Soldier Field 10 Mile Race Report

2nd place - 50:34 (new PR)
- Strava Data (via Suunto Ambit 2S)

I ran the Soldier Field 10 Mile on Saturday morning, managing to finish second place with a new PR of 50:34.  It's my third PR of the spring (along with a 14:59 5k and a 2:21:20 marathon), all at shorter race distances than my focus (ultras).  Which is quite fun and encouraging; I'm really just running this all on aerobic strength, making it seem likely I could drop quite a bit faster times if/when I actually focus on some short distance training.  No real doubt that I'm in the shape of my life right now.

Not sure if this is pre or post-race.  Either way, I'm happy. :)
Photo credit: Wendy Shulik  
Soldier Field is always a lot of fun.  It is Fleet Fleet's premier race, and as I used to work at Fleet Feet, I know a lot of the folks involved.  It's a well-organized race, a fast course, and usually pretty competitive.  When I lived in Chicago, it was a no brainer to race it.  This year, I figured I could still justify the trip by making a little cash /prize money to pay for it.  However, as the race neared, I was wondering it that was true.

I found out last year's winner, fellow U Illinois alumnus Dan Kremske would be returning.  Dan's just 25, but has already run 1:04:09 for the half marathon, and ran his debut marathon in 2:18:53 last fall in Chicago.  He now runs for Team Run Eugene, and recently set a 10,000m PR of 29:04 at Stanford.  I knew Matt Blume would be tough, with a 1:06:33 half to his name (from last year's USA Half Marathon Championships in Duluth, MN) and ramping up for another goal half marathon in Minnesota in June.  Then there was Lucas Meyer, fresh off a 48:45 10 mile at Cherry Blossom in April.  Finally, Irishman Thomas Frazer, who ran a marathon PR of 2:17:45 in Berlin last fall.

Race morning conditions were good; not perfect, but good enough.  It didn't really heat up until after the race, and though there was a headwind from the north for the second half of the race, it wasn't very strong.  The Soldier Field race is run in honor of military service people and veterans, which is why it is on Memorial Day weekend and starts and finishes at Soldier Field.  There are some nice pre-race ceremonies in the 15 minutes prior to the race, concluding with the National Anthem.  After the anthem, the frontrunners all got in one quick stride before we toed the line and took off.

About 400m into the race; Kremske already to the lead.
Photo credit: Beth Rosenbarger
I settled into second place with Matt Blume as Dan Kremske immediately separated himself.  Early in the race, he seemed a bit antsy, looking around and seeing what everyone else was up to.  Blume and I were content to let him go, but Thomas Frazer decided to give chase as we ran through the tunnel under McCormick Place.  Lucas Meyer followed in his slipstream, as did Blume a touch, and I found myself solo in 5th place, with the top 5 strung out.

I was running basically 4:58 or 4:59 for each mile and felt fairly relaxed.  I slowly caught up to Blume in mile 3 and passed.  I started to gain on Meyer as well.  I passed him headed into mile 5, he came along for the ride as we chased Frazer.  By that point, Frazer had fallen back from Kremske.  I made a bit of a push to catch him before the turnaround point (just shy of mile 5), which yielded my fastest split on the day, a 4:54 5th mile.  It was a bit too much probably, but it was also strategic: I was trying to create some separation.  We would be turning back north, into a mild headwind, and I had found myself in the unfortunate position of leading a chase pack.  The other two would surely be happy to let me break the wind, meaning that it would be more difficult for me to break free.

As we turned north, Frazer hung for a bit, but he was feeling poorly enough that Meyer and I gapped him within a mile.  I had a slight edge on Meyer, so I just had to keep pushing, hoping I could gradually pull away.  I managed to do so, but it took quite a bit of effort and our splits began to slow.  I hit a pair of 5:06s for miles 7 and 8, as every small rise in the Lakefront Path became a challenging "hill."  I closed out with a 5:13 and 5:11 to run 50:34, 16 seconds up on Meyer.  

Blume passed a fading Frazer in the final mile to take 4th, while Frazer settle for 5th.  It was good company to be in.  Among such great runners, all of whom still focus on the roads and marathon and shorter distances, second place is about the best I imagined doing.  I think there's no real doubt that we all could have gone a bit faster with more competitors and no wind.  And in fact, Meyer recently did (his 48:45 Cherry Blossom).  It makes me think sub-50:00 would be possible in the right race right now, and that a sub-1:05 half marathon and definitely a sub-2:18:00 marathon are possible at my current strength.  It would just take a proper training cycle geared specifically  for such a race.  

Photo credit: Jill Czarnik
Afterwards, it was kind of funny how many of my friends/competitors asked how much mileage I was doing or what types of workouts I'm doing.  And it's actually been pretty unglamorous.  I've run a few quality workouts this spring, especially in the 7-week training block before Boston, but recently it's just been a lot of taper and recovery with marathons and 50 milers.  The mileage has been maybe 70-75 miles per week on average.  The hills of Bloomington are surely helping.  But more than anything, it's simply consistency and cumulative benefit of continuos training.  

People often lose sight of how important that is.  I'm not doing much different than last year, but I've been healthy for a good year and a half now, and it's starting to pay off.  I also really prioritize recovery with good sleep and nutrition, and the other little things: drills, strides, hill springing and bounding, functional strength work, active isolated stretching.  It's all about taking a holistic approach, focusing on the process, and the results start to come.  There are no shortcuts, and there's so much more to it than just mileage or workouts.

Post-race, it was nice to catch up with many of my Chicago running friends over a short cooldown and several beers.  I had some cousins running the race and got to hang out with them a bit as well.  I also met fellow Hoosier Whitney Bevins-Lazzara, who won the women's race with a 57:59.  Whitney's based in Indianapolis and has run 2:41:17 for the marathon last fall.  Pretty quick!  

Meeting fellow Hoosier and women's champ Whitney Bevins-Lazzara
Photo credit: Beth Rosenbarger
The Podium
Photo credit: Beth Rosenbarger
Hanging with the family post-race.
Photo credit: Beth Rosenbarger

Thanks to the race organization for putting on a quality event.  Congrats to everyone who got out there and ran on Saturday.  And thanks to my sponsors for their continued support.  Hopefully we'll see UGo Bars in Chicago soon—in the works!

Gear for the race: 
- Salomon S-LAB Tank
- Salomon Light Short
- Swiftwick Aspire Zero socks
- Julbo Dust shades
- New Balance 1600s (my road flat of choice for half marathon and below)