March 14 & 15, 2014
I did this race last year (you can read about it HERE and didn’t really have any intention of doing it again but when I signed up to do the Polar Dash this year - which you can read about that HERE - and realized that if I did all four of the races in the series, the medals would make a circle…well, that’s all it took.
FRIDAY, MARCH 14th: After my mostly positive experience with taking the MegaBus to Chicago in January, it was a no-brainer to take it again. This time however I was going to take an earlier bus so that I wouldn’t be rushed with getting to packet pickup. The bus was scheduled to leave at 9:45AM which meant that I needed to be at the bus stop at 9:30AM. I left my house in plenty of time but by the time I got to the bus stop there was already quite a crowd. I also noticed that the bus in front was being hooked up to a tow truck! I was really hoping that wasn’t the bus I needed and thankfully it wasn’t. Since the bus was nearly full I had to sit next to someone. She seemed nice; although we barely spoke to one another. She read a book on her Kindle and I listened to my music. There were no mishaps on the way up although after going through one of the toll booths the driver pulled over so that he could go to the bathroom.
This time the sidewalks of Chicago were clear. And oh course they were…I brought my snow boots just in case! And although I still really didn’t have any sense of direction I tried to remember how the cab driver took me in January and headed in that direction. After walking for about 10 minutes – while stopped waiting for the light to change – I asked the ladies that were in front of me if I was going the correct way and they confirmed that I was. I wished I had paid more attention to the time but it was less than a 30 minute walk from Union Station to the hotel. Check-in was listed as 3:00PM but they had a room available so I was able to go ahead and get in. As I did last year, I was staying at the Congress Plaza Hotel. Its is definitely an older and “tired” hotel but it is the host hotel, where packet pickup is and where we needed to catch the shuttle in the morning. For half marathons, I’m all about convenience especially on race morning!
I had a pretty good view from my room…if you looked up over the parking garage!
^ ^ ^ ^ Actual view ^ ^ ^ ^
^ ^ ^ ^ If you looked straight up ^ ^ ^ ^
I went down to packet pickup, got my bib and jacket but didn’t take my wallet so technically the lady shouldn't have given me my stuff but she did anyway. I tried using my Facebook account on my phone as proof of who I was. Well, I needed to go back up and get my wallet anyway because (although the website and Facebook page said we would pay RACE morning) I needed to ahead and buy my shuttle ticket. Oh well, no big deal. I did walk back over to show the lady my ID just so we would be cool.
Took my stuff upstairs and then decided to walk around the city for a little bit since it was nice and I needed to scout out a place for dinner that night as well.
Here are some (okay…a lot of) shots from the afternoon:
I then walked a little further north toward the Chicago River. I was hoping that it would have already been dyed green but it hadn’t been. I learned that they do that the morning of the parade.
As you can see by the flags, it was super windy on Friday. And since Chicago is known as the “Windy City” it’s a good thing that I’m just blowing in and out of here in less that 30 hours! Thankfully the forecast was calling for calmer conditions on Saturday.
Passed this guy walking back to the hotel. He was good but I always associated bagpipes with Scotland not Ireland…guess I was wrong and its both.
So it was still fairly early and I decided to go back to the hotel and relax and get caught up on reading some blogs. I also worked on getting things ready for in the morning.
I tried to close the curtains in the room but they wouldn’t shut all the way. But a call to the front desk had the maintenance guy up in less than 5 minutes. He got them closed but then the pulley thing broke. I told him not to worry about it. The most important thing was that they were closed so I could sleep tonight and he could just put it on the “to do” list for tomorrow.
Around 6:00PM, I left and walked back up north on Michigan Avenue to Noodles and Company. It seemed like it would be the fastest and least expensive option for dinner tonight. I’ve never been to this chain before and I must say that I was surprised with the food. I ordered the Whole Grain Tuscan Linguine and it was tasty…maybe a little too much peeper for this girl but I would order it again.
On the walk back to the hotel you could see the full moon in the east.
Back to the room after dinner, watched some TV and then went to bed around 10:00PM.
SATURDAY, MARCH 15th: Not a restful night of sleep. I could hear EVERYTHING going on in the rooms next to me, above me, and below me. Not as bad as last year when the hotel was also filled with people in for the Big Ten Men’s Tournament but still annoying!
I set my alarm for 6:00AM which was earlier than what I really needed but I was scheduled to be on the 8:15AM bus and I also needed to go to the front desk to exchange my room key for a different one so that I could get a later checkout. I was able to have a 2:00PM checkout! They were so much nicer about this THIS time compared to when I was here last year.
The weather was cool but at least the winds weren't as strong as they were yesterday.
We didn’t have to wait long for the shuttle and I sat next to a girl from California that was doing the half marathon. She had come in to Chicago to visit friends and discovered that there was a race so she signed up. FUN!
Walking from the bus drop-off area to the start line you could see that portions of the course (if this was part of the course, I wasn’t completely sure) had patches of black ice. The course changed ”last minute” because – from what I heard – the event folks didn’t get things worked out with the city. So I wasn’t 100% sure how the course was running. Sure, I had this map but since I’m not from the area it really didn’t mean anything to me.
I didn’t have to wait long before the race was to start; super glad I didn’t get on a earlier shuttle. I found someone to take my traditional pre-race photo.
We had to stand in some water and there was a girl in front of me but to the side that kept kicking here legs back in order to stretch but by doing so was splashing water on the girls directly behind her. I was about to tap her on the shoulder but she eventually stopped.
This course was better/clearer/cleaner than the Polar Dash course but I still felt like I needed to run with my head mostly down to watch out for black ice spots. There were a few slushy spots and then there was this one DETOUR that we encountered going both out and back.
I didn’t take many pictures while on the course but here are a few:
^^ I remember these folks being at Polar Dash as well ^^
People running in costumes are fun. I would run up to these people, take a picture and then pass them. WOOT!
As you came back in near the finish line area, you actually had to pass it and do a final 1 1/2 mile loop. I heard some people say afterward that other runners weren't aware/didn’t notice this (or maybe they were just OVER IT!) and merely went in and crossed the finish line. The bad/congested thing about this last loop was that as you were going out to start it, you needed to be on the LEFT side of the path because the runners coming back in to finish were on your RIGHT. This also caused you to do some bobbing and weaving at the intersection to go into the finish. This all could be alleviated if this “last loop” was the fist loop of the race and then they routed everyone toward the lake course. And the last loop was in really bad condition; lots of standing water, mud, some icy patches and it was narrow. But I did get to see the girl from California as she was completing mile 12 and I was just going out on the final loop.
All things considered, my finishing time wasn’t too bad. I felt very lethargic and checked my watch a lot during this race.
This is the third time I’ve done a Team Ortho event.
- And as is typical with them, water stops/aid stations are limited. You should still maintain good hydration during cooler weather races but it isn’t as critical as it would be during warmer events. So I’m a little concerned about their races that I’m doing in September and October. I guess it might be a good time to try out a hydration belt.
- Another annoying this was that there was an aid station just before we’d even gone a mile. Now this was a beneficial stop because you needed to pass it on your way back in (Mile 10 approximately) but I was surprised at how many people were stopping and getting water since they had just started. THEN I noticed on the left side of the path at this aid station was a guy handing out Hammer Gels. Again, this should have been done as people were coming back IN. So you had to decide…did you want water or a gel? By the time I noticed him on my left (because I was perplexed by everyone stopping for water!), it was too late to grab a gel to save for later. And as you probably guessed, there were none left (and he was gone as well) by the time I came back through. I brought my own so it didn’t matter but its not how it should have been done.
- And one final complaint/annoyance, at this same aid station – on the way back in - there was a group of about 6 to 8 girls working it. Five of them were standing BEHIND the table and only ONE of them was filling cups. And the girls in front of the table were doing nothing! I had to wait to get a cup of water. I know, I know…you get what you get when it comes to volunteers but the course organizers need to stress the importance of what the volunteer is there to do. And it wouldn't hurt for volunteers to participate in an event so they could get a first hand appreciation for what they should be doing. And yes, I have volunteered at events so I’m speaking from experience. Okay, enough.
I will NOT do this series next year. Team Ortho seems to be mostly unorganized and I heard a lot of people complaining about different things at various stages; from packet pickup, to bag drop, to the finish line area.
But I was a sucker for the extra items I’ll get by doing the series:
And the fact that the medals will form a circle. Well, technically the medals are designed to do this (this is the Minneapolis Series):
But leaving out the bonus medal, I can have them make a circle. And I’m halfway there:
Before getting on the bus to go back to the hotel, I took a picture of this giant gold statue in the park.
You can read more about this statue (since you can’t really read the photo of the marker) HERE
There were plenty of buses so I didn’t have to wait and we were on our way back to the hotel in less than 5 minutes. Of course I’m on a bus with less than 20 people and sitting behind me is a guy who is talking to a guy and a girl in the seat across the aisle from him. But who can I hear the most out of these three people having a conversation? Not the guy directly behind me but the guy across the aisle. Sir, lets use our indoor bus voice!
Back up in my room and I took a nice long hot shower. So glad I had an extended checkout time. I ended up leaving the room around 1:30PM and sat in the hotel lobby for a little bit but there were WAY TOO MANY loud annoying drunk people in there that had just been to the St. Patrick’s Day parade. My bus didn’t leave until 3:30PM but around 2:00PM I walked up a few blocks to Starbucks and treated myself to an expensive coffee. The place was packed. And to be honest with you, I don’t like the Skinny Vanilla Lattes that much anymore. I’ll take my 97 cent Ricker’s coffee any day over this almost $5 one.
I stayed at Starbucks for maybe 10 minutes and decided just to head on up to the bus stop. I had to dodge a few drunk girls but other than that the sidewalk was not crowded walking there. I got on the bus and originally had two seats to myself but then more passengers started getting on. I had struck up conversation with a guy across the aisle that was wearing the Get Lucky hoodie and so I moved and sat next to him. He was very nice and we ended up talking almost the entire way back to Indianapolis about half marathons .
As I was leaving downtown Indy, the full moon was once again rising in the east so I stopped to take a picture.