Saturday, June 13, 2009

How Did This Happen???

Remember a few weeks ago when I said I was starting to feel like a runner again?

Since that time, I've turned into a full-blown running nerd. Or back into one, I should say.

My alarm buzzed at 5:55 a.m. (which is actually 5:40 a.m., since I set my clock 15 minutes fast) and, after stuffing my face with an egg sandwich, I threw on running clothes and hopped on my bike to my first CARA marathon training run at Montrose Beach.

Montrose Beach, looking north

Montrose Beach is north of my apartment near the edge of the border between the Lakeview and Uptown neighborhoods. The beach is generally less crowded and "tamer" than North Avenue Beach, which on a good day, can rival the beaches of Panama City during spring break season. It's also considered a great beach for dogs, since they're free to roam without leashes.

When I arrived at Montrose Beach with a friend, we easily found the group of CARA runners. There were a number of stakes in the ground with various paces, and "master of ceremonies" was on a short ladder with a microphone telling us to stand by our pace for the day. A few minutes later, paceleaders arrived at our stakes and divided us again -- into those using the novice, intermediate and advanced programs. CARA definitely has its sh*t together.

Despite the slightly cool weather and drizzle, my first run with CARA couldn't have gone any better. Even though my "jogging" pace is slightly faster, and my "moving" pace is even speedier, I ran with the 8:30-minute pace group. (Marathon experts recommend a slower pace for weekly long runs.) Like Goldielocks, the 8:30-minute group was "just right." For starters, the actual pace felt great. We moved along at a good clip, and I easily passed the talk test. Water and Gatorade were provided twice along our-and-back route on Lakeshore Drive.

Socially, the experience was more than I could've expected and hoped for. I randomly knew my pace group leader from my summer serving job near home, and the group of five or six of us -- including the pace leader, another gal my age and a few dudes -- that ran up front were chatty throughout the run. We stuck together for all eight miles, stretched afterwards and made plans to meet at Montrose Beach on Wednesday for a workout of hill repeats -- something I haven't done since I was a college athlete! Yikes! Like I said, I'm easily turning into a huge running geek.

For those of you running the Chicago Marathon or any other and may be considering CARA or another training group, do it. Less than a week into things, I'm realizing the training and social benefits that I wouldn't have on my own. On top of that, CARA is encouraging, and adding to, my love of running rediscovered.

I'm so glad I'm doing this.

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