Byline Bank Chicago Spring 10K Race Recap

I crossed the last race off my pre-move city races bucket list on Sunday at the Byline Bank Chicago Spring 10K. I’ve done this race twice before, running the half marathon once and the 10K once. I’m a HUGE fan of this event’s post-race party, so I wanted to do the race again. I waffled between the half and the 10K, but ultimately decided to do the 10K for a few reasons:

Reason #1: I didn’t think I’d be up to half marathon shape that quickly after my Europe trip.

Reason #2: I’ve never had good weather for this race (by which I mean it’s always been hotter and/or more humid than I’d like for a long distance run), and I’d rather run fewer miles in hot/humid conditions given the option.

Reason #3: The two times I’ve accidentally run the 5K of the Chicago Half in September rather than the half marathon (“accidentally” because in both instances I registered for the half, but extenuating circumstances [running a marathon seven days earlier; a bum hamstring] made me drop down to the 5K) have taught me that, given the option between the long distance and the short distance event offered at a Lifetime race, you should always pick the short distance event. You get all the benefits of running a Lifetime race, of which there are many–I firmly believe Lifetime is the best race organizer in the area–and you don’t have to do as much work to enjoy those benefits. Plus, the shirt and medal 5K at the Chicago Half are always way better than the shirt and medal for the half marathon, but that’s not really relevant to this race šŸ˜›

Reason #4: I hadn’t run a 10K since the last time I ran this 10K, and that was three years ago. It seemed like it was time to do one again.

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I didn’t have any particular goals for this race, though I did hope to break an hour. Had this race been closer to my previous spring races (and had the weather been much cooler and drier), I would’ve gone for a PR–I unofficially PRed my 10K during the Lakefront 10 Miler, and most likely unofficially PRed it during the Chi Town Half as well–but I knew I wasn’t in PR shape and neither was the atmosphere, so I didn’t want to put undue pressure on myself from a performance standpoint. Plus, I was really only interested in doing this race for the finish line breakfast and flower, and I’d get those regardless of how fast I ran.

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(If you go to the Bean at 7 a.m. on a Sunday, you get it all to yourself! Who knew!)

The logistics of this race changed since I ran it in 2016. Instead of being based in Lakeshore East and starting on the Lakefront Trail right outside Lakeshore East, it’s now based in Maggie Daley Park and starts on a completely-closed-to-traffic Columbus Drive. The half marathon started at 7 a.m., but the 10K didn’t start (“start”) until 7:45, so I got there a little after 7:00 and had ample time to linger around before getting to the corrals. The corrals were a BILLION times better organized than when I did the 10K in 2016. In 2016, we lined up behind the half marathoners and just waited around forever. This time, they sent all the half marathoners on their way before even organizing us into our corrals, which I thought worked a lot better.

However, I don’t think the corrals themselves made a whole lot of sense. I don’t know what I put down as my estimated finish time when I registered, though I’ve got to imagine it was awfully close to 1:00. Despite this, I somehow was assigned to what appeared to be the last corral of the 10K. While waiting to start, two women who clearly were friends were next to me chatting, and one said to the other, “Just remember: only an hour and a half until brunch.” I didn’t ask her to clarify what exactly she meant by that (did that hour and a half account for the fact that we hadn’t started yet? Did that account for travel time to brunch? Did “brunch” mean “at a restaurant somewhere” or “at the finish line”?), but if she was planning to run the 10K in 1:30, obviously we had very different expectations for how our race days would pan out, and she didn’t seem to be someone who should be standing next to me.

The race was supposed to start at 7:45, but the pre-race stuff started at 7:45 instead (God Bless America, announcements, etc.), so no one got moving until 7:47. They waited FOUR MINUTES between corrals, which meant I didn’t start running until 7:55. The point of waiting that long was to alleviate course congestion, but I really don’t think it made a difference, as I’ll get into later.

I started the race behind someone in JEANS who took off at a casual stroll across the timing mats, which further confirmed I was not in the right corral. I don’t have any problem with people who sign up for races with the intention of walking them, but it seems to me that someone who plans to walk the race, as this person clearly did given their wardrobe, and someone who hopes to finish the race in under an hour shouldn’t be starting right by each other.

Anyway, we ran down Columbus, making this the only time I’ve run that road going south rather than north, and at Roosevelt turned into Grant Park. We went under Lakeshore Drive and headed to the Lakefront Trail, which is where things got a bit sticky.

The Lakefront Trail going around the Shedd Aquarium is too narrow, period. It’s really only wide enough to comfortably accommodate one person in a northbound lane and one person in a southbound lane at a time. It is NOT wide enough to accommodate a bit over 1000 10K runners, three different on-course race photographers, AND homeward bound speedy half marathoners all at once, but that’s the situation we were in. I felt really bad for the half marathoners who had to deal with all of us 10Kers going south, because we were very clearly in their way, and those were not the sort of runners who seemed…unbothered…by having other runners get in their way. I’m sure the long intervals between 10K corrals helped, but I think if they really want to alleviate crowding on this course, they have to make the Shedd Aquarium curve a one-way deal. I think the course would be vastlyĀ improved by routing outbound runners around the Field Museum and Soldier Field and then having them merge on to the Lakefront Trail and limiting the Shedd Aquarium curve to inbound runners, similar to the way the Hot Chocolate 15K finishes.

There was a pretty aggressive (16 mph) wind coming out of the south during the run, which helped keep me cool for the first three-ish miles of the race but certainly didn’t make running particularly easy. Sunday was definitely my hottest and most humid run of the year thus far (it was in the low 70s, with a dew point in the low-mid 60s), and I wasn’t very prepared for that. Drafting wasn’t an option for me because I spent the first four miles passing people, thanks to my bizarro corral assignment.

For all my criticisms of the beginning of the course, I have to give credit where credit is due, and credit is VERY much due for how the race handled the 10K turnaround. I spent most of the southbound portion of the race wondering how on earth they were going to accomplish having all of us 10K runners make a hairpin turn to head north in the middle of the half marathon course, what with all the northbound half marathoners we’d have to disrupt and all. What they ended up doing was routing the 10K runners off to an auxiliary trail just south of McCormick for like maybe 50 meters and having us do our hairpin there, which allowed us to seamlessly merge back into the half marathon course from the left. Genius!! I was so amazed by how smoothly it worked! Like, I spent a good couple of minutes marveling over how smart of a course design that was. Good work, Lifetime!

Turning around meant we had the wind at our back, but I’ve found that’s almost never as pleasant as it sounds like it should be. I got really warm, and, courtesy of my over-enthusiasm at the start, was getting quite tired as well. I alternated between reminding myself that I was only in this for the breakfast and thinking about how annoyed I’d be if I ran a 1:00:xx, so I did my best to keep pushing. It started to rain a little around mile five, but not enough to cool me down as much as I could’ve used.

I ended up finishing in 58:34, which is my third fastest 10K time. I averaged a 9:26 pace, which makes me really happy! Obviously if I was going to break an hour, I needed to average sub-10:00 miles, but given how much my training has nosedived since I ran my half six weeks ago (which I don’t say to be critical of myself – I wanted to back off my training after working so hard for 12 weeks), I was quite surprised that I managed to hold an average 9:26 pace over 6.2 miles. Anything faster than a 10:00 is fast to me, so I’m really proud that I managed to pull that off.

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The rain tapered off during the post-race party, giving me time to enjoy the breakfast I was so interested in and to get a begonia to kick off my 2019 gardening. This was my last Chicago race as a Chicago resident, and I’m glad I ended with strong finish at one of my favorite races.

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Michelob ULTRA Chicago Spring 10K Race Recap

If you memorize my blog posts, as I expect most of you do, you may recall that at the end of last year, I declared that I hoped to PR my 10K in 2016. I had last PRed a 10K in 2013, and since that time had PRed every “usual” distance (5K, 8K, half marathon, marathon) at least once, if not more than once. The BTN Big 10K is usually my only 10K of the year, and its mid-marathon season timing rarely makes it ideal for PRing. Therefore, this year, I decided to find another 10K and set that as my goal race.

I really enjoyed the Chicago Spring 13.1 last year, but didn’t feel like being ready to run a half marathon by late May this year, so the Chicago Spring 10K was a (fairly) easy choice. I knew it was a little risky to have a goal race so late in May, since all of my PRs have come on cold days, but nothing else aligned well with taking the whole month of February off running. The Chicago Spring 10K it was!

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I’mĀ in loveĀ with the design on the shirt this year! Last year’s shirt was nice, too, but I think the artwork on this is just fantastic.

The Chicago Spring 10K, obviously, comes with a half marathon as well that starts a “half hour” before the 10K. I’m not all that crazy about standing around race sites for hours on end before my race begins, so I showed up right around 7 a.m., when the half marathon began. The Chicago Spring 13.1 & 10K has a somewhat unique setup, in that all of the usual pre/post race stuff–gear check, food, most of the portapotties (but not all – there are also some by the start line), vendors, the finish line–are all inside the park area of Lakeshore East, while the start line is out on the trail itself. When I arrived, Lakeshore East was basically a ghost town. Nearly everyone else had gathered near the start line, so I checked by bag with ease and enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime experience of not encountering a single line (or even another person, for that matter) at the portapotties. Miracles do happen.

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I ran the Chicago Spring 13.1 last year, and I took photos at the race the year before, so I knew the start of the race is always super crowded. To ease crowding, they only send half marathon corrals off every minute, and with corrals A-I, that’s going to take a long time regardless, as the minute in between corrals starts after the last person gets through the start line, and the whole corral doesn’t start at the same second.Ā But ho.ly. smokes. It took SO LONG for the half marathoners to get through the start this year (and maybe last year – I wouldn’t know for sure, since I was one of them). Our race was supposed to start at 7:30, but I didn’t cross the start line until 7:49, and I was fairly close to the front of the 10Kers. I suppose 19 minutes isn’t the worst thing in the world in the grand scheme of things, and I’ve certainly waited longer than that to start from an official start time before (see: the Chicago Marathon, Rock ‘n’ Roll, any big race ever), but it’s one thing forĀ meĀ to wait for 20 minutes to start running after the race’s official start, and another thing for the race itself to start 20 minutes late. I don’t know what the entire start process for that race always looks like, so maybe this was a one year thing, and again, I realize that big picture, this isn’t a world-is-ending sort of problem. But it still frustrated me. And while I’m complaining about the start process: while the half marathon was seeded by whatever time you said you’d run when you registered (I assume), the 10K was self-seeded…which is totally fine, if you have some sort of way to get people to arrange themselves, which the Chicago Spring 10K did not. They just threw us all on the path behind the half marathon corrals and sent us on our way. The 10K field was SUBSTANTIALLY smaller than the half marathon field (818 finishers, compared to 4,481 in the half), so once again, this was not the absolute worst thing in the world, butĀ I can’t remember the last time I ran a race that didn’t even attempt to encourage its runners to organize themselves by anticipated pace, and I thought that was super bizarre, since it’s not like this is Lifetime’s first rodeo at race management.

Anyway. I had all sorts of goals for this race: A goal – 55:00 or faster; B goal – 57:27 or faster (that would get me a PR); C goal – sub-60 (not a PR, but it would only be the second time I’ve run a sub-60 10K). To hit my A goal, I needed to run an 8:51 pace or faster. I planned to start out around 9:00s and pick it up as things went on. In an extremely uncharacteristic moment of level-headedness, I didĀ notĀ panic when I went through the first mile in 8:38. Instead, I decided I’d just try to back off a little bit.

Not long after I went past the one mile mark (or maybe even a little bit before?), I passed the “Back of the Pack Crew,” which, based on their event staff t-shirts, I’m assuming are people chosen by Lifetime to bring up the rear of the half marathon. As I kept going, I encountered more of the Back of the Pack Crew, and, soon enough, people walking the half marathon, including the 3:00 pace group. This made things a bit sticky, especially around Soldier Field and McCormick Place, because by that point, the leaders of the half marathon were coming back (the course is, for all intents and purposes, out and back), and you had 818 extra people on the course, and all of these walkers – it was a lot of people in not very much space, and made for a lot of bobbing and weaving until I hit the turnaround. I don’t know how this could possibly be avoided–realistically, it probablyĀ can’tĀ be avoided, unless one of the races started like an hour before the others–but it was a bit more crowded than I had hoped it would be. I don’t know if my watch was just feeling particularly uncooperative, or if I just did a particularly terrible job of running tangents, or if my bobbing and weaving really did add up to a substantial distance, but my watch says I ran 6.42 miles total, which seems like a pretty significant amount to add on to a 10K, considering that my MARATHONS usually end up with an extra .6 or so miles by my watch when it’s all said and done. I’m sure the course itself was accurate, and I’m sure my watch was confused, because it normally is, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if all the passing I had to do throughout the race did add some distance onto my total.

We turned around just south of McCormick Place, and right around that point I discovered that one can, in fact, hit a wall during a 10K. Oh. My. Gosh. I knew I had gone out too fast, but I didĀ notĀ expect it to beat me up so hard. I had a really hard time keeping my breathing under control andĀ basically wheezed my way through the last 2.5 miles. My watch’s measured distance and the course’s marked distances stopped lining up after the first mile mark, so I really don’t know how fast I was running my miles. According to my watch, only my last mile was in the 9:00s, but if I really ran an 8:53 fifth mile, let me tell you, 8:53 has never felt so long in my entire life. I was burning up and I was cursing the sun and Lake Michigan for making everything ten times worse and my legs were begging me to walk. I looked at my watch when I went through Mile 5 and saw it at 47:something (I think? I really don’t remember for sure), and figured at that point, I didn’t stand a chance of running a sub-55, and with how quickly I was fading, I didn’t really know if I’d even PR. I was giving it absolutely everything I had, however, which consoled me. If I didn’t PR, it certainly wouldn’t be for lack of trying.

I tried to push it a little harder when we got back into Lakeshore East and had .1 miles left to run. God only knows what kind of horrors my finish line photos will hold when they publish them online, but I crossed the finish line inĀ 56:22, hitting my B goal and getting me a new 10K PR by 1:06 (!!).

I felt some kinda way after I finished, let me tell you. I’m used to feeling like I’m going to fall over dead at the end of any race shorter than 10 miles (and, sometimes, at the end of races longer than 10 miles haha), but this was EASILY the worst I’ve ever felt after any race. I couldn’t even keep walking through the finishing chute, which earned me a little bit of medical attention (go me!). I really wanted to sit down, but whichever medical person was paying attention to me when I was standing bent over with my hands on my knees wouldn’t let me, and instead propped me up against the fence, where I tried to remind my body how breathing without hyperventilating is supposed to work.

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Once I eventually got my bearings back, I retrieved my gear and got breakfast, which, full disclosure, is really the only reason I run this event. Yes, I will happily run your event if you’ll give me free breakfast at the end.

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While it would’ve been nice to not feel like I was about to die at the end of the race, I am SO happy that I PRed. I wanted this so bad, and have suffered through untold numbers of intervals and 60 minute runs to make this happen. It was wonderful to see all my hard work pay off.

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(I have no idea why my medal so prominently says 13.1, by the way. I’m assuming they just gave the same medal to half marathon and 10K finishers? It feels a bit fraudulent to have a medal that makes it look like I ran a half marathon when, in fact, I didn’t even run half of a half marathon…but whatever. I didn’t design the medals.)

BTN Big 10K Race Recap

The streak lives on! For the fourth year in a row, I pretended to be a Big 10 alum and ran my only 10K of the year: the BTN Big 10K.

This year, the race (10K and 5K) had 12,105 finishers – which, fun fact, is more finishers than the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half had last Sunday (12,031, though with the 10K, the overall Rock ‘n’ Roll event had 13,961). Despite now easily being one of theĀ five biggest running events in Chicago (with the Chicago Marathon, Shamrock Shuffle, Hot Chocolate and Rock ‘n’ Roll as events one through four, respectively), for reasons far beyond my comprehension, the race still insisted on holding packet pickup at exactly one Fleet Feet location. That went about as well as you would expect a small store hosting packet pickup for 12,000+ runners to go.

That is to say, not well.

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Now, I will admit that I went to packet pickup at about 5:30 p.m. on Friday, which was probably a pretty popular time to go to packet pickup. HOWEVER. I have never, in my four years and 30+ events of racing, seen packet pickup this disastrous (then again, I’ve also never run Hot Chocolate, so maybe that’s why šŸ˜‰ ). For those of you familiar with Fleet Feet Old Town, the line for packet pickup began in the Piper’s Alley lobby, snaked down the hall that goes past Chipotle and Starbucks, out onto the sidewalk on Wells in front of Adobo Grill and Fleet Feet, beyond the gated houses next to Fleet Feet, and down to the hair salon to the north of those homes – when I got there. I have no idea how much longer the line got later. All told, packet pickup, which involved getting my bib and participant bag–a task that should, AT MOST, take five minutes–took 40 minutes. The line moved along at a decent clip, but that is ABSURD. The Big 10K has, without question, outgrown Fleet Feet as a packet pickup location, and it’s time to look into other options –Ā especiallyĀ since this is now a Top Five race in the city.

If only everyone consulted with me before organizing their races, eh? šŸ˜‰

Continuing with this year’s trend of bare bones packets, there was next to nothing in this year’s for the Big 10K.

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Which is fine. I only need to throw away so many Chicago Endurance Sports advertisements, you know?

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I’m starting to feel silly for having four Michigan Big 10K shirts, and I’m thinking of getting shirts for random schools if I continue to run this race – maybe see if I can collect the entire conference? (Except Ohio State. I may not be a Michigan alum, but that doesn’t mean I want any scarlet and grey shirts in my wardrobe.)

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In my opinion/experience, this year’s start line was the most organized of them yet. I was in an appropriate corral (unlike 2013), and I thought they did a good job of spacing us out as started the race. In the weeks leading up to the race, we kept getting emails touting the new course (as if changing the course were a new concept: this race has changed the course literally every year – not that I’m complaining!). This year’s race took us under McCormick Place TWICE (kill me), which threw my watch into a tizzy. And while the race didn’t read my Rock ‘n’ Roll recap and provide me with a club atmosphere inside McCormick Place, theyĀ didĀ play music inside the tunnels, which I really appreciated. Let’s make this a permanent thing, shall we? McCormick Place tunnels areĀ soĀ much more tolerable with music.

After such a lousy week of running, I really wanted to keep myself under control during the race andĀ not bonk no matter what. I hit the first mile in 9:30, which was just about a full minute faster than I wanted, but I had a really hard time slowing down. I eventually got more into the 10s, though the heat certainly helped with that. It was mercifully overcast on Saturday, but it was hot hot hot and humid humid humid, making conditions less than enjoyable for the heat-averse like me. Also, there were only three aid stations on-course, which was about three fewer than I would have liked. I really, really needed more water out there on a day like Saturday.

The last mile of the course was super weird, with us winding all around the area of McCormick Place before going into a tunnel that lasted for.ev.er. (and caused my watch to think I ran a 12:02 last mile. Lulz. I guarantee you that is NOT true.). I actually felt pretty good and able to push it towards the end, which made me so happy. Aside from Rock ‘n’ Roll, I’ve been so spent at the end of most of my races lately that it’s been a struggle to make it to the finish line. While I suppose that’s a somewhat effective way to race, at least in the sense that it means I’ve given it my all, I much prefer to not feel like death for the last mile.

I ended up finishing inĀ 1:03:01, which ranks as my #3 (out of five) 10K time. No complaints from me! Though I would like to break an hour in the 10K again sometime, ideally sooner rather than later, Saturday wasĀ notĀ the day that was going to happen. If I want to run a fast 10K, it’s going to have to be in the spring or fall, no question about that.

I met up with my CARA BFF after the race and hung out with her and a couple of her friends for quite some time. She hasn’t been to training at all yet this summer, so it was SUPER great to see her and catch up. And eat those delicious chicken sausages they serve post-race, which in and of itself is pretty much enough to keep me doing this race šŸ˜›

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I feel oddly loyal to the Big 10K since I’ve done it every year since its inception, but I’m also starting to feel weirder and weirder about doing it, since I didn’t go to a Big 10 school. Obviously no one at the race knows that, but I still feel like I’m not ~supposed~ to be there since I don’t have a Big 10 degree to my name (would just like to reiterate that I did get into Michigan and could have gone to Michigan but choseĀ notĀ to go to Michigan. Sorry not sorry.). Big 10 alum are so oddly possessive about their schools, and I get sick of justifying my presence there to people who ask why I’m running if I didn’t go to a Big 10 school. But it’s a fun event, and the post-race party is honestly my favorite out of all of the post-race parties, so…yeah. We’ll see.

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