Carrera de los Muertos 5K (3.15 miles)
Average Pace 11:54/mile
A little over two years ago, I started off a Chicago race adventure in Chinatown like this.
So I suppose it's only appropriate that I started a new Chicago adventure in a similar way.
Too bad that Emmers was out of town, so unfortunately I went into race day knowing we would not be able to meet up. But, no worries - nothing can rain on this parade. Carrera de los Muertos - it's on. Let's go!
A lot of people have asked me why I chose to run this race, since it's kind of in a non-famous neighborhood in Chicago and not terribly well advertised (unlike the Hot Chocolate 5K, which took place the next day, and was all over the news). But, if you go check out the race organizer's Facebook page, my reasoning for why I've been lusting to run this race over the last 3 years should be pretty obvious:
That shirt and finisher's medal are right up my alley, no?
Actually, that shirt is somewhat coveted amongst the running community, and has become a bit infamous. Uno even has a place on their race website where you can post photos of the shirt in various locations around the world. They call it "El Camino", and it has it's own interactive map where you can click on the location to see the photo posted.
Case in point to the awesomeness? Check out last year's shirt, which I bought post race for a friend:
Yeah, that's some amazing print design, folks. So amazing, in fact, that I actually folded and bought the hoodie that was made for this year's race.
I also debated buying this shirt for someone I know in Chicago that likes to run, but the gear tent was kind of a sheet-show with no posted price info at the table I was purchasing from. Making matters more chaotic, staff didn't know how much things were, so finally I just said ... skip it.
Oh well. More money in my pocket, I guess.
Anyway, back to the race.
On race morning, I was fortunate enough to have race packet already in hand (thanks to a family member who lives in Chicago), so all I had to do was get my family fed, dressed and out the door. With the race starting at 8am, I was shooting for a 7-7:15ish departure, but was running a tad behind and ended up catching a cab to the race around 7:25am or so.
Thankfully traffic around the event area was minimal, and street closures weren't so bad that our cab couldn't get into the approximate area of the race start, so we had a seamless drop off and transition into the park where pre-race festivities were taking place. Overall the park was extremely jubilant, and we arrived just in time to hear the ever popular "Percolator" song that seems to be played non stop at this race ... with a dancing crowd to accompany it.
Since we basically arrived right on time, just as we walked into the park the DJ's on stage announced it was time to line up for the race.
Well, ok! We'll do as we're told!
As you can see in the above pictures, the crowd was a healthy size for this race and included a fantastic mix of serious runners, social walkers, and families - as well as tons of stroller runners like me. My husband had never run anything aside from a few local 5Ks with me prior to this race, so he was impressed by the turn out ... but was a little challenged by the crowds, too. I say this because once the gun was fired (pretty much on time, might I add), he was totally unprepared for how much weaving we would need to do to navigate the course.
I myself wasn't totally surprised that we spent a good half mile or more weaving around groups of walkers. I had read online through other recaps that many people seed incorrectly at this race, so I was anticipating some congestion - though to be honest, I wasn't expecting it to be as bad as it was. I say this because of course, I had a stroller and courteously self-seeded at the back of the 12 minute mile ... and many walkers with LARGE BACK PACKS self-seeded at 10. Sigh. Frustrating when they were all walking 5 people wide and staggered maybe 6-12" apart in their individual packs.
No matter. I steered the stroller like a champ through the crowds. And much like Moses, the waters parted for me.
Despite the clogging on course, as we bobbed and weaved through the crowd, I enjoyed a few of the things this race is known for - vibrant murals, costumed runners, on course entertainment, and the overall jubilation. Really, the congestion was second fiddle to all the fun surrounding me, so I couldn't care less that I had to zig-zag a little.
I mean, it's not a like a mural or crowd like this could let you get down, anyway.
Fun aside, by mile one I found myself struggling a little and decided to take a break. I told my husband in advance that my goal was to make it at least that far and walk a bit, as I was finding the effort challenging (since I haven't been putting as much into training as I ought to and wasn't in shape enough yet to support a continuous 3 mile run WHILE pushing a stroller). After I said that, I looked at my son and said "I can't imagine why that might be, can you?" and smiled.
Amazingly, he smiled and cooed back a sarcastic sounding "hmmm....".
Ok, OK! I know 6 months old can't really talk yet but ... the timing was uncanny.
As we continued on, there were various points of entertainment and groups of spectators cheering for the runners. My husband put it best by saying "this is definitely the most happening race I've done". I had to agree, it was definitely exciting!
Speaking of excitement, even without the various DJ stands, costumed dancers, and cheering spectators, the runners on course were really something to see. Almost everyone was wearing something festive, even if it was just the race T itself. I particularly liked the runner who RAN past us during our walk break who was wearing a cotton t, cut off denim shorts and cowgirl booties.
Yes, she was RUNNING in ankle height cowgirl boots. And not tennis shoes modified to look like boots. They were standard boots with heels, hard soles and all.
In the heart of Chicago.
IN DENIM SHORTS.
Yee-haw! You go, girl!
Just after we were passed by the cowgirl and I decided I had enough of a walk break and started to run again, we came upon a water stop. Of course. Not knowing what else we'd have at the finish line and being a bit thirsty, my husband and I both decided to grab a cup and continue on.
From there on out, we ran/walked as needed. Ideally, my goal was to run out the last mile as well, and I mostly adhered to that goal. Within the last quarter of a mile, I debated if we could come in sub 36, as I really would have liked a 35 and change finish ... but, as I saw the dancers at the finish line I realized ... no dice.
Not that I can complain, as I still managed to "run" my fastest race of the season, and only 6 months post baby, with minimal training, and on a somewhat "hilly" course (though, not really, since the hills were really more like some minor repetitive inclines / speed bumps to keep people slow in the neighborhoods). But ... good enough!
*Oh hey, look at that! A negative split. Nice!
At the finish line, there were several volunteers handing out finisher's medals. I noticed that the medals had various colors of neck ribbons, so I opted to snag a tennis ball yellow/green one.
My husband took a medal with a red ribbon. And then ... without us even asking, a volunteer says "and here's one for you little guy, for going along for the ride" and puts one around my son's neck.
LOL! Not that he would know the difference but, OK!
The finish line dumped us out into the park where we started. There, runners were offered water, a small sample bag of "natural" cookies, and some various Hispanic looking drink options (one stand was giving out what looked like sour and tonic bottles, but I'm sure it was some sort of Mexican soda, another stand was giving out what looked to be a Mexican type of Gatorade or something similar - I don't really care for soda or energy drinks, so I declined both and therefore didn't see what they actually were).
Oh! In case you are wondering what I mean by "natural" cookies - they were some sort of non GMO blah blah blah cookie that was made from beets, oranges, and chocolate. Yes, they were about as good as you would imagine. So they were interesting to try, but my husband and I didn't even want to finish the single sample bag between the two of us. Hahaha!
Our race bibs did entitle us to additional post race snacks, including a churro, but the line for that was easily 100-200 people plus. Not being THAT hungry, and having a waiting baby in the stroller, we opted to skip the line. Ah, the sacrifices of being parents, huh?
After passing through the refreshments area at the finish line, we continued on into the park to check out the post race party area. I was pretty excited for this part as I had heard various vendors came to the after party to sell their crafts and food. And you know me and skeleton stuff - I was ready to shop!!
Unfortunately, while the music and overall atmosphere was fun, I don't know if I missed something, but ... I didn't see much for crafts, which I was really disappointed about as I had two $20 bills burning a hole in my pocket. The only things I noticed for sale were a few what looked to be handmade clothing items that were cute but not my style, a handful of food tents, and a couple of vendors offering to do your face paint to look like a sugar skull (needing a shower post run, I wasn't exactly in a hurry to get my face painted). Oh well. This wasn't a deal breaker. Plus I left $40 richer. So ... win?
As I mentioned above, I did end up spending some additional money at the gear tent on the hoodie. But because that process was so disorganized, I sadly passed on the mini skeleton shadow boxes and sugar skulls they had for sale. I REALLY wanted to look at those and make a purchase or two, but I didn't want to stand in a second line of 50+ people just to do that (I was in a separate line to make the shirt purchase as I was using my card). Ideally, if I were king anyway, I would say next year they should put the more crafty items on a third table and sell as "cash only" so people can shop them better. As it was, everyone was focused on clothing anyway, so the crafts were totally lost in the push of the crowd. Besides - I mean, who wouldn't want to take home a mini version of the sugar skull awards they give out to the top runners? Those things should be cool enough to stand alone!
Speaking of, here are the top finisher awards.
Amazing, no? If only I was a faster runner! I especially like the one that appears to be Cubs themed. Very appropriate given the World Series was happening that weekend as well.
After making my gear purchase, since I had already spent a considerable amount of time at the race running and shopping, I decided I better be a responsible mom and get my little boy back to our hotel. He had been fighting a nap the entire run because he was too excited being an on course spectator, so I knew it would be ultimate disaster if we didn't get him into a nice and comfortable bed ASAP.
Of course back at the hotel, I couldn't resist one more selfie, though, before I took off his costume.
And that's the story of how race bib #77 joined my collection. Here's to another race soon ... which I actually already said this last time, and here I am again running, but ... I don't have anything more booked for 2016. This might be the end of my race season this year. I guess we'll see!