CARA Awards Progress

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that part of the reason I have been running so many races this year is because I am shooting for a Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA) Participation Award. This award is a way to honor runners who may not actually win races (like me!) but who have participated in ten or more CARA Runners’ Choice Circuit or CARA Certified Races.

I’ve been tracking my CARA races this year in my fancy race tracker Google Doc, as well as on My Race List on my blog. To date, I have run seven CARA races, and will be running my 8th tonight with Run for Gus. The Chicago Half Marathon, which I am running for Open Books, is also CARA Certified, so I was thinking I only needed one more to make ten.

However, I just checked out CARA’s updated race list, and found out that the Chicago 10K recently got CARA certified. I’m already registered for that one, too, so now I am officially on track to meet my goal of 10! Hooray!

In other exciting news, CARA also has a long distance award, which you can earn by completing five races from their “Long Distance Series” (see below), including one at the marathon distance; or five races from that list and one marathon or longer race of your choice.

04/28/2012 FirstMerit Bank Lakefront 10 Mile Chicago*
05/06/2012 First Midwest Bank Southwest Half Marathon Palos Heights
05/12/2012 Quarryman 10 Mile Lemont
05/20/2012 Rockford Marathon Rockford
05/26/2012 Fleet Feet Sports Soldier Field 10 Mile Chicago*
05/26/2012 Elgin Valley Fox Trot 10 Mile Elgin
06/02/2012 Sunburst Marathon & Half Marathon South Bend IN
07/21/2012 Waterfall Glen Xtreme 10 Miler Darien
07/22/2012 XSport Rock n Roll Chicago Half Marathon Chicago*
09/03/2012 Oak Brook Half Marathon Oak Brook
09/09/2012 Chicago Half Marathon Chicago*
09/23/2012 Fort2Base Races 10 Nautical Miles Highland Park
10/07/2012 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Chicago
10/21/2012 Wisconsin Dells Marathon & Half Wisconsin Dells WI

Because of the fact that I am not planning on running another marathon anytime soon, the only way I could earn this award was to use my Disney Marathon, plus 5 other CARA 10-milers or half marathons. And unfortunately, the way the schedule worked out, the most I’d be able to do is four.

That is, until they also added the Wisconsin Dells Half and the Fort2Base to the list. If I run either of those races, I can also earn the long distance award. I really wasn’t planning on doing either of them, but now I am tempted. Plus, I talked to a Fort2Base rep at my last running club night and it sounded kind of cool. And I know several ChicagoRunningBloggers are running it.

This, my friends, is how I get sucked into doing things. It’s not because I love running. Or because it keeps me healthy. It’s all about bonus medals (see the Rock ‘n’ Mud, Disney Coast-to-Coast, and Windy City Challenge), CARA awards, and other stupid incentives.

Do bunny ears and sunglasses count as “stupid incentives”?

I think I have a problem.

What motivates you to sign up for more races? 

Are you running the Wisconsin Dells Half or the Fort2Base? Should I do it?


Why It Seems I Only Post About Running

For those very few of you who have been following my blog since before my running craze, you’ve probably asked yourself, “Why does she only ever write about running? I thought this was a bucket list blog!” Well, you’re right, this IS a bucket list blog. I started this blog as a way to keep track of my Life’s List online, and to hold myself more accountable for crossing things off that list. I also wanted it to be a way to track my progress and reflect on the process of accomplishing the goals I’ve set for myself.

In that respect, this is still very much a bucket list blog. It just happens that many of the items I am working on this year are running related.

And I hate to say it, but it’s not going to end any time soon.

Right now I am 5 items in to my 12 Things in 2012, and so far two of them have been running related.  And although I don’t really predetermine which 12 things I am going to accomplish each year, I can already tell you that I am on my way toward several more…most of which also relate to running.

Here are a few of the things I am working toward right now…

  • Earn my Coast-to-Coast medal by running a race in both Disney World and Disneyland in the same calendar year.
  • Run a race a month for an entire year. (Current count: January – 1;  February – 1; March – 2:, April – 3; May – 1 down, 1 to go.)
  • Earn the CARA participation award for running 10 CARA certified races in a year. (5 down, 5 to go.)
  • Complete the Windy City Challenge, by running the 13.1 and the Chicago Half Marathon in the same summer. (Registered for both.)
  • Qualify for the Half Fanatics, which I hope to do by running the Disneyland half and the Chicago half back-t0-back weekends this September.
  • Run the Muddy Buddy race. (Currently registered.)

So, with all the posts about running random races, I haven’t lost sight of the real purpose of this blog…to set goals for myself and work toward making them happen.

I think the difference with running compared to other items on my list, such as travel or life milestones, is that running takes preparation. It requires training and dedication. And lately, it’s become more of a journey than a destination.

Sometimes I just need to write about that journey to remind myself I am making progress.

But never fear, because I have a few other non-running things on the agenda coming soon. So stay tuned.

April Check-In

Well, here we are, at the end of April. As much as I want to complain about the weather, I feel like having 80-degree days in March should cancel out the fact that I hate having to wear a coat on my birthday in April.

One of my favorite nights this month!

Anyway, April flew by this month, and  I can hardly believe it’s over. However, I did accomplish a lot, so here’s my April check-in for you all.

Life’s List Items Crossed Off: 2. A Sub-30 5K (YAY!!!!) and one other surprise you’ll get to read about soon!

Miles Run: 46. Much better than last month!

Races Run: 3 – Bunny Rock 5K, Home Team Charity Run, and the Lakefront 10 Miler

Upcoming Races:

  • 5/12 – Move for the Kids
  • 5/26 – Soldier Field 10 Mile
  • 6/2 – The Color Run
  • 6/9 – Chicago 13.1 (Thanks to Kim!)
  • 9/2 – Disneyland Half Marathon
  • 9/9 – Chicago Half Marathon

Even though I will be at well over 12 races this year, I am still shooting for a race a month. Still need something for July, August, October, November, and December. And I’m hoping for some of those to be CARA certified.

And speaking of CARA…

CARA Races Participation Award Update: 4 down, 6 to go. (Still need to sign up for 3 more)

Books Read: 3. Not great, but I’m still on track for my Goodreads Challenge.

2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Cary has
read 17 books toward her goal of 50 books.

Accomplishments for April:

  • Graduated from physical therapy.
  • Completed the Lakefront 10, pain-free!
  • Got my hair cut.
  • Celebrated my birthday with good friends and good food.
  • Saw Snow Patrol at the Aragon.
  • Video-chatted with my nephew for the first time. Well, I chatted, he bounced in his bouncy-seat.

Goals for May

  • Work out more regularly.
  • Train for and complete the Soldier Field 10 Mile.
  • Create a curriculum for a reading program at work that I am really proud of.
  • Clean my apartment. Really clean it.
  • Use my Groupon for fondue before it expires.
  • Stop being so hard on myself and use my tendancies to overanalyze everything I do and how it could have been better to make positive changes, instead of just beating myself up.
  • Continue to do my therapy exercises at least 3x a week, even though I’m no longer meeting with my PT.
  • Volunteer for Mayfest.
  • Book flights to California.
  • Keep on track for my Goodreads goal.
  • Recruit at least one runner for Team Bookin It, and reach the $300 mark in my Half Marathon Fundraising by the end of the month. (Click here to join my team, or to help with fundraising!)

Lakefront 10 Miler

Several months ago, while I was training with CARA’s Six Leaf Clover Series, I won a free entry to the FirstMerit Bank Lakefront 10 Miler.  As excited as I was for a free race entry, I was pretty nervous about this race.

When I first entered, I was in the worst part of my knee problems, and 10 miles just didn’t seem feasible at the time. However, not being one to turn down free things, I thought I’d give it a shot anyway.

The timing actually ended up working out quite well. On Friday, I “graduated” from physical therapy, and then Saturday morning was the race. Although I hadn’t been following the 10 mile training plan I normally would have, I had a really great 8-mile run earlier last week, and it played a huge role in boosting my confidence for the 10.

Despite the cold, windy, and at times rainy weather, it was actually a great race day! Here are just a few of the reasons why I loved this race.

  • Great Lakefront course. I love running on the lake path, and races along the lake always seem more beautiful to me than those along city streets. Even with the wind and crashing waves from the blustery weather, there’s just something about looking out at the vast Lake Michigan as you run. It’s where most of us in the city run when we’re training, but I feel like there aren’t too many options to have that same view on race day.
  • Cricket Hill. Speaking of courses, Chicago isn’t exactly known for its hills, but the Lakefront 10 is the hilliest race I’ve run here. It’s mainly because of Cricket Hill. Used in the winter as a great sledding hill, Cricket Hill is basically a large mound in the middle of Cricket Field, and the race organizers designed the course so runners ran up and over it around mile 3. This was the hardest part of the race, but it’s making my “things I liked about the race” list because it made it feel very unique. Also, the view of watching a constant stream of runners running over the hill was an amazing site to see. (I actually thought about stopping at taking a picture with my iPhone to post here, but I decided to just keep running. Now I’m bummed that I didn’t.)
  • It was a Green Race. CARA now has “Green Race standards” for encouraging races to reduce their environmental footprint. I think this is such a great idea. There are a lot of different criteria for becoming a green race, including on-site recycling, avoiding individual water bottles at the finish line, using Virtual Race Bags, and providing reusable totes at packet pickup.
  • *A quick note about Virtual Race Bags…I LOVE THEM. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting more and more annoyed with every race packet I pick up.  What used to be a “goodie bag” is really just a bag full of papers that are going to go straight into the recycling bin as soon as I get home. To me “goodies” are snacks, treats, sample granola bars, Chapstick, or other goodies that actually add value or might be useful to runners. I understand that it’s about sponsorship and advertising, but in my opinion, it’s completely wasteful to just shove a stack of papers into a bag and call them “goodies.” So, I just wanted to say thank you to Virtual Race Bags for helping to alleviate this issue, and I hope more race directors use you in the future!
  • Goodies! Speaking of goodie bags and sponsors, I got more samples of Clif products than ever before. In my reusable tote at packet pickup, before the race, and at the post-race party, there were Clif Shots, Shot Bloks, and Clif Bar samples everywhere! To me, this type of marketing is far more useful than giving me a paper ad and coupon. I tried some new products and flavors, got some samples to take home, and will probably buy some more Clif stuff in the future!
  • The Shirt. First of all, I love the shirt (despite being the 4th red race shirt I’ve gotten in 2012). They are cute and totally comfy! I’ve never worn a Greenlayer shirt before, but I am now a fan!Due to some unforeseen circumstances, the shirts were actually were lost in transit, so we did not get a chance to pick them up at packet pickup.However, CARA and Greenlayer seemed to have worked their magic and ensured all the shirts were there by race morning. I have to say, I kind of liked the idea of picking up the shirts on race day. I’m one of those superstitious people who treats race shirts as finisher shirts. I typically don’t wear a shirt until after I have completed the race, and I certainly will never wear a shirt for a race I didn’t end up running. So, because of the way the shirt shipments arrived, you had to actually show up on race day to get one. I see that as a reward to all the dedicated runners who braved the wind and rain and cold to get out there and run.
  • I have a new medal for my rack! The medal features CARA’s new logo, and while it’s no Mickey Medal, I am proud to have earned this one, considering everything I’d been through leading up to this race!

Overall, I am very happy with my Lakefront 10 experience. From the race itself to my own personal performance, I had a great run. And the best part – ZERO knee pains!!! Hooray!

CARA Participation Award

Since I don’t see myself placing in my age group at a race anytime soon, I decided this year to shoot for a very different kind of award – a participation award!

The Chicago Area Runners Association has a special Participation Award that they award to members who participate in ten or more CARA certified races in a year. Since I’m already well on my way to completing way too many races this year, I figured why not focus on registering for more CARA races. That way I can try to earn this award, and help support races that meet the high-quality standards that CARA sets forth.

So far, I am registered for 6 CARA races, and have plans for a few more. Here are the ones I’m already signed up for:

  • 3/25 – Shamrock Shuffle 8k
  • 4/7 – Bunny Rock 5k
  • 4/28 – Lakefront 10 Miler
  • 5/12 – Move for the Kids 5k
  • 5/26 – Soldier Field 10 Mile
  • 9/9 – Chicago Half Marathon

As for the remaining races, I may need to branch out to some suburban races. I’m quickly running out of weekends and will need to get creative to fit in the rest!

Every Day I’m Shufflin’

Tomorrow morning I am running my first Shamrock Shuffle!

I have registered for this race once before, but I had to skip because of my cousin’s baby shower. And a few years ago, I volunteered for it, but it’s kind of hard to believe I’ve never actually run it before.

This will be my second Sunday in a row that I’ll be running a race, surpassing my “one-race-a-month” goal for the year. Unfortunately, it doesn’t roll over to next month, so stay tuned to see what I have up my sleeve for April!

As for the Shamrock Shuffle, I’m actually a little disappointed in the shirts this year. Although the design is cool, it’s RED, and not green as one would suspect. (C’mon, Bank of America. This is the SHAMROCK Shuffle, not the Bank of America Shuffle. Last time I checked, shamrocks were green.)

Maybe I’m just a little bitter because red is my least favorite color to wear, (other than orange or yellow), and this now brings my red race shirt total to four.

My Red Running Shirts: Warm Your Heart Indoor 5k (2012), CARA 6 Nights Summer Series (2011), Shamrock Shuffle (2012), Disney World Marathon (2012)

But, as I said, the design itself is pretty cool, and I don’t usually wear my race shirts until after the race anyway (I believe it’s bad luck to wear a shirt you didn’t actually earn yet), so instead I will be wearing my green CARA 6 Leaf Clover training shirt from this year. Because, you know, it’s the SHAMROCK Shuffle after all.

Shufflin' Gear

Anyway, shirts and apparel aside, I’m excited to be running this year. As much as I’ve been trying to steer clear of the really crowded races, the Shamrock Shuffle really is Chicago’s kickoff to running season, and it’s also my first CARA Certified race of the year. (I’m aiming to run 10 CARA races this year!)

Again, this will be the farthest distance I’ve run in a while, and my knee still isn’t quite up to par, but I am looking forward to having a fun race down the streets of Chicago.

Last weekend I Got Lucky, this weekend I’m Shufflin’!

Runner’s Knee, Raffles, and Races

Yesterday I went to the sports doctor to get my knee checked out. Final diagnosis: I have Chondromalacia Patella (Patella Femoral) Syndrome, (aka “runners knee”). The doctor taped me up to see if it helped, and referred me to a physical therapist.

It’s actually not such a bad thing. It just means I need to strengthen my hip muscles so that my kneecap will be better aligned when I run. And, the special bonus benefit is that I could use to do some hip toning anyway, so maybe it will help for bathing suit season! Also, the doctor says I can still run, “using pain as my guide.” If I’m running and the pain increases, or if I start to limp or adjust my gait, I have to stop. Otherwise I can keep going.

The biggest issue for me is that the result of “taking it easy” (= being lazy) lately, is that I’m also very quickly falling out of shape. It’s so frustrating how long it takes to get into shape, but how easily you can lose it all.

I had my Six Series run tonight, so I tried out a 3 mile run with my taped knee. It was a lot less painful than in weeks past, although there was a little bit of pain on my walk home. The shocking thing, however, was how out of breath I felt during the run, when not all that long ago, I was comfortably running miles of 10 or more.

Ironically, at the post-run raffle, I ended up winning a free entry into the CARA Lakefront 10 Miler in April. I was just talking about how I wanted to make sure to find an April race to run but that I was not allowed to register for anything until my knee got sorted out. Now, I haven’t broken my rule, but I need to find a way to train for a 10-miler in 7 weeks. Normally I’d be super excited, since I love the 10-mile distance, and a free race entry is pretty awesome. I just hope I can get both my knee and my lungs back in shape to do it!

Cross your fingers that PT helps!