In 2015, I ran the Crim 10-Mile race for the first time and immediately understood why so many local runner friends run the race every year. I had a blast and was excited to run again in 2016. Unfortunately, a stress fracture left me sidelined and I could only spectate. I’m glad that I went to cheer for Matt and other friends because it was still an inspirational and fun experience to watch a race of that size. I was a bit heartbroken that I couldn’t participate, so it made me even more anxious to get back to the race in 2017. I was healthy and ready to go, and ran my second Crim on Saturday, August 26.
I really had no idea how to approach this race or what kind of pace to aim for. When I ran in 2015, I was in the middle of marathon training. I was averaging 50+ miles per week and was very familiar with what paces I could run for various distances. I’ve been averaging 25 miles per week recently and have not been targeting specific paces at all. I recovered from last summer’s stress fracture only to have the area flare up again in January. I’ve been extra cautious about speed and mileage since my return to running in April. I had done a couple of 10-mile long runs and one 11-mile run in the last couple months, but haven’t been doing any structured speed work. The only real speed I’ve done has been during my triathlons throughout the summer. I wondered if it was reasonable to aim for an 8:00 pace, simply because that had been my goal marathon pace last year.
I made sure to get to Flint nice and early the morning of the race. I parked around 6:30, which gave me an hour and a half until race time. I still had to pick up my packet and I was probably parked about half a mile away.
After I got my stuff and made a bathroom stop, I went back to the car to get organized and to stay warm for a few minutes. It was a clear morning, just under 50 degrees with no wind. It was perfect running weather but a bit cool for walking around in a t-shirt and shorts beforehand. Crim has historically been warm and/or humid, so the awesomely cool weather was almost unheard of.
I met up with the Chevy Running Club for a group photo at 7:30. I was sporting the team shirt and ran for GM as part of the Corporate Challenge. We had nine teams of ten people – 90 participants! That’s the most we’ve ever had for Crim. Only about half of the people made it for the group photo. Several days after the race I found out that one of our teams won the Corporate Challenge for the fourth year in a row. We have some real speedsters!
The amazing people who have run the race for 30 or more years get to start the race early.
After watching their start, I did a brief warm up jog then waited in the corral for 10-15 minutes. Crim’s corral system keeps things nice and organized. People are placed based on their estimated finish times and reasonably-sized waves go off every 90 seconds or so.
As I waited for the start, I still wondered what pace to run. I killed some time by playing with an app that estimates race times based on your current results. I ran a 45:50 10K at a triathlon the previous weekend. Based on that time, it estimated I could run 1:16:36. I’d been thinking of aiming for an 8:00 pace, but this told me I may be capable of 7:40 pace. Maybe I could push a little harder than I thought? Ultimately, I planned to run by feel, have fun, and see how it went.
I was in wave C and started a few minutes after 8:00. Although my hands were a little cold for the first mile or two, I couldn’t have hoped for better racing weather. We ran past the University of Michigan-Flint’s campus within the first mile. As a Wolverine, I got pretty pumped up when I heard the Michigan fight song over a speaker. That was the first of many moments that brought a smile to my face during the race.
Triathlons are the only races I’ve done this year, and people are usually scattered and spaced out during the run segment. Crim, on the other hand, is one big swarm of people. I felt energized being a part of such a large race once again. It was a big group run with a party-like atmosphere. The people of Flint come out to support the race and keep it pretty entertaining between their cheering and antics. Like the last time I did Crim, there was beer in front of one of the frat houses, there’s “Champagne Corner,” the guy who sings karaoke (and sounds great doing it) at the end of his driveway, people bouncing on a trampoline, etc. I had to laugh when I ran past one house where a group of people sat in the front yard with a “clap track” providing applause on a loop. There was a “band” named Kyle and the D-Bags, and I quickly realized the drummer and guitar player were only pretending to play along to a recording. As I ran just behind the 8:00 pace group, I totally cracked up when one spectator (who clearly didn’t understand pace groups) excitedly yelled, “Eight o’clock group! Yeah! Go eight o’clock runners!”
In addition to being entertained, I must have gotten swept up in the magic of race day. A couple of days before the race I struggled to finish the last mile of a run at an 8:00 pace. Yet somehow when race day rolls around, it becomes easy and natural. I’m not sure how that happens, but I love when it does. I think getting into a rhythm with other runners who are running a similar pace really helps. Part of it is about going with the flow. I ran an 8:06 mile to start, then the rest of my miles were 7:50 or faster. I’d glance at my watch occasionally and be surprised by the pace, but my breathing wasn’t labored so I kept rolling with it. I used my breathing and perceived effort as a guide, not my watch.
The Bradley hills are built up as one of the most challenging parts of the course, where several climbs come between miles five and six. I powered up them, and although I was breathing a bit heavily at the end of the third and final hill, I recovered quickly. I’ve made a point of including hills in some of my runs over the last couple months. Fortunately, living in Rochester *Hills* is good for training. Some of Crim’s hills seemed minor compared to the long, steep hills I’ve been running during training. When I ran Crim a couple years ago, I actually thought the rolling hills that came later were more difficult than the Bradley hills. Somehow I barely noticed them and they didn’t really bother me this time.
All around, I had a great run. After shaking off some tightness in the first mile or so, I felt strong and smooth. I consciously tried to pick up the pace the last few miles. When I looked at my watch for the 9-mile split, I realized I could hit 1:16:00 (my 2015 time) if I ran a 7:00 mile to finish. That motivated me to give it everything I had right through the end. I didn’t account for the extra 0.09 mi I ended up running, so I finished in 1:16:15 – so close. Only 15 seconds slower than my last Crim time!
Since I didn’t look at my watch much during the run, I hadn’t realized what a solid cutdown/negative split I had run. I was pretty excited about these splits!
I’ve had some of my best racing experiences when I’ve started slow and sped up. I wasn’t aware that I’d done it so successfully during this race. I ran by feel and I guess this is what came naturally. Everything just clicked. I wish I could bottle it up and figure out how it happened so smoothly, then always execute that well!
I got some water, chocolate milk, a couple of granola bars, then noticed a free photo tent. I waited in line for five minutes or so and they texted the picture immediately. Pretty cool!
I went to the post-race celebration area next, where I got a bag of sliced apples from McDonald’s on the way to getting my free slice of pizza and a drink. I ran into a couple of friends and chatted for a bit. Before heading home, I stopped by the expo and got a pair of shoes for 15% off.
I’m thrilled with the results of this race. I honestly didn’t know I had it in me. My 5K and 10K triathlon times have improved as the season has gone on, but I didn’t know if it would help me enough for the longer distance. I’m sure the cool weather gave me a boost. I guess triathlon training has really worked in my favor. I’ve been running four days a week, totaling 20-25 miles most weeks. In the past, I’ve been used to running five or six days a week, doing tempo runs and speed work, and running double my recent weekly mileage. I thought I was underprepared for this race, so I really shocked myself.
This race also reinforced what I’ve found in the past – that Greg McMillan’s McRun app does a great job calculating my potential race times. I ended up running 21 seconds faster than it estimated, so it was pretty darn accurate.
Crim was a great boost to my confidence. I have the Brooksie Way half marathon coming up in a few weeks, and now I realize that I may be more prepared for it than I thought. I hope to do a couple of longer runs before then so I feel more secure, but this race left me feeling confident that I’m getting my speed back. Now that the weather is cooling down and I’m probably done with tri season, I’m looking forward to getting back to running-only events again.