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!

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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.

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