Race Report: F3 Lake 5K

The F3 Half is one of my favorite races. I ran it the first time in 2013 and again in 2018. I’ve also gotten a little bit more involved – helping at packet pick-up last year and this year, and this year I was a race ambassador. The race itself is very well done (you can’t f*ck around if you’re putting on a race in the dead of winter), and there’s just something special about running in weather so bad some people won’t leave their homes. Like today.

Anyway, I need to backup a little bit. Today’s half marathon was supposed to be my first half since last year’s F3. I was going to do the Detroit Half in the fall, but sprained my ankle over the summer and decided by the time I was cleared to run again, it wasn’t safe to try to squeeze in a half marathon training cycle. So I deferred that race and set my sights on the F3 Half. My training was going OK – not stellar, but consistently running 3-4x per week and I built up to a 10-mile long run right before NYE.

And then I got a cold. And didn’t run for 9 days. I’ll admit that I went a little extreme with the rest. I figured the cold happened during a cutback week anyway, so why not skip all the runs? When I started running again, I realized I had 2 1/2 weeks until race day, so surely cramming in as many runs as possible was the answer.

That’s never the answer! And my knee let me know it. I started getting some pain on the inside of my left knee around mile 6-7 of my long runs. I did a 9-mile long run and planned 10 or 11 miles the weekend before the race, but cut it down to about 7 1/2 miles due to knee pain. And then promptly dropped down to the 5K for F3. But it was easy to drop down because the forecast looked bitterly cold.

So that’s my long winded story of why I did the 5K instead of the half today. But I’m still not ready to talk about race day, first let’s squeeze in some photos of packet pickup:

I’m loving these cute hats, we got matching soccer-style scarves too.

I enjoy working packet pickup, although it helps that I know the other people involved, so it’s an excuse to hang out with friends. But it’s always good to see how much work goes into planning races. It’s a lot of work! If you’ve never volunteered at a race, I highly recommend you do so. Packet pick-up, aid stations, etc. So much work goes into pulling off a good race, and they can always use more help. I think this is the 5th race I’ve volunteered with in some capacity. Anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox.

I will say I’m surprised how many people asked if the race would be canceled. Why plan a race for January just to cancel when winter finally shows up? They didn’t cancel the year of the polar vortex.

Anywho, the actual race. Despite the single digit temps … it honestly wasn’t that bad. We had sunshine and there wasn’t much wind. I also wore a lot of layers.

  • Top: Lightweight Icebreaker baselayer, Lightweight Icebreaker quarter zip, fleece-lined zip-up hoodie (from the 2018 Hot Chocolate), Brooks windbreaker.
  • Bottom: Under Armour Cold Gear tights, some old Adidas pants. (I call them “track pants” but they are like really thick tech fabric, not like the swishy pants.)
  • Head: A long “buff” that is part fleece to go around my neck and then ligher tissue-thin material to go over my face. Plus a Smartwool headband and a knit winter hat. Plus cheap sunglasses.
  • Hands: Tech gloves with a shell-mitten-cuff, fleece mittens, shell mittens. Yes, I started with 4 layers over my hands. I was down to 1-2 layers by the last mile.
  • Feet: My thickest Injinji socks plus an extra pair of Nike tech socks plus my result Brooks Adrenalines.

I knew it was a lot of layers, and if I was doing the half, I would have worried about overheating. In fact, I did start to feel like my layers were getting too sweaty, and that the sweat was getting cold and starting to chill me. But by then, I was done with the race and could head back inside. At which point, I ditched 3 of my tops (kept the bottom baselayer on) and my headband and hat. I even took my headband and the quarter-zip into the restroom to dry out in the hand dryers.

As for the race itself. The half marathoners started at 10am, and then the 5K went at 10:30am. They had pace signs up in the start corral so you could self-seed. I lined up around the 11:00 pace signs and ended up running 11:17, and didn’t have to do much weaving (and there was enough room if I did need to go around someone). The course started on the north side of Soldier Field and ran around most of the stadium before getting onto the Lakefront Trail. We ran backward through the finish line, at which point we passed the marker for mile 1. We continued south on the Lakefront Trail, past McCormick Place, did a hairpin turn on the trail around mile 2, and went back north. The trail was clear of snow and ice and had lots of salt to the point that there were a few small puddles. They weren’t deep and were easy to run around. They announced that the course around mile 7 was icy because they couldn’t salt the new pavement, obviously that was not an issue for me. Once we crossed the finish line, we got medals, water, KRa sports drink (in lemon, orange or berry), bananas, bagels, and a snack bar that I haven’t eaten but my husband said was good.

One big upgrade since moving the race to Soldier Field (from the original location at Montrose Harbor) is the pre- and post-race stuff is all indoors at the United Club. Your gear check bag is indoors, your restrooms (and drinking fountains) are indoors, your spectators can wait indoors, etc. Even the parking is indoors, although we took an Uber. We did get stuck in the long line of cars trying to get into the garage though. Anyway, back to post-race. Luckily, my husband didn’t finish too long after me, but I’m glad I didn’t have to wait in the cold for him. Once we were ready to go, we layered up again and walked to Krolls (it’s about 3/4 mile using the pedestrian bridge over the train tracks, which we run over all the time).

A perk of doing the 5K instead of the half for this race is you get to the post-race party at Krolls before it gets too crowded. Although one perk to so many people staying home from the race this year is Krolls never got too crowded. Last year, when the temps were in the 40s and the race sold out, Krolls was packed by the time I got there. This time, Robert and I were able to stroll in and easily get a table. And our race bibs each had a drink ticket good for a free beer.

Overall, despite many concerns about the weather, it ended up being another great year for the F3 Lake Half Marathon & 5K. This remains one of my favorite races, and I’m sure I’ll be back again next year, hopefully for the half marathon.

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One Comment on “Race Report: F3 Lake 5K”

  1. Congrats! I have to say I’m glad I ultimately ended up not signing up for F3 this year (I considered using it as my goal race for a bit), but everyone I know who did it said that it really wasn’t as bad as the thermometer might’ve implied. I’m glad you had a good time! Bummer about your knee, though 🙁 I hope it gets its act together in case you want to run another half later this year!

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