Hi, I’m probably a little goofy. Why? Because, I signed up to run a challenge race that consisted of a 1700 meter, a 5km, and a 10km race all in one day. A race in January, in the windy city of Chicago. Why would I do that? So many reasons come to mind, but mostly because I was on the high of training for a marathon back in October when I’d signed up for this race. Since I’d already missed my marathon that I paid for, I couldn’t miss another race simply because my silly body wasn’t behaving ideally. It doesn’t mean I didn’t question my sanity a few times, though.
I ran twice in the week leading up to the race. Finishing 3 miles on a cold night gave me the confidence I needed going into the challenge.
I was to stay with my friends, Jane and Barb. Barb was spending time with her sister who was dying from multiple myeloma. Cancer is a real bastard and takes some pretty great people from us. Anyway, Jane and I headed to Chicago on a train. We walked from Union Station stopping for photos by a large sculpture called “The Flamingo” and on to eat at a place called Artists’ Restaurant. They had spiked coffee and delicious food. We were finally warmed from the cold walk from the train, and took a brief walk to the Art Institute of Chicago, where Jane is a member. We checked our heavy baggage and walked around.
Jane is an artist and teaches art at a local college. This made the tour of the Institute more educational and helped me understand many of the “what am I looking at” and “where do I go” questions I mostly likely would have had on my own. I also had a really good time talking about the art and getting a different perspective on some pieces. Jane had to tolerate my comments about the art. We went to Millennium Park, where I saw many sculptures including the famous “Cloud Gate” referred to as “The Giant Bean”. This reflective sculpture was fun to look at from many angles and to try out some photography tricks with the reflective properties of the sculpture.
Jane found two people to share the room with us the first night in Chicago since Barb didn’t make the trip. Bree and Wendy weren’t strangers to me, but I haven’t been around the running group as often since my injury and illness. We got to the hotel as they’d completed their check-in. Our friend Cindy had picked up our race packets and goodies and given them to Bree. They went to pick up Wendy’s race packet and go to the place they’d made dinner reservations. We went up to the room to check out our race gear that included an adorable Yeti hat and a fleece jacket. We posed for a few pictures before we settled on a place to eat.
Jane and I found an Irish pub online and walked outside a bit, but I’d incorrectly remembered the location. We had walked the wrong way, but we found another pub by just skimming the fronts of the buildings around us and rushing to the first eatery that looked like they served alcoholic beverages. It was my birthday weekend, after all. I was there to have fun. The place was Exchequer Restaurant & Pub. It was an upbeat atmosphere and they had a bunch of draft beer options, including one of my favorite amber ales, Elliott Ness. I had a reuben sandwich that was quite tasty. On the walk to return to the hotel, we dropped into a convenience store for wine and drinking water.
The next morning was race day and there were 4 women in one hotel room trying to bundle up for braving temps in the single digits. We were hoping would the temperature would reach the teens at some time. I opted for putting my sports bra and running undies on in the bathroom and coming out into the room to finish dressing. I’d bought brand new compression pants just for this event to use as my base layer. This would be a good idea had I actually worn them a few times before race day. They are designed to compress and they were snug since they were brand new. I’d stopped struggling with them once I got the waistband around the top of my thighs and just under my tush. I let out a loud grunt and sigh, which drew attention to my struggle. We all had a good laugh that I wanted to give up on the pants but I’d already worked really hard to get them over my thighs. Once my first layer was on, I’d broken a sweat, but proceeded to put on the rest of my running clothes layers.
Outside of the hotel, the doorman laughed as we discussed our plans to go run 3 races back to back (to back) in one day in the cold. We hopped into the car and started to talk to our driver. We joked and laughed from our hotel to the parking lot at Soldier Field where the race event was to happen. We gathered in a tent on the lot and met up with other people we knew before heading back out into the cold to start the 10k. I programmed my watch to run intervals of 5 minutes running and walk 1 minute for the entire race. Before I made it to mile 1, I’d gotten separated from the people I knew. The water cup I was given was actually a cup of slush. I couldn’t feel the toes on one foot and the ones on the other felt like they had been frozen solid. I was feeling tired, stiff, and unsure of myself. I wanted to give up. I knew that I wasn’t quitting because I couldn’t physically do it. It was because I didn’t want to push through the tough part and that was not a good enough reason. It was a humbling experience to know that I couldn’t run any faster than I was and that I still had to finish. I saw people I knew (Heather, Kristen, and Tom) ahead and I caught up with them. They were doing the same interval pattern as I was. The halfway point was our turnaround and I’d finally felt like I’d warmed up and didn’t want to quit anymore. I drank sports drink, which doesn’t freeze as quickly, at the next water stop. I felt renewed. I mean, there was ice on the ground through the water stations and there were icy spots on the trail, but I didn’t want to quit anymore. Heather and I took a selfie with the cityscape behind us across Lake Michigan. I shoved Tom to prevent him from slipping on ice (because shouting a warning wouldn’t have been fast enough). We kept each other on the intervals and from slipping on the icy spots. With running buddies surrounding me, I finished my longest run in months and my first race since October. I still had a 1700 meter and a 5k race to complete the series, though.
Setting out for the 1.7k, I felt mentally confident. Confidence doesn’t mean the same thing as feeling physically able, though. I walked most of the rest of the race with Kristen and told her that I wasn’t going to run the 5k, but I’d do it walking to finish the challenge. The time limit on the 5k was an hour and having a time that averages around 30 minutes even, I thought it wouldn’t be a problem. Kristen walked the 5k with me. Despite it being freezing cold outside and that we probably could have gotten out of the cold faster by running, we did a 5k in 53 minutes. That’s a personal worst for me. I finished that darn challenge, I got my 4 participation medals, and I took my first trip to Chicago on my birthday weekend. Everything I’d set out to do, I’d checked off of my list.
I was not proud or celebratory when I got the email with my results. I felt disappointed that my time was so much longer than I’d thought I was capable of. That said, I had a great experience and people were there to support me and encourage me. It felt good to know I had a good run in me for the 10k and that I’m taking steps to get back into running.
The return trip to the hotel was a quick ride once we found our friend Louis’s car. The other women I was with went up to the room while I stopped in at Starbucks. I bought a green tea latte that I spilled all over the marble-like entry of the hotel room without getting one sip. Bummer. After all of us showered and changed out of our running clothes, we headed out for lunch.
We found the Irish pub that Jane and I intended to go to the night before called Kitty O’Sheas. It was inside of a hotel in the opposite direction where we’d gone the previous night. I had amazing fish and chips and a pint of Smithwicks. We had a great time. The other two women with us headed back home, so Jane and I were on our own the second night.
We each climbed into a bed and snoozed a little before dinner time. I put on my Yeti hat and we walked to the nearest Panera to have soup and a sandwich for dinner. Once we finished, we headed back to the hotel. The temps were again reaching single digits and negative wind chills. We opted for pj’s and wine in the hotel room since we’d stopped to get the wine the evening before. We had a good time sharing fundraising ideas and quite unique race award ideas.
Heading back to Union Station, we felt like we had plenty of time to catch our 9:45 am train back home. Except when we got there, we discovered the train was actually a 9:25am train back home and it was 9:15am. We fast walked to the train and found the last seats in the last car to sit in. The ride was bumpy, hot, and seemingly took a long time. My birthday weekend was over and I was on my way home to see my family.
Today, I opened a Facebook page for the fundraiser that I’m doing for the Chicago Marathon in October. My goal is $2000 and I’m raising for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. So far, this is what I have: