Packet pickup at the Running Right store was such a breeze. I actually recently started working in Highland Park, at least part time, and had a half hour lunch break that was more than ample time to drive to the store, check in, get my stuff, chat with the lovely race director, and get back to work with enough time to stuff some food down my throat before getting back on the clock! I'm starting to love picking up race packets before the day of the race... Originally I preferred race-day pick up because the races were typically farther away, and it wasn't logistically possible or intelligent to go so far out of the way. Now that I'm being a little choosier about races, and taking location into consideration a little more, I'm finding myself able to grab stuff early and be fully prepared to pop out of the car and run on race day.
I also get cute "flat Amanda" pictures out of it when I can lay out all my
race gear the night before. Makes me feel mentally prepared, too!
Rainy race mornings are perfect examples of why early packet pick up is such a convenience. I parked right down the street from the starting line, and didn't even get out of my car until five minutes before the gun. Just like last time, the race organizers gave a great pre-race speech, including reminders to the many walkers to start in the back instead of giving the front runners more obstacles around which to weave. While that message will never get through to every walker, I did see quite a few people who were right in front work their way towards the rear, making room for the lead runners. Thanks walkers! You'll never know how much that elite group (or anyone running for a PR, for that matter) appreciates your consideration!
We started exactly on time, which was a feature of the previous Cupid's Love Dash that had really impressed me. Anyone who has ever run a race on a day with adverse weather conditions will understand the importance of starting on time! Every extra second spent waiting in the rain is excruciating, so I was thrilled to be moving quickly. I struck out at what I hoped would be a fast pace - only to experience sharp pains in my shin about three steps past the starting line! I have no idea why I suddenly was hurting, especially since I was wearing my new, fitted-to-my-foot-and-stride shoes that had yet to give me any problems. I hoped the pain would wear off quickly, but was stuck with an aching shin for the entire race.
Once again Carpe Diem chose a scenic course through Highland Park, looping down the quaint main street to start before weaving through residential areas for the majority of the race. This time, however, there was an unexpectedly steep hill along the final mile, but somehow I managed to gut it out with minimal trouble! In fact the only spot on the course that gave me any issues was a particular intersection about a tenth of a mile from the finish: despite seeing many runners traveling down the street, an elderly couple decided to wait until the moment I was in the intersection to pull out and turn right into the middle of the course! They even made eye contact with me before (and during) their dangerous turn, and honked at ME when I hit their bumper mid-dodge. Fortunately I was able to get out of the way without injury, but it was definitely a little scary!
Certainly glad I bundled up a bit for this one... I didn't PR,
but a solid performance considering the weather
and the hill on the course!
I love any race that gives everyone bling for finishing, and I especially love any race that has a nice food tent afterwards! While Embrace the Race didn't have the piles of delicious candy that Cupid's Love sported, there was plenty of food to go around, and Muscle Milk was on the scene giving away full-sized samples. Thanks to the weather, it didn't seem like many runners were lingering too long at the after-party, and to be perfectly honest I don't blame them. I chatted with the race director briefly before grabbing some Muscle Milk and heading to the warmth of my car, but despite the rain I left with a smile on my face, and that tells me it was a good morning!
Organization: Easy breezy packet pick up, an exact on-time race start, and plenty of after race goodies are just a few of the organizational highlights. Carpe Diem must have some amazing relationships with the city of Highland Park, because just as I noticed in February, every major intersection had police and race volunteers keeping traffic at bay and encouraging participants. While I may have been unfortunate to experience a car on the course, we crossed a LOT of suburban streets, and it would be impossible to police every single intersection. Having the main crossings amply covered was impressive and more than adequate.
The Course: Beautiful Highland Park is a great setting for a 5k, and would be even nicer in better weather! I'm impressed by how well marked the Carpe Diem courses are, and by how the organization finds ways to keep runners running long stretches of straightaways instead of snaking us through a maze of city streets. The hill, which was not part of my previous experience with Carpe Diem, was definitely a step up on the challenge scale. Times may have suffered slightly (I'm sure mine did) but by adding dimension to the course, the hill helped make the race a little more memorable. And since this race was a bit of a training run for me (anticipating my Sunburst half coming up), it was an extra layer of practice for later!
Running Right provides reusable bags, always a nice touch.
The Swag: In February, I was impressed by the value of my entry fee. Not only did I have a great race experience, but I'd also received a tech material shirt and a finisher's medal. I'll admit this race's swag was a little less impressive, as the t-shirt was a standard heavy cotton shirt instead of a silky tech shirt, and there were no heaps of candy after the race! But I did still receive a finisher's medal (I do love me some bling), and the post-race food was plentiful even if it was not rife with chocolate and sugar. For a $30 local 5k, you'll definitely get your money's worth.
The Bottom Line: Another solid Carpe Diem race! I really like the organizers and the setting, and hope to continue seizing their race days as often as my schedule permits!
Any other notable races the past few weeks? How about the Soldier Field 10, how'd that one go? Do you have a favorite race organization that keeps you coming back to race after race every year?