Running Through Memories... CARA Runs Live Grit 10-miler *RECAP*

What better way to celebrate a 12-mile training run during a long weekend away from home than doing a 10-mile race in your old hood. Am I right? There IS NO BETTER WAY!

When the wife and I decided we would sneak in a long weekend in Chicago, I immediately looked at my marathon training plan. I had a 12-miler and 8-miler on the schedule. Once I knew the distances, I checked out the race schedule for Chicago on Running In The USA (my go-to website to find races).

I spotted the CARA Runs Live Grit Lakefront 10-miler & 5k and knew it was destiny! I registered on the spot. :) Then looped the wife in on the plan. 

Fast forward to arriving in Chicago and realizing we were staying downtown and the race was taking place up on the North Side, which would've taken about 45-50 minutes to get to on the El (Train).

The race offered $10 off your first ride using the Curb app, which helps you reserve a taxi - so I went that route. The race didn't start til 9am, but I was nervous with roads closing at 8am so I set the pick up for 7:30am on race day. I had already picked up my bib the day prior so I didn't have to worry about race day pick-up. Bib pick-up was out of the way, but super smooth. 

The cab arrived early and we scooted up to Montrose Harbor in less than 15 minutes. Oops! With the $10 discount, the ride plus tip was about $14. Totally worth it! The cab driver was pleasant, transaction smooth and I took care of it all right on my phone. Like Uber but for cabbies.

I arrived on-site for the race around 7:45am. It was a flood of memories immediately as most of the races I took part in when I lived in Chicago started or ended at this very spot. I was thrown back to 2011 and a highlight reel played in my head.

It was in the mid 30s and we were along the Lakefront so you can figure out that I was cold. Plus I was wearing this:

Yes I am not smart! :P But I only brought shorts so shorts are what I wore.

I just started taking laps around the little Start area while sponsors were setting up there tents. I was hoping there would be a little building to hide in, but there wasn't. Since I had 12 on the schedule I decided to use my time wisely and go for a pre-race 2. I felt like the pro runners that do warm-ups before the races. :P 

Legs felt heavy, but thankfully they woke up as I pushed on. Well that warmed me up and took up some time. :P As I headed back to the Start Area, a social media friend tweeted me to meet up. We met near the port-o-potties and she offered me a spot in her warm car until the race started.

Yes I got into a car with a stranger, but she was parked right by the Finish and she didn't look like she was a crazy whacko. ;) Thanks Zenaida for saying hi, giving me warmth and talking running with me. :)

With about 10 minutes until the race was set to start, we headed to the port-o-potty line one last time. We hugged, wished each other a good race and headed to the Start Corral.

The race was marked as green/low on the safety board, which is always a good thing.

I headed to the corral and squeezed in near the front-ish. There was a local college a capella group that sang the National Anthem and they did an amazing job!

My goal for the race was to treat it like a training run. Keep the mile paces in check and DON'T turn the race mindset on.

So the 5k and 10-miler started out together and shared the first 2+ miles. As soon as the horn went off, people were FLYING past me. I had to check my watch just to see what was going on. Even though the folks had yellow bibs which meant they were running the 10-miler, I told myself they were all running the 5k. ;) It's how I spend most of my races - telling myself that I am running a totally different race than anyone that passes me. :P

The course mirrored my warm-up run for the first mile. I had no idea to expect such awesomely inspirational mile markers.

Mile 1: 8:27

It was overwhelmingly surreal being back at Montrose Harbor and running in a race. I hadn't been around here in 4 years. I was happy, sad, nervous, excited and nothing all at once. Does that make sense?

I had to stop and snap pictures. Not that it was really different than any other race, but I wanted to capture these moments for the wife as well (who was presumably back at the hotel still sleeping!).

Boy did I miss running along the Lakefront. It was a great place to get a long run in with minimal annoyance from cars. I love my Charles River runs, but there are way more interference from cars than in Chicago.

I couldn't stop smiling. I wished I wasn't running solo. I wanted to share the memories with someone else. I wanted to vocalize the stories. Instead I turned to tweeting, Snapchatting and texting the people I was thinking of.



Mile 2: 8:30

Since I run without music, it is easy for me to catch the conversations of my fellow participants. It was just after the Mile 2 marker, I heard more rumblings of this "hill challenge" that I ignored hearing pre-race. There was a prize for the fastest Jack and Jill up the hill. However I had NO idea what "hill" they referred to. I mean we are in the midwest for pete's sake. :P Said the New Englander. Haha

As we approached the split for the two races, I spotted the hill.

Oh okay that is how we are going to play. Let's do this! Here is the video I took while tackling this "hill."

I was expecting a flat course, but I made sure to take the advice of Altra Running and rock the Proud Posture and Chicken Wings while rocking the climb. I felt great when I made it to the top.

I stopped on the other side to get a better picture.

Well that was a fun challenge and one that I was happy to see over... or so I thought! :P

Mile 3: 9:04

It was time to start making our way towards Diversey Harbor on the Lakefront Trial. The path was open to the public so it involved a little bobbing and weaving around families out walking, bikers and other runners. But I didn't care. I was on a high of being back in the familiar. We were taking the path back towards my apartment. This was my training area. 

I texted my friend Ellie and snapchatted her pics of where I was. She had since moved to Colorado, but she started her running career on this path with me. With each step I took I thought back to our early morning adventures together. I wished so bad that she was there running next to me.

I wanted to go back in time and make that happen. But for now I would replay the memories in my head as I ran. While I did that I thoroughly confused the folks around me, who apparently didn't witness a lot of mid-run action selfies. :) 

Mile 4: 8:25

Man each mile the signage got better and better. I also confused the folks around me by 1) wearing what I wear :P and 2) stopping at every mile marker to take a photo. I couldn't pass them up. I was ready to get inspired by the next.

I was feeling great. I reminded myself that every time my watch buzzed to add 2 miles to it since I had run pre-race. 

There were little spectators along the way, but I was too involved in my own world to even recognize it. The path was busy, which was great and some of the fellow passer-byes cheered for the racers. 

We passed the old dog beach we used to bring the pups to and I just lost it. Tears streaming down my face because the happy memories were flowing through my body. It was like a highlight reel of our lives in Chicago.

I settled in around a group of 4 that were running together to celebrate one of their birthdays. We all witnessed the leaders buzzing back past us but were waiting to see the first female. Finally she emerged and one of the biker patrollers got in my shot! This is what I get for taking a pic while running in the opposite direction.

You can see her just over the biker's right shoulder. Go lady Go!

I am a sucker for a good race sign so I was ecstatic to have these ladies pose with their signs... and they were happy to oblige! Right MEOW!

Thankfully we were headed right to a water stop which I happily used for a little walk break. I am not about to attempt drinking water and running at the same time - it never works out in my favor.

I took the opportunity for a quick snack and social media break. :) I also somehow missed the Mile 5 marker, which made me sadder than it should have. Hi it is a mile marker.

Mile 5: 9:15

As we headed down the dirt path, a winter 5k started coming back to me. This path I was on was the final 0.1 of a fun 5k benefitting the Juvenile Arthritis Association.

I was reliving that snowy day, while dodging puddles... like you do!

Since I was so focused on the memories, I wasn't really bothered by checking in on the pace or what mile I was really on. I felt great and I focused on listening to my body. The miles were roughly in the 8's outside of the mile with the hill and the mile with the walk/water stop break so nothing to overthink.

The weather was fantastic. It was cool and overcast, but dry and not as windy as I expected. Yes yes I know I was in the windy city, but no matter what we were running along the water which is always windy!

As we hit the end of Diversey Harbor, it was time to turn around and head back to Montrose Harbor... but not before a quick photo session with downtown.

The city was as happy to see me as I was. I gave a special thumbs up to the wife who by this point was making her way to the convention center for Comic Con (which I would meet her at post-race).

Mile 6: 8:50

It was time to turn start the journey back North! The sun was shining, the water was glistening and I was feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. 

There were a couple of spectators who I had spotted before. They had a sign for one of their friends and were trying to spot him at multiple spots along the course. I cheered them on for being awesome supporters!

I have to commend CARA Runs for having ample volunteers along the course. It was staffed perfectly. Many folks can the race as part of a charity team so it was great to have those supporters out on the course cheering on all participants, 

Mile 7: 8:46

I was sad to see we only had 3 more miles left in the race. I wanted to keep running on this path for hours. I didn't want the journey to end because I know it would be last time I run here for who knows how long... maybe ever. 

I took this picture of Belmont Harbor because this was where I started so many of my runs. It was just a few blocks from my second apartment in Chicago and one of the places I would meet Ellie. 

I also needed to stop and take a picture of the ramp they added to the dog beach that the wife and I used to frequent.

What a nice change from the steep steps that were there before.

Mile 8: 8:34

I noticed I was starting to pick up the pace. I think it was the adrenaline and emotions taking over. That and the desire to enjoy my free post-race beer. One of those options. ;)

Mile 9: 8:11

It was just after making the right hand turn at the Mile 9 marker that I realized we would be attacking that climb once again. Wwwhhaaa?? I didn't hear anything about this. :P 

Alright I was ready. It was the only challenge between me and the beer.

I set of goal of trying to beat everyone around me up the hill. It was a nice way to focus my energy for the 20-ish seconds I had of work.

Plus I was rewarded at the top by this sweet view.

Alright it was all down hill from here... literally! ;) I tried to kick it up a notch. Apparently my "Don't let it become a race" mentality had gone out the window. Haha! Not shocked there.

We made some twists and turns to head back towards the Start Area, which doubled as the Finish. I was pushing towards the Finish when a girl came out of nowhere to try to elbow her way ahead of me... as we crossed the line.

Let's just say I wasn't happy with that unsportsmanlike conduct. It's not like we were competing for first place there. I got grumpy for a hot second, but wasn't about to let her kill my happy buzz. She wasn't worth the brain space. Plus I had a pretty medal to focus on.

Mile 10: 7:46

FINAL TIME: 1:25:48 (8:35 min/mile pace)

I will take it. Really happen with how on point the Garmin was both time and distance wise.

It wasn't until I connected to the Garmin app that I realized I rocked the negative splits and got progressively faster during the last 5 miles. It really made me happy because I didn't feel like I was exerting a ton of extra energy over those miles. I really tried to stay in tune with my mind and let the body do what it wanted to do.

As soon as I had the medal, I headed straight to the beer garden to claim my free Lagunitas. I passed on the free deep dish pizza since that really isn't my scene. 

Cheers my friends! Oh that beer hit the freakin' spot after a great race. It was awesome from start to finish. I even enjoyed the challenge of the hill. Thankfully it didn't feel like a crazy climb since I train in New England. 

It was an odd feeling being at a race totally solo. I picked a little spot in the grass to stretch, stare at my bling and enjoy my IPA. 

I got a lot of looks for my outfit. I didn't really see anyone rocking a sparkle skirt, which was so odd.

Overall it was a great 12-mile morning and I would highly recommend this race to anyone in the area. The volunteers and staff were energetic and helpful. The race announcer was encouraging. The water plentiful. The post-race beer delicious. The vendors nice. The swag (tech long-sleeved pullover and medal) were top notch.

Have you tackled the Live Grit 10-miler or 5k?