Soldier Field 10 Mile Race Recap

I’ve wanted to run the Solider Field 10 Mile for years, but it just never worked out. When registration rolled around for this year’s race, I happily signed up, went to put it on my calendar, and realized that the race would take place a mere six days after the Chicago Spring 13.1.

“No worries!” I said to myself. “It’s just like marathon training!”

Oh, how the overconfident fall.

Speaking of marathon training, I am now the proud (?) owner of two dark grey Nike short sleeve shirts, as this year’s Soldier Field shirt is the same as last year’s marathon shirt, just with different printing, obviously.


I was not in any way worried about Soldier Field. In fact, after seeing the day’s weather–low 50s, calm, low humidity–I decided to gun for a PR. I had my eyes on a 1:29, which would have been about a two minute PR for me.

Since blaming other people is way more satisfying than accepting responsibility for your own performance, I would argue that I did have the deck stacked against me, because Fleet Feet has it in for me. For the second time (the BTN Big 10K in 2013 being the first time), I was placed in a corral where I did NOT belong. While I will admit that I said I’d run a 10:00 pace when I registered, I was somehow put all the way back in corral 11, where the FASTEST runners were shooting for 1:45. I’ve never even come close to touching 1:45 in a road 10 mile, and all of my CARA training partners–ALL of which I smoked at the Lakefront 10, thank you very much–were in corral 5. I was not at all pleased, because I know that to run well, I need to be around runners who will push me. Ain’t no one running a 10:30 pace going to push me to a 1:29.


I lined up in the very front of my corral and freaking went for it once they let us go. I wanted to get as far away from those scrubs as possible. I ran an 8:52 first mile, which was just about where I wanted to be, and already had caught up to the people in the back of corral 10. 
I lost a lot of speed quickly, doing more like 9:30s-9:45s, which wouldn’t get me my 1:29, but at least wasn’t terrible. I felt pretty good and was passing people left and right, but I couldn’t find and settle into a pace.

This course goes south on Lake Shore Drive and then returns north on the Lakefront Trail, so for most of the race you can see people going in the other direction. Not that long after I hit mile 4, I saw a medical Gator driving in my direction, and then I saw a guy on the ground, surrounded by probably 5-7 other runners, one of which was performing chest compressions on him. I know this happens in races rather frequently, but I’ve never seen it happen, and honestly, it was terrifying. I have no idea what happened–the ambulance arrived shortly after I passed the area, and he wasn’t there when I ran past it on the return–but it was so, so scary to see.

I was still feeling fine at the turnaround (albeit a little shook up), and then probably somewhere in the neighborhood of mile 7 or so I met my old friend, the wall. While I have bonked on a 10 mile training run, I’ve never bonked in any race other than the marathon, and let me tell you, it is a HUMBLING experience. My legs could barely move, and I did have to walk the water portion of an aid station, which I don’t recall ever doing in a race other than the marathon (though I could be misremembering). I wasn’t even touching 9:xx miles anymore. I was angry, frustrated, and so, so disappointed.

I did NOT want to finish in 1:40 or more, so I have it everything I had for that stretch through Soldier Field and onto the field itself, and finished in 1:39:41.

Continuing our theme of “things I’ve never done outside a marathon,” I cried after I finished, not because I was so relieved or overcome with what I had done, but because I was so bummed out over how things went. Never in my life have I had that bad of a race (so I suppose this was long overdue), and it was incredibly upsetting. 

I collected my gear, my runner refresh bag, and my thoughts on the lawn, and then went to whine to my coworker (who, fortunately, was much more sympathetic about the whole thing than my mom, who apparently did not pick up from my text that I wanted pity, not realism. Hahaha.). I didn’t stick around very long, because I had bigger and better things to get to – like packing for vacation.


Realistically, expecting so much out of myself six days after a half when I’m not in marathon training was a bit ambitious. Heck, running a 10 miler six days after my half–a half that left me more beat up than any half since my first–was a bit ambitious. I should have had lower expectations. But, I think this race was good for me. My head isn’t that big, I don’t think, but I’ve never blown up at a race before, and these sorts of things keep you humble, which is good. As I talk about far too often, I do very much want to qualify for Boston in the next five years, and I imagine the road to a BQ is paved with frustration, disappointment, and bad days. It’s part of this sport. What matters is whether you take that disappointment and throw in the towel, or if you let it set a fire in your belly–something to motivate you for the next race, something to remember if you blow it again. And now I have a shiny medal in my cork board and a bright orange bib above my bed to remind me that things don’t always go as planned, but one bad race doesn’t define you or your running career.

Fuel for the fire.


Filed under 10 Miler Training

Friday Things

In which Bethany throws together a blog post in 20 minutes.

1. Good.ness. gracious. This week, you guys. I’m sorry, I’ve been so complain-y about how busy I’ve been lately, but this week has just been a NIGHTMARE. I’ve been working my behind off at work, and then I usually have all of 10 minutes at home before running off to take care of some commitment I have after work, before running home and going straight to bed. I need a vacation. Oh wait! I get one TOMORROW. Hooray!

2. On top of the insanity that is my job right now, due to circumstances far beyond my control, my daily commute has been extended by 20 minutes each way for the foreseeable future. That means getting up 20 minutes earlier, getting home 20 minutes later, and having a whole lot less time to do things like…anything other than sleep. Haha. Packing? Yeah. Definitely has not even come close to happening yet. (Though I do at least have a packing list, so that’s something.) I’m an eternally indebted to one of my coworkers for picking up my packet for tomorrow’s race for me, saving me the time I would have had to take to go to Fleet Feet (again) to pick up my packet. Now I just need to convince someone to pack my suitcase for me and go to Walgreens on my behalf to buy all my carry-on sized toiletries. Then they can reel in horror at the highway robbery that is travel sized contact solution instead of me having to do it :P

3. On Sunday, one of my friends hosted a jewelry party (speaking of highway robbery…), and after the party suggested we go up to her rooftop deck to check out her view. It was absolutely terrible.


Now I can check “Friend with a killer rooftop from which you can basically see all of Chicago” off my bucket list. She wants to have some of our other friends over later this summer to have a party on her rooftop, which I am ALL for.

4. I finished planting on Monday. I’m a little worried I put too many impatiens in each pot, but I suppose time will tell.

I went to Menards on Saturday to buy impatiens and was not at all pleased to discover Menards only sells hanging baskets, not flats of flowers, so then I made my way over to an independent garden store where there were more than enough flowers to go around. They also had more of the brand of flowers I had looked for when I bought my full sun flowers at Home Depot, so from here on out I think I’m only going to shop at this cute little independent place. Even more so, all of their impatiens were from a greenhouse in my hometown that was actually right next to my elementary school! Incidentally, my family never actually liked that greenhouse (or its owner), but it was still nice to feel like I was supporting my hometown all the way from Chicago.

5. Catch you all next week! I may get a race recap up from Saturday sometime next week…maybe. Hopefully. We’ll see. Otherwise, I’ll be back in June for sure. Have a great Memorial Day!


Filed under Life

Michelob ULTRA Chicago Spring 13.1 Race Recap

Alternatively titled, how to go from this:


to this:


in nine hours.

Necessary packet shot to kick things off:


Are minimalist packets a new thing? Do race organizers not want to bother with them anymore? Is this reflective of the state of racing in general (namely, that many area events aren’t getting the number of runners they hope to/have gotten in the past, and perhaps have less incentive to get people to advertise with them as a result)? Do I overthink these things? :P

As I mentioned on Thursday, I made the arguably questionable life choice to go to my best friend’s gala the night before my half. I rolled into the gala about an hour before I normally would’ve gone to bed on that sort of night, left the gala an hour after I normally would’ve gone to bed on that sort of night, and fell asleep about five hours before I had to wake up, because I was in such a darn good mood after spending the night with my friends that I couldn’t fall asleep.

Last year when I did personal training during marathon season, I would go to bed dressed for my workout the following morning (this is a genius idea and I highly recommend it for those of you who need to get up at ungodly hours like 4:30 a.m. in order to make it to your workout on time). I did that Saturday night as well, and managed to get through all my pre-leaving-for-a-race stuff (breakfast, putting in my contacts, sunscreen, etc.) in record time. I planned to take the CTA to the race, but since I was going to have to wait 27 minutes for the next train (LOLNOPE), I decided to take a cab instead.

Lakeshore East, one of the most hidden parks in Chicago, hosts the pre- and post-race festivities for this race (formerly and still informally the Chicago Spring Half Marathon), and there were already a fair number of people there when I arrived an hour before the race started. Signage was on point, so I had no trouble finding gear check, checking my gear, and laughing at all the scrubs waiting in a line that must have been at least 30 minutes long for the portapotties while continuing on further down the line of portos where there was no people line at all. (Seriously, though. Had these people never run a race in their lives? I don’t understand why SO MANY PEOPLE were all standing in one line when there were probably 40 portapotties–and smaller lines!–just in Lakeshore East alone, never mind out by the actual start line.)


I got to the start corrals way earlier than necessary. Though the race started at 7:00 (and we all had to be in our corrals by 6:45), my corral, F (corrals were A-I), didn’t start the race until 7:18. I was in my corral by probably 6:30 or so, which was a long time to stand around.

This race sold out for the second year in a row, and even though the race organizers only sent corrals off about once every four minutes, the course was CROWDED. It was easily one of the most crowded races I’ve ever run, and honestly, I think the race has outgrown its location. With 6,000 people, I’d estimate that this is the third biggest half marathon in Chicago (with Rock ‘n’ Roll being #1 and the Chicago Half being #2). Both of those races take place, at least in part, on closed city streets, and while I don’t know if the Chicago Spring 13.1 could manage to shut down full streets, I think they definitely need at least a lane of a street…or something. With the exception of the Chicago Women’s Half, I *think* you need to have 10,000+ runners to close down streets downtown and/or Lake Shore (and, actually, I believe the Chicago Women’s Half expected to get 10,000+ last year, and then failed wildly, because karma sucks, Fleet Feet. Heh.). Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but to my knowledge, the only current events that actually do this are Shamrock, the Marathon, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Hot Chocolate, the Chicago Half, Solider Field, and the Big 10K. (The Chicago Tri does as well, and it caps at 7,000 participants, but it’s also the only major triathlon in the city, so maybe it gets an exception?). OR it could be a cost-of-permit thing: maybe you need 10,000 runners to have the financial ability to shut down major streets in Chicago, which would explain why the Tri can do it with 7,000, since it’s so much more expensive than a road race…although they also have to take up more space, and probably have astronomically higher insurance costs because of the swimming. Sorry. This is me thinking out loud about issues that probably interest no one but me.

tl;dr: the south Lakefront Trail does not have enough space for an out-and-back course with 6,000 runners.

So anyway. My goal for this race was to use it to motivate myself to build my mileage before marathon training, which I have now successfully accomplished. I knew when I registered for the race that May 17 is a total crapshoot for weather in Chicago, so I never went into this with the expectation of PRing. Though the weathermen (of course) were wrong about the fact that it would storm all day on Sunday (it’s now 6:45, and we have yet to have anything even resembling a storm. It’s sunny right now, in fact), they were not at all wrong about the fact that it’d be warm compared to most of last week and humid. OH BABY was it humid. Some people thrive in this kind of weather, but I am NOT one of those people. Heat and/or humidity usually knock down my mile pace by 1:00-1:30/mile, meaning that a PR was absolutely out of the question. I wanted to finish in 2:10-2:15 and thought about trying to break 2:10, but I told myself I’d have to wait until mile 10 to decide if I would go for that or not.

Thing actually started off shockingly well. For the first six miles (the “out” of the course), all of my miles were sub-10:00, which really surprised me. I felt like I was running much slower than that, and since 9:30-9:45 is what I typically do when it’s cool and dry, I did not at all expect to run any miles at at that speed in hot and humid. It was misting for most of this part of the race, but the mist was so light it was more obnoxious than cooling.

When we turned around for the “and back,” I lost it. Well, fine, that’s dramatic. But I started running 10:xx miles and it was a SLOG, let me tell you, even with the wind at my back. Fortunately my mental game was still there, because if I had lost my mental game, my race would’ve been shot. My legs, heart, and lungs were all SUPER done with this nonsense. I started throwing water on my face at the aid stations during this part of the course, which was a new thing for me.

By the time I got to mile 10, I knew there was absolutely no way I’d break 2:10, but it still seemed possible to break 2:15. I really wanted to step up my game for the last three miles but I just did not have it in me, so I hung on for miles 10 and 11 and then pushed it during mile 12 (and ran a 9:59 last mile). The finish for this race is a little convoluted, since you have to go north of the start line, then swing under Lake Shore Drive and go through a kind of service drive-y area, up a steep incline (WHY. I think I actually said out loud, “You’ve got to be kidding me,” when I realized that haha), and then wind a little through Lakeshore East. Despite hating that incline, I have to say that this was arguably one of the best finish line arrangements I’ve ever experienced. All the buildings surrounding Lakeshore East make the area feel fairly small to begin with, and then there were SO many people lined up on each side of the road. There was a ton of energy and excitement, and for the first time in a loooong time I actually was able to kick and finished in 2:13:23 for my second fastest half marathon to date.

My legs were SHOT after this race. My hips were sore (this has been a fun new issue for me after runs longer than 10 miles, though my soreness is always in my glute meds, which I take to mean they’re actually, you know, working now, unlike in the past when they’ve just sat there in my butt and not done their job, forcing my hip flexors to do all the work and sending me to PT) and my knee was also a little cranky, but it wasn’t anything too terrible. They had wet towels at the finish (<3) plus full bottles of Gatorade and water, both of which I happily took.

The post-race party was HOPPIN’. Goodness gracious. Normally I don’t stick around long/at all at these things, but I sure did on Sunday. Check out my complimentary (or “included in registration,” however you want to look at it) breakfast!


Pancakes <3 . Seriously, every race should do this. This was hands down the best post-race meal I’ve ever had provided by a race (excluding Shamrock, which doesn’t count because not everyone gets access to build-your-own-oatmeal bars in the hospitality tent), and I, for one, much prefer eating pancakes at 9:30 a.m. to pizza or hot dogs. Then again, I also <3 pancakes, soo….

They also had a “build your own” (in reality a “have a volunteer build for you”) flower station, which I appreciated. Now I have a new flower for my gardening adventures!


AND they had FREE Lexus shuttles that would take you back to the CTA, so I got to ride in a super snazzy Lexus, getting my sweaty self all over the seat. Oops.

My legs are still crazy sore as I write on Sunday evening, which is the first time in a long time I’ve felt this beat up after a half. I took an ice bath when I got home because I have another race on Saturday (womp womp), and I don’t really have a whole lot of time to recover before busting out another double digit run, so hopefully the ice bath will help speed up the recovery process. Overall, I’m pretty content with my race. I don’t think I could’ve run faster even if I had gotten more sleep the night before, given the conditions. My only complaint was the course crowding, though realistically I imagine that helped me stay on pace and not do something really ill-advised like try to run 9:15s for the first few miles. The event was wel managed, well staffed, and man, that post-race party. I could rave about that all day.



Filed under Half Marathon Training