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.

Live Grit Lakefront 10 Miler Race Recap

Once upon a year ago, I ran the Lakefront 10 Miler and was pleasantly surprised to see not one but two of my former physical therapists at the post-race party. I enjoy the company of these people and was just thrilled to see them there.

Once upon ten months ago, I began a six month residency at my physical therapy clinic, spending time with both of these therapists (but primarily my boyfriend physical therapist). As you may understand, when you see someone twice a week for six straight months, you begin to feel attached to them (and you start to do things like call them your boyfriend, even though they are distinctly not), and though you could dance around with glee at the thought of not directly depositing your paychecks into your physical therapist’s company’s coffers, the prospect of no longer seeing your physical therapist on a regular basis does cause you some distress. (Or maybe that’s just me.)

Once upon fiveish months ago, CARA opened registration for its annual Lakefront 10 Miler. Approaching the end of my 2014 stint in physical therapy and saddened by the impending end of my relationship with my physical therapist, I did what any logical person in my position would do: I registered for the Lakefront 10 Miler in hopes that he would, once again, be at the post-race party, so I could say hey without swinging by the clinic because I “happened to be in the neighborhood.” (I am never in the neighborhood.)

(Feel free to check your opinions about me being a stalker at the door 😛 .)

It also just so happened that the Lakefront 10 Miler fell on the same weekend that I was supposed to do a 10 miler for my current half marathon training plan. Given the choice between running 10 miles on my own while dodging race participants or running 10 miles as a race participant, I’d much rather go with the second option.

And that’s the story of what brought me to Montrose Harbor on Saturday morning.

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The weather, in typical spring fashion, has been a bit all over the place this month. There have been weeks where I’ve worn my pea coat one day and no coat two days later. This week was primarily a North Face fleece week–arguably my favorite kind of weather–and the forecast consistently said that it would be in the high 40s at race time on Saturday morning. Per usual, I laid out my race day outfit with care on Friday evening: a short sleeve shirt, arm sleeves, and 3/4 length tights, all of which I thought would be appropriate for those sorts of temperatures.

Then I woke up on Saturday morning.

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What. The. Eff. This is not what I was told!! This is not what I planned for!!

I’m not going to lie: I freaked out when I saw the current temperature. I’ve been building my mileage over the seven weeks or so, but I’ve yet to wear anything less than long sleeves and 3/4 length tights on any of my long runs. I’m not even entirely sure it’s ever hit 50 degrees on any of my long runs. The last time I ran far in those temps was…September? That was seven months ago. In no way did I feel prepared to run 10 miles in Real Feel of 57.

I picked up my “packet” on race day with no problems. CARA, in an effort to go green (and/or save money), did away with the traditional packet entirely this year, which meant no junk (and also no Clif Bar samples 😦 ) and just gave out bib numbers and shirts.

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I don’t know if it was the weather, the fact that I haven’t had a good night of sleep in probably a week (and had a particularly bad night of sleep Friday night, courtesy of a pesky ear issue I’ve been fighting and the reopening of the Man Cave outside my window), or a combination of the two, but I felt awfully anxious heading into the run on Saturday. I fought this feeling (and it accompanying chest tightness, which is not high on my list of Ways I Like to Feel During a Run) for a good 3.5 miles of the race. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I had NO idea what kind of time I would run on Saturday–when talking with a couple coworkers also running pre-race, I threw out 1:38 as a fairly reasonable estimate–so I put myself near the back of the 9:00 minute pace area when lining up, thinking that seemed fair. Per usual, I liked the thought of PR-ing, but knew realistically that wasn’t particularly likely. Last year at this race, I was primed to blow it out of the water. It was the Saturday before Easter, meaning I hadn’t had sweets in six and a half weeks, so I (theoretically) was at my healthiest. I had done a tempo run and intervals or treadmill hills every single week since January 1. I had already run double digit miles that year, including one 10 miler in March and a kickass half marathon earlier in April. The weather, as far as I remember, must have been somewhere in the 40s or low 50s, since I know I wore my pea coat to the race, and that kind of temperature is my sweet spot for running. Everything was set up for me to do well last year.

This year was a different story. Since Easter two weeks ago, I have subsisted on a diet made up primarily of jelly beans, M&Ms, and Cadbury eggs. I have done exactly two speed workouts in all of 2015 (though you could make the argument that November Project counts as speedwork, based on the interval-style workouts and the fact that we often finish with 10 minutes of very short sprints). My last double digit run was the Chicago Marathon. In fact, I’ve been post-marathon PDR-ing every single weekend since I stared this cycle in February. While I didn’t expect the run to go poorly, I certainly did not expect to crush it in any capacity.

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For whatever reason, the first mile of this race feels so. long. I remember this from last year, and this year it was just as demoralizing as in 2014. My watch hit a mile a bit before hit the mile mark, so even though it said I ran an 8:54 first mile, I thought the clock at the mile marker, which read 9:30 as I passed it, sounded much more reasonable.

From that point on, my watch and the mile markers matched up almost exactly, and I was like a freaking metronome:  9:29, 9:27, 9:35, 9:25, 9:31, 9:35, 9:42, 9:28 (and the last mile, which I’ll get to in a second). This has been the story of my long runs for the past month or so. Historically, I’ve been ALL over the place with my mile splits, but lately, my last mile has been maybe 10-15 seconds slower than my first mile. I don’t know what on earth I did to make this happen, but I am loving it. I feel so satisfied when I review my mile splits and see that I ran so evenly, and I felt even more satisfied seeing that in a race setting.

I wanted to fuel around mile 5, but there were no aid stations until right after mile 6, so I waited to take my Shot Bloks until then. This was right before we turned around and started to head north after Fullerton and OH MY GOSH. While it had been calm at the start, the wind had picked up dramatically over the past hour, and this was rough. Not Shamrock-running-down-Franklin rough, but rough nevertheless. I had opted to wear just shorts and a short sleeve shirt for the race based on the warmer-than-expected conditions, and I was actually fairly cold for the last four miles, which rarely happens to me at the end of a run. I kept thinking the wind would die down as the Lakefront Trail moved away from the lake and we had more trees to protect us, but no such luck. I fought that wind the whole. way. back.

Despite the wind, I more or less managed to keep up my pace (that 9:42 split for the eighth mile being the one exception), and when I hit the mile 9 mark, my legs were feeling surprisingly good. was pretty tired, but my legs weren’t, so I let them have their way, and I just flew. I don’t remember the last time I felt like that — it was like the only thing hold my legs back was my cardiovascular system, which was holding on for dear life in that last mile (I now run with a heart rate monitor, and it’s interesting to review my average HR for this race. While it was almost the same for miles 3-6 [181, 182, 183, 183], it definitely jumped for the last four [187, 188, 190, 194], when I was running into the wind. And yes, my HR is always that [miles 3-6] high on long runs, I don’t know why, but I do know my max HR is no less than 207 not 196 like it “should be” for someone my age, my EKG from the doctor came back clear, leave me alone). I ended up busting out an 8:40 final mile and finished the race in 1:33:53. That’s only 2:21 slower than I ran last year when everything was perfect, and considering I went into the race hoping for a 1:38, I am quite pleased with a 1:33.

I collected my medal and obligatory post-race bagel and banana (…and cookies) and immediately went to retrieve my gear since it was so dang cold with all of that wind. I chatted with Erin for a bit, considered adopting her “basically stop running and you’ll be faster than you’ve been in ages” plan, and the reunited with my boyfriend physical therapist 😀 (And whined to him about my feet, which continue to go numb every stupid time I run. He has no explanation, though I have Internet-diagnosed myself with medial plantar nerve entrapment, because I match the symptoms, which is enough for me to Internet-diagnose myself with anything. I did not tell my PT that my PFPS knee hurt after the run, because then he’d ask me if I had been doing my exercises, to which I’d have to hang my head and say “No 😦 ” and then he’d tell me to do my exercises. I figured it’d be easier on everyone to skip that conversation and just start doing my exercises again. Though he was happy to hear that my shin was feeling better, since I actually had gone in to see him [per his request] two and a half weeks ago regarding my shin.)

All in all, a very successful morning 🙂

lakefront10medal2015

FirstMerit Bank Lakefront 10 Miler Recap

Another weekend, another race.

I kicked off my Saturday with the Lakefront 10. Though *technically* I’ve run a 10 miler before, due to the conditions (trail) and distance (9.6 miles by my Garmin), I don’t really count the Georgetown 10 as an official 10 miler. For all intents and purposes, I considered Saturday’s race to be my first 10 miler.

I picked up my packet on Friday at Universal Sole and was pretty happy with the contents.

lakefront10goodiebag

Out of all of these things, the drawstring bag is probably the only thing I didn’t particularly want. I (along with everyone else) LOVE LOVE LOVE the race shirt, and I’m always happy to receive a mini Clif Bar. Beef jerky was a new one for me in a race bag, and I got the blue shoelaces because I made a donation to One Fund when I registered for the race. I haven’t put them on my shoes yet, but I hope to wear them all summer long on my marathon training and marathon shoes.

I was actually pretty nervous heading into Saturday’s race. I had long ago decided what shirt I planned to wear, and then as I went to lay out that shirt with the rest of my race day outfit discovered that I apparently lost said shirt sometime between the Chi Town Half and last Friday (or at least severely misplaced it, because I can’t find it anywhere). I also only had new-to-me flavors of Clif Shot Bloks, which also made me panic, given the whole nothing-new-on-race-day rule. All of these things seemed to be going wrong, and for the first time ever I was genuinely concerned that my race would go poorly.

lakefront10prerace

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect out of myself at the Lakefront 10 in terms of time. I figured there was no way I’d run faster than a 1:30 (9:00 pace), but I also probably wouldn’t run slower than a 1:45 (about what I ran at Georgetown in terrible conditions). I kind of thought maybe a 1:40 sounded reasonable (10:00 pace), but with how speedy I ran the Chi Town Half a few weeks ago, I really didn’t know what I’d be able to do at the Lakefront 10. It was cold, which always helps me out, but it was also a little windy by the lake. I ended up putting myself toward the back of the 9:00 pace area, hoping that I surrounded myself by 9:30/9:45 runners and that I’d be able to hang on to that kind of pace for the duration of the event.

We got started right on time and headed up Simonds to Foster. I felt like the first mile took forever, which hasn’t been how I’ve felt lately. I figured, based on where I lined up, that I must have been running at a 10:00 pace or slower by the number of people passing me (my sleeves covered my watch so I didn’t really know my time). When I did hit the first mile, though (by my Garmin, which registered all the mile markers about 15 seconds before I passed the course mile markers), I saw that I ran an 8:55 first mile. I freaked out, since I knew that kind of pace was not sustainable for another nine miles, and tried to hold myself back and not worry about how many people passed me.

After that first mile, I settled into a nice, steady pace and kept just about all of my miles in the 9:15ish area (9:28, 9:12, 9:15, 9:17, 9:08, 9:26, 9:07, 9:15 through mile 9). While those times in and of themselves make me happy, what made me happier was my consistency. It was one thing to run consistently at Chi Town where I had pacers — it’s another thing to do it on my own. I felt fine throughout the race, and when I hit mile 7 decided I wanted to try to push it a little. I really kicked it in, though, for the last mile of the race. I have a 5K coming up, and though I didn’t sign up with the intent to PR at that 5K, with how things have gone over the past few weeks I wouldn’t mind at least seeing what I can do. The last mile of a 5K always hurts, and I know it’s going to hurt even more if I’m aiming for a PR, so I wanted to use the last mile of the Lakefront 10 as practice. I started keeping an eye on runners ahead of me, picking a person and trying to pass him or her (usually her, so as to improve my gender place 😛 ). I caught three girls I really didn’t think I’d be able to catch and ended up running that last mile in 8:15. Heyo!

My watch measured the course a tiny bit long (10.03), but when all was said and done I finished in 1:31:32. Considering 1:30 was the absolute best I thought I would do, I’m quite happy with a 1:31:32 (9:10 overall pace).

I caught my breath and then headed off to round up as much food as I could find.

lakefront10food

Macaroni and cheese at 9:45 a.m. Normal? And of course a bagel and banana.

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And a bite of steak (mostly because I found the man in the cowboy hat endearing. I love Chicago, but I do miss the country.).

I also took advantage of the stretching station and injury screens at the post-race party. I always appreciate being stretched out post-race by a professional, plus my IT band (or what I thought was my IT band) hurt during pretty much my entire run, so I figured an injury screen couldn’t hurt. One of my former PTs did my injury screen and said it seemed to be my outer quad, not my IT band, which made more sense to me since though my leg hurt in the area of my IT band, my knee didn’t bother me at all. He sent me on my way with instructions to foam roll and keep doing my exercises, which I’ve tried to keep up with but let fall by the wayside more than I should. Definitely need to be more diligent about that to keep myself away from the actual PT’s office (even though I do ❤ physical therapy. But I ❤ being uninjured more.).

So that’s that! All in all, an excellent event. I’m really happy with how I ran and thought CARA did a wonderful job organizing a really solid race. One more race left before it’s time to start thinking about marathon training!

lakefront10medal

Georgetown 10 Miler Recap

Early in 2013 I got it in my mind that I wanted to do a destination race in 2014. Not too long after I had this idea, Alex and I began talking about hanging out, which put me on the search for a race 10 miles or longer in the spring in Washington, D.C. The Georgetown 10 Miler fit all the necessary requirements, so we registered and that was that.

Unsurprisingly, I knew very little about this race heading into things. I had never run in D.C., I had no experience with the D.C. Running Club (the event coordinators), and I really had no idea what to expect. In my mind, I pictured a rolling, paved course that took me through D.C. Oh, how wrong I was.

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About a week before the race, I was talking with my cousin and learned, much to my relief, that the C & O Canal Towpath, where the race would be held, is totally flat (given that it used to be where horses walked back in the canal’s early days, this makes sense). What my cousin neglected to tell me, however, was that this path was made of dirt. While there is that small section south of Fullerton where you have to run on dirt at the moment on the Lakefront Trail, by and large I did no trail running to prepare for the Georgetown 10 (not that I ever do trail running, and not that I would know where to train on a trail in Chicago, anyway). While this in and of itself would’ve made running 10 miles on dirt quite an interesting challenge, the entire situation was exacerbated by the fact that D.C. had a rare snowstorm the Monday before the race, and as such the dirt trail was mostly mud, slush, or ice.

Alex and I were two of the first runners to arrive on the race site Saturday morning. We milled around for a bit, trying to stay warm, before bib pickup opened and we were able to pick up our numbers. After grabbing our numbers we spent more time milling around, said hi to a few of Alex’s friends, and tried to not get too psyched out by the whole muddy trail thing.

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The race had a wave start based on bib numbers, and I was in the last wave. The course was a little crowded at the start as we all attempted to navigate the slushy, icy trail. This involved a lot of single track running, and the first mile dragged on foreeeevvvverrrrrrrrrr. When I finally hit the first mile mark and saw that my watch said “11:33,” I knew this was not going to be anywhere close to the runs I’d had all winter long.

As the trail continued on, the conditions varied between muddy and dry-ish, but fortunately most of the ice was concentrated in that first mile or so. I knew I was moving pretty slow, but I wasn’t feeling 100%, so I decided to focus on the positives. I was running a destination race! I was running my first trail race! The scenery was beautiful! This was, honestly, rather peaceful! I swear I saw a bald eagle at about Mile 2.75, but consultation with my cousin later made it seem like this might have been some other bird of prey. I, however, would like to continue to believe that I saw a bald eagle while running in Washington, D.C., because America. I settled into a nice 10:05ish mile pace around this point, and, all things considered, I felt like things were going well.

The course was a straight out-and-back number with a spray painted “turn around here” line at the five mile mark (that, to my surprise, was actually in Maryland, making this the first time I’ve ever run in Maryland and giving me another state to cross of my very limited list of “Places I’ve Run,” which currently includes Illinois, Michigan, Maryland, and D.C.). The more I ran, the more my Garmin and the on-course mile markers began to disagree, and when I was only at 4.8 something at the “5 mile” mark, I knew the course would probably be short. Given the state of my legs at the time, however, I wasn’t too bothered. HOLY SMOKES is there a difference between running on pavement and slogging through mud! My legs were DEAD. They weren’t quite in marathon pain, but this race definitely takes second place as the most painful race I’ve run. I was so, so, SO ready to be done at mile seven, but I kept plodding on. I was running 11:30s at this point, and that was all my legs could handle. My hips hurt so bad, and I just wanted to be done.

My Garmin measured the course at 9.63 miles instead of 10, but I could not care less. I was, in fact, incredibly grateful for a short course, because the last thing I wanted to do was run another .4 miles. My official time was 1:45:38, about five minutes slower than I anticipated. All things considered, though, I’m quite satisfied with that time. Obviously these were not ideal conditions, and I was happy to just have finished, period.

I collected my medal, t-shirt, lunch box (best race swag ever!) and a banana after finishing and headed back to Alex’s place to scrub the mud off my legs.

georgetown10medalbag

Fortunately, my shoes already have 250 miles on them, so they were on their way out anyway. Otherwise, I might be a little more torn up about the end result of the race.

muddyshoes

Yikes.

So, yeah. Not the race I anticipated by any means, but honestly, I’m totally fine with it. This wasn’t something I took super seriously, was not at all a goal race for me…I was there to have a good time. And while perhaps “insane pain” may not be everyone’s definition of a good time, I am a runner, I suppose, and that kind of comes with the territory 😉 And now I have a great story to tell!

Have you ever been totally caught off-guard by race conditions?
Any trail runners out there? More power to you. I’ll stick to roads, thanks.