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Monday, January 13, 2014

Chicago Polar Dash - Race Recap

Well, after an unplanned break from blogging (ah, the joys of graduate school and the holidays!), I can officially say - I am BACK! 2014 is a new year and I've got big plans, big aspirations, and big events coming this year. But, more on that later…

For now I attempt my first race recap - forgive me if it sucks.

After the difficulty to complete last year's challenge of 13 in 2013 and the major events coming in 2014 (HELLO graduation!!!!),  I knew a lot of races wasn't an option this year. Enter the year of BIG races. I'm still going to do a handful of races, but they'll be larger distances or big, fun events to travel to. Either way, each race will be carefully selected. :)

The Chicago Polar Dash was my first race of 2014. Why did I choose this race? A couple of reasons really: 1) My friend Jess from Run With Jess was doing it and I've always wanted to do a race with her, 2) it had GREAT swag, and 3) it was a 14 mile race which would set a new distance PR for me.

We traveled up the night before and had a great time talking and laughing all the way to Chicago, capping the night off with some pretty awesome Chicago style pizza in our hotel room. Then it was early to bed.

Carb loading…Chicago style!


We woke up the morning of the race with all of us a little concerned on how to dress. There was much discussion and debate on what would be the perfect combination of tops, jackets, and accessories to ensure we were warm enough but not too warm. In the end I ended up going with Jess's suggestion of a long sleeve and my thin jacket. Let me just say, she's a genius because it was the perfect combo. The only thing that ever got cold was my hands and I've always had issues with that.

Other than being mostly black, this was the perfect combo for the temps.

We walked from our hotel to the race start in Grant Park and timed it pretty well.  Within a few minutes we were lining up to start, but not before we'd taken a picture for posterity.

It was so much fun to travel and run with these ladies! 

The start came and we were off.  Got the Garmin started and settled into the first few miles trying to warm up and chatting with my new friend CC. The course was an out-and-back which I actually enjoy. There's something in my head that says that if I can get to the halfway point, I've got it in the bag.

I never remember to look up at the photographers! 

Despite the lack of sunshine, the scenery along the lakefront trail was still very pretty.  I always enjoy running the Lakefront Trail, no matter what time of year it is. The lake is beautiful and the trail is very well maintained.

The beautiful Chicago skyline

Before we knew it CC and I were nearing the 7 mile turnaround point.  For not having specifically trained for this event, I was pretty happy with my splits.

Mile 1: 11:41 (Lots of "obstacle"  hopping slowed me down some.)
Mile 2: 11:09 (Still warming up)
Mile 3: 9:59
Mile 4: 10:05
Mile 5: 10:44 (HUGE puddles!)
Mile 6: 10:43 (More puddles!)
Mile 7: 10:30 

At the turn-around point I whooped it up a little and settled in to finish this badboy.  Knowing I wasn't going to make any sort of time goal because of the conditions, I stopped to take some pictures. 

I loved the color of the water in this picture. 

Even in the dead of winter, the Chicago skyline is so beautiful to me. 

About mile 8 I split off from CC and kept plugging away. I'd taken my Gu at 1 hour and 1:45 right on schedule and was feeling pretty good.  I found myself alone for a while so I kicked on the music and pushed on toward the finish. 

About mile 10 and still smiling!
Mile 8: 10:26
Mile 9: 10:28
Mile 10: 10:23

As I neared the finish my pace picked up a little. I was feeling good and thoughts of a marathon once again entered my head.  It was this point in the race, about mile 12 that I knew I could do it and made the decision to register for my first marathon. :)

What a welcome sight! Heading toward the finish line!

The home stretch! 1 mile to go!
Mile 11: 10:33
Mile 12: 10:10


With less than 2 miles to go I kicked it into gear and finished strong. Could I have pushed it harder? Probably. But, I feel good about this race and the decision that came out of it, and that's what matters to me. 

Woohoo, I made it! Strong finish!

First medal for 2014! 


Mile 13: 9:50 (A little burst of speed there!)
Mile 14: 10:13 

After crossing the finish line I collected my medal, a banana, and a very welcome cup of hot chocolate, then headed back to the finish to cheer in my friends. I love watching the faces of my friends as the cross the finish line! 

Well, that's it for the Polar Dash. I'm wondering though, have you ever made an important decision while running?