I’ve run CARA’s Lakefront 10 Miler twice in the past (2014 and 2015) and enjoyed the race both times, so I figured I should put it on my proverbial victory lap of Chicago races prior to moving later this year. Plus, it was exactly a week after my goal race for the year, the Chi Town Half Marathon, so it’s not like I’d need to go out of my way to prepare for a 10 miler.
It was actually kind of weird running this race a week after Chi Town. All of my training this year–all of my existence this year, it feels like–has been centered around the Chi Town Half. Doing a race with zero pressure to perform–doing a race just for fun, for goodness’s sake (fun? What’s fun?)–almost made the whole thing feel pointless. It also annoyed me that the race started at 9 a.m. (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write). I knew that would mean I wouldn’t get home until around noon, which made the whole thing feel like a gigantic time suck.
All that to say, I went to bed Friday night feeling less-than-enthusiastic about the race. But I had paid 37 whole dollars to run this race, so obviously I had to do it. (Honestly, that’s the real reason why I ran the Lakefront 10 this year. I could not believe how good of a deal it was, and I couldn’t pass it up. It’s hard enough to find a 5K for $37 around here, never mind a 10 miler.)
I trekked to Montrose (the Wilson track, really) Saturday morning and very much regretted that I hadn’t arranged for anyone to drive me to the race. It was a lot colder than the week before, mostly because of the wind. Oh, the wind. It was relentless. It was actually pretty comfortable whenever the wind would take a break, but when it was blowing (which was most of the time), it was pretty darn chilly outside. I got there almost 45 minutes before the race started, and plopped myself down on the field inside the track, where I stayed for nearly 30 minutes, reading my book (as one does) while I let the sun warm me through my pea coat. (Also, lol at reading my book. Go ahead and put that on the list of ways I never thought I’d kill time prior to a race. But I had already gone through everything on my phone, and there wasn’t anything else to do, so I figured I may as well use my time wisely!)
With 15 minutes or so before the race began, I got in the gear check line, reluctantly took off my coat and sweats, and made my way to the start line. While I didn’t have any goals for this race, per se, I did figure it shouldn’t be that big of a stretch for me to PR based on my performance the week before. Based on that, I lined up at what seemed like the back of the 8:00 pace area/front of the 9:00 pace area. My previous PR was a 1:31, so maintaining a 9:00 pace would be enough to get me a new one. I did like the idea of doing sub-9:00 miles for the duration of the race, though. I came pretty close to doing 10 sub-9:00 miles at the half, so why not try to go for it at the 10 miler, when I didn’t have to save anything for an extra 5K at the end?
We started right on time and experienced what I believe was my first (and probably only) downhill start for a Chicago race, ever. We started on the top of a small hill that accommodated a pedestrian underpass on Wilson, which meant we had a nice little downhill to kick things off. No complaints from me!
One of the reasons I’ve always liked the Lakefront 10 in the past is because, being put on my CARA, it’s a runner’s race. If there’s any event outside of the marathon (and the Shuffle, I suppose, if I’m being fair) where you can count on things going right, it’s CARA’s. Because of that, it was quite the surprise, then, when I passed the one mile mark before my Garmin was anywhere near one mile. Based on the course mile markers, I ran the first mile in 7:45. Now, I’ve gotten faster over the past 13 weeks, but I most certainly have not gotten faster-than-5K-PR-pace-is-now-comfortable faster, so I was pretty sure that my Garmin, for once, was right and the course was wrong. The fact that I didn’t hear the usual cacophony of beeping watches until well past that mile marker also indicated me that my watch wasn’t the problem: the course marking was the problem. (For the record, my Garmin said I ran an 8:25 first mile. Still pretty quick, but not 7:45 quick.)
The wind was, rudely, coming out of the west-southwest on Saturday, which meant we got to fight it for nearly the entire race, though, unsurprisingly, it was particularly tough when we were running south. I was at, like, mile two and felt like I was already working, which I didn’t find particularly encouraging. The race was shorter than last week’s, but it wasn’t a 5K. I mean, technically there was a 5K, but I wasn’t registered for it and didn’t intend to drop down mid-race. I kept trying to find people I could pace off, but that wasn’t going very well.
We wound down the Lakefront Trail, covering some pretty familiar territory based on last week’s course. I studied the Chi Town course backwards and forwards but only looked up the Lakefront 10 course once or twice, so I kept getting to points on the course and thinking things like, “If this were last week, I’d be at mile five, not mile three,” which isn’t the most helpful thought pattern. It was helpful, though, to get to mile three and think, “Seven miles to go,” rather than “10.1 miles to go,” so I’ll give the race that.
There was the most delightful cheer station from Chicago Run at mile five, which warmed my heart. I had been clicking off steady(ish) sub-9:00 miles up to this point (8:25, 8:46, 8:49, 8:42, 8:47), so I was feeling pretty good about my chances of turning in a sub-9:00 race. I also figured once we started heading north, the wind would ease up, right? Wrong. I swear, it was just as bad on the northbound trip as it was going south. Lame.
In reflecting on my half marathon in the week between it and this race, it occurred to me that I almost certainly PRed my 10K during my half without realizing it (if we hit 6.55 at 58:30ish, and my 10K PR is 56:22, it feels fairly likely that I PRed it). Since I was ahead of half marathon pace during the 10 miler, I made a point of checking my watch at 6.2, and I was at 54:xx. That’s a pretty nice 10K PR! It doesn’t really count, since I was running 10 miles, not 10 kilometers, but it felt great to know that I was able to PR my 10K by two-ish minutes in the middle of another race!
I definitely started losing some steam at this point. I hoped that fueling at the aid station past mile six would help (and that walking through that aid station while I drank water to chase my chews…this seems to be a new thing that I do, apparently, since I did it at the half last week, too (walking through an aid station to drink water to chase my chews, that is, not fueling in general)), but it…didn’t.
Another thing that definitely didn’t help was having the mile seven sign at 6.78!! What?! I saw the mile seven sign coming up and was like, “There is no way it’s been a mile since the mile six sign,” and it certainly wasn’t. I don’t usually take my Garmin as gospel truth, but it also has never been nearly a full quarter mile off during a Lakefront Trail race (during a downtown race: absolutely), so I’m 100 percent sure the sign was in the wrong spot. I was so surprised by this. I really expect CARA to get those sorts of details right, so it was shocking that they didn’t – and especially that they messed the mile seven sign up by so much.
But whatever. I wasn’t taking manual splits, and the course was going to end at the finish line regardless of what my watch said, so onward I went. I had slowed down a bit by this point (8:51 for mile six; 9:00 for mile seven), but I still felt pretty confident that I’d PR. When I did a 9:04 mile eight, I started to get a little nervous, so I once again tapped into my half marathon mindset of, “Physical pain now is better than emotional pain later.” The wind was BON.KERS. coming into to mile 10. I was fighting and pushing and somehow did an 8:52 for mile nine, but things certainly didn’t get better once we got past that sign. It was nothing but headwind until we turned to run up Cricket Hill (*sobs*), and obviously that didn’t make anything easier. I haven’t run up Cricket Hill since my Montrose marathon training days, so it’s been awhile. But I got up it, and down it, and then it was time for one lap around the Wilson track into the finish line. I really liked finishing that way. It was a lot easier to understand exactly how far away the finish was on a track compared to a straightaway or any other finish line setting you typically get at a race.
I finished in 1:28:20, a 3:12 PR and an 8:50 overall pace. 3/3 on PRs this spring! Woo!
I’m really, really happy with how things went on Saturday. It felt nice to PR a race I was doing just for for fun (…sorta. A race that wasn’t my goal race, is probably the more accurate way of putting it.), but it felt even nicer to run a 10 miler at an 8:50 pace. There was a time–and by “a time” I mean “basically any time before last Saturday”–I would’ve considered an 8:50 pace to be, like, 8K pace. In general, I considered 8:00-8:15 to be my 5K pace, 9:00 to be my 10K pace, 9:30 to be half marathon PR pace and 10:30 to be regular half marathon pace, and…well, I don’t really have a marathon pace. 11:15, I guess. Honestly, it never occurred to me that I could run anything longer than an 8K at an 8:xx pace until I did it at the half last week. That just wasn’t something I believed I could do. I considered long distance 8:xx miles to be the realm of fast runners, of good runners: of runners that were not middle-of-the-pack, nobody me.
Obviously, you don’t have to run a certain pace for a certain distance to be a runner, and I never felt like I wasn’t a runner–but I did very much think that I was a 9:xx long distance runner under the very, very best of circumstances. And sure, 8:50 isn’t that far off 9:00, but that’s not the point. Even if I had averaged an 8:59 pace for this race, I’d still be really happy with how things went. Don’t get me wrong: 8:50 was very much a race pace for me, and I definitely don’t think I could run anything much farther than that at that pace without an obscene amount of work. I’m not suddenly toying with the idea of BQing or anything like that. Heck, it took an obscene amount of work just to get to this point, and I don’t expect this speed to stick around once I go back to my normal running volume. But regardless, it felt amazing to be able to do this, even if only for a moment. It made me feel like I had become one of those runners I’ve been stood in awe of: the runners whose results I see and wonder how on earth they manage to run so fast for so long. After 11 weeks of hard training (and two weeks of not-hard training), that’s a really rewarding way to feel 🙂