Monday, January 13, 2014

Race Recap: Chicago Polar Dash 14 miles

My last 9 weeks of running. Pathetic.
It feels GOOD to be back.
Last week was a pretty amazing week. After being on the DL list for what feels like eternity, I finally made my way back to a consistent running schedule. Plantar fasciitis ruined my fall. Then starting at Thanksgiving, the flu and pneumonia took their toll to end the year. It took my chest forever to be able to breathe normal again to resume running. I have slowly added miles with a careful eye on that dang PF. I'm trying my hardest to be smart and avoid further injuries. I have big plans for 2014 and really want to get back on track!

I decided to push for a 20+ miles this week in the #WinterMiles Challenge and see how my body/foot responded. I'm happy to say I hit 27 and feel good! Half those miles came from the Chicago Polar Dash on Saturday, Jan. 11th.

I registered for the Chicago Polar Dash several months ago - when I was thought this would be an 'easy 14' in the middle of marathon training. Ha! Since then, hell broke loose on my body and my March marathon was downgraded. However, I'm still stubborn enough to think I can pull a 14-miler out of nowhere. So I showed up in Chicago on Friday night, completely untrained for this kind of distance. Obviously, I wasn't shooting for any kind of PR. (Oh-wait, I've never run a 14 mile race, so it's automatically a first-timer's PR!)  My goal was to finish and attempt to RUN as much of the 14 miles as possible.

A few of my fellow Peoria Sole Sisters came along on the mini RACEcation.
I had dreamed of a pretty run along the snowy Chicago lakefront... yes, cold but pretty. Well, Mother Nature hasn't been following my dreamy visions lately. While the city had a ton of snow, the prior day brought warmer temps (40's) with a whole day of rain. Yuck. Everything was mush and slop. Forget the YakTrax, I needed swampers (aka rain boots)!

The race started and I took a deep breathe. Let's Do This! As always, it was a bit congested at the beginning, but the trail conditions made that even worse. There was a mix of snow, black ice and supersize puddles. Runners weaved around them, crawled up snow banks to go around, and my favorite... came to a dead stop to tip-toe through the water. It was a lot of stop and go running. I saw people falling and really wanted to avoid that. Bad enough my feet were going to be wet, but I wanted to keep the rest of my body dry and warm. So I just kept it to an easy jog, following those in front of me since there was no getting around anyway.

Eventually, runners spread out, the trail opened up and I had a bit more wiggle room to move around. I didn't wear a watch, but could easily tell that miles 2-4 were my fastest. As we hit the mile 4 marker, I remember thinking, "Oh, you're kidding. We've only done 4 miles." The off-roading through snow, grass and mud were wearing me out. I backed off the pace a bit, knowing I had 10 more miles to conquer.  The course was an out-and-back along the lakefront of Lake Michigan. So at mile 4, I focused on only 3 more until the turnaround. That sounded manageable.

For once, I looked forward to the uphills (dry land at the top) and dreaded the downhills. Somewhere around mile 5, I took a detour to avoid a big lake that stretched across the trail... stepping onto a snow pile... and my foot went all the way through to the water below. Freezing cold water engulfed my whole foot. Aw, crap! About the same time, the leaders started their return, creating two-traffic on the lakefront path. Those fast (barely clothed) guys just plowed right through the water puddles.

I hit the turnaround and started my return. I felt invigorated to be on the final stretch, even if it was 7 more miles. I enjoyed my GU Salted Caramel and ran a comfortable steady pace. Honestly, the run back went by pretty quickly.

At the mile 11 marker, I felt pretty good. I made a vow at that point to run the finish. No more walk breaks around the puddles (My feet were prunes anyway.) As I ran past the McCormick Place, the huge convention center provided a welcome shelter from the wind. It was a sudden tunnel of calm; quiet peace. It completely overwhelmed me in that moment and I almost spilled tears. I can't even put into words how good it felt to be back running!!

The finish was pretty anti-climatic. Since the grass was snow-covered, wet and muddy, people were walking all over the trail, so the finishing stretch was kind of a cluster. But I crossed that finish line with great joy to be done and so proud of this slow but consistent 14 mile run.  I AM BACK!

My 1st Finish Line of 2014!
Official Chip Time 2:35:07
average pace 11:04

We were quick to head back to the hotel after our chilly finish... but I did grab several cups of hot chocolate to warm up! Along with the cool finisher's medal, I also received a nice fleece finisher's jacket and a penguin winter hat in my Chicago Polar Dash race packet. 


  1. There is nothing worse than slushy snow and cold puddles:((. Great first race of the year! Way to go!

  2. Slushy snow and puddles aren't fun, but you had a cute hat to help get you through it! :-)

  3. Nice job, Jess! You continue to inspire me. I don't know that I could ever run 14 miles in wet socks. Have a great week.

  4. That is an awesome week! Great job!!

  5. Hooray for your first race of 2014! I don't think I would know how to run in that kind of weather! Congratulations on a great race!

  6. Way to go! I fell once, in mile 2, and thought I was lucky to fall into a snowbank and just end up with a bruise. Must have jarred something in my arm when I tried to break my fall, as my arm, shoulder and neck were killing me until I spent hours with a heating pad today. I basically took 5 weeks off since my last half in mid-November, so now I know I can do 14 miles after 5 weeks off, but don't ever want to do that again! Great job on your race!

  7. You are adorable. But you know that, right? =)

  8. That course did not sound very pleasant but at least you looked cute! Love that hat!

  9. Cute medal and a jacket? Awesome.
    Congrats on a 14 mile PR, I love it. New distance = new PR, no matter how much you didn't train. I'm sorry about the crummy weather. I can't wait for spring.

  10. Way to push through a total mess and make a strong comeback! How did I not know that race was 14 miles??

  11. Congrats on finishing your first race in 2014. Hope your body is recovering quickly and you will be able to run injury-free in 2014.


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