Sunday, April 29, 2012

CARA Lakefront 10-Miler Race Recap

After being in a state of anxiety for most of Friday about whether or not to run the CARA Lakefront 10-Miler yesterday, I did go with the affirmative.  Rainy weather forecast be darned. 

Talk about timing, I was one of the recent winners in Kim's giveaway for an all-weather running shirt (thanks, Kim!) so I had to prove my deservedness!  ;-)  Also, my visiting family was exhausted after having gotten up at 3:15 AM EST on Friday morning to catch their flight to Chicago.  Therefore, they opted to not attend the race, which made logistical coordination easier.

On Friday night as I was laying out my gear, I also packed a separate bag with a towel and a complete change of clothes (including underwear!) for after the race.  After my experience of running in monsoon-like conditions, I was bracing myself for something similar or worse.  I also purposely did not pack my MP3 player.  I've already buried one MP3 player from untimely death due to rainwater exposure, and I didn't want to lose a second one.

Yesterday morning when I woke up, it was overcast and definitely looked like it had rained, but was not raining at that moment.  I said the first of many prayers that the rain would hold off for a few hours, but was still dreading the weather conditions that might lie ahead of me.  Adam was much more cheerful than me as we were driving to the race.  I even lamented to him, "Why do I put myself through these things?" 

His response: "Because you're a runner."

After Adam dropped me off on site, I saw the crowds of runners and started to feel more positive.  Race packet pickup and gear check were both a breeze.  Although, the woman working packet pickup showed us a list of pages and pages of people that had not yet shown up yet, and said that many people were picking up their packets and then going home. (!!!)

After a trip to portapotty city (very short lines!), I lined up near the back of the pack.  At 8:00 AM on the dot, the airhorn blew and off we went.

I wanted to start out slowly, and focused on hugging the corners of the course.  My left hip flexor was hurting during the first few miles.  I was nervously praying that it would calm down, otherwise I feared it was going to be a long race.  Maybe because of this, I was somewhat fascinated by medical personnel (identifiable by bright red "MD" vests) that I saw prowling the course on bike.  But very thankfully my hip pain did eventually go away.

My splits for the first four miles:

Mile 1: 11:38
Mile 2: 11:11
Mile 3: 11:25
Mile 4: 12:29 (includes a bathroom break)

Around mile 3.5, I hit Cricket Hill.  There had been a lot of hype about this hill, such that the CARA Lakefront 10-Miler was being billed as "the hilliest course in Chicago."  I was apprehensively expecting something along the lines of the hills in San Francisco, Seattle, or Pittsburgh. 

I'd pictured something like this. 
This is the real reason people leave their hearts in San Francisco.
I was so relieved when I finally saw Cricket Hill in person that I almost laughed out loud.  It paled in comparison to what I had imagined.

This is Cricket Hill. 
Thank goodness for Chicago's flatness!

I wanted to take my first GU around mile 3 or 3.5, but due to the spacing of the water stations I ended up taking it around mile 4.  I was trying to pace myself to not start too quickly and to run a negative split.  But then the GU kicked in.  Around mile 5.5 or so I started to speed up somewhat unintentionally (though I did consciously think about trying to make up for time lost in the bathroom).

Mile 5: 10:40
Mile 6: 10:50
Mile 7: 10:36

I was feeling good and enjoying how quickly the time had been passing compared to when I run by myself.  I wanted to take my second GU around mile 7, but again due to the spacing of the water stations I ended up taking it around 7.5.

At this point, I decided it was time to really start pushing.  I tried to focus on quickening my cadence and continued to hug the corners as much as I could, even cutting them slightly here and there.

Mile 8: 10:16

I didn't have any real time goals going into the race, although I was hoping to finish below 1:55:00 and even more ideally below 1:50:00.  Up until mile 8 I was only looking at my splits and not my entire elapsed time, but when I hit mile 8 I realized that finishing sub-1:50:00 was achievable.  My lungs and legs were starting to feel it, but I was excited at my prospective finishing time!

Mile 9: 9:58

During the last two miles I kept looking for a person that was a little ahead of me and making it my goal to pass him or her.  Then once I did, I would find another person and make a new goal to pass him or her.  It worked well in keeping me focused.  Then, whenever I looked at my elapsed distance I tried to think of the remaining distance in minutes instead of miles.  E.g., "Just another 10 minutes!"

During the last half mile, the course loops around the finishing area and back so you can see the finish line but still have to circle around to get to it.  It was like the oasis in the desert, so close but still so far away!  I saw Adam at about 9.9, waved at him, then sprinted to the finish as best I could.

Mile 10: 9:25

My official finishing time was 1:48:34.  Yay!

While I was tired afterwards, I felt good - a million times better than I did after finishing my last race, the Chicago Get Lucky Half Marathon.  And in the end, my prayers were answered and the rain and inclement weather did hold off for the entire race!

Overall Race Review
I've heard that CARA races are very well-run, and indeed this race was one of the most organized races I've ever done.  Great resources and communication, really enthusiastic volunteers, and very helpful course marshalls.  It was also very reassuring to see the medical staff patrolling the course on bike.  Great post-race goodies, too (they were handing out Clif Shot energy gels and shot bloks, which I've never tried before but now can!)  I would definitely run this race again in the future.

Lessons Learned:
  • Chicago's "hills" are not to be feared.  =)
  • I ran the first 5 miles in 57:23 and the second 5 miles in 51:11.  While I was happy to have run a negative split, perhaps it shouldn't be THAT much of a negative split?  I'm wondering if I could have finished even a few minutes faster if I'd run a more even split?
  • GU's instructions are to take a GU 15 minutes before activity, then every 30 to 45 minutes during.  I've never tried taking the GU beforehand.  But given just how much of a boost I got after I took my first one yesterday, I might experiment with taking one in advance.  That might also help with reducing the disparity in my first- and second-half splits?
  • Study the course map in advance to know where those water stops are for GU purposes.  Or carry a hand-held water bottle just in case.
  • Work more on getting my hydration plan nailed down so that I don't have to use the bathroom during the race!
  • Thankfully the weather did not end up being a factor.  Even so, know fully what you need to do to represent when you enter and win a contest for an all-weather running shirt just days before a race in Chicago.  (Thanks again for the extra push, Kim!  ;-) )


  1. Woo-hoo! Great mile splits! It sounds like you did an amazing job!

    And the "because you are a runner," line is so true!*

    1. Thanks so much, Amy!

      If you think about it too much, it really is pretty scary what us runners do "for fun." But, as the old Adidas advertising campaign says, "Runners. Yeah, we're different." =)

  2. Congrats! You ran a really smart race! You probably could have gone a bit faster if the two 5-miler splits were closer, but with your hip, it was REALLY smart to hold back then speed up. Congrats on that. That is HARD to do! You rock!

    So happy I gave you that extra push :) LOL

    Too bad so many people picked up packets and left! LAME town! Were they afraid of that "hill"? HAHAHAHA

    I have taken GUs before runs and I think it helps! :)

    1. Thanks, Kim! I really appreciate the positive feedback on my race "strategy." =) And I'll be wearing the new Under Armour shirt on my next training run, yay!

      Yeah, it was pretty amazing that so many people picked up their packets and left. But given how sinister the weather forecast was, I unfortunately can't say I wasn't tempted to do the same (as you know!). But at least I can say that being tempted is not the same as doing!

      That's great to hear that you've had good experience with advance GUs! Here's to another tip and trick of the trade that hopefully works for me too!

  3. Great finish time that is proud!

  4. Great job!! Glad the weather held out for you, but I agree with Kim, that's lame that people picked up their packets and left. It's just rain! (And, as you said, not even that!)

    1. Thanks, Maggie! It was indeed a huge, huge relief that the weather held out. Wonder if anyone that elected to pick up their packet and leave ended up later regretting it? But hey, the more people that bailed, the more post-race goodies there were for the rest of us, right? =D

  5. Really awesome performance!!! Makes me re-think my GU strategy...How did the leg feel? I am really, really nervous for the Pittsburgh Half on Sunday. I had a terrible run this past weekend, aimed to do 8 miles and could only suffer through 5. I'm noticing my IT band pain this week even when I'm not running (guessing it's b/c I'm thinking about it...probably even imagining it). I'm really hoping the energy of the race will pull me through but am terrified of the idea of running 10 miles in pain and possibly messing up my leg to the point of being unable to run post race. UGH! Being injured just plain stinks!

    1. Thanks so much, Molly! What is your current GU strategy? I'm always up for experimentation on GU usage so I'd love to hear what works/doesn't work for you!

      I am so sorry to hear about how your run went this past weekend. =( It's truly the most frustrating feeling ever to want so much to run, but to not be able to do as much as you planned because of injury.

      For the race, maybe try to foam roll as much as you can yet this week - like three or four times a day or even more. I am sure the energy of the race will help you a lot! But definitely give yourself permission to slow down, take a break, or stop if you're in pain. Don't pressure yourself to do more than you can reasonably do. And most importantly, be sure to enjoy yourself! If for some reason this race doesn't go the way you want it to, there will always be another!

      I wish you the best of luck this weekend as well as the speediest of recoveries known to human kind! You are going to do GREAT!

    2. Thank you so much! As far as my GU strategy, I usually take one after an hour of usually about mile 6 or so, I'll either have a GU or lately I've been using Power Bar Energy Blast chews. I like them b/c they are like a gummy and I can take as many or as few as I want rather than an entire GU. I've never been a huge fan of GU - I think it's a texture thing for me.

      I've been trying to roll and stretch more often throughout the day this week. I've definitely been carbing up more than I would usually do for a race this week. I wonder if that will make any difference.

  6. Great race and congrats on finishing strong! That picture of the San Francisco hill scares me. Thankfully we don't have terrain like that in the flat midwest! :)

    1. Thanks so much, Kelly!

      Agreed - those hills in San Francisco are just plain terrifying! I get nervous driving or even walking on those hills, let alone trying to run them in a race! You can always tell that I'm Midwestern when I'm in San Francisco, because I'll be huffing and puffing up the hills and little old ladies will be whizzing by me. =D