Posts Tagged ‘race report’

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

5 reasons to race the Canada Army Run

army run race bib and dog tagsThe Canada Army run is a popular fall half marathon in Ottawa. In this post I’ll share what to expect if you decide to run. The race weekend includes a the half marathon a 10 km, a 5 km, and some combination races.

FYI – I should warn you that the Army run is my favorite half marathon 🙂 so this race report will be a tad biased.

1. The spirit

100154_logoThe tag line sums it up nicely: “No Ordinary race”

As you might guess from the name, the Army Run celebrates those who serve or who have served. There is an ill, injured soldiers and athletes with disabilities category who start their races 5 minutes before the rest of the corrals. You may pass soldiers completing the race in full gear with backpacks. You might pass someone wearing a shirt that says “I am running in memory of Corporal Martin LeClair”. One year, I passed a soldier who was dragging a tire behind him the entire race. Another year, I caught up to Chris Koch, an ambassador for the war amps program just before the finish. Chris has no arms or legs (he uses a longboard to race). This year, at mile 11 there was a half mile of signs in remembrance of individuals who died in service to their country on either side of the route.

DisabledstartSo when you reach that point in the race where you would usually think to yourself, “wow, I am tired! my legs hurt! I don’t know if I can keep this up” you have reminders of how fortunate you are to be running a half marathon with nothing more than a cramp or a tight IT Band! This is a time to be thankful that you have the health and strength to run a half marathon and take strength from those who have sacrificed so much for all of us.  There are many personal stories and victories at the Army run.

ArmyRunDogTagsWhen you finish the race you are reminded once again this is no ordinary race as you are handed not medals, but dog tags by the volunteers, cadets, and soldiers. The Army run has raised 2.6 million dollars for Soldier on and Support Our Troops since 2008.

2. The half marathon is THE big race

Before I started running marathons, if I ran at a big event weekend such as Ottawa race weekend. When asked which race I was running I answered “just the half”.  Now let’s be clear. There is no reason to use the word “just” when describing a half marathon! It is no small achievement to run for 13.1 miles. But regardless I still felt like I needed to add it because others were running the full marathon distance.

On Army Run weekend they have a 5km, 10 km race and a half marathon. The half marathon is the longest race! so, when someone asks what distance you are running and you answer “the half” it feels like you get a small nod of respect because you are doing the ‘toughest’ distance.

Because the half is also the longest distance the crowd support is also strongest for the half. You won’t have crowds along the entire route, there are some quiet stretches, but there are enough people along the route with signs, costumes, cheer stations and bands to make it feel like a big race.

Quick sidenote: I don’t want to take anything away from those who are running the 5 km or the 10 km distances, I applaud everyone who gets off their couch to race, volunteer, or cheer at any race!

3. The sights along the route

Let’s be clear not every moment of the Army Run is stunning scenery, but it is a remarkably good tour of the region. (Thank you for the photo James Peltzer!)

OttawaCanal

  •  Parliament Hill –wave to the Prime minister unless he is racing again.
  • Along the Ottawa River out and back and past the Canadian war museum (the windows spell a message in morse code)
  • Cross the Ottawa river on a rather ugly (but flat!) bridge. Then a few stretches along side streets until you pass the Canadian history museum . The museum is designed by Native-american architect Douglas Cardinal and the architecture around the public entrance looks like a face.
  • Cross the Alexandra bridge which has an annoying hill at the start the start but a beautiful view of the Ottawa river and the back of parliament hill (also a beautiful view of the back of the Canadian History Museum if you look back, but I never think to look behind me to check out a view when I am in a race).
  • Right after the bridge is another short but nasty hill, but you will be re-energized by a good cheering section right after that hill. Then a stretch along the streets and then you run across the grounds of the Governor General’s residence, Rideau Hall complete with the guards at the gate cheering you as you go by.
  • Back into downtown and finish with a run along the (nice and flat) Unesco World Heritage Site Rideau canal to the finish line.

4. The race has two official languages

potatoYes, you get to hear people cheering you in English and French since when you cross the bridge at the War Museum you will find yourself in Gatineau, Quebec until you cross back over to Ontario on the Alexandra bridge.

So listen carefully as the cries chagne from “Great job” “You can do it” to  “Lâche pas!”

If you are curious “Lâche pas!” means “Don’t give up!”

This year I heard “Lâche pas la patate!” which confused me, because the direct translation of that phrase is “Don’t let go of the potato!” Curious, I looked it up when  got home, and apparently that expression is just a more emphatic way to say “Hang on, you’ve got this, don’t give up!” and originates from roasting potatoes over a hot fire, when you grabbed the hot potato you had to ‘hold on to the potato’ even though it was hot and burning your hand and not drop it on the ground.

5. The race gear & photos

20180924_074950Let’s be clear, sometimes it’s all about the shirt and historically this race has done a nice job designing the shirts. My biggest complaint for years was the fact the half marathon shirts were always green and the 5 km race alwasy got red shirts. I wanted a red shirt, but I was too stubborn to run the 5 km instead of the half. When they added the commanders challenge (run the 5 km and the half marathon), I registered and ran it jsut so I could get both shirts :). This year I was pleasantly surprised because the half marathon shirt was red! This year was also the first year we got short sleeved shirts. Since I have run the race on multiple occasions, I was quite happy to get a t-shirt for a change since I have a drawerful of long sleeved Green half marathon shirts from past years. This year they also included a headband and a drawstring bag with similar designs to the t-shirt.

In 2018 Zoom Photo took the race pictures. Digital downloads of your photos are included free with registration! it’s so nice to be able to download pictures and even my finish video from the race without paying $70! It’s quite brilliant actually. The free download includes a watermark from the race at the bottom of the photo. So you are  basically advertising for the race when you share it online.  If you want a digital download without the watermark it’s $2.50 🙂 but personally I kind of like having the watermark so I can remember which photo goes with which race.SusanRacingArmy

 

A few additional facts and stats

A few facts about the race

Race Size

  • 4,500 runners in the half marathon
  • 5,000 runners in the 10 km
  • 10,000 runners in the 5 km

Weather

The Army run is in early fall. The average high this time of year is around 19 C. But of course on a given day it can vary quite a bit. In 2018 we had almost perfect running conditions, about 5 C at the start and sunny. In 2017 it reached 28 degrees, and felt more like 34 C with humidity. Another year it poured rain. You just can’t predict the weather in this area.

How the race started

The idea for Canada Army Run was sparked at the 2006 U.S. Army Ten-Miler in Washington D.C. when Lieutenant-General Beare (now retired, but then in the third highest ranked position in the Canadian Army) crossed the finish line. He turned to his Director of Army Training, Colonel Dean Milner (now a Major-General) and asked “Why aren’t we doing this in Canada?” The Colonel replied, “Sir, you’re the general. You tell me!”

Race options (as of 2018)

  • 5 km
  • 10 km
  • Half marathon
  • Ortona Challenge 5 km + 10 km
  • Commanders challenge 5km + 21 km

Course Map

ArmyRouteMap

Hills

I can’t find a good elevation profile of the race, and my Strava elevation profile of the race has a lot of odd spikes and drops so is misleading. Army run includes a number of rolling hills. It is not flat. The first out and back stretch has one pretty good hill, and you get to go up and down that hill in both directions. The stretch in Quebec includes a couple of steep but short hills. The out and back to the governor generals residence is light rolling hills. The final out and back along the canal is flat.  According to my Strava, the total elevation gain is 232 meters.  So it’s not a flat course, but if the weather co-operates it is quite possible to set a Personal Best on the course.

If you enjoyed this post, you can find more of my running related posts.

 

 

Peak to Brew Race Report

20180811_094029Peak to Brew is a 220+ Mile point to point relay race in New York state from the top of Whiteface mountain to Utica New York (home of the extremely popular Boilermaker 15 km).  The race is similar to Ragnar but not part of the series. If you are looking for a relay race to try here’s the scoop!

Summary

  • 220+ miles
  • Point to point from the peak of Whiteface Mountain to Utica New York
  • Teams of 6 or 12 runners
  • Next runner leaves when the previous runner arrives
  • Through the Adirondacks (i.e. hilly and scenic)
  • Mostly along roads with a few trail sections
  • Total distance per runner: 11.4; 14.0; 16.7; 17.8; 18.1; 19.5; 19.8; 20.4; 21.0; 21.6; 21.9; and 24.5 miles
  • Finishes at a brewery – free beer and a great band from 3 to 8 PM
  • Mid-August
  • Prepare for the possibility of heat and rain
  • Approximately 50 teams
  • Start times range from 5 AM to 10 AM based on your predicted pace

Our running group has sent a team the past 3 years and is planning to return in 2019, so obviously we enjoyed it!

If you want more information, read on as I go into more detail on Teams; Relay Style; Is it scenic/interesting? How is the race divided up? How hard/easy is it? Honey Badger; Leg #1 The downhill monster; Terrain; Cheer and Water stations; Food; Sleeping arrangements; Post race celebrations and swag

Teams

Peak 2 Brew has two categories and provides a prize to first place in each category. First place is a growler for each runner which you can fill with the beer of your choice. Appropriate given the race finishes at a Saranac brewery.

Standard Team: Two vans with 6 runners in each van.

Ultra team: One van with 6 runners.

There are usually around 50 teams in the race.

Relay style

Because the race is point to point you must drive from exchange to exchange. Van #1 goes first. Your first runner runs to the first exchange where the next runner should be waiting. The last runner in the van will finish their leg at a major exchange where you hand off to the other van (unless you are an ultra team in which case you just keep going :))  This does require the van who is on break to keep track of how the other van is doing so they can ensure they are at the major exchange ready to go before the runner arrives. Peak 2 Brew asks teams to use the RaceJoy app to track runners progress. Be warned, some areas do not have strong cell coverage, so you need to use a combination of the app and text messages to communicate across vans.

Timing

Start times range from 5:00 AM to 10:00 AM based on the predicted pace of the team. There are no timing chips, you just hand off a snap bracelet from runner to runner.20180810_115328

These were the guidelines in 2018, actual start times are provided 2 to 3 weeks before the race and may vary slightly from the times below.

  • 5 AM start  9:30 – 10 minute/mile pace
  • 6 AM start 9:15 – 9:30 minute/mile pace
  • 7 AM start 8:45 – 9:15 minute/mile pace
  • 8:30 AM start 8:15 – 8:45 minute/mile pace
  • 10:00 AM start 7:30 – 8:15 minute/mile pace

The goal is to have all teams finish around 3 to 4 PM Saturday. If you run too fast you may be held back at an exchange to ensure you don’t arrive before the finish line is open. In the years we have completed the race, there was no time penalty for being held back, i.e. if you are held back for an hour they will not add that hour to your total race time, so think of it as a sleeping bonus. If you are much slower than predicted pace your second van might be asked to start their leg before the previous runner arrives. If you only have one van, you might be asked to have a runner start before the previous runner arrives or you might be asked to skip a leg.

Is it scenic/interesting?

IMG_3700Absolutely.  The view from the top of Whiteface is stunning. The first major exchange is at a ski jump (Tip for Van #2, why not get to there early, pick up tickets at the bottom of the hill and try the ‘”Extreme tubing” while you wait, it won’t take long). Several legs run past lakes. Leg #32 includes a trail run along the Whetstone gorge. Of course there are also long boring stretches along the road and you won’t see much except the road directly in front of you when you run at 1 in the morning.  Another exchange is at the Adirondack Experience lodge. The second major exchange is at Tupper Lake, on a hot day you can pop into the lake to cool off. The third major exchange is at the Adirondack Experience Museum. The rest of the exchanges aren’t as interesting, but let’s be honest, by then you are only interested in food and sleep. The finish is at Saranac Brewing company which is well set up for post-race celebrations.

There is always a slight chance of wildlife on the evening runs. All I have ever seen is a deer and some turkey vultures. In the past two years there have been two coyote sightings (what should you do if you meet a coyote?) and one black bear (what should you do if you meet a black bear?). Generally speaking both coyotes and black bears are probably going to be more scared of you than vice-versa. No-one was hurt and they sent out an alert using the RaceJoy app to all the teams to let everyone know where they were seen and when. The organizers do their best to ensure everyone’s safety.  We have done the race 3 years and the only times we got nervous were the occasional farm dogs (what should you do if you meet an aggressive dog?). It’s hard to design a course 220 miles long past houses and farms without passing at least one farm dog.

How is the race divided up?

There are 7 sections of the course and 6 legs in each section. Van #1 runs 4 sections. Van #2 runs 3 sections. Not all runners complete the same distance. In 2018 the total distances from shortest to longest for each runner was 11.4; 14.0; 16.7; 17.8; 18.1; 19.5; 19.8; 20.4; 21.0; 21.6; 21.9; and 24.5 miles.   Van #1 ran 125.1 miles and van #2 ran 101.6 miles.

Is it hard or easy?

Since this race runs through the Adirondacks there are a lot of hills, so the difficulty of each leg varies based on both the mileage and the hills.  Each leg is given a rating that reflects the distance and the elevation change: Easy; Moderate; Hard; Very Hard; Insane.

Easy: There are 14 easy legs. Distances range from 2.2 to 5.0 miles. Terrain will either be mostly downhill or mostly flat.  Most of the Easy legs are spread out across runners. 10 of the 12 runners get one easy leg. As an example, here’s the hill profile for Leg #29, one of the easy legs.

P2BEasyLeg

Moderate: There are 18 moderate legs. Distances range from 2.1 to 8.5 miles. This will likely be rolling hills so expect up and downhill. As an example, here’s the hill profile for Leg #24, one of the moderate legs.

P2BModerate

Hard: There are 4 hard legs. Distances range from 3.9 to 12.3 miles. like the moderate legs these are likely to be rolling hills with the addition of one really tough hill. As an example here’s the hill profile for the hard leg I completed this year. (I took a lesson from the trail runners a couple of times on this hill, and I did not lose any ground on the runner in front of me)P2BHard

Very Hard: There are 3 Very Hard legs. Distances range from 6.4 to 10.7 miles. These are tough, usually because you have some fairly serious climbs (there is one exception I will explain shortly). Here’s an example of the hill profile for a Very Hard leg.

P2BVeryHard

Insane: There is one leg rated insane, that leg deserves it’s own special section in the race report…

Honey Badger

There is only one leg officially rated insane. It’s assigned to Van #1, Runner #2, Leg #4.  It’s 10 miles and the hill profile gives you a hint of what to expect. You have a total elevation gain of 1202 feet and a total loss of 1118 feet. That means a lot of uphill and downhill. This leg is so difficult it has been nicknamed “Honey Badger” (probably due to this viral not suitable for work video about the Honey Badger)P2BHoneyBadgerElevationCompleting this leg earns you a badge of honour. Literally! You actually get a special prize at the end of the leg. You might think it’s so tough no-one would want to do it, but chances are you have that one runner in your group who says ‘ooooh that leg is rated insane, I have to try it’. In our running group we usually have 3 or 4 runners asking to do it. I’d actually like to do it next year. Yes, it would be really hard, but I would do hills to prepare. To be able to say “I did Honey Badger” and then collapse in a heap and ask someone to carry me to a massage therapists to restore my quads, hamstrings, and calves.

Leg #1 “The Downhill Monster”

I mentioned the Very Hard legs have serious climbs with one exception. That exception is Leg #1, nicknamed “The Downhill Monster” . Leg #1 takes you from the top of Whiteface mountain to the bottom. The top is an amazing place to start the race. The views are spectacular! There is a very good chance you will set a 10 km personal best on this leg as well. But be warned this leg is tough! You have to run downhill non stop for over 10 km.

P2BLeg1

If you do a little math here, that’s a descent of 2992 feet over 6.4 miles (33 792 feet) that works out to a 8.85 % grade!

If you try to slow down too much you tire out your quads, if you go too fast you will be pounding on your shins and calves. We had one runner who did not tie one of his shoes tightly enough. as a result, his left foot was sliding in his shoe as he ran.   When he finished, the bottom of his foot was hot to the touch and he had two blisters on the bottom of his foot. He did manage to pop the blisters and completed the rest of the race.  I think this leg should be rated insane as well.

But before you completely freak out, remember every year runners of all ability levels successfully complete this leg and the entire race! You can absolutely do it, just be prepared for some tight calves or quads when you finish. I recommend you plan on a little maintenance once you finish this leg.  There is a reason the next two legs for this runner are 2.2 and 3.2 Easy legs. You can do it!

Terrain

Most of the running is on roads. You might be running on the shoulder of a major road, on the sidewalk through a small town, or along a quiet country road. 6 legs include a trail run and one leg is mostly dirt road. There are a couple of legs where you run on uneven sidewalks.

Cheer and Water stations

20180810_144139On all the longer routes we asked our runners where they wanted water stops. We were almost always able to find a suitable place to pull over within a quarter mile of the requested distance. There are a couple of stretches where it’s harder to find a place to pull over safely.

On the trail runs you need some serious navigation skills if you want to meet them as they exit the trail or find a point where you can meet them mid-trail. Keep an eye out for green water coolers which contain bottled water left on the course for the runners. There was one at the end of the trail section on Leg #12.

Food

Pre race

If you are staying in Lake Placid the night before the race you can find lots of restaurants on Main St for supper. There is a Starbucks as well as local coffee spots to help van #1 get their morning caffeine fix (check opening times the night before if you have one of the really early starts!). There are a few spots on Main St where you can grab a hot breakfast if you are van #2. There is a Price Chopper on highway 86 just outside of town where you can load up on bananas, Gatorade and beer.

During the race

When you hit a major exchange you usually have two things on your mind food and sleep in that order! In 2018 at Major Exchange #1 the Skin Jumping Complex they had free bananas and granola bars. At Major Exchance 2 Tupper lake, there was a BBQ where you could buy burgers from 12 – 4. At Major exchange 3, Adirondack experience, there was food for sale from 2- 9 PM or you can drive to a nearby town such as Blue Mountain to find a restaurant. At Major Exchange 4, Old Forge, there is a campfire and marshmallow roast and check your team bag for your voucher for a free large cheese pizza at Tony Harpers Pizza. If you get to Tony Harpers before the kitchen closes at 1 AM you can order additional pizzas and drinks. If you get there after 1 AM you can pick up your pizza at the back but I don’t think you can order additional pizzas. At Major Exchange 5 South Lewis High school there was breakfast for sale. At Major Exchange 6 there was lunch for sale.

Sp2bFoodorry, I can’t tell you our usual food stops because most of the restaurants in the area are not that big and I don’t want us to be turned away from our favorite little spot because I shared it in the blog post, so you’ll just have to break out your favorite <find a restaurant near me> app.  If you see a team eating at a table with a large inflatable bear at the table come over and say hi, our bear doesn’t bite 🙂

Post race

There is plenty of beer, some tasty cider, but limited food available at the post race party. There are lots of little pubs within a 5 minute walk of the finish line. So before you start sampling all the fine Saranac brews wander down the street to get a burger or sandwich because the party goes until 8 PM and the band is great! Taking an hour to find some real food will help you find the energy to enjoy the party!

Sleeping arrangements

Pre-race

Wondering where to stay the night before the race starts? Lake Placid has lots of great little motels and hotels, there’s a good chance your entire team can stay in the same hotel.  Many hotels are walking distance from Main Street where you can find all the important pre-race destinations including restaurants, coffee shops, ice cream, and beer. Lake Placid is about a 45 minute drive from the top of Whiteface, the start for van #1. Lake Placid is about a 15 minute drive to the ski jumping complex, which is the first major exchange where van #2 starts.

During the race

One of the great challenges of these relay races is getting sleep between legs.

Tp2bnaphe first four major exchanges all have open areas outside where you can lie down. By the time you reach major exchange number four (Old Forge) it may have cooled off, so an actual sleeping bag or blanket will be useful if you want to get sleep there. We did notice a little motel very nearby as well, and thought to ourselves, if it was raining that might be worth a little splurge.

Major exchanges five (South Lewis High School) and six (Adirondack Central High school) are the best spots to get some shuteye. Both of them have shower facilities with towel rentals available, coffee, breakfast available for purchase, and a gymnasium with the lights out so you can catch some real zzzzzzzs. Of course there will be a steady flow of runners walking into and out of the gym setting up or packing up their sleeping gear, so a pair of cheap foam ear plugs might be helpful.

The best place on the entire race course to sleep is the Adirondack Central High school. The overhead fan in the gym provides some white noise that helps mask the rustle of other runners and you don’t need any Thermarests or air mattresses because you can just lie on top of the gym mats.

Post race

There are several hotels in and around Utica but not as many as Lake Placid.  Most hotels are a 15-20 minute walk from the finish area.  If you are in Van #2 you might finish before check in is available (3 PM at most hotels), I recommend grabbing a shower at the last major exchange, Adirondack Central High school before you drive to Utica. If you don’t shower at the school, you arrive in Utica tired and grubby with nothing to do except hang around the finish area or in restaurants until the finish party area opens at 3 PM or until you can get into your hotel room.  Obviously you want to be at the finish to run with your last runner across the finish line, but you will have some time to spare while van #1 finishes their last 6 legs.

The after party

2018-08-14_17-33-42The post race celebrations run from 3 PM to 8 PM at the Saranac Brewery.  Make sure to stop at the banner for a team photo. In addition to your medal, finishers also get to pick up a pint glass which entitles them to free refills during the party.  Make sure you eat some food too! You are probably sleep deprived, thirsty and hungry, that beer may go down a little too easily 🙂  The band is great and the atmosphere is fun. Take time to celebrate the fact you just ran over 220 miles! You would think everyone would leave the party by 6 PM because we are so tired, but they usually have to kick us out because there are lots of people still celebrating. You earned it!

Find more of my race reports and running related posts