Monday, July 29, 2013

Big Ten 10k Race in Chicago

Football and running?  My favorite combo!

The day after the 4th of July, I realized that I really needed a break from only running miles. I was running with my body, but my heart and drive to run just wasn’t there. I wanted to run FOR something and I was tired of cyclical runs. On a whim, I decided to incorporate my 6 mile run into a 10k race. Well, it just so happened that on the day I was scheduled to run 6 miles, there was a Big Ten 10k race scheduled in Chicago. SIGN ME UP! I absolutely love the Big Ten and what a better way to get in my 6 miles than to incorporate it with something else I love?! 

The week of the race, I tried to get some rest throughout the week because in order to get to the race and check in by the 7am start time, I knew we would have to leave our house by 4am.  Friday after I got home from work, I had planned to have a quick pasta dinner to get to bed early to be able to wake up at 3:30 a.m. in order to leave by 4am. Well…my plans never work out like that. Ben had texted me while I was at work on Friday and said he had a surprise for me. Now, I am not the biggest fan of surprises but Ben usually has something pretty fabulous up his sleeve when he says “surprise.” I got home after work and he had purchased some shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico! Every few months near his work, a guy drives a whole truck of this stuff up from Texas and sells it. I absolutely LOVE shrimp. What an awesome surprise! 

We decided to run a couple errands so I could pick up my new glasses, and also so we could get some veggies and pasta to grill up with the shrimp. We got home, peeled the shrimp, and cooked up an awesome dinner of summer vegetables mixed in with pasta and shrimp – best dinner ever. We relaxed after dinner and watched a movie and went to bed around 11, as the movie was way longer than we expected. 

Saturday morning, 3:30 a.m. came really quick! I was super excited for the run though so I jumped out of bed and took a quick shower. I had prepped my race breakfast the night before so I could eat in the car an hour before the race. I roused my grumpy, sleeping fiancé around 3:45 and around 4:00 a.m. much to the happiness of our still-sleepy dog, we left. The drive to Chicago was about an hour and a half and on the way, I drank my coffee, relaced my shoes and tried to keep my legs stretched out in my little car. Due to the early hour, Ben was pretty quiet and it was a nice chance to enjoy the early morning peace. We got to Chicago in good time, paid the astronomical $20 parking fee, and walked to the race area. I could see right away just how many people had signed up for the race. We walked around the set up area for a bit, I got my race packet (free t-shirt, BTN drawstring bag, and other fun stuff). Shortly after that, I took a few more sips of water and headed to the staging area. Ben wished me luck and he went to the spectator’s area and I to the race lines. The race was seeded due to the projected running times and each group started 90 seconds after the group beforehand. I was in seed J, so I had awhile of standing around to get to the start. At about 6:45 a.m. the Big Ten commissioner of football gave a speech and the infamous Big Ten announcer started getting everyone motivated for the countdown. At 7:00 a.m. the gun went off and the first heat began. What was really awesome about this race was that every heat that went through, the announcer called out the representation of schools, as it being a Big Ten race, we were to wear our school colors. When my heat finally got to the start line, the energy was incredible! Everyone was cheering and at the beginning of the race, right as I began, I got to high five the man of the hour, Mr. Buckingham U. Badger. Awesome way to start a race! Mile 1-3 took us under the Soldier Field stadium, and along the lakefront. At mile 3.2, there was a huge bounce-house type slip and slide, which of course, I HAD to go through. At that point, you turn and head back along the lakefront to the finish. One thing I really liked about this race was that you could clearly see your starting and stopping points in the distance. Also, at the three water stations, the volunteers were also wearing their Big Ten gear and as I somehow ended up in a group of Penn State and Michigan runners, my Badger red stuck out like a sore thumb…but also got me a huge amount of cheers! At one point, two of the Badger volunteers pointed at me and yelled, “When you’ve said Wisconsin, you’ve said it all.” What a great feeling. I ran really well the whole race and felt amazing! At the end when I crossed the finish line I could see the all the mascots cheering and the Big Ten Network cameras focused on the finish. Once you complete the race, the volunteers usher you right into the tailgate party where they fill your hands with snacks, gatorades, waters, and of course, the Big Ten 10K finisher medal (a football shaped medal with BTN on the inside and all the Big Ten school emblems on the ribbon). 

After that, you get coupons for free brats and beers. What was nice about this race, is that they gave you chicken/spinach/feta brats instead of regular beer brats which are SO much healthier and absolutely delicious! So I met up with Ben at our pre-arranged spot and we got in line at the Badger tent, and were able to hold, and take a picture with the coveted Paul Bunyan ax! We also got free hockey sticks and had them signed by one of the big players of the 2010 Badger Hockey team – Ben was really excited about that. The whole tailgate party was a blast. After we had some pictures taken, and ate our brats, we decided to head home. The weather was getting chilly and gray, I was getting tired and a bit sore and we still had a drive ahead of us.

As we were driving home, I couldn’t stop talking about how exciting the race was and how much fun I had. I’ve decided that this is going to be an annual race :) 
Once we got home, we decided to take a quick nap, which was extremely rejuvenating. We woke up and decided to just have a relaxing evening at home. We made up a batch of my new favorite drink (Malibu, light peach tea, fresh raspberries, mixed together in the blender with ice) and frozen for about one hour). It’s a wonderful, low cal frothy fruit flavorful summer drink. We ended up having a couple drinks and playing a few rounds of darts in the garage before going to bed early. What a rewarding evening after a fabulous race. After watching the race on the Big Ten Network that night, and finding out that almost 14,000 people ran it, I was elated all over again. I for sure recommend the Big Ten 10k!!!

Post-race, in front of the Chicago skyline

My favorite medal yet!

Post-race happy!!!

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