Race report from LPTRunner, Mary Gorski...
What a difference a few rocks, roots, hills, pounding rain and chilly temps make.
Two weeks ago I did the Glacial 50K on the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin’s Northern Kettle Moraine. The race course is about an hour’s drive from my house in Milwaukee.
This week, I drove a bit further to the south side of Chicago to run the Chicago 50/50. Like the Glacial 50, the course is on a trail. But instead of the rugged Ice Age, Chicago’s is a paved bike trail along the city’s lakefront starting just south of the Museum of Science and Industry.
Both races have a 50-kilometer and 50-mile option. This year, I opted for the kinder, gentler metric distance in each race.
Each event had lovely runners’ gifts: Glacial offered a fleece pullover; Chicago gave runners a long-sleeve tech tee.
This year both events had wind; LOTS of wind. At Glacial, the wind was combined with freezing rain and rapidly falling temperatures. The result was freezing runners and rapidly falling attitudes. We ran not to get a PR but to simply get to the heat of the finish building.
Yet as significant as the wind was at Glacial, it was even worse in Chicago. In some spots heading north it literally brought me to a standstill, my arms and legs flailing about as if I were a cartoon character trying to run but going absolutely nowhere. It seemed like Hurricane Sandy was getting some training on the Chicago course, preparing for her main event on the East Coast in a few days.
However, Chicago’s stop-me-in-my-tracks wind is my preference hands down over Glacial’s wicked one-two-punch of heavy cold rain and strong wind. At Glacial, the weather’s brutality was a constant. In Chicago, you got a break every five miles when you turned south on the three-loop course. “Uncle, uncle!” I yelled at one of the turn-arounds, as if to a bully who was waiting for me to yell the magic word before ceasing his abuse.
Going south, jackets were unzipped, gloves came off (because of warmth, not to punch fellow runners), conversations became lighter (with the wind at our backs we could finally hear each other speak). The wind gave us a little power assist from behind. This was nice. This I could do.
Of course, once runners made it to the start-finish area they had to return to the north-bound course two more times (in the 50K; the 50-mile had four out-and-back loops). “Just get to the turn-around, just get to the turn-around, just get to the turn-around…” This was our mantra as we moved forward on loops two and three.
The “we” for most of yesterday’s run was my friend Jay and me. After a bit of a hiatus from running, Jay has jumped back into the sport full steam ahead. Last week he ran a marathon so I figured that he’d be taking it easy this week. But when he pulled alongside me in the first mile he was doing a pace a bit quicker than I originally planned for myself. “Might as well stay together for at least a loop; I can back off on the next one,” I thought to myself.
So what does Jay say to me as we come in at the end of that first loop? “I’m going to let you go on the next loop; the pace is a little quick for me. I’m feeling last week’s marathon.”
I was starting to feel last week’s marathon as well even though I hadn’t actually run it. Must have been sympathy pains.
Back and forth we went during the next two loops, frequently coming together to grumble about the wind and encourage each other to just “make it to the turn-around; once the wind is at our backs it will be ok…”
Heading out on the last loop my legs felt like lead weights. Shoe inserts that normally added comfort to my feet developed an obnoxious squeak. I was getting a little grumpy as I once again was stopped in my tracks by the wind.
But then I looked at my watch. Driving to Chicago that morning I thought that 5:30 would be a good time to shoot for. It was about 50 minutes faster than my Glacial time two weeks earlier, but on a paved, flat course, I thought the time drop was realistic. With less than ten miles to go I realized that I could probably walk a good chunk of the third loop and still meet that 5:30 goal. And once I said “uncle” at the turn-around, releasing the wind’s brutal punch, perhaps my legs would perk up and I would be the proverbial horse heading to the barn.
In this case, the barn was a pop-up tent with Beth Onines’ legendary beans and rice for a post-race feast.
Finally, the last turn-around. I filled myself with high octane ultra-fuel: cola and Oreos. Sugar, caffeine and the wind at my back for the final five mile stretch: my legs perked up and I ran in for the finish, crossing the line just a hair over five hours (5:02 or 03; I forgot to hit my watch and Chicago does things the old fashioned way – the only chips you’ll find there are on the snack table; no instant computer chip timing).
Jay was just a few minutes behind me; giving me enough time to get my camera out for a finish photo.
The sun was still shinning, both of us seemed to be without injury, and the beans and rice were fabulous as always. We congratulated each other on our runs and then headed back to our respective states.
On the way home I celebrated the fabulous day with a visit to the Container Store in north suburban Chicago. Nothing like a brand new scrubbie holder for the kitchen sink to commemorate a good run.
As for the competitive side of the race, it looked like there were some strong performances in 50K and 50-mile divisions. Chicago has a fantastic course for fast times, in fact, the world 50-mile record was set there in 1984.
Results will be at the race website at: http://www.chicagoultra.org