Monday, April 7, 2014

That Momma Can Run and Run and Run. Chicago Lakefront 50k Recap

Michelle and I after the race.
I had been looking forward to this race ever since I had signed up for it.  What could be better?  A long run along the lake in beautiful Chicago, one of my favorite cities to run in.  Not only that I was finally going to meet my friend Michelle who runs the page This Momma Runs on Facebook.  She has always been so supportive to my page.  I was going to be using this run as a training run for my upcoming 100 mile ultra in Riverside, CA at the Nanny Goat 100 in May.  What was so awesome about this is that I would be pacing Michelle the entire race.  This was going to be her first 50k and I told her I wasn't going to leave her side and would make sure we finished this thing together.

The day before the race I got to meet Michelle and her husband Michael for the first time.  They picked me up at my hotel and we went and got our packets.  After that we had lunch together.  I had some pasta for lunch. Right away I felt as if I had known them for years and we were just picking up from where we left off.  Michelle is just as sweet and kind as she is online. Her and her husband Michael are both real, kind, and genuine people.  We talked about running of course and our families.  They've got 4 girls and I've got 3 so we can relate in that way as well.  Another thing I discovered is that neither of us stretch before or after a run.

Me before the race in my Quantum Cool Active Training Jacket from 180s.
My normal meal the night before a race is a sandwich from Subway.  19 marathons/ultra's prior to this and I have had that at every race the night before except for one other race, and now this one.  Yes, I know, I deviated from the normal pre race ritual.  What ever am I going to do?  No subway sandwich before this race!!  It will be ok, I promise.  Besides, I don't eat a subway sandwich before every run I do.  At 865 days in a row that could get rather expensive.  :)  Instead I ended up at this place called Michael Diversey's.  It's a local bar that was less than a block from my hotel.  Wasn't too crowded.  I ordered chicken strips and waffle fries.  If I'm going to deviate I might as well go all out!!  Those were some of the best chicken strips I have ever had and they were the size of the plate.  Huge!!  Great meal.

I am never usually able to sleep the night before the race.  Tossed and turned all night and got up around 4 am.  I was excited to get to run with Michelle and Amanda today.  I decided to go ahead and get up.  Race didn't start till 8:30 am so I had plenty of time to get there.  I never usually eat before a race and this race was no different.  I know people tell me you gotta eat something before you run like that.  How do you do it?  All I can say is it works for me.  It was pretty easy to find the place to park and there was plenty of parking available.  It was like $1.25/hour to park right at the start/finish line.  I got there at 7:30 am and was waiting on Michelle and my friend Amanda from to get there. They got there shortly after me and we talked for a bit and got some pictures before the race.  I also got to meet Michelle's beautiful family.  Her 4 precious little girls.  Now I know why she is smiling all the time.  What a great family that is very supportive of mommy.

We got started right at 8:30 am.  Couldn't have asked for better weather.  Perfect conditions in Chicago along the lake, around 45 degrees, sunny and no wind.  It is a little over 5 mile out and 5 mile back where you do it 3 times.  There are aid stations at the start, around 2.5 miles in and at the turnaround stocked with anything you could need.  I carried some gels on me and used the water at the aid stations.  I had talked to Michelle about her race strategy before the race.  Her goal was to
finish.  She wanted to start out around 10 minute miles and see how it felt from there but the ultimate goal was to finish the race withing the 7 hour time limit.  We get started with a large group.  I was running alongside Michelle and Amanda with other members of Amanda's running club joining in with us.

1st loop:  I'm running alongside Michelle and we are just talking up a storm.  Like we have known each other for years and just getting caught up on old times.  We are a little ahead of pace at the turnaround.  I asked her several times throughout the race how she was feeling.  Each time she said she was feeling fine.  I would look over at her and her stride and form always looked good even in the later stages of the race.  I'm sure she probably got sick of me asking her how she was feeling after me asking her about 20 times, :) but I wanted to make sure she was doing OK.  31 miles is still a lot of running for anyone.  Before you know it we are at the turnaround and about 5 miles in.  That was probably the quickest 5 miles has ever felt like in a race for me.  I never usually have anyone to run with during a race or talk with so the change and the company was quite nice.  First 5 mile splits were 9:50, 9:32, 10:02, 9:30, 9:37.   We get the turnaround and I take my first gel with some water.  We meet Michelle's friend Karen who is going to run the next 10 miles with us.  Karen is such a
sweetheart and you can tell her an Michelle are good friends just by the way they are together.  We do some more talking and the group is still holding together nicely.  I keep running ahead of everyone in order to get pictures of them.  I was kinda the race photographer for Michelle and the group in this race as well.  I wanted to make sure she had some pictures to remember this experience by because you only run your first ultra marathon once.  I'd run ahead then get some pictures as they ran by, then run to catch back up with them.  Before you know it,  here we are, at a little more than 10 miles and ready for our 2nd loop.  Splits for the miles 6-10 were 10:30(stopped at aid station), 9:33, 10:10, 9:22, 9:24.  Still a little ahead of pace and Michelle is looking strong.

2nd loop:  We continue on and continue to talk and enjoy this beautiful weather.  I never knew a 31 mile training run could be so great.  Seems effortless as the miles continue to fly by.  Before you know it we are at the turnaround again and half way done.  I decide to take another gel at this point so I can continue to talk Michelle's ear off.  The caffeine in those things have that effect on me.  We spot Michelle's little girls and her husband cheering for her.  So proud of mommy yelling and screaming go mommy as we run by.  We drop Michelle's friend Karen off.  Karen stays with her kids while her hubby Michael joins us for a couple miles before heading back for the kids.  We have lost the group by now and it is Michelle and I running together for the rest of the way.   We do see the group the rest of the way in passing and they are looking pretty good.  We are still just talking away to each other and before you know it we are coming up on 20 miles!!  2 loops down, 1 to go!!  Mile splits for this 10 were 10:56 (stopped at aid station), 9:36, 9:24(slow down Michelle), 9:41, 9:35, 10:21, 9:37, 9:40, 10:30, 9:51.  I'm still asking her how she's feeling and she still tells me I'm doing OK which I know even if she wasn't she wouldn't tell me.  She is still looking strong as ever as we continue on for the final loop.  We got this Michelle!!

 3rd loop:  We get to talking and I ask her about her marathon PR.  She is on pace to break that in the 50k.  I tell her to stop looking at her watch and just stay focused and lets just keep talking.  We keep talking and going.  I keep asking her how you feeling and she always smiles and says I'm good.  She is still looking good and running strong.  We get to the final turnaround and she stops to get a little nutrition at the aid station.  I tell her, come on, less than a 10k, lets get to the next one then we've got less than a 5k.  We get to the marathon point in the race and I tell her look at this.  She has just beat her marathon PR by almost 10 minutes!!  At the marathon point she is at 4:22!!  The 6 miles up to the marathon were 11:47(she had to pee. LOL), 10:05, 9:47, 11:20, 10:49 and 10:49.  26.2 miles in an average pace of 10:00 exactly.  She was doing so amazing in her first 50k.  She has such a huge heart and you could tell throughout this race.  We get to the final aid station and I tell her, lets do this.  Less than a 5k left.  I told her, look, that is a new record for you.  Most miles you have ever run.  I could tell she was getting just a little tired but her huge heart kept pushing her on.  I just keep talking and she is still talking to me at this point.  My favorite part on a run is hitting the 30 mile mark and getting out of the 20's.  That is almost like a whole other level.  My garmin beeps and I tell her look at that. 30 miles!!  Doesn't that look cool on your watch to hit 30 miles.  There is a smile on her face and sense of pride.  I tell her that is one of my favorite numbers to get to when running.  It gets you to a whole other level.  I can see an extra spring in her step now!!  About 1/10 of a mile from the finish line we spot her little girls and her husband there cheering for her yelling yay mommy!!  3 of her little girls decide to join mommy and cross the finish line with
her.  It is the sweetest thing I have ever seen.  I actually had a hard time holding back the tears on that one.  Just something about little ones and emotions of a race that get the best of you.  The last 5 miles were at 12:03, 11:32, 12:39, 10:59, 10:41 and we finished together with the exact same time of 5:21:45.  That is a heck of a time for a first 50k.

During the race we basically talk about everything. College, how we met our spouses, running, our kids, what are running goals are.  You can talk about a lot of things in over 5 hours of running and get to know someone pretty well.  You learn a lot about a person talking with them for that long and we basically talked the entire time.  It made the miles fly by and such a enjoyable experience.

Overall it was a great race, I highly recommend it to anyone who is wanting to do their first ultra marathon or one that is wanting to run a fast 50k this is the course to do it on.  It is a flat course and very well organized race with a nice medal and a nice race shirt.  Smaller sized race of about 200 people with amazing views along the lake.

This was running streak day 865 for me.  The next day I went and ran again.  I did a half marathon recovery run for day 866 and today did a 5k on my rest day for day 867.  I will continue my running streak for as long as I can because that's what I love to do.  Run!!

I got to meet so many awesome people during this race.  I got to see my friends Kim and Sky as well as Jennifer from Blonde Bun Runner Stephanie from Runtrimom and a some of the members of the Frankfort-New Lenox Running Club which is the club that Amanda runs with.

What a great day in Chicago. 50k done. Marathon/Ultra #20 complete for me. Got to run with some amazing people. Helped pace my awesome friend Michelle from This Momma Runs to her first 50k finish where she did amazing beating her marathon PR during this race. I also got to run with my good friend Amanda from which was her 2nd 50k. To me running isn't always about breaking PR's. I got more joy out of today's run than I do out of breaking PRs. My joy was seeing Michelle all the way through to the finish and the look on her face knowing she was doing this and going to do this as we got to the finish. The joy was seeing her husband there supporting her and running some with her. The joy was seeing her little girls join her during the last part of the race and cross the finish with her. That to me is what running is all about.  This was an amazing day, an amazing experience and I got to run with an incredibly amazing, powerful, strong person with a huge heart and a passion for running like me.  Just that experience alone for me is better than any PR or Boston Qualifier.  It is a race I will never forget.

Michelle and I before the race in my Quantum Cool Active Training Jacket from 180s.