Wintrust Lakefront 10 Miler Race Recap

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.

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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!)

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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 🙂

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Soldier Field 10 Mile Race Recap

I ran my first Soldier Field 10 Mile last year, and to be honest, I was wildly unimpressed. It was easily the worst race of my life up to that point (and this point, and hopefully all points), and while most of that was on me–going out way too fast is a great way to ensure yourself a terrible race–I just didn’t care for the race as a whole. Finishing on Soldier Field doesn’t fire me up all that much (by which I mean at all, being as anti-Bears/anti-NFL as I am), and while the race technically isn’t an out-and-back on the Lakefront Trail, it basically is, since the only real differences between running on Lake Shore Drive and the Lakefront Trail are the amount of space you have and the surface. Once you’ve done one southbound-to-start race out of the general Soldier Field area, you’ve really done them all. I didn’t have a good experience last year, and didn’t have any intention of running the race ever again.

Well, then CARA announced that this year’s Marathon Incentive Program only requires you to run five CARA Circuit races total, instead of the convoluted system they had last year. This announcement came far too late for me to run the Lakefront 10, however, which meant that the only way I could avoid running Solider Field while still completing the Marathon Incentive Program (and not renting a car to get to a race out in faraway ‘burbs) was to do Run for Walk during the middle of marathon season. Waking up at God only knows what hour to haul it all the way up to Evanston the morning after a long run sounded like the opposite of a good time, so even though Solider Field sounded like the opposite of a good time as well, it sounded less like the opposite of a good time than the Run for Walk situation. Plus it would give me some incentive to not max out my marathon base building long run mileage at, like, seven miles, which I figured would be a good thing.

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And that’s how I found myself at Soldier Field on Saturday morning.

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I went into this race with zero expectations and zero goals, other than “don’t bonk.” The wall and I had a most unwelcome encounter at this race last year at mile seven, and I had absolutely no desire to recreate that experience ever again. I wouldn’t even say that I really trained for Soldier Field, since my sole focus for the past two months was training for the Chicago Spring 10K. The only change I made to my training plan in light of Soldier Field was subbing in a nine mile long run a few weeks ago for the 70-minute race simulation run I was supposed to do (I attempted to make the nine miler a race simulation run, and while from an effort standpoint I suppose it was a race simulation run, from a time standpoint it most certainly was not). As far as I was concerned, this was an extremely supported training run.

Conditions on race day were less than ideal. The temperature, honestly, was not that bad when you were standing around, but the thing about a 10 mile run is that standing around doesn’t do a whole lot for getting you from the start line to the finish line, and it was HOT for running, especially considering that anyone who trained for this race in Chicago really hasn’t had much time to adapt to temperatures in the high 70s and fairly high humidity, given that up until about a week ago or so it was still in the mid 50s most of the time.

Last year, for reasons I will never understand, I ended up in Corral Eleventyzillion (roughly), but this year I was mercifully placed in the corral where I belonged, so instead of waiting like 30 minutes to start the race, I only had to wait 10, which I preferred substantially. I wanted to go out as slow as I could, and I more or less succeed. I thought a 10:00 pace for the race sounded reasonable, and I came through the first mile in 9:52. Even though this was fairly close to my goal pace, my legs just were not feeling it. I had a hard time settling into a rhythm, and I was not at all looking forward to another nine miles of running.

Soon after passing the first mile mark, I heard some of my friends from my marathon training group come up behind me (I knew they were running because I had seen them before the race, but I was in my corral and they were walking around outside of it. Also, to be honest, I didn’t particularly want to run this race with anyone going into it, so even though I saw them, I intentionally didn’t try to get their attention). Since I wasn’t having the best time of my life, I looked over my shoulder, pretended to be surprised to see them there, and fell into their group. I ran with them until just before the turnaround, at which point they pulled away and I let them go, because–see goal of “don’t bonk”–I had no intention of pushing myself in this race whatsoever.

It was already quite toasty before the turnaround, but when the sun emerged from behind the clouds after I passed the turnaround, it got REAL toasty. I decided to do something new on race day this time around and carried a little handheld water bottle with me (I usually run with a big ol’ Nathan handheld water bottle or my FuelBelt, but a few months ago I got a handheld flask-sized FuelBelt water bottle that I used for the first time ever on Saturday), and man oh man was I glad I made that decision. I don’t know how on earth I would’ve made it between aid stations with no water otherwise. If I had followed the “drink to thirst” suggestion you normally hear, I would’ve been drinking about once every other second. At all of the aid stations after the turnaround, I sipped a bit of water out of the cup I grabbed before dumping the rest on my head (instead of dumping it on the ground like usual).

Somewhere between the second-to-last aid station (just before mile seven) and the last aid station (just before mile nine), they raised the event alert level from yellow/moderate to red/high, making Saturday the first time I’ve ever run during a red flagged race (the Mag Mile Half was red flagged the year I ran it, but not until after I had finished). I was actually a little surprised, since I’ve definitely run hotter races than Saturday’s, but I presume humidity was to blame more than temperature for the worsening conditions.

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Solider Field just so happened to coincide with Beyonce’s Chicago stop on the Formation World Tour, which meant the finish line had to be revamped this year, as Beyonce’s stage was in the way of the normal finish route (how rude! 😛 ). As a rule, I prefer my racecourses to not take me under/through things (i.e.: Lower *insert any street with a Lower in Chicago here*, McCormick Place), and the reroute had us running through much more of the Soldier Field concourse than normal. However, given the circumstances, this was seriously the highlight of the whole race for me. Beyonce played Chicago on Friday and Saturday, so obviously they didn’t take down the directional signage overnight, which meant as we ran through the concourse, we could see signs pointing to where VIPs were supposed to go, where the band was supposed to go, where the dancers were supposed to go, etc., and man, I thought that was the coolest thing EVER. And hey, it’s not every day that you get to finish a race with Beyonce’s stage immediately to your right.

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*insert heart-eyed emoji here*

I finished in 1:43:18, which is FAR and away my slowest 10 mile time ever: almost 12 full minutes off my PR, and even about three and a half minutes slower than Solider Field last year, which was my previous 10 mile personal worst. However, given the conditions, my training, and my complete lack of any concrete time goal (during the race I decided I’d like to finish under 1:45 if I could, or at least under 1:50), I’m quite pleased with my 1:43. I’m even more pleased that I didn’t hit the wall AND, despite the fact that I had my worst 10 mile race ever, I was not in the least bit upset about how things went on race day. But more on that on Thursday 😉

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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.