Mardi Gras Freezer

Back on My Feet Mardi Gras Chaser 10k

Chicago, IL (Montrose Harbor) – 10 am – February 25, 2017 – Cloudy, “feels like” 9 degrees

Hey guys, I ran another race!! Wahoo!!! This time I took Josh along with me. Well, I actually snagged a deal through twitter for $10 registration. I thought for that price, if the weather turned bad, we could afford to skip it, as the race is for a great charity – Back on My Feet.

So many races are for charity… but few are for a charity that is all about running! Back on My Feet Chicago uses the power of running to help change the lives of those experiencing homelessness in our city. All proceeds from the race will support Back on My Feet in providing programming to change lives one job, house, and mile at a time.

img_2952Josh and I left for Chicago the Friday before the race. We’ve been to the windy city, many times, and weren’t expecting any surprises.  We had no problems on the tollway, yay the construction is done! Then we settled into the Holiday Inn at the Merchandise Mart. We had never stayed here before, but was very nice and accessible.

To keep with tradition we made a stop at Garrett’s Popcorn to get some Chicago Mix and then ate supper at Miller’s Pub. Hey, we like what we like! Also, Miller’s Pub is awesome, it’s like stepping into an 80’s supper club and pub all in one. You want a hamburger – fine, you want grilled octopus – you can get that too.

Race Day:

Another late start… 10 am race time… ya, ya…the weather can be anything this time of year. In fact, just earlier in the week it was 70 degrees. However, the temps for this race wouldn’t get much over 20 degrees with a nasty wind chill around 9, YES 9 degrees!! So, maybe it’s the warmest time of the day for this race….

We were staying 5 miles south of Montrose Harbor, but it didn’t look like traffic was going to be too bad to get to the start.

We got to the race area at about 8:30, which is when packet pick up opened. I can’t say enough about race day packet pick up for a Chicago race!!! It wasn’t an extra cost, and I didn’t have to make an extra trip anywhere the day before to find my packet or ask a friend to do it for me. The parking was also FREE, yes free parking in Chicago, it’s possible!!! There are so many races in Chicago, and when we have to pay for a hotel, these free things make the race affordable.

Josh and I made our way to get our things…. oh I forgot to tell you about the best part of the race…. we met up with fellow Bibrave Pros, Heather, Mark and Frank!!!! We saw Mark and Heather on the way to get our packet….however, it was too cold to chit chat.

Packet pick up was super easy, we just told them our names and they gave us our bibs and 1/4 zip pullovers. We could grab a Mardi Gras mask if we wanted one. It’s nice to get a quarter zip, but this one is white, and well…. it’s white…and you can see through it…anyway, it’s still better than a cotton tee.

On our way back to the warm car, we passed Mark again, where he gave us “Hot Hands.” Spoiler Alert: these were a life saver!

Once in the car, I ate my Nugo Mint Chocolate bar for breakfast….seriously love those things. We kept warm and texted the other pros. We heard Frank was around, so we quick grabbed a group picture, then went back to sit in our warm cars. IT WAS COLD!

It was finally time to race. We all met up again… including Mark’s wife, Tina and Heather’s mom, Marge. We also noticed, Frank wearing his bib…. he is recovering from knee surgery, so this was a surprise to us all…but I think we all knew he wasn’t going to sit it out.

Gear: Purple Chevron Sparkle Athletic Skirt, Pro Compression Socks, 2Xu Hyoptik thermal tights, Nike turtleneck, Moving comfort jacket, Survivor Buff, Bibrave Boco Stocking hat, xx2i France 2 sunglasses, Plantronics head phones, spi belt, Brooks Ghost 9, Garmin Fenix 3, 2 pairs of generic gloves, and Hot hands hand warmers.

The 10k was first, (there was a 5k to follow) we seeded ourselves in the corrals, which were organized by pace. I was already shaking because I was sooooo cold. The National Anthem was sung, and we all started moving.

The race was an out an back, starting on the roads near the harbor and then on the north end of the Lake Front Path / trail. It was coned off and there were volunteers guiding participants. However, it was not closed to pedestrian traffic. It started to flurry.

Photo Credit – Mark D.

My toes were numb until mile 2… have you ever ran with numb toes, it’s like rocks in your shoes… I finally warmed up, about the time I saw Mark and Josh headed back. Then I hit the turnaround where volunteers were handing out Cliff Bars. There were many stops with water and Gatorade. I then saw Heather running with Tina and then I saw Marge and Frank, while out and back courses can be annoying, it’s nice to be able to cheer on your friends.
If you want more of my official race review – check

I came to the finish line near 1 hour… which I was happy with… in fact, I told Josh I would finish in that time, so he knew when to greet me with more clothes. Which he did!

I was handed some Mardi Gras beads, my finisher’s medal, and then there was a buffet of post race food. There was more water and Gatorade, bananas, mini muffins (2 kinds,) chia bars, cliff bars and mini bagels. I was happy I had pockets in my jacket.

I put on my coat and another layer of pants and cheered in my friends. I stayed mostly warm, but the hot hands didn’t keep my finger tips warm, and I could barely feel them as I took pictures.

Yay, we were all finished! One of my favorite things is meeting my friends at races. We hung around for a little bit, and the the race organizers told us to take as much food as we wanted… I escaped with a bag full of mini bagels…and there was still lots of food left. I hope they were able to donate it to a shelter.

Photo Credit – Heather C.

We said goodbye to Frank, and then ran back to our cars to get warm.  The rest of us decided to go check out the post race party at the Fat Cat bar. They had a $15 buffet and a free beer for runners. However, don’t be fooled, there were 3 choices – Blue Moon, Coors Light and Leinie’s Honey Weiss. They were also having a raffle.

We waited around for a table to open up. When a table opened up, we got our buffet plates and filled up. It’s a good thing all those post race goodies were sealed to eat later. The buffet had rice and beans, yogurt, biscuits, chicken, bacon, potatoes, eggs and french toast casserole.


Yes – I put sprinkles on my biscuits

Once we were full, it was time to say goodbye…always sad…I mean I get to talk to my friends on twitter, but always nice to get to hangout in person. I will see them again soon too.

As luck would have it, we were really close to Wrigley Field, so after Josh and I grabbed some Dunkin Donuts coffee, we drove by the baseball stadium. It was undergoing lots of construction, so even if we did get out to take a picture, we wouldn’t have been able to get too close.

Then after what felt like an hour, we were back on the tollway, headed back to Iowa… it was a quick trip to Chicago, but a fun one. Spoiler Alert: I will be headed back for the BTN B1G 10k in July, Go Hawks!






B1G Fun in Chicago

“Disclaimer: I received entry into the BTN B1G 10k as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check to review find and write race reviews.”

I will be honest, I wasn’t sure I would run this race again, I ran this in 2014 and wasn’t super impressed. However, with my love for the Hawkeyes and the opportunity to run for Bibrave, I decided to give it another shot. (spoiler alert, I am glad I did!)

If you want the basic review of the race, check it out at On the blog I tend to post all the pictures and all my adventures.

Registration for this race is about $50 for the 10k depending when you register. There is a 5k as well, but register early or you may think it costs too much. However, there are a lot of fun things included with your fee. The most “fun” thing is a school specific, gender specific, short sleeve tech tee. (keep reading to hear about all the other things.) Also depending when you sign up, Ram offers freebies.


This race is also different as most participants wear their race shirts to race in, school pride!

When I ran this race in 2014, I wasn’t too happy with the packet pick up process. Friday after 5pm in downtown Chicago was my only option, and it was a nightmare. However, Ram Racing has taken over this race and has started to offer options with their packet pick ups. Josh and I opted to get our stuff mailed to us, it was a small fee, but we had our things a week or so before the race. They also offered pickup starting on Tuesday and lasting through Friday at at Fleet Feet store. Also with the appropriate waiver someone else could grab your stuff for you.

I mentioned Josh was running this race too, but we picked up Hawkeye friend, Kelly on the way,and would be meeting Bibrave pros – Frank, Heather and Cass at the race. (and anyone else who wanted a koozie)

We drove into Chicago on Friday afternoon / evening, had a hotel reserved downtown, and a parking spot reserved with the Park Whiz app.

Supper was at our usual spot in downtown, Miller’s Pub. They seriously have something on the menu for everyone. Fish, fried chicken, pasta, burger, omelet, etc….oh and we can’t forget the beer!


After dinner we caught up with the Olympics and the opening ceremonies. We had time to lay out our gear and then with an early wake up call, we called it a night.


RACE DAY! – Saturday, August 6

Gear: Orange Mud Endurance Pack, Sparkle Athletic Skirt, ProCompression Socks, Aftershockz Trekz Titanium, BibRave Tank, Adidas 7″ boyshort, XX2i USA1, Nike Hawkeye Hat, Hawkeye tattoos, Nathan Race belt. Moving Comfort bra, Garmin Fenix 3

It was a nice sunny day, and a cool start in the 60’s. The temps would rise to about 80 for the day. Race start time of 7 am. The 5k started after the 10k.

My before the race plan was to meet up with the fellow pros, and anyone who wanted a Bibrave koozie, near the starting line. We hung out there for a while, but were encouraged to get into our assigned corrals at 6:30 am.


I was joining Heather and Kelly, so we rounded the corner for our corral. There are plenty of corrals for this race, but I am still not sure of the seeding process. In addition to people being seeded into speedier corrals there is the usual sneaking into the wrong corrals. (However once we were off, I didn’t experience any problems with crowded streets or people stopping in front of me)

The course was new this year!! YAY! I was most excited to not be running through McCormick Tunnel, and the more narrow Lake Front Path on the South Side of Soldier Field. Instead the course ran north of Grant park and looped around by the Shedd Aquarium to run back north on the Lake Front Path, where there were 3 different areas to share amongst everyone.


I enjoyed running with Kelly and Heather as we ran intervals. Although, I am not sure they liked my encouragement about running up Mt. Roosevelt during a running interval…hey, it was just a friendly nudge.


There were a couple of water and Nuun stops along the way. Then there were also 2 fun stops with water slide inflatable things. Of course, I had to do the first one! Then my socks were wet. Also at this spot they were playing each school’s fight song. Heather did not appreciate Kelly and my singing of the Iowa Fight Song. We’re good!! “The word is fight, fight, fight…”

We all came across the finish line and were in search of the medals and some water. We weren’t the last finishers, but they ran out of towels to dip in the cold water (which was all gone too) It took a while to find a bottle of water, but we got one, there was also Goose Island Beer in the finisher’s chute too, it was busy. There were also bananas and Clif bars. We claimed our medals (with a ticket on the bib), with school specific ribbons. The medals were huge!


The new location also allowed for plenty of space for the post race festivities. Kelly and I found Josh at the Iowa tent, helping hand out the sunglasses. Each school had a tent with their swag to giveaway and a statue to raffle. There was also photo opportunities with mascots, cheerleaders, traveling trophies (Paul Bunyan’s Axe was there) and the B1G Championship trophy.

This new spread out area also had the post race sausage, more beer tents, a meet & greet with Kyle Schwarber, the tailgating area and the football “combine” type activities. There was something for everyone to do. Although it would have been nice for an actual chair in the shade.

After we got all the Hawkeye things, we met up with the rest of the gang at the nearby “Ill-annoy” tent. (ha but we convinced them of a better spot for a group picture) Even met up with twitter friend Jim, and he claimed a koozie. It was nice to chat about the race with Frank, Anthony, Cass, Tyler, Kelly, Heather, Marge and Josh. I have said this many times before, but races are the most fun if you can do it with friends! (no matter what school they cheer for)





It was time to move along, and the post race was closing up. However, Heather and Marge were down for a post race donut before we said our goodbyes.

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taking donut selfies are always flattering

Josh and I were sad to leave them, as we weren’t sure when we would meet again. We drowned our sorrows in a bag of Garrett’s popcorn (it was this race 2 years ago when I was introduced to this stuff, it was the race freebie if you were one of the first few to sign up)

We met back up with Kelly at the hotel, and she was getting ready to take off on her next adventure of the weekend. We all left the hotel. Josh and I headed to a Potbelly for lunch and an ice cream sandwich.

It was a quick trip to Chicago, but I really enjoyed the BTN B1G 10k this year. I am glad they made the changes to the course and post race. If you are a B1G super fan you need to get to Chicago and do this race. Who doesn’t like a little, friendly, pre-football season rivalry?


Finish one the 50?

“Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Soldier Field 10 mile race as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!

Bibrave reviews of the Soldier Field 10

The 2016 race took place on Saturday May 28. The race started at 7 am. It was sunny and humid, starting in the 70’s – highs of 80 for the day.


Ram Racing took over the event for 2016

This was the second year I would be running the event.

GEAR – Bibrave shirt, Bibrave Technical hat, UV Full Buff, Blue Sparkle Athletic skirt, USA procompression socks, Garmin Fenix 3, Road ID, Moving Comfort Bra, 2 Toms, Adidas Shorts, Brooks ghost 8, Disney race belt, Aftershockz Trek Titanium

Registration: Available online, super early pricing starting around $50, increasing to $90 near race day. You could also register at various packet pick up locations, until race was sold out.   Included with registration was an Under Armor, gender specific tech tee, bib with timing chip, post race tailgate party with a beer.

The shirts were nice, but I thought a bit roomy.


Expo / Packet Pickup: No traditional expo. Many packet pick up times. A week before the race pickups were held at Fleet Feet stores in the suburbs. The week of the race you could pick up your stuff starting on Tuesday, daily through Friday at the Fleet Feet in Old Town.  A friend could also grab your things if they had the confirmation email. No race day packet pickup.

Josh (who was running this with me) and I had our packets mailed to us for a $15 fee. This was a lot easier for us who do not live near the city. 

Pre-race: As the race is centered around Soldier Field, you get all the amenities that come with the location. Gear check was inside the south end of Soldier Field, clear bags were provided when you picked up your packet. The bathroom facilities were also open, in addition to many port-o-potties lined up outside. Parking was free in the stadium too, and the nearby lot (however it was advised to arrive early)

The official race start is at 7 am, but many 3 waves with lots of corrals. The pre-race time can really stretch out. However the entrance to the corrals is near the post race tailgate area, making it easy to meet up with friends and hang out before you need to head to the corrals. The waves closed at a certain time, but you could start at a later corral.

The pre race announcements were over a loud speaker that could be heard throughout the area. A version of taps was played followed by the National Anthem.


Josh and I stayed downtown Chicago, and just ubered to the stadium. We met up with some Chicago area running friends & Bibrave pals, then proceeded to our corrals. I did not see anyone monitoring the bibs to gain entrance to the corrals. 


The pre-race announcements are very moving for this race. Lots of nice things said and reasons to remember the fallen. Great tribute to the military.


Course / Race: The race was on the streets (south Lake Shore Drive) and lake front path, heading south, then turning back around into the city.

  • Flat, some bridges, but nothing steep
  • paved, potholes
  • section through McCormick place, dark and lots of potholes, had to be alert
  • crowded start, even though started on street, didn’t thin out til Lake Shore Dr
  • miles marked with signs and a time clock
  • Hydration stations with Nuun and water, in paper cups
  • no food or gel on course
  • street portions were closed to traffic, lake from path had recreational use (bikes, walkers, runners)
  • lake front path had trail / gravel to run on in sections
  • Free race photos
  • Not many spectators, but TNT coaches were along the course
  • Lots of volunteers
  • course well marked, even the turn around on the grass.
  • Finish on the 50 yard line of Soldier Field

This year they switched to Nuun hydration, I personally don’t care for it, but it’s not as mainstream, so at the first water stop I heard volunteers yelling “Gatorade” -I just shook my head…there were also some stations where the Nuun and water were in different cups, but some in the same cups.

I will never be a fan of the McCormick Tunnel, and with it being the main artery to many races in Chicago, I have yet to figure out why they can’t add more lights, it’s too dark and not safe. At least the potholes, for the most part were filled in. I just need to come to terms that this tunnel will always suck.

My Race: I just wanted to finish, I was coming off a crazy weekend of running for the United Relay, and this was going to be my first race of the weekend. Josh and I were headed to Madison, WI for a 10k that night and a half the next day. It was also warm and humid.  I didn’t push it, but kept a nice steady pace, finished in a time of 1:41:55. I wish I had brought some Gatorade along, as I was starting to get a headache after this race.

Post Race / Finish: The big draw for this race is running into the bellows of Soldier Field, then crossing the north end zone to finish on the 50 yard line. This year Beyonce was in town, and had a concert the Friday night before the race, and then again Saturday night. The concert staging was set up, and the entire field was covered with concert protection.


Instead of running into the north end of the Stadium, to then cross the 50 yard line, once you entered the stadium this year, you ran alongside the field under the stands, then entered the field to zig zag to the finish, which you would assume was on the 50 yard line.

When you cross the finish, a member of the military places a medal around your neck.


The finisher’s chute and overall area is in the south end zone, while it’s encouraged you move along to the tailgate party, it is ok to snap a few photos as you collect a bottle of water.  Most spectators of the race can observe the finish in the stands.


Once you proceed off off the field and through a tunnel, you are given the option to chose a cup of Nuun.  There is no re-entry into the stadium, must decide if you want to watch finishers or go to post race party. There were service members available for a photo. Also on the way out was gear check, to pick up your bags.

Once outside the stadium, finishers were handed a plastic bag, pre-filled with chips, a mini Clif bar and a banana, easy to carry all the things. Volunteers were also handing out a cold wet towel. There were a few vendors with samples on the walk to the tailgate party, and the BTN was there with a slip N slide.

I was not impressed with the finish this year, it seemed like we were running forever inside Soldier Field, and once we were on the field, there was no field, all concert stage, and you were not headed towards the jumbo tron, until you crossed the actual finish line. Hopefully next year the place wont be over booked.

Josh found me at the finish line, and because it was hot, made sure to grab some bottled water. We took a few pictures and exited the field We were excited to get the post race bag, but were disappointed when it lacked in items and it wasn’t re-usable.


Tailgate Party: The party had a lot to offer, there was a live band. Clif bar, picture opportunities, post race massage, spin to win, skin cancer screenings. You could also redeem your beer ticket on your bib for a 312 in a can. There were no chairs, but you could sit in the grass, shade was available.


Josh and I found fellow Pro Kim and Hawkeye fan Jake, as we waited for Heather and Marge to finish. It was nice to listen to the band. I really wish races had actual places to sit afterwards, but we found shade, so that was good.

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Overall: The price is a bit steep, but a flat course and scenes along the lake make it a fun race to start summer. Finishing on the 50 yard line of Solider Field is cool, but only if nothing else is going on inside.









Chicagoland Spring Marathon

It was time to conquer Marathon #5 for the “Marathon a Month” Challenge I have created for myself.  The Chicagoland Spring Marathon!

Yes, 2 weeks after my last race…but this one was relatively close to home, and fit best into my schedule.

Josh, was along too, he was running the half. Also since we were near Chicago, I got to say – hey – to one of my #brf ‘s Heather. (thanks for takin the pic Josh or was it Dan?)


The 2016 event took place on Sunday May 15 in Schaumberg, IL. It was sunny and cool, about 50 degrees, and the wind picked up through the day. Race started at 7:05


Registration: Online through the website, started near $50 ish increased to race day pricing of $95. Included was a unisex tech 1/4 zip pullover, you had the choice of color; timing chip on personalized bib.

I feel when I registered, I only paid around $50-$60 dollars, which is a great price for a full marathon.

Expo/ Packet Pickup: No true expo, packet pick up was held in Hoffman Estates at a sporting good store. You could also get your packet before the race at the start. Someone else could get your packet with a signed wavier. Packet mailing was available through online registration for an additional fee.

Josh and I got our packets mailed to us. It cost $15 each, and they arrived the week before the race. The race sent an email that it was on the way. It included our pullovers, bibs and a re-usable bag.

Pre race: The race started near an office building. There was parking near the race start for free, but needed to be aware which lot you were in, as you couldn’t leave them as some were on the race course. Lots of port-o-potties were lined up, there was last minute packet pick up. The music was pumping on the loud speaker, however no speakers in the slower corrals. Participants to line up according to pace, flags marked this. There were pacers, but only up to 4:50. No National Anthem.

We stayed a hotel within a half mile of the starting line, so we just walked to the start. However the hotel was stringent on their check out times, noon….(thankfully I was able to use their pool shower when done.)


Josh and I run different paces, so he lined up near the front, being in the back I was worried I was missing an important announcement. I was also planning to run slower than the last pacer, and the course was open for 6 hours…so I just started in the back.


Something new I think I will add to my recaps, the gear I had with me, just to help me remember what works. I had my Orange Mud Hydraquiver Vest pack 1, water, pretzels, fruit snacks, xx2i Hawaii1 sunglasses, Survivor Buff, B1G hat, BR short sleeve shirt, Sparkle Athletic donut skirt, Adidas 7″ shorts, Pro Compression socks, Brooks Ghost 8, and a Moving Comfort bra.


Race/ Course: The majority of the course takes part in the Busse Woods Forrest Preserve.
-Terrain – paved roads or paved bike trail. The trail in Busse Woods is narrow
-Scenery – once in the woods, there are trees, elk, water, but start/finish have not much too see unless you are into things such as the WGN radio transmitter
-elevation – FLAT!!! there are some bridges, but no steep climbs
-spectators – few and far between, unless you have family out to cheer you on
-Aid Stations – water and orange (self mix) Gatorade in the same white paper cups- no food, some gels
-Volunteers – lots on the course, including many police officers at non crucial intersections on the woods
– photographers – pictures for purchase or free to download
-mile markers – each mile marked with a yard sign
– bathrooms on course – including park bathrooms
– out and back sections – great to cheer on others, easy to cheat

My race: I had a nice time, with a few hiccups along the way. I didn’t have a huge goal, but to finish and with the cool temps that wasn’t going to be a problem. While I was happy with my 5:15 finish time, I could have done better.  One hiccup was even though the paved trail in the woods was scenic, it was also not closed, it’s a forest preserve, and public so there is some strange permit thing. This meant at mile 17, I encountered a 5k, and I hit just as the walkers with strollers were taking over the entire path. I spent mile 17 & 18 navigating through this, and mostly running in the grass mush on the side, I might have wasted a lot of energy on this. Also I like orange Gatorade, but I had to ask via email to find this out as the website said “sports drink” was on course. The race was no frills, and maybe I raced that way, lol.


Finish/ Post race: Before you cross the finish line a live band is playing some rock cover tunes to greet you, then you run under the arch and cross the timing mat. A volunteer hands you a medal ( beige ribbon, silver triangle shape) and a bottle of water. Then you turn back around for the post race area. Food included – bananas, granola bars, peanuts and cookies. Cups of orange Gatorade and bottled water. There was a backdrop set up to take photos and you could listen to the band.


I finished near the back of the pack and there was still enough food for all, even saw non runners getting food. The live band made the quiet finish party – a party. The medal wasn’t really flashy, the shape itself was about the only exciting thing.

Overall: It’s a nice race, and running in the woods is a nice treat from the bustle of the Lake Front Path and McCormick Tunnel. All the volunteers were friendly. If you sign up early the price is right, and I do like the pullover.

Did you run this race? Put your thoughts on

Hot Chocolate 15k Chicago – Recap

“Disclaimer: I received entry into the Hot Chocolate 15k to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!”

The Hot Chocolate 5k and 15k was held in downtown Chicago, on Sunday, November 8, 2015. 7:00 am. Cool, 40 degrees, sunny.


Registration: This was available online. It started at $54 and increased to $79 until registration closes. The race is capped, so you might not have been able to register at packet pick up. Included with registration, bib with your name, zip up gender specific sweatshirt (embroidered if registered early), bib chip timing, drawstring bag, post race chocolate goodies, finisher’s medal. If you registered with a promo code you would have received a multi functional head wrap. There was also a 5k and a separate walk, at different costs.

A few days before the event there were only 225 spots left, and when we made the packet pickup on Saturday, it was sold out, but you could register for a charity spot.

Packet Pick-up / Expo: There were multiple opportunities to pick up your packet. Starting Thrusday at the Hyatt Regency on Wacker and going through Saturday. If you were unable to make these dates you could have arranged to have your stuff mailed to you, but had to do so before a certain date at there was a fee. There was no race day packet pick up.


The expo had a lot going on. It was in the lower level of the Hyatt Regency. When you entered a volunteer was handing out chocolates, and directed you to pick up your bib. There were many bib stations, volunteers waving pom poms when their station was open. You could show an ID or your confirmation email, and you were given a bib only. From here to claim the remainder of your “goodie bag” (sweatshirt) you had to walk to the opposite end of the hall. The goodie bags were divided between men and woman, and embroidered and non embroidered (had to look at bib to see what to pick up.) The sweatshirt was in a plastic bag, and you were encouraged to go to the “try on” station before opening that bag, if you needed to make an exchange. Available if that size was available.


There were many areas to the expo. You had the Hot Chocolate organized events: bibs, goodie bag, registration information and the food. This race only had marshmallows with chocolate on them and hot chocolate. This area didn’t seem too crammed.


Then there was the traditional expo happening, and this area seemed cramped. The sweatshirt exchange was in this area too. You could visit vendors, get samples, take photos, spin the wheel and sign up for other races. There was also a large area to buy Hot Chocolate branded merchandise.

The location of the expo could have been tricky to get to. There was construction on one surrounding street. I am not certain if there was parking at the hotel, it was a very congested area, both inside and out. This is also my second hot chocolate event, so I felt that there were food options missing. Also I was with my friend T, she had signed up for the promo multi-functional head wrap, she was never given it when she got her bib or goodie bag, no mention of it. Luckily she remembered to ask about it at the information table, and the way she asked and the fact I was standing next to her in my Bibrave shirt, I was given one too.

Pre Race: This event is held in downtown Chicago, you should plan ahead for a parking plan. There are ramps in the area, but traffic can be a pain, but you could take public transportation. There were many port-o-potties available near the starting area. Gear check was available, using clear bags provided. Participants were seeded to start the run in 2 waves and multiple corrals, up to letter W. The first wave started at 7:00, and the second wave was to start at 7:45. To gain entrance to the corrals and gear check, runners had to cross the corral area. At each gated entrance there were volunteers checking bibs. Corrals closed at certain times


There were many pre race announcements and loud music. There were monitors set up displaying video. The National Anthem was performed live and the race was underway, one corral at a time, with a few minutes in between.

The entrance system into the corrals was congested. By having to cross the area of the corrals to get to the backside, it just made for some weird logistics. I also observed many scaling the fence on the closed side of the corral to gain entry, this fence scaling was not monitored and I saw a corral J bib in my corral C. Also there are a lot of participants, so those in the later corrals were on their feet a long time before they were able to start.

Race/Course: The course was on the paved streets of Chicago.

  • pavement/asphalt – lots of man hole covers, uneven spots, patched spots
  • first mile or so on lower wacker, run through McCormick tunnel, between tall buildings – not fun for the GPS
  • photographers – but only near the finish
  • All miles marked, a clock was at each
  • Water and “Gatorade” on the course. In paper cups, there were 2 different style cups, however each stop was different, just needed to pay attention to what it was. “Gatorade” was usually first
  • Chocolate on course – first stop was chocolate chips, then a strawberry marshmallow, then m& m’s, then a chocolate marshmallow. (hope I didn’t forget one) However, I missed the marking that chocolate chips were ahead, and missed the stop as I wasn’t prepared to stop.
  • Very few spectators – especially for an event with tens of thousands of runners
  • Flat – some minor inclines, but nothing major
  • Scenery – some nice parts, some boring parts, mostly city type landscape, no running near the lake.
  • Course markings – I never saw any spray painted marks or arrows, or a volunteer telling me left or right, but there were orange cones. At one point with a small out and back, you could have cut the course.
  • Volunteers – All intersections were marked with a volunteer. The aid stations had very energetic groups helping (it looked like they got swag too)
  • Bathrooms – I noticed none on the course
  • Timing mats for splits

I totally read the map wrong, I was excited that it was not running near McCormick, boy was I pissed when I got close to the tunnel. I get that it’s the easiest way to get from point A to B, but how does this continue to be the most dangerous thing??? There is even a sign for cars to turn on their lights, It’s dark and there and potholes galore! Easy to turn and ankle or trip and fall, especially when the light is blinding you as you exit. So, add some freakin lights and fix the holes, if races must use this. If I never run it again, it will be too soon! Otherwise the course was fine, could have had some better markings with chocolate stations, and course markings ( I just followed the crowd) I only drank the water on course, notes about the “gatorade” later.

Post Race: The finish was easy to find, there was an arch and timing mats, as well as lots of photographers. Once you crossed the line, a medal was handed to you, and you could grab a bottle of water. The finishing chute was long, and we continued to walk, and passed the Sport drink flag, and were offered yellow colored “Gatorade” After you passed this point, you could claim your gear check items, but you still weren’t at the post race party at Butler Field.

The post race finisher’s party was at Butler Field. There was music, t-shirts, sign up for “X” promos & free samples. This is also where you claimed your finisher’s mug all the way at the back. There is no tables, seats, or shade in this feild. There was sign near the finisher mug pick up to not stand or sit in the area. With a lot of finishers’ the area was crowded.


The finisher’s mug is a plastic divided cup item. In the center there is hot chocolate, then surrounding it, there is a banana, marshmallow, Rice Krispie treat, pretzels, fancy chocolate roll treat, and chocolate fondue.

Runners could reunite with their friends and family members in this area too. There were letters stationed so you could pick a spot.

Oh Butler Field, such a nice wide open space to hold post race events, but it seems like you have to walk 56 miles after the race to get here. Also maybe some picnic tables or an area to sit, or step aside would be great. Many rave about the finisher’s mug, while it’s a unique item to receive, I am usually on chocolate overload at this point. Also it’s hard to hold the water bottle and this mug and have no where to be/sit, to eat the items. However it’s nice some items are wrapped and I can eat them later.  Also the free samples and such had lines, people are rude and don’t wait in the lines, and would rather budge.

Ok, I also think I noted this in my Hot Chocolate St. Louis review, I really don’t think the “Gatorade” on the course is Gatorade, it taste’s like lemonade because it is super sweet, and doesn’t have that electrolyte after taste. I know I can’t be the only one.


Overall: I don’t mind Hot Chocolate races, they are not a race designed to set a PR, or run a serious race, but rather a fun time. It’s nice to get a sweatshirt, medal and chocolate as something different.  However they can be crowded. If you want to have fun with friends, these events are perfect for that.


Personal: People ask me how was the race, I say, it was just another race. So, not sure if I am burnt out, or just over the crowded scene, or need a break from Chicago. I didn’t have a bad time, just little things that drive me nuts. I wouldn’t not recommend the race, just not sure if I would run another without free entry.

Results: 1:30:46. I had to look and my St.L time was 1:29.

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Chicago Marathon 2015

Sunday October 11, 2015. 7:30/8:00 am. Windy, Sunny. Race start in the 60’s ending at about 80 degrees.


Registration: The Chicago Marathon is a HUGE event, over 45,000 runners, unless you have a qualifying time or are running for charity, you need to enter a lottery and be chosen to run. If you are chosen, you are notified by email, and then given some time to decide if you want to run. The cost is $185, all done online. Included is a bib, chip timing, short sleeve gender specific tech shirt, post race beer, and post race “party”.

Gone are the days you bring your money on race day, sign up and run.

Expo/Packet Pick up: This event was held at McCormick Center, which is not easy to get to on foot. There is parking, but for a fee, and validated to around $10. Many shuttles around town provided to get there, or public transit was available.

  • Packet Pick up – only the participant could get the bib. No one else, no mailing options. Volunteers directed you to a person scanning your mailer or an email, which brought up your information on a screen/tablet. From there you were directed to a numbered station. At this station the volunteer already had a screen up with your information and the envelope with your bib.
  • Shirts – To get your shirt you had to then walk to the back of the expo space, but easy to navigate as there were signs posted overhead. The shirts were organized by gender, then size, a scan of the bib envelope, and you were given a shirt, in your clear gear check bag.
  • Virtual Bag – a few days before an email was sent to each participant as the virtual event bag, allowing you to claim offers and discounts.
  • Vendors – anything and everything. Sign up for races, spin the wheel for items, sign up for items, purchase shoes or race apparel, buy last minute fueling things, take photos, meet people, commemorative merchandise, posters, freebies. The place had it all. Plan for a an entire day to check everything out.
  • Volunteers – there were tons of volunteers, all very happy and eager to help.

Josh and I were on a whirlwind weekend, more about that later. However we didn’t have much time to spend at the expo, If I do this again, I will plan to check things out. We wish that packet mailing was an option, as we had to drive in just to grab our packet. Picking up our packet was the easy part. We were able to meet with Celeste & Dan with Motigo, Patrick with the Hot Chocolate race, and of course BRP Heather was there and her mom Marge. Also signed up for a chance to win a Grandma’s Marathon prize pack.


Pre-Race: The race is so huge that not only are there corrals, but there are 2 waves at the start. To get to each corral there are 3 entrances, and everyone has to pass through a security check point. Runners are encouraged to get to their corrals on time, otherwise they will be closed, and you have to start at the back of the corral. An each corral, volunteers were checking bibs. Three gear check tents were available, corresponding to bib numbers. Before the first start, the National Anthem is sung live. Once the race was over, there were announcements, and music over the loud speaker. Then each corral in the first wave goes, then the second wave corrals start. There were lots of port-o-potties around the start, but there were long lines. Parking was available, but it’s Chicago, nothing close, and nothing free, public transit encouraged.

Also each participant was kept in the loop with this race, lots of emails leading up to race day.

If you are in the first 3 corrals, great, you don’t have to hurry up an wait. You get to start running the race. However I was in Corral H, nothing wrong with that, it just takes a long time to start. I believe I started somewhere near 8:40 ish, which is an entire hour plus later. Which is also that much more time on my feet, standing around in the corral. Also, the corral entrances had bib check security, this did nothing for people just opening fences and getting into the corrals, especially for those who weren’t running. I am not sure this kind of thing happens in the fast corrals, but seems like a lot of people, just moving in and out in the back of the pack. It was also a cool start, so I brought a throw away shirt to stay warm, others did this as well, but instead of throw to the side, lots of clothing items were tripped upon on the way to the start. I also understand with so many runners, this is how the start has to be, so how about we start at 6:30 then, and just keep people moving.


I was also able to meet up with Paul, from NC, who I have been helping raise money with my headbands. Then of course I met Heather.


Race/Course: The marathon goes through 29 some neighborhoods on the streets of Chicago. First traveling north and back, then west and back to the south, to finish back where we all started.

  • Surface – Pavement or asphalt, lots of hard cement!!! Had to keep an eye to the ground, some potholes, or railroad tracks, places to trip you up, uneven areas.
  • Elevation – flat, ok there are some hills, like crossing bridges or going under overpasses, but no steep climbs.
  • Volunteers – lots of friendly volunteers of all ages, most were at the aid stations.
  • Medical – near almost every aid area there was a medical tent, near this there were cardboard Vaseline stops.
  • Aid Stations – These were almost 2 blocks long, paper cups with lemon-lime Gatorade first, then different paper cups with water. Up until about half way it was hydration only, then the later stops had some gels. Finally by mile 20 there were bananas. 2 stops with wet sponges. Spectators with make-shift aid, candy, pretzels, beer, etc.
  • Spectators – the entire course is lined with spectators. Some only looking for their runners or pre occupied on their phones. Lots of great signs & cowbells. Some spectators with food.
  • Photographers – MarathonFoto on course, stationed in many spots.
  • Course Markings – Each mile was marked, each marker had a clock. There is also the blue line, or the tangent line, which marks the entire course.
  • Bathroom – port-o-potties on course, each time I saw one there was a long line. One church had a sign opening bathrooms to runners. Some medical stops had bathrooms for medical staff only.
  • Scenery – City-scape, tall buildings, architecture, neighborhoods, US Cellular Field.
  • Timing – there was a mylaps strip on the back of each runner’s bib. There were mats on the course for runner’s to be tracked.
  • Course limit was 6 hours and 30 minutes.
  • The temperature was rising to close to 80, and there wasn’t a lot of shade on the course, unless provided my a tall building, which wasn’t a lot near the end.

Capture chi

I struggled with this race, for one it’s all pavement, and I had just done a trail 50k, the cement attacked my feet, which were in so much pain at the end. It was also pushing 80 degrees when I finished, which also isn’t good on a course with not much shade. Or maybe it was too flat and my muscles needed to have some climb or something that the constant pounding on the flat pavement. I wasn’t undertrained, I wasn’t well rested.

I had problems with my Garmin, I hit start, and due to who knows what, the first mile buzzed after 5 mins, which was not a mile, then the second mile at 7 minutes. At 2 miles, I reset the watch, it was still doing it, but I kept it on. It was throwing me off. I was then using the mile marker clocks to estimate time and pace.

I was basically running alone which is fine, and I knew where one person would be throughout the course, I was happy when I ran into Marge, Heather’s mom. However I struggled with the spectators, I had a logo on my tank and my hat, which makes it easy for people to shout and yell, yet I think I had one or 2 special shout outs. There were so many spectators on their phones, or only cheering for the runner they were tracking. Also this could be just my weird thoughts, or the placement I was in the race. Yes the course is lined with spectators, but it’s like they could only clap for who they knew. Maybe I excpeted more as I was a spectator last year and had a blast. However, it seemed at the end, when my feet were toast, and I was walking, then they were concerned, or felt the need to pick me up.  I liked that, but I knew the problem and knew I would finish, there was no doubt. ( I also know that everyone experiences a different race, I’ve heard others who didn’t have issues with this)

ATTN other runners, lets learn something, DO NOT STOP in the center of the course!!! Please go to the side and raise your hand. So many just randomly stopping or walking in the center. There are too many people for this to happen. Oh and the stopping to take photos with your spectators, then posing in the race course, ahh have some respect for those that are moving. Only once did I hear a volunteer tell a texter to move to the side. 

Also wasn’t sure why spectators were on the tangent line in some spots.

There are a lack of port-o-potties on course. With the long wait in the corrals, by the time we were at the first underpass, the sides were lined with men peeing. I am not stranger to this at a race, but usually there is a tree line, not the cement. Then at every toilet stop, until about mile 14, there was a crazy long line.

The volunteers are awesome, at the last aid stops, there were many announcements about keeping hydrated, to take that drink. The race organization itself is top notch, just some people are stupid. 

Even though I struggled with people on the course, I do want to thank everyone that cheered me on virtually/social media. Whether it was a good luck on twitter, a message through facebook, or your song suggestion for my play list (which I used as needed, as you could run the course with no music) I felt all of you as I ran through Chicago, THANK YOU!

Finish/Post Race: The finish was marked with a “Finish” banner above the street, lots of photographers and a timing mat. Once across the line, participants were handed a bottle of water, then after some more walking, a medal was hung around your neck. The medal has an image of runners with the “bean” in the background, there are no words on the ribbon.

Then after some more walking, a bag with some post race pre packaged snacks. Then a heat sheet, even though it was about 80 degrees. Then after some more walking, a banana (choice of one already peeled, or one sealed) Then a 312, draft beer, no ticket required. Then a wet towel. Then some walking and bags of ice. The last tent had some Gatorade post fuel stuff.

Then after about another half mile,passing by a bank of port-o-potties, a flight of stairs, you had arrived at the “post race party” and family meeting area. There were tents with giveaways, medical rents, information tents, lettered signs for post race meet up, rolling, post race massage, 312 beer (first free with ticket, then available for purchase) a band, banks of port-o-potties. There were no shade tents, unless you were a charity runner. There were security to get into the area and security posts throughout.


I finished in 5:13:16, I was aiming for 5 hours, but my feet and the heat got the best of me.

By this time, my feet were in so much pain, I just wanted to be done moving. The walk to the finish party was insanely long. On my way I saw fellow BRP Laura, who had finished, but wasn’t feeling to good, I was just happy to not be moving while we chatted.  The flight of stairs was almost a joke at this point, I just wanted to sit down and put my feet on the bag of melting ice I had in one hand. I was also excited to reunite with Josh at the “M” sign. I was happy I already had a cold 312 in one hand, maybe that is how I powered through this LONG walk.

I made it to the “M” sign and met with Josh, who had an amazing race and set a PR. I immediatly untied my shoes and put my feet on ice, relief!. I was glad I got the heat sheet to sit on, as the picnic tables were limited. Nothing like sitting on the ground after a marathon. I was also using my cold towel to provide some shade. We sat and did nothing, maybe even dozed off. We were in contact with Marge, and she told us about Heather. We  waited for her to finish.

It was 3:30 they kicked us out of the party, the band stopped playing music at 3. We made our way out, grabbing some freebies, and searching for water, which wasn’t easy. We were concerned about Heather as the heat bothered her and the official finishing time was over.  We made it back to the finisher area, and found Heather with a medal!!! WAHOO she finished!!!! 

Overall: This is World Marathon Major, it’s a big deal race. It’s also a big race. I am glad I did this once, not sure if I would do it again. It’s pricey and the start is a hassle, if you prefer to get to a starting line and go. The race organization is top notch, and there are no major pains, just stupid people. Also I think most of my problems are just my personal preferences. I also think with my racing background, I have enough ground to base my opinions and know what I like.

*Personal: Josh and I had a busy weekend. Due to the packet pick up situation. We drove into Chicago Thursday night and stayed at an Airbnb, we had a great experience with that, and Ubered around the city. We met up with Bart Yasso Friday morning for a shake out run and coffee. We spent about and hour or so at the expo and got back in our car and came home.


There was a home Iowa football game on Saturday. After the game, we got a pizza to go, and got back in the car to get to Chicago Saturday night.


We got to Chicago by 9pm Saturday night and were ready to get a good nights sleep before the race. Well the reservation through was interesting.  The place was an apartment building, to get our key, we had to go to someone’s apartment. The old building was cool, and it was clean, but that is about it. When we got into our room there was no queen bed as promised, but 2 twin beds. After some words, and being told it was not a hotel, we tried to get some sleep. However because it was an old building no city noise was blocked out, and we were right next to the “L”. At some point we realized we did not have any extra TP in the room too. AHHH!! We had a marathon to run.


We woke up, and went to our pre-race plan, coffee and bagels, luckily there was a Dunkin around the corner. Yes the room had a 12 cup coffee pot, but who travels with coffee and filters? Anyway, we both made it to the start on time, but were sleepy.

We ran our races…. then met up with the BibRave gang for post race fun. We made it to the Goose Island Tap Room before they closed, and claimed the virtual bag glass. Then we ubered to the Haymarket Brewery, and I had some amazing fries. I was exhausted, not hungry. So much fun hanging out with others!


By the time we got back to our room, I crashed, no problems sleeping that night.

Then we took an extra day Monday so we didn’t have to rush back. The first stop was celebratory donuts at Glazed and Infused, I had heard so much about them, we had to stop. They guy also gave us free coffee!!.


We thought we would take advantage of the free medal engraving. We were planning on hitting the Fleet Feet location when they opened, but I was in search of a finisher’s pullover, so we stopped at the Nike store. This was the best thing we did. I snagged a jacket, and we got our medals engraved all before there was a line and the jackets were gone. In the 15 minutes we waited for the medals, we were invited to a lounge for some juice and bars. It was a nice event.


Before we headed out, we also wanted to claim another virtual event bag item, the small Garrett’s popcorn. Well everyone else had this idea too. There was a serious line, but it kept moving and we were on our way. Oh a small bag will last 3 days!


Will we back, I don’t know…I have spectated and ran, maybe I should volunteer next?


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Fort 2 Base 10NM – 2015

“Disclaimer: I received entry into the Fort 2 Base to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!”

Sunday August 23, 2015. North Chicago, IL. 7:00 am. Cloudy, 60 ish & humid. Rain in the area.


There were 2 races, the 10 nautical mile and 3 nautical mile. Point to point race, the 10NM started at Fort Sheridan and ended at Great Lakes Naval Base. They both started at the same time at different points.

Registration: This was available online or you could send in a form postmarked by August 1st. Participants could register at packet pick up if the race was not sold out. No race day registration. The 10 NM race started at $40 and topped off at $90. Military participants were given a discount. Included with registration was a gender specific, short sleeve tech shirt, a bib, finisher’s medal, and shuttle to the start.

Packet Pick Up/ Expo: There were multiple pick up options. There were 2 different running store options days before the race and you could get your stuff on race day at the starting line. Someone else could grab your bag, just need your bib number. No true expo.

I was in the midst of our crazy running weekend, and I wasn’t too excited about waking up super early, so fellow Pro Heather grabbed our packets at our hotel. 

We all crashed together in the race hotel. It had shuttles to the start, packet pickup (yet I have yet to figure out how they knew you were staying at the hotel, if you didn’t contact them) a runner’s breakfast and late checkout.


Pre-race: As mentioned this is a point to point race. Participants needed to grab a shuttle bus or ride to the start. There was parking at a local college to board the bus, and shuttle ran up until 6:15. The lot filled fast, and parking became limited. Once on the shuttle, it took about 30 minutes to travel to the Fort. Once arrived a the starting area, port-o-potties and gear check were available. Runners were told they could not have go pros and no photography was allowed.


As the race neared, pacers lined up behind the starting line, all the way up to 14:00 min/mile. Then the National Anthem was sung live after a few announcements.

Heather, Josh and I met up with fellow pro’s Tom and Kati for a pre-race picture. We had a few minutes to mill about the parking area near the start. IT was a laid back start.


Race/Course: From the fort to the base, connecting via the Green Bay trail.

  • all paved surfaces, no major potholes
  • miles marked with banners
  • photographers on course, mostly near the end
  • relatively flat, one big hill “Hero Hill” near the end. Military personal stationed here, yelling encouraging words or pacing you as you ran up. Even yelling military chants to military runners.
  • many hydration stations, all in paper cups. Gatorade was in separate colored cups.
  • Very enthusiastic volunteers, mostly military personnel
  • no food on course
  • very few spectators
  • lack of port-o-potties on course
  • lots of security on the naval base

I enjoyed the flat course, but it was great to have the hill near the end, to give the leg muscles a change. It was also super cool to have encouraging words and pacers on Hero Hill. There was a Chief behind me and the pacers were encouraging him to keep moving forward as he walked the hill, then they went into a military chant. I also got to run most of the middle section with fellow pro, Tom (with so many pro’s it was nice to get to know him more.) Also I don’t live in Chicago, but I have done 3 different races, it was very refreshing to not have to run the Lake Front Path or through McCormick.

On a note about the security on the Naval base, it was fine and I understand it’s an active base, I did feel like “Big Brother” was watching. 

It was also cloudy and there was rain nearby, but being a point to point race and the way the rain moved through, I never got rained on. However depending where you were on the course, some did get wet.

Also I was so confused, I thought the entire time I was running north to south, but when we saw Lake Michigan for the first time, I said “The Lake is on the wrong side” LOL We ran south to north, no wonder… I am someone who likes to know where they are, or what direction I am heading.


Finish / Post Race: The finish was easy to find, with finishers chute, clock and archway. After you crossed the line, runners had medals placed around their neck by active military personnel. The medal had the Fort on one side and the base on the other. Bottle of water and/or Sobe Life water in a bottle was handed out. The food “buffet” was set up under a tent, including a banana, pita chips, granola bars (4 different kinds) popcorn, and cracker jacks. There was a lot of land for the finishers to hang out. Power bar had samples, a local company had lemonade. There was a DJ and merchandise tents. You could exchange your shirt for a different size.  Some awards were given out.  It was also very easy to watch finishers. I didn’t notice any port-o-potties.


Then you had to catch a shuttle back to your car, from a map it looked like you could walk, but in reality, no idea how you would get there. The line to catch the shuttle was long, but moved quickly.

It was a nice finish, with a lot of food. However it was conflicting as no photos were to be taken, yet there was a sign posted about all the social media outlets for the race. Not sure if this was to tell runners to check out the twitter, instagram or facebook pages or post photos to those pages? Also with so many food options, it would have been nice to have a bag, or something to put everything in. Ok so maybe I don’t take one of each thing, however try to hold a banana and Cracker Jack box and open your bottle of water.

Overall: This is a nice race, new scenery to run in the Chicago area. I would make sure to register early, to pay an affordable price. Also fun to end at the naval base.

Personal: This was the last race of the weekend for me. I did not run a great time, around a 2:05. I had also forgot my watch, and for a while I wasn’t sure if the mile markers were in actual miles or nautical miles. Either way, I finished and enjoyed the course. 

At one point during the race I saw Beth Salinger, who was the RD at Hospital Hill, so I knew I wouldn’t have any problems. However the weird sizing on my shirt made sense, it was the same too big for me shirt I received in Kansas City, lol

I was also happy to meet up with some new pros and hang out with Heather again. She made our trip possible, so we could do the 3 races for the weekend. Staying at the hotel was the best thing we did, it had so many great things for runners.


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See what fellow pros Heather and Tom had to say.