Back of the Pack Podcast

Bad Angel guest blogger extraordinaire Chris Willis sat down with the fine folks at Back of the Pack Endurance to talk about his incredible blog post thanking back of the pack runners. (If you haven’t read it already, go do it RIGHT NOW.)

Listen here and enjoy (Chris comes in around the 29-minute mark)!

Getting Away on a Getaway

Kara-GoucherUpon my return from a weeklong family vacation in Florida, Maggie asked me, “What was the best part of your vacation?”

I said, “This is going to sound weird, but it was the running.”

“No,” she replied, “that doesn’t sound weird to me.”

Allow me to explain.

Since my husband and I don’t live near our families, we take vacations to go see them. And while it does mean that we get to spend time with family on vacations, it also means that my family can help with our kids so my husband and I can have some rare alone time.

And for us, the best way to spend alone time is to spend it running.

1960011_10100712641797254_5360235824791002871_nOur last day at the beach, we rolled out of bed and headed to the beach for one last spin through the sand. It was a beautiful day with light wind. The sun shone brightly, and the beach was just starting to show signs of fellow tourists. We left behind the headphones, so our soundtrack consisted of crashing waves, squeaking seagulls and our own mindless chatter. We stopped to admire sandcastles, looked for silver dollars on the shoreline and even spotted dolphins dancing in the distance.

I was a pretty perfect little run.

I guess the reason I felt “weird” (re: GUILTY) about identifying this as my favorite part of vacation was because I had just returned from a really nice family trip. So I felt like a bad mother by pinpointing the time away as my favorite part.

But, as Kara Goucher wisely stated, “That’s the thing about running: your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success. They are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life is.”

And that’s exactly how it was for me on vacation. Running was the time to myself that helped me appreciate all of the other things I lose sight of when I’m in the daily trenches. And for that, I am grateful. — Aidz


Race Recap: Chi Town 10K 2015

I spent 2014 busting out PRs left and right, and it felt fairly incredible. I became faster, stronger, even happier. I was proud of myself, proud of the way I rose to each challenge and recorded more notches in my racing belt.

Then last weekend, I busted out a “reverse 10K PR” — a.k.a. my slowest 6.2-mile race ever — and I still felt completely victorious. Fancy that.

My finish time at Saturday’s Chi Town 10K was 17 minutes slower than last year’s PR at the same race and 7 minutes slower than my previous 10K reverse PR (2012 Polar Dash, in a snowstorm).

Saturday’s race wasn’t about time goals, though; it was about running 6.2 miles without literally limping to the finish.

Coming back from injury has been difficult, to say the least, and I’m still not healed. But I needed this race to prove to myself that I truly am on the road to recovery.

Mags Chi Town 10K 2015I didn’t have my usual pre-race jitters, and I lollygagged a little getting down to the start line. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been less nervous about a non-goofy-5K race. I was excited about returning to the Lakefront Trail for the first time since marathon training, and despite the brisk-bordering-on-cold early-morning air, it was a beautiful day for a run.

I made my way back to the 10- and 11-minute start corral, and my ego took one on the chin as I pined over the Ghosts of Races Past, when I was way up front with the rabbits. Then I told my ego to shut the hell up, stop worrying about the past and live in the now (as Garth Algar would say).

I glanced down at my Timex watch as I crossed the start line: 8:22 a.m., 7 minutes after the gun went off. After that, I just ran. My ego would crop up every so often when someone would pass me, and I’d forcefully remind myself that it didn’t matter. I checked my watch a couple times to estimate how much longer I’d be running (the miles were not, shall we say, very clearly marked). I reveled at the new construction and paving on the trail. Damn, it HAS been a long time since I ran here.

My pace was steady, and the pain stayed away until about mile 4, when my left hip flexor started to feel little sore. Sonofa. It wasn’t awful, though, and all of my other “problem areas” felt fine, so I pressed on. Endurance-wise, I felt surprisingly strong — especially considering that I just started running regularly three weeks ago after five months of very little cardio of any kind.

When I reached the final stretch, I picked up my pace and picked off a few people to beat (hey, it WAS still a race), and I finished with a smile.

I hope all my races this year have the same happy ending. — Mags

ChiTown10KSwagA few notes about the race:

  • There were nearly three times as many runners for the 10K and half marathon races this year. Plus, they added the Deep Dish Dash 5K to the mix (which only had 50 finishers, but still). So much for my quaint little neighborhood jaunt. (I’m guessing it’s because everyone read my NBC Chicago Stride post, in which I sang the event’s praises, so I really only have myself to blame and/or congratulate.)
  • When we reached the Lakeshore Drive underpass near North Avenue beach at mile 3, a shouting volunteer informed us there was knee-high water in the tunnel. Um, what?! So we were re-routed out to LaSalle Drive and met back up with the course. It turns out, a pipe burst after the race started! Race organizers said it happened so quickly that the water in the tunnel was only inches deep when the lead runner went through and it was impassable just a couple minutes later. (My friend Troy was with the 8-minute pace group, and they trudged through ankle-high water). Volunteers and race organizers acted as quickly as they could, and police got in position to re-route runners through traffic. All told, it added .12 miles onto the half marathon and 10K courses. Never a dull moment, kids!
  • Once again, thumbs up on the race swag. The medal is fast becoming one of my favorites, and I also enjoy the light-weight zip hoodie race shirt.

Run Like Angels

971318_10151540349438366_1619364113_nLast year, I took a trip to Madison, Wis., with Maggie and our friend, Sara, for our first destination race and girls’ weekend. The night before we ran the half marathon, we had a delicious dinner and walked over to the finish line of the Twilight 10K to garner a little inspiration for the morning.

After all, what could be more motivating than watching runners cross a finish line?

What none of us expected was that we would watch runners at this 10K finish line with tears streaming down our faces.

Sure, there were the standard, normal, ordinary runners you find at any race. But the Twilight 10K also offered the three of us our first encounter with myTEAM TRIUMPH.

MyTEAM TRIUMPH pairs athletes with disabilities (called “Captains”) with able-bodied athletes (called “Angels”). In a race, Captains provide the inspiration, while Angels push and pull their Captains. By providing support, mentoring relationships and the chance to cross the finish line, physically-challenged athletes become whole through sports.

Last year, we watched as disabled athletes of all ages and sizes reminded us just how special it is to cross the finish line of a race. I saw a little girl about the same age as my daughter with beautiful pigtails and a huge grin on her face as the crowd roared and she rolled through the finish. A few minutes later, a teenager neared the finish line in his chariot. His team of Angels slowed down, helped him up, and he walked the final steps over the finish line on his own wobbly legs.

I can’t even write about this now without misting over.

Well, THIS YEAR, Sara has decided to run the Twilight 10K as an Angel herself. And why not? We are Bad Angels, after all. It might be nice to actually do some good.

Here’s where you come in! You can help Sara raise money for this inspirational charity. It’s fast, easy and secure — and it’s a wonderful way to share your love of running with someone who would not be able to experience it otherwise.

What do you say, Angels? Let’s help these Angels fly! — Aidz


Sixth Time Around

Even though I’m still gimpy and recovering from a litany of problems stemming from bursitis in my left hip, I registered for my sixth Chicago Marathon this week.

IMG_3546My finishing time last year was good enough to earn me a guaranteed entry, so I didn’t have to wait out the lottery process.

And, you know, I can’t NOT run the damn thing. It’s just too awesome and too important to me.

(Side note: I’ve also applied to be a pacer for summer marathon training with both CARA and CES, so here’s hoping one of them accepts me!)

Registering this time around felt different. It wasn’t the grand, momentous action it had been in years past. It felt familiar and far less nauseating, but there was still that split second of hesitation before clicking the “submit” button to pay my $185 and commit myself to another summer of early Friday nights and even earlier Saturday mornings.

Because I’m coming off a major injury, I might not be able to train as hard as I did last year — or as hard as I want to — so that thus-far elusive BQ likely will have to wait another year. And that’s OK.

Either way, the Chicago Marathon will still be waiting for me in the fall, a trusty old friend with whom I spend the second Sunday of every October. — Mags