Although the guy code was in full swing, I needed to break away and work on some other posts or once again I’ll be struggling to get the quota done. Have no worries, I’ll continue to monitor the comments on the guy code post. Moving on, I wanted to officially kickoff the 2011 race season. Although it was a difficult season last year, I have a big goal for this year and so far I am on my planned schedule. I do not want to jinx myself so I’ll keep that goal a secret for now. After 8 months of rehab on my damaged quad I’m finally back to near full strength and the miles are definitely far ahead of any other year at this time – this includes a weekly 10 mile run in the hills of Jubilee Park. I usually start with the Caterpillar 5K Power Race, but this year they decided to move it into June which effectively removed that from my race schedule. Instead, my first race was the Chase Corporate 3.5 Mile Race held on May 26th in Chicago IL.
Notice anything unusual about this pre-race picture?
Did you detect a certain feeling of coldness? Maybe a little bundled up for a race that was being held in May? Turns out this particular day put the whole gloBULL warming fear peddlers into perspective. The race actually starts near Grant Park which provides a slightly chillier condition thanks to the wind blowing in off of Lake Michigan. But the conditions this day lead to a feels like temperature of 38 degrees. Now I definitely prefer colder over hot and humid days for racing, but this was ridiculous. From the moment I stepped off the bus, I was second guessing my apparel choices. But the coldness wasn’t the only issue we had to deal with.
Hit the jump to read the rest of the details on the race!
For several days up to the race, it had been pouring down rain. In fact, the night before we got there, they had over 2.5 inches of rain which essentially flooded out the area including the grounds we stage at for the race. At first, the weather predictions had it raining by race time which would have truly sucked . I’ll take hot and humid any day over cold and wet. As the picture below shows, even the inside of tent was swampy making it difficult to keep the shoes dry.
The tent sides were very much appreciated as it was the only barrier between us and the bone chilling lake wind.
I should probably take a few sentences to explain the Chase Corporate Race for those not familiar with it. Chase actually sponsors this race as a fund raiser for local charities. They pick one or two charities each year, but I believe the last three benefited the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Corporations from all over the Midwest organize their participants and arrange travel to participate in the 3.5 mile event. The gathering is an impressive site as over 23,000 corporate employees gather to support a good cause and have a little friendly competition. Caterpillar sent a contingency of over 300 (third highest among all the Chicago participants) from a number of different facilities including Aurora, Joliet, Mossville, Peoria and East Peoria. This is more of a fun race in the sense you can choose to race, casual run or even walk. Note, they stage a number of these races across the US and around the world throughout the year with a championship help in Singapore.
Eventually the race time came and we headed out to the starting line. Event planners changed the staging process this year choosing to do a staggered start depending on your expected finish times. My plan to was to break 25 minutes so I was slotted in the race (or first) section to start. Well, that was the plan. Turns out I headed for the starting line a little late (hard to leave the warmth of the tent). As a result, I was unable to make it to my starting point due to the mass of humanity and the poor process for getting everyone in line. Per the picture below, I was suppose to start at the red flags. This picture was actually taken by a friend of mine who was even ahead of where I ended up. She apparently made it to the yellows where I was stuck back in the white flag area for casual runners and walkers – ugh!
The frustration started to build when the gun went off for the red section. We had timer tags on our bib numbers which meant our individual race clock didn’t start until we crossed the starting line. That sounds great, but that still means you have to navigate through the hordes of runners that are significantly below your pace. In fact, I was basically at a crawl for the first minute due to the walls of walkers who were suppose to line up in the walker section behind us. I decided to make it a game and proceeded to weave my wave through looking for any separation I could find. Too bad the GPS was left in the tent because it would be interesting to see just how much extra distance was traveled from having to zig and zag through the course. At the 2 mile mark I broke through the front of the whites but that simply brought up a pretty big contingency of slow yellow runners. The good news is there was more space to work in so that went past in about three quarters of a mile giving me pretty much open space to the finish line which I essentially did at a flat out dead run. In fact this was so focused that I did not get a good chance to enjoy the Chicago skyline which is the best part of the whole race. Luckily my friend took a few shots for me.
I crossed the line with a 27:30. This was 2.5 minutes over desired time, but I was elated with the results. Even with fighting through the crowds and the extra distance I was able to break 8 minute miles and if you take into account my first mile was probably closer to 10, I probably had one of my best short distance races ever. More importantly, although it wasn’t at full strength yet, the leg held together which means the rehab was working. To consider it a big relief would be an understatement. Next year we’ll be heading to the starting line a little earlier! (or the race organizers will see the error of their ways and rethink their staging strategy).
The minute I crossed the finish line I headed to the tent, got my dry clothes and headed off to the porta-potties to change. With a dry layer on I headed back and proceeded to layer up with every dry piece of clothing I had. The sky turned pretty dark and ominous by the end as you can tell from the picture below, but the hard part was done and we proceeded to enjoy a nice dinner provided by our company. I find dinner always tastes better after a good run and that day, the hamburgers and brats were delicious.
I can’t wait until next year when we get to do it all over again. Each year Caterpillar tries to get more participants and I’ve been doing my part every year since my friend Ron Owdom and I started participating. Last year I was able to convince two people to join who had so much fun they came back again this year. This year Ron and I each added another person and both of them had a great time as well (we did tell them it was usually warmer in case they had any worries). My thanks to Chase for putting on the event, Caterpillar organizers who planned this out for us and special thanks to Sung Pak and Maria Hornstein who provided all the pictures used in this post.
Oh, by the way, last year Caterpillar took third in the mixed division and was invited to participate in the championships in Singapore. This year, the male team placed second in the men’s team division. Go get ’em Big Yellow!
(leaving the bad news to the end, someone (not from Cat) passed away during the race making it two races in a row for me someone has met with an awful fate – my condolences)