Race #2 down!
John and I decided to head over to the expo on Friday after work since he had a performance the following day (we didn't want to risk feeling rushed). Though public transportation is definitely the best way to get to Navy Pier, I would highly advise using Park Whiz to reserve a spot if you are driving. We prepaid $15 for valet service which would normally have costed $24! I think regular parking at Navy Pier is already $22 so Park Whiz is a huge discount.
After walking what really may have been a whole mile (seriously, perhaps they should make a 5k out of the packet pick-up?!), we finally arrived at Navy Pier's Festival Hall for the Fitness and Health Expo. I don't have many expos to compare it to but it was certainly dead on a Friday night (as was the Hot Chocolate race). Packet pickup took less than 10 minutes and there was a shirt exchange. Speaking of the t-shirt...I was totally bummed. Come on, Bank of America! I understand you are a corporate sponsor but there was not a speck of green on this shirt. Not only was there no green on the shirt but it's white. I don't have any problem with a white shirt but the color of the shirt itself was the number one complaint by women and men alike (hello sports bras and chest hair).
In terms of vendors, there were some energetic folks who were really trying hard at the expo. Some vendors were already packing up! We got there at 5:50pm and some vendors closed up shop for the night even though the expo was open until 8:00pm! Perhaps Saturday is the way to go. BUT, there were a few nice perks so I have to give those vendors credit.
How lucky we were to have such great weather! It was 34 degrees when I walked out the door but after the winter we've been having, it felt like a crisp spring day. The sun was shining and there was a gentle breeze.
The Shamrock Shuffle this year featured three separate wave starts to help facilitate the 40,000 runners. By the time I arrived for my third wave start, the first wave had just been released. We got a glimpse of some super fast runners as the train rolled on by. And just as easily as I got to downtown, I found my corral and hopped in 5 minutes before closing.
Courtesy of Google and someone else's handiwork.
I felt very strong through the first 3 miles and regained some spark after the first and second aid station. Tempted to walk after the 5k marker, I promised to maintain my "easy yet brisk" pace at least until mile 4. And there at mile 4 were Carolyn and John cheering me on! (John could not participate due to an ankle injury) I definitely need that boost because can I just say again how much I hate the last mile? That last stretch of Michigan Avenue up to Roosevelt is brutal.
But lo and behold, there I was at the finish line. Major breakthroughs for me on Sunday - my first time running an 8k, my first time running those 5 miles without stopping for a second, and my first time running that entire distance at a faster pace. [Drops mic]
When I crossed the finish line, I certainly felt as though I could have kept going another mile or two. Though my goal was simply to finish - and I was very pleasantly surprised that I took a slightly more brisk pace - I was a little disappointed that I didn't "gun it" at the end, especially because I was still feeling good. But hey, you live and learn and all the more reason to push for a PR next year!