Sunday, May 19, 2013

Better late than never

Oddly enough, I figured I writing might get in the way of my running, instead, I have focused more on my running recently and it seems to have infringed on the time I generally like to set aside to write. I need to start making more time to write again, but without letting my running suffer (still have that little half marathon thing coming up in a couple weeks). Time to catch up on a few things!

Race to Wrigley recap!
It was wonderful to revisit my very first race one year ago on that day. Also refreshing, was actually being trained and in shape enough to actually enjoy running instead of enjoy walking the race. Met up with a few friends (who also blog! Eric's Race Recap and Jennifer's Race Recap!) for the race who it is always fantastic to run with and grab brunch and swap stories with afterwards. I ended up taking the race pretty easy (it wasn’t difficult to drastically improve on my time from last year) as I still had the ‘main event’ Journey To The End Of The Night (JTTEOTN) later that evening which would involve significantly more running than my 5K warm up race that morning.


Packet pickup – The packet pickup was well organized and easy to get to. I was in and out in less than five minutes. Unfortunately, upon looking inside my bag outside of the Cubs Store across from Wrigley Field where the packet pickup was held, I discovered that this year the race organizers decided to go with a basic, blue, cotton T-Shirt instead of the Tech Shirt like last year. Quite depressing as I always like acquire more race gear to run in during the week (saves on how often I have to do laundry, after all). Other than this, I had no complaints about the packet pickup.

Gearcheck/Waves and Corrals. –  Gear Check lines were long. It seemed similar to most simple, small race, packet pickups that I have seen. They divided the lines by race bib, but the lines for the earlier registered runners with lower numbers had very long lines compared to the rest of the racers (which still had adequate lines themselves). Most runners, ourselves included, waited until about a half hour before the race to actually check gear, to keep hoodies, cellphones, etc. as long as they could before jumping into their starting position. I didn’t check any gear, but waited with another friend who did. We had just gotten to the front of the line to check his gear as the ‘gun’ went off to start the race. We made it to the starting line in time to start with the rest of the other ‘chip time’ runners (instead of the ‘fun run’ runners who started immediately after), but we ended up hoping into the ranks along with people hovering well below twelve minute miles. This meant I had to do quite a bit of bobbing, weaving, waiting, and passing along the way. I wanted to take this race slow anyway (because Journey was later that evening), so it didn’t bother me too much that my time was affected due to getting caught in some congested areas where I could not pass people going at a much slower pace than I prefer (especially for a short race). Compared to my time from last year however, this time still blew it out of the water, so no complaints.

Course layout – exactly the same as I remember it from last year. A nice 3.1 mile loop around Wrigley area that ends with running through the outer area of the stadium (you don’t actually get to see the field (unless you raise over $1,000) which is sort of sad (but a nice reward for those who do raise the money). Hopefully the come up with another way next year to run around closer to the field. Good, reliable course otherwise. There is that sharp turn at about the two mile mark, but I have never taken the turn fast enough for it to affect my run.

Finish line – Shorter finishing area after you cross the line, as people like to stop and get a view of their friends who are also near finishing. For the most part though, people seem to continue on their way to grab a banana and/or a bagel and some water. Good, solid, race and I look forward to it every year. Good starter race for people who run but don’t typically race (or those who are just starting running altogether for that matter! Spread the running love and bring a friend!)


While, in the strictest sense, this is not technically a ‘race’, it involves more running than most people do in a year over the span of one night in the streets of our fair city of Chicago. The course varies in size, distance, and location each year. Usually if you run it like a general race, it is (plus or minus) about 5 miles if you take the most absolutely, direct route. This is difficult to do, as there are several ‘chasers’ who will be able to outrun some of the fastest runners (also there is at least one bike chaser as well). Most routes take the most round-about way of getting to the checkpoints in order to arrive safely from some unpatrolled roads and back allies. One successful route used by two participates in this year’s Journey To The End Of The Night, ended up being roughly twenty-two miles from start to finish (and can be seen here). They did not run this entirely like a race [hello impromptu marathon!]; however there is always running involved.

I have run JTTEOTN several times now, but always as a participant. I enjoy the thrill and excitement of peering around each corner and looking down an alley before continuing along the sidewalk for fear that a chaser may be lurking around the corner ready to sprint after you and your companions. Many people find that this habit continues for weeks afterwards. The rush is incredible! As a participant, there is quite a bit of sneaking, jogging, and sprinting involved. What I had not anticipated, when I signed up as a chaser for this year’s run of Journey, was the sheer amount of running involved for chasers! One would think I would have taken this for granted as being an obvious thing, as I signed up to be a person who ‘chases’ and runs after people [many faster than me] all night long.

While some chasers prefer to run down their victims like a lion after a gazelle, chasers such as myself prefer to hunt like raptors. If you find you are being pursued by a chaser who keeps up with you but just doesn’t seem to have the speed to catch you, do not get too comfortable; they are probably chasing you toward two (or more) of their friends who are either in front of you or off to the sides, just waiting to intercept or to join the hunt with fresher legs after you have been worn down by their brethren.


Packet pickup – ‘Race’ day only packet pickup. Everyone shows up at the designated time (6:30 PM this year) at the disclosed location. If you get there early (which is of course perfectly welcome and a good opportunity to hang out with people, mingle, speculate, etc.) you will still not be allowed to do ‘packet pickup’ until 6:30. 

Packet pickup always includes:

Not just A map, but THE map. This is how you will find the checkpoints, what part of the city you will be lost and running through this season, and where ‘safe zones’ might protect you best.

A blue ribbon. You start with this ribbon tied, visibly, to one your upper arms to signify that you are a Runner.

A red ribbon. This is for when I catch you and convert you into a Chaser so you can turn on your friends and run down anyone else you can, to ensure they feel the same rush as you felt as you were chased through the city of Chicago. This is a whole different part of the game. People will tell you stories about playing both sides in one night and how it affects your state of mind as well as your strategy.

A warm smile. Because they have been right where you are right now and envy you.

Gear check – none. Bring what you can carry. The end point will be generally near one of the CTA train lines to get you back to wherever it was you came from after the best night of your year has come to a close.

Waves and Corrales – No chorales. One wave. There are starting announcements (generally a basic rundown of the rules and warnings that not everyone in Chicago is playing this game and cars and busses can still kill you) then 500 – 1,000 people who had just occupied a part in Somewhere, Chicago are simultaneously unleashed onto the city, to run and claw and fight to reach their designated checkpoints in one piece. For the first time I got to see this sight as a chaser who was at the starting line, watching hundreds of people scatter at once, instead of myself running for cover as soon as all of the runners were unleashed onto the city. Powerful sight.

Course layout – Choose your own adventure. There are checkpoints listed (usually about 6) and it is up to the runners to determine the best course they think will allow them the greatest chance for survival to the finish (without meeting many chasers and hoping they can outrun or outwit those they find). Fast? Maybe try direct? Endurance your thing? Try the round-about way and make a marathon out of it. Have speed AND endurance? Think about being a chaser (or a runner that is a fun challenge for the chasers).

Finish line – The finish is typically at a hosting bar. This year, the race was in a pretty well-known area and so to get a bar to agree to have THAT many people show up on a Saturday night was a bit of a stretch. Instead, it ended in a central location with a list of ‘host’ bars within about a block of the finish. Also the end is always near a CTA train line to get people back to whatever part of town in which they will eventually need to sleep.

With all of the constant running through the city, main roads, side roads, allies, sprinting after countless runners and patrolling back streets and populated streets in anticipation of clever runners plotted courses, this is always a very intense day for running. Glad I at least got the 5K warm up and some brunch in before the evening so I would have fuel enough to make it through to the end of the night. Can’t wait until the next run!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Do not. Approach. The Dog Park.

“Dogs are not allowed in the dog park. People are not allowed in the dog park…Do not. Approach. The Dog Park.”

Hello dear readers. Recently someone mentioned Night Vale to me and I have never been the same. Welcome to Night Vale is, as described on their site is,

 “A twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff's Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events.”

But it is so much more than that. The warm and soothing voice of Cecil Baldwin, as he narrates the NPR style ‘public broadcast’ of the comically frightening happenings in the town of Night Vale, lulls listeners into a world that is eerily not so different from their own. Except for the fugitive five headed dragon, wanted by the Sheriff’s Secret Police. Speak to Officer Ben if you have any information regarding his whereabouts.

In case you could not tell, I have been listening to quite a few episodes as I have run this past week. This makes for a very calm experience where, I have found my only concern now seems not to be how tired I am, but rather that I need to refrain from bursting into what would appear to the runners nearby as spontaneous laughter. Losing myself in this particular podcast is a somewhat dangerous practice though, as I tend to want to run longer distances than I have plotted out for that day, simply to listen to more of Cecil’s intoxicatingly relaxing voice that could make even Ira Glass impressed.

You should go and listen to it right now. No one makes a Podcast like Welcome to Night Vale. No one.

In other news, another epic year of Journey To The End Of The Night (JTTEOTN) is almost upon us. This Saturday, after Race to Wrigley warms me up that morning; I join hundreds of others in a struggle for survival as we race from one part of Chicago to another. The ‘race’, which is more like a city-wide, life and death game of tag, is the highlight of my year, and one of the main reasons I took up running. To survive, or at least to remain among the living a bit longer before joining the terrifying Horde of ‘Chasers’ that relentlessly pursue the participants to the ends of the Earth…or at least Chicago. This is a free and public event. If you feel like your speed work has been working out for you in your training this year, test out your speed and endurance by showing up for this year’s Journey To The End Of The Night. Happy hunting.

*Welcome to Night Vale is probably a registered trademark of  Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor seeing as Welcome to Night Vale was Written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. Narrated by Cecil Baldwin. Music by Disparition. Logo by Rob Wilson*

*Ira Glass is also probably a registered trademark, likely of National Public Radio…which is also probably copywriten(is that a word?) and trademarked.*

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Prodigal Run

Holy screaming baby cows Batman! It feels as if I have just sent my fatted calves to slaughter. I have never run two days in a row before, let alone three. Just over thirteen miles in three days! That is huge for me. Just think, in a few more weeks, I will be running that distance in just a matter of hours, or die trying. While I wouldn’t necessarily go as far as to say that this was a total ‘prodigal’ run, it was a bit reckless. Perhaps I should have started by running two days in a row before jumping right into three, just because it was how my plan was laid out, but instead I decided to stick to the plan and fortunately things turned out well. It was evident as soon as my Vibrams hit the pavement that my muscles were still a bit sore from the runs the previous two days and so I decided right then-and-there that if I was going to keep this run as long as I had planned, I was going to need to take it very slow.

Sadly, the toll on my body this first time running so much over consecutive days was greater than I had previously anticipated, so I think I will have to forgo the strength training that was on the agenda for after today’s run. Perhaps this week I will add a bit of strength training for tomorrow instead of just being a total rest day. I will keep it light however, as I have seen again today, my body has its limits and I will need to continue to introduce it to the ever increasing distance and muscle work at a gentle, yet steady, and challenging pace.

Cooler winds blew in off of the lake again today after the past several days have been over eighty degrees. While the warm weather is very welcome, easing into the warmer temperatures with a throw-back to fifty degree temps for my run this afternoon was very refreshing. Wanting to stop and capture the sights around me (and definitely not at all because my legs were tired from running both days prior, nope... Not at all.), I took a few shots of the world around me.

Up next: two much needed days of rest, then out for my long run on Sunday!