But when race week arrived and the forecast for Sunday showed temps in the 80s with high humidity, my plan had to be adjusted. Coach Matt and I decided I would use the race as a workout and pick a different race as a goal race.
Thankfully the storms stayed away on Sunday!
That's not to say Sunday's race wasn't difficult. Even though I knew I wasn't 'racing', I was still freaking out over the weather. I was also a bit nervous about the start area. I've run the half marathon distance the past three years and the start line area in Grant Park was fantastic - super organized, high energy, etc. But the 10k start area was about a mile away from the half marathon start and in the middle of a random intersection. I passed the area on my way to the expo on Saturday and it didn't look like much - so that added to the stress.
I woke up at 3:30am on Sunday morning and showered, dressed and at a Picky Bar, banana and drank about 16oz of water. I also took an Endurolyte since it was already in the upper 70s with 85 percent humidity. I usually wear compression socks during races but decided to skip them for this one - I couldn't bear the thought of having on any extra layers in the heat!
Mom and I arrived at the start line area around 5:30am. It was very unlike the usual Rock 'n' Roll race starts - very low key and no music playing that I can recall. We walked around for a bit to find where the gear check was located then I decided to use a portapotty. There wasn't a line yet and plenty of open stalls. But ... I quickly discovered there was a reason for this - the first five stalls I looked in didn't have any toilet paper. It wasn't that they had run out - it was clear none had been put in them. That was when I noticed a line at the opposite end of the line of stalls. It wasn't too long at that point but when everyone is waiting for the one portapotty that has toilet paper, it takes quite awhile to get through the line.
Finally I got through the line and quickly ran back to the gear check area to tell Mom to get in line to use the bathroom. She decided to line up at the portapotties on the opposite side of the street in hopes they had toilet paper ... but it turns out it was the same situation. Only two had toilet paper! So once again, a super slow line and at this point the race was about to start. It was a mega stressful situation. Right before Mom got to the front of the line - the portapotty ran out of toilet paper. Fortunately she had tissues with her. But the people behind her were pretty upset.
At the half marathon start, runners are assigned corrals to ensure faster runners start at the front and slower runners at the back. At the 10k, there were three waves, but runners were allowed to start wherever they wanted. I lined up in the first wave but could tell there were people around me that were probably slower runners so I was worried about getting stuck in a traffic jam. When my wave started, I glanced over toward the portapotty areas and could see there were still dozens of runners in line.
The plan for this race was to start at 7:30ish pace and get a bit faster every mile. I ran the first mile a bit too fast - closer to 7:20 pace. I was already feeling the heat and humidity at this point but the first 2-2.5 miles went by pretty fast because I was able to run and chat with another woman which made everything a bit easier. She told me she just graduated from Michigan where she ran the 800m. When she said this I knew I wouldn't want to be anywhere near her at the finish because she'd probably kick right past me! Haha :)
Unfortunately she ended up dropping behind around the 2.5 mile mark and then I was on my own for the rest of the race. One thing I love about Rock 'n' Roll races is there are usually tons of people around running a similar pace so you can run with a group and it makes the race easier. This was not the case with the 10k. Occasionally there were a few runners around but the last half of the race I ended up mostly running alone with the nearest runner about 30 feet ahead of me. It was hot and lonely!
One thing I really appreciated were the number of water stops, a wet sponge station and a misting station. On a hot day, these things were greatly appreciated. Normally I wouldn't stop at water stations during a 10k, but on Sunday I walked through all but one water station and it felt good to take the small breaks!
The finish line at a Rock 'n' Roll race can't be beat. I love the wide finishing stretch that is lined with cheering spectators.
After crossing the line, I caught my breath before collecting a beautiful finisher's medal and a bunch of post-race goodies.
Love this year's medal!
AG Place: 2/224
Gender Place: 8/1,398
So definitely not a good time for me - in fact, a personal worst for the 10k distance! But considering the weather conditions, I think it was an okay race. I wasn't able to follow the race plan from Coach Matt but ran smart and did what I could with the weather and stressful pre-race conditions.
I'm really glad Chicago Rock 'n' Roll is offering the 10k distance now but hope they make a few changes for next year. Things I would like to see include:
- Starting the 10k with the half marathon race and have the 10k course run the first half of the half marathon course instead of the second half. I missed running the city streets!
- More portapotties and plenty of TP stocked in each and every stall
- Music at the start
- A better organized start line with corrals (not runners starting wherever they want)
So what's next?? Since I didn't get to race this one as planned, Coach Matt and I have discussed using the upcoming Brewers 10k as a goal race. Given the race is at the end of September, the weather shouldn't be an issue although I hear the course is pretty challenging with a bunch of hills!
My questions for you:
- Have you ever participated in a Rock 'n' Roll race? If so, what was your experience?
- What's the most stressful thing you've ever faced pre-race? Did it affect your race performance?
- What is your strategy for racing in the heat?