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Jingling the Bells in the Rain

Since I had been keeping a close eye on the weather reports over the last few days I was a little disappointed this morning at how accurate they all turned out to be:

45 degrees and raining.

I was talking to another runner on the way to the starting line and remarked that the only change in the prediction for this morning was from a 70% chance of rain at 9am to an 80% chance of rain at 9am. She looked at me for a second and then said, "Well it's 100% raining right now so I don't think it matters anymore."

Touché.

Hustling Santas

Santa is known for a lot of things, but as far as I know hustling isn't one of them. But this morning at the Santa Hustle 5K, around 8000 Santas hustled for at least a little bit. I've been to a few themed races but I think this one is my new favorite. Seeing (almost) all the racers wearing the Santa hat and beard that came in the goodie bag (along with the red Santa race shirt) was a pretty sweet sight. As I heard one woman remark to her friend before the race, "It's like Where the Fuck is Waldo." While I wasn't aware of that edition of the Waldo books (and I thought I had a pretty good collection of them as a kid), I think she did a pretty good job of summing up what the sea of red and white looked like.

Athens Classic Marathon

On November 11th, Brynn and I ran the 30th Anniversary Athens Classic Marathon, starting in Marathon and following the official marathon course (marked with official historical signs) back to downtown Athens and the incredible Panathinaiko.

My Newcity review covers the race itself, but I wanted to talk more about getting to the race and around Athens for anyone who may want to take on this race in the future.

Newcity Best of Chicago - Running Categories

So the 20th anniversary Newcity Best of Chicago issue hit the newsstands today.

All the items are available on Newcity's Best of Chicago site, but I just wanted to share some of the running-related ones:
Best race other than the marathonBest neighborhood 5kBest themed runBest monthly fun run turned 5kBest race fiascoBest place to run in ChicagoBest character on the Lakefront TrailBest running store Mainly, I'm excited that Straw Hat Speedo Guy is finally getting his much-deserved recognition. (Fit-Ink has the only known picture of this mythical trail denizen).

Alright, with that I'm out (of the country).

While Brynn and I are heading to Greece for the Athens Classic Marathon today (with a transfer in Istanbul), we found out this past weekend at Carrera de los Muertos that FuzzyCo is also flying to Istanbul today to run a 15k across two continents! Good luck sir!


Hot Chocolate 15K (and the docility of runners)

You've probably already read at least a little bit about the Hot Chocolate 15/5K. And most of what I have to say I have already included in my Newcity review.

And others have made it pretty clear how they feel on RAM Racing's Facebook page and on Yelp.

But despite all the complaints about the extremely long waits for packet pick-up (and the subsequent, slightly less-legitimate complaints about the race itself), something I haven't seen mentioned too much (and something I think RAM should, ultimately, be thankful for) is the incredible patience and docility of runners. Seriously. Look at this picture. And think about it. This is a picture of thousands of people on a Friday afternoon in 40-degree weather standing for several hours in a parking lot in a line snaking around and around a giant tent... not waiting for gas (like many people on the East Coast this week) or waiting for food (like many less fortunate must)... but waiting to pick up a bag that has a sporty sweatshir…

Carrera de los Muertos - Race of the Dead

When we signed up for this race I had a feeling it was going to be a good one just based on the website. Carrera de los Muertos?! Race of the Dead?! Sounds sweet right?

And it definitely was. Check out my Newcity review for more of a breakdown on that front.

There were a ton of great costumes (mostly skull-face painting) and the base camp was in the parking lot of an UNO Charter School in Pilsen, with sweet decorations, music and food for sale. Lots of partying going on for such an early morning on a cold November day.

Complaining about The New York Times complaining about running photos

Warning - this entire thing is just me complaining about someone else complaining...

Anyway...

Just reading The New York Times this morning and on the front of the Style section I see they have something about running, or race photos to be more specific:

In Shape, but Out of Focus
The subtitle (in the print version) is: "Race photographs are meant to immortalize your moment of triumph. Instead, they often catch you at your absolute worst." and it's got that oh-so-funny picture of the "Ridiculously Photogenic Guy."

Sweet, I think. A hilarious send-up of the unflattering photos that you usually get to skim through after completing any major race (and even a lot of 5Ks these days). I bet this will be filled with runner-themed comedy!

Newcity Best of Chicago 2012 - Votes Needed From Chicago Runners!

Right now I'm working (along with everyone else at Newcity) on the twentieth anniversary edition of Newcity's Best of Chicago issue and there are a two running-related questions that you Chicago runners should weigh in on to give us the best reader data we can get (you don't want some race you thought was lame being voted the best do you??!). Anyway, here are the categories you should check out:
Best Race Other Than the MarathonBest Running Store You can vote on these (along with a ton of other Best of Chicago questions) at Newcity Best of Chicago.

Running in the Texas Hill Country

Over the last six weeks or so I've run a mountain trail in Telluride, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and through Times Square in New York City (along with running in Chicago, obviously). So this weekend I took it all the way back to my homeland and ran the quiet county roads of the Texas Hill Country.

I was back in Texas this weekend for my dad's 60th birthday, which we celebrated by going to San Antonio and staying at Hotel Valencia on the River Walk (which I actually always thought was condensed to "Riverwalk" until I just looked it up...). I did some running on the River Walk as well, but it's a pretty tight trail and not exactly ideal for running, even at 7 in the morning with only a few other people out. There were even two bikers, who really had no room at all to pass. But at least they didn't say "on your left" - they just said "good morning."

Men's Health Urbanathlon

Though I've been running pretty consistently, I haven't run a race since the Chicago Half Marathon last month, so it was kind of refreshing to wake up this morning and head south of Solider Field for The Men's Health Urbanathlon.

I wrote about the course and the weather and the volunteers in my review for Newcity, but there is something that I want to talk about a little bit more: the hilariousness of watching really athletic dudes who clearly spend a lot of time on their physical fitness try to deal with running 11 miles. I'm not making fun of them (maybe a little) but it offered me continuous amusement on the course.

Here's the thing: I know that if I tried to go into some kind of non-running physical challenge I would be crushed, but these bros seemed to think that because they work out their upper body like my homeboy (and fellow runner) Paul Ryan they could speed along this course without any running training. And they did. For a little bit.

But that's not…

Running (all over) New York City

For the third time in a month, Brynn and I were out of town again this past weekend. This time, while everyone was running the Chicago marathon, we were in New York City where Brynn was presenting at the Performing the World conference. Since we have a lot of friends in NYC (and it's just a cool place to visit) I tagged along with her.

For the last three years we've gone to NYC for the New York City Marathon (for me in 2009, Brynn in 2010 and me again last year) so it was a nice change of pace to be going to New York in the fall without running the marathon. (Brynn actually did get in this year but deferred to next year because of Athens).

We spent most of the weekend hanging out with friends (and skipping our Saturday run), but yesterday morning we mapped out and ran a fairly epic 20-mile run that covered the Queensboro Bridge, Roosevelt Island, Times Square, the Hudson River Greenway, Central Park, the Columbus Day Parade... and a stop at Pier 54 to see the David Blaine Ele…

Running the Golden Gate Bridge

Last weekend Brynn and I flew to California for my cousin's wedding. The wedding was in Santa Rosa so on Friday night we flew into San Francisco to stay with one of my other cousins. On Saturday morning we woke up early for an eight mile run before heading up to Santa Rosa (which is about an hour outside of San Fran). My cousin lives in Chinatown and though we knew it was hilly we were under the silly impression that we would run down to the waterfront trail and then just continue running.

Almost immediately after leaving her apartment and starting to run we realized that our Chicago legs were not up to the task and we were going to need to walk the hills. I'd never been to San Francisco before, so even though I obviously knew that it was famous for its hills, I still didn't realize just how hilly those hills are.

So we walked to the end of Hyde Street and got on a running/biking trail there and just started running.

I was using RunKeeper on my iPhone to track the run bec…

Telluride Blues and Brews (and trail running)

This past weekend Brynn and I headed to Colorado for the third year in a row to hit up the Telluride Blues and Brews Festival. If you haven't heard of it, it's a pretty amazing festival - mainly because the town of Telluride itself is pretty amazing - but also because it's a relatively small music festival that manages to get relatively big bands. Last year we saw Flaming Lips, Willie Nelson and Fitz and the Tantrums. The year before that it was George Thorogood and BB King. This year wasn't a stellar lineup (to me) so we just bought one day tickets for Saturday instead of buying the whole 3-day pass like we've done before. The other part of the festival's title (the brews, that is) is also a big reason we bought Saturday tickets: on Saturday every year there's a three hour window where around 50 microbreweries give out samples of their beers. When you walk in you get a little tasting glass... and then you just walk around tasting as many beers as possible.…

I'm Faster Than Paul Ryan (And I'm Not Lying)

Okay, the very first disclaimer I have to make here is that this is not a political story. For real. It just involves a politician... so let's not get all political on this. Pretty please.

Anyway.

So we all know that politicians lie. Right? Obama lies, Romney lies, blah blah blah. Name a politician and they lie (yes, even Ron Paul). Most of us just tend to make amends for the people we like because they're just "making a point" or stretching the truth or spinning the numbers or something like that.

Right.

But last week Paul Ryan lied about something super-serious:

His marathon PR.

(Hey, PR also stands for Paul Ryan... coincidence? Probably.)

So, on to the real story. If you haven't heard already (and I bet you have if you're reading a running blog) last week in an interview with some dude named Hugh Hewitt, Paul Ryan (Mr. PR) got asked about his running history and made a claim...

Anyway just check out the awesome part of the interview:
HH: Are you still runn…

Spectating the Chicago Triathlon

After the intensity of Chicago City Chase on Saturday, for some crazy reason I still wanted to see the starting line of the Chicago Triathlon. This one was the 30th anniversary of the race and the weather was perfect so I felt like being tired was no excuse. I've also never been to the starting line of a triathlon. So Sunday morning I woke up at 5 and took the red line to the Harrison stop and then walked to the lake (the intersection of Balbo and Lake Shore Drive to be exact). And even though I was tired, I have to say... it was totally worth it.

I got there around 5:45 just as the sun was coming up and walked around the starting area checking things out and waiting for the first wave to kick off at 6. The sky looked incredible and the weather was perfect (I say that as a spectator, I'd assume it was a little warm for participants) but the sunrise was pretty spectacular.
Even though I wasn't participating in the triathlon I got pretty pumped up just watching everyone gathe…

Your Guide to Chicago City Chase...

...based on the challenges we did (and didn't) complete.

If you did City Chase this year then maybe this list will remind you of the challenges you chose to
take on (assuming there was some overlap). If not, maybe this will inspire you to take it on next year. If you're into the element of surprise (which is part of what makes City Chase so fun) then don't read any further (spoiler alert and all that). I won't be listing all the specifics about any of the challenges so there should still be some mystery around the challenges but this list should definitely give you a leg up if you're just looking to know more before you take this thing on yourself.

For a review of the event as a whole (not a detailed recounting of this year's challenges) check out my Newcity review.

Anyway, here we go. Since we picked up our packets and whatnot at one of the locations earlier in the week we didn't have to arrive at the starting line until just before 10 o'clock when …

Burgers and Beer

Monday night I ran Universal Sole's inaugural Burgers & Beer 5K. It's a race that grew out of a monthly run of the same name that Universal Sole has been doing for the past three years and it definitely had a grass roots feel to it with a pretty small basecamp (including a small Goose Island beer garden and a burger station - shown to the right) and race co-directors Joel Feinberg and Kimberley Stedman serving as co-announcers before, during and after the race. There were about 600 runners overall, which is a pretty good-sized field for an inaugural local run. I would guess that including the words "Burgers" and "Beer" in a race's title is a pretty good way to get people interested in it. 

Running During the Chicago Air and Water Show

Yesterday I avoided a six mile training run by going to a bar to compete in the national trivia finals. My team (I use that phrase loosely as I was only an alternate) ended up in 5th place - and I helped drop us many points right off the bat when I thought the first question might be in my wheelhouse: What sport has been in every Olympic games since 1896 (except for the 1900 Olympic games)? I swore it had to be marathon... but it was wrestling. Running-obsession fail.

I was too excited about the fact that Brynn and I are running the Athens marathon in November to think about any other sports really. But one of the teams in our bar placed nationally which was pretty exciting.

So I traded six miles for drinking and discussing how many points a Backgammon board has (24) and who was the first sitting president to visit the New York Stock Exchange (Reagan). My marathon training certainly doesn't thank me... but my legs do.

Elvis is Alive (and I hate bananas)

The first thing I noticed upon arriving at the party grounds for the Elvis is Alive 5K yesterday evening before the race was the giant inflatable slip 'n slide in the far west corner of the blocked off event area. Could it be? Yes, it was the same slip 'n slide from the BTN Big 10K course that I didn't slide on because I had my phone in my pocket during the run. It seems that the running gods (aka Fleet Feet) were giving me a second chance to check this thing out. But it wasn't turned on before the race so I had to wait until after finishing, which was probably for the best. And believe me, I definitely went sliding on this thing after the race (after picking up my free 312, of course).

I did have to wait for some kids to finish playing on it (come on kids, you guys can slide on a normal slip 'n slide any time - when you're 6' 2" you don't get to spend a lot of time doing these things). Anyway... it was just as awesome as it looks. I actually did i…

Chicago 10K and Game On, World with Nike

First off, I found out from fellow running blogger Erica Reid that we were both quoted in RAM Racing's blog post about the Terrapin 5K, which is pretty sweet. It was definitely a good race.

But on to this morning. As I said in my Newcity review, naming your race "Chicago 10K" is a bold move. This is a big city and there are already a lot of 10Ks out there (popular ones at that). But this morning's race definitely marked an auspicious start for the Chicago 10K. Even though it's only the race's inaugural year they managed to sell out (even with a $50-60 entry fee that wasn't exactly cheap). It could be argued that they kept the entries low so that they would sell out and be able to use that as a marketing ploy, but even if they did I'd say that they made the right decision. They kept entries to a realistic level for what they could handle with the base camp that they had to work with and the open course on the Lakefront Trail. And with the runners that…

Stand Up Paddle Boarding, The Champions Run, and poorly marked courses

This morning's The Champions Run started a 10K weekend double-header that I've been looking forward to for a while (the second half is the Chicago 10K tomorrow).

As a (really long) side note, I was also supposed to compete in the Chicago Shoreline Marathon relay this morning, but rough weather on Thursday and Friday and choppy water today led to the event being cancelled. Although I'm disappointed that it was cancelled I'm also glad that the race organizers are looking out for participant safety. I'm sure that others in the event may have been able to handle the choppy water, but it's definitely not worth the risk. I saw the water this morning during The Champions Run and it was pretty rough. Also, I've only had one lesson (which was just last week) and while I think I got the hang of it pretty well, I also think I better stick with totally peaceful water for a while.




Water like this:


Running for Blood?

Donating blood is just about the easiest thing you can do that lets you feel like you're actually helping other people. It only takes about half an hour, you get a bunch of snacks when you finish and you get to wear a bandage on your arm for several hours afterwards like you really did something intense. And if people see your donor arm scab and are like, "Oh, what happened?" You can either be like, "Oh no big deal, just saving lives..." or "Heroin, ugh. I hate it... but I love it." However you're feeling at that moment.

You're eligible to donate every two months and I've been donating blood pretty consistently for a number of years now. For the past few years I've been going to a nearby LifeSource Blood Center location to donate. Last month I found out through email that they have a race coming up in September with a super-sweet name and I was reminded about it again today when I went in to donate. I can't say it's the best…

Mud Wars: Scam or Just Inept Organization (and Does it Really Matter)?

On Saturday morning as I was heading to the BTN Big 10K I passed a sign with two arrows. One pointed right to Soldier Field and the BTN 10K race area, the other pointed straight ahead, to Northerly Island and the Mud Wars event.  At the time I was a little torn, but after the reports that are coming out from the Tribune, Chicago Journal and WGN (and now picked up by Huffington Post) I'm very happy I wasn't involved in Mud Wars, since it's starting to sound a little bit like a scam.

While I want to give the race organizer (Joe Bizzieri) the benefit of the doubt, reading (and watching) the above news stories, it does sound like this may have been a scam artist capitalizing on the growing popularity of obstacle/mud runs, which I had a feeling would happen eventually. Estimates put the total generated income from this race at around $300,000, but even if all 6000 people who registered for this race had used the Groupon/YouSwoop/LivingSocial deal and only paid $35, the race org…

Don't Look Tired at the Finish Line

Unbeknownst to me, my super-epic* 4th place finish at Miles for Melanoma on Sunday morning was captured on film.

Check the last few seconds of this WGN clip from Sunday night:


If I would have known they were filming I would have at least made an attempt to look less like someone who's about to fall over.

The lesson is: you should always pretend that cameras are on you, just in case it turns out that they actually are.

*I am not using the (non)phrase "super-epic" correctly. I fully understand that my finishing a 5K in 20:48 is not at all "super" or "epic" and certainly doesn't warrant combining the two to make a new word. Please indulge me.

Finally Breaking 21 (Miles for Melanoma)

This morning when I finished the Teb's Troops Miles for Melanoma 5K I finished the 30th race I've run this year. I don't think I've run even half that many races in any other year, and it's been pretty exciting being part of all these races this year. But aside from that, I also finally managed to reach my goal of breaking 21 minutes in a 5K, even if it was just barely (20:48). I honestly don't think I ever ran that fast even when I was running cross-country in high school. (How did I stay on the team with results like that you ask? 1. I went to a very small school in East Texas, 2. I was the slowest person on the team).

So here are my splits from this morning. Again with the super high-tech html table showing that I have no steady pacing ability:
MileTime16:1526:4137:07Total20:48
What was more exciting than hitting my ever-elusive goal was that because this was a pretty small race (and since Chicago Runner Girl wasn't there), my time put me into 4th place o…

A Texan at the BTN Big 10K

Even though I'm a Longhorn and not really a sports fan (college or otherwise) I was pretty excited about the BTN Big 10K. Since I'm running the Miles for Melanoma 5K tomorrow, I was planning to take it a little easy on this one. But once the race started, with all the energy that comes with any race, I was running a little faster than I planned to. I was planning for 8 minute miles, but I felt good after the first mile so I figured I might as well just keep going. I did steadily lose speed at each mile throughout the race and definitely wish I would have eaten something for breakfast to at least give me a little bit of energy to burn so I could pick up the pace, but it was still a good race.

Here's a sweet high-tech html table breakdown of my splits:
MileTime17:0127:2237:2547:2757:4267:30Total45:59
Clearly I started out a lot faster than I should have and could not maintain that pace at all, but the good news is that I've gotten a lot faster since the first 10K I did …

Undie Dash (costumes and underwear)

So last night Brynn and I ran the Undie Dash, an evening 5K on the lakefront where you're supposed to strip down and run in your underwear. Since we're too lame and un-body-confident (I just coined this word), we didn't quite do that, but we also didn't want to look weird in normal running clothes. So Brynn went to Marshall's before the race and bought some weird clearance underwear for each of us - she wore hers over her running shorts and I wore mine over running short tights. We probably had on the most clothes of anyone there. Lame of us, I know.
Even though this was only the second annual Undie Dash run it seemed like people get the concept and really get into it, so we definitely have way better costume plans for next year (and at least we have to be in our underwear - and we have a year to get into better shape for that). There were some great costumes last night so we have to try to compete with them next year.

My review of the race is up at Newcity.com

An…

Dean Karnazes and Chicago Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon

As a member of the running community I've obviously heard a lot about the Rock 'n' Roll series over the last several years - especially since the brand was purchased by Competitor Group in 2008 and really started expanding - but I'd never run one before. I figured now was a good time to check one out.


On Friday afternoon I went to McCormick Place for the expo (I figured it would be easier to get in and out on Friday than on Saturday). After picking up my bib, shirt and "swag bag" (their words) I spent a good deal of time walking around checking out all the booths (and there were a lot). Even though I knew Rock 'n' Roll is a big brand for some reason I was still surprised by the size of the expo and the amount of free stuff they were giving out. I'd guess the expo was about half the size of the Chicago Marathon.

As I was getting ready to leave I walked past a booth and almost walked into Dean Karnazes. While I wasn't a big fan of his last book

Chinatown Centennial 5K

I ran the Chinatown Centennial 5K this morning (typically just called the Chinatown 5K - but it's the 100 year anniversary of Chicago Chinatown so they changed the name for this year). It started on Archer next to Chinatown Square which was really sweet because Archer Avenue was completely blocked off:
Before the race there was a great pre-race party going on in Chinatown Square, with free chiropractor consultation from National University of Health Sciences (they were stretching runners out before the race) and a really great lion dance with a green lion and a white lion represented by two guys inside a costume:

The race went down Wentworth (under the "Welcome to Chinatown" arches) and all the way to 31st street before turning around. My full review is at Newcity.com but basically it was a great race.

I was surprised that there were only about 600 runners at this race considering how well organized it was and how great the course was (seriously, you got to run straight…

Bastille Day Run... and Block Party?

So... the lengthily titled Bastille Day 5K/8K Run/Walk & Block Party happened last night.
I think I hit the high points (or low points, as the case may be) in my NewCity review, but it wasn't a very well-organized event.

But here's some additional observations and complaints:
Because the 8K course was an out-and-back it took up both lanes on the Lakefront Trail for a while. There were several bikers riding down the middle of the trail, between the two lanes of runners. I've never seen that before.At the entrance to Belmont Harbor, there was a long line of cars backed up in either direction. When I ran past, the woman in the front car was standing beside her vehicle yelling at the guy stopping traffic, "HOW IS THIS NOT AVOIDABLE??!?!?" I don't know what she meant by that, but she was super-pissed and I almost wanted to stop running just so I could listen to an amazing (and most likely nonsensical) rant.The 5K and 8K courses rejoined at the end and created …

2012 Les Turner Strike Out ALS 5K

Tonight I ran the first of two evening races this week (which also kicked off my first official day of marathon training). Luckily my first day of training is supposed to be 3 miles, so this race worked out well. It was the Les Turner Strike Out ALS 5K and although the map on their site has it listed as a 3.3 mile course, I'm pretty sure it was a straight 5K.

My review is up at newcity.com

It started outside U.S. Cellular Field and KayLynn Van Driest spoke beforehand which was really motivational:

 ...and as you can see from the map above the course went all over the place - but I kind of liked that. It was definitely better than an out and back course.


I tried to get some pictures during the run but I was also trying to finally hit my long-time goal* of running a 21 minute 5K so I stopped doing that pretty quickly. Right at the start, though there was a Metra train going by as we ran into a parking lot and I almost got a picture of it (you can see the end of it) here:

The last…