Monday, May 31, 2010

Fleet Feet Soldier Field 10 Presented By Adidas

Saturday, May 29, 2010. A picture perfect morning on Memorial Day weekend to honor the memories of those fallen soldiers who sacrificed to ensure we have our freedom. The Fleet Feet Soldier Field 10 Presented by Adidas. A ten mile race which would begin just outside Soldier Field, run south on Lake Shore Drive, then return back towards the stadium ending up on the field with the finish line at the fifty yard line over the Chicago Bears logo. This was the third straight weekend I would be racing in an event and the second one I would be guided by Michael Crissie who gained plenty of confidence for this race by guiding me for the half marathon on May 16. It was another 4:30a.m. wake up call for a 7:30a.m. start time. Michael and I arrived at the stadium one hour and a half before the race. We walked around. He described some of the booths set up by the various sponsors. We looked for Justine Boney of Fleet Feet Chicago, the race organizer with whom I had worked to ensure Michael and I could run in this event. Frequent readers may have already figured out that a regular theme is my having to first reach out to race organizers of all the events I wish to race to explain how I lost my eyesight as a teenager, was active prior to that life changing moment, have remained active since, and how I wish to race in these events, but I must find out what restrictions and accommodations may allow my participation to take place. Where most people can read about a race, have a desire to race it, then register, I do not have that luxury. At least, not presently. After reaching out to Fleet Feet with my story and questions, Justine graciously responded and worked to ensure I and a guide would run in this event. Michael and I walked around, but could not find her. Accelerated Rehabilitation had a booth set up where runners could go for a pre race stretch. Michael and I took advantage of this. I had my quads and hamstrings stretched out by Amanda who when she realized I could not see then began asking about how I am able to participate in road races and triathlons. I explained about using a guide and how there are different options of how one could lead and she was amazed at the difficulty yet simplicity of making this happen. After the stretching, Michael and I walked over to the start line. We took our place, listened to the pre race ceremonies, then waited for our time to run. It took a while to get going as there were 10,000 runners in the event. To my best recollection, this is the largest field of any race I have done to this point. The one concern I had was how long before Michael and I would be able to find some running lanes or space to operate without having to worry about clusters of runners boxing us in for long periods. I assumed it would probably be about the third mile before we would be comfortably running. By mile three, we could not break loose. Michael did his best to weave us through people constantly guiding me to the left then quickly right then left again. Some seemed annoyed by this as they shot Michael dirty looks upon us passing them. This is yet another difficult aspect of guiding. Most people can see an opening and sprint to take it. Guides must find an opening big enough for two or figure out ways to maneuver in single file formation through a possible opening without getting hurt or in any way upsetting other runners. I would accidentally hit people with my leg or arm as we passed, but I would quickly apologize. Some were understanding once they saw Michael and the tether guiding me, but others did not realize that I could not see or did not care and simply shot us angry or disgusted stares. We made it to mile five, the turn around. We needed a quick break. A woman, Amy saw us and laughed as she asked, "What's the rope for? Is it so you don't lose each other?" Well, kind of. I explained that I could not see and she began to joke around with us. She mentioned that she will be racing the Rock N' Roll Marathon on August 1 and maybe we will see her out there if we do the race. After the quick stop to take care of business, it was time to head home to the fifty yard line. Refreshed and ready to rumble we picked up the run once more. At some point in the seventh mile, Michael was continuing to work his magic of weaving us through the crowd when I did not quite clear passing a woman on my right. I stepped on her heel, hit her on the back of the leg, and put my arm into her back. She let out a startled shout and I quickly apologized various times. At first she was clearly angry, but when she turned and realized I could not see, she quickly informed me that she was okay. As Michael and I passed her, one of her friends made a comment to which she said, "It's not his fault. He can't see." The friend then remarked, "That's amazing. I'd like to get into good enough shape to do that. It must be so rewarding to guide a blind person through a race." She went on, but her voice trailed off as Michael and I sped away. When we reached the ninth mile, we heard an announcement that the organizers had canceled the event due to severe weather. It had become too hot so we were asked to walk the rest of the way. We slowed down to a job, but while many listened, others kept racing so Michael and I picked up the pace too. Along that final mile, officials and police instructed us to stop running, but we were so close that we pressed on. We reached the tunnel only a couple hundred meters from the Soldier Field playing surface and once more, we were told to walk, but we kept running. We reached the field and Michael voiced a concern that they might not let us sprint to the finish line. Sure enough, we pretty much had to job it in. With the final straight away on the field and broadcasted on the stadium jumbotron, we had hoped to close the show with a dead sprint. We crossed the finish and received our finishers' medals. Even if we could not sprint to the finish, we were on the field where Dan Hampton and Walter Payton once shine. We met Steve Blair of Stewart's Coffee. I joked around with him about Bob T and after all these years of hearing Terry Bores and Dan Bernstein on WSCR 670 The Score talk about the brand, I finally tried a cup of Stewart's. It was delicious! We walked back to Accelerated's booth and this time, Noel, gave my quads and hamstring a sweet stretching. We had a solid run and I credit Amanda's pre race stretching that for the first time that I can remember, my quads and hamstrings were loose and did not tighten up all race long. In fact, for the first time ever, I did not feel any soreness or tightness in my quads and hamstrings all day long and even the next day. Again, it is a credit to the stretching. I will have to do that before every race from here on out. This was the first time I had run the Soldier Field 10 and I so enjoyed the experience that I hope to be back every year. Again a special thanks to Michael Crissie for guiding me and Justine Boney of Fleet Feet for helping me through the process to ensure I was there on race day. Three races in three weeks seemed a bit challenging, but now that they have come and gone, I am hooked on the idea of scheduling as many long distance and challenging races on consecutive weekends. I am a bit sad I do not have another race next weekend. It is so much fun to be out there with others. It is so wonderful when organizers step up and are willing to work with me so I can run in their events. It is so great when friends or boyfriends of friends volunteer to guide me and assist in giving me some special memories.

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