How Do You Rock? Chicago Women Rock Race Recap

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Chicago Women Rock was my second race of 2015, but the first all-womens race I’ve ever done. That is really light, considering I used to run a race just about every month. But I’m making changes to my racing budget and doing more things with my business, thus racing is not as high a priority. I volunteer for races sometimes locally, as Atlanta is never short on a race. But I now prefer to do mostly destination races instead of repeating the same ones locally. So I headed to Chicago on the eve Chicago Women Rock, which was held on Saturday, September 19.

 

EXPO

 

I arrived in Chicago 4 pm the day before the race. It was gray and had just started raining when my flight landed. It rained very hard, almost nonstop until just before my 10K started the next  morning. Traffic was horrible, and I had a slight ordeal at the rental car office, but thanks to Google Maps, I finally made it to the 63rd Street Beach House on Lake Shore Drive about 40 minutes before the expo was to close.

This was the smallest expo I’ve ever seen. I only recall a few vendors: race tees & socks, Nissan and a company selling pretty headbands. I went to the back of the hall to find the table set up with volunteers handing out jackets and bibs for this race as well as the Monster Dash 5k.

A lady in front of me in line was kind enough to tell me I had to know my bib number to pick it up. Well, I received exactly two emails since I registered, which were the automatic confirmation of my payment back in July, and a promotional email 2 days ago about a different race. She said I had to go to the organizers website (Team Ortho) and confirm something to look up the bib number. Turns out they found my bib using my name, and handed me a small envelope with the bib and safety pins. On the back were detailed instructions about placing the chip on your shoe, but it was the bib that had the timing chip. There was nothing in the packet about where to park, start times and locations, Porta potty/water stations–zip.

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I got in a second line to pick up my awesome jacket. Let’s face it, that was the last influencing factor in me flying my fam to the Chi to run in the cold 🙂

Then I went to find someone who I could ask a few questions about race logistics since none were in my packet. Parking is what causes me the most anxiety the night before a race in an unfamiliar city, so I made sure I had that info.

It ended up being a long evening driving in the pouring rain, so I had McDonald’s as my dinner around 10 pm and only slept about 5 hours.

 

RACE DAY

I headed to the race with my fam early and arrived around 6:20 am. Another race was in progress (probably the full and/or the half) but thanks to my sister’s disabled parking tag, we were able to find a spot in a lot across the street from the beach house and near the pedestrian walkway without circling. I paid the pay station $2.25 for 3 hours with my card. However some folks struggled because the signs said it took coins, but would not accept them. Pay stations aren’t the responsibility of the race organizer, but parking logistics factor into the race experience, so to me, it’s worth mentioning.

Sitting in the car without it running, we weren’t cold. But as soon as you opened the doors, you couldn’t hide from those gusty winds. I shot a few brief Periscope videos as I approached the start line and waited, but I stayed cold until about mile 2–including my hands. It was about 61 degrees, so I was surprised.

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I didn’t hear any announcements, so I didn’t know the 10K was actually starting until the crowd started moving. The race was on a trail, and crowded as usual in the beginning. No way could you really run on your side of the trail without getting caught behind people walking.  People would just stop running and walk abruptly in front of you, and if they were with a friend it was worse. Stretching across a trail to walk or run with your friends is discourteous. I also noticed LOTS of folks on this trail with us who were NOT a part of the race, just getting their exercise on. Overall, not a lot of room. My daughter asked if I’d think it was funny to men running in this race.  I told her, I did, and I wasn’t amused.

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The course was not very hilly, just a couple of small inclines–nothing like what I did in Utica (I did the Utica Boilermaker 15K in July) or what I’m used to in Atlanta. We started off running away from the shore and looping back in the first mile, and then passed the start line to run along the shore for the rest of the race. Somehow my like-new Saucony towel fell off my belt and I never saw it again, even after looping back.

Finally around 8 am, I saw the sunshine for the first time since arriving in the Chi. That, the skyline in the distance of the crashing waves, and the high fives from the volunteers at the loop point were the highlights of the race. There were very few spectators, no music, and 1-2 water stations. During my last 1/2 mile, I started seeing women in the 25K passing on the other side (that race probably started at 8 am).

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Upon returning, I got a small bottle of water and a medal, and then I did another Periscope video and took a picture in front of the logo backdrop. I wondered aloud where I could get a banana or something to chew on, and saw women coming out of the beach house with glasses of champagne. I went inside, and the place was packed. I ripped off the tag on my bib to redeem my glass, and also got in line to pick up two bags of potato chips. Had I not seen the ladies with their glasses, I would not have known to go inside. No one ever told me about that offering, not even at the finish line. And no bananas. 🙂

Women Rock champagne glass with bubbly

I don’t repeat races, even if I liked them, but CWR wasn’t my favorite race. My daughter overhead someone using very strong language about how much she hated it, but I wasn’t there to hear the context. My pros (+) and cons (-):

+ Saturday race (better for travelers than Sunday)
+ Nice jacket (you didn’t have to run to get it, expo pick-up)
+ Good signage along course
+ Pretty, scenic course along the shore with views of skyline at times
+ Friendly volunteers

– Fall weather (rain and extreme wind) is disconcerting if you’re not used to that kind of weather
– Course too crowded during whole race, non racers included
– Very poor communication with race participants before, during and after the race about logistics and offerings. I had to go back to website to review what to do, yet I got an email with my results in a timely fashion.

You see that I have more pluses than minuses above, but let me be clear: the last 2 cons weighed more heavily with me than all of the pros put together.

coastline with Chicago skyline
The rest of my weekend in Chicago was nice, and I got to spend a day with my cousin whom I have not seen in 15 years. So although the race was not my favorite, my trip was not a bust.

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View from Riva Crabhouse at the Navy Pier

 

This was my second trip to Chicago, and I will come back for more fun in the future.

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Me being silly in the lobby at the John Hancock Building

Have you ever ran an all-womens race before? How did you like it?

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