{Big Ten Network Big 10k}

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With so many races ran in a month it is hard to keep up with the recaps. Runner problems! 🙂 Two Saturday’s ago the husband and I ran the Big Ten Network Big 10k in Chicago. If you read along with my blog then you know we are both big Wisconsin sports fans (and no, not everyone in Wisconsin is.) This race was all about supporting your Big Ten school and FUN! I loved so much about this race, the swag, and the sights.




We headed to Chicago the day before, picked up our packets, and did some sightseeing. Having been to Chicago several times before I know my way around for the most part, yet I don’t get sick of the windy city.


In packets each runner received a BTN Big 10k technical t-shirt that resembled a football jersey specific to the Big Ten school they declared their team at registration. Each runner’s shirt came in their school’s colors and had their school’s name on the front and back. I loved how they were specific to each runner’s favorite team and different rather than everyone getting the same shirt. This also made picking the race outfit super simple as I had looked at past year’s race photos and noticed that most people wore their shirts to the race.

The race began at 7:00 a.m. which was perfect because it was 70 degrees and quite humid. After the HOT races I’ve run lately though, this was nothing. We Hotwired our room per the usual which means we had a general idea of the area when we registered and knew the star rating of our hotel, but wouldn’t find out the exact location until after our purchase of the room. I reserved the room before the race course map came out, so we ended up being about three miles from the race start. Driving and parking in Chicago is disastrous and super pricey so we knew we were either taking a taxi or public transportation to and from the race start.

While exploring the night before we saw Divvy bikes all over the city. After reading the details and looking up a map of the locations (there is an app for that), we decided this would be a fun, active and quick way to get to the race and back. No hailing a taxi or switching buses.

Just a few Divvy locations in Chicago!  (Photo from divvybikes.com

Just a few Divvy locations in Chicago! (Photo from divvybikes.com

The next morning we paid for our Divvy bikes ($7 per bike for unlimited use during the next 24 hours as long as each ride is less than 30 minutes. If a ride is longer than 30 minutes you are charged an extra $2 for the next hour, and so on.) and headed to the Field Museum where we would drop off our Divvy bikes and walk the couple of blocks to the start next to Soldier Field.


One wrong turn later and we were on our way. We started getting a bit nervous when we didn’t see the Divvy bike stop near the Field Museum, but breathed easy after going around the entire museum and spotting it on the last side we rode by.



After dropping off our gear we lined up in our race corral. Corrals went from A-M, and we were in E based on our 10k time we entered at registration. I am always honest about my times and never enter a time I hope to run unless my training has told me I can run that time. Big Ten fans were everywhere and school songs echoed off the speakers. After the elites took off the corrals got going and we began our 6.2 mile journey on the course below (image from btnbig10k website).

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The course was nice and the atmosphere fun. During the first mile we went through this long underpass part and there was lots of school trash talking echoing off the walls which added to the fun and excitement. The bad part was it was congested. I feared not as most races thin out after the first mile or two.

This is the part where I’m torn about what I think. I loved getting to run along the lakeshore on the paved bike path for half the race, BUT having 9,000 runners narrow onto a paved bike path when the larger road was congested was really frustrating. The husband and I were passing people the ENTIRE race. I swear we must have passed our entire corral before the race was over. Either people lied about their 10k times or I hit a wrong button because we were definitely not running with the people in our corral. Aside from this it was pretty along the lake although difficult to enjoy.

The husband and I were both feeling great as we ran, but the mental work of continually passing people and never settling into a groove were a challenge. As we neared mile four I absolutely could not believe how freakin’ fast this race was going. I guess I’ve got big time marathon race length distortion going on. I think that is a technical term! 🙂 I could definitely tell the hot weather marathons were extremely helpful in making me feel comfortable during this race.

We cranked it as much as we could the last mile with people to swerve around and jams playing on speakers. We both said we could not have run this race any faster than we did because of the congestion. I did not bring my Garmin so we didn’t know our time until later.


Upon crossing the finish line you can pick up water, Gatorade and bananas. You get your medal (very cool!) and then head to the after race tailgate party. This part was so fun it kind of made you forget about the race congestion. We headed to gear check to pick up our bags and there was absolutely no line for corral E. Corrals A, B, and C had lines going a block. We watched around as we enjoyed the tailgate party seeing very few bibs with an E before their numbers. I later looked up our registration email and I did not mis-enter our time, nor did we run any faster than I entered. We were in fact 45 seconds slower than my typical 10k time.

Here is my soapbox runners: be honest about your times. Don’t enter a time you hope to run unless your training has shown you are capable of running that time. I respect all runners no matter their pace. Own your pace and be proud, but stay out of corrals you don’t belong-it makes a better race for everyone! End rant.



Back to the tailgate party. This was great. The husband exchanged his too small race shirt for a larger size, we enjoyed the Wisconsin tent where we picked up a trucker hat specific to our school (all runners got one) and took pictures with the border battle ax, and then hit the food and beer area.





After enjoying some delicious chicken sausages (so yummy), we hit up the bean bags. All different types of tailgate games were going on and samples of stuff were being given out. We did have a wedding to get to so we couldn’t stick around too long. We headed back to the Field Museum, got a new code for our Divvy bikes and biked back to the hotel.


Overall this race was a blast. The atmosphere and swag were fantastic. The course pretty and well-marked. My only complaint was the congestion. If we do this race again I will consider this when entering my 10k time and be prepared to be packed in. Getting a photo with Bucky and free Wisco swag makes it all worth it!  Bring on football season!

This race also reminded me how awesome shorter distances can be. I’ve never raced a 10k meaning I’ve never trained for the distance or done speed work or entered a 10k when I’ve been in great shape. Currently my endurance is definitely up having ran two marathons and a 50k in 36 days, but my speed is for sure lacking. The previous 10k’s I’ve run have always been near the 4th of July when I have not been running anything other than maintenance miles, and all four have had finish times within a minute and a half of each other. Last fall when I ran my PR half marathon I ran a five mile Turkey Trot without a watch in 39:15. I’m positive I could have beat my 10k time by minutes had there been one to run. I’m curious what I could run a 10k in if I trained and raced? Hmmmm….a new goal perhaps. I’m not committing yet, but perhaps.


Big Ten Network Big 10k
Time: 52:57
Pace: 8:32
Overall: 1926/8996
Gender: 504/4916
Age Group: 91/819

Ran: 6.2 miles
Biked: 7 miles

{State #16-Montana} Missoula Marathon

After signing up for a marathon in state #15 (Portland, Oregon), I immediately signed up for state #16, Montana, since I had started planning our Go West Road Trip around the races I would be running. I had never run two marathons only nine days apart, but had run a half marathon and a marathon the following day. I also had hopes of completing a 50k (Chester Woods 50k) in the spring, so I felt I would be prepared for two marathons close together. I knew that it would probably be warm making the miles more challenging, but when you have a goal and a limited budget compromises have to be made.

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For the first time in a very long time we arrived to the city I would be racing not late the night before, not even the morning before, but an entire two nights before. It felt great to not be stressing about race morning with little sleep, picking up my packet the morning of the race and not knowing where to go until it was time to go. That relaxed feeling set the tone for our weekend.


Carb loading Friday night before the Sunday race.

Saturday was packet pick up and the outdoor expo took place in downtown Missoula. Runners were out in full force and I was not feeling the crowds, so we quickly got my packet and headed somewhere less crowded for lunch. I was not feeling well the day before and was really nervous about running another marathon the next day. Looking at the weather forecast only added to my fears. I knew it would be a tough race regardless, but with highs of 97 forecasted for the following day I was terrified for the painful sweatfest to come.

Course Map

Course Map

My goal was to complete the race and not walk. I would have loved to run under four hours, but wasn’t sure if that would have been possible without the heat. I had it in my head that under four and a half hours would be great with the heat. Remember, I am not a hot weather runner. Nothing sends my run in a downward spiral faster than heat.


The night before the race we ate a yummy dinner at a local restaurant, I laid out my gear, and I actually got to bed a bit earlier than the typical for me. Not before getting sucked into a movie on TV though. Damn you Sandra Bullock and your scary space travel in Gravity. George Clooney might have had something to do with it, too. And, who is really ready for bed at 9:00 anyway?

The 4:15 alarm woke me up and I did not want to get up, but I told myself how lucky I was to get to be accomplishing my goal. Since I knew I was in for some pain and discomfort that morning, I decided to approach the race with a borrowed mantra from Brooks-Run Happy! I couldn’t change the weather or how my legs felts, but I could change my attitude. I made it a goal to focus on running happy whenever I felt tired, my legs got sore, I got hot or frustrated, or I wanted to quit. I was going to enjoy running in Montana. Take in the sights, sounds and feel joyful to be completing state #16 in my goal to race all 50 states.


The husband took me to the shuttle that all marathoners were required to take to the start of the marathon. Everything was so organized. We arrived at the start, and I got in line for the port-o-potties where I waited in line for the shortest time perhaps ever. There was lively music with reminders of the time every five minutes. After the national anthem we headed to our starting spots. I lined up with the four-hour marathon pace group and a few minutes later we were off. As we crossed the starting line fireworks were shot off for at least five minutes while runners began their 26.2 mile journey. I was jazzed up!

As mile one and two went by my calves let me know they were not excited. They were so tight and I got panicked thoughts that I might need all seven hours the course was open in order to complete the race. I was super worried and I had to pee. I held it hoping it would go away. That does usually work, however at mile three I still had to go, and at mile four and at mile five. I decided I did need to make the stop at the mile five port-o-potty. I wasn’t going to run the rest of the race with a full bladder.

mile 1-8:44

mile 2-9:02

mile 3-8:59

mile 4-8:59

mile 5-10:05


During the next miles I watched as more and more people passed me and my pace slowed. I had to remind myself not to compare myself to others. I was running my own race for myself in an effort to achieve my own goal. It didn’t matter what I ran as long as I ran for myself. Run happy!

mile 6-8:55

mile 7-9:16

mile 8-9:03

This race the headphones and music were going much earlier than state #15.  Luke Bryan, Avicii, Drake and the Great Gatsby soundtrack really kept me going.

mile 9-9:51

mile 10-9:02

mile 11-8:53

Around mile 14 runners started climbing a hill that would go on for over a mile. This was hard for me and I had to draw on some mental energy.  It was the only time I walked the entire race.  The downhills were awesome though and this area was mostly shaded.

mile 12-9:22

mile 13-8:59

mile 14-10:46

mile 15-8:53

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Around mile 16 we began entering town. There were friendly people outside their homes and tons of them, I mean tons, had so generously set up sprinklers and hoses for runners going by their houses. This was AMAZING! During these last miles the temperatures had really started to climb, yet I hardly had a chance to overheat too much with cold water to run through every quarter to a half mile for the remainder of the course. Awesome fans!


mile 16-9:09

mile 17-8:54

mile 18-9:06

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As I neared mile 19 I was feeling pretty good. I knew that I was going to do this and actually was feeling better than the early miles now that my legs had warmed up and the one long uphill was over. I was running really strong in the heat on tired legs. Run happy!

mile 19-9:45

mile 20-9:17

mile 21-9:18

mile 22-9:39

Around mile 23 I decided I was feeling good enough to pick up the pace for a bit. It ended up being the last four miles. I was warmed up and had gotten used to the feeling of running on tired legs which made it easier. Oddly enough I felt adjusted to the heat.

mile 23-8:59

mile 24-8:57

As I closed in on the final miles and the home stretch I gave it all I had. I thought I had a chance at running under four, but knew I had to give it my all with my bathroom break at mile five.

mile 25-8:44

mile 26-8:47


I saw the husband cheering and snapping photos in the final .2 and felt a surge of happiness and pride. I could have never done this without his support. I also had visions of water dancing in my head.


I also have to admit I teared up happy tears as I closed in on that finish line.  I was so proud of how I overcame the heat, repeated and followed my mantra (well, Brooks, but that is a technicality) and finished state number 16 nine days after running state number 15.  I actually felt better during the last six miles of this race than I did on my fourth of July marathon. I was strong through all the discomfort.  With temperatures in the eighties when I finished, I was so pumped with my performance.  I would have loved to have shaved that minute and 25 seconds off to be under four hours, but I ran much better than I had anticipated.

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After finishing my race the husband commented he couldn’t believe how well I ran with tired legs and the heat. He might have heard me whine a bit about heat before. Plus based on my midway pace he expected me to come in fifteen to twenty minutes later. He was so proud and made me feel even prouder.

My husband deserves a lot of credit for the support he gives me on my journey in racing all 50 states. Without him I would never be able to accomplish this goal. He does so with a smile and a joking demeanor which I love him for. The race director deserves a lot of credit, too. The course was great and I’m so appreciative for the shaded parts during the second half of the marathon-well planned! Everything from start to finish was so organized. One of the top races I’ve run. On top of that the shirts were great, the medals fab and personalized race bibs topped it off.


Missoula Marathon
Time: 4:01:26 (Damn, that bathroom break) 🙂
Pace: 9:13
Overall: 377/1168
Gender: 130/562
Age Group: 32/86