Race recap: Frank Lloyd Wright Races

Sunday I ran the Frank Lloyd Wright Races 5K in Oak Park. It was chilly! This was the first run of the season I decided to wear gloves.

I really liked the course. It was cool running down the middle of Lake Street, Chicago Avenue, and passing the Frank Lloyd Wright houses in Oak Park. So lovely.

The race was quiet. There weren’t a lot of spectators. I had no music. I couldn’t refresh my playlists on my phone – blast you Google Music! There was a house just after mile 2 that played music on loud speakers and cheered enthusiastically. Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi helped to spur me to the finish line.

This guy finished his first 5K! His only goal was to beat me. He succeeded. He finished sub 36, I finished sub 42.

Post race we enjoyed a pancake breakfast. We both expected giant piles of hot, steamy pancakes with melted butter. We got this instead.

It still hit the spot! The FLW Races are well organized with great volunteers. This race has been on my ‘to-run’ list for a while. I’m glad I finally checked it off.

Craft workshop recap: No-sew vinyl clutch

I had a lovely time teaching these ladies how to make a no-sew vinyl clutch and tassel keychain this weekend.

These bags are so easy to make, you may get carried away with making them in every color.

My youngest student will use her clutch as a pencil bag for school, cute!

Make it yourself: Race shirt yoga skirt

There are times I run smaller races or even volunteer for races that give cotton shirts to race participants. There are so many cool t-shirt deconstruction tutorials out there. I thought it would be fun to repurpose a couple of my cotton race shirts into a yoga skirt.

I made a pattern by tracing this knit skater skirt I bought from Wal-Mart (yep, I shop Wal-Mart).

I love how comfy it is. Because I wanted to use the majority of the graphics of each shirt, I divided the main fabric of my skirt into four panels. The waistband is two pieces. I folded the Wal-Mart skirt in half to trace a pattern for the main fabric. These are the final measurements of the pattern I created. You can adjust the *waist measurements to fit you.

Add ½ inch seam allowance
2 men's cotton race shirts (my shirts are XL)
1 plain men's cotton shirt (for the waistband)
Sewing machine
Tape measurer
Straight pins

Skirt main fabric directions: Cut each shirt up the sides.

Cut 4 fabric panels (1 from the front and 1 from the back of each t-shirt).

Sew panels right sides together.

Waistband directions: Fold shirt in half lengthwise.

Cut pattern on the fold (cut 2) Pin and sew the two folded waistband pieces right sides together.

Sewing waistband to skirt directions: Line up the seams of the waistband with the seams of the skirt.

Fold the waistband down over the skirt, right sides together. Pin and sew.

Pull the waistband up, and you're finished!

A comfy new repurposed t-shirt skirt!

Bad Ass Dash Chicago - the craziest race I've done

Obstacle course races are all the rage lately. For adults who find plain old running boring, hurdling through mud, water, and even fire is a popular alternative. I don’t find running boring, but I admit I had been interested in doing an obstacle course race for some time. This Labor Day weekend I participated in the Chicago Bad Ass Dash held in Rosemont, IL. This was by far the craziest race I’ve done. There were 27 obstacles spread over 4 miles. It was yucky with plenty of obstacles that involved complete submersion in water followed by muddy hill climbs. I can’t forget the crawling, rolling, and running either.

photo credit: BADASS Dash Facebook page

My favorite obstacles involved climbing. I could climb a fence like a champ as a kid, and scaling the net walls in this race definitely brought those skills back to the surface. For me this obstacle was the toughest.

photo credit: BADASS Dash Facebook page

It involved crawling up a hill on your back using a net. You could not see how far you had to go to reach the top. You could not see who was ahead of you or below you. And oh yeah, you were randomly sprayed with water from a fire hose. When I saw it, I knew it would be trouble! But I made it to the top.

As in life, there is some room for improvement with this race. I will give them the benefit of the doubt. The race was originally supposed to be in Brookfield, IL, but very close to the race date the village decided against hosting the race. I’m sure the race directors were scrambling to find another location. So perhaps it was not the exact race they planned due to the location change.

By biggest suggestion, more volunteers. There were 1-2 volunteers at most of the obstacles. On the obstacles involving water, I felt there should have been more. At one of the first water obstacles a woman fell into this pond.

photo credit: BADASS Dash Facebook page

She called for help and the volunteer panicked and asked us, the race participants, to help pull the woman out. The water was only waist deep, but if the woman did not know how to swim or started to panic, it could have turned dangerous.

Two days after the race, I was incredibly sore! I mean sore ALL OVER. In strange place like my forearms. I had plenty of scratches and bumps too. But, I appreciated the all over body workout.

The time it took to complete 27 obstacles over 4 miles? One hour and 37 minutes. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. The winner finished in 30 minutes! I cannot even fathom how that happened. Each finisher got a medal and a post-race beer.

I’m not sure if I will do another obstacle course race. For now I’ve satisfied my curiosity.

Race recap: 2013 Chicago Triathlon

I’m still on a high after finishing the Chicago Triathlon this Sunday. I had a great race experience. After debating the entire summer whether or not to go through with the race, I’m glad I decided to go for it. Here’s a breakdown of my race day!

Transition area: It was not as intimidating as the course talk made it out to be. It was big, for sure – but I never felt crowded. Arriving early and having enough time to get acclimated was the best thing I could have done. My rack was positioned so that it was easy to access, although transition does look different at 4:30am than after the sun rises. After I returned from the bike, I walked right passed my spot on my rack. It took me about a minute to get my bearings!

The swim (.5 mile): The race started promptly at 6am. I was able to watch the first few waves of 50 or more swimmers enter the water and take off. You start the race by walking down a few temporary stairs and jumping feet first into Lake Michigan.

Photo credit: Chicago Triathlon Facebook page

There is no other way to enter! I felt surprising calm after taking the plunge and wading to the back and outside of the pack to await the horn. We got about 90 seconds to tread water before our wave start. The water is about 8 feet deep so you cannot touch the bottom of the lake at any time, which was a first for me. But my wet suit made it pretty easy. I could sit back as though I was in a chair, float and relax to catch my breath. I did that throughout the swim. There were lifeguard boats positioned along the route. I thought I would have to stop and hang onto a boat every so often, but I never once had to do that. I never felt crowded in the lake. I got hit by other swimmers a few times, but that was expected. Most people hit you, then change course to avoid hitting you again. Swimmers did start to get a little aggressive towards the very end, where we bottlenecked to get to the stairs to exit. One person did grab my ankle, and I politely kicked them off and kept it moving.

When I got out of the water I was in a really good mood because the swim went so well for me. But for some, it didn't go so great. There were people absolutely freaking out in the lake. I heard people hyperventilating and asking for help, many were pulled onto the boats by the lifeguards. It was a bit crazy. During one of my sitting breaks a lifeguard asked if I was o.k. to which I replied, “Yep, just taking a break!” I thought to myself, "Don’t even think about trying to pull me out of this water!"

The bike (14 miles): The out and back course on Lake Shore Drive starts with a steep climb up an on-ramp and a bumpy ride over a raggedy bridge. About two miles in my gears started to act weird. At one point I had no gears at all. I pedaled for a while and the gear popped back, then I decided not to shift any more for fear of popping off the chain completely. So some hills were a little tough because I could not down shift. I never once saw a SAG vehicle. I saw maybe five bike marshals who were pulled over on the median – as if bikers in trouble were supposed to come to them. I’m so happy my bike did not give me any more trouble because I’m sure I would have been waiting a while for help. Despite the extra wear on my legs, I enjoyed the bike. There were beautiful sunrise views of the lake and the city along the way.
Photo credit: Chicago Triathlon Facebook page

The run (3.1 miles): The last leg went really fast. I had run most of the course in other races, so I knew where to expect the hills. I practiced 5:1 intervals most of the way. I saved my energy for the very last hill and sprinted all the way to the finish line. My friends were there to cheer me to the finish.

Overall it was a great race! I finished 8 minutes over my projected time, but I was so happy with how everything went, I didn’t mind.

Post-race: Right after I crossed the finish line, I was randomly asked to give an interview for Life Time Fitness about my experience with the race.

I had such glowing things to say about the organization, the route, and the volunteers; I’m sure they have lots of great sound bites to promote the next race!

The medal is pretty awesome, as you can tell by my intense inspection.

It has a magnetic back and it doubles as a bottle opener! My open-water swim training friend Tracy and I enjoyed a burger and some beers.

Besides having the port-a-potty door opened on me by a man while I was using it – it was a nice post-race celebration. I’m a little sad this is nearly the end of the triathlon racing season in the Midwest. I sense a triathlon road trip in my future!

2013 Esprit de She Chicago 5K recap

On July 18th I finished the Esprit de She 5K in Chicago’s Diversey Harbor. After a great experience with this race series at the Esprit de She Naperville triathlon in June, I decided to participate in one of their road races. I registered for the 10K but in response to the 90 degree we had that day, race officials canceled the 10K and moved everyone into the 5K race.

At first I was disappointed, but once the race got started I was soon ready for it to be over. It was hot. Harbor runs are usually graced with a nice breeze off of Lake Michigan. But, Diversey Harbor is separated from the water by Lake Shore Drive. So the air was thick and stagnant. Despite the heat, I finished! The race officials did a good job keeping us cool with water misting fans along the route and hydration stations at miles 1 and 2. They also had ice cold towels and popsicles at the finish line. The best part of the race? The post-race party.

Photo credit: Esprit de She

The avocado- chocolate pudding, hummus and flatbread pretty much blew the usual bagels and bananas post-race fuel out of the water. And for the adult runners, the bubbly bar was a nice touch.

I sipped champagne well into the night with a few ladies from my running group. The race swag was nice too, I love the orange sleeveless tech tank.

Photo credit: Esprit de She

Summer races are always a toss up because of the weather, but I really enjoyed this event, heat and mosquito bites included.

Make it yourself: Race bib coasters

I was recently inspired by Runner’s World ‘Gifts for Runners' Facebook post to recreate these adorable race bib coasters.

It’s such a simple concept and really easy to make!

4 ¼ x 4 ¼ Ceramic tiles
4x4 felt squares
Mod Podge (any finish)
Krylon clear acrylic sealer
Sponge brush applicator
Hot glue gun
4X4 paper template (optional)

Instead of cutting my actual race bib (I save each and every one of them), I used a color photocopy. Depending on the size of your race bib, you can make four 4x4 coasters. The bib I chose is oblong, so I decided to make two coasters rather than have a bunch of white space around the outside of the bib.

• Cut the bib into 4x4 squares. Apply a thin layer of Mod Podge to the tile. Center and place a bib square on the tile. Make sure to smooth out any air bubbles. Let dry 5-10 minutes.

• Apply 2-3 coats of Mod Podge on top of the bib square and around the edges of the tile. Let each coat dry in between applications.

• Allow the tile to dry overnight. Apply a thin layer of acrylic sealer to the tile. You can spray additional coats of sealer for added moisture protection. But again, let each coat dry between applications.

• Once dry, apply a backing to the tile to protect your furniture from scratches. I used felt because I was too lazy to go back to Home Depot to get cork. I used hot glue to adhere 4x4 felt squares.

A few things to consider: The Mod Pogde application may look streaky even after it has dried. Once I applied the acrylic sealer, the surface evened out a lot.
Make sure your work surface is free of lint, dust, etc. I cut out my felt pieces as I was waiting on a layer of Mod Podge to dry and a few strings of felt got embedded in the surface of the coasters.

So cute. Race bib coasters definitely make great gifts!

2013 Esprit de She Naperville triathlon recap

Warning: The first half of this recap is going to be pretty whiney. It gets better.

I crossed the finish line at the Esprit de She triathlon in Naperville on Sunday. My day started early at 4:15am. Transition opened at 5am and closed at 6:45am.

I arrived early to ensure I got a nearby parking spot. I was able to check out the set up and race course the day prior because there was no race day packet pickup (minus). Chicago area participants had to travel out to Naperville two days in a row. My wave was not scheduled to start until 8:17am. It was a long wait. I sat at a picnic table with a friend who also finished the race. We watched 19 waves start before us.

The swim: Awful. Centennial Beach is exactly what I expected, a giant pool with sand.

There is a graduated depth from the beach to about 5 feet, and then it drops off like a cliff to 15 feet. I walked the graduated portion and muddled my way through the deep end. I felt restricted in my wetsuit, but I was glad I wore it because I relied heavily on its buoyancy. My heart rate skyrocketed shortly after I hit the water. Less than halfway through the course my chest was burning. I switched between a loose interpretation of freestyle, breast stroke and the old trusty doggy paddle the entire 800 meters. I was so disappointed with the swim. It put me in a terrible mood to start to bike portion.

The bike: How is it possible that a loop course can feel like an incline the entire route? At some point I had to be going back downhill, right? The 14.2 mile course was two loops. The first loop was rough. I was still beating myself up from the swim. I forgot my water bottle. My lips were so dry. I did not like sharing the road with vehicles for a portion of the route, the exhaust was bothersome. My arms and shoulders ached. I really wished I had some aero bars to rest my elbows. The second loop is when I started to feel better, I knew what to expect, but I could not wait to get off that damn bike and run.

The run: I was so excited to dismount and put my feet on the ground. The 5K run course was more relaxing than anything. The first mile marker came and went quickly. It’s hard when you know you are so close, but you cannot see the finish line. I usually sprint once I see the finish. I did not this race. I had nothing left in me to give! My friends were cheering at the finish line which was so nice and gave me a much needed boost.

Looking at these photos, I’m amazed at how composed I look because I really wanted to quit and crawl into bed.

The race was very well organized with tons of helpful volunteers. The medal and race swag was primo. It was just not my best race. I was however happy with my time, sub 2:30. I’m registered for the Chicago tri in August. I have focus on finding a more comfortable wetsuit if I plan to survive that race. There is no shallow area of the lake on that swim course. The day after the race, I was surprised how well I felt. As emotionally draining as it was, I definitely felt better physically than I have after finishing a half marathon. I only had a little soreness in my shoulders. The tendonitis is my right foot did not flare up at all. This was my first experience with this distance triathlon. I’m confident future races will get better if I just stick with it.

2013 Bay to Breakers 12K recap

I finished Bay to Breakers in San Francisco one week ago. I know I am terribly late sharing the experience!

First of all, San Francisco is a beautiful city. I spent the day before the race with my sister (who also ran the race) and her kids walking the piers along the bay. We took a boat tour to view the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island.

Secondly, Bay to Breakers is bananas! Runners are encouraged to wear costumes. If you don’t want to wear a costume, you can always just go nude. I saw way more fannies than I needed to so early in the morning. There were also plenty of people who had obviously been up all night drinking before the race.

The course is amazing. It starts near the bay and ends at Ocean Beach. We made our way through beautiful homes and parks. There was a massive hill at about mile 3. I walked the hills. I took advantage of the downhill slopes and jogged until I hit the next hill. Because of the incredible amount of distraction from runner costumes, the race went very quickly for me. I finished sub 2:00, but it definitely did not feel like I was out there that long. Bay to Breakers is more of a parade than an actual race. There were ‘serious’ runners out there just like us. But for most part, it was just about having a good time. I had couple of gripes though. There was no post race grub (bananas, bagels, etc.) only coconut water, and the race t-shirt is cotton. You could get a tech tee for an additional $30. I've done smaller races that offered much more. I would do the race again in a few years after the visual traumatization of this year’s race has worn off.