No better way to celebrate Christmas than by looking back at the amazing year I ended up having in 2011 ... in terms of running! ;) The whole "2011 wrap up" will be for another post. This one is based solely on running ... and how it has changed everything! ;)
Above symbolize the 16 road races I ended up completing in 2011 - 5ks, 8ks, 10ks, 10-milers and even a Half Marathon. How about we go through the runs as a "Best Race..." theme. We all in? Let's do it.
(Note: I injured my back December 10, 2010 and was diagnosed with a herniated disc. I was not allowed to do any activity except walking for quite a few months to kick off 2011!)
New Year's Day 5k - January 1 - 48:37 (15:41 min/mile)
I signed up for this race prior to the injury. I thought what better way to avoid going "too big" on NYE than by signing up for a 5k at 11am on New Year's Day, right? Now I wasn't allowed to run it for obvious reasons, but I had already paid the money for registration so the wife and I went anyway. It ended up being a pretty chilly morning, but we walked the whole 5k. I think in about 45 minutes. Not bad for a person that could barely move due to back pain. ;)
So the New Year's Day 5k is the Best Hangover Prevention Race! The course was near Lake Michigan and just a great surrounding to take in. Not to mention, I felt great doing something active to kick off the New Year. :)
Following the New Year's Day 5k, I wasn't cleared to get back to running until June so between January and June I did a lot of walking, ellipticalling and biking.
Run For The Zoo 5k - June 5 - 29:20 (9:28 min/mile)
As the recap goes this was my first 5k back from back surgery. It felt GREAT to get back on the course. For this run, you actually got to run through the Lincoln Park Zoo. Camels, monkeys, lions, etc on either side of you. It was also my friend Ellie's first official 5k run ... and she was hooked after that. :)
The organizers not only gave out bagels, bananas and water after the run, but also popsicles! Genius!!
So the Run For The Zoo 5k wins for Best Original Course Entertainment! ;) Who can beat live animal, I mean really?
Rock 'n' Roll Tune-Up 5k- June 19 - 33:17 (10:44 min/mile)
For this run, the wife and I ran together the whole time for one of the only times in our running careers. :P I was being supportive and running with her then she shot ahead of me at the finish line. I didn't take that well. ;)
This was the first of many 5ks happening up at Montrose Harbor. I am still amazed that so many runs take place up there, yet all have different courses. There are just that many different paths up there ... which is great for us runners.
I LOVED that the 5k gave out a medal - most don't. I was also pumped because they were giving out a free pair of flip flops to every runner, BUT by the time we finished the line was winding around the post-race area. They only had 2 lines. I had to get to work so we said forget it and I didn't get my free flip flops. Can you tell I am still bitter about that one. ;)
Anyway, the Rock 'n' Roll Tune-Up 5k was the Best Race To Get Pumped For A Half Marathon! Well, it was the tune-up for the Half Marathon I ended up doing in August. Aaannnd since I did the 5k and the Half in Chicago I got another medal. *Swoon* :P
Proud To Run 5k - June 25 - 28:15 (9:06 min/mile)
So this was my first 5k after getting my iPhone and thus realizing my love of the Runkeeper app. I can honestly say I wouldn't be where I am today without it. It is a great motivator and the GPS is spot on!
The Proud To Run 5k kicked off Chicago's Pride Weekend and it lived up to the hype. Gays and rainbows galore. It was a great atmosphere and a perfect day to run! It was my second race at Montrose Harbor and yet another course.
Since I had a friend visiting, we scooted right after the race and didn't stick around to check out any of the post-run festivities.
But, the Proud To Run 5k wins for Best Rainbow Inspired Race! It was a cause I could really get after and I was happy my wife was there to run as well.
Work was wicked busy during July and I was trying to train for the Chicago Rock 'n' Roll Half in August that I wasn't able to fit in a single road race the whole month...
Terrapin 5k - August 4 - 27:10 (8:46 min/mile)
A nice August run in Chicago. Heat is to be expected - on this day it was 82 at race time. Oh fun! On those days I never try to expect a PR, but I always hope. This was the first time I clocked a pace under 9 minutes. Crazy for someone who finished at 38:21 in their first 5k back in 2005.
This was a great run. It was in a new location - down near Soldier Field - and didn't disappoint. The post-race festivities were the best by far. There was a huge grassy area set up for families/friends to hang out and listen to the music. We found ample space to set up post-race. Even better, we collected our free slice of pizza and one beer in what seemed like record time for a post-race get together. It was extremely organized and everyone was easy going and relaxed. Maybe they took the peace, love and happiness vibe to heart.
So this is a no-brainer, the Terrapin 5k wins for Best Post-Race Organization! I would happily do this run again...
Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon - August 14 - 2:12.15 (10:06 min/mile)
So the wife signed up for the Chicago Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon while I was still recovering from my back surgery, but the competitive person that I am ... I had to sign up too! I mean I couldn't let her run it by herself. I even signed up before technically getting approval from my doctor ... but I knew he would be on board. The race was just under eight months after surgery. I would be fiiiine.
Deciding to sign up for the half might have been one of the best decisions I ever made. It pushed me to new heights.
(Note: In Feb 2006, I ran my first Half Marathon on the Cape and in September 2006 I ran my one and only marathon. Besides those two, I hadn't run a race longer than a 10k)
Training not only pushed me, but reconnected me with my love of running.
The Chicago Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon had one amazing atmosphere. Even though the weather didn't fully cooperate, the amazing cheerleaders, cheerers, musical acts and volunteers along the course made up for it. At no point, did I feel like stopping because the energy kept me going. Not to mention, my dad was out there and I actually saw him at each marker he told me he was at!
The Rock 'n' Roll Half/Full Series wins for Best Race Motivation! There is music, medals and so much more. For someone just starting running and wanting to run their first Half or Full Marathon - go find yourself a Rock 'n' Roll race. It keeps you going the entire time...
PAWS Chicago 8k - September 25 - 43:43 (8:48 min/mile)
This was my first official 8k (5 mile) road race. It was an amazing run even with the downpour that happened. I felt so strong and rested from the August 14 Half Marathon. It was a great cause - PAWS Chicago. There was actually a doggy costume show so prior to the run there were a ton of dogs all around in costumes (there is a slide show in the original post which is linked above).
This was the first time I had kept a sub-9 min/mile pace during a race longer thna 5k. I could really feel myself getting stronger and faster. I was, and still am, so proud of how I have improved over this year.
Ellie and I did this run again, despite the fact that she was sick all week, and it was great to have a running partner. This was the start of a great running partnership between El and I. (As any regular blog readers can attest to :P).
The PAWS Chicago 8k wins for Best Race Costumes ... c'mon - no person can honestly beat a bunch of cute pups in adorable costumes. (Even though I really hate when people dress their dogs up. I know I am a hypocrite).
Bucktown 5k - October 2 - 27:19 (8:48 min/mile)
I really like RAM Racing as a race organizer, but I was EXTREMELY dissappointed with how this race was organized. There were WAAAYYY too many people for the course, especially the starting area. I couldn't even get to a corral to start so I was behind to start with. I spent the entire run using my energy to swerve around people and zig and zag that I didn't finish as well as I had hoped.
Yes, I love running through neighborhoods so the atmosphere was great. But, the number of people was just too much for the small streets. I was really upset. I wanted to LOVE the race since...
The Bucktown 5k wins for Best Race Schwag! Hands down! RAM Racing hit the mark with the jacket you got for registering. I just wish they had put the same love into the race itself.
I will also say I did love the post-race cookies. I definitely had more than one of those. ;)
Homecoming 5k - October 23 - 25:36 (8:15 min/mile)
It was cool to be part of the inaugural Homecoming 5k in Chicago. I love a good theme. I was able to rock a new Tufts shirt (T-U-F-TS - dear old brown and blue :)).
I was extremely happy with how I did, but was underwhelmed with the race itself - course was full of potholes and hard to navigate. I understand it was the first year so there would be some kinks to work out. For my full review, you can click on the link above.
But, the Homecoming 5k does win Best Race Idea! I like the concept and the t-shirt a lot. It is new and fresh. I just hope they work out the kinks before next year...
Trick-or-Treat Trot 5k - October 30 -25:34 (8:14 min/mile)
I give people a ton of credit that can run in costumes. I am not usually one of them, but there are some people that go all in and I love it. It gives me something to focus on during the run when I am not feeling totally at my peak form.
I was not a big fan of the race shirt, but orange is to be expected when the race is based on Halloween. :P
To date, this is my official PR. You will see why I don't count the Hot Chocolate 5k time when you get to that post.
The Trick-or-Treat Trot 5k wins for Best Ghoulish Race! Maybe next year I will even dress up...
Hot Chocolate 5k - November 5 -3.25 mile course in 26:05 so estimated 5k time at 24:52 (8:02 min/mile)
You can now see why I don't accept this race as my PR. The course was actually longer than 5k due to a last minute course change because of a lodged truck on the course.
This is the only race in Chicago I had previously run (November 2010). They revamped the entire course from last year to this year and it paid off. They made the course wider, which helps when there are 25,000 people running. They also have corrals that help keep the similar timing groups together. This pays off dividends when there are so many people running.
I do give the race huge props for delaying the race just 15 minutes with the stuck truck. They moved quickly.
I also really liked the jacket they gave this year - perfect for running. I actually see people running in them all the time. :)
This is by far the easiest race accolade to hand out ... the Hot Chocolate 5k wins for Best Race Snacks! I would be lying if I told you I didn't do this race just for the chocolate fondue at the end. It is worth all the people, all the hassle, all the commotion. It is so yummy. :)
Chicago's Perfect 10 10k - November 12 - 54:30 (8:48 min/mile)
This was the first year for the Chicago's Perfect 10-Miler or 10k. This kicked off at Chicago's Historical Navy Pier. It was a poorly organized expo and start to the run, but the run itself was great. They also changed the start time and waited too long to let people know.
This was the wife and my one-year wedding anniversary and what a great way to start it off. :)
It was a great day and the course was familiar. I had use this part of the Lakefront Trail, while training for the Rock 'n' Roll Half. I was slightly worried when we headed towards the aquarium (small trail), but people figured it out and the group moved through that area with ease. There were also two pretty big (for Chicago) hills on the course and thankfully Spinning had paid off and I was able to push through both of those without big issues.
The Chicago's Perfect 10 10k may have been unorganized, but it wins for Best Race Medal. I absolutely love it! It features the most iconic part of Navy Pier ... the Ferris Wheel.
Honolulu Turkey Trot 10-Miler - November 24 - 1:31.04 (9:06 min/mile)
I was looking for a run to do while on my honeymoon in Hawaii - had I known about the Honolulu Half I would've run it, but I didn't - so I found the Honolulu Turkey Trot online. It was put on by the Honolulu Marathon Clinic that helps people train for the Honolulu Marathon.
The group didn't allow any iPods, iPhones or GPS devices on the run. So it was really just me, my thoughts and the views. Wow! It was one amazing place to run. I really got to just get out there and enjoy it. Run for the sake of running.
You can read all about how I ran into a friend,cut off seven minutes on my time and what I thought of the course in the recap.
But, this is a really easy decision: the Honolulu Turkey Trot 10-Miler wins for Most Creative Timing system - tongue depressor - and the Best Scenery. I mean those views were magnificent and will never be topped ... especially if I keep running in Chicago! ;)
Santa Hustle 5k - December 3 - 26:50 (8:39 min/mile)
I was not a fan of this run ... for what I was trying to get out of it, which was a competitive race. This is NOT what this run is designed for. This is designed for you and your family or friends to get out there and dress up like Santa. They gave out m&ms and cookies along the course - not your typical in-race snacks.
Now, had I gone in there with that mind frame and with a group to run with - I would have had the time of my life. But, now I know. I know that if I decide to run this next year, it is just to get out there and get moving.
The Santa Hustle 5k easily wins for Best Family Fun/Don't Take Yourself Seriously Run!
Jingle Bell 5k - December 17 - 26:05.5 (8:24 min/mile)
And last, but not least, is the Jingle Bell 5k. I was hoping to finish 2011 with a new shiny PR, but I fell 32 seconds short. Which is to be expected with the amount of knee pain I was feeling mixed with the snow on the ground. I am still proud of how far I had come from the beginning of June.
This was a great race. They had a cute little dash with Tommy Hawk from the Blackhawks before the run started. It was out near the Nature Museum so it wasn't up by Montrose - I enjoyed the change of pace. It was hard to get my footing with the freshly fallen snow, which I think also hurt my knee, but it was a good preview for what may be on the ground when I run the Half Marathon on January 28.
The Jingle Bell 5k is a double winner for Best Pre-Race Location (you could hang out in the museum and check out some exhibits instead of out in the cold) and Best Cause. I found this race through my sorority (AOPi) because the run benefited The Arthritis Foundation, which is our charity as well. So I was happy to raise some funds for such a worthy group.
Also, while I was running, the wife checked out the Farmer's Market at the Museum and came away with some nice healthy snacks for us...
I am so happy that I reconnected with my inner runner. If you told me in high school that I would be where I am today, I would've said you were crazy.
This year has been a whirlwind year starting with major back surgery in January and ending with an IT band injury, but in the middle I improved from a 29:20 5k to a 25:34. Wow! What an improvement - hard work and dedication pay off.
Over this year, I have been lucky enough to find a great running community here in Chicago and I thank each and every one of you for motivating me.
I thank Ellie - my running partner - for getting up at 5:30am once or twice a week to head to the Lakefront Trail with me ... even when it was 30 and blistering. ;)
Last, but not least at all, I thank my wife for putting up with my training and signing up/attending races she would rather sleep through.
Here's to 2012 and what I have on the docket so far:
*New Year's Day 5k - January 1
*Race to Wrigley 5k - April ??
*Soldier Field 10-Miler - May 26
*Chicago Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon - July 22
*Savannah Rock 'n' Roll Full Marathon - November 3