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 piñatas 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!