Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Chicago Chinatown 5K 2014 (SPICY!!)

Chicago Chinatown 5K (3.15 miles)
Average Pace 10:06/mile

Wow!  What a whirlwind of a weekend I just had.  But I guess that is to be expected when you decide two days before race day that you're going to go for it... and attend a race that is two states away.

Let's back up... how did this happen?

Well, a few months ago Emmers712 wrote a post talking about how the 2014 Chicago Chinatown 5K was going to take place on her birthday.  Although I really wanted to run the race, at the time I had a hunch that I was pregnant.  After doing some math, I wasn't sure that I'd be able to be 5+/- months pregnant AND run a 5K in the middle of hot, hot July.  So, I lamented having to miss out on what would for sure be an awesome race (and perfectly suited to someone like me with a Chinese language background), and thought ... maybe next year.

Unfortunately, as you already know, the pregnancy didn't work out ... it's ok and I'm ok, so don't dwell on it.  Regardless, wouldn't you know, three months later I just so happened to still have that weekend free?!?! 

After making that realization, and exchanging a few text/email/phone conversations with my husband about a possible weekend getaway (he was in Boston working for the week), we decided - why the heck not?!  Let's just go!

And so, a weekend adventure was born about 24 hours prior to my departure from Minnesota.  Excited about my trip, I just couldn't keep my mouth shut:


Yep, you got it.  I was going to go as a sriracha bottle.  I'm guessing it was an impressive idea given this post on Emmer's blog.

How do I come up with this stuff?!  Don't ask - I don't know!!!  Somehow, in looking at Asian inspired costumes on Amazon, I stumbled across sriracha leggings.  And thank goodness I did because I was NOT going to wear some sort of stereotyped, extremely offensive, geisha outfit or ninja garb.  Seriously, who buys that sh!t?!  I just don't get it.  Anyway...

With the leggings on order, I made a quick stop at Target for a tank top ... unfortunately from the men's section (AKA ill fitting), but what can you expect last second?!

And that was it!  Costume SOLVED!

With the most important parts in place on Wednesday night (costume - check!  hotel - check!), I ran around in a tizzy on Thursday to get the rest done.  I managed to request a last second PTO day for Friday, arrange to get my dog over to my in-laws for a weekend of dog sitting, and do TWO loads of laundry while packing... and trying to talk my husband through his extremely delayed flight back home to Minneapolis.

Lucky for him, his flight was so screwed up that he was able to request a change and flew from Boston into Chicago the next morning.  Unlucky for me, that meant a 7+ hour drive to Chicago all alone.  *sad clown whistle*  Oh well!  Queue a 5:30am wake-up, a large espresso drink, some loud music, and cruise control.  (I just got a speeding warning after dropping my sister off post running pride, so I definitely didn't want to take any risks). 

Fortunately, the ride went by in a snap.  Well, aside from driving in 45-55mph construction zones on I-90 in Illinois.  Yeah, those folks see a sign that says "minimum fine $375" and interpret that to mean "speed limit 375mph".  Fun times when you're the one obeying the posted limit.

Anyway, soon enough I was in Chicago.  And pre-race fueling, of course.

Although, in retrospect, I wished I would have saved the rich dinner of Lou Malnati's for AFTER the race, since my stomach couldn't quite handle it on race day.  Oh well, I survived!

I don't know where the time went after I set foot in Chicago (I certainly didn't feel like I slept it away, I can tell you that much), but all the sudden it was 5:30am on race morning.  Since I hadn't registered in advance, I wanted to arrive to registration bright and early to ensure a spot ... and a shirt in my size.

And ... since I have a TON of photos from the race, I'm going to do this race recap as a photo essay instead.  Here goes!

6:00am - Riding the red line to the start line! 

6:45am - Check in complete, and I got a 69!!! 
WHOOP! Hahahahahaha!

7:30am - Hiding from the rain, pre race. 
You can see my husband and me in the far left of both photos. 
I may or may not have a look of concern on my face - due to the rain AND not seeing Emmers anywhere in site.
No lightening, so let's get started! 
FYI ... that is rain you hear, not people clapping.
Just after passing through the starting gate.
You can see me just off to the right of the guy in the white tank.
PS - white in the rain?  Impromptu wet t-shirt contest!!
Just as I rounded the corner after the start, I hear "Natalie!!!!"
Finally I find Emmers, or rather, she found me.
Immediately we agreed to my previous text message - let's run this (rainy) b!tch!

 Unbeknownst to me, my poor dedicated husband patiently waited in the rain
for my arrival post race to ensure epic photo documentation. 
Luckily the race photographer caught him unawares...

Meanwhile, Emmers and I ran through the gate to Chinatown and proceed to ...
Rain dance? 
Feel like we peed our pants without actually doing so? 
D - all of the above!

Finally two (?) water stops later, we hit the turn around point. 
With the pouring rain, it sure felt like a whole lot further than 1.5+ miles...
 After passing yet ANOTHER water stop (and this time, I partook),
we were still together.  Despite my slow pace,
I just couldn't sweet talk Emmers into leaving me in her dust. 
We begin our final approach to the finish...
And we did it!  A not-too-terrible (but not great) time of 31+.
I spot my husband just past the mat, and we strike a pose.
Now, what's a post-race celebration without tons of photos to document the experience?

We chose duces up in #3 to "honor" the true Chinese casual photo style...

Of course, you also can't forget the snack table and goody bags post run.
I skipped the drinks, but went for a banana and some water.
(Hopefully my hotel maid likes energy drinks - because they got one free of charge.)
Once the 5K and youth runs were complete, a Lion Dance was preformed to celebrate.
Play where's Waldo and find me in the crowd...
PS - Lion Dance origins versus the Dragon Dance (and pearl of wisdom), if you're curious.

And now for the best part - the lucky draw post race!
First, the children's drawings, with this little winner taking home the grand prize. 
I think he was cheered for more loudly than the winners of the 5K were!!
Emmers also pointed out that the Hello Kitty was about 3x the size of the kid.  Too cute!

Although I was not lucky enough to win a prize (DISCLOSURE - two of which were iPad minis!!),
Emmers lucked out on her birthday and took home a little somethin' somethin'...

Eventually the drawing ended, and after a quick detour to show my husband the gate to Chinatown,
we split back to the hotel.  There, I spent the next 20 minutes wringing out every piece of clothing
I was wearing by hand and then enjoyed another (although somewhat warmer) shower. 
I got about 2 cups of water out of my underwear alone... which made my new, DRY shirt so much more rewarding!!

And that's about it! 

Overall, I have to say, this was a really fun race.  It was a nice fast & flat route through an area I would likely never have seen had I skipped this race (I've never made it to Chinatown in Chicago prior), and despite a few potholes and HUGE rain puddles, it wasn't a bad route.  As an added bonus, there where three - yes, three!! - water stops.  A great plus for a hot July race... although maybe not so necessary for a rainy day.

You can definitely tell this event is run by people who are truly passionate about it.  The woman shown above in the Hello Kitty photo was the main organizer, and she was just so bubbly and cute.  Every other word out of her mouth while announcing was either "disclosure" (to announce another prize was about to be drawn, which just made me laugh) or "thank you" - to either the volunteers at the event, the business who sponsored the event, or even to the runners for sticking it out despite the rain and the course snafu (they had to make a last second route change and revert to the 2013 map shown above, which really didn't bother me at all).

The passion for organizing this event was so strong that it was obvious beyond the announcer as well.  The man taking photos post race had the biggest smile on his face that I think I have ever seen, the volunteers at the check-in booth were some of the best I've ever had, and the groups at every water stop were not only ready to go but non stop cheering for everyone on course. 

I cannot think of a single thing that was disappointing about this race.  Even the rain made it an adventure.  In fact, I think that's the heaviest rain I have ever ran in... and it was definitely an experience.

And of course, how can I neglect to mention the honor that was running with Ms. Emmers?!  Although we "met" via the Chicago Half last year... she was in the background of my photos, and I in hers:

We finally really met at this race.  That was worth the trip alone!!

And that's the story of how race bib # 45 joined my collection!  Here's to another race soon... but since I'm now three weeks for three 5K races, I'm pooped... so it might be a few weeks before you see another recap!

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