My name is Jeff Koh and I am excited to start my year as a CARA Ambassador by sharing with you my race report on the January 26, 2019 10th Annual F^3 Lake Half Marathon & 5K presented by Physicians Immediate Care.
The end of the year is always a hard time for my fitness and training goals. I am coming down from training for a fall marathon (this year I ran through the national monuments in the Marine Corps Marathon). I’m juggling year-end deal closings with flying across the country to reunite with family over long, languid meals. And then there’s the prospect of training through the winter in Chicago: running in the dark on both ends of my workday, all that layering and laundry, ice on the lakefront trail.
Thankfully, Chicago is such an inspiring city filled with wonderful running and climbing communities. As part of my new year’s resolutions every year, I pick out the races I want to run and the mountains I want to climb. I travel for my spring and fall marathons (and volunteer at the one in Chicago in October). The rest of my race calendar is filled with classic Chicago road races (many of which are on the CARA Runners’ Choice Circuit: Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle 8K on March 24, Wintrust Lakefront 10 Miler on April 13, Soldier Field 10 Mile on May 25, BTN Big 10K). I race these every year with the goal of beating my time from the previous year.
To motivate myself to train through the winter, I signed up to be a pacer this year in CARA’s Winter Half Marathon Training Program, 12 weeks at 7:00 a.m. every Saturday at Waveland Park leading up to the F^3 Half Marathon. I have benefited from CARA’s training programs in the past, but I got really good at spotting puddles and ice patches and calling them out. My pace group offered great conversation, and their stamina pushed me to run faster and harder. (For those of you who are interested in running with a group, CARA Winter Marathon Training continues until late April (with speedwork offerings) and CARA Spring Half Marathon Training starts on February 25th).
The night before the F^3 Half Marathon, my friend Sarah texted me offering to bring over ski goggles. As a Chicago runner having trained through the winter, sometimes I try not to think too much about the weather too far in advance. The offer of ski goggles sparked a round of googling – hour-by-hour race day conditions, temperature, wind chill, precipitation – followed by looking up outfit recommendations. What to wear for 20 °F, 10°F, 0°F, and below. Trying not to be too cold at the start and yet not overly sweaty mid-race (which becomes clammy and frozen).
The race organizers had us gather at the United Club at Soldier Field, close to the start line. I showed up at 9:15 AM for the 10 AM race start, with plenty of time for gear check and warm up. I brought a duffel bag filled with all the layers I was going to wear, thinking I was crazy for wanting to run in 0°F weather. Seeing thousands of other Chicagoans just as crazy as me filled me with so much pride, and gave me so many new winter run outfit ideas. At the start line, announcer Dave Kappas (yes, the amazing baritone that kicks off so many Chicago races) told us jokes about how the cold would make us think twice before signing up for races late nights after several drinks. He also told us about the heat tents on the course, to stay safe and to turn around if we needed to.
The race itself was amazing – somehow the race organizers picked out a route on the lakefront that had enough slight uphills and downhills (in flat Chicago!) to keep things interesting. Aside from a short portion at the race turnaround, the route was well-salted and free of slush. The race volunteers braved the cold and kept the water and electrolyte drinks liquid enough to drink. There was a happening after party at Kroll’s, and it was great to see all the other runners let loose in race gear. With this being my very first long run of the year, I was able to keep pace for about ten miles before slowing down (I still beat my time from last year by over 10 minutes).
I am excited to start training for my 2019 mountains and races, and to see all of you out there on the trail. I will be wearing my personalized CARA ambassador singlet as much as I can, so please say hello if you see me out on the lakefront.