Race Recap: Polar Dash 10K
Better late than never.
The inaugural Chicago Polar Dash Half Marathon and 10K was set to go off on Jan. 14. Then the forecast turned to crap and the Chicago Police Department made race organizers pull the plug and postpone it for a week. Booface.
The change meant Adrea couldn’t make it up to Chi-town for the race. Major bummer. I’m sure she was just one of many who couldn’t do the race for one reason or another — traveling, other plans, what have you — and of course, no refunds.
Wasn’t the point of the Polar Dash for it to be cold and snowy?
Well, guess what, CPD? The postponement only set the stage for an even snowier, polar-ier race. And I gotta say, it was awesome.
About 8 inches of snow had fallen Friday afternoon into Saturday morning, and it was still snowing when we arrived at the start/finish on the south end of Grant Park. Although Adrea couldn’t make it in from Cincinnati, I still had my friend Will (of Cross Country Challenge 8K fame) to commiserate with.
Pre-race was smooth going. There were ample warming tents, plenty of port-o-johns and a well-organized gear check. (By the way, I’ve literally never had such a jam-packed gear check bag: extra shoes, pants, shirts, socks, gloves, hat. Good golly.) With temps in the upper-teens, snow and 10 mph wind, we opted to stay in the warming tent as long as possible before the 9:30 a.m. start time.
The course wound down Chicago’s Lakefront Trail past the museums and McCormick Place. Hang on. This looks familiar. Oh wait, that’s right, it was virtually the same course as the much-maligned Chicago Spring Half Marathon (aka The Most Miserable Run of My Life). I had to laugh.
The first two miles were log-jammed. The trail is narrow as it is, let alone when there is 8 inches of snow on the ground and 1,400 runners (it took me 4 minutes to cross the start line.) I encountered a couple of slippery spots, but it wasn’t too treacherous. I warmed up nicely and was pleased with my outfit choice: fleece-lined tights, mock turtle-neck base layer, my new envy-inspiring hooded Lululemon jacket, tech glittens and an apropos polar bear ear warmer.
It was an out-and-back course, and the first half of the race was into the wind and snow. I actually had some accumulation on my jacket. I also got nailed in the eyeball by a few flakes. Julie Andrews definitely wasn’t a runner because, as it turns out, snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes are not one of my favorite things when doing a 10K.
Once the pack started thinning out, I picked up the pace. I felt surprisingly great. I hadn’t really raced since the Chicago Marathon, so I was pleased with how I pushed myself to negative splits without overdoing it. After all, it was the first race of the year, and more than anything, I really just wanted to enjoy myself.
It was a strong finish (I may or may not have listened to “Till the World Ends” by Britney Spears three times in a row). Though, I couldn’t help but feel bad for the 741 half marathoners. They basically ran the 10K course twice, which meant they passed the finish line and then went out for another 6-plus miles. That’s gotta be a real mental kick in the pants.
After the race, there were stations with hot cocoa, food bags (string cheese!) and water, and the warming tents were still rocking. It was funny to watch the steam rise off everyone as we changed into dry clothes.
Oh, and I almost forgot: Instead of race T-shirts, we got half-zip fleece pullovers. I’ve pretty much been living in mine since after the race on Saturday. Absolutely love it.
All in all, it was a great inaugural event and I plan to do it again next year. I do have a few suggestions for future incarnations:
- Race photos: There was a race photographer on the course — and they posted a couple hundred pictures on Facebook — but it was not the whole enchilada that Brightroom or Marathon Foto would provide. I think that with a “novelty” race like this, a lot of people would want to buy their photos. Look into it. (And yes, Will and I are a little salty because we’re not going to see our horns pics. So sue us.)
- Packet pickup: It was fine once I got there, but I tell ya, getting to Michigan Avenue in the middle of winter is a big ol’ pain in the arse. If you’re absolutely adamant about not having race-day pickup, maybe have one day of pickup downtown and another day somewhere else in the city/’burbs.
- Pre-race music: Guess what, guy? I know it’s freezing outside. I don’t need to hear “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” Try playing “Heat Wave” or “Hot in Herre” next time.