funds raised support organizations in West Carleton that promote literacy, encourage physical activity or personal wellness. Little touches like the Diefenchunk and running through the tunnel make it one of the more original races in the Ottawa area. I’ll be back. Maybe I’ll see you there!

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If you are interested, I have other running related posts and race reports

Emile’s Run Race Report

EMiliesRunFriendsThere are more and more all female races out there, last week I ran my first: Emilie’s run. The race was established in 2007, in memory of Émilie Mondor. Emilie competed for Canada in the 2004 Olympics and died at the age of 25 in a car accident. She was the first Canadian woman to complete a 5,000 m in under 15 minutes. (14:59.68 at the world championships in Paris 2003).

Emilie Mondor

Emilie Mondor

The race appealed because in addition to being a welcoming race for female runners of all levels, it’s a race that celebrates competitive female runners.  The event aims to give competitive women a chance to lead a race, set the pace, and be the overall winners. (The prize money helps attract some strong runners)

Emilie’s run is a 5 km spring race in Ottawa. The route is a simple loop on the experimental farm.

A couple of useful things to know if you are thinking of running (as of 2019):

You can pick up your race kit on race day at the start or Thursday at Bushtukah

  • Parking – There was free parking,  but the posted race lot was full when we arrived. There were some other lots around but the signs seemed to indicate 90 minute parking. We decided to keep it simple and just paid for parking at the agriculture museum which was a nice short walk to the start, and I have no objection to supporting the agriculture museum with a few $.
  • There are two hills, not very steep, but fairly long
  • You get a necklace instead of a medal at the finish line
  • They have bag check and there are bagels and bananas at the finish
  • There is a 1 km Fun run as well
  • Wheelchair friendly route
  • Port-a-potties are located at the start area, and a short walk away are the heated indoor toilets.

For the casual runner looking for a fun run:

  • There is a water stop around half way
  • When I ran (2019), the last pair crossed the finish line at 1:25, the previous 9 runners all came in between 45 minutes and 55 minutes

If you are a tad competitive (like me)

  • There is prize money (unusual for a 5 km) so this race attracts some fast women! $750 for first place, $500 for 2nd, $350 for 3rd, $200 for 4th, $100 for 5th.
  • It’s interesting to compete in a race that is all women and has some serious competition for the top spots.
  • The overall winner in 2019 finished in 16:52.9, fifth place 18:35.5 (that’s how fast you had to be in 2019 to take home $)
  • First place in the masters finished in 18:59.2 and won $250
  • There were 14 women who finished in under 20 minutes
  • They have timing mats and clocks at every km, so you can keep an eye on your splits.
  • It’s a fairly fast course, but it does have a long hill at km 2-3 and km 4-5 and if it’s windy you are guaranteed to have a stretch with a headwind because it’s a loop and there is not much shelter from the wind.
  • The road isn’t closed before the race starts, but you can do a nice warm up running out to the 1 km flag and back.

EMiliesRunSusanHow was my race? I am a runner who occasionally sneaks in a top 3 in her age group. I finished in 22:10 which is within a minute of my 5 km Personal Best. I finished 23rd overall, 2nd in my age group.  I enjoyed racing with such a strong pack of women runners.  I think I would have been at least 10 seconds slower if not for Kailey (that’s her in front of me in edge of the photo) for being just close enough and tall enough for me to draft behind on the windy sections. Thank you Kailey!

Boston 2019 – This is your brain – This is your brain on Boston

2019 was my third Boston marathon. I am a squeaker, i.e. I never know year to year if I will have a time fast enough to qualify. My first Boston, I went out too fast and blew up on the hills. My second Boston was part one of Boston to Big Sur so I took it slow. This time, I knew the course and had no second race to hold back for. Whenever I run a marathon I know there are others injured who would love to be at the start line, and this is particularly true for Boston where it is so hard to get a bib, so I try hard to “enjoy” the race as much as anyone can “enjoy” running a marathon.  You have a lot of time to think on a marathon, so for this race report I’m just sharing a selection of the random thoughts that ran through my head at Boston 2019. Apologies if some of the recollections of specific race features and spectators are listed at the wrong locations, runner brain!ThisIsYourBrainOnBoston

Susan’s brain before leaving for Boston

Time to obsessively refresh the weather forecast. Oh no, it looks cold, windy and wet!  I was not there in 2018 but everyone I know who was there says it was the most miserable marathon they ever ran. Could this be another 2018? No, it’s still 5 days away it could change. This is my 10th marathon, one lesson I have learned the hard way, forget the long range forecast. Pack for EVERYTHING from -1C (30F) with wind rain or snow right up to +30C(86F) with high humidity!

weatherForecase

Susan’s brain arriving in Boston

Okay we have just enough time to get to the optometry store where Meb will be at 1:30. I brought my copy of 26.2 marathons for him to sign, still can’t believe he ran an entire marathon with his breathe right strip inside his shoe digging into his foot at every step.

BostonWithMeb

 Susan’s brain at the race expo

Got our bibs, got the poster, and I HAVE to get the celebration jacket, but this winter jacket is REALLY nice too, and oh yes a pint glass, and this shirt is great but wait no XS in the shirt, maybe on this rack, nope no XS, well that’s okay. OMG look at the line for the cash! That is insane, never seen it so long on a Friday! Hmm the rest of the expo is quieter so I can check out some shoes .. none of these Asics feel right, these 361 are comfortable, hey look Christopher the Dunkin Donuts Saucony are in stock, oh you want me to grab a pair for you, sure thing, but ooh look at this t-shirt and they have it in a women’s fit, and hey these Brooks shoes are comfy and oh look this booth claims to have anti chafe better than body glide. I would love to finally finish a race and be able to take a shower without yelping in pain from chafing, so let’s grab that and then let’s get out of here before I spend even more money!

Susan’ brain Saturday

Looks like serious rain for the race, but at least it will be warmer than 2018. Hey sis, do you mind if we go back the expo? I know I bought the Brooks but now I want to get the 361 as well, oh yeah and a laptop sticker since we didn’t get one in the race kit. Oh cool Sarah Crouch is at the 361 booth as well. Can we go buy some cannoli at Mike’s pastry? I have never tried them and safer to eat something like that Saturday than Sunday. I had no idea there were so many flavors of cannoli. Can’t go wrong with chocolate dip.

Susan’s brain Sunday

A nice easy 5 km run in the morning to loosen up, wow there are buds and flowers on the trees! Spring! I thought I would never see you again! Apparently I was not the only Ottawa runner excited to see signs of spring (Ottawa set a record for longest winter ever this year, sucked for training!).

SpringOnTheRunOkay run done, stay off your feet, eat easy to digest but high value food, check hourly forecast, repeat until bedtime. Oooh Boston Cream pie! No wait that’s a bad idea today, I guess I’ll have to run another Boston marathon some day so I can try the Boston Cream pie.

Susan’s brain Monday (race day) morning

Have a great race Judy, see you at the athlete’s village! Whoa those are crazy thunderstorms right now VERY glad those will be gone before I reach the village and VERY glad Judy picked me up some rubber boots to wear to the start and that I have garbage bags, spare socks, rain coat etc… to wear at the start

BoardingBus

Susan’s brain on the bus to the athlete’s village

Don’t think about how long this bus ride is and that you have to run all the way back. Repeat until you arrive at village.

schoolbusride

Susan’s brain at the athlete’s village

Whoa we are later than usual, but luckily I know where the shortest port-a-potty line is located. Follow me! Glad I brought the rubber boots. Wish I had brought sunscreen, too late now they just called Wave 3 to the start corrals.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Susan’s brain en route to the corrals

Oh look the cancer society has sunscreen. Thank you! Hmm this tape I tried to use to put my name on my bib is falling off. Oh well nothing I can do about that now.

20190415_102140

Susan’s brain in the corrals

OMG I am about to run the Boston marathon how freaking cool is that, and OMG how miserable is this going to be? ya know what this lady beside me has the right attitude, her first Boston and she just said  “No matter what it takes I am going to enjoy this race, I am running the Boston marathon!”  I like that attitude, I am going to remember her saying that when the race gets tough.

bostonstrong

Susan’s brain crossing the start

No wonder they don’t take pictures of anyone at the start, all you would see is all of us looking down to start our Garmins.

Susan’s brain for km 0-5 (5:28/km pace)

Don’t go too fast, don’t go too fast. Hmmm 5:20/km feels good on the downhill, given I would have to run that the whole race to finish in 3:45 I don’t think that’s happening today. Why does the top of my left foot hurt, maybe the tongue is folder over, I’m going to stop and try to fix that now, I still have plenty of race to go. Ashland has some good crowds cheering, love the puppy holding the two Boston Strong flags on either end of a stick in his mouth. Run across the 5 km timing mat and say “Hi mum & dad!” I am sure they are keeping an eye online and dad will be watching that first 5 km split to see if I went out too fast.

BostonDOg

Susan’s brain for km 5-10 (5:27/km pace)

Just keep a nice 3:50-3:55 marathon pace until 10 km, treat the first 10 km as a warm up. where is Santa Claus? I hear music is that.. yes it is… Sweet Caroline ‘ ba dum bum bum’ . top of the left foot is still sore, I’m going to loosen the bungee laces a bit see if that helps. Cross the 10 km timing mat and say “Hi Christopher!” it’s early out West but I know he wanted to watch the women elites who will be around mile 20 by now, so probably has another browser tab open monitoring friends.

SweetCaroline

Susan’s brain for km 10-15 (5:30/km pace)

Okay I have passed 10 km, so how am I feeling, could I do a 32 km long run feeling like this? Yes I could. Okay then. hip is a bit tight and top of the left foot is still sore but if Meb can run a race with a breathe strip in his shoe I can run through this. Running around a 5:34/km pace I need to stay under 5:35 pace to BQ today, given I haven’t hit the hills yet, not sure that will happen. Sure am glad it’s cloudy otherwise it would get really hot. Cross the 15 km timing mat “Hi Trevor!” My hubby isn’t there in person, but I love the virtual signs he sends me from the family (including the cats)

Susan’s brain for km 15-20 (5:33/km pace)

Santa there you are! I was looking for you! “Dig deeper than a kid looking for boogers” okay that’s funny. Almost at Wellesley. Lots of people yelling out “Go Dana Farber” or “Go Teresa”  I wish I had successfully found a way to put my name on my shirt or a Canadian flag. I like the cheering. Cross the 20 km timing mat “Hi Robin!” I know you are cheering on your sisters from afar but also probably have some shoots today, so will be popping online from time to time to see how we are doing.

Susan’s brain for km 20-25 (5:38/km pace)

Where are the Wellesley college girls, yes there they are, any good signs this year, “Kiss me I’m Irish”, “Kiss me I’m graduating”, “Kiss me its my birthday”, “Kiss me I give tongue”, “Kiss me I’m Canadian” there we go – quick kiss on the cheek please and thank you. Okay back to the running and “JONATHAN!” exactly where you said you would be. So great to see a friend cheering.  Less than 23 km to go. If 23 km was my long run this would be a short long run, I can do this.

Susan’s brain for 25-30 km (5:59/km pace)

Newton – okay then here we go, can I get through all the Newton hills without walking, and oh look the cloud cover is gone, now it’s full sun beating down on us through the Newton hills.  Wow I had forgotten how long the first hill is. Does it ever end? Is this one heartbreak hill? Lots of crowds cheering which is nice. Wow look at all the people walking, I may be running slow but I am passing a LOT of walkers on the hills. It’s getting hot, I am going to walk the water stops to make sure I actually swallow something at each water station.

NewtonHills

Susan’s brain for 30-35 km (5:57/km pace)

Maybe I will try dumping some water on my head, OMG that feels so good! I should have done than 5 miles ago. Now next order of business medical tent coming up… there we go… Vaseline? yes thank you! and oh wait I knew there were hills on this stretch but seriously?  Wait is this one heartbreak hill?  Is there any flat on this course at all?

heartbreak

Susan’s brain for 35-40 km (6:00/km pace)

Less than the Perth Kilt run (8 km/ 5 miles) in distance to go and the worst of the hills are over. I can do this. Pass the mile marker, walk to drink two sips of Gatorade, toss the rest, grab a cup of water, take two good sips dump the rest over my head, start running again, there’s the medical tent, now just hold on for about another 800 meters until the next mile marker and repeat. And look Canadian flag …VINCENT! Hi! Yay I found both the people I expected to find cheering on the course, I hope Diane is having a good race.

just-keep-swimming-dory

Susan’s brain for 40-42 km (5:43/km pace)

Well forget the BQ, but if I pick up my pace a bit I think I *could* still run a sub 4 hour, which would be a personal best for me in Boston. I’ll have to skip this last water stop and pick it up a bit, but I know the route from here just hold that pace until you turn right on Hereford left on Boyleston. Hold that pace – right on Hereford left on Boyleston. Hold that pace – right on Hereford left on Boyleston. Hold that pace – right on Hereford left on Boyleston. There’s the dip, hold that pace – right on Hereford left on Boyleston. There’s Hereford! right on Hereford left on Boyleston. I am turning onto Boyleston, damn that finish line is still a long way away, hold that pace, hey it just started raining, hold that pace, wow I am passing a fair number of runners along here, hold that pace hold that pace, smile for the finish line camera. Thank god that’s over. I sure hope runners brain didn’t screw up my math at km 40 and I broke 4.

rightONHereford

Susan’s brain through the finishers chute

Okay this is good I am not about to pass out or throw up. Hey that wind is picking up and with the rain it is downright cold, yes can you put that medal over my head for me please and thank you. Water, yes please, can you open the bottle for me please and thank you? Yeah that wind is cold, definitely yes I want a thermal blanket and yes tape to hold it closed for me. Are there chips in that finisher bag? Yes? good I need salt. Oh boy now I have to get out of the finisher area and across the Commons to my hotel. Just keep walking, one foot in front of the other, oh screw it I am going to take the train across the Commons. Stairs.. okay I can do this lean on the railing go sideways. Made it to the bottom of the stairs… ohhh that runner is sitting on the ground in the subway station it’s warm here that’s a great idea. Yes, I’ll just slide down the wall and sit here for a bit.  Damn now how do I stand up again, okay through the turnstile, stand on the train as all the runners stare at each other huddled in our thermal blankets with this sort of sympathetic smile and nod of shared misery.  two stops and now only 100 feet from my hotel, straight to my hotel room thank goodness no stairs and the elevator came quickly.

Susan’s brain back in the hotel post race

I did it! Hey Judy, how was your race? Yes, I am happy with my race. I am going to shower and collapse thank you. I wonder if I remembered to turn off my GPS at the finish line, oh good I did and if the GPS is right I have my sub 4. Yay I think, I can’t remember exactly what I just read on the GPS and can’t be bothered to look again right now! Off with the shoes wow that is a good bruise on top of my foot! Oh! right I forgot when I put on the new shoelaces last week to leave the first hole unused since I get lace bite, that explains the discomfort on my left foot for the entire race. I am an idiot, NEVER change something right before a race, apparently that applies to shoelaces as well. Oh well, a bruise will heal. Now shower…. YIKES… okay apparently I still haven’t found a solution to my chafing issues, ow ow ow. Now PJs, salty potato chips, a sip of coke, and I am ready to go online and feel the love from all my amazing and awesome friends and family who have been cheering from afar. Thank you to each and every one of you, I appreciate every comment and cheer.BruisedToe

Susan after Ibuprofen has kicked in

I just ran the frickin Boston marathon, how cool is that! Now where’s my Boston 2019 jacket?bostonjackets

If you enjoyed this, I have other running related posts

Chicago Marathon Race report

ChicagoWithJudyThis past weekend I ran the 2018 Chicago marathon, one of the six Abbott Marathon Majors and a very popular marathon. In this post I’ll share my thoughts on the race experience so you know what to expect if you decide to run.

  • Getting a bib: Lottery; Qualifying Time; Charity Entry; Shamrock Shuffle; Tour entry; Cancelled Entry; Get the app
  • The Race expo: Where is it? How do I get there? Bib & Packet pick up; Photo ops and things to do; Race goodies
  • Start Area: Getting to the start; Port-a-Potties
  • The race: Room to run; water stops; Crowd support; Hills; Route; Garmin == Timex; The weather
  • Spectator experience
  • The finish: Finish line freebies; bag check and changing area; meeting area
  • The post-race atmosphere
  • Summary

Chicago has been on my marathon bucket list ever since my friend Christopher introduced me to the documentary Spirit of the Marathon. I hope you have the opportunity to run it for yourself!

Getting a bib

There are multiple ways to get a bib for the Chicago marathon.

Race bib Chicago MarathonLottery

More people want to register for the Chicago marathon than the number of bibs available. Bibs are awarded by a lottery system. You apply for the bib during the application window. At the end of the application window you receive an email informing you if your name was selected. If your name is selected you are automatically charged the registration fee. In 2019 you can register after October 30th and the drawing takes place November 29th.

In 2015 53% of those who entered the lottery were accepted.

Qualifying Time

you can run a qualifying time in the qualifying period (for 2019 you would have to run the qualifying time after January 2017). They dropped the qualifying times a little bit for the 2018 marathon allowing me to earn a bib with a qualifying time.

If you can prove you ran the qualifying time below you can get a bib for the 2019 marathon.

Age group Men Women
16 – 29 3:10:00 3:30:00
30 – 39 3:15:00 3:45:00
40 – 49 3:25:00 3:55:00
50 – 59 3:40:00 4:10:00
60 – 69 4:00:00 4:35:00
70 – 79 4:30:00 5:10:00
80 and over 5:00:00 5:45:00

Charity Entry

You can join one of the official Chicago marathon fundraising teams. You must fundraise between $1250 and $1750 USD.

Shamrock Shuffle

If you have run the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K four or more times since 2000 and have signed up for the 2019 Shamrock Shuffle you can guarantee your spot in the 2019 marathon. A great option for local runners.

Tour entry

You can purchase a tour package. This is typically a more expensive option but will usually include a hotel and or travel. This option is frequently used by international runners or groups of runners. I used a tour entry for the NYC marathon when my running buddy got in through lottery and I did not so we could run together.

Cancelled Entry

One of the really nice things about Chicago is you do have the ability to cancel your entry and defer it to the next year. You lose the cost of registration and have to pay again the following year, but when you have a lottery spot and an injury messes you up, it’s nice to know you have a guaranteed spot the next year – right Christopher, James, Julia, Brian?

Get the app

Once you have your bib, keep an eye out for the link to the official Chicago marathon phone app. It’s very helpful for spectators and runners alike.

The Race Expo

Where is it?

ChicagoStepsThe Chicago marathon has a great race expo. it’s located at McCormick place, a conference centre just outside the downtown core.

How do I get there?

Chicago has a good metro system and there are a number of buses that will get you to McCormick place. You can purchase metro passes at the race expo (they even have souvenir marathon fare cards!) If you are staying downtown, the race also has a number of shuttle stops. We took the shuttle from the Nike store, there was a long line up but they had a good number of school buses and were well organized. It did not take long to get on a bus. The bus also seemed to take some sort of public transit only road most of the way, so it was faster than a taxi, or Lyft/Uber.  Some of our friends tried to get the shuttle from the Hilton Friday morning and said the buses never showed up, which is odd (they ended sharing an Uber with 2 other runners). That was first thing Friday morning, so perhaps there was some confusion about when the first bus left. We took the Hilton bus back later Friday so we know that shuttle bus system was working.

Bib & packet pick up

You have to go through security to pick up your bib, but they have a dozen people to do security screening so it moves quickly. It was quite busy first thing Friday morning, but completely empy at 2 PM Friday afternoon. To pick up your bib you must present government issued photo id and your packet pick up ticket. If you do not have your pick up ticket with you there is a booth which can print it for you.  However if you forget your ID, you have to go back and get it (That’s how I found out the line ups at 2 PM were shorter than the lines first thing in the morning… I forgot my ID and was unable to get my bib…Whoops!) You pick up your bib packet first. Your rake kit & T shirt pick up is in the back of the expo.

They had lots of volunteers and were very efficient!  Leaving us lots of time to explore the expo

Photo Ops & things to do

The race expo was great, lots of cool photo ops from the moment you walk in. My sister and I have a tradition of taking pictures with a bear at every major race we do together, but all we found in Chicago was a Trex and a turtle. This year they also had a treadmill so you could try to run the world record pace Eliud Kipchoge ran at the Berlin marathon. No I didn’t try it, I figured that was the perfect way to pull a hamstring two days before the race 🙂

Race goodies

chicagoswagNike has a booth set up with all the official race wear. They focused completely on running apparel: running shirts, long sleeved running shirts, jacket, tank tops, visor. I think they missed an opportunity. The other US majors (New York & Boston) sell mugs, glasses, backpacks, hoodies, and all sorts of extra branded goodies you can spend money on. There was a very long line to purchase your official race wear.  All the official race wear can also be purchased at the Nike Shop on Michigan Ave.  So you might want to go there after the expo to make your purchase. The lines at the Nike store were shorter and the DJs in the store make for a fun atmosphere.

We still found lots of ways to spend our money. Goose Island IPA had cool shirts and pint glasses (which you can get engraved for free with your finish time on Monday at select locations). The Chicago Tribune had coffee mugs. All the big vendors were there. Garmin had 10% off GPS devices. You could buy souvenir marathon Oofos (great splurge, recovery sandals are amazing post-race). Brooks had some nice race shirts. I even picked up a fun pair of Chicago running socks (also available as running sleeves, compression sleeves, or compression socks).

I was particularly amused by the “Dude” products in the race bag. If you didn’t read the instructions on the back of the packages, it’s worth the read 🙂

Start Area

Getting to the start

Of all the marathon majors Chicago is the most low stress on race day! There are a lot of options to get to the start area in Grant Park. You can take the metro line, and there are lots of hotels within walking distance. Security and bag check were efficient. Your bib has a gate number on it indicating where you should enter, although one of the volunteers told us at the last minute we could have entered at any gate. We still chose to enter at our assigned gate.

ChicagoPreRaceSelfieI left my hotel at 5:45 AM, met a friend at another hotel at 6 AM, and we had time to stop at the port-a-potties, explore the start area, sit on a bench for a bit, take a picture at Buckingham fountain, check our bags, one more stop at the port-a-potty and get to our corral before our wave two start at 8 AM.

Kudos to the Chicago marathon for working hard to be green! They had green stations with volunteers to sort the garbage, and even had a recycling station for the mylar blankets at the finish which apparently they recycle into park benches!

Port-a-potties

ChicagoPortapotty The corrals cut the start area in two. This is relevant because there are more port-a-potties on the city side of the park when you first enter than on the lake side. Bag check and Buckingham fountain (great for that last pre-race selfie) are on the lake side. When the race starts at 7:30 AM the crosswalk across the corrals is closed. It might be possible to enter and exit a corral to cross, but if you can it will be a bit of a hassle.  We took advantage of the port-a-potties on the city side when we first entered and were only in line for a couple of minutes. When we did our final pre-start port-a-potty run after bag check on the lake side the line ups took more like 10-15 minutes.

The race

I was in corral F, the first corral of wave two. The 3:55 and 4:00 pacers were in my corral. No-one checked my bib when I went into the corral, but I did not have any trouble getting into the corral (i.e. it wasn’t overly crowded) and I was able to move up in front of the 4:00 pacer without difficulty.  I was planning to run sub 4, and expected the 4 hour pacer would have a big pack of runners around them.

It took a couple of minutes to get across the start line and we were off.

Room to run

The first thing I appreciated in this race was how wide the roads were. There were 44,571 finishers in this years marathon. That is a lot of runners!  In many big races it can be difficult to run your own pace because you get stuck behind other runners and it is difficult to pass.  I rarely had that problem in Chicago.  There were a few spots where the road narrowed, but 90% of the race I was able to run my own pace without the need to constantly zig zag trying to find a space between runners.  The organizers even managed spectators to keep them from encroaching on the running space asking them to step back when they started to move onto the road. I tried following a pacer in New York and it was extremely difficult because the pacer had to zig zag into small gaps between runners to maintain the target pace. Whereas in Chicago, I ended up behind the 3:55 pacers for several miles quite by chance and could easily have followed them through to the finish line.

Water stops

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll the water stations had medical aid, Gatorade Endurance. Each stop was Gatorade first, water second (except for one stop where the volunteers clearly got a bit confused and had water in the Gatorade cups at the first couple of tables…but to their credit the volunteers were doing such a great job of yelling out whether they had water or Gatorade it wasn’t really a problem). Each stop had plenty of tables on both sides of the road and the tables were well spread out. I was able to get water and Gatorade at each stop without stopping or walking. Of course the occasional runner would stop in front of me at a water stop, but that is beyond the control of the race organizers. The volunteers were also trying very had to keep the discarded cups out of the way as much as possible without disrupting the runners.

There were lots of toilets along the route as well, but they are often on side streets, so you have to look for the signs around the water stations with the arrows indicating where to find the toilets.

The water stops at 19, 22 and 24 miles had bananas

There were either Gatorade Chews at mile 13 and Gatorade Gels at mile 18

Biofreeze was at mile 21 . If you are not familiar with Biofreeze. It’s a topical analgesic. In English that means you put it on your sore joint or muscle and it will reduce some of the pain. I have not tried it, but there are other marathons where I might have tried that at mile 21.

I had no trouble finding medical aid when my body glide was insufficient for race conditions and I wanted a little Vaseline to get me through the last 8 miles.

Crowd support

ChicagoSignThe press release says there are an estimated 1,7 million spectators at the Chicago marathon. We had clouds and drizzle on race day. That is a bit cold and wet for spectators so I doubt we had quite that many. But, there were solid crowds for probably 70% of the course. The remaining 30% of the course there were always spectators just not as many. There was a wonderful variety of signs “If it was easy, I would do it”, “Hurry up I want to go watch football”, “This seems like a lot of work for a free banana”, etc… I saw costumes, I heard bands, I think the loudest crowds were in Chinatown a great boost late in the race.

I had bonus cheers from friends and family who posted pictures of themselves holding signs they shared with me on Facebook as well which was awesome 🙂

The Chicago race bibs do not have your name on them (unless you are an elite like Sir Mo)  so if you want the crowds to cheer you on personally you will need to find a way to label yourself. The crowds enjoy having a name or a country to cheer.  You could

  • Spell your name with tape on the front of your shirt  (though my friend Christopher had to rip his off part way through the race because the tape was chafing)
  • Write your name in Sharpie on your arm (though then they can only see your name as you run by, it works better if your name is on your front, and if you go straight to your hotel to nap afterwards you may discover your sweaty arm has transferred your name onto the hotel bedsheet)
  • Attach a sticker to the bottom of your bib with your name on it (when I tried that mine fell off part way through the race in the rain)

Hills

ChicagoElevationChicago does not have any big hills. It is flat, but it is not Las Vegas flat. I had it described to me as “waffle flat”. I think that is the perfect description. It’s flat with a number of short little bumps when you have an overpass to cross. It’s considered a great race for trying to run a personal best. Four world records were set at this race. In 2018, when I ran, Mo Farah set a new European record.

You can see my Strava profile from the marathon on the right. There are a lot of little spikes and drops where my GPS was confused but you can see over the entire race the elevation range only varies from 175 meters to under 185 meters, and the total elevation gain was 80 meters.

The biggest hill is at the finish and honestly it’s not a very big hill, but if you are struggling, having your biggest climb in the last 800 meters will suck.  So now you know when you see that 800m sign that you are about to hit “the” hill. I appreciate the sign at the top of that last hill to let you know you only have 300m to go from the top of the hill to the finish line. Once you climb that hill and turn left you can see the finish chute. Make sure you smile for the camera for that finish line photo. But don’t throw yourarms out too wide (I got smacked in the face by a happy runner throwing their arms out in celebration in the final 100 meters, it’s okay no bruises, no harm done :))

The route

The route is basically made up of three big out and backs, which makes it easier for a spectator to cheer you on at multiple points on the route. There are also a number of little turns as you switch from one road to another. This does break up what might otherwise be really long straight stretches, but it also means you can easily add mileage if you are on the outside of all the turns. Follow the blue line if you want to stick as close to 26.2 miles as possible.

I know very little about the city of Chicago, so I can’t tell you if we passed any specific famous buildings or neighborhoods. But I did enjoy the variety of the neighborhoods and scenery along the way.

Garmin == Timex

ChicagoStravaMapThe big buildings downtown combined with a couple of tunnels mean you cannot rely on your Garmin to tell you your pace or your distance. According to Garmin I ran 43.8 km!  When you look at the map on my Strava account on the right you can see odd little zig zags where my Garmin got confused. I was VERY glad I grabbed a pace band tattoo at the race expo. The only way I could tell if I was on track was to compare the elapsed time at each mile marker to the target time on my pace band to keep myself on track. If you usually rely on your Garmin to monitor your speed, you may want to follow a pacer to hit your goal time.

The weather

What sort of weather should expect for the race? It depends. Here are the conditions from the past ten years

  • 2018 57-64F Drizzle Winds ENE 5 MPH
  • 2017 56-73F Partly Cloudy Winds SW 8 MPH
  • 2016 50-63F Partly Cloudy Winds ESE 8 MPH
  • 2015 54-78F Clear Winds SSW 11 MPH
  • 2014 45-64F Partly Cloudy Winds SE 8 MPH
  • 2013 46-65F Clear Winds NW 4MPH
  • 2012 38-51F Mostly Cloudy Winds WNW 6 MPH
  • 2011 57-80F Clear Winds ESE 3 MPH
  • 2010 59-84F Scattered Clouds No Wind
  • 2009 28-45F Mostly Cloudy Winds NW 7 MPH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spectator Experience

ChicagoSpectatorMy friend Christopher was injured and had to defer his entry to next year, but he did come out to cheer us on. It is always a treat to have someone on the course cheering you on. I started anticipating his posters two to three miles out. Thank you Christopher!

He was really impressed by the spectator guide which you definitely want to pick up at the race expo. Inside you will find a metro map, fare explanations, map of the finish area and a schedule.

It also lists the metro stops for different spots along the course complete with instructions on how to get from the metro station to the course.

18th Pink Line Station  – Mile 19. Board a Pink Line train and exit at 18th st. Walk four blocks east to Loomis St.

They also provide estimated arrival times for each section of the race

Mile 8 to Mile 10 
Wheelchair participants: 7:40 AM; Runners 8:08 AM to 11:30 AM

His only complaint was an interesting one, everything in the spectator guide provides distances and locations in miles. But, the timing mats on the course are located at 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, and 40 km. So if you are sitting at Mile 14 waiting for a runner, you track them online and determine they crossed the 15 km marker at 9:05 AM, running an average 9:03 /mile pace they should reach you at um…..  oh wait.. this requires math!  So when you sit down the day before and plan where to watch on the course, break out the calculator and calculate how many miles it is from your planned spectator spot from the last timing mat in MILES! Or make yourself a little conversion chart listing the timing mats 5km = 3.1 miles, 10 km = 6.2 miles, etc…

There are a lot of people on the course, so plan ahead! Christopher told me what coloru sign he would have, where he would be and what side of the road he would be on. I did see a few brave spectators crossing the road between runners, but not something you want to try with a bike or stroller!

The Finish

That wonderful moment where you cross the finish line. You did it! Don’t forget to smile for the photographers as you approach that final timing mat.

Finish line freebies

ChicagoBeerCanVolunteers are waiting to give you your medal, a bottle of water (I asked the volunteer to open my bottle of water as well because sometimes I am so tired even that is a challenge).

Next up of course it the official Chicago Marathon mylar blanket. Volunteers also had tape for the blankets so you don’t have to hold the blanket closed with your hands.

There were cups of Gatorade and bananas. This year (2018) They also had cans of Goose Island IPA 312 in a Chicago Marathon souvenir can. That’s the first time I got a beer post-race (I don’t drink beer).  The beer cans were open so I had to pour my beer out. I did try to find a spot where it would not make too much mess since you cannot exit the runner area with the open beer.  There were a lot of runners doing the ame, I guess I was not the only one who wanted the souvenir can but was not up for drinking the beer.  Though of course many runners thoroughly enjoyed the beer as well! There is even a spot to write in your finish time on the can (no that was NOT my finish time shown on the can in the above photo, I am not that fast)

After all that you are handed a plastic bag with potato chips and various other food stuffs. (My sister was wondering why we get the bag at the end of all this, apparently its to stop runners stuffing their loot bags with multiple bananas, water bottles, etc.. thank you Christopher for that little tidbit of information).

Once your hands are completely full you reach the official finish photo area. They have a dozen backgrounds and photographers to capture you and your medal!

Bag check and changing area

It’s a bit of a walk from the finish line to bag check. Your walk won’t be much shorter if you skip bag check because you have to walk past the bag check area to reach the runners exit. They had enough volunteers and bag check stalls. A volunteer was reading my bib number and fetching my bag within 30 seconds of my arriving at the booth.

They had port-a-potty like stalls set up as changing rooms. But there were not many of them and they had pretty long line-ups (10-15 runners in line at each). I wish they just set up a big Women’ change tent and Men’s change tent like they do at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth instead.

Standing and waiting is pretty painful for me post race. So I just sat down on the ground. Off with the running shoes. Then with no small difficulty and many threatening calf cramps removed my compression socks. On with the sweatpants, swap sweaty shirt for dry shirt (leaving running bra in place, but there were female runners who decided taking off a wet running bra could be done in runner company (if it was colder, I would probably have wrapped my thermal blanket around me and done the same). With some difficulty I managed to get myself from the seated position on the ground back to standing and hobbled towards the exit. Pausing briefly at Buckingham Fountain for a “I did it!” selfie

ChicagoFinished

Meeting Area

Volunteers directed me to the runner reunion area, a short walk from the bag check under normal circumstances, but post-marathon a little slow, and HEY you have to walk down stairs to get out? That’s just mean.  Okay there were only about 8 stairs… but still 🙂

The runner reunion area has giant inflatable tubes with letters on them.  The advantage to having a last name that starts with I is my reunion area is usually pretty quiet.  I found Christopher quickly and we made our way out of the park and back towards the hotel. With me leaning on him for a little help whenever I had to step off the curb.

There is a post-race party area you can visit with your friends and family. Runners get a free beer from Goose Island as well. I cannot provide any more information than that, because I am one of those runners who is pretty wrecked after a marathon and as I mentioned previously I don’t drink beer anyway.

The post race atmosphere

You can get your medal engraved with your finish time at the Nike store after the race Sunday or on Monday. Sunday they had staff lined up at the entrance and at the top of each escalator (engraving is on the 4th floor) clapping and cheering!  I kind of wish I had checked it out just for the cheers!

If you bought the Goose Island Chicago marathon pint glass, there were official places you could get your glass engraved with your finisher time Monday. Sadly I did not have time to do so before my flight.

ChicagoTribuneThe Chicago Tribune prints a special section in Sunday’s paper, and prints the names and finishing times for all runners who finish in under 6 hours 30 minutes in the Monday edition. I had trouble finding a copy of the Tribune at the airport, so maybe I should have paid the small fee at the race expo and signed up to have them mail it to me.

Monday, the streets and breakfast spots have lots of runners wearing their race shirts. Many runners wear their finisher medals as well.  We smile and nod to each other. Of course waiters and airport staff quickly figure out these are the marathoners and congratulate you on your race.

I stopped at the Elephant and Castle on my way back to the hotel after the race because I really needed salt, sugar & caffeine.  We sat down in the pub and I asked the hostess for a Coke.  The waitress appeared moments later with a coke and thrilled that she could help me recover from the race with such a simple act. She then asked if I needed anything else. So I asked for some wet naps to wash off my face (walking to the bathroom to wash up seemed like a huge effort at this point). She brought me not only wet naps but a clean cloth soaked in warm water. Heaven! Add some pretzel bites and I was almost feeling human again.

I share this story to help you understand that after the race, staff and strangers will absolutely congratulate you on your race, but you don’t get loud cheering the moment you walk into a building  (which happened at the restaurant I went to in New York, and at the hotel I was staying at in Boston).

Summary

Personally, I had a great race in Chicago 2018. The temperature was about perfect. The drizzle caused some chafing but kept me from overheating. The wide roads and flat course allowed me to maintain a steady pace throughout the race. Of course it probably also helps that I didn’t try to set a personal best, I was a little conservative with my pace since I had missed a fair number of training runs.

The Chicago marathon is a very well organized race. It’s a fantastic place to try and set a personal best. They have an amazing team of volunteers and the city will come out to cheer you along the course. There is a reason this race became so popular they had to switch to a lottery system!

Thank you Chicago for a fantastic race weekend!

Thinking of running Boston or New York? Check out my other race reports and running related posts.