Monday, June 30, 2014

Is the Bull Run on your bucket list?

Would you like to face the adrenaline rush of a lifetime as you run beside 1,500-pound bulls stampeding down a quarter-mile course?  Then you can celebrate your accomplishment with thousands of thrill-seekers in a massive, day-long festival that also features an insane tomato food fight, Tomato Royale!

Sounds pretty fun right?  I wish that I could be there to run alongside you, but sadly I have prior commitments that day and won't be able to attend.  I do however have a FREE race entry to give away to one of my lucky readers :)  Drop a comment below letting me know why you've always wanted to run with bulls or tell me about the craziest thing you've ever done!  There's also a consolation prize for the rest of you, use code  "ENDS" for $10 off of admission tickets.

Still need a little convincing?  Here's some info from the The Great Bull Run Website:

The Great Bull Run can be summed up in four simple words: Running. With. Real. Bulls.  This isn’t a charity 5k or a simulated bull run with people dressed in bull costumes chasing you down the street.  This is the real deal, modeled after the famous San Fermin festival in Pamplona, Spain, but without all the time and money required for a trip to Europe!  Now you can finally cross this adrenaline-filled experience off your bucket list without breaking the bank.  Pretty awesome, no?

But there’s more to The Great Bull Run than just running with bulls!  Join thousands of fellow thrill-seekers in this massive day-long festival featuring bands, games, food, beer and, of course, Tomato Royale, our version of the insanely fun tomato food fight, La Tomatina.  After all, surviving an epic run with 1,500-pound bulls is a pretty good reason to celebrate.  But don’t worry if you’ve got a lower threshold for excitement; you can leave the running to the adrenaline junkies and opt to be a spectator or join the Tomato Royale fun!

So what are you waiting for?  Tell me your best story for your chance at running with the bulls for FREE!!! (contest winner will be announced Saturday July 5th so hurry!)

Friday, June 27, 2014

It's a twofor!

Pre-race with the ladies
Around Black Friday there were some pretty good race deals.  We all know I'm a race junkie so I strategically had to pick and chose which to register for.  Per usual, I always have to share a good deal so I blasted facebook with all the deals and coupon codes.  Sam was interested in a few of them so we made plans to have an epic race weekend doing back to back races.  The first would be the Biggest Loser 5k Rockford (the Chicago race wasn't an option yet) and the Warrior Dash. 

Post Race with bling
Previous to this weekend I've run 2 other Biggest Loser races.  The first was the Chicago 5k last year and I loved it.  The second was the Mobile Half Marathon and that was brutal.  I knew the race in Rockford was a toss up so I just hoped for the best.  We had a hotel fiasco when we arrived Friday night and all I could was pray that things got better from there.  We finally found a new hotel and got settled before heading out to grab some dinner.  There were four of us total (Sam, Umber, Candyce and myself) who got picked up by a friend of theirs who lives in the area.  He took us out to dinner and then some drinks.  Not the best choice for pre-race prep but hey it's only a 5k right? 

We got up early, donned our tutus and headed to the starting line.  Candyce and Umber split off first leaving Sam and I to chat as I we paced along.  Soon we were greeted with the first of many hills.  We had to slow a bit and I felt those drinks from the night before start to take a toll on me.  It also didn't help that we didn't find the aid station until well after the 2 mile mark.  All in all it was pretty decent race and I ended up finishing much faster than I thought. 

Team Jugs & Thugs
Mud, Sweat & Beers
After refueling and spending some time with Sam's family we made our way to Morris and checked in at the next hotel.  We had picked up some matching shirts to wear for the Warrior Dash, but they were blank so I spent most of the night working on the design and execution.  The next morning we had a light breakfast then started the trip over to the race site.  Excitement was building as we found ourselves in a sea of fellow mud runners at the race village.  We met up with the Midwest Vikings to get our pre-race picture then got pumped up on the way to the starting line.  Most of the Vikings split off to beat the pack, but Codi (who had already finished the course in the elite heat that morning) stayed back with us to make sure no one was left behind.
Midwest Vikings!

I absolutely LOVE Warrior Dash.  It has officially become one of my favorite races.  I enjoyed doing it last year with my sisters, and running it a second time around was nothing short of spectacular.  I was able to make it through every.single.obstacle. yup, none of them could beat me.  This race was all about fun for us so we weren't worried about time or technique.  We just wanted to have a good ol' dirty time.  We started as a team and ended as a team, all 5 of us together.  After lots of rinsing and some pictures I was able to get what I missed out on the year before.  A turkey leg.  It was just as glorious as I imagined it would be.  I tore into it like a savage and washed it down with an ice cold beer.  We hung out for a few hours with the Viking family then finally made our way back to the car.  I'm starting to wonder if maybe the mud runs is really where my heart is...only time will tell.

Here are a few of the Warrior Dash highlights...

Michelob 13.1

There's really only a handful of courses for Chicago races.  Even fewer if we're talking about a half marathon so when I saw the Michelob 13.1 would be along the South Shore I knew it would be an obvious addition to the list.  In years past the race had a different sponsor and was included in the Windy City 26.2 Challenge (aka you get an extra medal for completed both races in the series).  I have to admit, the prospect of extra bling was a big part of why I chose this race as well.  It was a tough choice though because it meant I would have to give up my dream of running Ragnar this year.  That one will have to wait for another year, but it's definitely still on the bucket list. 

Pre-race with my Midwest Vikings
I live pretty much as far north as you can possibly get and still be considered a Chicago resident.  In order for me to get to the race on time that meant a 3:30am alarm.  The struggle.  I knew the morning would be rough so I laid everything out the night before and slept in my race gear.  As I woke and got ready to head out I felt like I hadn't even slept.  Bleary eyed, I made my way through the mile long walk to the train station.  Thankfully they have shuttles that run from downtown to the South Shore Cultural Center so I didn't have to make the whole trip by myself via CTA which can get a bit dicey at that hour.  I hopped on the shuttle bus and tried to catch a quick nap as we made the journey to the south side of the city.  As we arrived at our destination I started texting my teammates to see where we would be meeting.  Got a quick pre-race picture with my fellow Midwest Vikings and met a few folks I hadn't seen before. 

I look happy so this must have been early on
Freddie and I made our way to the slow-"O" corral and waited for the race to start.  I ran into an old friend from Loyola which helped boost my spirits a bit.  Whenever a long distance race also has a short distance component I feel a twinge of doubt, wondering if I should take the short turnaround instead of the long course.  I'm starting to think this might just be something I'll always have to experience and overcome.  It's part of the process, convincing myself that Yes, I can do this.  The longer we waited to cross the starting line, the more I felt my energy evaporate.  I just wasn't feeling it today. 

Most of this race is a blur.  Mostly I just fought back the urge to quit and kept on trucking.  It was hot, like really hot, I swore I saw the devil waving at me from under a tree.  The pollen and dander was out of control and made breathing pretty difficult.  I finally found the first cliff gel station...and they were out.  I was devastated.  I forgot to pack my GU so that little packet nuclear tasting sludge was the only thing that kept me going.  I had been looking forward to it since about mile 3.  No matter, I started drinking more gatorade at the aid stations as I barged along.  After the turnaround I found the next cliff gel station and there on the table was one small open box left.  I nearly jumped for joy in excitement but I just didn't have that kind of energy in me.  As I tore through the packet with my teeth I heard a chorus of angels sing and maybe even a unicorn prance around me. 

So maybe I was starting to hallucinate a little.  Like I said, not the best race conditions for me.  Please sweet dear lord baby Jesus get me to this finish line.  One foot in front of the other.  The closer I got the finish area the more friends I saw walking away spoils in hand.  Dang, I'm thirsty and hungry, please share.  I just kept digging.  Must get to finish line.  Now here's the tricky part, you enter the finishers shoot but that bad boy feels as if it's a mile long.  I kept thinking OK this is it, this is it, we're finally here, only to realize I wasn't in fact there and this definitely wasn't it.  By some small miracle I was finally able to reach that last corner of my soul for the strength to get me across the last stretch before finally earning my medal. 

Sort of in a daze I made my way over to the pizza tent to collect my much anticipated treat.  At this point I figured all of my friends must have left because it took me so flipping long to finish.  As I stood in the sun annihilating my pizza and beer Freddie walked up to congratulate me on my finish.  We chatted with a few other friends and then headed to the shuttle buses. The bus was pretty packed so I ended up sitting next to a friendly gentleman from Minnesota who had just finished his very first half marathon that morning.  I wish I could remember more of that conversation but truthfully it's amazing to me that I was even able to string together coherent thoughts.  This was not a pretty race for me but I'm glad I got it done.  Next year, I'm definitely doing Ragnar instead.

Post Race celebratory drink

Solider Field 10 Miler

Pre-race with my running big brothers, Juan & Freddie
I've never been a huge fan of running with a tutu.  I love seeing how festive they look, but actually wearing one?  No thanks.  I've worn tutus with Abby to a couple of our 5k races but never for a longer distance race.  You can understand my hesitation when my friend Sam asked me to wear a tutu for the Soldier Field 10 Miler.  Seriously?  You want me to run 10 miles with a giant tutu swaying around me?  I decided to be a good sport and head over to the tulle party to make my masterpiece.  I didn't have a particular design in mind but ended up with a pretty princess tutu with wisps of pink and purple. 

Midwest Vikings in front of the flag

That morning as I made my trek to soldier field I was already regretting my choice to wear the damn thing.  The early morning stragglers just making it home from the bar looked at me like I was the one who was still drunk.  It was cumbersome and kind of itchy.  On the plus side, once I got to Soldier Field, my friends had no problem finding me in all my frilly glory.  I found my Midwest Vikings teammates to get a pre-race picture in front of the big flag (team tradition).  We all wished each other good luck then headed off to our respective corrals.  My friend Freddie and I are slow runners so we found our place in the back end of the corrals.  I was anxiously awaiting my tutu compatriots when just before we started moving towards the starting line they finally found us.  Now at least I didn't look like a complete fool by myself. 

The first few miles were nice and easy.  Umber took off while Sam and I kept a good pace a little further back.  Another friend of mine, Eddie, met up with us for a few miles but he had the need for speed so he also broke off to cruise ahead of us.  When we finally hit the turnaround I was noticing some significant pain in my right hip.  I slowed down and let Sam pass me to keep her speed going.  I struggled between limping and running as I made my way down the lakefront. 

post-race with the tutu crew, Sam & Umber
Early on we had picked out a couple that we decided we were racing.  Our goal was to not let them pass us.  At about the 8 mile mark I noticed them approaching out of my peripherals.  It's go time, I took off with gazelle speed (ok, maybe not that fast but I sure felt like a speed demon).  I knew I couldn't keep that stride going for much longer so I slowly eased back into my comfort zone.  It's go time.  Here's the point in a race where I become like a sniper.  I pick people out running ahead of me and pass them one by one.  In our Chicago Runners group we refer to this as "soul snatching" and keep a record of our kills.  I was on a high as I passed runner after runner.  When I hit mile 9 I realized that I only had 1 mile left and TONS of energy.  I'm used to holding onto those reserves to get me through the last 3.1 of a half marathon.  Time to really put in work.  I gradually broke back into my quicker pace as I neared Soldier Field. 

Even if you hate distance running, this part of the race is what makes it worth it.  Being able to run through the players corridor and onto the field is a truly surreal feeling.  If you had no energy left, this experience will pull that second wind out and push you to the finish line.  As soon as you finish you find yourself in the middle of Soldier Field (yes, the actual field) with a line of military personnel waiting with eager smiles to put that fancy medal around your neck.  This is another one of those tear filled moments as the importance of this moment sinks in.  Here you are during Memorial Day weekend, standing in a place dedicated to those who have fought for our freedom and coming face to face to say thank you as they congratulate your accomplishment.  It's beautiful and I don't think any other race can rival that moment.  So if you're afraid to run the 10 miles, don't be.  Get a training plan together and dig deep to find that inner gazelle just waiting to break out.

Chicago Spring Half Marathon

Have you ever seen one of those ads for a race that has someone really inspirational that makes you WANT to run a crazy distance?  Sometimes I see those things in real life and it makes me believe in magic.  Last year around this time 5 miles was the longest distance I had run.  I was still reeling off that accomplishment when I volunteered at the Spring Half Marathon.  The company I work for is one of the sponsors so we have a team of volunteers at an aid station and another group running the race.  The first wave of runners are what you typically expect at the front of the pack, just charging away in search of that elusive PR. 

As the waves past and the runners dwindled there was one man who stole our hearts.  This man was probably in his 60's or so and was doing the entire race on crutches.  Yes, crutches.  Luckily for us we would get to see all of these brave souls a second time as they passed our aid station again on their loop back to the finish line.  As that same runner approached our table on his way back we all erupted in cheers.  Being in the presence of this unconquerable soul was truly awe inspiring and even brought a few of us to tears.  Despite what I can only imagine to be an intense amount of pain and agony, he still had a smile on his face.  I understand that smile, it's the look that says "don't worry, I got this".  It was in that moment that I promised myself to return to this same race next year and leave all my fears and doubts behind me to just the job done.

Pre-race with Juan, my running big brother
I wish I could say that I had the most epic race of my life at the Spring Half Marathon, but that wold be a lie.  I was feeling pretty sluggish that morning and still experiencing a bit of pain as I wasn't fully recovered from the past few races.  I knew this was something I had to do and there wasn't anything that could stop me.  The first few miles started out like any other race but I have to admit that 10k turnaround point was pretty tempting as I passed.  I kept pushing and eventually my body won and I had to take a break.  I gathered my wits and focused my thoughts on nothing but positive energy. 

My Team Perl family

When I approached my company's aid station the first time I was still in pretty high spirits.  I felt the pain, but it was manageable.  I hugged a few co-workers and trotted along down the course.  After hitting the turn and coming back around my heart started to drop.  I began to doubt myself and wonder if  I really had it in me to finish this thing.  I was walking up to my coworkers handing out water when I remember that fierce old man, crutching his way along and I knew there was no other option.  I simply couldn't give up, even if I had to walk the whole way back, I needed to finish.  I'm blessed with some amazing colleagues who are more than just friends or coworkers, some of them are like family.  They encouraged me and one of them even jumped in and decided to finish the race with me.  We walked and ran the last few miles together and I'll forever be grateful to him for helping me through.  As we approached the finish line a wave of relief washed over me.  It was finally over.  It wasn't a great race, and definitely not a pretty one.  But I finished.  And sometimes, that's all you need.

Post Race goodies!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Color Me Rad - Detroit

Before 2013 Color Run
After 2013 Color Run
I love running.  I love to introduce people to running.  When you truly love someone you can't just keep it to yourself, you need to share it with the world'.  Last year for Mother's Day I got this great idea to give my mom a different kind of gift, a race entry.  I signed us both up for the Color Run Detroit.  She had never run a race before but I promised her I would be with her every step of the way and she agreed to take on the challenge.  Needless to say, she absolutely loved it!  When I'm not back home in Michigan she doesn't really have anyone to do races with so our Mother's Day tradition would be the only time for her to get in a 5k. 

Before 2014 Color Me Rad
After 2014 Color Me Rad
To keep the tradition going I found another Mother's Day weekend race in Detroit and signed us both up.  We decided to go with Color Me Rad to switch up the course and try something new.  Hands down this has to be one of the best courses in Detroit as you get to run along the river.  We had gorgeous weather that morning and parking was super easy.  We started the race off with a light pace but as we got about a mile in stopped to take some breaks.  Of course we had to take pictures along the river and just really appreciate the beauty of a city most people seem to forget.  The race wasn't overly crowded and there was plenty of color to go around and cover us all.  We both had a blast and I can't wait til we can continue our Mother/Daughter run next year!

Here are a few highlights from the run...

 As you can see, my mom is one happy lady and doesn't mind getting covered in color to celebrate Mother's Day!  Mission accomplished :)