Why $0 was still too much to pay for the Hot Chocolate 5K

By now everyone and their brother has ranted about this race, but after searching for my results just now, I felt like I couldn’t let this race go by without airing my grievances.

Last year, I crossed the finish line in tears because I was so frustrated with the course and the inconsiderate walkers clogging up the whole street. It was the second year in a row I was more upset than excited, and I vowed never to pay to run the Hot Chocolate again. Especially because the prices keep going up and up and the quality is going nowhere.

I partially stuck to my vow, yet I ended up running anyway – under an injured friend’s bib. It still wasn’t worth it.

Without going into a full on tirade, here are just three reasons this race is STILL making my blood boil:

1. Packet Pickup. Despite what they said about Fridays kinks being worked out, I still waited for an hour and a half outside in the freezing cold to pick up my packet. I have run over 20 races this year, of all sizes, and I have never once seen a mess like this. And outside, no less.

2. Waiting 45 minutes in the cold for my corral to cross the start. I am hesitant to complain about this, because after how congested last year’s race was, I know the 3-and-a-half minutes between corrals was based on feedback regarding safety. However, it didn’t alleviate the problem as much as it should have, and standing around for 45 minutes before a November race without properly warming up (or warming up and getting cold again) is dangerous.

3. The Results. I ran with a friend the entire race. Her finishing time was 36:09. The name I ran under was listed as 41:13. The BIB # I ran under was listed at 32:00. (Because the name and the bib I ran under were not matched properly.) My watch had me around 31 minutes. What’s the point of standing in line for 2 hours to get a bib number if it’s apparently all for nothing anyway.


I think what it really comes down to is that the Hot Chocolate got too big too fast and it’s spiraled out of control. Its more like a Hot Mess now.

That said, I do want to take a minute to say thanks to the volunteers, especially those at the Expo. Granted, they were not the most efficient volunteers, but most of them looked about 16 and were trying their hardest. Plus, the ones there on Saturday night were scheduled until 6pm, and when I left at 6:30 there was still an hour line out the door, and I know the volunteers stuck it out til the end. I’m sure they got yelled at by plenty of irate runners, and I just wanted to mention that I realize it’s not their fault.

And just to end on a positive note, (because the internet world is already filled with enough negativity about this race), here are two of the best parts of the morning:


October Monthly Update

Wow, October has flown by. I didn’t even have time to do a post about running the Monster Dash, which is probably a good thing, because it was not a great race for me. (I did, however, dress for the occasion).

Anyway, here’s my monthly update.

Races Run: 1

Races Volunteered For: 1

Miles Run: Not many. I took the month off, more or less. So I ran 13.1 for the Monster Dash, and one other training run. Sad.

Medals Earned: 1

Life’s List Items Crossed Off: 0

Books Read: 1.5

Trips Planned Between: 3 – Milwaukee, Minnesota, and Kansas

October Accomplishments: 

  • Signed up for the gym, and have gone pretty consistently so far.
  • Planned and successfully executed a training workshop at work.
  • Booked super-cheap flights to MN to see my sister the day after Thanksgiving.
  • Made a decision about my 2013 travel plans. (Stay tuned)
  • Cancelled my No-Drinking Bet after a week, and called it a tie.
  • Went on a date.

November Goals

  • Have a successful Annual Performance Review at work
  • Celebrate my friend’s birthday and my dance teacher’s going away party.
  • Run the Hot Chocolate 5K rogue style under someone else’s name.
  • Continue to go to the gym 3+ times a week, including Tues morning Body Pump classes.
  • Visit Milwaukee and the Lake Front Brewery.
  • Visit Minnesota.
  • Survive Thanksgiving.
  • Be slightly better about blogging.
  • Go on another date.

So Many Exciting Things!

I know I’ve been quiet lately, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have plenty of exciting things happening right now. Here’s an update:

First of all, I still haven’t quite decided the solution to my 2013 travel dilemma. However, I am more and more leaning toward forgoing the People to People opportunity and doing Hawaii for my birthday and Dublin with the girls for the Half. I’ll keep you posted.

Also, I haven’t posted about running because I haven’t run any races since the Chicago Half over a month ago. I think it’s actually my longest race hiatus all year. However, not only have I not been racing – I also haven’t been running at all. I have gone on one 6 mile run since Sept 9th, which is a very bad thing because I am actually signed up for the Monster Dash half marathon this Sunday. Oh, well. I guess it’s gonna be more like the Monster Crawl, but my friend and I will just have fun with it and all the great people watching.

What I have been doing, however, is finally figuring out some ways to use up all my remaining vacation days this year, and I think I’m doing a pretty good job. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • A long weekend to Milwaukee in mid-November. I’ll be driving up and staying with my friend for a few days. A trip to Lakefront Brewery is definitely on the agenda, and I’m not sure what else.
  • Going back to Minnesota the day after Thanksgiving to spend some time with my nephew, sister, and brother-in-law. I am super pumped about this, and even more pumped that because of the awesome deal I got. Back in September when I flew out to L.A., my flight was ridiculously delayed and I ended up getting a $75 credit from United. Thanks to that, I am now able to fly over Thanksgiving weekend for a total of $65 round trip! That’s cheaper than gas!
  • And finally in December I will be heading to Kansas to stay with my friend out there. I’ve never been to Kansas so it will be a new state off my list, and I’ll also get a chance to visit the elementary school where she works as a school librarian!

I’ve also been busy working out at the gym and finally getting back into TurboKick classes, which I love!

So, although the running portion of my year is winding down, I have lots of other fun and exciting things happening, and it’s refreshing to have a little chance of pace.


Look for Me at the Chicago Marathon, Aid Station #8

This is less of an actual blog post, and more a note to all my Chicago Marathon runner readers.

I am so excited to be volunteering at the Chicago Marathon this year. I will be working at Aid Station 8, around mile 11.5-ish.

I will be wearing the same volunteer jacket as everyone else, but my friend Amanda and I are planning on having some identifying hair thing or hat will be wearing Halloween cat ears so our runner friends can spot us. I will also have on purple Wellies to keep my feet warm and dry.

If you are running the marathon on Sunday, let me know what you’ll be wearing and your pace, and I will keep an eye out for you!

Look for me as you pass through Aid Station 8, and best of luck to all the runners!

My Best Race Yet!

This past weekend I was in Minnesota to celebrate my adorable nephew’s first birthday. While I was there, I also talked my sister into running a 5K with me, which happened to be right down the street from her house. I thought it would be fun to not only cross a new race state off my list, but to also run with E in his very first race.

Gettin’ ready for E’s first race.


The race we ran was the Challenge Aging 5K in St. Paul, which was designed to celebrate athletes who fight against aging by living a fit and healthy lifestyle. Bib numbers were given out in reverse age order, so that the oldest person running was #1, therefore honoring the oldest athletes as elite runners.

The lowest bib number I’ve ever had!

I had an inkling that the race would be a small one when I received a personal email, not automated, reminding me of my race-day information, and telling me to show up a few minutes early to pick up my shirt and bib number.

As it turns out, there were only about 60 runners, and I almost missed the starting line, because it was just a line drawn in chalk on the path with a little sign that said “start”.

Me at the starting line

I had agonized for days over whether to stick with my sister and nephew for his first race, (and my sister’s second), or if I should shoot for a PR and maybe even try to win my age group, since I know if I ever do it, it would have to be in a tiny race like this. I had pretty much settled on the fact that I would have other chances to PR but not another chance to experience my nephew’s first race.

But that morning I was feeling good, and I think my sister was afraid of holding me back, so she told me to go ahead without her. I felt bad for a bit, but I knew she was right – we’d only both end up getting frustrated – so off I went.

The race was two laps around Lake Como, and after the first lap I was feeling good. The cooler air usually really bothers my lungs, but it wasn’t too bad, despite the occasional cough. And since the race was so small, I couldn’t really see anyone in front of me or behind me for most of the race. It just felt like a beautiful morning training run.

I made it to the finish line in under 29 minutes, which is a personal best for me. (The race wasn’t chip timed, so my “official” time was 28:56, but my watch had me at under 28:50). And then I got to watch my nephew and sister cross the finish line a short time later.

J and E crossing the finish line

Later that night I got another individual email with my results. And although it was a very small race, so I kinda feel like it’s cheating a little, I am very proud of the outcome.

Overall, it was a great time running a small race in a new state, and sharing the experience with my sister and nephew. I hope to get to run more races with them soon!


E and Aunt Cary both got a PR yesterday!


Yesterday was the Chicago Half Marathon, and as I mentioned in my previous post, a day of many goals I set for myself.

Well, I am happy to report that all in all, the day was a success.

Here’s a quick recap.

Goal 1 – Finish with a PR. 
Status: Incomplete

This was the one goal I was most worried about meeting, because after the Disneyland half last Sunday, and the Cookie Classic 5K on Saturday, I was getting fatigued. The 5K was much more difficult than it should have been, mentally and physically, and those three little miles got me all worked up over doing 13 the following day.

The weather was on my side, though, and I was running with my friend Amanda – the one person I actually can run with. So, I knew she’d push me to keep going and help pace me.

Amanda and me at the start line

I started the race with the mindset of just having a good race that I felt happy about in the end, and I was ready to give up the PR aspirations.  I checked my watch throughout the course, but didn’t really worry too much about the PR. It wasn’t until mile 11 that I realized I COULD still PR, but I’d really have to push it for those last 2 miles.

I told Amanda I wanted to go for it, and then took off.

And, man, I was so close. I ended up missing the PR by 9 seconds. I really do think I could have done it if I pushed just a little harder earlier on in the race, but all things considered, I am very pleased with the result.

However, it just makes me even more impressed with my Disneyland time. Yesterday I pretty much ran nonstop, with the exception of some water stations; at Disney I stopped for photos and the bathroom. So I must have been maintaining a really nice pace at Disney.

Goal #2: Complete the Windy City 26.2 Challenge
Status: Achieved. 

I successfully completed both the 13.1 Chicago (miserably) and the Chicago Half (feeling good). So, after the race, I got to collect my special bonus medal and wore it with pride.

Goal #3: Run with Open Books and reach my fundraising goal. 
Status: Incomplete. 

I’ve secured a few more donations yesterday, but I still have a bit more to go to reach my goal. I still have until the 26th to secure donations, so I hope to get some last-minute stragglers in the next week or two.

If you want to help, you can do so by visiting my fundraising page.

Don’t you want to support these good lookin’ runners? It’s for the love of literacy!


Goal #4: Qualify for the Half Fanatics
Status: Achieved. 

It’s a silly thing, but if I’m gonna do crazy things like run half marathons in back-to-back weekends, it’s nice to know there are other crazies out there like me. Plus, it’s just kinda cool to say, I”m a Half Fanatic.

Goal #5:  Qualify for a CARA Participation Award.
Status: Achieved

The Chicago Half Marathon was my 10th CARA certified race of the year. That means I am now eligible for a CARA participation Award!

The reason I am so excited about this is because I know I am too slow to win any other award. I’ll never get a prize for being fast, but if I can get one for over-committing myself, well, by golly, I’ll do it!

Bonus Goal: Beat the one person I wanted to beat.
Status: Achieved. 

When I run, I tend to only want to be competitive with myself. But every once in a while there is one other person I set as a goal to beat. I picked my competition for Sunday, and I beat the goal by a long shot. That makes me happy.

I also beat the former Biggest Loser, so that’s good, too.

All these things also helped me achieve crossing 12 things off my List this year, so I consider the day a huge success, and also a big contribution to a successful year.

What’s Next?

I’m sure if you know me at all, you’re asking yourself, “What’s next?”

Well, of course I always have to have about 15 projects going on at a time, so while I want to kind of scale back with my running, it’s not all over yet. Here are some of the upcoming things on my plate:

  • Still maintain the one race a month goal. (Although this time I’m going to try to keep it to ONLY one race a month.)
  • Run with my nephew in MN for his first birthday, and cross off a new race state.
  • The Monster Dash, which I was peer-pressured into signing up for at the Chicago Half expo. (Okay, that’s a lie; it didn’t take any pressure at all, and I’ve been considering that one since last year when I unofficially ran it during a training run. Plus, it’ll be my one October race.)
  • Cut back on running and sign up for the gym, FINALLY.
  • Focus on the strength training I’ve been neglecting.
  • Get yoga back in my life.
  • Read more books.
  • Take a class or learn something new.

Tomorrow is a Very Big Day

Tomorrow is a big day for me.

Exactly one year ago, I was sitting here nervously awaiting my very first half marathon. I was running the Chicago Half Marathon for Open Books, terrified because I had never run that far before. Now, one year later, I half 5 half marathons and a full marathon under my belt. I have run 18 races in 2012 alone.

Tomorrow, as the anniversary of my first half, will be a celebratory day.

Me, less than a year ago, before I had ever run a half marathon.

It will also be a day that I will hopefully accomplish several goals I have set for myself. I think I have a good chance at accomplishing most of them, but I could still use some positive thoughts sent my way.

Tomorrow I hope to:

  • Finish the Chicago Half Marathon, with a PR. (This is one goal I am especially nervous about, because I am afraid I used up my PR energy last weekend at Disney.)
  • Complete the Windy City Challenge, by finishing both the Allstate 13.1 and the Chicago Half Marathon.
  • Support Open Books by running with Team Bookin’ It, and reaching my fundraising goal.
  • Qualify for the Half Fanatics by running two half marathons (in two different states!) in 8 days.
  • Earn my CARA Participation Award by running my 10th CARA Certified race this year.

And, if I accomplish those things, I will also be able to cross the 11th and 12th items from My Life’s List, reaching my goal of crossing off 12 things in 2012.

All ready to go, for Half Marathon #6.

See you at the finish line!

Girl Scout Cookie Classic 5K

As if I don’t have enough races these days, this morning I decided to “squeeze in” a 5K in the midst of a two-half marathon week.

A few weeks ago, Kim offered me a free entry into the Girl Scout Cookie Classic, and as I’m sure you’re beginning to notice, I have a hard time turning things down. Actually, I was pretty excited about this, because as a former Girl Scout, I thought it was awesome that they were having a 5K to celebrate the Girl Scouts 100th birthday. Okay, okay. I’m not gonna lie. I just wanted a free box of Girl Scout cookies at the end.

Just a few of the cases of cookies waiting for us in Grant Park

Anyway, the race started at 9:10 in Grant Park. Yes, 9:10. It was scheduled for 9:00, but for some reason they decided to start 10 minutes late.

I don’t really want to analyze the race too much, because I don’t feel it’s fair to compare it to other races in the city. It was an inaugural race, and the majority of runners were little girls under the age of 12, running a race for the first time. And their parents.

Yes, it was a little chaotic that the only organization to the start line was the announcement of “runners in the front, walkers in the back”. I anticipated this would be a problem, so I started much closer to the front that usual. I was still a little bogged down at the start, but I wasn’t pushing for a PR anyway, so it was fine.

The course was a nice little loop around Grant Park. I’ve never run that exact course before, but it was a nice mix of running on Columbus, the lake path, and back to Grant Park.

I’m sure the after party was fun, too, but with such a full weekend ahead of me, I grabbed my milk and cookies and headed home.

Which kind would you choose?

I will say this though – it was really inspiring to see so many young girls out there running with their parents. I think it’s great to get kids started on a healthy lifestyle when they’re little.

I’ve often said that I wish I would have found a love of running at a younger age. I didn’t run my first mile until I was 26, somehow cheating my way through high school gym class. It always makes me smile to see parents who are runners sharing the excitement with their children, whether it’s running a race together, or bringing young kids to the race with signs saying “Go, Mommy, Go.”

When I was younger, fitness wasn’t really a part of my family. I am a first-generation runner. And when I was a Girl Scout, we didn’t have things like this. We went camping and made crafts and learned to sew. But if I would have learned about running and training for a race, or worked toward a 5k badge, who knows where I’d be. Maybe I wouldn’t be a 30-something running newbie. Maybe it wouldn’t have taken me so long to discover running. And maybe I wouldn’t be as slow as a snail.

Either way, I may be a bit older than the Girl Scouts who ran today, but I still earned my Cookie Classic badge!

I Went to Disneyland, and Came Home with a PR!

As most of you know, last weekend I was in Disneyland. I went to run the Disneyland Half Marathon and to earn my Coast-to-Coast medal (for running at both Disney World and Disneyland in the same calendar year.)

I flew out to California by myself, and actually ended up having a fabulous time enjoying the parks on my own, despite being a little nervous about it. I won’t write about it too much here, because I wrote a guest blog post about my solo travels that will be appearing soon on Go-Go-Go.org.

However, I did want to give a little recap of the race, because it went much better than I had expected. I went into the race with low expectations. From Day 1, I wanted this race to be a “fun run” for me, since just one week later I would be running the Chicago Half Marathon – my goal race, and the race I was hoping would earn me a PR. Plus, if you’ve ever run a Disney race, you know that there are characters and photo ops all along the way, so I promised myself I would soak it all in, take as many photos as I wanted, and not worry at all about time.

Just to really reinforce the fact that this race was meant to be a fun one, I got myself decked out in my Minnie Mouse SparkleSkirt I earned from volunteering at their booth at the Expo, and my red and white polkadot headband. I still don’t think I can ever run in full costume, but the Minnie Skirt was just the right mix of festive and utterly comfortable for running. I started the race in Corral C. (Disney tends to have a lot of walkers, so I guess I was considered “fast” by comparision – although, there was one older man who was speedwalking the entire race and pretty much kept up with me! I saw him at the start, and again at Mile 12!! And the man never ran once!) Mickey Mouse, all decked out in his track suit, waved me goodbye as I crossed the start, and I headed off for 13.1 miles of the happiest race on earth.

Running past Mickey in a blur as he waves me on.

The first several miles flew by, as we ended up running through both Disneyland and California Adventure right off the bat. I stopped to take a couple quick scenic photos, but only posed with characters once, because I was saving photos for later on. (Plus, for some reason I tend to like actual costumed characters, rather than the princesses, which for some reason tend to creep me out.)

Paradise Pier at California Adventure

However, by mile 4, we were already out of the parks, and unlike at the Disney World Marathon, there were no more characters along the course.

The only character photo I took along the course.

After the parks, we had a long stretch along the streets of Anaheim. I was told that in the past, this stretch from mile 5 to mile 9 is tough, because there’s nothing to look at. However, in most races I run, there isn’t anything to look at during the whole race, and Miles 5-9 tend to be my best miles. So, I was prepared for this stretch, and was pleasantly surprised by nearly 4 miles of people and their fancy cars lined up, honking and cheering.

But just around mile 9 came my favorite part of the entire race – running through Angel Stadium. I can’t even describe how incredible it was. The stands were full of fans cheering, the Jumbotron was on just for us, I had chills. And this is coming from someone who has run through Wrigley Field, Soldier Field, and walked the warning track at U.S Cellular Field. I don’t know. Maybe there really were Angels in the outfield.

Running in the tunnel and seeing Angel Stadium for the first time.

Where are the angels?

After running through the stadium, I was re-energized.  Despite the fact that miles 9-12 tend to be the hardest for me, I was feeling good.

And then, around mile 11 I checked my watch, and it hit me. I had just over 2 miles to go, and I was 30 minutes head of my current PR. 30 minutes to run 2 miles, and get a PR.

There weren’t any more course highlights. No more characters. Just people cheering, and the last leg of the race. I was going to PR at Disneyland! Despite stopping a couple times for photos (and once for the bathroom), I had somehow had a pace better than my previous races.

The last mile was rough, and I just wanted to be done, but I kept pushing, knowing that a celebration awaited me at the end. My 5th half marathon under my belt, my Coast-to-Coast medal, AND a new PR!

I crossed the finish line 9 minutes ahead of my previous PR, and 11 minutes faster than my last half marathon, just a month and a half earlier.

I felt amazing!

I spent the rest of the morning hanging around the parks, showing off my medals. Donald Duck was very excited for me. (Seriously, he took me by the hand, paraded me around Main Street, and made everyone who was waiting in line to meet him give me a standing ovation.)

And of course, I couldn’t wait to show Mickey.

 I earned my Coast-to-Coast, and now I can cross another thing off my List!

So Much To Write, So Little Time

I haven’t forgotten about my blog, honest. It’s just that since I’ve moved, I’ve been surviving without a computer or Internet access at home, so blogging’s been a bit of a challenge. I’m happy to say the computer is fixed, but I am still holding off on setting up Internet for as long as I can to save some money – especially since I will be out of town twice in September and it’s silly to pay for Internet I won’t be using. (And not that I condone this, but all my new neighbors have secure WiFi connections, so I can’t even log in for just a teeny bit.)

So, anyway, I’ve been settling into the new place, getting by with the use of my iPhone (what DID I do before I had a smartphone?!), and making final preparations for the crazy whirlwind that’s about to come.

Here’s what’s coming down the pipeline, and I promise to write about as many of these things as I can when they happen.

  • I leave on Thursday for Disneyland. I’ve finally come to terms with going solo, and I am so, SO excited!
  • I “met” another solo traveler via a blog who will also be running Disneyland solo. After having a discussion about how the hardest part of solo travel is eating dinner alone, we made plans to meet up for a carbo-loading dinner the night before the race. (And, yes, I Googled her, and she seems to be safe. She’s in her mid-30s, lives in Canada, and appears to be a lawyer.)
  • I had already planned on spending plenty of time at the Disneyland Expo, but now I have a great reason to be there. SparkleSkirts, one of my favorite running skirt companies, was in need of an extra person to work their booth at the Expo on Friday. Since I had nothing else on my agenda, and my plans to volunteer at the Expo with RunDisney fell through, I figured why not? So, I’ll be working the noon-4 shift, meeting lots of awesome runners, and also snagging my MinnieTech skirt for race day.

  • As of Sunday, barring any major tragedies, I will have earned my very own Coast-to-Coast medal, and can finally cross it off my List.
  • As of the following Sunday, again, barring any tragedies, I will have completed two half marathons, in two different states, in an 8-day window. Crazy, yes, but it will also earn me eligibility for the Half Fanatics.

I sincerely plan on attempting to make each one of those bullet points its own blog entry, where I give proper attention to each of the exciting things I have coming up.

In the meantime, I will also be working on my August Monthly Update (how can August possibly be over already?!), working on building more new IKEA furniture, making my new apartment “home”, getting ready to train new interns at work, and starting up program sites at 8 different schools in September.

So, there you have it. Lots to look forward to from My Life’s List, coming soon.

However, if you need something to hold you over in the meantime, I highly recommend stopping by Go-Go-Go, my new favorite blog by two friends of mine. They feature a combination of travel stories and everyday photos (two of my favorite things!) and they do a far better job of it than I ever do.

“See ya real soon!”