Monday, August 22, 2016

humboldt park 5k recap

Disclaimer: I received an entry for RAM Racing Humboldt Park 5k to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!

Feel free to read my shorter Pros/Cons list over on BibRave.

I have never ran the Humboldt Park 5k. The only time I had been to Humboldt Park was for Riot Fest back in August or September of 2014, and it looked much different this time around haha. This race was held on Sunday, August 14, 2016 in conjunction with Humboldt Park Community Wellness Fair.

Registration is super easy with RAM Racing, especially if you have an account. You can log in to see all of your upcoming races. One major bonus to having an account is being able to add on packet mailing at any point in time, up until about 2 weeks prior to the race. Turned out my weekend was going to be quite busy, and not knowing what the packet pickup would be, I added it on for $15. 

I received my packet about 5 days prior to the race and it included my bib, awesome water bottle, and some safety pins. It also had a little typed note thanking me for registering, what was inside the package, and where I could get more race day information (web address). Having the packet mailed is super convenient, and worth the cost if it means I don't have to drive into the city and deal with traffic and parking.

If you didn't get it mailed, they did offer pickup on Saturday, August 13 at Fleet Feet Chicago Old Town from 10am – 6pm, and then again at the race site from 6:30 – 8am. (If I had known soon enough, I would have just done pickup on race morning, but no biggie).

The only minor problem I had with this race was that I didn't know the area well, and so didn't know what parking was like. Was it metered? Were there garages? Is it free and plentiful? The only information available on the participant guide was that they highly suggest walking, biking, or taking public transportation to get there. I don't live in the city, so this wasn't an option for me. I found it surprising that they didn't offer any other parking tips, since they were so great at letting us know about parking for North Shore Classic back in June. 

Turns out I didn't have to worry, as there was plenty of free street parking right up against the park near the start/finish. I had asked fellow Pro Kim (who ended not being able to race, but lives nearby) for ideas on where to park, so it was nice having something going into it. When I got there, I saw one car parked with a 13.1 magnet on the back, so turned around and parked in front of him. I saw no signs saying parking wasn't permitted, but still waited for about 4 other cars to park in front of me before feeling confident haha. I'm a worrier!

I got to the race pretty early, as I gave myself ample time to get lost / deal with parking. I ate a snack bar, caught up on social media, and then with about 45 minutes until race time, I got my gear ready to go (aka put on my bib, headphones, visor, etc.) and hopped out of the car. I went to the race area where yoga was taking place, but my main focus was the portapotties. There were about 11 there and no lines.

The kids 1 mile race started at 8, and there was music and an announcer keeping things entertaining until the 8:30 start of the 5k. It was weird being there alone, as I do most races with my mom (who was busy with her sister and couldn't come with me). I enjoyed myself nonetheless.

I was shocked when I got my bib and I was in corral B. I was like whoa - did I put the right estimated finish time in? Then when I got there, I realized why. There were only A and B corrals haha. Now I get it ;)

At the start line.

Corral A was released at 8:30am on the dot. Corral B was around 8:33. It seemed like a smaller race, less than 1,000, which gave it a laid back feeling. Plenty of walkers and runners on the slow side (like me), along with the elites and speedy runners. It was a nice mix. With a smaller field and a wide course (even if half was sectioned off for runners coming back, as it had some out and back portions), there wasn't much congestion or issues with crowding, from where I was at least. When looking at results there were about 700 runners/walkers. I like RAM events because it allows a 15 min/mile pace, so you can get a lot of different speeds of folks out there.

The course was scenic and pretty, and the weather was pretty good for a summer day in August. It was in the 70s/low 80s, mostly sunny, and about 70% humidity. It's sort of hard to explain the course, other than it looked like an 'M' with some out and backs. I'll just post a photo to give a better idea, but it was clearly marked, and plenty of volunteers out there cheering and guiding you the correct way.

There was one aid station around the mid-way mark and it had Nuun at the first few tables (Nuun cups) and then water at the next few. Volunteers shouted out what they had, making it easy. There were a few potholes/uneven parts, so I'd say just be careful of where you're going and take care of your footing, but I didn't notice anyone have any problems, including my clumsy self.

I was doing 45/30 intervals which felt comfortable, and then I pushed a bit the last .25 miles or so. I was at the finish line by myself, which is rare, but quite fun. The announcer mentioned my outfit was on point (I really take that as a huge compliment, because I usually feel like I am just awkward haha). It also meant I got some great FREE photos to download of me at the finish line. Smiling. YAY!

Had to add some calf sleeves due to shin/calf pain the day before the race.

After crossing the finish I got a bottle of water and a bag of goodies that included Clif Trail Mix Bar, mini pretzels, Creme de Pirouline, Nature Valley Chewy bar, and a Rice Krispy Treat. I stuck around a bit longer to cheer on other finishers and grab a cup of Nuun from the tent near gear check, and then headed on home to run a few more miles to get in my scheduled total for the day.

I would recommend this race to anyone in the Chicagoland area. I enjoy unique swag—I love racing shirts if they are the right fit, but I do have so many it was nice to get something different. The course was interesting (good interesting) and it was a well-organized event. Even by myself I still had plenty of fun, and now that I know the parking situation, next year will be a breeze.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

btn big 10k recap

Disclaimer: I received an entry for RAM Racing BTN Big 10k to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!

Feel free to read my more succinct (and of course, my personal opinion) Pro/Con list of the race over on

Ok, so I'm not insanely into college sports (or honestly, care much about them at all), but I DO love to run races. Of course when the opportunity to run BTN Big 10k came up, I opted in, and was lucky enough to receive an entry. I was super excited because three other pros got in, including my BRF Angie.

Now, I didn't go to any of the schools that are in the Big Ten, so I went with what I'll call my 'sister' school U of I. I visited that place quite frequently, as a TON of friends from the neighborhood went there. I went to UIC myself, aka the U of I in Chicago. The University of Illinois system comprise three campuses — Urbana-Champaigne, Chicago, and Springfield. Anyway, I did think about just going with the generic option ('BTN Fan' gender-specific tech shirt), but U of I seemed fitting enough for me, plus orange and blue = Bears as well. And orange, because BibRave ;) But anyway...

So, when registering, you chose the school you wanted to represent. Your options were Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, or Wisconsin.

Packet pickup was available the week of the race from Tuesday–Friday at Fleet Feet Sports Old Town location, 10am – 8pm each day. That's pretty awesome. I had a meeting in the city on Tuesday, August 2, so I went at about 2pm to grab my packet. Pickup was a breeze, even with the other 2 packets I had to grab. The other two also got extra swag – bandana (thanks to the BibRave code) and a water bottle. I didn't even have to mention those items to get them – they were on top of it! All packets I grabbed were of different schools, too. For everyones packet (including your own), just provide your QR code that they sent via email.

Front and back of the shirts I picked up at packet pickup.
Best on the right, of course ;)

They had plenty of people working, so even if it were busy, I think there wouldn't have been much wait. They validate parking there, too, so I only had to pay $2 instead of $12. You could also have chosen to get your packet mailed, which I think was $10–$15. No race day pickup, but I think with the amount of days they had it available, that's acceptable.

RAM Racing did a great job at communicating everything about the race. What amenities were on course and what would be at each station, the new course for 2016, corral info, and then about a week or two before the event, you could find a participant guide on the website that detailed just about anything you might have a question about.

I had to wear my BibRave gear for the event rather than my school shirt, but worked out perfectly, as it's orange. So I added a blue Sparkle Athletic skirt to make the perfect Illinois race outfit.

Heading to the start corrals.

For the race, mom and I parked at Soldier Field. It was a quick walk post-race, but maybe 15 minutes to get to the start line. We met up with Angie, Frank, and Kelly. The Pros took the opportunity to take some fun photos before heading to corrals. Corrals weren't being monitored, though if you were in A–C, you wanted to be there with time to spare, because they blocked those off maybe 10–15 minutes before the race start. I was in Corral H... the last one, so had no worries. Angie and Kelly decided to run slow with me, and it was a ton of fun. It was nice to be able to take mid-run selfies, or just fun photos of each other running (without being asked) with great backdrops like the lake or the skyline. We did 45/30 run/walk intervals, except for the inclines (Angie told me Chicago has no hills, so I couldn't call them hills) in which I prefer to walk up and run down haha.

Instead of explaining the courses multiple turns, I'll just show a map here:

It was nice to have the first few miles on the streets of Chicago. It helped with congestions and allowed for a more enjoyable race experience. Also, I do a LOT of races on the LFP, so it was nice to have a little bit of scenery change. (Don't get me wrong, the LFP is awesome and beautiful views... but a change is always nice).

Obligatory pre-race selfie!

Frank, Angie, me.

My one issue with the lower portion of the path, the part that's next to the lake, is that it's filled with bumps and potholes and cracks. I'd love it if the city would fix it. It's been like this way too long. I know it's not the races fault, but definitely something you want to be aware of if you run down there ever. Watch your footing.

At the aid stations they had Nuun first and then water. This made it easy to know where to go for what you wanted. I do believe they were in different cups, too (Nuun cups for Nuun and then something more plain I think for water). The 10k had 3 stops. There were also two opportunities for fun slip-n-slide inflatable tube type action, which Angie took advantage of. While it was 'cooler' temps when we started, that sun heated up the place real quick. I know I was crazy sweaty by the end. I was glad to have brought my Orange Mud Endurance Pack with ice water in the bladder, so I could drink a little bit every few minutes. At 7:05 it was 71 with 73% humidity, and I'm pretty sure it was in the 80s when we finished, with bright, sunny skies.

Great day!

What being a Pro means... being on your phone all the time,
even during races for Snap Chat, photos, videos, etc.

Slip n Slide fun!

After you finish, you received a bottle of water, a towel you could dip into ice cold water (if you got there in time. The side we were on were out of towels, though there were some unused ones near the boxes on the floor that I snagged, and then people used the bottled water tubs to soak their towels), and then you proceeded to your school's area to grab your medal. There was a tag on the bib you had to rip off to exchange for your medal. Each school had it's own ribbon, and then the medals were the same. You also could get bananas and Clif Bars (their new nut butter fills!).

Almost finished :)

The Finish Line!

Silly Josh!

The post-race party was where it's at. Each school had it's own tent, and you could go chat with alumni, take photos with a backdrop, and grab school sunglasses. There was Goose Island 312, Amylou Sausages (spicy or savory) which included ketchup, mustard, pretzels, handy wipe, and these delightful creme de Pirouline. It was all very filling.

It's important to hydrate post-race.

Great medal.

There was music, games, and photo ops with cheerleaders and mascot. We met up with Cass and took some more Pro photos, along with plenty of laughs and chit chat. Josh, Kelly, Angie, my mom and I stayed till about the end, which was 11. 


She's funny.

BibRave Pros!
Angie, me, Frank, and Cass

Then we all (minus Kelly) went to Dunkin' Donuts for some snacks. We said goodbyes around 12, when mom and I had to hit up Road Runner Sports for packet pickup for another race the next day. Always busy! It was sad to say goodbye to my BRF and her #ProSpouse, as we didn't know when we'd see each other again. Boohoo. Good thing we talk everyday at least ;)

Rio Donuts. Getting into the Olympic spirit! haha.

I'd definitely encourage any one to run this race. Don't be shy or afraid if you aren't into the Big 10 stuff. You can enjoy it even if you know practically nothing, like me :)

RAM Racing is really hitting their stride and nailing it with the Chicago races (that's all I've run, I'm sure the others are great too) - amazing swag (which has been happening for quite some time), but also just great all around. Enjoyable courses, cool shirts, fun post-race party, large post-race party so it didn't feel too crazy crowded (even though it was pretty dang crowded!). Really fun. I think something they do right is send out a survey after their races to get feedback from the runners. They take into consideration what the runners say and then adjust to make things better the following year. I'm guessing maybe the crowd was too big to have a Soldier Field start? Maybe too much congestion on the course? So they moved it. I can't verify that's why it was moved, but from what I've heard, seems like maybe that's why.

Either way, kudos to them on another successful race, and I'm looking forward to running a bunch more of their races in the next few months (I just did the Humboldt Park 5k for the first time on Sunday it was awesome).

Read what the other Pros had to say about the race:

By the way, want to run any of these with me? Great swag and I've done the first two before and had a blast!

Friday, August 26
Soldier Field at 7pm
A cool black technical t-shirt with a reflective log (gender specific)
Amylou Sausages and Bell's Brewery
Maggie Speaks
Code: BibRaveRTN = free RAM Racing multi-funcitonal bandana/headwrap

Saturday, September 10
Grant Park, Chicago at 7am (both half and 5k)
Men and Women both welcome and encouraged to participate!
Awesome 2016 medal, long-sleeve tech shirt (gender specific)
Code: BibRaveMM = free RAM Racing multi-funcitonal bandana/headwrap

Sunday, September 18
Blurr Elementary School Grounds in Bucktown at 8:30am
Amazing technical fleece-lined hoodie featuring the Chicago flag (gender specific)
Code: BibRaveBT = free RAM Racing multi-funcitonal bandana/headwrap

Sunday, August 7, 2016

orange mud endurance pack review

Disclaimer: I received the Orange Mud Endurance Pack to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review, find, and write race reviews!

It's no secret that I LOVE all Orange Mud products. I have the Orange Mud Hydra Quiver Double Barrel and the Orange Mud Hydra Quiver Vest Pack 1. I barely go for a run without one of them. When the chance to test out the new Endurance Pack came up, I jumped at the opportunity. I'm usually not into bladder packs, but I knew Orange Mud would knock the product out of the park. 

I was super excited to come home from my Mad Half Marathon function to the Orange Mud package. I ripped it open and found the green Endurance Pack. Yay! It was so pretty. Along with it came a note from the Orange Mud CEO giving some tips that were very helpful.

Filled up and ready to go.

The Orange Mud Endurance Pack uses a HydraPak 2L bladder. I had only used the kind of bladders with the screw on caps, so I won't lie, I had to do research to figure out how to use this new one (such as - how do I open it? haha). I'm sure it was obvious to some, but oh well. Anyway, it was really easy - just slide off the black plastic piece and unfold the top to fill. 

Once the bladder is in the pocket, you then pull the velcro
through the loop in the plastic top of the bladder and secure it closed.

A few notes on the bladder pack:
  • Shape-Shift™ 2L Reservoir - lock baffle for slim profile, unlock for volume
  • Slide-Seal™ Top - opens wide and seals tight
  • Blaster™ Valve - silicone, high flow bite-valve with twist shut off
  • Plug-N-Play™ Connector - quick disconnect for convenient tube removal
  • Quantum Clip™ - magnetic tube fastener set
  • Can be frozen or filled with warm water (max temp 140°F / 60°C)
  • Inline filtration compatible
  • Reversible and anti-microbial to prevent bacteria & mold
  • 100% BPA and PVC Free
  • Durable, built for a lifetime of tough use, No-Leak™ Lifetime Guarantee
  • Rinse before use. Reverse to clean and dry after each use. Dishwasher safe (top rack recommended).

Different days you guys - I just like to wear the same 3 tank tops in summer haha.

I found the bladder easy to fill and use. You can remove the straw and the mouthpiece to easily rinse out the straw and keep it clean/easier to dry. I washed the bladder portion in the dishwasher and never had any problems. The bladder never leaked and I had no problems with it during the many uses. I really liked that the bladder could be turned inside out to clean and dry. That helps to ensure a good clean and dry so that it keeps mold and bacteria away (my usual concern with previous bladders - I found they got gross quickly and they were tough to clean). Also, if you blow in the straw after washing, it'll help empty the tube of excess water so it can dry better. Oh, and also, I found it easy to drink from while on the run.

Lucky for me, my husband does home brew (as well as brewing at a brewery), so he has this sanitizer that is perfect for cleaning things like the tube/straw of this pack (toss it all in a bucket and let it soak for a bit). Helps me know that the straw is clean and bacteria free! I'll maybe do the sanitizing once a month with the straw and bladder, to give it a really good clean. My germaphobe self will be so happy.

If you feel the straw is too long, you can cut it shorter. If you are going to use it for biking and running, base your straw length off of the bike (it needs to be a bit longer for that than running).

Now onto the pack itself. It ROCKS. There is SO much storage space — two open chest pockets (which you can cinch tight if you need) which easily holds my iPhone 6 in its huge case. I also used the other pocket for kleenex, keys, and my BUFF. Then there are two shoulder pockets with a velcro closure. In there you can store your chews, gel, or whatever fuel you like to use along with plenty of other things. Need a snack during your long run, bike, or hike? Toss it in there. I used the shoulder pockets for my inhaler, chopstick and anti-bacteria gel in one and then any chews or snacks (like a Clif Bar) in the other.

Then there's the whole back! There's a smaller pocket on the front that zips - keep your keys (though if they are sharp, put them in the back so you don't accidentally rip your bladder). I liked keeping my ID and money in there. Then there's another pocket up on top that is open and you can slide things in - such as Wet Wipes, snacks, hydration packets. So like I said, tons of extra storage space.

Also, I just saw on their site a 15oz Ultraflask that you can toss in the chest pocket! It has a removable straw, so you can either use it with or without. I want to get that for my electrolyte drink. I've been using just water in the bladder, I haven't felt the need to use electrolytes in it as of yet, and not sure I'd need 70oz of it, but a nice smaller one would be nice. I did like having the water to squirt out and use to wash my hands or cool off my face, so this gives you the option to have both. Love that. 

I used it on runs as short as 5 miles and as long as 16. I'd fill it with ice and water, and on the hot, sunny days, I usually drank most of it during an 8 miler haha. I'm a very thirsty person when running. I also found it helpful to just fill it all the way, even if I didn't think I'd need it, because then I knew I'd have plenty - can use to cool me off, or if it got too hot in the tube, I could water some grass and then get the cold stuff. I don't think I ever ran out, though. I did do a refill for my 16 miler, because it was broken down into 6 and 10 (race day then extra miles), so since I stopped home before finishing the miles, I figured might as well refresh the bladder. I found the ice didn't melt as quickly as I anticipated in those 100 degree days. If you have the energy, you could also blow the water out of the tube back into the bladder to keep it cool, but honestly, when I was getting tired and had a hard time breathing, I didn't have the energy to blow it out and back up again haha, plus, with drinking as much as I do, it usually didn't have too much time to heat up in there.

Angie and I both wore ours for RAM Racing BTN Big 10k.

I've had the pack for about a month, and used it 3–4 times a week, so it's gotten about 14 uses thus far. It is very comfortable and easy to put on. You can  easily tighten or loosen the straps. There's also two front straps that are adjustable length wise, and you can move them up and down to fit your body. I'll say at first it seemed a little awkward, as for a woman, the straps basically, um, hug the top and bottom of your chest. I got used to it quickly though, and didn't feel embarrassed or anything. Being able to adjust it though, makes it easy for all body types to use it. I've also used it for three races (all 10k, as I try to avoid half marathons in July in Chicago haha). I always used it with a bladder, but you could use it without if it's a short run or hike, or something in which you don't need water but more storage space for clothes or something.

In action. Thanks for the photo Ang!

I've washed it once. Hand washing is best, especially for long term use, with a scent free detergent. I'm gonna be honest with you here. I'm not much of a hand washer of clothes or products. I put it in a laundry bag and then on the delicate cycle in our front loader, which is very gentle. Then I hang it to dry. I really should try hand washing next time - I bought a small gentle brush to help with the scrubbing off of salt stains ;)

From the back.

Here's a breakdown of the Orange Mud Endurance Pack Details:
  • Pack Weight: - 270grams, 9.5oz. 
  • Dimensions: 10"W x 13" tall / Volume 6 liters.
  • Bladder: HydraPak 2L (70oz) elite, with quick disconnect and blaster valve. 
  • Compartment 1: Bladder compartment
  • Compartment 2: Main cargo
  • Compartment 3: Zippered elastic pocket with secure key clip.
  • MUDX Technology: Trekking Pole Attachment Option. 
  • Material details: Our stretch fabric is tough, abrasion resistant, & endurance designed. 
  • Shoulder pocket storage: Phone, gel, nutrition, electrolyte and more, both sides.
  • Front chest pocket storage: 17oz/450ml soft flask capable.
  • Front adjustments: 2 elastic straps have multiple adjustment locations.
  • Mountain Bike: Extremely stable on your body across the choppy stuff, and we extended the shoulder area a bit to allow freedom of movement. 4 front pockets allow for quick access of your essentials on the fly.
  • Running: Short runs or as long as you want to go. This hydration pack is loaded with features to take you any distance. 
  • Hiking: The conforming fit and quick access pockets paired with a very breathable frame means hiking bliss.  
  • Fit For Ladies: This pack is designed to be friendly with your curves. With multiple anchor points on each side and stretch elastic for the cross connect, you can configure it to fit your shape. The adjustability in sizing is very broad to cover nearly every size and shape.
  • Fit For Guys: This will fit up to about a 52" chest. When loaded things will change a bit, but we took the front shoulder depth and made it deeper than the Vest Packs (in case you're familiar with that fit). So a tad more girth and more vertical shoulder room. 

I would HIGHLY recommend this pack for everyone. It's comfortable, no bounce, and while the water does slosh (which is common with the bladder), I find it to be a soothing/relaxing sound. It didn't bother my back or anything. It comes in green, orange, and grey (which is sold out till 8/30). It costs $134.95 or $149.95 with trekking pole/shock cord upgrade. If you sign up for their newsletter, you can get 10% off your purchase.

It's hard to say which Orange Mud Pack I like best. They are all great in their own unique way, and I'll continue to use each one, depending on my mood, thirst level, weather, and the distance. They have fun colors for each product. I think the only one I don't have is the handheld (granted, I don't have each size, like the VP2, but a version of each one).

Join BibRave, the BibRave Pros, and the running community for #BibChat on Tuesday, August 9 at 8pm CT. I bet there will be a fun giveaway to a winner or two ;)

UPDATE: For this week only, Orange Mud is offering a 15% discount with code BibRAVE15. Use it now before it goes away! I think I'll be adding that flask to my collection. Boom.

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Read what the other Pros have to say:
Jessica | Mark | Angie | Amy | Erica | Emily | Jeremy