I hadn't raced in over a year.

Well technically I did participate in a stair climb race up the Sears (Willis...whatever) Tower in November and a 5k appearance in August. Neither of which I trained for. Now that I am kinda back to running and prepping for the marathon in October, it was time to take a stab at a couple of road races to get my feet wet in the competition scene. Knowing that I'm not in as good of shape as I have normally been in the past, I wanted to choose my inagural run carefully, as to not completely blow what little running confidence I had left.

Then I saw the flyer in Fleet Feet. The 2010 Chicago Beachathon.

It was a four-mile race with obstacles. Perfect. No better way to get back into racing than to compete in an event where my time wouldn't be as big of a factor. With all the obstacles in the race, you really couldn't take your time seriously, especially if you hadn't run the race before.

Also it was a beach-themed, four-mile race with obstacles...something totally random. How could I say no? I've ran well over 100 normal races. It was time to change things up.

I show up to the event and it's like a huge party. There are people dressed as pirates, in grass skirts, speedos, you name it. All while Jimmy Buffet music played in the background and hula dancers entertaining the crowd at the start line. I get on the line next to one of the guys from Fleet Feet I typically train with and get ready for the start. Then BOOM we're off.

The first two miles were fairly normal. It was an out-and-back race so going out (aside from running on the slanted lakefront path) was standard road race style. Once we got to almost Navy Pier is when things got tricky. We were re-routed to the sandy beach for some obstacles.

The first one involved zig-zagging in between a fleet of pink flamingoes on an inclined sand hill. Once past that we went downhill and encountered a 200 foot long net, around waist high, that we had to go then go under before dodging hula girls and hopping back up onto the lakefront path (about standard steeple height up).

The biggest obstacle wasn't even in the race program: people. The lakefront path along Lake Michigan is a very high traffic area on Saturday mornings. It is also a route that is not allowed to be shut down for any sort of race. So in addition to weaving around large beach balls in the sand, we also had to maneuver around the dense crowd that had overtaken a portion of that path.

After getting past most of the crowd and weaving through another set of large (and by large I mean minimum ten feet in diameter) beach balls, we turned a corner, climbed another sandy hill and headed toward the finish. Standing in my way between me and the finish line was a giant inflatable obstacle course. So I hopped up on it, crawled through the tiny tunnels and over the padded walls and eventually stumbled my way to the finish.

The results here said I was 5th (out of 1400+ people) place with a 21:52. It was chip timed so theoretically it should be accurate. However, my watch had 22:30.

But who am I to argue with results?

(Hopefully more photos to come soon)