Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Chicago Polar (snow mound climb, super-sized puddle jump, off course snow/mud/grass road race) Dash!

January 11, 2014


I think I might have gotten 3 consecutive hours of sleep Friday night.  But I felt okay when the alarm went off at 5:30AM.  I took a quick shower and then started getting ready.  The hotel began serving breakfast at 6:00AM which was good because the I’d forgotten my banana and the toaster in our room wasn’t working.  Usually I like to eat before my shower so that things can start processing but I was just going to have to adjust.

The weather still look favorable – for January – but some of the Facebook posts from the race had me a little concerned.

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FRIDAY NIGHT POST: Update on Polar Dash path conditions (final update will be posted here around 6:30 am tomorrow). There are standing puddles of water of varying depths on the route. 5K & 10K so far look okay, but some puddles on the 14 Mile are "impassable" (water is currently pooled in some spots held in place by the ice dams formed by the plowed banks) . Be SURE to bring dry socks to change into after the race

SATURDAY MORNING POST: Course update: Course is clear other than a couple of BIG puddles. Course is narrowed by the snow banks. Bring Dry socks for post race. Embrace your inner PENGUIN!

MYMW and Wendy got up and began to get ready as well and we decided that we would leave the hotel at 7:25ish, step outside and then determine if we would walk to the start or take a cab.  My race (the 14 miler) was to start at 8:00AM and their race (the 10K) was to start at 8:30AM but Wendy needed to exchange her fleece jacket so they wanted to get there early.

We got downstairs a little later than anticipated and - although I walk fast - I wasn’t sure they would walk AS fast as me and I worried that I wouldn’t make it to the start line in time.  So we decided to get a taxi.  The difficult part about taking a taxi is that you don’t have an actual address to give to the driver but knowing it was near the Grant Park/Soldier Field area worked and we kept a keen eye out for the tents as we were driving south. 

We obviously got there in plenty of time since we took a taxi but that allowed us to take some pictures.  The city had a fog hanging over it and I loved that the building in the background had their lights on to read PEACE.

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After these photo ops, I headed to the the corral area.  MYMW got this fun shot of me at the start/finish line.

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Standing in my corral, I saw this hat/scarf/glove combo thing.  FUNNY!

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While standing there waiting for the start, I was regretting not having a second pair of pants on but thankful that I didn’t “check” my jacket.  I had a feeling the running weather/temperature would be similar to last year’s Get Lucky Half Marathon up here and I could adjust like I did for that one.  The course looked to be very similar aside from going north for just a bit at the very start.

Course Map

I’m not sure who wrote the above Facebook posts about the course but I think saying the course was clear except for a “couple” of puddles was FAR from the truth.  We weren't  running for very long before we jumped the first snow bank and began running in the road…then back on the sidewalk…then back in the road…then back on the sidewalk.  I wouldn’t normally look at my Garmin just one mile into a race but I was curious how long all of this shuckin’ & jivin’ was taking.  It was 12+ minutes.  I was worried this could be a long day.  

Then between miles 1 & 2 as I was coming back down from a snow mound back on to the course, I slipped and fell.  I caught myself but my hands landed in a puddle and my gloves were soaked.  Luckily it wasn’t worse than that.  There would end up being several “causalities” in this race.  So I tried to wring some of the water out of the gloves then put them in my jacket pocket.  However a little later, I felt my leg getting wet & cold.  My still puddle soaked gloves were seeping through my jacket pocket.  So the rest of the race I  had to carry them with the fingertips dangling down.  At least the cuff part was dry so the few times that my hands did get cold I could put them in the gloves partially. 

We probably encountered 5-6 of these impassable puddles on the route south, which meant that we also encountered them on the way back in.  It was good to be following people so that someone else blazed the trail through the snow, mud and grass.  But you didn’t want to follow too closely; you wanted to be able to see the obstacles ahead of you!  Of course when we had to jump off course it basically became a single file line and a walk.  The first few step over the snow mounds and then back down became icy with each passing participant's footstep.  But you didn’t want to step in fresh snow because you weren’t sure if it was solid, mushy and how far down your foot might sink.

Here are a few pictures of what these areas looked like:Course (1)Course (2)Course (3)

It was nice when the path was clear.  I felt like I was able to make up some time and run at my normal pace.

After mile 12, I came to (I think) my last puddle and I thought it wasn’t as deep as it was and ran through it.  I’m pretty sure I blurted out a cuss word but at that point…it didn’t really matter to my feet.

They had a timing mat down at the half marathon point so that you could also get an official time for that distance.  So only less than a mile to go (.9) and then I crossed the finish line.  I got my medal and looked for my friends.  We took a few pictures, I grabbed about 4 chewy granola bars, two cups of hot chocolate and we began the walk back to the hotel.  THAT is when I really started to get cold.

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I was the last to take a shower once we got to the room but I put on dry clothes so I was shivering anymore. After my shower I finished packing and then it was time to head to the Megabus stop.  Again, I should have walked there but I had just (mostly) run 14 miles so I was (mostly) okay splurging on a taxi.

I very easily could have missed this bus because it wasn’t marked as a Megabus.  It was just a plain white coach bus.  It was crowded because it was also taking people on to Cincinnati after the Indianapolis stop.  And although I had to sit next to someone, she was nice and thankfully didn’t want to chat the entire ride home.  The bus was scheduled to leave Chicago at 3:30PM but we didn’t get on the road until 4:00PM.  The second bus driver had forgotten her purse and we were waiting on her to return .  Aye yi yi!   But I will totally take this up there again in March for second race in this series.

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