Soldier Field 10 Mile Race Report

Today's Soldier Field 10 Mile race marked the first of four (possibly five) weekends in a row of racing. The wisdom of this might seem questionable, but we're all an experiment of one, and I'm out to test my limits a bit and also see how I recover from various race distances.  I think that for race distances in the one hour range and under in particular, if you train through them and simply treat them as very hard workout efforts (i.e. making sure to take extra recovery afterwards), you can race quite a bit.  A nice benefit to this is you can push harder in a race than you ever could in solo training efforts.  I may be pushing the envelope a touch, but I'm not going to be racing much for a few months after this stretch.  Next week is the North Shore Half Marathon in the north Chicago suburbs; then the inaugural Cayuga Trails 50 Mile in Ithaca, NY; the Mt. Washington Road Race in New Hampshire; and the possible fifth week— the USA Half Marathon Championships in Duluth, Minnesota as part of the Grandma's Marathon weekend.

Today's PR at the 10 mile distance makes me want to race this last one (the Half Champs) in particular.  My half marathon PR of 1:08:45 is relatively weak compared to some other times I've run, and this makes me think that I could maybe run somewhere in the low-1:07 range on a good day with good competition.  Additionally, I know loads of people going up to Duluth this year to race the half and full marathon—could be a very fun road trip.  I just need to get off of work now!

As for today's race, I was quite happy with the result.  No way am I fit enough right now to beat Dan Kremske (a fellow U of Illinois alum, though a young one), who has run a 14:11 5k and a 1:06 half marathon this spring, and now a 49:57 10 mile.  Dan lit out from the gun, while Matt Blume from the Fleet Feet team settled into second place followed my Eric Wallor (another former U of I teammate of mine).  I was in a chase pack with maybe half a dozen guys, trying to stay relaxed, as we rolled through miles 1 and 2 in 5:13 and 10:28.  Just before mile 2, I took over pacing duties, as I could feel it start to lag.  My buddy Cole Sanseverino (Fleet Feet team and fellow FFS employee) latched onto my shoulder, and we might have had a few others in tow for another mile or so as well.  Passing Wallor, we hit 3 miles in 15:36.  I started ratcheting it down even more, and Cole and I broke free, reaching 5 miles in 25:41.  We were running just over 5 flat pace now, slowly closing on Blume, and I was feeling good.

It seemed as though we were running into a slight headwind as we headed south the first 5 miles; so I thought we would have a nice tailwind on the way back.  Wrong.  We had an even greater headwind—felt like about 10 mph or so; not terrible, but not pleasant.  Anyone who has done tempo runs on the Lakefront Path knows this double headwind phenomenon.  I'm not sure exactly what it is—I suppose just a primarily easterly wind that shifts enough that it feels like it's always in your face.  As we headed north, Cole soon slipped from my shoulder, but kudos to him for hanging for a while.  10 miles is a bit of a stretch for him at this point (he is a recent 4:05 college miler), and he ran tough.  I slowly made my way up to Blume, passing him shortly before mile 7.  I tried to do so decisively, as I didn't want to break the wind for him.  I managed to get a slight gap, but over the final three miles, I just could not open it up any more, try as I might.  I maintained a meager 5-10 seconds on him, worrying the whole time that he would come back on me.  In the end however, I kept the slight cushion to the line, finishing in 51:11 to Blume's 51:19.  Cole finished fourth in 52:07, while Eric Wallor rounded out the money places in 52:47.  That's three Fleet Feet runners in the top five and three U of I alums in the top five.  

I ran 51:53 here two years ago in similar conditions.  That was three weeks before I ran my marathon PR of 2:22:53 at Grandma's.  So a 42 second improvement seems like a very good sign.  What's most exciting about all this is how much room I have to improve yet.  I've been doing very little in terms of workouts, though I'm slowly shifting in that direction.  I guess I've got some decent aerobic strength, but I am so far from anyone would consider sharp.  I think part of the answer to why I'm racing well is the functional strength gains I have made recently.  I've been implementing a lot more stability-focused, running-specific strength training over the last few months, and I can feel the difference when I race.  With a strong and stable core, your form holds together much better as you tire.  This in turn keeps you more efficient and burning less energy.  You're riding a fine line when you're racing, and once the form starts to go, you start using less efficient muscles.  When that happens, the same pace demands more energy, driving you further into oxygen debt.  So that might explain some of the better-than-expected races results.  It's a thought anyway...

Soldier Field was a fun one, a race that is well-run by Fleet Feet Sports, and I was happy to pick up a little cash for the effort ($250 for second).  This was also my first race in my new road-racing singlet (pictured above) as a pseudo-member of the Fleet Feet Elite Racing Team (pseudo, as it's sponsored by Nike, and I'm clearly not).  On the trails, I'll probably still be in EXO gear.

Let the serial racing begin...