Chicago Marathon: 2021 Experience

The 2021 Bank of America Chicago Marathon…where to begin? Of course, it was incredible but I think that would be an expectation. I ran this once before, in 2017, but I was so in awe back then since it was my first ever marathon and I just wanted to finish the race. This time, I was determined to pay attention and enjoy the nuances more all while still running competitively in order to achieve some goals I set for myself.

I arrived into Chicago in the early afternoon on Friday, driving in from Milwaukee, but I didn’t hit the expo that day. I did pay a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry and had the opportunity to enjoy their Marvel Comics special exhibit. That really was a treat and I highly recommend checking that out if you have the chance before the exhibit closes.

After a later than anticipated start on Saturday and a visit to the Shedd Aquarium, I made my way over the the marathon expo, waited in a forever long line to check vaccination status, and then picked up my bib and shirt, etc. I roamed around the various vendors for a little bit, not too long, grabbed some KT Tape, drank a Goose Island sample, and made my way out to make sure I got to my 5pm dinner reservation on time. After eating a fabulous meal at Volare Ristorante Italiano, it was back to the hotel to lay out flat me and hope to get a good night’s rest. (Full disclosure: I slept horribly, unfortunately)

RACE DAY!! It finally arrived! Felt like forever since I began the training cycle for this moment and yet it was time. After not sleeping well, I made another “error” by setting my alarm too early so I was up at 4:45am. For some reason, I thought it would take me longer to get to the start line since I was staying a little farther away than I did in 2017. So, I got dressed, had my protein shake and overnight oats, drank some water, and headed downstairs to the hotel lobby hoping to either catch an Uber or be able to utilize the hotel ride service, even though I didn’t call in time the day before to schedule myself on it. After half a cup of coffee, I secured a ride down to Grant Park and made my way, very very ahead of schedule, to gear check. Let the day begin with some dark pics and a selfie!

Thankfully, I came across a fellow BibRave runner and we chatted until the start time, getting some water from the Gatorade booth and making a final visit to the Porto’s. We also managed to find another BibRave runner and got to chat it up with her for awhile, which was really nice meeting them in person after so many social media exchanges. Now the time for stretches and breathing exercises before starting the slow, long walk to the starting line!

I’d like to say that this was a race where it all came together for me and the goals I had set were all reached and there were smiles all around…but, are you crazy?! It’s a marathon! Ha ha, and it knows how to humble you and make you respect it like no other race I’ve done. The race started in a yellow alert status meaning less than ideal race conditions but be careful and you’ll be ok. I personally started really well, maybe too well. My body felt good and I had a good pace but I wasn’t pushing it. I could feel it getting warmer and took my first water at the Mile 3 aid station, something I usually don’t do until Mile 6 on long runs. At Mile 5, a hearty shoutout from a fellow BibRaver, who was volunteering, gave me a very early energy boost. I mean, I literally felt the excitement rise up in me. And then there were all the spectators along the route. I feel I should address them all right here because they were amazing! So much support, so many funny and motivation signs, so many cheers and shouts, just an incredible feeling/moment/image for 26.2 miles throughout the city of Chicago. They truly know how to make you feel good even when things may not go right.

Above is a rare photo of me actually smiling while on the course and running. I never do this. One of the things I told myself heading into this race was to make sure I was smiling more and enjoying the experience and giving those on-course photographers smiles and not look-like-I’m-dying faces in their photos.

Now, back to the race. Somewhere in the early teen mile markers, the race went into a red alert status which meant dangerous weather conditions (the humidity had increased) and be extremely wary of dehydration and cramping and your body, in general. But I was still doing OK. I wasn’t feeling the humidity, I felt hydrated enough, and my legs were still holding strong. It wasn’t until Mile 18 where I started to feel soreness in my feet and my left lower back extending into my glute starting to talk to me. I’d say it was here where my race goals began to lean in the direction of harder to reach. But I kept plugging along. There were more stops for water and I began taking in Gatorade. I had had some pickle juice at Mile 8 (a decision I later felt was incorrect timing by me) and my Honey Stinger waffle.

Weird side note here: on long runs, I find that I don’t get hungry or I don’t feel like ingesting food even though every rational thought says I should and would need food.

Back to the race and my pursuit of glory, haha. The struggle started to hit at Mile 21, especially with my left side. And then I had some side cramps, something I never ever get when running, so that was just bizarre. Mile 23 led to some right quad spasms which slowed me some. But I managed another smile at the photo stop!

As I hit Mile 25, there was one more, last second energy boost provide by yet another BibRaver who was volunteering his time! Thank you so much! And then it was the finish! I’m proud to say I crossed the finish line in a time of 4:03:35! I had three goals going into this marathon but only achieved one of them. Goal #1 was to better my 2017 Chicago Marathon time which I did and by a very decent margin. Goal #2 was to get a sub-4 hour time. To be so close and not get it will sting for a while, for sure. A couple less walking water stops and I might have hit that goal. Goal #3 was to set a marathon PR which I knew coming in would be a long shot but sometimes that’s what your goals are supposed to be, otherwise they wouldn’t be special. But, bottom line, I’m a Chicago Marathon finisher for the second time!

A lot of good feelings finishing this race and some great photos as well to document it. So happy to have met some of my fellow BibRave members and gotten to talk to them. Happy that I came out of this marathon without any major injuries and my health intact. Just happy in general. And I made sure to celebrate that night after driving home.

Happy running everyone!!

Virtual Race Review: Air Force Marathon Half Marathon

Disclaimer: I received an entry into the Air Force Marathon to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

So this year I was supposed to run the half marathon distance of the Air Force Marathon in Dayton, Ohio on the Wright-Patterson base BUT, of course, thanks to the ongoing pandemic issue, the race sadly was moved to a virtual format. I appreciate everything the Air Force Marathon race organizers did and attempted to do to hold the race as scheduled even if in the end it wasn’t to be. They were very communicative throughout the entire process. I never felt like this was a surprise thanks to their constant updates. I hope to have another opportunity to run their race some day since it was looking to be quite the event!

I chose to run my virtual half marathon a week after the actual race would have taken place. It just worked out better for me that way. My run went well and I paced myself relatively well without stressing too much about time. Now, it certainly would have been a different scenario if it was live person race but it wasn’t. The organizers will be sending out race packets next month so I will look forward to my swag including the race medal to arrive then.

I think the socks would have been a hit at the actual race, lol.

Now it’s on to other challenges and other goals to chase. But I will be looking at the Air Force Marathon race in the future again. You can count on it!

Happy running!

UPDATE: Air Force Marathon

Disclaimer: I received an entry to the Air Force Marathon to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

So, my training for the Air Force Marathon half marathon has not been for naught! It just wasn’t utilized the way I expected it to. A few weeks back, the race went to an all virtual format. So…..that meant no traveling to Dayton, Ohio anymore since the race couldn’t take place in its normal course, the Wright-Patterson Air Force base. Federal regulations being stricter than normal city ordinances and whatnot made the race impossible to take place. So, I’ll be running my virtual half marathon sometime in the near future. But that doesn’t mean I sat on my butt this past Saturday, September 18, what would have been race day.

No, I chose to do a monster training run of 20+ miles to really tire out these legs, ha ha ha. The weather was nice and perfect for this type of run. My pace was right where I wanted it and my legs never died on me. It makes me extremely optimistic for when I take the plunge on my half marathon for the Air Force Marathon!

Stay tuned as I do my best to earn this medal!

Happy running!

Air Force Marathon Training

Disclaimer: I received a race entry to the Air Force Marathon to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

The month of August has begun and my training runs for the Air Force Marathon continue each day. I will be running the half marathon distance in the race that takes place on September 18, 2021 in Dayton Ohio. I’ve been really looking forward to this race for a number of reasons, including the fact that it will be a travel race for me and it’s always exciting to visit somewhere new.

Now, as for my training…well, it’s been going up and down for the majority of the summer. I’ve been doing my best in keeping a variety of methods with preparing my body for the half distance. These include yoga, strength training, and, of course, runs of various distances. One thing I have NOT been doing a good job with: stretching and foam rolling. I can’t say that that has led to my issues in this cycle but I am confident that it didn’t help my situation. I had hoped performing yoga (and even that ended up getting missed for a few weeks) and doing more core strength work would help, but it only does so much.

So, on Father’s Day I ended up suffering a left hamstring pull or strain. Not sure how since I am very very good on being hydrated but I guess that day I just wasn’t enough. Maybe it was because I was rushing the run, I don’t know. What I do know is that my left hammy nagged and nagged for 10-12 days following where it limited my activity and none of my runs were in that time frame. Once it started feeling better (and that coincided with increased foam rolling…shocking, I know, haha) I picked up my miles for a week. Why just a week you ask? Well, because that’s when my RIGHT hamstring acted up, also for no real reason. It wasn’t as bad the left leg and I was able to smooth it over sooner. But then there was a camping vacation that took me away from training in general. I did get a couple long runs in there but it was still a pretty decent amount of time off.

So, as August starts to hit its stride, my hope is that I can get into a better flow of running and getting in those miles. But, even as I type that, I am cognizant of both my right and left toes hurting for an unknown reason. Not blister-hurt. More like they don’t want to flex and offer up some pain to the touch. Ugh….Anyway, I shall persevere and be ready to at least enjoy my time in Dayton.

Would you like to join me? Visit the Air Force Marathon website and register for your preferred distance! It isn’t too late and it you have already been training for a longer distance, you’re ready. If not, they offer up a 5K and 10K as well! Use code AFMBR21 to save 10% on your registration! I would love to see you there! And if you have any questions, please ask me and I will do my best to answer them.

Happy Running!

Race Review: The Non Cancelled Marathon

On May 1, I ran the Non Cancelled Marathon put on by Silver Circle Sports Entertainment. I’ve had the pleasure of running several of their races during the last year during the pandemic and they have done an excellent job abiding by safety protocols and providing a friendly and secure racing environment. The weather lined up nicely on race day, for the most part. There was a nasty 16-20mph wind that gusted frequently in one direction which not only gave resistance but made it slightly more chilly than it should have felt with the temperatures that day.

Aid Stations: I have to give this zero stars since this is the only thing to not return to normal yet. No aid stations and you were responsible for your own hydration and fuel for the race.

Expo Quality: Again, zero stars since there was no expo. Packet pickup was before the race (or the day before if you drove out to the organization’s headquarters in a 3 hour time window. Packet pickup was smooth and simple though; wear you mask while in line and grab your bib and pins if needed. Your verification was sent via email in the form of a Q-code. Nice and easy, just scan.

Course Scenery: This was an out and back course so the scenery didn’t change and if you did the marathon, like me, you got to run this out and back FOUR times. Yeah, four times. Buuuuut, the race was out on a paved trail and there were a lot of birds to look at while running. I even saw a sandhill crane attempting to camouflage itself in a marsh area off the course. That was pretty cool to see so close. Also, this race allowed for spectators and was that awesome to hear! Even if they were cheering for others or just cheering in general, it was really great to hear! It made what could have been a drag of a race into a more splendid experience.

Elevation Access: Minimal. Slight incline going in one direction and one or two very small up and downs just before the turn point.

Parking Access: There was some parking lots near the race start/finish but those filled up quickly. But there were plenty of side streets to park on so everything was good.

T-Shirt/SWAG: A bright red t-shirt with the race name and sponsors on it and a medal were the items provided for all race participants. I like the shirt; it has a nice feel to it and red is always a winning color in my book. And the medal, well, they didn’t like about it, lol. They promised the largest medal ever and it is gigantic! It announces you finished and in a big way.

The Silver Circle Sports group does a great job with these events and, in the last year especially, have been incredible having races that actually took place. They communicate very well, constantly sending out updates and they answer your direct question within one day of you submitting a query. I can’t say enough about how good of a group they are. I know when I sign up for a race by them, it will take place and I will have a good time, no matter what type of race it is.

Happy running!!!

Race Review: The Elf Virtual Run

Disclaimer: I received an entry into the Elf Virtual Run to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

SANTA!!!!
Ok, I didn’t actually see him on my Elf Virtual Run but the bling I received for running this virtual race was pretty dang sweet! Before getting to that, though, let’s talk about the race itself. It was a 100% virtual race that could be run anytime and anywhere. So all you had to do was register and wait for your running kit to arrive and ready, set, go!

Race Management/Virtual Support: The RAM Racing team was really great with communication pertaining to when they were mailing out bibs and shirts and when to expect them. They were also extremely apologetic when an issue arose with the medals, informing all that they would be coming later than the other items. Consistent email updates and always ready and quick to respond to questions, should you have them. I can’t say how impressed I was and always am for RAM Racing events and their team.

SWAG: One of the best races I’ve run when it comes to the swag! First, you get a themed customized bib! next, you get a sweet forest green winter beanie with the Elf logo on the front. Third, a quite warm red zip-up hooded Elf sweatshirt, logo on the left breast. And last, you get a very sweet snow globe style Elf medal! The day these items arrived, it really was like yelling out, “Santa came!” Easily a virtual race you should consider running next year or sometime in the future because it is worth it.

My Race Experience: I hate to admit it but I copped out with this run and ran it on a track where I could better keep track and calculate my distance without going over or miscalculating out somewhere random. So, it wasn’t the most interesting with views aside from the train that came by near the end of my race. That was about the only interesting thing, visually. But I did enjoy running a race on a softer surface than the roads I normally run on when I’ve done previous virtual races. So I’ll chalk up my run as fun in the sense that I had control and I came close to setting a 10K PR for myself.

So that’s my Elf Virtual Run wrapped up in a nutshell! Oh, and yes, I did watch the movie later that night after the run! Definitely consider it for next year!