>9.3! Hollllaaaa!

>Regina, Karen and I ran the 15K for the Hot Chocolate race today in downtown Chicago. I cannot get over how awesome of an experience the whole weekend was!

We arrived by train around 12:15 yesterday and picked up our packets at Union Station. We took a cab to our hotel, the Hyatt Regency on Wacker, just a few blocks from the starting line in Grant Park. We did some shopping, had Giordano’s for dinner and did a little more shopping. We went back to the hotel and hung out in the lobby with water and tea and talked. We got to sleep around 11 pm, with the alarm set for 6 am.

We woke up around 6 and the temperature was 26*. Yes, you read that right… twenty-six! You knew that we just had to be crazy… us and 30,000 other runners!

After the 5K people took off, we lined up by pace. I stood close to the 11 min/mile sign. The clock started but I didn’t get to the start line until about 12 minutes in because there was that much congestion.

The first three miles I held back. After passing the 5K marker, I took off and ran strong until the sixth mile when I had to pee so badly. But there was no way I was stopping to pee! I had worked too hard to ruin my time by doing that. Mile seven seemed really really long, and by mile eight I was so excited that it was almost done. As soon as the finish sign came into view, I sprinted. My heart rate jumped up to 205, only one of a handful of times it’s been that high. On a normal maintenance run, my HR is around 160-165. My average today according to my HR monitor was 177! I pushed myself hard.

The views didn’t hurt either: sunrise, Soldier Field, Shedd, the Field Museum (I think), the lake, and the skyline.

Crossing the finish line was, as always, euphoric. We all met up and got chocolate fondue from the tent. Then we went back to the hotel and took showers.

We had a late check-out and headed to Cheesecake Factory for a late and leisurely lunch. We waited for an hour, but it definitely didn’t seem like that long! Karen and I made a Starbucks run. It was the biggest Starbucks I’d seen, with a fireplace and a sitting area three times the size of the stores here.

Cheesecake Factory was fabulous. I’d never been there. I got the Thai Chicken Pasta… so yummy with the peanut sauce. I also got a piece of the Tiramisu cheesecake. I’m sure I ate all the calories I burned (1375!) with that one piece… I’m afraid to look at the nutrition facts, lol.

We walked around a little more and then it was time to head to Union Station. We chatted with some nice people in the train station and then we were on our way home, fighting sleep the whole ride. At least I was.

My grandparents, being as awesome as they are, picked me up at the station and I drove home from their house. My grandpa filled up my gas tank for me. 🙂

Now I’m blogging about the best race I’ve done so far, and about an awesome weekend! I still have one more day off before working five in a row. (I worked seven in a row before Friday.)

Considering the circumstances of working almost full-time, obligations outside of work, and a weird sleep schedule, I did my best. I did my best this morning too. If I’d been running the half marathon in three weeks, I wouldn’t have been able to race today, just do a long run. But since I’m just doing the 5K (the half was full!) I figured I’d just go for it.

I have to say that I’m becoming the athlete, or the less-encompassing term of “runner”, I never thought I’d be. My official race time was 1:36:43, beating my goal pace of 10:30 by seven seconds!!

Gabriela and I are running the Illinois Marathon.. our first training run will be next weekend, as long as my schedule pans out. Crazy!

Other than running, I need to do strength training. Back to the gym I go for yoga, weight machines and group fitness classes!

Have a great rest of the weekend, and thanks for celebrating with me. I am blessed and give glory to God for success in my life.

>6.2 mi/10K – half of a half marathon ;)

>I had a great time this morning at the Morton Pumpkin Festival 10K with my friend Gabriela. I picked her up at 6:15, and we headed over to the race site. We had to pick up our shirts and bibs since we didn’t get them last night. We went to the gas station, had some coffee, stretched, and the race started at 7:30.

I did my first mile in about 10:20, which is a great race pace for me for longer distances. I was even focusing on holding back for at least the first four miles. I felt great the entire time. I had no pain or side stitches. I focused too on my form and kept my upper body loose. I finished the fifth mile at 51:59, I think, from what the person at the mile post said.

The weather was beautiful, and there was a portion of the race where we were running in the country. With the angle of the sun, pattern of the clouds, and the fields harvested, it made for a perfect way to start the day. One of my favorite parts was when I heard a few seconds of silence in between songs on my playlist and all I heard were the light steps of shoes on the pavement.

At the fourth mile, I knew I was going to finish strong. About the last half mile I really pushed myself, and I sprinted the last two-tenths of the race. I didn’t use my upper body so much to propel myself, but my legs. It’s almost impossible to not have an adrenaline rush with all the people gathered around the finish line and the time clock in sight.

It was such a great experience. Afterwards, Gabriela and her family and I walked over to McDonald’s for breakfast. Yesterday I had stayed hydrated and ate well. This morning I had a banana and two pieces of turkey bacon for breakfast, and even a little coffee on my way there.

Here are a couple pics taken by Petr:

 After finishing strong : 1:03:51, 10:17 pace!

Gabriela met me at the finish line! She did an awesome job.

I think we may do some long runs together in preparation for a marathon next spring. I’m planning on running in Korea, she in Urbana.

I’m telling you, once you start, you get hooked. It’s an incredible mix of the adrenaline, belonging to something greater than yourself, fun at races (including shirts! haha), doing something great for your body and just the sense of accomplishment.