This weekend it was time for one of the most legendary races in Michigan – the 44th Crim Festival of Races. It was my fourth time running the race which is a low number compared to most of the runners I know! The race has a club of people who have done the race anywhere from 30-40+ years. People keep returning to this race because it’s always a memorable experience.
My 2020 entry for the race was deferred to this year because of the pandemic and I looked forward to getting back to it. I’m usually in the middle of marathon training when I run this race and that was true once again. It’s a good way to test where I stand in terms of speed and endurance at this point of my training.
It’s been warm and humid a lot lately and things were no different the day of the race. It was due to be in the 70s with humidity close to 100% at the start. At least it would be cloudy the whole time. The 10-Mile runners typically begin at 8:00 and the start was moved an hour earlier due to the conditions. It wasn’t going to be an ideal day for fast times but I actually didn’t worry about it. Because the weather has been so gross for running lately my body has had a chance to adapt. I used to think that I was bad at running in the heat and humidity but recently I’ve realized it’s more of an issue if I’m not used to it. I’ve had some rough race experiences when I’ve trained in cool conditions then the heat and humidity suddenly jumped without time for my body to adapt. I ran in the morning for a week leading up to this race and the conditions were pretty much the same every morning. It was like running in a sauna most of the time and I was always soaked by the time I finished. Although it’s been so gross outside, I haven’t been struggling through the runs. I even ran some miles at marathon pace and survived so I figured I should at least be able to manage that pace for Crim as well.
Around 5:45 I got to the parking lot I’ve always used and started a nearly half mile trek to the starting area. The race usually allows us to get our packets the morning of the race inside a building where there’s a big expo but that was canceled this year. Instead, they had us check in at tables in the parking lot where the post-race festivities would take place. It’s always fun to see how quiet it is first thing in the morning knowing that there will be crowds everywhere just an hour later.
I was happy when I received 1983 for my bib number. I had listened to the song “1983” by the band Neon Trees a couple days earlier so I thought it might give me good vibes. The song ran through my head many times during the race!
I made a trip back to the car to drop off my t-shirt, eat my second Picky Bar of the morning, and to get my stuff ready before heading back to the start for a bathroom stop. The lines were long but I would still have a few minutes to kill before the race started. My friend Lindsay spotted me and we chatted for a little while as we waited for the corral to open. When it did, I tried to hustle through the crowd.
The race originally had safety protocols in place to keep people spread out. They had us sign up for 15-minute rolling blocks of time so everyone wouldn’t go at once. When they shifted things earlier due to the weather, anyone could start the 10-mile race between 7-8am. I was a bit concerned that it meant we’d be back to starting in a large crowd and I’m still pretty wary about that. I was also concerned about getting caught behind slower people and starting slower than I hoped. The race usually puts people in starting corrals based on pace and with no guidelines like that in place I worried that it would be a free-for-all and could get messy. It’s kind of funny that things like that worried me more than the weather!
I was able to get closer to the start than I expected so pacing wasn’t an issue at all.
The route was a little different for the first couple miles due to construction. I didn’t notice too much because it’s usually the time when I’m just trying to settle into a good rhythm. I did miss running through the Flint campus of the University of Michigan though because in the past I’ve always gotten fired up when the marching band plays my fight song!
I saw plenty of familiar faces throughout the day which is one thing that’s always special about this race. So many of the serious local runners do this race. I was around a couple of guys for half the race who kept greeting people they knew and the best part was when one of the guys spotted one of his old teachers. He told him that he’d had him 40 years ago. The teacher asked what his name was and said, “Oh yeah!!” That made me laugh.
All of the usual folks in the community were out supporting the runners. The woman on the mini trampoline was bouncing around despite the heat. I always look forward to the guy who sings karaoke at the end of his driveway and he made me smile yet again. There was a donut table a couple miles into the race which may have been nice had I been walking, but I wasn’t going to take that risk while running! People had sprinklers going for us and I ducked through a few of them. I heard one of the marching bands play Toto’s “Africa,” and despite the heat, I actually got chills a couple times when I heard songs that must have triggered emotions. I was amused by people in front of a house who were drinking while standing in a baby pool where Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” was playing. I ran by during some very appropriate lyrics:
I heard “200 degrees” and thought about how it pretty much felt that way! People cheered for us and told us not to stop, to keep going. Sometimes those kinds of things are especially meaningful when it’s a bit of a struggle to keep pushing.
I saw a runner down at one point with an ambulance approaching. That reminded me of something Lindsay said while we were talking before the race. She mentioned how she had dealt with heat exhaustion during a recent workout. I wanted to push myself during the race but NOT to the point of having a heat stroke. Even if I felt like I should give it everything I had, I better keep things under control so I didn’t get myself into trouble. As usual, I ran with my fuel belt that had a 21 oz. bottle with an electrolyte drink. That was enough to keep me hydrated and I actually didn’t need any of the water stops. I ate a couple of chews during the race too that had extra sodium.
Pushing the pace in the heat and humidity wasn’t easy but somehow I actually stayed pretty steady. The infamous Bradley Hills section did slow me down halfway through the race though. I told myself that I’m used to running hills and it wouldn’t be a big deal, but as I started up the first hill it felt a whole lot steeper! I powered through and when I recovered enough I ended up back at the same steady pace again. I usually like to pick up my pace for the last few miles but this time I didn’t do that until I had a mile left. Again, I didn’t want to overheat. I had to watch my footing on the uneven bricks leading to the finish but flew through that final stretch. Although I felt pretty miserable after pushing through those conditions for 10 miles, it also felt amazing being able to pick up the pace so much for such a strong finish. My smile was 100% forced just for the sake of the cameras though!
1:18:37 was almost three minutes slower than my PR from 2019 but we also had cooler and more ideal conditions that day. I was very content with these results. I keep aiming to run a marathon at an 8:00 pace (which I haven’t managed yet) and I would have been happy if I had maintained that for 10 miles. Going under that pace while it was so gross out left me satisfied.
I didn’t pay too much attention to my watch while I was running so I hadn’t realized just how consistent most of my splits were until after the race. Aside from warming up through the first mile, slowing down on the Bradley Hills, and flying for the last mile, somehow I guess I locked into a certain zone!
I also looked at my heart rate info and saw that I had clearly pushed pretty hard. Had I done much more I may have been pressing my luck.
After the finish line I received my medal and volunteers had cold, wet paper towels for us which was really helpful. I saw a guy at one point during the race who had body paint. Some of it was sweating off onto his shorts. I came across his photo while browsing through the official race photos and had to compare the before and after shots. It totally cracked me up and it paints a pretty clear picture about how sweaty it was out there!
I got a jug of chocolate milk and a Chewy granola bar then went to see what kind of food they had in the post-race area. There was a tent for beer or a soft drink, but the only options for food were a couple of food trucks.
In the past they had pizza but I guess that was another thing cut because of the pandemic. I didn’t really want what the trucks had so I went back to grab a popsicle. I didn’t hang out too long after the race and went to the car where I had another Picky Bar. I wanted to get something special after my solid race and maybe donuts were on my mind since they had them on the course. I detoured on the way home so I could hit a place called DK Donuts & Burgers in Oxford that my brother had recommended.
It was a good way to treat myself! I came home feeling really happy about how the race had gone. Of course it would have been nice to get closer to my PR time but that wasn’t realistic on a day with a heat advisory. Just going under marathon pace was an accomplishment for me. My marathon training plan has me run up to 10 miles at that pace a time or two and since I’ve already done it a couple times this summer I hope it’s a good sign for my fitness right now. Plus, now I realized that I CAN run well in the heat and humidity and being able to train in those conditions makes a world of a difference. When it cools down I should be even stronger!