Thursday, January 29, 2015

f^3 lake half marathon recap

Disclaimer: I received a free entry into the F^3 Lake Half Marathon 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!*

Plus a drawstring backpack.

A mere two weeks after the Dopey Challenge and a week after getting home from a cruise in which I ran the Castaway Cay 5K (completed the Castaway Cay Challenge),  I ran in the F^3 Lake Half Marathon. Well, running my might a very loose term in this case, as my body was very tired from the events two weeks prior and wasn't quite prepared for another half marathon yet. However, I had registered through BibRave, and had a commitment to fulfill (not that I was even thinking about backing out, I felt like I was ok to run, but once I hit the midway mark I could tell that I was exhausted).

One of the things that drew me to this race initially (before knowing about the possibility of running via BibRave) was the awesome SWAG that came with the race - knit winter hat + bottle opener medal (unique shape) + gloves + drawstring backpack free race photos + Goose Island Beer. That's a lot of great stuff.

I got the green one.

I was excited to have the chance to run this race as a BibRave Pro (it was my first race that I got a free entry for, even though I've done plenty wearing my tank and t-shirt :) ). I knew it was soon after Dopey, but figured I could handle it. Luckily, I was in pretty decent shape (and by shape, I mean I was still able to walk haha) after my first marathon, and I thought that was a good sign for the race.

They had multiple days and locations for packet pickup, which I always love and appreciate. I think it's important for races to do this, especially if there is no race day pick up (which was the case here), because it can be hard for people that live in the suburbs, or are coming from out of town, to get to pickup on a Thursday or Friday in the city. I was able to hit up Road Runner Sports, the Friday pickup location, around 11am. There was no line, and I just showed my ID and my mom's registration email to pick up both of our packets.

Packet Pickup for Road Runner Sports

The race was on Saturday, January 24. Somehow, here in Chicago, we REALLY lucked out with the weather. It was in the mid-30's and mostly sunny with a touch of wind that made the feel like in the upper 20's/lower 30's. For mid-January, that's really something. The course was clear of snow and ice, and only had some puddles here and there from the snow on the grass melting. 

Parking was available at Soldier Field in their north parking garage for $22. Once you parked, you could enter the United Club from level 3 of the garage - no need to even go outside! Loved this feature. There was a bit of a line to get into the parking lot, but I think I only waited maybe 10 minutes to get in, which I don't think is bad at all. I found parking to be fairly painless. 

The pre- and post-race portions were held inside. They had gear check, which I didn't utilize, as well as an area to pick up any extras you might have purchased (zip up, 2014 knit hat, or an extra 2015 knit hat). They also had these items for sale, along with some coffee mugs, pint glasses, etc. 

Being inside also meant indoor plumbing! Being able to use a warm bathroom that has running water and soap is always a plus. The bathroom I used actually had a short line, while the men's was out the door – I don't think I've ever seen that before.

It was pretty crowded, but I managed to spot Julia in the crowd, push my way through calling her name, and was able to say hi/take a photo :) I also met a twitter friend, Kim, finally. She called out to me when I was coming out of the bathroom – so glad she spotted me and said hi! She was very sweet and easy to talk to. She PR'd, so a big congrats to her!

I spotted Julia!

Gear check opened at 8:00am for a 10:00am race start. At 9:40am they did a warm up by the stage. At 9:48am, they led the runners outside to the start line. As far as corrals, they had pace signs up (went by minutes, so 9:00 min/mile, 10:00 min/mile, etc... not sure what they started with, though), so people could line up according to pace, and then at 10:00am the race began, starting in waves. It was maybe 2–3 minutes between each section. There were about 1900 participants in the half marathon. I didn't notice any issues with congestion, though I was mostly at the back-of-the-pack for the majority of the race.

Schedule of Events.

For those that didn't want to run the half marathon, they also had a 5K that started at 10:20am. Their goodie bag consisted of tech gloves and a pint of Goose Island Beer (beanie hat and medal for half marathon only).

I really enjoyed the course – I don't usually get the chance to go so far south on the lakefront path during a race (generally they're shorter distances), so it was nice to have some new scenery, plus there's something serene about the city in the winter—the lake, the skyline, all of the pretty sculptures along the path—made for great eye candy. But really, not having issues with congestion on the path is a RARITY, and I think it helped that being winter, there were less non-racers on the path and not as many cyclists as usual. Granted, the participation number wasn't as high as most other races that are on the path, but I was really happy I didn't have to do a lot of weaving.

The course.

Unfortunately, I was slower than I would have liked to be. I did the race with my mom, and we decided on 30 seconds running and 2 minutes walking to start off. Usually we can increase the running or decrease the walking times, but not this day. Since my body was pretty tired, I just couldn't get myself to go much faster. I was having some problems breathing, and I didn't want to risk injury or any health issues, so we just kept it slow.

The problem with this, even though we were within the packing requirement, was that the last two water stops were no longer serving (even though plenty of volunteers were still around), and at the finish there was no chocolate milk or KIND bars. HUGE bummer. Once we got inside, we went searching for hot chocolate, to find that was also all gone. Boo.

Other than that, it was a great race. The course was clearly marked, with mile marker flags at every mile. The volunteers were energetic and supportive. Having a later start time means sleeping in later, and generally a bit warmer temps. The weather was near perfect. Being able to stay warm before and warming up after the race inside was an amazing plus, and would definitely be even more inviting/welcoming on a colder race day (so hopefully it stays at this venue – this was my first year, but I heard last year was at Montrose Harbor). The after party went until 4pm. I would have stuck around longer, but I had to get to a party and left at about 2pm. 

Race results were up quickly that same day, and you could find a link to photos on their website. I also appreciated the Facebook message posted on their page thanking everyone for coming out. It was heartfelt and I thought it was a nice tough. They sent out a survey the following day as well, which to me is always a positive thing to so – it means they care about how it went for all the runners and will be doing what they can to improve for the next year.

I'll definitely consider this race again next year. Check out my BibRave Review here. I also noticed that they organize the Waterfall Glen Xtreme 10 that I was looking into last year, but wasn't able to do and was hoping to this year. That's July 7, so I'll keep you posted if I decide to register :)

Connect with F^3 Running:
Website | Facebook Twitter - my photo was retweeted by them :)

*Though I received a free entry into this race, as always, all opinions and thoughts are honest (and mine).


  1. Looks like an awesome race! Congrats! Honestly, it took me SEVERAL weeks to feel "normal" again after Dopey. Give it a little more time -- your speed will definitely return!

    1. Thank you! It was a great race, and a beautiful day. Let's be honest, my 'speed' was never anything to write home about, but it'll be nice to get back to normal ;)


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