Rock N Roll Chicago – 2017 Edition

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The Rock N Roll Chicago 1/2 marathon is one that I keep returning to, year after year.  Not because timing is great for me (its my momma’s birthday weekend EVERY year).  But because my friends & family love this race.  Since I moved away from the Chicago area, this is a great excuse to come back & reconnect with some people I rarely get to see, plus Aby loves this race.  Its always been my MO to go where my friends go.  Racing with friends is always more fun!!  And for anyone under 30, MO is “method of operation”.  Apparently that’s not a common acronym at this point in time.  I was just informed the other day that Aby has NO idea what that means (and I use it pretty frequently).  Smile

Aby, Nicki & I hit the expo on Saturday at McCormick Place.  Always plenty of parking at McCormick.  Easy in and out.  We even received discounted parking this year which was a bonus!!  Plenty of vendors.  A couple photo ops. 

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Having to go downtown for the expo is a perfect excuse to enjoy the city by walking around, having a late lunch & Aby usually insists on ice cream.  Ghirardelli’s anyone?

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Race day starts bright and early to try beat the summer heat & humidity of the Midwest.  We got downtown around 5:15a for a 6:30a race start.  Temps were probably in the 70s and not nearly as hot & humid as normal.  Thank goodness!

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And we are ready to ROCK!  Nicki for the 10K.  Aby for her 3rd half marathon & as for me, well, I was just there to have fun.  I’ve probably done 30 some half’s at this point.  Not my race distance of choice currently but Chicago offers a 5K, 10K & half marathon.  Great for the whole family & a great girls weekend where there is something for everyone!  I particularly love races that have multiple distances so its more inclusive for runner friends at all levels!

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It took about 2 miles before I realized that I was going to have to say goodbye to my “little” runner girl.  Aby had a poor buildup for the race.  Lack of motivation after losing her favorite running partner this summer!!  But race day brings magic and well, she was ON FIRE.

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Good bye, girl.  I must admit, the miles kinda slogged on from that point.  I wasn’t tired or hurt but had just come off the IM 70.3 Muncie the week before and I was facing down 2 half ironmans within the next month.  I didn’t want to put too much effort into this race.  I want to be healthy and that means that I can’t give it my all every time I hit the pavement.  I’m at that point in life, and age wise, where I have to train smarter, not harder.   So I slogged thru the miles.  Slowly. 

The course winds thru the streets of Chicago.  I’ve ran the race several times at this point so I know the course.  The spectators were concentrated at key intersections but it was otherwise  a pretty quiet day.  Like a training run with lots of friends! 

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Highlight was that I knew I had a chance of seeing Aby around mile 9, where there is a short out & back on MLK Drive between miles 8.5 & 9.5.  So unless she had gapped me by over a mile, which was a real possibility, I had a chance of spotting her.  And had I been even a few minutes slower, I would have missed her.  But I saw her briefly, shouted “great job” and she shouted that she was going to try to “break 2”.  I said, “Go get it!!” and she was off again.  She broke 2 on her 3rd half marathon!  1:56 for her!!!!  Great job, Aby!!!

Once we finished the out & back on MLK Drive, we head toward McCormick Place & the last 3 miles of the course.  There is always a giant inflatable Brooks Running guitarist at the 10 mile mark.  Happy to see him, as usual.  Then on to finish the race! 

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Finished! 

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Aby was flying high from her new PR.  We all agreed that the race was great.  Well ran.  Plenty of aid stations.  Lots of places where the City of Chicago had opened hydrants to cool off runners.  Amazing volunteers, great course support, great crowd/traffic control.  Overall, if your going to run a race in mid July, in the heat & humidity of the Midwest, this is one of the best.  Thanks Chicago for continuing to support the Rock N Roll Marathon series & their quest to bring one of the best running races to Chicago, each and every year. 

SWAG – Gender specific technical tee & race medal below.

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Next up, the Ironman 70.3 Ohio.  So I’ll be back next week to tell you all about that race.  Have a great weekend & I hope you ROCK your runs, no matter how big or small, at whatever distance YOU love! 

** Rock N Blogger – Amanda – TooTallFritz **

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Chicago Marathon …. 2016

I ran my 5th Chicago Marathon on Sunday!  What a beautiful day!!  I arrived downtown early because Aby & her friend were volunteering at the 12.5 mile water stop.  They had to set up in the dark and wait for the runners to arrive.  They had a 6 hour shift, longer than it took most to run the marathon!!  Thank you, volunteers!!

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After getting the girls off to their volunteer spot, I want and sat for a bit.  I was in the second wave this year.  Corral J.  While the marathon started at 7:30am, I didn’t have to be in my corral until 7:45.  I started running at 8:30am.  Plenty of time for pics!!  I even managed to connect with Diana & Sarah from my local TRI Club!  Congrats to Sarah on completing her VERY FIRST marathon! 

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Finally, we were closing in on the start line. I wasn’t nervous but ready to run.  I must say as much as I love Chicago, I really appreciate those races where I can stumble out of my hotel and onto the start line 5, minutes pre-race.

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But Chicago and its awesome city keeps calling me back, time and time again.  So it was Chicago where I ran my 33rd marathon.  I wasn’t sure how it would go.  If you have been following along all summer, you know I’ve had a rough TRI season.  I’ve stayed after it even though I felt crappy.  I kept up the swim, bike, run but if you have done any of those things with me, you know I haven’t been 100%.  Not even close.  I would struggle getting into and out of my wetsuit.  Couldn’t bend over to get it on/off.  It took 2 wetsuit strippers at Cedar Point to get me off the ground.  If I’m up and moving, I’m ok.   If I have to bend, sit or lay down, things don’t go well.  So upright and moving forward and everything is okay, right?

I started slow. Most of the spectators by the start had moved on by the time I went thru.  There wasn’t one person on the bridge above Columbus after the start.  I knew I was running the Chicago Marathon but it was like I had gotten to the line late and was trying to catch up.  I knew so many people running, spectating and volunteering.  I was watching for all of them but didn’t see many.  The miles clipped by slowly.  The first half of the marathon is by far the most exciting.  The temps were cool.  We were downtown.  The tall buildings kept many of the streets shaded. Lots of spectators.  Columbus Avenue, Grand Avenue, State Street, LaSalle Street.  So many people.  Then we headed north toward some of my favorite areas.  Lincoln Park.  Passed the Zoo & the Arboretum.  Headed toward Boys Town.  I wonder what performance we would see this year.   Old Town.  Dancing, singing Elvis.  Sedgwick, my favorite part of the route.  Such an awesome neighborhood.  Looks like an amazing place to live.

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Wells Street.  Headed back downtown.  Maybe I’ll get to see the girls at the 12.5 mile water stop?!?!   Can’t wait!

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Hit a water stop right before 12.  Ugh oh, no girls.  No way there will be another water stop at 12.5.  My gosh, I’m going to miss them too!!!!  20K, not quite half way.  Aid station ahead.  There they are, cheering, yelling, whooping it up!  LOL!  Yes!  Best part of the run, right there!

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On I go.  Half way.  The course gets congested.  So many corrals ahead of me.  So many people already starting to suffer.  They are slowing down.  They went out too fast.  I’ve been there.  I felt for them but honestly just wanted to keep moving.  I’m weaving now.  Around the masses who are slowing.  I’m not going fast, just need to keep running.  The longer I’m out on the course, the tighter my body gets.  My back is already starting to tighten and I feel some soreness popping up in my hips and my right glute.  Need to keep moving.  West Loop.  Greek Town.  Wish I had some saganaki, like hubby & I used to get at Nick’s Steakhouse.  Hmmm… my friend Penny just wrote about Saganaki in her new book Worry Knot.  Saganaki.  Must get some Saganaki soon.  Yum.

Charity Row.  Why is RMHC never on Charity Row?  They are back preparing the tent for our arrival, that’s why!  I love RMHC.  United Center.  Always so dead around this section.  Miles 14 –15 are always boring for me at Chicago.  Halsted.  Little Italy, where are you?  Ashland.  UIC.  Ahhh, Pilsen, I hear you!!  I’m coming!!  Best party on the Southside!  Everyone is out cheering.  Old people.  Young people.  Kids.  Businesses.  Lots of food.  Orange slices.  Beer.  Candy.  Pretzels.  Chips.  Thanks, Pilsen, you get better each and every year!  On to China Town.  Slow this year.  Quiet.  China Town, what’s up?  Mile 22.  My hips are tight.  I can no longer move laterally amongst the walkers.  I’m slowing down.  4 more miles.  I can do 4 more miles.  More BioFreeze, please!!  Sox Park.  US Cellular.  No idea what they are calling it today.  Why do these parks & fields & stadiums keep selling themselves off to the highest bidder.  So stupid.  Ugh.  35th Street Bridge.  Thank you, I’m heading back to the finish now!!!  Hello, Michigan Avenue.  I’m slow but I’m still moving!  Let’s do this!!!  Nike Cheer Station.  Or it used to be the Nike Cheer Station.  Not sure what was happening, or not happening, at mile 24 on Sunday.  I think I missed the party.  Too slow.  Who cares, just finish this thing!!!  McCormick Place.  I bet I could get a cab there.  Is it pathetic to get a cab a mile away from the finish line?!?!?  Wow.  My back and hips are super stiff.  Just keep moving.  Just finish.  I never knew Michigan Avenue was so freaking long.  Oh gosh, there is a bar.  They are handing out beer.  Please don’t splash beer on me.  Gross.  Oh jello shots.  Yeah, not today, thanks.  Look at all that jello on the road.  Streets and Sanitation has to hate marathon day.  What a freaking mess.  Mt Roosevelt.  Ahha!  I can’t get up this freaking hill.  I have to walk.  Thank goodness I have my race belt with my bib turned around on my bum.  Maybe the photogs won’t be able to identify me walking in those pics.  Almost to the top.  Start running.  You really aren’t going to walk to the finish line, right?  No.  Move it.  200m to go.  Cuz the elites need to know that since they would be blazing the last stretch to try to win the prize $$.  The prize $$ is long gone now.  Probably already deposited into some Kenyan account.  Why do Kenyan’s always win OUR marathon?  Oh my gosh, there is the finish.  I’m done.   Thank you, Lord.  Done.  #33 done.  I couldn’t be more grateful for another successful race.  Because every race we finish is cause for celebration.

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The Chicago Marathon is a World Major.  One of the largest marathons in the world.  If you have a chance, run it.  Totally worth your time & money.  20 aid stations.  Potty stops at each aid station.  BioFreeze on the ready.  Lots of medial help.  More police and volunteers than you can imagine.  One of the ONLY days each year that they will shut down the streets for you to run thru 29 different neighborhoods in Chicago.  An amazing experience, each and every time.  Thanks, for having me again, Chicago. 

Swag – Nike shirt & medal.   Lots of freebies at the expo though so plan to spend plenty of time hanging out. 

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The 2017 Chicago Marathon will open their lottery on October 27th.  Yeah, just a couple weeks from now.  If you want to run the 40th anniversary race, be ready with your credit card soon.  Details HERE.

P.S. I had an MRI this week.  All my issues from the summer have been due to a ruptured disc in my back.  I knew something was up but also didn’t want to wimp out on races that I had already paid to run.  Its been a long summer.  I did pretty well at Chicago considering  and am thankful to be able to keep moving forward.  Not sure where treatment will take me but I’m happy to have put Chicago in the done column this weekend.  Cheers!

** Run Chicago ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Rock n Roll Chicago – 2014 Half Marathon

I’m a big sucker for all things running but that doesn’t include events that are hyped up without delivering on the promised race experience.  In the past, I’ve ran Rock N Roll events but always walked away feeling like RNR got more from me than I got from them.  So when friends were signing up to run this 2014 Rock n Roll Chicago, I was hesitant but ultimately decided to suck it up join the fun.

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First order of business, packet pick-up. RNR Chicago is one of the only events in the CHI that mandates each participant pick up their own packets. Normally not a problem for me but it was a huge problem this year. While I did manage to pick up my own packet and as a result was late to the closing on my new IN home, I did hear from a “top secret” source that RNR does in fact have race day packet pick-up. Too late for me but hopefully this info will help one of you!!

Race day started bright and early with the gun going off at 6:30 am. Some might complain about this early start but with a July race in Chicago, I’d start even earlier if it were an option! There were 20,000+ participants, 34 corrals. However, corral placement was apparently “optional” and runners just jumped in wherever they wanted without any intervention from officials. Normally this would cause a real “cluster” effect but not here. The corrals were all spaced apart by 2 minutes and there weren’t a ton of people in each corral. So when our corral hit the start line it kinda felt like we were at the front, preparing to race for the win. I had runners all around me who should have been back an additional 10+ corrals but it didn’t bottleneck. In fact, I was in awe most of the race at how much space I had to run and how well the unmonitored RNR corral system actually worked.

Hitting the Start!

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I will say that I’m not a runner who needs music. I may turn it on when things get slow, then proceed to sing and dance my way thru the ugly miles. However, I rarely have headphones so this is sometimes annoying to other runners. Sorry, all!  I kinda expected that a Rock n Roll race would deliver, well, some rock n roll!  Not so much. There were some bands on course but not as many as I expected.  And some of the bands were singing the blues, so to speak. I would have liked a bit more pep from some of them. Oh well, maybe next year?

As for the course, I liked it a lot.  It was open and on decent streets. Aid stations about every 1.5 miles. One GU station. One sponge station. We did run on the Lakefront path for a short jaunt but it wasn’t too crowded. We even ran thru the tunnel under McCormick place and they added strobe lights and made it a fun and not too dark atmosphere.

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For all of you bling chasers, the medals were super cool. Here is the SUN 5K and the half marathon medals. Plus they added a SAT 5K option for additional bling and that 5K medal was slightly different (less ornate than the SUN version).

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But for me, this race was about friends.  Here is a photo of Lisa (my BFF from way back), Rachel, Allison & I before the start.  Those two girls in the middle came to Chicago to run their VERY FIRST half marathon ever.  I didn’t want to miss that!  They killed it too!

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Aby, me & Nicki at the finish.  We have ran so many races together over the last several years.  And thanks Nicki for never complaining about Aby coming along even when it means we can’t get into the beer garden.

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So that’s a wrap for me.  I still think the race is overpriced compared to it’s Chicago counterparts.  I still think they should deliver more Rock n Roll.  However, it’s a great race on the streets of Chicago and well, you can’t put a price tag on making memories.

** Go Out and Make Your Own Memories ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

 

 

 

 

Chicago Spring Half Marathon Race Review

I can’t say that the Chicago Spring Half Marathon was even on my radar until a free code for the race started circling on social media.  I looked up the race and proceeded to register assuming the free code would NOT work.  But it did work and all of a sudden I was registered for a half marathon on the Lakefront Path in Chicago. 

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That short window where they offered the race for free resulted in a sell out for this race for the first time in it’s history.  While I got in for free with a lot of other people, I had other friends who didn’t get thru during the “free” window and they in turn paid to register in order to join the fun for the day.  It was a brilliant PR move and to be honest, had I not had the free code, I wouldn’t have registered.  I’ve ran several races on the Lakefront Path now and well, they are generally over crowded and not too much fun.  This race, as well as 13.1 Chicago, seem to be the exception to that rule.  Both races have an elaborate corral system, stager the start between corrals and manage to keep the traffic on the path controlled and enjoyable

And the views are pretty cool too. 

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The race also offered potties, aid stations and medical support every 1.5 miles or so.  There were 2 fueling stations offering energy gels.  I also saw at least two Race Guards running the race and offering support to runners.   I saw a lot of my friends thanks to the out and back course.  Yes, I may have ran the Chicago Lakefront Path a billion times but the views and seeing my friends race never gets old.   Xaarlin was also out there taking photos with her Super Pooch.  Thanks, girlie!!  And my apologies for spotting your pup before I even saw you. Smile

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The race was a simple out and back.  About a 10K out and then back with a little zigzagging thru a parking area to get back to The Park at Lakeshore East where a buffet breakfast awaited our finish!  Nice!

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It was a great day to be out and run in Chicago.  It was a great race.  It was very well organized and I really appreciated being able to grab breakfast without having to wait in a long line.  Everything about this race was smooth and easy, and I for one appreciate that.  We even got a cool shirt  and cool medal (photo of the medal courtesy of Nicole F because I have a mushy brain and forgot to take one).

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Lastly, another great thing about this race is that it also offers a 10K so that you friends, who don’t dig the half marathon, can also run!  Thanks for going Nicki!!

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** Happy Running & Racing ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Lakefront 50K Race Report ……

Saturday, brought us a beautiful day in the CHI and my 2nd ultra in the form of the Lakefront 50K.  This was not a trail ultra but a nice flat event on Chicago’s Lakefront Trail.  Great ultra for first timers or those worried about covering the distance because you are not isolated on some crazy trail out in the woods but constantly surrounded by other people, in a populated area.  Plus there are three loops, so you actually pass by your car 3x.  This could be viewed as a positive or a negative depending on how you look at it!  Smile  But on the up side, you get to pass your friends over and over again, whether they are in front or behind you and that’s a BIG win in my book!

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The reason I signed up for this race was because my friends’ Mike (Run Nerd’s Rock) and Michelle (This Momma Runs – green shorts above) were running the event.  I figured, “why not?” so I signed up!  Then I later found out that several of the ladies from my running club (Frankfort New Lenox Running Club) were also signed up.  This added to my excitement, despite my low mileage throughout March.  And the bonus to running with Mike, when he is fast enough to literally run circles around the rest of us, is that we made let him take all the pics and we just focused on the run.  So pretty much every pic in this post was taken by Mike.  Thanks, Mike!!! 

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The springtime Lakefront 50K is 3 loops.  It’s on the north side of the city, starts at Foster Avenue Beach in Lincoln Park and weaves south to the North Beach boathouse (then back).   The start line was steps away from the lake; however, the Lakefront Trail ends on the north side of the city, just past Montrose Harbor.  Therefore, it was necessary to weave thru a few parks on crushed limestone trails before hitting the actual paved Lakefront Trail which has made Chicago so popular.   The route was marked VERY well with orange painted arrows.   There was never a question about the course and I was super impressed by the meticulous attention to detail because I have been dropped from a CARA pace group lost in this area in the past.   

Aid stations were about every 2.5 miles.  One at the start/finish.  One at the midpoint of the loop.  One at the turnaround.  At each turnaround location, we had to check in and give them our bib number to ensure that we had ran the entire 3 loops.  The aid stations were stocked with:  water, gatorade, coke, sweet pickles, giant olives, twizzlers, yogurt covered raisins, m&m’s (with and without peanuts), goldfish crackers, potato chips, shoe string snacks, and bananas.  I’m sure I’ve missed something but there was a lot of different options.  Bathrooms at each aid station too.  Plus we had a drop bag at the start/finish on a tarp which we could access each time we passed.  Super simple.  Super organized.  Very well ran event.  Plus we had the added bonus of breathtaking views of the city and Lake Michigan!

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This was  a fun run.  Not a race for me.  Just a run in the park with my friends.  That’s how I approached it mentally and I tried to stay slow throughout so that I could finish strong.  I won’t say the 3 loops weren’t daunting, especially at the beginning but by the time that third loop rolled around I was ready to be done and it was nice knowing that we “only” had 5 miles out, then back, to put it in the done column.  I even had a little bit left at the end, which is nice when I can finish strong.  I definitely feel as if I’m becoming a stronger runner, mentally as much as physically.  Thanks to Marty & Jill who were waiting at the finish for the F’N Runners and caught this pic of me running to the finishing!

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Some of the FNRC ladies after the event.  From left:  Melanie (See Mommy Race  – ran her first 50K!!), Julie M, Judy F, Jill Y (Jilly Runs – ran her 20 mile training run THEN came down to see her girls finish the ultra!), Me & Amanda W (Get to Goal who supported us throughout the day!). 

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Myself, Mike & Michelle after the finish:

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The swag:

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I think I paid  $55 for this race when I registered.  Big bang for the buck.  However, the event comes with a race “course” that is filled with extras.  Everyone shares the trail with the local runners, bikers and walkers.  Kinda cool but if you are in it to race it, then it might be annoying.  And the bikers are fast and certainly irritated by the extra traffic on the trial.  Other than the bikers, everyone was super supportive and it really was a great day! 

** Happy Running ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Shamrock Shuffle Weekend …. 2014 Edition

It’s not really fair to call this a race review because honestly, I’ve openly admitted a billion times that I think the Shamrock Shuffle is the BEST.RACE.EVER. 

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I mean where else can you chase down “little green men” and be considered sane?  Yeah, that’s what I thought.  BEST.RACE.EVER.  And what’s better than 2 green guys?  Three, like we saw in 2013.  And what’s better than 3 green guys?  Well, the addition of a green gal, of course.  As a result, 2014 may be the BEST Shamrock Shuffle EVER cuz we now have 3 green guys and a green gal.  Thank you, mystery lady, it was super nice to see your addition to the group!  You can follow “The Green Guys” on Facebook HERE.

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In addition to chasing green people, there were a few more things to the 2014 Shamrock Shuffle weekend.  We started with the expo, which is super family friendly and busy over at Navy Pier.  My friend Nicki and I always take the kiddos on Saturday.  We spend the day “frolicking” at the expo, then hiking Michigan Avenue and the Lakefront path with our little monsters angels.   In addition to more candy than even MY children could eat, the expo also offered lots of fun in the form of a magic act, multiple dress-up photo ops, free food samples, free logo items, lots of “wheels” to be spun and people to meet.  The kids look forward to the expo each and every year and there is always a lot to capture their attention and lighten momma’s wallet.  We even took a friend of Aby’s this year to help with Mr. Michael enjoy the festivities.

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Sunday morning brought us SUNSHINE and coolish temps that quickly warmed up into the upper 30s, low 40s, by race time.  I met with some friends pre-race.  My Frankfort New Lenox Run Club (FNRC) members, Rebecca W – one of my fellow Emergen-C Ambassadors, my girl Nicki who goes to all the shorter distance races with me, and Kerry C who I’ve know for so many years and so thankful for our friendship!

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Then we were at the start corral’s and off and running before we knew it.  2014 brought us a three wave corral start, which I heard had a few hiccups, PLUS a new run course! 

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The new course was great and kept us closer to the Loop and Grant Park areas.  I liked the course a lot.  Fewer bridge crossings which are super hard on bad feet!   Wider streets.  More centralized location for spectators who want to see their runner more than once.  Great update for 2014!

As for my race, not the best but not the worst!  I finished in under 40 minutes and given my current schedule, lack of March miles, and the “few” extra LBS I’ve gained, yeah, I’ll take that as a win.  And as always, the Shamrock is a great kickoff to the  Chicago running season and let’s us all know what’s up in regards to our fitness. Good, bad or ugly.  Winking smile

There is always a huge post race party.  So if you didn’t like your race OR if you need to celebrate, maybe head over to the beer garden to drink a few beers listen to the band.    Here is a pic below of Maggie, Nicole, Judy & and I “listening to the band”. 

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Short of any “problems”, I’ll be ShamROCKing next year.  Maybe I’ll see you there?

Don’t forget to enter my raffle for RMHC – Ronald McDonald House Charities HERE.

**ShamROCK Chicago ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Fundraising RAFFLE for RMHC & the 2014 Chicago Marathon!

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Time to get this party started!  It’s Shamrock Shuffle weekend and spring is on the way whether it likes it or not.  The Shamrock is the official kickoff of the Chicago racing season that culminates with the Chicago Marathon.   This year the Chicago Marathon will take place on October 12, 2014.  And it will be massive, just like always.

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The marathon will bring world-class athletes, rising stars, talented age groupers, experienced marathoners and beginners alike.  So many want to come here, to run the streets of Chicago.  For the very first time in the Chicago Marathon history, the marathon has gone to a lottery system.  Yes, there are so many people who want to run the Chicago Marathon that we actually crashed the system last year.  Therefore, it has been decided that if one would like to run in 2014, they need to have guaranteed entry via a charity (like RMHC and yes, we still have spots available!!), a legacy of 5 CHI marathons or more, or a super fast time (3:45 for women, 3:15 for men).   Everyone else hits the lottery and good luck to YOU, if that’s your chosen path.

For me, I can’t imagine NOT running the Chicago Marathon since its in my backyard, so I decided to run with Ronald McDonald House Charities once again.  They are an outstanding organization.  I believe in their cause and am always amazed with the number of families they help every  year, both here in Chicago and around the world.  It wasn’t a difficult decision at all for me to sign up with them again for 2014. 

So today, I’d like to start the fundraising process and am beginning with a raffle.  For each $5 donation to my RMHC fundraising page HERE, you will get one entry into this raffle.    What do we have for the raffle? 

1)  A jumpstart to your next Super Hero costume with a New Balance run singlet featuring the Incredible logo!  You’re INCREDIBLE!  I know it.  You know it.  All your friends know it.  Now tell the running community at your next race!  3 run singlets available.  Women sizes:  S, M & L – 3 winners.  If you want one of these babies, let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to mention which size you need!   Value – PRICELESS  Winking smile

Incredibile Shirts     incredibles

Source for Incredibles photo

2)  Injinji – Over The Calf  Compression toe sock prize pack!  The Injinji socks have become a stable in my run world.  You won’t catch me very often sporting something other than Injinji.    I particularly like the over the calf compression style for long runs and marathons because they hold on my toe protectors so nicely, and help my crazy feet stay blister free!  I have every color they have made thus far and can’t wait for them to come out with more colors/styles!!  For you, I have a two pair, pink & purple { BIG THANKS to Frogger for donating the purple ones!!}.  Size medium,  which works for women shoe size 9-11.5 and men shoe size 8-10.5.  I’m also tossing in an Injinji hat because I know once you start wearing these babies, you are going to love them as much as me and you’ll want to shout it to the world at least when it’s raining.  One winner for the entire prize pack.  Value – $118.

Injinji OTC

3)  Emergen-C prize pack!  As optimistic as I want to be about spring being on its way, I’m honestly scared that this winter may NEVER end.  Aby and I have lived off Emergen-C all winter long, taking it daily, and we’ve faired particularly well compared to most.  This is also what I use when I taper for a marathon to ward off the “sickies” in those last couple of weeks before the big race.  This prize pack has 2 boxes of Tangerine flavored drink mix packets (30 packets per box), 2 boxes of Raspberry flavored packets, one Emergen-C Headsweats visor & one over the shoulder bag.  One winner for the entire prize.  Value – $86.

Emergen C    Emergen C_2

Okay, that’s the roundup for this raffle!  If you are interested in supporting RMHC, donate HERE.  If there is something above that you would like when your name pops up AS A WINNER, please make sure you tell me in the comments below. The raffle will go from now until Friday, April 4, 2014 at 9am at which time 5 winners will be selected via a random number generator.  Good luck and thanks to all of you who have helped me and RMHC in the past, and those of you who choose to support the cause this year!  Remember no donation is too small!   One entry into the raffle per $5 donation.  If your name comes up more than once, then you will receive more than one prize.    Good luck!

** Running For A Cause ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Happy Friday GIVEAWAY for the Michelob Ultra Chicago 13.1

We are fortunate that Chicagoland is BURSTING with half marathon pride.  It’s the perfect race distance for so many and as result Chicago has really embraced the distance and offers road racers a variety of events at that distance.  One of my favorite races is the “13.1 Chicago”.  This year Michelob Ultra is the key sponsor and the official name is the Michelob Ultra Chicago 13.1.  I ran last when it was the Allstate Life Insurance 13.1 Chicago (race report HERE).  Before the big name sponsors, it was simply 13.1 Chicago and well, that’s how I’ll always think of it! 

13.1Chicago_logo_14

This year 13.1 Chicago is on June 7th.  Once again it occurs on the same weekend as the Madison to Chicago Ragnar Relays.  Since I’m spearheading an all ladies ultra team for Ragnar Chicago, I will unfortunately not be able to run the 13.1 event in 2014.  However, if my calendar permitted I would be there and I hope to see lots of pics of all of you enjoying this amazing event!

What does 13.1 Chicago have to offer that puts it heads above the other Chicago half marathons?

  • Unique Southside location, starting at the South Shore Cultural Center where Mr. & Ms. Obama were married, running thru the beautiful trails in Jackson Park, and covering sections of the lakefront trail that most of us never run.
  • Beautiful views of the city of Chicago while you are running north on the course.
  • Amazing backdrop for photos when you run back south toward the finish line.  Photo below courtesy of Xaarlin (Pain is Nothing). 

13.1 Chicago_me running

  • Sophisticated starting corral system which seeds participants well and allows for space on the course to run YOUR race. 
  • Low traffic on run course, even when running the Lakefront path. 
  • Shade on the run course.
  • Out and back race where you can see your friends come and go for the majority of the race.  This is definitely one of my favorite things about this run.  I saw each and every one of my run buds, the fast ones and the ones behind me too! 

13.1 Chicago map

  • After race BEACH PARTY! 

13.1 Chicago_FNRC

This is a great race, certainly my favorite of this distance in the city of Chicago.  They also offer a 5K if you (or a friend) is not up to the half distance.  Take your friends to this race because you are going to want to stay and enjoy the after party!

NOW, did you want to win a FREE ENTRY to the 2014 Michelob Ultra Chicago 13.1?    If so, please make a comment below and tell me your all time favorite half marathon (so far), it doesn’t have to be a Chicago event.  For a second entry, like the TooTallFritz Facebook page.  For a third entry, like the 13.1 Marathon series Facebook page.  Let me know which of the above you did so that I can assign your entries correctly! 

Giveaway starts now and runs until Wednesday (March 26, 2014) at 9am when a winner will be selected via a random number generator.  Good luck, all! 

** Happy Running ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

2013 Hot Chocolate 5K Race Review–Chicago Edition

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I must say that after last year’s Hot Chocolate 5K/15K debacle at packet pickup and then a very unorganized, overcrowded race, I did not plan to go back this year.  I have a little bit of history with this race.  In 2011, it was great.  I ran a fast 15K thru the streets of Chicago and was super happy with both the race itself and the Ghirardelli’s Chocolate sponsorship, which brought us handfuls of amazing chocolate.  Then in 2012, Ghirardelli’s noticeably dropped from the sponsor list and things changed.  The first thing is that there was a lot less chocolate to be had.   The second, packet pick-up was moved from Union Station to a heated tent in the Soldiers Field parking lot.  Downfall, not many people could fit in the tent and organizers were very unprepared for the crowds.  Result, hundreds of people standing out in the cold for hours on end “waiting” to pick up their packets.  Race day didn’t improve much.  The course was super crowded and management was not properly prepared to keep the runners flowing thru the start.  Therefore, the start was extremely backed up and I witnessed a lot of unhappy people.  It was even “rumored” that some of the runners like myself may have ran more than one time due to the fact that our friends were stuck in the start corrals for hours awaiting their own race.  It was total mess.  One which I was not prepared to repeat for 2013.  

Then Miss Abygayl heard thru the grapevine that the Hot Chocolate was back in town. 

aby_nov 2013  aby running_Sept 2013

And she wanted to run.  Really badly.  And she begged and begged and begged until I gave in and said we would run.  I mean, if the girl wants to run, who am I to say no.  #RunNerdInTheMaking

I registered us without any expectations.  However, I happily noticed that packet pickup was moved to McCormick place and turned into a 3 day extravaganza.  After the Race of the Dead 5K on Saturday, Nicki & I took the kids over to packet pick up and went very smoothly AND it was fun! 

Ronald McDonald made an appearance for RMHC!  There were some chocolate squares handed out, mini Hot Chocolate samples, marshmallows & chocolate fondue.  Bounce houses & games for the kids.  SMOOTH & EFFICIENT packet pick-up with hoodie exchange for different sizes. 

Hot Choc_2013_Ronald McDonald

Plus a few vendors for us to do some shopping!  At this point, most of you know that I run a lot of races.  So I normally don’t shop at the expo unless it a big one like the Shamrock Shuffle or the Chicago Marathon.  The only race gear that I’ve ever purchased is Chicago Marathon gear.  However, I was very surprised that the Hot Chocolate race had lots of chocolate themed gear at a very reasonable price.  For example, the long sleeve tech shirts were $24.99.  I would normally pay $45 to $65 for a LS tech shirt.  Full zip jackets were around $45.  Then tees for the kids.  Aby even found a pair of pajama pants that she “had to have”.  So everyone came home with something “chocolaty”.  Michael and I now have shirts that say, “chocolate made me do it”.  Fuzzy photo alert, see our new gear below but don’t blow this one up or it will hurt your eyes.  Smile   

Hot Choc_2013_choc made me do it

The swag was really great this year too.  They went to a half zip tech hoodie with embroidery and a back zippered pocket to up the quality factor.  Nice piece of gear that I actually will probably wear.  Aby is modeling hers below.  Plus a drawstring backpack too.

Hot Choc_2013_swag sweatshirt  Hot Choc_2013_swag sweatshirt back Hot Choc_2013_swag bag

Race day moved much more smoothly too despite a massive back-up on the Dan Ryan which caused most of us to be late.  Aby and I ran from the car to the bathrooms {no lines, thank you!!!!} to the start.  We slipped into the first wave right as they were closing the gates.  Then we jogged to A corral and got in without much time to waste. 

Hot Choc_2013_me & Aby  Hot Choc_2013_start

The start was right on time at 7am and we all moved up quickly in an organized fashion.  Since we were already in A corral, we didn’t push to the front assuming that everyone in our corral would be running “faster”.  Not necessarily the case.  We were sandwiched in and obviously a lot of the 15K runners were being conservative at the start.  We didn’t have enough time to be conservative so did quite a bit of weaving in that first mile to try to get thru traffic and also find our own rhythm.  It was much different, and even more difficult than the day before; however, because we were weaving together and trying to stay together so I was constantly watching our positions and trying to find a hole big enough for two or a spot where we could split around one solo person.  Very interesting trying to run a faster pace with a buddy.  Plus, it was supposed to be fun so we ran a comfortably hard pace when we were able but stayed very controlled and managed to stay together at the same time.  Of course, Aby was very disappointed with my slow crawl up “Mount Roosevelt” as well as the fact that I lost my finish kick years ago; however, she was kind enough to stay with me to til the very end.  We finished a few seconds over 24 minutes.  Decent run considering the crowds.

The course this year was much better too.  Nice street route for the entire 5K.   The 15K was mostly on the streets til the end when they were rerouted onto the lakefront path.  Good run.  I wish there was a way to space things out a bit more but it’s hard to get 20,000+ people thru the start.  Fun time and well, for this race, most of us really just came for the chocolate.  At least we did!  Everyone received a finishers mug with hot chocolate, a banana, rice crispy treat, marshmallow, wafers & a bag of mini pretzels.  Fun and delicious!   Tip, take a gallon zip lock to the race to pack up the finishers mug when you leave cuz it’s chocolaty & messy!!

Hot Choc_2013_me & Aby & Nicki   Hot Choc_2013_choc

According to Aby, we WILL be running the Hot Chocolate race again in 2014 so maybe I’ll see you there! 

** We Run For Chocolate ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **

Uno 5K Carrera de los Muertos Race Review

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I run a lot of races each year and while I enjoy them all to a certain degree, only a few hold a special spot on my heart and demand a repeat.  I must say that the “Race of the
Dead” which is officially called the Uno 5K Carrera de los Muertos is one which I have been anticipating for well over a year.  And it did not disappoint. 

Race of the Dead

This is a themed race for a local community to celebrate the passing of loved ones.  There was an alter, or memorial site, to honor those who passed, plus lots of costumes, painted faces, etc. to make it a full celebration rather than just a memorial atmosphere.  So much fun!  Seriously. 

I’ve heard from previous year’s participants that both the shirts and the age group awards are “one of a kind” and to be honest, I didn’t sign up for a shirt.  I really wanted a hand painted/crafted skull that the local art department creates for each year’s age group awards.  After looking at the past results, I knew that it would be “almost” impossible to win one but that didn’t stop me from trying.  At some point, EVERYONE will have a perfect race.  Who knows, today could be that day?

Swag on the left, including an amazing gender specific tech shirt which is super cool, bonus in that it actually fits!  The back of the shirt and the 2013 age group awards are on the right.

Race of the Dead_swag Race of the Dead_back of shirt & skull Race of the Dead_AG Skulls

I knew I needed to be in the 21s, probably a 21:30 finish {at the slowest} to even have a shot at the third place award in my division (35-39 women).  Well, the third place lady in my AG took it with a 21:30 but that wasn’t me!  I was almost 2 minutes behind her and that put me in 6th place.  🙂

No worries, I’m not upset.  I’m not injured.  I did start a bit too far back, even with the chip timing.  I found my pace group sign and stood there awaiting the start, thinking that the people in front of me would run faster than me.  They did not.  It was a community/neighborhood event and well, the community started in front of me without concern about pace, or time.  It surprised me a bit and I did my best to be polite as I attempted to squeeze thru every crack I could find; however, I never really got in a rhythm due the crowds.  It thinned out at the half way point but I failed to rally back and increase my pace.  I actually slowed down much to my dismay in that third mile.

Regardless, the entire race was awesome.  Lots of on course entertainment.  And I do mean a lot.  I was focused on getting thru the crowds but the entertainment and cheering crowds were constantly garnering my attention and that’s super cool.    Lots of costumed runners, which I absolutely LOVE.   Lots of community spirit.  One aid station at the half way point.  Lots of potties at the start/finish area.  Massive block party style “after party” with a band, food from community vendors and a few other vendors on site.  Really good time.  Really fun atmosphere.  Great event for the entire family.  I can’t wait to go back next year and try to put myself in a better position to snag an AG award!!  A few photos of the after party below.

Race of the Dead_party2     Race of the Dead_party3

Race of the Dead_party

My girl, Nicki, & I after the race (on the left).  We tried to dress for the race theme in our Spandits “Skull” pants & she added a few “day of the dead” tats for decoration!  And our “babies” (on the right) went to see all the costumes be our support crew.

Race of the Dead_Nicki & I   Race of the Dead_kid support

Great day.  Perfect race weather.  Amazing neighborhood race.  I hope to be able to go back next year because it’s honestly one of the most fun non Shamrock Shuffle, non Chicago Marathon races I’ve ran in our area.  I’d highly recommend your giving it a try in 2014!

** Run Fast & Have Fun ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **