Friday, May 29, 2015

2015 Racing - So Far

As I mentioned in my 2014 year end recap, I'm dumb.

Well, technically the exact quote was "Despite running without pushing myself physically, (in 2014) I still found myself being competitive with myself MENTALLY, attempting to maintain or beat my race record of 2013 - 15 bibs on my wall."

So ... you know where this post is going, right?  I mean, of course we all need to know how I'm getting to 15 bibs again in 2015!!

That means today's post is a recap of where I am thus far in 2015.


Races Completed
Total races - 4
Total bibs - 3

Feb - Tri-U-Mah, AKA my first ever triathlon (although no bib was received)
April - Hot Chocolate
May - Lake Minnetonka Half Relay
May - Cinco de Miler

**I also volunteered at my usual Chaska 5K in May, too, but we won't count that in the official tally since I didn't run or get a bib there.

Races Scheduled
Now comes the tough part.  How do I get 12 more bibs squeezed in this year?!  Below is a list of races I'm either already registered for or think I may reasonably attend (I've linked the races to their registration pages in case you want to run with me, too!) 

If I add the below with the above, my new counts would be:

Total races - 14
Total bibs - 13

May - Run the Inferno
June -  Carlyle Sherstad 5K/10KRainbow Run
July - Freedom 5, Gandy Dancer Fly In
August - Webster Education Fund 5K
September - Suds Run, Women Run the Cities
October - TC 10 Mile (pending lotto), Mankato 10K/Half
November & December - Weather Pending

This tentative race schedule leaves me with at least 2 more bibs to earn.  Plus a whole lotta free weekends in June, July and August.  Not to mention I still need to settle on a real, outdoor tri ... though I do have my eye on this one (have you done it - if yes, let's chat).

So now I turn to you ... suggestions?!  I need some race ideas for 2015!!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Recipe: Delicous Entree - Skillet Gnocchi with Chard & White Beans

The way things work at my house, due to work and gym schedules, is something like this: I do the grocery shopping and meal planning, and my husband does the cooking.  Then, when dinner is done, I basically do the post meal cleanup (dishes, etc).

I can't complain about this arrangement because (1) my husband is an excellent cook and (2) I have a hot meal ready as soon as I get home from the gym, which means I don't end up coming home and stuffing my face with junk while I wait for dinner to cook.

Anyway, last week I fell down on the job and we found ourselves short on a meal option for the week.  Since my husband has the opportunity to work from home, and I knew he would be able to squeeze in a quick grocery run during his lunch hour, I gave him free reign to come up with a dinner option.

What he ended up serving was delicious, quick to prepare, and fairly healthy too.  So, I thought I'd share. 



Skillet Gnocchi with Chard & White Beans



  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 - 16 ounce package of shelf stable gnocchi
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 6 cups chopped chard leaves (about 1 small bunch), or spinach
  • 1 - 15 ounce can diced tomatoes (with or without Italian seasonings)
  • 1 - 15 ounce can white beans, rinsed
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese

    Heat 1 tablespoon oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add gnocchi and cook, stirring often, until plumped and staring to brown - 5 to 7 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl.

    Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil and onion to the pan and cook, stirring, over medium heat for 2 minutes.  Stir in garlic and water.  Cover and cook until the onion is soft - 4 to 6 minutes.  Add chard (or spinach, which is what we used, since our local grocery store didn't have chard that day) and cook, stirring until starting to wilt - 1 to 2 minutes.  Stir in tomatoes, beans and pepper and bring to a simmer. 

    Stir in the gnocchi and sprinkle with cheeses.  Cover and cook until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling - about 3 minutes.

    NOTE: My husband accidentally purchased mini gnocchi, which he jokingly called "rabbit turds" when he opened the package and was surprised by their tiny size.  I actually enjoyed the slightly crispy texture the mini gnocchi took on after cooking, due to its smaller size.

    SECOND NOTE:  I think that this would be equally as delicious without the cheese, and would recommend serving it without, or topping with cheese after plating (if desired).

    Makes 6 servings, recommended to be served with a mixed greens salad topped with vinaigrette. 

    Nutrition information for gnocchi dish, via original recipe creator (I did not validate this info):

    Per serving - 327 calories; 7 g fat (2 g sat, 3 g mono); 8 mg cholesterol; 56 g carbohydrate; 0 g added sugars; 14 g protein; 6 g fiber; 598 mg sodium; 361 mg potassium. Vitamin A (54% daily value),  Vitamin C (48% dv), Calcium & Iron (20% dv).

    Carbohydrate Servings: 3
    Exchanges: 3 starch, 1 vegetable, 1 lean meat, 1 fat

    Monday, May 25, 2015

    Friday, May 22, 2015

    Call for Help - RaceRaves

    If you're one for details like me, you may have noticed a few extras have appeared on this site in the last week or so.  Or ... if you're not one for details, here's a hit: look to your right.

    Still don't know?!  Need another hint?!

    Psssttt ... see these guys?

    Ah, now you see it!  I finally got around to adding my InkNBurn ambassador badge.  PLUS - I added a link to RaceRaves

    Yeah, yeah.  I know.  InkNBurn is old hat by now.  You know all about it, and are already shopping there, right?!  (RIGHT?!  LOL!)  But I'm betting you're wondering what RaceRaves is, right? 

    Well, glad you asked!!

    Let's start by oversimplifying: RaceRaves, to me, is kind of like the Yelp of races.  You can go there, look up a race, see who else has done it in the past, and see how it's rated.  And like Yelp, you can also see photos that people have uploaded.  But, unlike Yelp (which is what makes this site so much better), it also allows you to see which bloggers have run those races; and if they chose to link up, it will give you access to the blog recap they did for that race as well.

    In my opinion, RaceRaves is a hugely useful tool.  Not only does it mean I don't have to spend hours picking through Google results to find race recaps, RaceRaves gives me an immediate snap shot of a race and what it might be like ... without having to read 3-4 blogs about it first.

    For an example of how the site works, let's take a look at a race I'm dreaming of doing ... maybe in 2016 - Bay to Breakers. 

    Ready?!  OK!  Let's give it a shot.


    First, we go to the web page:

    We key in "Bay to Breakers" and click on what auto-populates:

    That brings us here:

    So, as you can see, this race is a 12K on paved road, is located in San Francisco (per the handy map on the right), and for the last few years it's been mostly a sunny and comfortably cool race at 50-60 degrees.

    Unfortunately, this race currently has only one user review.  (More on this in a bit.)  FYI - if it would have had more than one review, RaceRaves would have averaged everyone's reviews  to create the "overall" rating at the top of the page.  But, that being said, let's focus on where the one review for this race came from.

    The reviewer for this race is "Margs", who is a repeat runner of this race. They didn't post a blog link in this review, but they did rate the 2013 occurrence of this race as follows: 3 sneakers for difficulty, 5 sneakers for scenery, 4 sneakers for production and 4 sneakers for swag.  It also appears, based on the "photo" link just under the map to the right, that Margs has uploaded a photo for this race.  Let's check it out!

    Hm.  Nice costume, Margs.  I think you and I should hang out.

    While Margs doesn't have a blog post tied to this review, since I DO like their photo, that brings me to the next functionality of RaceRaves: runner networking. 

    If I wanted to, I could set up my own profile and then choose to "follow" Margs - you know, to see what other races they review in the future, etc.  Or I could click on their profile to learn more about them, etc. 

    That being said, since I've done enough stalking of Margs but still want to talk about profiles before I send you off to go check out the RaceRaves website, how about we just move on and look at my profile as an example?

    As you can see, the basics of a profile are an image, a location and blog info (if provided), and a few other little snippets. 

    You can also choose what I consider to be your running spirit animal.  Choices include:

    For my profile, since I'm not particularly fast, I chose camel.  I dunno why.  I guess it seemed random enough at the time.  But now, I just realized there's a definition to the animals.  So, since I hate eating on course and usually drink very little at aid stations, I guess I still agree with the choice:

    Beyond the short summary on the profile, if you scroll down, you can see additional race info, PR details, etc.  (These aren't really accurate for me, since I don't have all my races in here, and my PRs are far better thank what's posted, but I digress.)

    You can also see all the reviews a person has posted.  Apparently I have done far too many, as mine fell off the bottom when I tried to do a screen shot.

    And gee, what do you know?!  Scrolling all the way down to the bottom of my profile, I found I have a follower!!

    Internet stalking at it's finest.  LOL!  (Rather than talk you through what it means to have followers and all that, since it's very similar to the "friending" concept on Facebook or LinkedIn, I'm just going to skip that topic.)


    So let's see.  I covered the basics of how to search a race and what goes into a profile on the site. 

    Hm.  Well, really that's enough to just turn you loose and let you explore.  And technically, it's really all I've done so far on the site myself, so why keep babbling on?

    Oh!  That's right.  One last thing.

    Above, I mentioned how there was only one review for the Bay to Breakers race.  Which funnels into why I'm writing this whole blog.  Essentially, I'm making a call for help.

    RaceRaves is awesome.  The staff there is incredibly friendly, and every time I reach out to them to add a race or make an adjustment to their website, they reply back immediately.  Like, seriously, within a matter of a few hours.

    And you know how much I love to support businesses that deserve it.

    So, before I sign off for today, my request is this: 

         (1) Go to RaceRaves
         (2) Set up a profile
         (3) Contribute good content

    Really, that's it.  That's all I ask.  And please - review as many races as your little heart desires.  I can't wait to see how big RaceRaves' library can get!!

    Wednesday, May 20, 2015

    Chaska 5K/10K/Kids Run 2015 (Free Range Bibs)


    Chaska 5K/10K/Kids Run 
    Average Pace 0:00/mile

    Does the above 0:00.0 look vaguely familiar to you?  If you've been reading my blog for at least a year or so, I bet it does.  (Here's a hint - it's because of this.)

    Ok, got your guess ready?!

    Yep, you got it.  I'm doing another race recap for a race that I volunteered at - not ran.  And like last time, I never actually planned to run this race, since I knew I'd be of better assistance on the course rather than running the course. 

    Heck, I even assisted pre-race, encouraging a few people to upgrade their race distance due to my presence.

    And, so, that's the preface.  Let's get started.


    At 5:30am on race day, my alarm went off.  Again.  Man, that never seems to be fun gets old!!  At least there's an up side to volunteering at a race: you can wake up some as you shower.

    Since there's not much to "prepare" for on a volunteer race day, aside from a quick shower, I didn't have much to worry about.  So, by about 6:45am, I had packed up at the house and was on my way to the Community Center.  Once there, I checked in, grabbed my aid station supplies, and headed off to my post ... but only after a quick volunteer's VIP breakfast snack, of course.

    I'm guessing, by the way, that you may be wondering what my aid station supplies entailed, since I discovered many on race day were expecting some spectacular costuming. 

    Unfortunately though, due to my public location in a quiet suburban neighborhood on a non closed course, I decided to keep it low key.  That meant no costume - SORRY!!  But I did have a lovely race t and official badge.

    And I brought my mini boom to blast music from my iPhone while I cheered runners on.


    Seriously, these things are AWESOME! 
    I was actually nervous at one point that the neighbors around the race course
    might be mad that I was making too much noise with that tiny little thing.

    In addition to the above supplies, I also had a few cheer signs, my car ... and then, there's the piece de resistance - the fanny pack.  Which may or may not have provided me with some additional entertainment while I awaited the first few runners on course.

    Speaking of passing the time - aside from butt shots, I also passed time by documenting the steepness of the hill, which I was posted at the top of:

    In case you can't tell how big this hill is, here's another perspective:

    And one more photo with people in it, just so you can see scale.  Notice how you can only see half of the runner who is starting to crest the bend (just behind the bush on the left)?  Yeah, it's steep.

    While I busied myself with butt selfies (buttfies?  belfies?), hill photos and choosing just the right techno songs to blast for the 10K runners (yes, I settled on a classic: pop bottles, make it rain, pop-pop bottles), back at the start things appeared to have gone off without a hitch.  Before I knew it, maybe not even 15 minutes into the race, the first few runners started to trickle by.

    Surprisingly, the first few runners by were actually quite friendly as they passed, and I even got a few smiles.  Usually the more "elite"/fast runners are so focused that they don't even waste time on the likes of me, so that made things a little more fun.

    Eventually, the trickle turned into a stream, and I started to really have some fun. 

    You see, I was just far enough away from that bend on the hill that I was kind of hidden to many runners.  That meant I got a good laugh every time someone would give up running, just starting to walk as they rounded the bend and entered my field of vision ... because every time, never fail, as soon as they saw me they would get startled and try to play off their walking by starting to run again.

    At least I was motivation enough to keep people running, right?  HA!

    Anyway, since I knew many on course, I also played course photographer while I cheered, using my trusty iPhone.  One of the many photos I captured was this gem:

    And if you have an eagle eye, you may have caught what was so funny about that one ... let's just say Brian had a free range bib:

    At least he had a good sense of humor about it after the fact:

    Eventually, amongst my techno tunes and photo shoots, and after the passing of the "free range bib", the steady stream of runners started to turn back into a trickle.  And then, not even 15 minutes after they started passing me by, they were gone. 

    No more runners.  Time to pack up shop.

    Since I was also due to assist with the kids race, scheduled to start after the 5K/10K was complete, I packed up and headed back to the race start/finish area.  Surprisingly, many 5K runners were already rounding the bend to the finish line.  Since I've always wanted to know what it was like to lead the pack, I decided to join them.

    Hm.  I guess every fast runner must wave their iPhone at the race photographers and carry a cheer sign, no?  At least I know I was somewhat convincing, as I got booed by the kids who were spectating when I started to walk post photo-op.  They eventually stopped when they realized I didn't have a race bib.

    By the way, I suppose that is just what I'd love to hear at the final stretch of a 5K - a handful of 6-8 year old kids booing me for a walk break.  LOL!  At least it would motivate me to finish strong!  I'm sure their real motivation for booing, however, was that they just wanted us to all run fast so they could get on with it - the best event of the day, the kids race.

    Actually, I do really love the kids race just because it is so dang funny.  How can you not get a kick out of a race that starts like this:


    No to mention, the kids running are always so determined!  The looks on their faces are a mixture of sheer dedication and laser focus.  Well, for the more serious ones, anyway.  There's always the random few who decide to skip, sing or pick flowers as they go (yes, this all happened, and more - it's a kids race after all).

    As the kids thundered by on their out and back run, I shook my cowbell and cheered - which of course elicited lots of big smiles and looks of "wow, she's cheering for ME!".  (The REAL reason the kids race is the best event of the day). 

    And then, just like the 10K before it, suddenly it was all over again.  The last runners trickled back to the finish line, and my day was done.  Slowly, I meandered back to the start myself, helping wrap up the day's festivities ... eventually packing up and heading for home.


    And that's the story of how NO RACE BIB joined my collection, but I had a great time anyway.  Here's to another race soon!

    Monday, May 18, 2015

    300th Post!

    You might not have noticed it, but last Friday quietly came and went on this blog despite a very major milestone.  Based on the title of this post, you may have guessed what it was ...

    Friday marked the 300th post on this blog!!

    It's amazing to me that sharing my weight loss story over two years ago has turned into me creating 300 postings for this blog.  Who would have thought?!  In honor of this milestone, I thought I would create a recap of some of my favorite blogs and accompanying photos of the last few years. 



    Favorite Costume - Chicago Shamrock Shuffle 2014

    Favorite GOOD Race - Mankato Half Marathon 2013

    Favorite BAD Race - Beer Mile 2014

    Favorite Spectated Race - Twin Cities Marathon 2013

    Favorite Non-Running Active Adventure - Grand Canyon Hike 2015

    Favorite Fitness Tip - Perfect Plank Form

    Favorite Healthy Lifestyle Product - The MyFitnessPal Ap

    Favorite Recipe - Parisian Inspired Salad

    And since you can't *always* have rainbows & unicorns ... Favorite Downer - The Troll


    PS - What's YOUR favorite post over the last two years?  Comment below!

    Friday, May 15, 2015

    Goodbye ClassPass


    Well folks, I've come to the bitter end with ClassPass.  Yes, after joining just over 3 months ago, I finally pulled the plug on this grand experiment and cancelled my membership before it was due to renew May 6th.

    You may be asking yourself why I decided to cancel my membership, since most of my blogs recapping studios were fairly positive (despite a few used band aids, people praying over me and some fireworks fingers).  And yes, I will freely admit, I did have fun giving this a whirl. 

    In fact, I liken the entire experience to the fun of reaching into the duck pond at the school carnival when you were a kid.

    I say this because with ClassPass, when you try a studio for the first time, it is just like picking a duck from the pond: you walk in to the studio hoping you drew the lucky duck that wins you the premium prize in the tent, the giant stuffed unicorn (AKA the good studio). 

    Overall, it's a super fun, exciting experience because you've got high hopes that you're going to win the unicorn.  And sometimes ... you do get that unicorn!  Hooray!!  Congratulations!!  You found a good studio. 

    But other times, no matter how many fingers you cross, you walk into a studio and realize ... you pulled the duck that awards you a damn broken kazoo.  Boo!!  You found a studio that's dirty, or has bad instructors, or does something else weird (like opening with a Christian prayer). 

    Oh well, at least you still get some sort of workout out of the deal, right?!

    Anyway - at first, I really didn't mind that entire duck pond experience.  It gave me a new level of interest in working out, since I was getting to try all these new things.  And, just because I didn't like a particular studio didn't mean someone else wouldn't come in after me and love it - to each their own in fitness, right?!  I mean, whatever you enjoy and keeps you active!! 

    But some time in my third month of ClassPass membership, I don't know when it was exactly, I realized something: I had grown tired of spending my time and money on broken kazoos. 

    Now before I go too far, to be fair: I might not even be writing this blog if I lived closer to the downtown area of Minneapolis, and maybe I'd still be keeping my membership if I did live there.  When you consider the majority of the studios in the ClassPass network are concentrated in downtown Minneapolis and the immediate surrounding areas, I'm sure I could find lots of other unicorns to enjoy out there. 

    But, living in the SW Metro, there's a stark reality to a Minneapolis based ClassPass network -  trying a new studio out, more often than not, requires a drive of 45+ minutes one way.  And driving 45+ minutes one way, when you weight it with the fact that you might find a "broken kazoo" ... well ... 

    Especially when going back to my studio recaps, you can see that I determined only 3 of the 7 studios I did try were worth revisiting: 

    The Good - all of which I continued to attend
         Good & Twisted Yoga, Chaska
         CycleQuest Studio, Eden Prairie
         Studio TimeOut, Minneapolis

    The Bad - not really "bad", so much as I never made an effort to go back
         Kula Yoga, Edina

    The Ugly - ok, these are the really bad ones, and yeah ... I'd never go back
         The Shed, Minneapolis
         3X3 Fit!, Hopkins
         Jazzercise, Edina

    Using the above information, then, you could derive that for a suburbanite like me, there's a 60% +/- chance of driving 1.5 hours total to try a studio that would be a "broken kazoo". 

    That statistic alone makes it pretty tough to justify a $79/month membership. 

    Let's put that 45 minute drive aside, though.  Because you might be saying at this point - so what?!  After trying out enough studios, why would anyone continue driving around, pulling new "ducks from the pond" anyway?!  Since you already know which studios in the "pond" award the giant stuffed unicorn, why not just focus on those studios and be done exploring?

    And yes, I landed there.  By month two, I had mostly tried out all of the studios that were closest to me and worked with my personal schedule.  After doing so, I found there were only two studios near me that were worth attending on a regular basis, and I really just wanted to settle in there. 

    So why would I still want to look at other studios in the ClassPass network and drive so far to try something new, particularly when I knew there were two studios nearby me that worked?  Well, let me remind you of one of the basic membership rules - ClassPass limits your attendance to any one studio at 3 visits per month. 

    Of course, I understand this rule 100%.  After all, participating studios don't want to lose their base business to ClassPass, so this restriction discourages studio members from dumping their membership for the ClassPass network. 

    But here's where this restriction is a problem: in the end, I was shelling out $79/month for the option to visit any ClassPass studio my little heart desired ... but realistically, I was only regularly attending the 2 studios that were closest to home. 

    In comparison, if I bought a class package at each of those studios (and got a volume discount per class), the real value I was getting for my $79/month ClassPass membership was:

         Studio A - 3 classes x $10 each = $30
         Studio B - 3 classes x $12 each = $36
         $30 + $36 = $66.00

    Wow ... $66 to take the 6 classes/month that I really liked when ClassPass charged me $79?! 

    I was over paying by $13/month!  Not to mention, these wonderful local businesses weren't even getting all the dollars I was spending, since ClassPass obviously ends up taking a cut.

    And that's when I realized - ClassPass seemed like a waste of money.  Not that I was wasting it in a truly bad way, mind you.  It was more like I was spending money I didn't really need to spend anymore. 

    Knowing that, I decided I wanted to directly support the local studios who deserved my money for my attendance, instead of giving a cut to a large corporation who ran a website that scheduled me to attend a class there.  And that meant finally cutting the cord with ClassPass.

    Wednesday, May 13, 2015

    Chicago Cinco de Miler 2015 (Amigos in Lace)

    Cinco de Miler - 5 mile run
    Average Pace 12:08/mile

    Have I ever said how jealous I am of Chicago races?  I'm not sure if I've ever outright said that.  But it's true, I'm super jealous.  I mean, why is it they have all the cool races like the Chicago Half, the Chinatown 5K and this ... the Cinco de Miler?!  And why don't we have anything quite as cool?  Minneapolis is big enough to support some more urbanly located or ethnic races as well, am I right?!


    Anyway, in a moment of jealous weakness a couple months back, my friend and I decided to register for this race.  Because seriously, how can you say no to a sombrero finisher's medal and coordinating tech T?!

    Being that we are not from Chicago (duh), when we registered way back then, we also gladly paid the $15+ mailing charge to have our race packets sent to us.  We figured this would only make sense, as we would be flying to Chicago at the end of the work day the Friday pre-race and would definitely not make packet pickup.

    And so it went.  We were registered and ready to go ... pending bib arrival via mail, that is.


    As race day neared, I had absolutely no regrets that I had registered for Cinco de Miler.  Having just run a RAM Racing organized event not even a month previous in Minneapolis, the Hot Chocolate, I fully expected Cinco de Miler to be a blast.  And, since RAM seemed so organized, I was also not sorry I had upgraded to the mail service - I was sure it would go off without a hitch. 

    Then comes the BUT.

    As we lead up to race day, I started to get a little nervous that maybe I had made a mistake.  On the Monday prior, I was still following up on my packet ...

    Yes, you're seeing the above exchange right.  RAM planned on delivering race packets by or before Thursday ... on race week ... when many people would likely be departing to Chicago on Friday in order to arrive in time for the race on Saturday.

    Hm.  Seems like there's no chance for issues there.  *sarcasm* 

    Not to be outdone by my nervous nature, my friend was also concerned and decided to email RAM for more information a day or two after my first Facebook message (above).  Unfortunately, their response to her was equally wishy-washy. 

    Worried, I started to wonder what might become of our mailed bibs ... but also secretly kind of got a kick out of the new potential this race had in store.

    At least she was OK with it...

    Sure enough, Thursday and Friday came and went, and still no package.  *sigh*  After quite a bit of prodding, RAM did finally offer to refund the $15+ I paid for shipping.  Not that the offer made me feel consoled, but at least that was something.

    Regardless of where our bibs might be, though, we were definitely ready - we had an awesome InkNBurn outfit planned.  Let's just call it ... Amigos in Lace:

    2014 Amigo Tech T, 2015 Lace Capri


    Ah, race day.

    Lucky for me, my race buddy has some fantastic family in a lovely neighborhood of Chicago.  So, after a peaceful night's sleep  (during which, shockingly, a shooting "event" took place literally a block away - unbeknownst to me), I woke up well rested and ready to go.  And despite my new locale, I was still able to follow my usual race day routine, more or less ... with a couple of extra supervisors of course.

    Given the mail fiasco and not having bibs, we ended up leaving "home" on the very early side for this race.  That meant packing up and hitting the road around 7am for a race scheduled to start at 9am.  (During the process of trying to track our mail, staff instructed us to show up on race day and request an "emergency bib".  We did briefly consider skipping the bib and being an unofficial "bandito" to avoid that whole mess, but the flaw in that grand plan was ... no bib = no food/beer tickets.  So, we were stuck.) 

    When we arrived at the pre-race gathering area, we were easily some of the first few to arrive, which was kind of a downer.  On the plus side, there was no one in line for emergency bib pickup, so we were able to waltz right up and get things straightened out.  As we checked in, we were awarded a new goody bag as apology.  It included the 2014 drop bag, shirt and a plastic mug.

    This offer of a consolation gift did help soften my irritation of the late mail fiasco, so that was nice.  But the down side to getting a goodie bag pre race: we were officially forced into using gear check.  Boo.  Oh well, at least we had plenty of time to burn, so getting things to gear check wasn't really a set back.

    Side note: I discovered later that the shirt was actually from the Dallas 2014 race ... I wasn't a big fan of that.  Hey RAM - if you're in Chicago, don't give out Texas swag!!  At least the huge logo on the back of the shirt was cool.


    After we had our bibs, and our gear checked, things went a little bit south.  Unfortunately, it was a cold and misty morning, so both of us were freezing our booties off ... even though we both kept our emergency hoodies (and did not put them in gear check).  In addition to the cold, there was also the annoyance of the clouds blocking my GPS watch from picking up a signal.

    Speaking of, since I don't have a post race map or split report due to zero satellites for my GPS watch, we can use the official race map as a reference here:

    As we shivered, I noticed that more and more people were beginning to arrive.  Good - it meant that the corrals would start to fill soon, and we'd start to warm each other via a crowd.  To help that process along, we moseyed over to our assigned gate and hoped more would follow suit.

    In our corral, we were quickly distracted by some fantastically fun staff that started dancing with us and encouraging us to do old school calisthenics.  It was pretty funny.  And actually, I think it got a few other people's attention, since our numbers seemed to have tripled in the corral after a few high knees and jump ropes. 

    To pass the time while we continued to wait for the corrals to fill, my buddy and I eyed up the emergency bib line (which had grown considerably, thank god we came early and didn't end up stuck in that), semi-danced to the music playing on the sound system (Pitbull, Pitbull, Shakira and Pitbull), and we also did some people watching ... which included questioning why anyone would run wearing lacy panties (seriously, they were so lacy that you could see the lumps through her spandex run leggings). 

    We had a few good snickers and eye rolls, and then finally it was time. 

    Great, I'm freezing!  Let's do this!


    Since this was a Cinco de Mayo themed run, the race was opened with the Mexican national anthem, followed by the US National Anthem, and then ... bang, time to run.

    As you can see in the map above, the race eventually ended up feeding into the lakeshore path.  To avoid congestion on the path, the organizers timed each corral to release 3 minutes after the previous corral's start.  While that meant that we had to wait 15 minutes after gun time (boo, F corral), it was actually a really great plan - I don't recall ever really struggling with congestion on course when it was finally our chance to cross the mat.

    The course itself was a relatively flat out and back along the lake shore, starting in the parking lot off of Solider Field and proceeding through a tunnel along McCormick.  Once you cleared the tunnel, you ran along the road, which was partially closed to traffic, and eventually did a 180 turn to join into the lakeshore path.  There were a few small inclines (not even worth calling hills), so there was a little bit of variation in elevation, though not much - just enough to make your legs work a little harder on the "up" and allowed for a brief road runner-esque dissent on the "down".

    Aside from the mail fiasco, the McCormick tunnel was my only other real gripe about the entire race, including pre and post events.  It was full of pot holes, poorly lit, and was also flooded from the previous night's rain.  It was especially scary in there because at times you were almost absolutely blind.  My run buddy even saw someone fall and twist their ankle in the tunnel.  In my mind, it seemed unnecessarily dangerous, and there was no excuse for the event organizers to not have at least 2 or 3 flood lights positioned in there to improve visibility.  I hope they reconsider that portion for 2016 and find ways to improve it (as it appears this is a new route over 2014).

    Other than the tunnel, though, I thought the course was great.  Since I don't live in Chicago, running along the lakeshore is always spectacular, and even more so on a windy day when the waves make it look more like an ocean than a lake.  I also really liked the Mariachi band just past the 1 mile mark, and the fact that they cut over and played for us again at the 4ish mile mark on the return.

    My recent poor running conditioning and my stupid feet meant that I went for a very conservative pace and 2-3 walk breaks (although I did run fast enough to warm up and want to remove my hoodie after the 1 mile mark, so I tied it around my waist).  I had a goal for myself that despite my lack of training, I wanted to run continuously until mile 2, which I easily achieved.  And I did pick it up for the last 1/2-3/4 of a mile to ensure I finished as strong as I could.  So, despite my slightly slower pace over Minnetonka the week before, on a much less hilly run, I was happy enough with my finish.

    FYI, my enthusiasm for my performance may or may not have been influenced by the fact that they shoved a - to quote a volunteer at the finish line - "practically paleo churro" in my hand right as I crossed the finish.

    Following the churro, we were also presented with the finishers medal, which ended up being even cooler than I originally anticipated (as I thought it was just a flat medallion, not a mini sombrero with a bottle opener on the back).

    In addition to the churro and the medal, when we dumped out into the post race party area, we had the option of cashing in our bib coupons for a free can of beer (Corona or Modello!) and a snack tray that included a small cup of horchata (my favorite!), a single serve bag of tortilla chips, a single serve cup of salsa, and what was probably the most disgusting tamale I've ever eaten in my life.  And I say this with love, as I tried to like it, and even after two bites and putting it down, went back for a third bite after finishing my chips ... because I really wanted to like it, so bad.  But alas, microwaved tamale in a plastic bag, our love affair was not meant to be.

    As we ate, my run buddy and I watched people ride the mechanical bull and try to smash piƱatas in the various party areas.  We also silently cursed the drone that kept flying overhead with its annoying whirr.  Eventually, being cold and done snacking, we decided to give away our beer tickets to some lucky strangers in the crowd and hop the train back towards "home".  Along the way, we met a few more from our non-running party for lunch.

    Oh, and took one more post race photo.


    And that's the story of how race bib #55 joined my collection.  While there were a few minor snags in the event, overall, I would definitely consider running again in 2016.  Despite the mailing fiasco, which I think was probably an anomaly, RAM does a great job of organizing their events and really wants you to enjoy yourself while you're there (unlike other large race organizers - ahem - you know who I'm thinking of).

    That being said - here's to another race soon!  I'm not officially registered for anything in the near future, but you know how that goes!  Now that I've sad that, I'll probably end up running a race in the next 2 weeks.  LOL!