Category Archives: 5k Reviews

5k Review: Dirty Girl Mud Run

In January, as a way of motivating myself to keep up with my mileage for the year, I made a list of 5ks that I wanted to do. One of the first races I put on my “list” was the Dirty Girl Mud Run. By the time I had learned of this race last year, it had already happened, and I was determined to do it the following year.


I made an event right away in January, invited everyone that I knew, and got excited. I figured I was giving everyone as much notice as possible (I mean, six months? That’s a lot of notice!) and since it was taking place the day after my birthday, I decided this would be my way of celebrating my birthday this year.


Well, you all are LAME because they only person who actually signed up to do it with me was my BFF, Katie. Boo to you all. Boo.


Any way… We signed up for the 4pm wave, because I prefer to run in the afternoons. The 4pm wave ended up being the very last wave of the day, and it was a very tiny wave! In addition to our 2-person team, there was a team of maybe 8 girls and another two teams of two. It was like having the entire course to ourselves.

Pre-Dirty Girl Mud Run

Before the race!

Katie and I made our way through slowly. We did a little jogging, but we mostly walked between obstacles. This was partially due to the fact that we didn’t know how much energy we should save for the obstacles and partially due to the fact that the race ground was entirely uneven. If we were to run between every obstacle, there were a few places where I am sure we could have twisted an ankle or something. I’m talking deep grooves in the mud, loose gravel, and running on an angle. I think the ground between obstacles was more dangerous than the obstacles themselves!


I was anticipating the obstacles being really difficult, but they weren’t. The first was an inflatable– no mud yet– and I was scared on the way down, but mostly my fear came from someone falling down on top of me. I was nervous that I’d really strain myself, because I have such limited upper body strength, but I didn’t struggle physically with any of the obstacles. Some of the mud pits were chilly– the day was chilly– and the muddy water was gravelly. I have a hard time with texture, so mentally, I struggled with the texture of some of the mud pits.


Also, there’s a big slide towards the end– I was pretty excited about this one. Since Katie and I had the course to ourselves, we had one half of the slide each to ourselves. I thought this was a good idea until we got to the top– then we were both terrified. The slide was really high up, and there was a muddy pit at the bottom that you couldn’t tell how deep it was. I counted really loudly to three and we slid down– that was probably the hardest, mentally, to do!

After shot!

After shot!

At the end of the race, your shoes are pretty trashed. I had planned all along to donate my shoes at the end. I wore a pair of shoes that are a half-size too small for me, and even though we didn’t run much, I definitely felt how snug they were. I’m glad they’ll go to a developing country somewhere– complete with my Sweat Pink shoelaces. 🙂


We had a great time and I’m so glad that I did it. It was a lot of fun. The pros to the experience are all wrapped up in getting muddy and having fun with a great friend! There were a few notable cons to the experience though. Here they are:

-They didn’t have any small t-shirts left– which is pretty lame, because they have you select a size when you sign up for the run. If they can’t guarantee the correct size, they shouldn’t even ask for you to specify. I got a medium and hopefully it shrinks.

-I don’t know how they screen their volunteers, but there was a creepy guy at one of the obstacles that asked each of us: “You like getting dirty, don’t you?” in a super pervy tone of voice. I could’ve done without that…

-It was pretty cold for a late June day. The weather was chilly for most of the day, but by the time we went, the sun was out for most of the course. It would’ve been a little better if the weather was warmer, but it wasn’t TOO cold. The worst part was rinsing off with the ice cold water in the rinsing tent afterwards.

-They promise a “festival vibe” but that’s not really what you get. Yes, there’s music and MC’s… but there’s just ONE station for food and drinks and not much else is going on.

-Finally, I thought the obstacles weren’t that creative. They promise 12 obstacles, but a few of them were repeats. There were quite a few mud pits– which is fine– but a few of them were just kind of out in the open, and Katie and I were like, “Ok… so what are we supposed to do? Walk through? Crawl through? Mud fight?” I would’ve loved a few more challenging obstacles.


So there it is.

I’d love to do this race again, but there are two major things I’d change for next time:

1. Do it with a larger group. Katie and I had a lot of fun, but the obstacles aren’t that creative or challenging– but I think they’d *feel* a little more challenging if you’re doing it with more people.

2. I wouldn’t do the final wave. When I signed up, they had waves after ours, but I’m assuming no one signed up past 4pm, so ours was the last wave. Being in the last wave was both awesome and kinda weird. It felt a tad like a ghost town, and even though some of the workers still had decent energy- you could tell they were just waiting for us to finish so that they could tear down. Which is kinda silly.


All in all, I had a muddy good time! It was great, and I’d do it again.

Up Next: MRTT Summer Virtual Race: Running Mad!


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5k Review: The Color Run

The last weekend in May, I crossed off a race on my Bucket List of Races: the Color Run!

First, I must talk about the SWAG.

photo 1

I have never participated in a race with this level of swag. Included with the race price, you get a t-shirt and a sweatband, but when you pick up your race packet, there are TONS of additional items to purchase. There are tons of different shirts (which are super cute, by the way), and socks, sunglasses, shorts, sweatshirts, tutus, etc! It’s all rather reasonably priced, too. I purchased a pair of sunglasses (I chose PINK because I’m a Sweat Pink Ambassador) and I also purchased a pair of plain white knee-high socks. They had two other pairs to choose from– a cute striped pattern and polka-dots, but I thought I’d stick with the plain white canvas. {I snuck in some #sweatpink with my sunglasses and shoelaces, though.}

photo 2

Thankfully, this race was held right in the town that I live in (well, technically, adjacent-to) so even though it was a morning race, which I hate, I didn’t have to drive far or get up way too early.

I always have anxiety the night before a race. The anxiety isn’t about anything other than the fact that I have to wake up early the next morning. I’m not nervous about the race, I’m not nervous about pace, I’m simply dreading the early wake up call. This is why I prefer to run in the afternoon/evenings.

This wasn’t too bad, though. My body woke me up at about 6am, and I decided that I could allow myself a small cup of coffee. I wasn’t racing for over two hours, so as long as I drank a bunch of water as well, I figured I was alright. I also drank one of my Bolthouse breakfast smoothies.

{Quick side note: I should probably buy stock in Bolthouse. I tend to clean out the grocery store’s supply of Chocolate and Breakfast Smoothie every few weeks.}

It was really nice to not wake up to an alarm that morning, and to have some time to myself to relax. I left about 40 minutes before it was line-up time. My friends live about two blocks away from the race start, but I didn’t show up early enough to park in front of their house, apparently. I ended up parking about six blocks away from the race start.

I realized I had to use the bathroom the minute I got out of my car. That’s another thing about racing in the mornings– I have to pee like ten times. Especially before a race. I have a nervous bladder, I guess. So I stopped at my friends’ house anyway to use their bathroom, then I headed off to meet my bff Katie. I knew quite a few other people running the race, but I didn’t think we’d be able to locate any of them. There were a LOT of people there! I was used to races with lots of people, but this was in my small town in Wisconsin! Plus, the fact that everyone was wearing crisp white clothing from head to toes made the mass of people look even bigger.

Surprisingly, I was able to locate two friends almost immediately! We jumped in line with Kelly & Ryne and waited. The race was released in a series of waves, and even though we were in the middle, but towards the front of the pack, we were in wave eight or nine! The event officially started at 8, but we didn’t start until closer to 8:40!

photo 4photo 3

Once we started, I understood why they only allowed so few people through at a time. The race took us through downtown Racine, and portions of the track were pretty narrow. It was an all-ages run, so there were tons of kids and lots of different people running who had either never run a race before or just didn’t care very much about protocols or anything. I say that because even though it had been said multiple times across multiple mediums, people just stopped in the middle of the street to walk. The majority of people in this race were walking– which is fine, of course– but the runners had to bob and weave through the masses of people walking because the walkers didn’t move to the sides of the street like you’re supposed to.

Given my bladder, I had to pee not even ½ a mile into the race. So that first mile or so was pretty painful. Katie was running the race drugged– she was on antibiotics for a sinus infection– so whenever she wanted to walk, we walked. We got through two color zones before we saw port-a-potties at the halfway point. I had to stop! There was a line. In a normal race, this would’ve been ridiculous, but given the nature of this race- it wasn’t a big deal.

Which brings me to this point: this isn’t a race. It’s just a fun way to travel 5 kilometers. You could walk the whole thing and still have a stellar time. It’s not timed, so you don’t feel pressured to finish within a certain time frame. You travel between color zones and get colored chalk powder thrown at you along the way. It’s a lot of fun!

photo 4

{I must’ve been having a great time, because my smile is obnoxiously cheesy in every picture we took.}

You don’t get very colorful during the race part itself. The real colorful part comes at the end. After you cross the finish line you head over to where they have a stage set up, where they’re playing music, people are dancing, they throw out a bunch more color packets, and periodically, they have one big moment where everyone throws color packets in the air. THIS is where you get drenched in color.

Pre-Harlem Shake

Pre-Harlem Shake

Post-Harlem Shake

Post-Harlem Shake

For our “big moment” we released our color packets during the Harlem Shake. It was pretty silly, but lots of fun. In that moment, you can’t see anything as you’re engulfed in the rainbow fog.

The only real negative was the temperature that day. It has been in the high 70’s for most of the week leading up to the race, but of course, race morning it was much chillier and cloudy. The wind coming off the lake was brutal, too. I definitely would’ve preferred a warmer race day! That’s really my only complaint, though. Even the walkers didn’t bother me THAT much. We walked quite a bit, too, so they didn’t really slow me down. It’s just the impoliteness of it that bothered me. Midwesterners should know better.

Customary Shaka Photo

Customary Shaka Photo

So is it the happiest 5k on the planet? I haven’t run all of the races on the planet, but I’d guess that the answer is probably yes! I’ll definitely do it again next year.

Up Next: Dirty Girl Mud Run on June 29th!


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5k Review: Race to Wrigley

I am a baseball fan, and even though I live in Wisconsin, I am an Illinois sports fan. This is perhaps an extension of being raised in a home in which the Dad insisted that we love the Bears and the Cubs and marrying a man who feels the same, but as a free-thinking woman, I happen to love the underdogs, and Chicago* teams are not exactly known for being big winners. This doesn’t bother me. Winning isn’t important to me when it comes to sports. I like all of the things that make baseball the American pastime that it is: the camaraderie of the fans, the ambiance of a classic field, the beer and the hot dogs and the peanuts, the 7th Inning Stretches, the roots for the home team. It’s a good thing all of this appeals to me– baseball is really important to my family: my brother is kind of a big deal in Wisconsin for High School Baseball– he’s having record-breaking week, as a matter of fact. However, even if it weren’t a mandate that I love baseball in my family, I would still love baseball.


All that to say: when I started running and looked around for 5ks in my area, the Race to Wrigley was kind of a “Must Do!” I mean, how cool?! You run around Wrigleyville and end back at the field– you even run through the lower concourse on the way to the finish line. If that’s not a motivator to run to the very end, I don’t know what is!


I didn’t sign up right away. The race was scheduled for May 11th, and I knew that we would be heading to Hawaii sometime between the end of April and through the month of May. I didn’t know how long we’d be there, and most importantly, I didn’t know our dates. Jonah had his dates for Hawaii in the middle of April: it would be the first two weeks of May. So that ruled out the Race to Wrigley.

Well, we had different circumstances surrounding my trip to Hawaii this time. We didn’t know where we’d be staying, and Skip is old enough now that we’d need to purchase his own plane ticket to bring him with, and so it wasn’t even decided how long I’d be going out to Hawaii until it was about a week before I left. I didn’t want to leave Skip for the entire two weeks Jonah would be out there, so I can back on the 6th. I didn’t even think anymore about the Race to Wrigley, because I had already crossed it off my list of races to do this year.


Thursday rolls around and my cousin gave me a call– someone they were supposed to run the race with wasn’t able to make it now and did I want to take her place? Uh, yeah!


So Saturday morning, at the ungodly hour of 5:49 am and all geared up in cold-weather running clothes (it was only in the 50’s. Boo.), I found myself on the train headed down to Chitown. Woo!

Race to Wrigley


We were doing the “Fun Run” group for the race, not the timed group. This was more than fine with me– I had spent the preceding four days in a foggy, jet-lagged stupor, so the fact that I wasn’t being timed appealed to me. I didn’t want to worry about timing, I just wanted to worry about running the whole thing.

I hadn’t run since the following Sunday– in Hawaii– and I wasn’t trying to push myself to do anything more than enjoy the race.


I succeeded at doing just that!


Race to Wrigley 5k

You start the race right out front of Wrigley Field– which is a cool place to be just about any day of the week. The course ran a couple blocks West, then a couple blocks North, then headed East back to Wrigley. The Lakeview/Wrigleyville neighborhood is really pretty– lots of that windy city charm. For most of the race, I found myself comparing the houses– playing a game I used to play in the car as a kid to pass the time: I’d compare the houses on the street and say “yes” or “no” to whether or not I’d live there.


A short way from the Water Station, I slowed to a fast walk. I hadn’t had enough water that morning, and I was cramping a bit. I did what Jonah taught me– continued breathing deep and lifted my arms up. I grabbed some water, sipped at it, and kept walking until the cramp subsided. I probably walked for 2/10ths of a mile, maybe. Not too long. It hurt a bit when I started running again, but when I saw the 2-Mile marker, I couldn’t let myself stop. Just over a mile to go? I could do that.


Right where I decided to start running again, there were trees with little white petals snowing off of them. It was picturesque! I felt like I was running through a movie set.


I got super tired in the middle of Mile 2. I overheard a man behind me telling his kids, “You see that building with the flags on the top? Once we get there, Wrigley is just a block away.”

I give myself mini-goals whenever I’m setting about to accomplish pretty much anything, so I determined that I was at least going to make it to that building, then maybe walk until I could see the field.

Well, I got to that building and couldn’t stop: because I could already see the field. Once you got to the field, you ran the last leg through the lower concourse. Running on the old stone floor of Wrigley Field is so cool. It was a short portion to run through, but still: cool. The finish line was just outside where you exit the building. I felt GREAT.


My last race in Chicago was the Warm Your Heart Indoor 5k, and I felt like garbage after that run. After this run, I felt awesome. I felt like I had challenged myself just enough, and the best part? I happened to look at my time on my Nike app: 36:10. I’m pretty sure that’s my best time yet. My other runs have been around 38 minutes.


I know that’s not exactly “fast,” but hey, whatever. I’ve never really focused on timing; I’m more concerned with mileage and running more than I walk. In my mind and by my standards, I’m winning.


One of my favorite things about running this course was the neighborhood people who sat on their front stoops and cheered us along– the ones shouting “great job, runners!” and the kids who came down and held out their hands for high-fives– it was awesome.


The Verdict: I could’ve done without the waking up before 5am and the chilly weather, but the good outweighed the bad for this race, as it usually does. Chicago is such a fun city, and I loved getting to run around– and through– one of the best, most classic ballparks. I hope to do it again next year!


{Special thanks/shout-out to Ashley, Traci, Toni, and Christiaan for a great time!}


Next Up: Color Run – May 25th. This coming Saturday!

*It should be mentioned that even though we are “Chicago Teams” fans, we are not White Sox fans. As Judy Miller so aptly put it on an old episode of Still Standing: “The White Sox are NOT from our town!”

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5k Review: Jelly Bean Virtual 5k

So have you ever heard of a “Virtual 5k”?


I hadn’t either until I was invited to join some other ladies doing one. It’s a pretty cool concept, actually. What happens is that you sign up to be part of the virtual race, and then you can run (or bike, if that’s an option) the specified distance, keeping your own time, and you log your time online. Essentially, you’re running with a bunch of other people, but in different locations at different times.


{Am I explaining this well?}


I didn’t really know what to think about this concept, but in an effort to keep myself running, I like to consistently have a 5k that I’m training for. I had run the indoor 5k in January, it seemed like a pretty good idea to have one on the calendar for March. I considered running one of the St. Patrick’s Day 5ks around here… the Shamrock Shuffle or something… but seriously, 5ks can be pretty expensive. Plus, to do one of those, I’d have to travel to Chicago or Milwaukee, adding even more expenses. When I was invited to do the Jelly Bean Virtual 5k, and was told that it was only $11, I was sold!


A group of five of us signed up as a team to do this race. We met at a pretty popular running spot in our area, Lake Andrea, at the ungodly hour of 8am this past Saturday.


{I know, I know. 8am isn’t early when you’re a mom, but it’s early for running… especially when you prefer to run in the afternoons like I do…}


I had hoped it would be warming up by March, but alas, it has only gotten slightly above the 30’s this past week. I was only able to run outside once before the race; all other training was done on the treadmill. I had planned to just do the run I was on for the Couch-to-5k program (Week 3, Day 3) but one of the ladies, Corey, was on Week 7 or 8 of the program and asked if I was going to run the 25 minutes with her. I initially said no, but after running through the first two “walk” times for my program, I just abandoned it and kept running. I ran most of the race, which I hadn’t planned on doing– I hadn’t run more than 2 miles in a long time.


The funny thing about a Virtual 5k is that there isn’t a huge group of people doing it with you. The five of us had our race bibs on, but there were only five of us. There were plenty of other people out walking or running around the lake. So when I slowed to walk about halfway through and saw the other ladies getting pretty far ahead of me, I felt a little silly walking with a race bib on. By myself. So I ran the rest of it, and it felt great.


As with any good race, this one came with all the swag that $11 can buy. We got some adorable race bibs, gold medals, and a small bag of starburst jelly beans. (Small note: I finally discovered some jelly beans that I can actually enjoy. I’ve never cared for jelly beans– this is no longer the case! Thank you, Starburst, for making a jelly bean that I don’t hate.)

Jelly Bean 5k

When you enter in your run times online, you are also entered to win some various running-related prizes. It’s a random drawing, so it doesn’t matter how slow you are, you still have a shot at winning a prize, which I thought was pretty cool!


All that to say…

The verdict is: Virtual Races are a pretty cool idea– particularly if you have others to do it with you. It’s flexible, inexpensive, and although “everyone” isn’t doing it all at once, there is something pretty communal about it– especially when you go onto the Run with Jess Facebook page and see pictures of other runners and bikers posting their pictures, holding their medals and jelly beans, and sharing in the experience from miles away.

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5k Review: Warm Your Heart Indoor 5k

When I decided on my goal of running 365 miles in 2013, I was worried about getting mileage under my belt in the winter time. I had never run outside during winter, and I hate the cold, so my worry was warranted.

The previous year, the year we had moved back from Hawaii, I did not run at all in the winter. I never even dreamed of braving the cold and just assumed that nobody ran in the wintertime. You just take a break from October to April, right? I had heard, though, that there was an indoor 5k in Chicago. It turns out that there is such a thing: the Warm Your Heart Indoor 5k that runs around the McCormick Place in downtown Chicago. My first thought was, “brilliant!” That’s how you do it! I thought it was a great idea, but I didn’t sign up.

When this year rolled around, I had more motivation. I also had the knowledge that runners do not, in fact, take a break during winter. This frightened me a little bit, but I figured, what better way to start my running year than to do an indoor 5k?!

I signed up and that was that.

The race was on a Sunday morning, so my husband and I went down on Saturday night. My brother-in-law lives in Chicago, so we were able to hang out with him and his then-fiancee (they’re married now! woo!) and stayed the night at their place.

One thing I do not enjoy about most 5ks is that you have to wake up early for them. I haven’t revealed this about myself yet, but I don’t like to run in the morning. I learned to run in the evenings in Hawaii, because logistically, that was the only time I could run, but I learned to love it. I still prefer to run in the early evening. It motivates me to eat well throughout the day and to drink plenty of water, and I always feel pretty tired after a run so it’s nice to be able to relax for the rest of the evening and take a nice shower before bed…

{Doesn’t that sound better than getting ready and going to work? No? Just me?}

Well, for the indoor 5k, we had to get up pretty early. It was a 9am race, and it was downtown at the McCormick Place. I had my Cliff bar and some water… and I wasn’t awake, because I’m not awake until after a cup of coffee, but you shouldn’t drink coffee before a race, so… yeah… we get there bright and early, try to navigate our way up to the race, and I get some of the typical pre-race jitters. This was the first race I ever did alone, so that was really strange. Jonah hung around with me for a while, but then he walked over to where the race would finish. So I busied myself walking around, awkwardly doing some stretches (because I still don’t really know how to stretch… more on that later…) and using the bathroom like three times. Anxious Katie has a very nervous bladder.



We lined up according to run pace. I stuck myself in the 11-min pace group. I hadn’t run much since August, so I figured I’d put myself in the 11-min group, even though I was hoping for a 10-min pace. Suddenly, I felt the urge to use the bathroom again. I figured it was just nerves, so I ignored it… and then I was running and the urge was worse. Thankfully, about a quarter into the race, there were bathrooms. I ducked out of the race and used it real quick, losing about a minute or two, and jumped back in, feeling much better.

The first part of the course was running laps through a big warehouse room. It wasn’t very pretty, and I didn’t really like it. Running outside keeps me motivated because you keep moving forward; in this room, you ran up and down and looked at the same stuff the entire time. It was a little boring. I ran pretty steady alongside a group of ladies in awesome “Black Girls RUN!” t-shirts. They provided some motivation for me, as the motivation that exuded from them was pretty contagious. They also encouraged one another along and I just vicariously took some of that encouragement for myself, and I really needed it.

I was slow. Really, really slow. I ran for maybe 10 minutes, then I just had to walk. I got out of the first big warehouse, and then we ran across the skyway– which is the best part of the race. You get an awesome view Chicago from the skyway. That pumped me up with a little more motivation– so I started running again. This part was uphill a bit, it was an arced ramp over the highway, but then you ran downhill on the other side and thankfully I didn’t stop running, because Jonah was at the bottom of the ramp, filming me.

Warm Your Heart Indoor 5k . 2013

Then we went into yet another warehouse, this one was a little bigger. Again, it was laps and again, it was boring. I decided to make goals for myself, because at this time I was tired and ready to quit. I decided I’d run half of one lap and walk the second half. I pushed myself each time and ran a little further than I told myself I would, but I still walked a LOT more than I wanted to and have previously done. It was embarrassing compared to my previous 5ks.

This experience taught me a few things:

  • First, you can’t run twice before a 5k and think you’ll run the whole thing just because you’ve run a 5k before. Training is important, yo.
  • Second, it’s a lot more fun to run 5ks with other people. Even though I’m a solo runner and tend to lag behind others, it’s still more fun to be doing it with friends.
  • Third, it motivated me to run more. I left feeling a little defeated, but also pretty motivated to sign up for some more 5ks and run a lot more in between them.

I was still glad that I did it for the experience. I probably wouldn’t run the race again, at least not by myself, because other than the skyway part, it was pretty boring. It also showed me how out of shape I was, and how very much I needed that goal I had set for myself. I plan to report a much less embarrassing review of my next 5k! Here’s hoping.



{skyway view - post race}

{skyway view – post race}

For more information about the Warm Your Heart Indoor 5k, click here.

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