Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Chicago Rock 'n' Roll 10k Recap

Back in the nice, cool spring months, I made plans to use the Chicago Rock 'n' Roll 10k as a goal race. I told myself it wouldn't be too hot or humid. I told myself even if it was on the warm side, I would accept the weather conditions as a challenge to be pushed through. 

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!

Considering the weather conditions, I think I ran 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?

- ST


  1. Even though you think it was a bad run, I think you did great. I would love to get my 10k times down to your slow time. :) But I understand what you are saying. It isn't your typical speed. And like you I don't like to end up with a slow time.

    I have never done a Rock 'n' Roll race so I don't have any experience with them.

    My pre-race stressors are probably similar to yours. Getting to the start line on time and trying to get to the bathroom. Once the race starts though I don't think those stressors have much of an effect. Once I am in the pack ready to go I put those things behind me. Unless I have to go to the bathroom again! Then that can defiantly have am effect on my run.

    With heat I slow down my pace and take in as much fluid as I can. I would rather have a slower time than a DNF due to a heat issue.

    This last weekend I ran my first 50k trail run. The Junkyard Dog 50k in the Kewaskum area. It was a tough run for me. I knew going into it I would run a slow pace and just hydrate as much as possible. I run with a 2L hydration pack. Thankfully the race organizers had aid stations about every 3 to 4 miles on the course. Unfortunately I had knee pain about 8 miles in that kept getting worse as the run went on. I finished at 8 hours 17 minutes. I didn't finish last and the fastest person completed in 4 hours 6 minutes! Talk about running alone, I ran for about 8 miles through the Kettle Moraine forest all by myself. As the afternoon wore on, I got really nervous that storms would roll back in and they would pull me from the course before I could finish. That really would have bummed me out. By the time I got to the end there were only a handful of people left along with my wife and grandson. But the feeling of crossing that finish line was fantastic!

    I ran the Brewer's Mini Marathon a couple years back. it looks like the 10k runs the 2nd part of the 1/2 marathon and that part was the more difficult part due to the hills. It was a fun run though.

    Sorry for droning on with my reply! :)

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Bob :) Sounds like you had a challenging race! I'm glad to hear you were able to push through and cross the finish line. I'm sure that was nervewracking during the last few miles with the weather and your knee!

      If you end up running Brewers this year, perhaps I'll run into you on the course :)

  2. I know you said it wasn't your best, but it was still quite good. 2nd in your age definitely deserves a WOOT WOOT great job!!!!!
    Thats too bad about the TP, I'd say whomever they put in charge of that, or possibly they forgot to put someone in charge of that, but either way they messed that one up!
    Your awesome, sounds like overall you had a lot of fun. Great job to your mom too!!!!

    1. Thanks Kristy! All you can do in that type of situation is make the best of it so that's what mom and I did :)

  3. I've ran one 10k in which there was also a half race, but the focus is mostly on the 10k so it got the same attention, if not more than the half. But that's been my concern about doing one where the marathon and half are the more popular races, it's not fair that that race doesn't get the same attention as the others, especially if a 10k is the longest distance a person races, then it's even more of a big deal. I would hate for someone to not feel that their race isn't important.

    That's pretty stressful about the TP situation! The lines can be long when they're stocked with TP, let alone when they don't have it!This post made me decide to pack tissues for future races, just in case haha.

    And forget the time, you ran in super rough conditions and toughed it out...look at your face, pure grit and determination :) And way to go to your mom, you are both awesome:)

    1. Thanks Hailey! I think that's exactly how some of the 10k runners felt - like they were running the B race. I even heard a few people commenting about it. Hopefully something the race will fix for next year. It's such a great event I'm sure improvements will be made.

      And yes, always pack tissues! Lol - I will never be without at a race!

  4. That's crazy about the TP! A couple years ago there was a women's only 5k here and the porta potties didn't get delivered! Talk about a fiasco! I know it wasn't your best, but I still think you did incredible! And you pictures turned out awesome!

    1. Thanks so much :)

      Wow, no portapotties is definitely the worst scenario! Yikes!!

  5. Oh boy - the PP without TP would have driven me nuts. For NY last year I brought a roll with me haha.. but there was plenty :) Great pictures and the medal was nice. Good approach you/your coach took to change this to a workout race given the temps/variables. I've participated in RnR Philly and USA (half and 5K). I think they can get pricey on the half side..but I suppose if you get the tour pass they are worth it. I dont see many bands on the course.

    1. I will definitely bring a roll of tp with me to races from now on. Haha! I think this was just a fluke happening though - other RNR races I've done have always had great start areas with tons of well-stocked portapotties.

      At Chicago RNR, I love seeing a drumline on course. It's my favorite 'band' that I watch for every year. The beat never fails to get me going!

  6. I've actually had great experiences at Rock N Roll, although I've only run two of them. I'm surprised that you were so alone during that race!!

    1. I've only had great experiences at Rock 'n' Roll races, too! I think this one was a bit different because it was the first year a 10k race was offered. I'm sure next year there will be more people doing the race!