Tuesday, May 29, 2012

2012 Soldier Field 10 Mile

My flawless Pam Beasley inspired fast, fast, fast race plan for last Saturday's Soldier Field 10 mile didn't exactly pan out as planned. The race turned into more of a fast, doddle, scoot kinda day for me.

Sometimes PR's and finish times just don't do race day justice, and the 2012 Soldier Field 10 Mile last Saturday was just that for me. This race offered confirmation for me that not only am I a wuss to running in heat and freezing cold temps, but I'm also a mental mess when it comes to racing into the wind. Basically I'm learning that my best races come only on partly cloudy days with temps in the high 50's to low 60's where there is no wind and my legs and stomach feel awesome...so pretty much once in a blue moon.

I toed the line on Saturday morning ready to hit this 10 miler hard. Temps decided to play nice that morning and the legs felt pretty rested and ready to turn it on and hit my goal pace of 6:25-6:29 miles. As I stood at the start, I had no idea that there were some fairly strong winds coming off the lake and pegged the conditions perfect for a finish under 1:05. When I should have been mentally pumping myself up to compete before the gun went off making myself aware of my surroundings, instead my mind was just off in la-la land about how it wasn't 90 degrees and sunny out like the week prior.

When the gun went off I tried to start out controlled and had the intention of clocking 6:40 for Mile 1, but the course wove through a tunnel where my garmin lost signal. At that point in time I decided to just run by feel and not look at my watch until the 3 mile marker. Just after mile 2 I realized there was a fairly strong wind at my back that was helping me settle very comfortably into a 6:20 pace for those first 3 miles. I felt relaxed and completely controlled and even started thinking that there was a small chance that I could squeeze in just under 1:04 and wiggle my way down to the top 5 women.

Photo courtesy of Charlyn

As the miles clipped on with the wind at my back, I begun to slowly realize around mile 4 that the wind that seemed to be guiding me along on the way out was going to be blowing directly in my face for the 5 miles back right off the lake. Even before I got to the 5 mile marker I had already begun to acknowledge how much the wind was going to suck the life out of me and justified slowing my pace a bit. The first 5 miles I was running with some dude that was shooting for the same finish as me. As we turned into the wind, he was holding steady at 6:30 and I begun to let myself drop back. He turned back for a second and basically told me to get my act together and get up with him. Instead of saying "okay...you're right. I'm not a pansy and I can run with the boys" I said "I don't know how to race against the wind".

Photo courtesy of Charlyn
I don't know how to race against the wind??? 
What? Who says that? 

Before I even was experiencing the challenge I had already begun to make excuses and told myself that the wind was going to slow me down. At the half way point my split was 32:23 where my pace felt manageable for the remaining 5 miles, but as I begun to battle the fairly strong winds coming off the lake my pace drastically slowed. My mind begun to stray like crazy where the only thoughts I seemed to be processing all had to do with the wind.

This wind is eating my quads alive.
This wind is sucking the life out of me.
There isn't anyone or thing to even draft off of.
I can't keep my pace when these gusts are blowing me all over the place.
Blah blah blah.

I consciously let the pace slip away from me where that finish just under 1:04 that I was dreaming of in the early miles of the race suddenly became very distant in my mind. Mentally I checked out at the first sign of rough waters for the day and was never able to pull myself back together before crossing the finish line. Men from the further back corrals begun to peg me as their target where they all seemed to blow past me one by one, and I never once fought back or pressed harder. Instead I allowed myself to fall victim to the wind. When I should have been fighting to keep my pace I instead was waving a white flag of surrender and allowed myself to basically give up.

I lost it all in the mind, and that is a tough pill to swallow. I had no post race soreness, no aches, and I wasn't really even tired afterwards. I actually felt like I could have pumped out another 10 miles at 7 minute pace right after crossing the finish line, which is never a good sign.

Still managed a 57 second PR, but I also allowed myself to pick up 2 minutes in the back half as I mentally checked out, and those 2 minutes are a tough reality to face. All and all, this wasn't a terrible race and my finish time is still a PR for me. But when you know that you ran a race like a putz mentally giving in at the half way point and walk away from the finish line feeling like you've still got a full tank of gas, it's like shooting yourself in the foot. Not every race is going to be amazing and produce a PR that leaves you feeling like you can do anything, and that goes for all runners. Professional or amateur.

I would love to walk away from this race proudly saying that I earned those 57 seconds, but I don't want to ignore the fact that I'm capable of running a race 10x better then the one I produced. Instead this PR will serve as a gentle reminder that even though I've made baby steps as an athlete in the past year, there is still a lot more work for me to put in to achieve my goals. Being a running rockstar will never come easy.

But now I know that it's time to step up my mental game.
If I want to run with the big dogs, gotta start thinking and racing like the big dogs.


  1. Britt, I am seriously proud of your PR...and the fact that you felt like you could add on 10 more 7 minute miles at the end?! You are most definitely capable of an even HUGER PR. Which is pretty much amazing.

    There's no arguing, running in the wind is TOUGH. No excuse needed. It makes it feel like you're running into a brick wall and efforts increase with little time returns...so you did great out there, despite the annoying conditions.

    I guess this means we'll have to start researching our arctic circle marathon hahaha. It'll be cold up there for sure! But first let's see the wind forecast, it could get ugly up there :)

  2. You ran an amazing race!!!! Those times and that PR is awesome, especially with the wind! I ran a half this past weekend that had an awesome course and was pancake flat….but there was SO MUCH WIND! It sucked the life out of me and made every step so much harder. You did awesome, congrats!

  3. We are always the hardest on ourselves.
    Great race an PR Britt, in the wind, no less.
    If you want 40-60f (as a high) and cloudy, sounds like you need to move to the pacific northwest. I can promise that 9 months of the year. :) As long as you are willing to take a little rain with it.

    Mush say you look fab in the race outfit! The shoes really show well in the photos! Are those adizero sonics?

  4. The wind is hard to race against. I know I let it get to me in a race recently too. You did do fantastic despite the wind, it is way too easy to be our own worst critic, maybe because deep inside we know if conditions were ideal how much better it could have been. Mental toughness!

    and hello fabulous muscle definition..you look amazing!

  5. Congrats on the awesome PR despite the not so great mental race. If you figure out the wind, PLEASE let us know, because it DEFEATS me! I hate it! You did really well and you will learn how to race your race in the wind/cold/heat/all the elements :)

  6. You PRed into the wind and looked cute doing it! Girl you rock! Don't beat yourself up about it :)

  7. First off, congrats on the PR, even if it wasn't the race you wanted. I have to tell you, it's a little reassuring to know that someone I admire so much as a STRONG runner (elite! :) ) struggles just as much with the mental aspect of our sport. I think people often forget what a difference a strong mental game makes in what kind of race day we have.

    It's my "make or break" thing - I can be physically at my best, but if my head's not in it, it's over before it starts.

    I hope you revisit this - I'm always curious to know how people ramp up their mental training.

  8. Wind is one of the worst things mentally and is a tough battle! I think you did great and I look forward to hearing how you overcome this!

  9. Great job Britt! And girl! may I say that you have a rockin body, you are definitely my inspiration when I am working out my stomach!

  10. The mental games are the toughest to play and eventually beat. Good on your for not giving up!

  11. I've only done a 5K where wind was a major factor. The first mile was great - wind at our backs. Mile 2 was in a residential area, but then mile 3 we were running into the wind and it was awful. I just ran by heart rate, knowing my split would be much slower. I think it was about 40 seconds slower than mile 1. Bottom line, the wind is a b!tch. Congrats on your PR!

  12. Woohoo - great job out there SUPER congrats on the PR!

  13. So I was in Chicago this weekend for a wedding, and my husband and I actually went for a walk on the beach on Saturday morning. The temperature out there was NO JOKE! And neither was the wind. Wish I had known about it ahead of arriving there on Friday, I would have run!

  14. Congrats on the PR, despite less than ideal windy conditions. :)

  15. YAY and congrats on a PR...but I understand it's bittersweetness: when you know it's not a reflection of how you could have race due to your mental-game letting you down.
    As I race more and more i've begun to notice that their will NEVER EVER be ideal conditions on race morning, and "ideal-conditions" are something each racer MUST let-go of in order to KILL each race they enter.
    I'm finally okay with knowing that times are just times, they don't have ***"in the wind" or ***"in the heat" behind them. So I've got to own and conquer each race setting I'm given.
    This spring I knew I wasn't PR-ready so I raced in uncomfortable conditions: heat, hills, dirt, wind...just so that my brain can grasp what it's like to PUSH my body through any kind of element.
    I know that you are TOUGH and you have a great season ahead of you!!! keep pushing, you will get all the PR's you're in reach of!!!

  16. Great job on the PR! I HATE running into the wind. Such an awful feeling, especially when you feel like you're not moving. Killer abs!

  17. Ah! Although I am certainly not fast - I know the feeling looking back and saying if I didn't mentally eff with myself I would have done SO much better.

    Congrats on your PR - we learn more during the mentally tough races than the easy ones!

  18. I am still impressed with your 10 mile time. I have never raced a 10 miler but hope to sometime. First, congrats on a PR. It's hard when we don't run the race we know we are capable of running but you will. Just keep racing. I learn so much from each race I run- even the little local 5K's. You are strong, determined and focused and I've learned a lot from your blog. After seeing your "Elite" bib you've inspired me to become "Elite" someday. Obviously, I won't be racing professionally but I would love a free race entry and to see the word Elite at the bottom of my bib. How cool is that?!! You should be so proud of that! Keep it up- your perfect race is out there and all these other race experiences are going to contribute to making it happen.

  19. Congrats on the PR!

    I swear that Chicago has the best races. You don't get races like you have offered to you in CA.

    That wind on the way back sounded brutal - cheers to that guy who tried to have you follow him. Bummer you weren't able to follow him. Dealing with wind is brutal - it helps some when running with it, but it hurts way more running against it. Drafting off someone or running in a pack is the only way I know to try to handle it.

    As for perfect conditions for racing - like Raina said the pacific northwest is the only place where you would get those conditions all the time. In the bay area where I like we get those conditions most often in SF - that place has awesome weather for racing. But very few races in SF are flat ish, generally you are dealing with big hills in whatever race you pick. So you trade off weather for hills in SF.

    Though if you want a race that seems to have guaranteed perfect weather every year - Surf City Marathon in Huntington Beach, over Super Bowl Sunday. Always seems to be cool at the start with perfect weather.

  20. Congrats on the PR. And I feel your pain. Sometimes we aim for our A goal, but come up short, but still reach our B goal (PR) but it still feels like somewhat of a failure. There are other races out there, you can try again.

  21. I know it's not what you wanted, but given the conditions you still PR'd and did amazing. Like Raina said we are always the most critical of ourselves. I know you're going to get your mental game sorted and be back out killing it. Wind and temps unhinge the best of us!

  22. First of all, congrats on the PR! That is seriously awesome. It was so cool to see you fly by in the first mile and around mile 9.5. Very very inspiring! The wind. Ick! Perhaps you should turn a huge warehouse into an indoor wind tunnel for runners to practice in. You could also throw in some hills with headwinds too! Sounds like the perfect torture chamber :) But at least it would be good preparation for windy race days.