Thursday, June 30, 2016

30 days pop free!

I don't usually post much here unless it's running related, but I have reached a new accomplishment and wanted to share it, because it's a BIG deal to me.

I've been a pop drinker for as long as I can remember. I mean, as I kid I drank the usual juice boxes and things, but I know every now and again I would have a pop after a soccer game.

Eventually, as I got older, it became even more frequent. Once college hit, I think it became a one can of pop a day kind of thing. I've always tried to cut back, or give it up during Lent, but it never stuck (or went very well). Honestly, any time I tried to cut back, it made me want it more.

This year I set some pretty lofty goals for myself, including running a ton more miles than I did last year. With more miles I knew I needed to up my water intake (even without the miles, I knew I wasn't drinking enough). I've never been a big fan of water—too plain and I get tired of it quickly, which was a reason why I had trouble drinking enough of it. 

Since water wasn't my thinking, I ended up drinking a lot of Nuun. Unfortunately for me, they changed their formula and I'm not much of a fan. I know they changed it to make it with natural ingredients and less chemicals, but it's not my jam anymore.

I found these cool water bottles online (called Motivational Bottle) that have a timeline on them. So, you drink to a line on the bottle every hour until empty, refill, and go again. This helps so instead of being like I need to chug this cup of water pronto, it's just drinking a little bit all day long. It helped me a TON. Plus, I found water to be more interesting to me than it used to be. Yes, I still need to add flavor here and there, which is why I'm glad I found Skratch Labs (yum). I mix up my drinking with plain water and flavor so I don't get bored.

I've also found that by having fun water bottles, it makes me drink more, for whatever reason. I've been loving the Starbucks 'You Are Here' 18oz glass bottles. I have one from Chicago and one from California and I use them all the time, too.

I honestly wasn't even trying to not drink pop, but one day I realized it had been 5 days since my last one. And I didn't even crave it anymore. It was a natural phasing out—I was just drinking more water. I think if I had actively been thinking about it, it wouldn't have worked. Suddenly, it was 10 days without, and so I figured let's try to make it 30 days. And I can't believe it's been 30 already! The time flew.

I've also found that I enjoy sparkling waters more than I used to. Maybe since I'm no drinking as much sugar, they taste better to me than when I was younger. Whatever it is, I've found some La Croiz that I enjoy (cherry lime is my recent favorite). 

Now that I reached the 30 days, I'll allow myself a can of pop here and there, but I'm happy to report I don't feel that craving or need to have a can a day. I can eat pizza with water and be happy. My oh my, have I grown up! haha.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

chi town half marathon 2016 recap

This was my first year running the Chi Town Half Marathon. What originally interested me about this race was the swag - they had a unique medal and a fun 1/4 zip jacket. They offered mailing of the packets for $10, and since I didn't know what my work schedule would be or if I'd have time to get into the city for it, I figured it'd be worth it to pay for (plus, most races don't even tell you packet pickup location until later, so it was just an easier option). The packet came about a week before the race - it included my 1/4 zip jacket, bib with chip time device, safety pins, and a reusable little red bag.

The race location was moved from the Lincoln Park area to Montrose Harbor. I had just done the Back on My Feet Mardi Gras 10k at Montrose Harbor, so I at least knew the area and what parking would be like (though I was sorely mistaken, read on). Also, they were very good about communicating the new location, which was nice. Not all races do a great job with communication, so I appreciated the email and constant reminders on FB and follow up emails regarding the race. They also offered a shuttle service (buses) to take runners from the original start location/parking area to the new one, which I thought was a nice tough.

The race was on Saturday, April 9 with a scheduled start time of 8:15 for both the half and 10k. The temperature at the start was 27 feels like 16 with 14 mph winds.

Mom and I left the house with what I thought we be PLENTY of time to park and even hang out in the car before getting out into the cold. The exit for the race was extremely backed up when we got there. People cutting in line certainly didn't help (hello? what did you think this long line of cars was for?). It took about 20 minutes to get to the actual exit, and then... we had to just keep driving, down, down, down. It was about a mile later we found some parking. Lucky for us,there were some porta potties where we parked, so mom went there before we headed over to the race. I was nervous, because we weren't going to make it for the start, I just hoped they would let us start anyway. 

Welp, when we got there, they hadn't even started. AND it turned out they were doing waves. Lo and behold, we had to wait another 30 minutes before starting, which meant standing around in very cold and windy weather. Weather leading up to the race was pretty pleasant, and then the day before there was some snow. When we started, we found out that most of the path the race was on was covered in ice, black ice, or snow. It was a very treacherous course, which led to a lot of walking. Any time we thought it was clear, one of us would slip because of black ice. So, we walked. The wind was CRAZY. The waves were crashing pretty high. I'm pretty sure if I didn't have my BUFF that I'd had wind burn on my face. 

I don't know if it should have been on the race or the city to clear up the race course, but it was very disappointing that it was like that. I only saw one set of EMTs on course, and I'm not even sure they were there for the race. I would have expected a few more, since I'm sure there were plenty of falls.

The course was interesting, as it's part of the path that I don't run often. With the different waves happening and not starting until about 30 minutes after the start, I knew we wouldn't be finishing in the time limit they had set – the course was supposed to close at 11:30am. At one point, I couldn't see any other runners behind or in front of us, and thought we were the last ones on course. When we got back over to the path (the one path we were on lead us to the west side of Lakeshore Drive), and when we got back to the east side of LSD, we started to pass other runners (from the race). I don't know how we didn't see any of them ahead of us for so long. Maybe they had slowed down and we caught up. When we got back to the path near the lake, the sun was starting to melt some of the ice, so we were able to do more running towards the end than we were at the start.

The Chi Town Half Marathon Course Map.

I was afraid the whole finish line would be torn down by the time we finished, but thankfully, it was still up. We were able to receive our medals, get some pizza (yum) and grab a beer. The pizza tasted so good, and I was so happy that the beer was of the craft variety – Finch's Beer Co. (they had with them Chimera IPA) from Chicago. I love when races support local craft breweries. 
They were beginning to tear down, but I do believe they let all of the finishers finish and get their medals. They were quite a few that trickled in after us. I think they shut down maybe around 12:15/12:30ish.

The race had plenty of aid stations with water and gatorade, and I think generally if the weather hadn't been so rough it would have been a great event, I just wish parking hadn't been such a hassle and that the paths weren't so icy. But, we can't control Mother Nature, can we? I'll give this race another try next year. Knowing what the traffic/parking was like this year will help me plan better (if it's in the same location again). I'm always willing to give a race a second chance... though other than the ice problem I don't think the race itself could have done anything else to make things better. Parking and traffic is what it is in the city, so I don't fault them for that. I think the swag and communication was great, so think next year will be a go too.

A change of clothes and a warm car.

Warming up with some Starbucks and off to a birthday party.

You can read my more succinct BibRave Review here

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

chicago marathon training 2016: week 5

Week 5 of Chicago Marathon Training
Monday, June 13: Strength Train (week 8 - the final week of the program!)
Tuesday, June 14: 6 miles (40/30 and 30/30) CP; 1:23:03, 13:50 avg pace
Wednesday, June 15: Strength Train
Thursday, June 16: 6 miles (40/30) CP; 1:20:39 , 13:26 avg pace
Friday, June 17: Rest/Stretch/Roll
Saturday, June 18: 14 miles (30/30) CP; 3:21:51, 14:25 avg pace
Sunday, June 19: Rest

Week Total Mileage: 26

Marathon Training Mileage: 140.67
YTD: 566.99

I could not believe it was already the last week of my strength training program! I'll be starting it over again next week, and adjusting exercises to either be more advanced form, or upping the weight size. I'll definitely be focusing on the form, to make sure I am doing everything properly and hoping to get even more strength. Nothing has been coming easy to me yet, so figured another round without too much change would be a good idea before going too crazy with advanced forms ;)

I am definitely noticing a difference in my running and how my body feels during/after runs, and the strength training has significantly helped. I'm so glad I got wise and started up a program. I'm really happy with the one I chose too – it doesn't take too much of your time each week, but significantly helps your core and other major muscles that have to do with the runner's body and helping to prevent injury. 

I woke up early to do my run on Tuesday. I honestly turned off the alarm and thought about going back to sleep and just running when I got home from work. I decided to check the weather, and with thunderstorms in the evening, it was enough to get my butt out of bed. I didn't want to run on the treadmill using the intervals scheduled—such a pain to keep switching speeds on there so often/quickly. The run went nicely, with a 13:35 average pace. It was about 68 degrees out with 70% humidity and was partly cloudy. It was probably my most consistent pacing throughout the miles than I've had... ever. 13:34, 13:43, 13:32, 13:25, 13:42, and 13:41.

I managed to get up early again on Thursday for my 6 miles. I was quite impressed with myself haha. I'm much more of a lunch or evening runner, but with the hotter temps it's important to get my runs in before it's too miserable out. I didn't sleep great, and the first two miles felt tired. I got into a groove eventually, and the 6 miles felt fine dong 40/30 intervals throughout. 13:44, 13:27, 13:19, 13:21, 13:09, 13:36 for an average pace of 13:26. 

I'm starting to see improvements in my speed (or lack therefore), which is nice. It's always a great feeling to see in the data that the hard work is paying off.

For my 14 miler I hit up the trails. I did a 9.5 mile loop, and it felt pretty good. At that point I stopped to fill up my bottle and wash my face down with water I had in the car. It was getting pretty warm out by this point and when I looked at the temps they were in the 80s. On the final 4.5 miles, I was mostly in the sun and I started to crash around mile 10. I took longer walk breaks, usually about a minute, so was doing 30/30 the first 12 miles and then it was more like 30/60. My legs were feeling good, but my body was struggling with the heat. I think a majority of the final mile was walking. 

The trails are more hilly, so it definitely shows in my pace. I ended with a 14:25 average pace, which I was disappointed in until I realized it's about a minute faster than I was doing last year around this time on my long runs on the same trails, so I'm getting faster and stronger. My legs are getting used to more miles, which is good. Mile splits: 14:07, 14:22, 14:19, 13:16, 13:41, 14:34, 14:28, 14:00, 14:16, 14:18, 15:02, 14:43, 14:48, 15:56.

Overall, I'm very happy with how training is going so far. I'm super happy to be working with Sweat Tracker, because there is no way I'd be able to figure out a proper training plan myself, or know how to even big transitioning into different run/walk intervals.

How's your training going?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

amphipod hydraform ergo-lite ultra 20oz. review

Disclaimer: I received Amphipod Hydraform Ergo-Lite Ultra™ 20ozto 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!

First run with the Amphipod Hydraform - 6 miles!

In Chicago, summer has arrived (and came early this year, it seems). What does that mean? Other than high temps, that also means high humidity. That means when I head out for a run, I'm sweating the instant I step outside, but the sweat doesn't dry to cool me down, thanks to the said humidity. Woof.

Anyway, this also means drinking all the liquids! Even on short runs, I'm carrying water with me. A lot of my training lately has had medium and long runs - not many short runs to speak of, but I've carried my Amphipod Hydraform Ergo-Lite Ultra during the Bears 5k, 6 milers, and 12 miles.

I think 13 miles is the longest I can go with a handheld, personally, since that takes me about 3 hours. I'm sure others can go longer since they run quicker ;)

71 degrees is nice, but sunny and 75% humidity is not.

It was perfect for my 6 milers. I filled it with ice (the wide mouth made that easy), water, and some Skratch Labs. I usually had it finished by the time I was done with run. I love the larger pocket. I have an iPhone 6, but with the Lifeproof case, which makes it pretty large and in charge. This is why I opted for the 20oz instead of the 16oz. It mentioned the 16oz was big enough for the iPhone 6, but the 20oz said iPhone 6 Plus or other large phones. I figured it would be my best bet of fitting, and I think I picked right. It also had a key clip, a smaller pocket inside for ID/cash. I was able to fit my phone, key, inhaler, and chapstick. The pocket was stretchy, which made it easier to squeeze things in.

Some details about the Amphipod Hydraform Ergo-Lite Ultra:
• Sized for XL phones
• Thumb-Lock™ sleeve design for grip-free ride
• Great for hot and cold weather use
• Removable sleeve is hand washable
• Huge expandable zipper pocket for easy access storage with key fob
• Internal pocket divider for ID or keys
• Cushioned, adjustable strap for the perfect fit
• Ergonomic bottle shape allows hand to rest in a natural position
• BPA-free and dishwasher safe bottle
• Easy-access outer gel slots for fast-access nutrition
• Insulated integrated sleeve keeps fluids cool and bottle/hands sweat-free
• Jet-Squeeze™ cap is leak free

12 miles on the trails.

After a few hot, sweaty runs I decided to give it a wash so I would be able to mention it in the review. It says hand washable, but I'm a rebel and tossed it by itself in the washing machine on delicate cycle (cold water, minimal spin dry) and then hung it on the drying rack. Worked great - no damage to the sleeve and nice and clean. 

I actually woke up early to run before going to work! Had to 'beat the heat' haha

I'll admit I wasn't always great at squeezing the bottle to get the liquid out (I usually found it more difficult once the bottle was getting close to empty) - but I found it easy to drink from just sucking it out from the cap like I do most other water bottles haha.

An evening run also required Knuckle Lights. 

The only issue I had with this bottle was getting the sleeve on the bottle. Since it was insulated, it was a rubber-like material on the inside of the sleeve, which meant it didn't easily slide on and off. I reached out to Amphipod for tips, and they mentioned rolling it off and on. I found the rolling off to be easier than rolling it on. After the first time off and on, it got easier with each time. Either it loosened up a bit, or I just got the hang of it. It was nice that it kept it insulated, as it didn't sweat all over my hand making it tough to hold the bottle, and kept my water/electrolyte drink cool longer.

Decided to bring it for the Bears 5k. Glad I did.
I think I drank half before even starting haha. It was hot!

The Amphipid Hydraform Ergo-Lite Ultra 20oz comes in either blue (with a clear bottle) or charcoal (with a neon yellow bottle) and costs $30. The 16oz comes in charcoal (with neon bottle), purple or aqua (both with clear bottles) and costs $28. 

I don't use gels, so I can't speak to the gel holders, but they seem nifty. I thought the bottle was very easy to hold... or perhaps I should say that it was so snug on my hand I didn't even really need to hold it. It was comfortable—the shape of the bottle fit nicely in my hand. I honestly didn't really notice it being there or my arm getting tired carrying it. 

After the Bears 5k. Thanks for keeping me hydrated!

I weighed the entire sleeve and bottle portion and it was about 5.06oz. Filled with water and with the pockets filled with my usual stuff (giant phone/case, inhaler, key, and Chapstick) it weighed in at about 2 pounds. Whoa. That sounds heavy, but I was fine carrying it. Maybe because I've gotten so muscular during my strength training haha. I'm guessing other people managed to have theirs way a lot less, as I'm the girl that has the heaviest phone/case + carries extra things.

If you're looking for a hydration solution for the summer (or all year round), I'd suggest looking into the Hydraform Ergo-Lite Ultra 20oz or 16oz. 

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Read what the other Pros thought:

Sunday, June 19, 2016

chicago marathon training 2016: week 4

Week 4 of Chicago Marathon Training
Monday, June 6: Rest Day
Tuesday, June 7: Strength Training Week 7, workout 1
Wednesday, June 8: 6 miles at CP (30/30); 1:23:03; 13:50 avg pace
Thursday, June 9: Strength Training Week 7, workout 2
Friday, June 10: Rest day
Saturday, June 11: 6 miles at CP (40/30 for 1.51 miles outside, then 40/30 for 1–4 on the treadmill, 30/30 the last .5 mile) 1.51 = 20:34, 13:39 avg pace. 4.5 treadmill = 54:25; 12:05 avg pace
Sunday, June 12: 12 miles at CP (30/30); 2:54:02, 14:30 avg pace

Week Total Mileage: 24.01 

Marathon Training Mileage: 114.67
YTD: 540.99

6 miles with my Amphipod Hydraform Ergo-Lite Ultra 20oz.
Perfect size for this thirsty lady. Also loving the NB Vongo and my new
Momentum Jewelry band.

This was an 'easier' week, to recover from my back-to-back half marathons the weekend prior. Week 7 of strength training really did crank it up a notch. Whooeeee.

I had to switch up the schedule a bit. I was supposed to run 6 miles Friday and 12 on Saturday, but I was caught at work late on Friday and with the heat, I just wasn't feeling 6 miles by the time I got home. Plus. Saturday was supposed to be crazy hot, while Sunday was a bit cooler, so it seemed smarter to get the long run going on the cooler day.

I started running in my New Balance Vongos and the more they get broken in, the more I'm digging them (I always wear my new shows for errands and walking around before running in them). Enough cushion with still being lightweight. I timed getting new shoes poorly, as I should have already had 2 pairs for rotation, and I was only using 1. This was working fine, but when I've had to do the back-to-back runs, I've worn the same shoes, which sometimes gives me knee pain (because the cushion hasn't had a chance to bounce back, or whatever the proper terminology would be haha). Also, my current Lunarglides have just about had it, so I should have also already been breaking in a new pair of those. I finally got a new pair, and have 1 old pair of shoes and 2 new pairs to continue breaking in. Anyway...

6 miles on Wednesday went well. Saturday I slept through the alarm, and by the time I got outside, it was already in the 80s, plus there was an air quality warning. Running with asthma can be tough enough, but when I got only a half mile in, I was having more trouble than normal and I was feeling nauseous. I decided to call it quits at 1.5 miles. Having to get to the dentist, I decided to shower and get that done and then go to the gym later to finish my miles. Running on the treadmill wasn't ideal for having to try out some new intervals for running walking (generally on the treadmill I can manage to run for 2 minutes and then run 1 minute... but since I was trying out new intervals I didn't want to deviate). 

After the gym. Wore my new Oiselle Strider Shorts - love the longer length.
I used to never wear the spandex-like shorts when running, too self-concious,
so I usually only wore them with a skirt or the kind that have the looser shorts
over them. I've gotten more comfortable with my body and am confident now
to wear them alone. I am what I am, and I work hard every day to improve
my strength and speed, and am proud of that. I run this body, as the cool kids say :)

I had attempted to create a workout for the treadmill equipment through the website before going to the gym, but when I tried signing into the treadmill it wasn't there. That was annoying. So, every 40 and 30 seconds, I had to press the screen to switch from the run to the walk. That got tiring. At mile 4 I dropped back to 30/30. It went fine, and my stats were pretty good, but pretty sure my watch is a bit inaccurate for indoor running (even though I also have the foot pod). I had the treadmill at a 1 incline, since I think a 0 is too 'easy' in a way, and for me doesn't represent how it feels to run outside. I need some type of resistance/difficulty added in, since the treadmill helps propel you.

12 miles on Sunday I did about 9 on the trails which are more technical and tricky than my usual trail (plus, more hills than any of my usual routes). I like running there because it gives you a chance to use some different muscles and helps build them up, along with ankle stability. It was warm out, but survived with a 14:30 average pace.

Tried out some new trails. Saw this little (actually sort of large) guy crawling
across, so obviously had to get a photo of him!

All week I had been using my new Amphipod Hydraform Ergo-Lite Ultra 20 oz bottles. So far I'm loving it. No leaks and it has a nice jet-stream nozzle. I'm able to fit in my iPhone 6 with it's giant case, plus a key and my inhaler. Love that. After 10 miles Saturday I drank the first 20oz, so stopped to fill back up. And then I continued to drink the entire 20oz in the last 2 miles. It had gotten warm and I apparently was extremely thirsty haha.

I'm happy with how training is going, and I think I say this every week, but I'm so glad to be working with the Sweat Tracker team again. They are really helping me improve. I honestly wouldn't know how to begin a training plan for a marathon, let alone trying to figure out how to increase my speed or change my run/walk intervals. They have worked so well with me and figuring out a great plan that works specifically for me. High-five.

Monday, June 13, 2016

ram racing north shore classic 2016: recap

Disclaimer: I received an entry for RAM Racing North Shore Classic 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!

FREE race photos!

You can read a shorter review over on BibRave. My recap is more detailed with personal info and tend to be lengthy ;)

When I agreed to do RAM Racing North Shore Classic Half Marathon, I already had another half marathon on my calendar the day before. I was interested in the challenge, so took them both on. Later, my calendar continued to fill with anniversary, birthday, and other family parties. It was a weekend filled to the brim, with very little time to rest or relax between my first and second half marathon. I was worried on how I would manage back-to-back half marathons, and my worries grew as I knew I'd be going into the second one even more tired that I should be.

Flat Heather #2 for the weekend.

The plan was to take both of the races easy, so as not to exert so much energy that I injured myself or wore myself out too quickly that I couldn't finish. I was happy that after my first race I wasn't having any knee pain, and hoped that would continue.

North Shore Classic shirt and medal.

I went to packet pickup at Fleet Feet in Deerfield on Friday, arriving around 2:10. It was easy to find the store  and was able to quickly find free parking in the lots behind it. A line was formed inside already, but it went quickly and getting my packet and Mark's wasn't a problem at all. I had both of our QR codes ready, and in under 2 minutes I was leaving the store with two RAM Racing drawstring bags, our bibs, and gender specific t-shirts. There were plenty of volunteers and workers there, so it seemed to all move smoothly.

First packet pickup on June 3 complete. Got mine and Mark's.

I didn't get my gear ready until about 10:30 the night before, showered, and posted my Flat Heather photo on IG before hitting the pillow around 11. Wake up was 4:00. I slept until 4:30, but the plan was to be out of the house by 5, which I was. It was about a 55 minute drive out to Highland Park for me (not nearly as bad as Mark's drive, but not as nice as Frank's either haha). The plan was to meet with the other Pros running at 6:30 by the memorial statue.

Frank, Lisa, Mark, and myself. Awesome having them to hang out with pre-race!

I was anxious about parking. I had never done this race before and didn't know how crowded it got, or how quick. Frank assured me there was ample parking lots and garages, but my neuroses always win. RAM Racing had a parking lot/garage map/guide posted on their website, which helped me a lot. I even printed it out in case the garage I was aiming for was filled. I got there around 6am, and the garage I had my Google Maps set to had a RAM Racing parking sign in the street pointing right to it. So nice and easy. There were plenty of spots left inside. 

The course.

I then decided to hang out in my car longer than I should have, got ready with all my gear, sunscreen, etc, and headed to meet Lisa, Frank, and Mark. I was a few minutes later than we had planned (sorry again you guys!). They were pretty easy to spot by the Memorial and all in orange. It was so nice to meet Mark (I gave him his bag) and Lisa, and to see Frank again. We had met cheering at the BibRave Cheer Station for the Chicago Marathon back in 2014, but it had been a while. It was great having people to hang out with before the race. Lisa was running the 5k, so jumped into the corral around 7:20 or so. The rest of us kept chatting and taking photos until about maybe 10 minutes before the half marathon start. Mark was in the same situation as I was, having run a half marathon as well the day before... though much more speedily than I.

The lines had shortened for the port-potties, so I jumped in – it had been over 2 hours since I last went, so knew it would be a good idea. When I got out, the lines were pretty much gone. It was so great that they had the hand washing stations (I feel better getting to use hand soap and water after being in those gross things haha). 

BibRave Pro Half Marathoners ready to go!

They had started the National Anthem a minute after I got out, so I walked away from the bathrooms, took off my visor, and waited until it was over before getting into my corral – H. It was the last one. A and B were for the 5k, and then C–H were for the half marathon.

In my corral was the sweeper pacer (15 minute/mile time limit), who I had seen the day before pacing for Volition Half Marathon. I spoke with her a bit about how yesterday's race went, and that it was important not to drop behind her today. Luckily, I only saw her in the beginning, and when I looked back after mile 2 or so, I had gotten far enough of a lead that I felt safe.

The Lake is ahead AND downhill! 

The race began on time, and I crossed the start line at 7:41. The course was through the neighborhood on the streets, passed by Ravinia, some beautiful houses, a glimpse of Lake Michigan, through the Town of Fort Sheridan — great scenery that mostly took my mind off of how tired I was. With the high humidity, I was sweating about a half mile in. There were mile markers at every mile and I think clocks along with most of them. 

I will say the course is mostly rolling hills - not a ton of flat happening. I had no idea this was the case, so was a bit surprised when the first few hills happened all within a mile or two. Then I talked to someone who said there was a big one around mile 9, so I began to prepare myself for it. It was actually at about mile 7. I really enjoyed all the downhills where I just let loose and had my legs dictate the speed. Wheeeee. Uphills were a whole other story, and even if I was on a run interval, I had to walk a few of them. I have a horrible memory, but I think I ran 30 seconds and walked a minute. 

Always hard to capture hills in photos. This was the big one at 7.
There's also more past the winding. Just kept going.

In the madness of the weekend, I had forgotten to bring my Shot Bloks, and since I don't eat anything prior to racing for the most part, I was getting pretty hungry and crashing. Luckily, at mile 7.5ish, the aid station had Munchkins! I took one I honestly, it helped perk me back up for the majority of the remaining miles.

Entering the Town of Fort Sheridan.

Aid stations were approximately every mile and a half and had Nuun (lemon lime at some, tri-berry at others) and water. Since I don't love the new Nuun formula, I took water at most of the stations. Knowing Nuun would be on course, I brought my Vest Pack with Skratch Labs in my bottle for my electrolyte drink.

Parts of the course would occasionally have a car or two go by, but they were careful of the runners and would slow down. This isn't the case at all races, so I was glad they were being cautious. There were also a ton of volunteers and policemen and women marshaling the course – making sure cars weren't going when or where they shouldn't be. I thanks every one I saw along with all of the volunteers at the aid stations. At one point around mile 11ish it seemed cars were trying to come from every direction, so I jumped up on the sidewalk just to avoid being in the way. The cop working the intersection called out and said runners should take the street - it was ours. I thought that was cool – he obviously was making sure the cars were staying out of our way, since the streets had been closed for the race. Much appreciated.

I think some of the cyclists ended up being worse than the cars. I don't know if there are always so many of them out, or if they were taking advantage of the course and it being blocked off to the majority of cars, but sometimes there were very large groups of them, and they rode extra close to the runners. I thought I was going to get clipped one or two times, even though I was running on the right side. I think I was spoiled the day before with such friendly cyclists, always letting you know they were coming and how many, along with a thank you.

Again, I was feeling pretty tired for this race, but I had saved some energy the day before so I could do better for this one. There was one girl running about the same pace as me, so I did my best to keep with her. In the end, I think we both became each others' pacers. She would pull ahead and I would catch up, and when I pulled ahead she caught up. It was nice to have someone I could focus on staying with, and that's what kept me going at the times that I wanted to just walk and take a break. I made sure to give her a high five after the finish and tell her great job. She said the same to me. There was another guy that wasn't to far ahead of me that had his family along the route at different spots and seemed to really be enjoying himself, so I had to high-five him too when I saw him after the finish. I love seeing other runners have a good time. On out and back portions, plenty of other runners called out to each other with encouragement, and it's partly why I love the running community – supportive and friendly of all runners, no matter the pace.

Survived two half marathons in one weekend and still smiling!

At the finish line, the announcer was out on the course giving out high fives and I think calling out runners' names, which was fun. After crossing, I received my medal, a bottle of water, there were cups of Nuun, and then a plastic bag filled with a mini bagel, banana, Rice Krispy treat, mini pretzels, and Silk chocolate milk. The majority of other runners and spectators were gone, and volunteers were beginning to clean up. I got my free photo taken with the backdrop, took some of my own photos, and headed on out.

Overall I thought it was a well-organized race, I enjoyed the free parking and the access to the race was easy. The course was challenging, but well marked and plenty of course marshals out there looking out for the runners' safety and to make sure we went the correct way. A huge finisher medal and unique tech-shirt. I'd say this is on my list for next year.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

volition america half marathon (elk grove) recap

Disclaimer: I received an entry for Volition America Half Marathon (Elk Grove) 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!

When the opportunity came up to run Volition America Half Marathon in Elk Grove for BibRave (held on Saturday, June 4), I initially passed, since it was in a location that seemed farther from home than I'd rather drive. However, the team really needed someone run, and no one else was available, so I said 'What the heck.' I am SO glad that I did! What a GREAT race. You can read my shorter BibRave review here.

I had wanted to run Volition America Half Marathon in Chicago on September 11, and when I agreed to run Elk Grove, I asked if I could register for them both at the same time in order to be registered for the Double Duty Challenge (if I was being chosen to run Chicago for BibRave, that is). Luckily, Volition and BibRave are so awesome, they made it happen for me. I am very thankful to get to be a part of the BibRave community and to be able to run races on their behalf.

Registration was easy – you can go through the Volition America race page to get to the Eventbrite registration. During registration, you could choose to run the 5k, the half marathon, or one of the options for the Double Duty Challenge. These included the Double Duty Half Marathon (half marathon at both locations - Elk Grove and Chicago), Double Duty 5k (5k at each location), or the Doubly Duty 1 half marathon and 1 5k (you choose the distance you want to run at each race - a half marathon at one and the 5k at the other). If you had a promotional code (which I did, as well as anyone using the BibRave discount code I was sharing), you would just click on the enter promotional code link, a box would pop up, and then you enter it and hit apply. Easy to do.

They had two days for packet pickup along with race day. First option was at Road Runner Sports in Naperville on June 2 from 2–7, and then on Friday June 3 at Road Runner Sports in Killdeer 2–7. I originally was planning on doing race day (which began at 5:30 or 6 am), but I had another pickup to do on Friday for North Shore Classic on Sunday, so since I was only about 25 minutes from the Volition pickup, I decided to get it out of the way. I'm really glad I did. 

Packet pickup number 2 for the day complete!

At pickup, I was able to speak with someone who had been helping the director with the race. She asked if I was Heather when I went up to get my bib, as we had been chatting on Twitter and she recognized me (probably didn't hurt that I was wearing my BibRave Trucker hat), I said I was, so we introduced ourselves. I was able to ask her about parking, since the website said it was first come first served, and I wasn't sure if that meant it could fill up, and if it did, where would I need to go. I had never run this race and didn't know Busse Woods at all, so had no clue about anything. Luckily, she said there were plenty of spaces and it wouldn't be a problem, but they would have busses to drive runners from the back of the parking to the start line, so even if we were far it wasn't a problem.  

Also, the store had the Addaday Boomerang, which I had been searching for high and low at local running stores and could never find. It's AMAZING. Angie had one, which she let me try back at Fort 2 Base last year, and I was so envious I had started looking at every running store I went in. So glad to have that in my recovery arsenal. I also snagged two more tubes of the old Nuun formula. That's all they had left. Womp womp.

Anyway, at pickup I received a bib, shirt, and drawstring backpack. I was also able to grab my mom's too. I wish I would have tried on the shirt, or noticed that it was in fact a woman's cut, because when I put in a size at registration, it didn't seem like they were gender specific, so I did my unisex size, which is too small for gender specific. Rather than trying to deal with exchanging on race day, I figured since I was running Volition again in Chicago later this year, I would email and request a size change. Maybe if I ever lose the weight I'm planning on, the other size will fit ;) I received an email pretty quickly saying that it wouldn't be a problem to switch my size for September. Yay!

Friday night I did my usual laying out of the gear to make sure I had everything, took my 'flat Heather' photo, made my Generation UCAN Lemonade for the morning and tossed it in the fridge, and figured out directions. There wasn't an exact address for where parking was in Busse Woods, so I just dropped a pin in Google Maps app where the parking was and did directions from home to the dropped pin. It took us about 45 minutes to get there, no traffic problems at all. The website offered Ned Busse Preserve, E Higgins Rd and N Arlington Heights Rd in Elk Grove, and that race start is near the boat ramp and the south pool. This was enough for me to get exact location of parking for my directions.

Before the start.

We arrived at exactly 6am, were behind two other cars going into the Woods. When we were parked, we got out to get everything ready to go, and noticed a whole bunch of cars getting there. Not that it was packed or anything, but I feel we got there at the exact right moment to miss having to wait for other cars to park. They had volunteers helping cars to park, which was nice. Plenty of open spaces. According to the map, we had parked .5 miles away from the start line.

We noticed an indoor bathroom buildng near our car, so decided to see if that was open before finalizing our gear and heading to the start line. Mom went first, as I was finishing up my Generation UCAN (Lemonade was my favorite - you can read my review here). The bathroom was in fact open, so when mom got back I went. Again - perfect timing. No line when I got in, but there was one when I got out. It was nice to have indoor plumbing, and though no soap, there was running water. I had Moist Wipes and Anti Bacteria gel in the car, so no problem.

I sun sprayed and mosquito sprayed up, got on my Orange Mud back VP 1, got my bib on with my Race Dots, and then we walked to the start. I had a friend there with her daughter, and though I had just gotten to the race area and was about to look for her, boom, she was right in front of me. No looking needed haha. We chatted, and then it was time to line up.

Starting the half marathon.

The RD, Major Dan Rooney, USAFR F-16 Fighter Pilot, who started up the Folds of Honor Foundation (read more here), led us in the Pledge of Allegiance and then went on to tell his story and how Folds of Honor came to be. It was past 7am, and I had to go to the bathroom again. I felt a little disrespectful, but I could tell the story would be a minute (you can hear/watch the emotional story below), and there was no line for the porta-potties, so I ran over quick. Really glad I did, as I knew I wouldn't be able to hold it the whole race haha, and I'm not one who likes to stop for breaks at all when running, in fear it'll be too hard to get going again. I could still hear from the bathroom, and when I got back in spot, it was time for the National Anthem. The race started at about 7:12am.

There weren't a lot of runners, maybe 500 tops. I didn't know until after the fact that the race was supposed to be a 3:00 time limit. I'm glad I didn't know going in, because I definitely didn't finish in 3 hours and I would have felt stressed about that. I had assumed it was a 3:30 like a lot of other races, though I though I overheard someone say that they weren't sticking to that rule. I know there were a few others behind us, and it seemed like they let everyone finish, which I appreciate a lot.

Pretty scenery.

Course support was fantastic. There was an aid station approximately every 1.5 miles. I tried to keep track, but I lost count after a few miles haha. Each aid station had water and gatorade (different flavors—orange, blue, and yellow—but if you asked, the volunteer would let you know what they had in their hand). There were also one or two porta-potties along with the indoor bathrooms. Usually the aid stations coincided with the bathrooms, but they had the porta-potties too. All of the volunteers were friendly, energetic, and they all cheered us on or told us how great we were doing. I made sure to say thanks to all volunteers, cops, etc. out there. The race couldn't happen without them.

The runners were all friendly and supportive. There were two parts that were up and backs, and so many runners encouraged one another as they passed. So nice to see things like that. Also, runners that were not racers were cheering the racers on. Cyclists out on the path didn't run you over, but would let you know they were coming on your left, and how many. They also encouraged us along. I was running with my mom, usually next to her, but if I saw runners or cyclists coming at us, and knew a cyclist was behind, I tried to get behind her. The path wasn't super wide. There was one instance where I didn't notice the cyclist behind us, but he stopped, let the runners on the other side pass, and then went by. I apologized when I realized I was in the way, but he said it wasn't a problem at all and that we doing great. You don't get much of that in the city!

Running on bridges.

There were mile flags at each mile, and a few clocks here and there (couldn't figure out the reason as to when the clocks were there, but it was nice to have a few). Mile 9–11 seemed a bit off, but I had my watch so not a big deal. The course was well marked, any turn arounds or different paths usually meant there was a volunteer and cones/arrows.

Elk! This is only mile 3 or 4... look how sweaty I already am!

It was mostly cloudy, but the sun creeped out once in a while. It rained a little on and off around miles 7–12, but it felt so great I didn't mind at all. The race wasn't super hot, but it was very humid which gave me some trouble. I'm a baby when it comes to humidity, and my body just seems to shut down a bit when it gets too over heated. Humidity makes it hard because you're sweating bullets, but your body can't cool itself down because the sweat doesn't dry to help take some of that heat away. Woof.

Busse Woods had a good amount of shade, which I really liked. It's a paved path that has some beautiful scenery. Even some elks in there. I hope this race comes back there again next year. It's definitely on my list. I think I'll even pop out there once or twice for Chicago Marathon training. Will be nice to have some shade, but also practice running on pavement rather than trails all the time to help get me ready for race day. 

13 miles left. The entire mile was lined with motivational/inspirational signs.

At the finish line there were a line of about 4 military men and women on each side as you crossed the street, and i thanked them all for their service, while they thanked me back. I don't think I deserved thanks, but they were all so encouraging, it was a great way to push yourself to the finish. We received our medals, and then they had a variety of flavored Gatorade cups, bottled water, cups of Animal Crackers, cups of pretzels, bananas, and apples. 

At the finish line.

Right after finishing I saw a familiar face, but even more so, knew it was a voice I had heard so frequently. I went over to him and asked if he was the announced for basically all Chicago races, and he laughed and said he was. We introduced ourselves and chatted. I told him how I've seen/heard him at so many races and it was great to meet him. He asked what races I had coming up, and told me which ones he'd be at. I told him to look for me at Chicago Marathon, as it isn't crowded at all and I'd be easy to spot. Ha. Anyway, it was really cool to meet him and talk for a bit. Later my mom asked me if he was the announcer who got ours names right (there's one that does, and most don't). He is in fact that man, so thank you for the proper pronunciation! I'll have to mention that to him next time.

Free race photos would be available (a few days after the race), and they had a backdrop with a photographer still hanging around. We got our photo taken and it was starting to rain again. The beer on site was not one that I'm a fan of, and since there was a busy day ahead, we made our way back to the car. They still had buses out, which was cool, but we did our cool down on the walk back. I took some of my own photos, switched to my Oofos, and we were off.

13.1 miles done, 13.1 more to go tomorrow!

We stopped at Subway for some lunch to bring home, I showered and got ready for the parties ahead — our favorite local brewery's two year anniversary party and my uncle's birthday party. You can read a little more here in my Chicago Marathon Training: Week 3 recap if you'd like.
I really enjoyed this race, and loved that it benefitted such a great cause. Consider joining me in Chicago on September 11 for Volition America 5k or half marathon. Use code 'BibRave' to save 15%. I think it was very well organized, and other than the beer not being to my liking (if you know me, you know why), I don't have any complaints. I love a race that allows free race day pickup, and if I hadn't already been in the area the day before, would have utilized it, since it's not near me at all.
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