Sunday, May 24, 2015

2015 Soldier Field 10 Mile Recap

I ran the Soldier Field 10 Mile. It feels good to type that. I RAN THE SOLDIER FIELD 10 MILE! 

I was super nervous, more so than usual, leading up to the race and on race day, but I ran it and finished it and it was amazing and I can't wait to do it again next year.

I could not sleep at all the night before the race, so rather than stay in bed worrying, I chose to use the night to do laundry, read, watch Netflix, and generally try to take my mind off the race. When 3:30am finally rolled around, I hopped in the shower, had a quick snack (half a bagel with cream cheese and a cup of coffee), and got ready for the race - I changed into my running gear and double checked that I had everything I needed to take with me to the race (sunscreen, id, inhaler, water bottle, a snack for pre race, etc). I had signed up in advance for race day packet pick up through Chicago Endurance Sports (one of the perks of doing spring training with them), so I wanted to get to the race site good and early to find the CES area and get my packet.

One of the few benefits of being up so early is getting to watch the sun rise.
Soldier Field wasn't the easiest location to get to on public transit, but it was easier than I thought it would be. I took the brown line to Belmont, transferred to the red line, took the red line to Roosevelt, and then walked to the stadium. The walk helped calm me down a little, and as I got closer to Soldier Field, my nervous energy started to change to excitement.

Once at the stadium, I quickly found the bathrooms and then made my way over to the CES area to check in and get my packet. Soldier Field was the goal race for spring training, so I had access to the CES tent and area. This was a pretty great perk for me, as I basically had a home base where I could hang out before the race started and after the race ended. I also had the chance to reconnect with some of the other folks who trained or paced this season, and it was fantastic being able to congratulate other runners and thank the coaches and pacers.

Chicago Endurance Sports = awesome. I had a blast during training and highly recommend them.
Even though I was there really early, there were already a ton of people hanging out, stretching, and warming up for the race. Some people were already lining up in their corrals, but I was assigned to one of the last corrals that didn't close until 7:30am, so I still had over an hour before I needed to start worrying about finding my corral.

It was a gorgeous day! Sunny, but not too hot. The race was very well organized, with everything clearly marked and easy to find, plenty of friendly and helpful volunteers, and regular announcement made to let everyone know what was happening, including when corrals would be closing.

There was plenty of music and fun and excitement pre race, in addition to a few ceremonial matters. The Soldier Field 10 Mile is always Memorial Day weekend and honors military service men and women. The official race charity was Salute Inc, and there were some pre race ceremonies to honor and remember the men and women who have served their country. There would be active duty members of the military at the finish line handing out finisher medals. Having grown up in a military family, it was a pretty great way to kick off the weekend.

Let's get excited! 
I tried to use my time to relax. I packed what I needed in my race belt (phone, inhaler, and some gummi bears if I needed some energy during the race), pinned on my bib number, applied an extra layer of sunscreen, checked the rest of my gear, and chatted with some of the other CES folks who were also assigned to some of the last corrals while I ate my pre race snack (the other half of my bagel with cream cheese and some water). We talked about our race goals and strategies and whether or not we wanted to run with some of the official pacers for the race or run on our own.

Traditional pre race selfie.
I decided to start with the run/walk (5 minutes run, 1 minute walk) pacer for a two hour finish. It was a slower pace than what I had trained for, but I have a tendency to let my excitement carry me away and start out too quickly during races. My plan was to run the first half of the race with the pacer, and if I was still feeling good, then I could pick up the pace and finish the last half on my own.

Soon, it was finally time to head to my corral. I made one last stop at the bathroom when disaster struck. The drawstring in my running capris broke! There was nothing I could do so close to my corral closing, so I just resigned myself to 10 miles of pulling my pants up repeatedly. I sure hope there are no pictures out there, but what else was I going to do? Not run?

I made my way to Corral 14. There were sooooooo many people! I politely forced my way to the front of the corral in order to find the pacer I wanted to follow.



As we inched our way to the starting line, my nerves kicked in again. I breathed and reminded myself to trust my training. Before I knew it, we were off!

The course was nice and flat, running for the first half on a closed off Lake Shore Drive, but it didn't offer much shade, so the sunshine that was so beautiful before made things feel warmer than they really were. Everyone seemed really happy to be running, though, and there was plenty of support on the course in the form of volunteers and aide stations. There were a total of 5 aide stations on the course, and although I carried my own water, I was very happy to have some gatorade available towards the end of the race.

The pacers that I was running with were amazing! They helped keep spirits up and feet moving for everyone around them. Chatting, singing, and cheering their way through 10 miles must have been exhausting, but they never seemed to tire. I actually ended up running with them longer than I had planned to because they were so awesome and their energy was wonderful and infectious. 

At the turn around, we moved over to the lake front path and had a gorgeous view of the city to run towards. 

I love Chicago! I rarely get to see the city from this perspective.
I felt good for most of the race. I struggled a bit shortly after the 6 mile marker, but I managed to maintain my pace and keep moving forward. By mile 7, I had left the pacers and group and set off on my own. Although I sped up, I did keep the run/walk intervals consistent. Just when I though I couldn't run anymore, the stadium was in sight and I found a final burst of energy to get me to the 50 yard line and finished strong. I even got to hear my name called out over the loud speaker as I got close to the finish line! It was great!

My official time? 1:56:33. It may not be a great time, or even a good time, but I'm pretty happy with it. I finished and I finished strong. After last year's dreams of 10ks and half marathons were shattered, I had started to think that I just wasn't capable of running anything more than 3 miles. To finish 10 miles has given me the confidence needed to start training for a half marathon this summer. I know that I can run. I may run slowly, but I will finish.

And I can count it as a PR, right? Sure it may be my only 10 miles race, but that means it is still my best time for a 10 mile race.

Post race selfie. I finished!
At the finish line, I was given my finisher's medal by young man in uniform, a bottle of water by a very enthusiastic volunteer (high five, buddy!) and was also offered gatorade. I made a beeline for the bathroom for a much needed pit stop, having not wanted to stop during the race at any of the aide stations. 

All around me were runners celebrating their accomplishments. It was fantastic! Everyone was happy and excited. I was feeling okay, though I was a little shaky and ready for some food and drink. I also really badly needed to stretch. After exiting the stadium, I was given a bag of goodies. These bags are genius! No moving from table to table to get recovery food. No struggling to carry a bottle of water and a piece of fruit and a bag of pretzels. Everything was in one convenient, easy to carry bag. I loved it! 

Bag of recovery snacks - apple, pretzels, cookies, fruit snacks, water...lots of goodies and easy to carry.
The post race party was in full swing when I finished. There was music and food and drinks and everyone appeared to be having a great time. I made my way back to the CES area to reconnect with some friends, stretch, foam roll, and rest a little.

Once I was feeling a little better, I took advantage of my free beer. I don't know which I was most excited to have, the beer or the medal. I stayed a while and enjoyed the post race party, but I was soon ready for some real food and a shower, so some of the ladies I trained with and I left in search of brunch.




















Would I run this race again? Yes. 100% yes.

It was fantastic. I loved the challenge that this distance gave me, and the race was a lot of fun. Fleet Feet Chicago puts on some really great races, and this was no exception. Everything was so well organized and ran so smoothly that there was really nothing to worry about, and if I had any questions, then it was incredibly easy to find someone who had answers. The shirt and medal are great, the post race party was great....Basically, the whole experience was great.

4 comments:

  1. Awesome job!! This is such a fun race. I am sad I was out of town this year. What are your next running goals? Keep an eye out for some of the fun mid-week races in the summer!

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    1. Thanks, Lauren! It was so much fun! I'm signed up for a few "just for fun" races this summer, as well as the PAWS Run for Their Lives 8k (I'm fundraising for PAWS Chicago as part of the race). Soldier Field gave me the confidence to go ahead and do another longer race, so my next big goal is to finish a half marathon, which I'll be running in September.

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  2. Congrats on the race and great race photos!!

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    1. Thank you! It was a great race, and I can't wait to run it again next year!

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