Friday, February 3, 2017

f^3 lake half marathon 2017 recap

Disclaimer: I received an entry for F^3 Lake Half Marathon 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!

You can read a quick-read version of my review on

I've run the F^3 Lake Half Marathon for the past two years, so of course wanted to run again in 2017. I like to run at least one race a month, and F^3 has become my go-to. It's a unique race as pre- and post- race you get to hang out in the warm United Club at Soldier Field. I also really appreciate that after every race, they send out a survey for participants to fill out to help them improve the following year. They actually take the responses to heart and make changes where necessary. The race this year was on Saturday, January 28 with a 10am start time for the half marathon and 10:30am for the 5k.

The BibRave Pros ready to take on the cold!

This year there were SIX days of packet pickup, and they weren't all in the city. THANK YOU! I was able to go to Running for Kicks on Tuesday night to grab packets for Mark, my mom, and myself. Pickup was quick and easy, and in your drawstring bag you received your bib, a thin, long sleeve tech 1/4 zip pullover, and a KIND bar.

1/4 zip pullover.

We got to Soldier Field a little before 9, and waited a few minutes to get through the line for parking. The parking at Soldier Field North Garage was discounted for runners at $19 (usually 20–30 depending on the event/day). You could go straight from the garage to the United Club without stepping outside. My mom grabbed her additional shirt that she purchased (left overs from last year's race) and dropped that back in the car while I met up with Mark and Kim. We chatted for a few and took our pre-race photo before parting ways. I met back up with Mark after he did gear check and then Mark, the RD of Run Laughlin, came up to chat for a few. This was our first time meeting him in person, as he recently moved to Chicago. Really nice guy. We also got to briefly chat with Chicago Ultra 50 of twitter fame :)

Mark toeing the line.

With about 20 minutes till race time we used the bathrooms, which seemed like long lines, but moved pretty quickly (and hey - water and soap!). 
10 minutes before the race half marathoners were being ushered outside to the start line. There were pace signs set up so runners could line-up according to their expected pace. I believe they went up to 12mm. We took our place at the back of the pack. The National Anthem was sung, and then it was time to start. I'm not sure how many 'corrals' or waves there were, but the back started at about 10:10. 

CES was pacing (new this year) and they had finish times of: 1:30, 1:40, 1:50, 2:00, 2:10, 2:20, 2:30 – run/walk (5/1), 2:45 – run/walk (5/1), 3:00 – run/walk (4/2 or 3/2), 3:30 (sweep) walk. I didn't run with a pacer, but my goal was to stay ahead of the 3 hour group.

Mom and I were running our own races this time around. We often run together, but I knew she would be ok on the course herself, since it was mostly just a simple out and back that we've done before, so I wanted to use my own run/walk intervals and see how it went. I hadn't run 13.1 miles since November's Wine and Dine, and I took most of December off due to illness, so I honestly wasn't expecting to do great. My 11 miler the weekend before had not gone as I had hoped, so I just wanted to finish by 3 hours. I've only finished under 3 hours once... so to be under I would be very happy.

I was feeling good and did 70/30 intervals. I told myself that if I hit 5 miles and needed, I could change to 60 seconds of running. I hit 5, and though felt a bit fatigued, I wanted to push myself so said hit 6, hit 7, hit 8. At 8 I brought it down to 60. I loved getting to see Mark and Kim on the course to high-five and cheer them on. It also distracted me as I was keeping an eye out for them rather than paying attention to my pace or thinking about being tired.

I brought my own hydration, but there were 4 aid stations which you hit twice (out and back), with Gatorade and water. I took water from one of the stations. Around mile 8ish they also handed out Gatorade chews which was a nice touch. That doesn't happen at too many 13.1 races.

Course Map.

The course took us around Soldier Field and then onto the LFP. Though the path can be narrow, i didn't notice too much congestion or problems. The path was clear of ice and there were a few puddles, but they were pretty easy to avoid. Any other issues on the path were clearly marked with a cone. 

I'm not great with math or figuring out pacing while on the run, but when I hit mile 10 and saw my time, I knew that I would be close to hitting a PR if I kept up with the pace I had. I figured if I did, it would be about a two minute PR (finishing at about 2:52). I was getting tired, but the idea of hitting a new PR, something I was aiming for this year, and doing it at my first race of the year, kept me motivated. 

I think this was around mile 9 or 10.

I finished and was UNDER 2:50. I was not expecting that at all. After I found my previous PR and looked up my official finish time, I ended with a new PR that beat my old one by 5:53. Whoa. I was really impressed with myself haha. The real goal I'm hoping to hit this year is under 2:45 so I can use it for proof of time for Dopey Challenge and get a better corral placement. I kept thinking about how much my pace needed to improve in order to get from my PR at the time down to 2:45 and it seemed daunting and impossible. This race/pace showed me that I CAN do it. I need to cut off about 3.5 more minutes, but I feel that will definitely be doable this year. Especially since I am working on getting my run intervals longer and cutting back on the walking.

I think another reason I was able to PR was that I went into the race with low expectations and no pressure. I just wanted to get through it not feeling miserable. When I have a goal race, I seem to put a lot of pressure on myself, for whatever reason, and end up failing hard... which leads to a lack of confidence. I need to learn how to not put so much pressure on a race and just run it and have fun, trust in the training, and hope that translates into the PRs I'm looking for.

At the finish line (after picking up my snacks - notice the bagel in hand haha.

At times the wind really cut through me (16–22mph winds/gusts), but it wasn't too bad. On the LPF there isn't anything to help cut the wind - no buildings or anything. It was about 26 degrees with a real feel of 16. I had my BUFF® to help cover my face when needed, and I think I dressed appropriately for the temps (I sometimes have trouble having too many or too less layers – it takes me a few months to hone in what works for me, and then it's spring haha. I typically try to follow this guide I have, but I usually run a little warmer so do a little less than it suggests). I took my gloves off at mile 1 and didn't need them again, though these two women around mile 9 were asking me where my gloves were haha. For whatever reason, my hands warm up when I run and are ok in 16 degree weather without gloves. It's strange because my hands are cold just about any other time.

At the finish line, you received your large 2017 finisher medal (half marathoners only), a full-sized bagel (multiple flavor options available), bottled water, bananas, Gatorade in cups, Muscle Milk, and crackers. 

I then waited for my mom to finish while cheering on the other runners. I wanted to be able to clap fully, so I didn't put my gloves on, which led to very cold hands. My mom was only a few minutes behind me, and the announcer was impressed with her age. She got a lot of cheers from people around for that, which was nice.

We went inside to warm up and I ran into a friend I met back in December at an ultra race that I went to cheer my friend Angie on at. We talked a bit and she convinced me to meet up with a group of ultra runners in February on the trails. Ahhhh what did I get myself into? Haha.

After we gave hugs and said our goodbyes, we headed to the Awards Table to see if my mom won anything. They looked up results and said 60–69 she was 5th place. Well, she is 70, so we were wondering why she was in the wrong age group, and then she looked again and said it was 60+. Ok, so we went home. I was so cold now being in my wet clothes, so I changed in the car and we drove home.

Official race photo. I only had two :(  This is towards the start.

Later, I was looking at the FAQ, and saw that he age groups should have been 60–64, 65–69, and 70+, so my mom actually should have gotten an award. A few days later they sent out an email saying photos were ready (free downloads!) and mentioned that there was a mistake with the age group awards (something to do with the timer and the initial upload) and that an updated list was now available. If you didn't get your award, you are able to go to the CARA office and pick it up. My small issue with this is I feel like since it was a mistake on their end, they should just mail them out. It would cost my mom more than what she won to get into the city to pick it up, so it's not really worth the time and effort. While I appreciate they give out so many awards for all of the male and female age groups of 5 years, it still kind of stinks that she has to go out of her way to go pick it up after she did try to get it at the awards table.

Anyway, with one minor complaint, I'll be back again next year. I really like the race and feel it's well-organized/managed and is unique in that we can stay warm before the race and warm back up after the race inside.

Mark and me before the race, the runners headed outside, me before the start,
me inside after the finish. Look at how bit the medal is!

There was an after party at Kroll's where you could grab your one free beer with your ticket from the bib (Pollyanna or Noon Whistle - both good craft breweries in Chicagoland) and a discount on food, but I had another engagement to get to, so wasn't able to attend. I heard it was hopping though.

What's next for me? I've got Back on My Feet Mardi Gras 10k on February 25 and then my main goal is training for Illinois Marathon in April.

Want to run either with me... or you know, your own race, but we'll both be there ;) you can use the below codes to save some dough.

Back on My Feet Mardi Gras Chaser 5k or 10k: code RAVE saves you $5. 

BONUS: Did you run the F^3 Lake Half Marathon? Run the BoMF Mardi Gras Chaser 10k and receive the Frozen Frostbitten Challenge medal!

Illinois Marathon: code bibravebonus saves you $10 on any race (excludes Youth Run)

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