I can sum up the inaugural BTN Big 10K in three words:
But let’s back up to the beginning, shall we?
Per usual, I barely got any sleep last night. That seems to be a theme for me the night before a race, as this was the third time in as many races that I’ve run on significantly less than my usual 8 hours of sleep. The Opening Ceremony for the Olympics kept me up late, and my neighbor decided last night would be a good time to go on a smoking binge. Their vent connects to our apartment, which means I got a handy dose of secondhand smoke last night, and the smell was driving me crazy, especially at 2 a.m.
When my alarm went off at 5:40, I got ready for the race and had two pieces of whole wheat toast with peanut butter. Normally I only have one piece of toast before running, but I also normally eat half an hour before running, not two hours, so I figured it wouldn’t kill me to have a little more food.
At 5:58, I got a text that my taxi had been dispatched and was 2.4 miles away. Honestly, that made me really mad. I ordered a taxi last night for 6:15 this morning. When I said 6:15, I did not mean 6:05, or even 6:10 — I meant 6:15. Hmph. Fortunately, I made it down to my cab right before it left.
There were already a lot of people at Soldier Field when I arrived, and even though it wasn’t yet 7 a.m., the energy was great. I checked my bag (side note: that gear check was a thing of beauty. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more clearly organized gear check) and wandered around for awhile trying to not look too awkward. Story of my life.
Around 7:20, I started to get really antsy, so I headed over to the starting corral. They had the corral segmented off in 30 second pacing increments. My long runs lately have been in the 10:45ish range, but I thought I would push myself a little, so I lined up near the back of the 10:00 pacing group. I was shooting for around a 10:20 pace.
After hanging out in a VERY crowded corral for awhile, we finally got started. As we headed towards McCormick Place, I heard a woman behind me ask her running buddy if their current pace was fine. The running buddy replied with something along the lines of, “Yeah, I’m comfortable at 9:30.”
I looked down at my Garmin, and lo and behold, I was running something in the 9:30 range. We weren’t even half a mile into the race, though, so I figured my Garmin was just taking some time to get its bearings and in the mean time was doing its always-enjoyable-if-misleading ego stroking.
As we kept going, I saw we were going to actually run through a tunnel under McCormick Place, which did not make me happy. I knew my Garmin would lose its signal in the tunnel (it can barely handle underpasses under Lake Shore Drive, after all), and I wasn’t thrilled about having my Garmin thrown off so early in the race.
The tunnel ended up being stuffy as anything, and I was a sweaty mess by the time we got out. As expected, my Garmin had lost its signal, but it picked right back up as soon as I was back in the open. It was still telling me I was running sub-10 minute miles, but I had pretty much given up on its accuracy by this point. That is, until it beeped at mile one, which, by its measurement, was maybe 100 feet before the actual first mile marker.
I couldn’t believe how fast the first mile felt (or rather, how fast the first mile went). I figured I would lose my speed pretty soon, but I was feeling great and didn’t want to slow down until I had to. After the second mile, my Garmin was still telling me I was running sub-10 minute miles, and around this point the thought of PR-ing entered my mind. I started to do a little mental math (which, realistically, was probably the biggest accomplishment of my race…it’s a rare occasion that I can do a simple addition problem without the help of my fingers and toes) and realized that if I was running almost a minute faster per mile than I had run in my first 10K, I could possibly finish in under an hour. After that realization, I forced myself to do a quick reality check: I hadn’t even hit the halfway point yet. I still had plenty of time to die, and there was no point in getting my hopes up that high so early in the race.
Mile three came and went, and I was still running sub-10 miles. This was also the point where we passed the slip and slide on the course, but since I was having the race of my life, I decided to run straight past it to the turnaround. I pretty much had my heart set on a PR by that point, and I wasn’t going to blow it for a gimmick mid-course.
We passed an aid station after the turnaround and I finally heard Hail to the Victors, which gave me a huge surge of energy. They played different school’s fight songs all along the course, and while I kept hearing MSU’s fight song, I hadn’t heard Hail to the Victors at all up to that point. I’m a Michigan fan through and through (almost went there for college, in fact), so I was definitely running the race for the maize and blue. The fight song was just what I needed to keep my energy up.
All of a sudden I passed the five mile mark. I knew unless something awful happened, there would be no way I wouldn’t PR. At that point, it was just a question of what my PR would be. Up to that point, I had run 9:41 to 9:56 miles. I didn’t expect to finish in under an hour anymore, but that didn’t keep me from pushing hard. I ended up running a 9:14 mile (what?!?). I kept myself more or less under control until we got to the three mile mark from the 5K race before us, at which point I gave it everything I had. Final official time: 1:00:30.
I didn’t just PR. I SMASHED my time from my first 10K. I ran a 1:05:21 in my first 10K. Four minutes and 50 seconds, y’all!
I still can’t believe it. I honestly have no idea how I ran so fast. Yes, this course was a lot flatter than the course from my first 10K, so obviously that makes a difference. But five minutes worth of difference? I mean, I’ve never run this fast in my life outside of a 5K. My all-time fastest training run was a 10:12 four miler. This was not only 2.2 miles longer than that, but I ran an overall 9:45 pace. WHAT?? Man, if this is what training in heat does to a person, from here on out I’m only running on treadmills in saunas.
After I floated on the greatest runner’s high of all time over to gear check, I headed over to the post-race party.
I went to the Michigan tent first, but alas, they were all out of goodies. My next stop was the BTN tent, where I hung out with the Big 10 Championship trophy for a second and picked up a poster with the complete schedules of all 12 teams.
I wanted to get stretched out by AthletiCo, but the line was crazy long. Instead, I picked up my free hot dog (because nothing says “hot dog” quite like 9 a.m….haha) and got a picture by the Michigan finisher area.
Then I wandered over to the Michigan State tent and got a poster of their full schedule. Why? Fantastic question. I guess because Michigan didn’t have any and neither did Penn State (I made a conscious decision to be a Penn State fan when Michigan was having a crummy season when I was in high school, and I’ve been a fan since [except for the whole Jerry Sandusky thing, obviously]). Actually, the more I think about it, I really have no clue why on earth I felt compelled to go to the MSU tent. I only cheered for Michigan State when Kirk Cousins was on their team, because I’m a HUGE Kirk fan.
And I met him once, cause I’ve got connections. Aww yeah 🙂
But yeah, I really don’t like Michigan State at all these days, and now I have a poster of their full schedule. Hm.
Anyway, I think I’ve made it very clear that I loved this race. Some aspects of the course were a little not-awesome, but overall, this was without question my favorite race to date. The PR was great, of course, but the whole atmosphere was without question the best I’ve experienced so far. I’ll run it again in a heartbeat.
Also, I really want to go to a football game now. Hurry up, September!