Kate Bongiovanni, a TOC contributor and the former Windy City Sports managing editor, reflects on Sunday's hilly 13.1 miler in the Chicago 'burbs.
Thank goodness Saturday wasnt race dayand that the race started at 8:35 a.m. instead of earlier like those summer 1/2s that have 6:30 a.m. starts to avoid the heat. Thats all I could think Sunday morning when I stood at the start line for the March Madness Half Marathon, organized by the Hillstriders Running Club, in Cary, Illinois. That Saturday snow would have been all I needed to tell me to stay in bed race morning and throw the $35 race fee out the window (as some friends did when they saw the weekends forecast). The cold I figured I could handle, after all I spent most of frigid December trying to stay warm while coaching a half-marathon program and I loved the chilly temps at the 2009 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Yet I still had warmer expectations than the feels like 25 degrees I read on weather.com when I put on my running clothes. Or at least I did when I registered back on New Years Eve. But at that time there was no time to worry about the weather, you had to have the do-it-or-die mentality or be SOL until next year (registration closed less than five hours after opening at midnight on NYE). At least if you missed out this year, you still could run the Shamrock Shuffleand maybe if I had realized I had to choose one over the other thanks to the way the calendar fell, I would have chosen shorter over longer.
It was gray, windy and a brrr-inducing 35-degrees on Sunday morning. In other words, an especially un-spring-like day to usher in running season with an 4.97 mile run. But the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K still drew a record number of runners25,561. Among them were Kenyan John Kemboi, 19, and American Tera Moody, 29, who rocketed ahead of the field. Kemboi broke the finish-line tape in 23:39 in his first race on U.S. soil. Moodys 27:21 victory marked her second Shamrock Shuffle win (and she took second place behind Deena Kastor last year). A native of St. Charles, Illinois, who currently lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Moody won the 2007 event in 27:09. I have been battling some injuries, so I didnt know until this morning if I was going to run, Moody said post-race. It wasnt extremely cold, but it was windy and that slowed me up in the last few miles. I had such a blast though and just wanted to soak up and enjoy every moment."
Check out a slideshow of the event on TOC's main blog by clicking here.
Even if the forecast wasn't predicting cold temps and snow flurries on Sunday morning (it is), we'd still advise you to celebrate completing the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle with some hearty post-race grub. Hit one of these spotssome of our favorite weekend eats near Grant Parkafter you bank your five miles. You've earned it!
The Gage (24 S Michigan Ave, 312-372-4243)
Stay in the shamrock spirit and order the Full Irish breakfast off the brunch menu (eggs over easy, Rashers, black and white puddings, sausage, tomato, beans and toast). Or, if youre ready for lunch, go for one of The Gages aggressively flavorful, rich mainstays like the Gage burger, dripping with melted onion marmalade and gobs of Camembert. Toast the fact that you got up early and ran a race with a cold brew from the lengthy beer list. We can taste the Goose Island Matilda already.
Beard Papa's (108 N State St, 312-960-9000)
Cream-puff aficionados have been making due with paltry eclairs for a long time in this city. But no longer. Beard Papa's, the Japanese cream-puff chain, now holds court in the Block 37 pedway. The brilliantly airy cocoons of choux pastry hide a copious amount of vanilla custard cream, enough that once the shell is broken, walking and eating is out of the question. A bag of travel-friendly mini puffs could suffice if you must rush home and change out of your sweaty clothes. Who cares about the caloriesyou just ran five miles!
Cafecito (26 E Congress Pkwy, 312-922-2233)
We know its not noon yet, you should still get your hands on one of this caf's ridiculously good Cuban sandwiches: The Cubano's crusty bread is toasted just right, its roast pork juicy, its pickles thick, and its mustard and gooey cheese plentiful. And once it's devoured, only a potent cortadito will keep you from calling the caf's comfy couch home for the rest of the day.
Mercat a la planxa (638 S Michigan Ave, 312-765-0524)
At Jose Garces's colorful Spanish spot in the Blackstone Hotel, signatures like garrotxa-stuffed cipollini onions and spicy housemade pork sausage make enough of an impact that you'll believe Fiorello's claim to be something very different from a "run-of-the-mill tapas bar." For brunch, find cured meats, sandwiches and all of the traditional dishes you expect on a Sunday morning menu. That includes cocktails too, because seriously, you deserve one!
Yolk (1120 S Michigan Ave, 312-789-9655)
No matter how cold and grey it is on Sunday morning, itll be bright and sunny in this blue-and-yellow, breakfast-and-lunchonly spot. Enormous omelets like the fluffy Californiafilled with copious amounts of avocado, tomato and green onionare good standbys, but don't discount the quirkier fare: "Bacon waffles" add bits of bacon to waffle batter for surprisingly tasty results. For lunch, the patty melt is a greasy, cheesy, delicious messexactly what it should be.
Thanks to daylights savings, today's beautiful sunshine and spring-like temps in the 50s, I finally feel like running season is around the corner. And, it is! Sunday 21 kicks off seven solid months of 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons, marathons and everything in between with the annual Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle, where 36,000-ish hearty souls will run 4.97 miles. In the Chicago 'burbs, even heartier souls will run 13.1 hilly miles in the annual March Madness Half Marathon. Kudos to them for training through the cold, icy Chicago winter. Missed the sign-up deadlines? (Um, the March Madness Half sold out hours after registration opened at midnight on January 1, so yeah, you probably did.) No sweat, there are dozens of races coming down the pike this spring. Check back for updates and direct links to race registration.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="Deena Kastor"][/caption]
For an article in this weeks issue, I had the sincere pleasure of running with Olympian marathoner Deena Kastor and some of her Mammoth Track Club teammates (including Olympian Ryan Hall) high up in the snowy mountains of Mammoth Lakes, California. Now, I say running with, but to be more accurate, Deena was in the midst of a snail-slow 10-mile recovery run from her previous days 20-miler and I was sort of sputtering along, breathing heavily and trying to get out a grunt here and there to show I was still alive as she cheerfully carried the conversation. What did we talk about? How her husband, Andrew, did his first triathlon last summer. She said he was passed by 10 year-olds during the swim, but then rocketed through the bike and run to take first place overall. She was obviously impressed with his tenacity. Speaking of being impressed, I am very impressed with how this 100-pound sprite of a woman eats. (And drinks! She loves her red wine.) Check out a typical day of eating during her training for the London Marathon on April 25, below.
6:30am Wake up, eat breakfast: half a cantaloupe, cottage cheese and a blueberry-walnut scone
7am Walk Aspen, my chocolate Lab, for about two miles
8am Andrew, my husband, stretches me on the massage table and gets me prepared for practice.
8:30am Meet my teammates for practice
9am Warm up and drills, then a 10-mile tempo run [a fast-paced run that acclimates the body to a speedier clip] with a cooldown
10:30am Drink a Cake Batter Muscle Milk, my favorite postrun beverage!
11am Home for an ice bath
11:30am Eat lunch: Asian dish with last nights leftover rice (I add two scrambled eggs, sesame oil, spinach, peas, tamari and top with toasted sesame seeds)
Noon Massage from Andrew
12:30pm Drink a homemade smoothie with banana, frozen wild blueberries, yogurt and flax seed
12:45pm Nap for a couple of hours with Aspen
2:45pm Eat a goat-cheese and fig-jam sandwich on rosemary bread
3pm Take a Spanish lesson for one hour
4pm Drive to lake and let Aspen fetch sticks in the water while I sneak in a cold foot bath
5pm Meet my teammates at the gym for hurdles, weights, medicine-ball throws and plyometrics [jumping and skipping drills that strengthen leg muscles and improve running form]
5:30pm Run five miles
6pm Eat a before-dinner snack of apple with almond butter
7pm Dinner at Restaurant Skadi: bread with olive oil, mixed green salad and soft-shell crab. Andrew and I catch up on our day.
8pm Answer a couple of e-mails
8:30pm In bed