A few months ago I received a notice of a conference to be held at the Argonne National Laboratories, near Chicago. The first thing I thought was, "Hmm, this might be useful and interesting." The second thing I thought was, "Hmm, I wonder if there's a race I could run there?"
Indeed there was: the First Merit Bank Lakefront 10 Miler
, a race put on by CARA (Chicago Area Runners Association). My online friend justrunjim
belongs to CARA, and had run the race before and said it was a good one. I decided that it would be a fine way to update my very old (2009) 10-mile PR with a nearly-sea-level race, and made arrangements to stay after the conference with Jim (who'd be running it with me) and his wife (who'd be running a 5K instead).
I had a good time at the conference, getting in three nice runs around the Argonne campus and the lovely crushed-limestone path which encircles it, but my stomach did not handle the conference-catering food well, and I was also not feeling any faster at Chicago's elevation than I am at home. In addition, I had not managed to run as much as I had wanted in the five weeks since running the Canyonlands Half Marathon
, averaging only 40mpw rather than the 55-60 I had hoped for. Still, it was a perfect day for me, cold, sunny, and a little breezy, and I thought a target of about 7:20 pace (the slow end of my original goal, also Jim's goal) would be reasonable.
Jim and I lined up fairly close to the front; our friend Scott, a Chicagoan who has several children living in Durango and who I'd met running there, was coming back from injury and placed himself a ways behind us. After too much speechifying and the National Anthem, we were off!The course
begins with a loop to the north on a closed section of road, then hits the bike path and goes south to loop around a small-boat harbor before heading back north again. Along the way it stays on the path except for one short section routed over a grassy knoll, which I think is just the race organizers' way of trying to get a little more elevation change in there than Chicago normally provides. The path was open to other users - walkers, runners, cyclists - and it astonished me to see just how many people were out there. I think I saw as many runners just out for their Saturday morning run as I did actually in the race, and there were nearly 1400 racers!
There was a timing clock at each mile mark, a very nice feature. The first mile seemed awfully long, though, both by comparison to my Garmin (which had beeped some time back) and in absolute terms, and I suspect it was not quite where it should have been. However, it was easy enough to check my own time at each clock, and my total Garmin distance of 10.08 was reasonable for typical Garmin error/tangent issues.
I lost Jim pretty quickly, then caught him again at the grassy knoll around mile 2.7 - then lost him again as my stomach started to complain and my pace slowed. As I approached mile marker 4 I was thinking I might have to duck into a porta-potty, but I held it together and eventually the sensation passed and I felt good enough to accelerate again. I spotted Jim again around mile 7 - he was wearing a black shirt with a distinctive greeny-yellow neon hourglass shape on the back - but although I closed the distance bit by bit, I never could quite catch him. I crossed the line exactly 20 seconds behind him, in 1:12:59 - a 7:18 average pace (7:14 by Garmin) and good enough for 2nd in my age group.
(Also, a woman fell almost directly in front of me about a mile in. The guy who was
directly in front of me stopped to help her up, and I zigged around them - but this is the second time in three races someone has fallen right in my path!)
Splits (note that I didn't stop my Garmin immediately; and the HR for the first 3 miles is artificial and should be ignored):
Dist Pace Elev chg Avg HR Max HR Elapsed
1.00 7:20 -11 157 (83%) 165 (90%) 0:07:19.69
2.00 7:14 +7 166 (91%) 166 (91%) 0:14:33.68
3.00 7:12 +1 166 (91%) 167 (92%) 0:21:45.57
4.00 7:22 +3 152 (79%) 161 (86%) 0:29:07.29
5.00 7:17 -20 152 (79%) 159 (84%) 0:36:24.72
6.00 7:09 +12 162 (87%) 166 (90%) 0:43:33.64
7.00 7:14 -7 165 (90%) 167 (92%) 0:50:47.71
8.00 7:07 +1 165 (90%) 166 (91%) 0:57:55.18
9.00 7:12 +14 165 (90%) 168 (92%) 1:05:07.49
10.00 7:07 -2 166 (90%) 168 (92%) 1:12:14.00
10.12 6:52 -1 168 (92%) 169 (93%) 1:13:05.26
I put in a few fields I don't normally post, just to point out that 1) HAHA those elevation numbers! They are NEVER that small around here! and 2) you can see where I wasn't feeling so hot, the slowest miles other than the crowded first. Also my heart rate is interesting because it got right up there to what is basically my 10K HR - yet I didn't feel as though I was (aerobically) particularly working hard. My legs, on the other hand, could simply not go any faster. I was entirely limited by my legs, not my lungs.
This makes me wonder about how I can overcome the limitation of not being able to train my legs to the same level as my lungs, running at altitude. I mean, I can't maintain these 7:07-7:14 paces for longer than a mile at a time, at home; yet here I was, reeling them off if not with ease, at least without too much trouble. Maybe I need to run lots of mile repeats (and half-miles), and run downhill repeats, to get my legs used to rapid turnover.
Anyway, it was a good race (other than the gut issues early), and I'm very pleased with my final stats: 1:12:59, 2/61 AG, 24/742 women, 129/1351 OA. Here's a photo Jim took of the awards ceremony; the woman to my left (on the right) ran 1:06:10, which is like a 6:38 pace - I can't imagine!