Ever since I ran my first Crim 10-mile race in 2015, I’ve tried to make a point of reserving a spot for it on my schedule each year. The race is a big one around this area and it’s always guaranteed that I will see people I know. This year was the 45th year for the Crim Festival of Races and on Saturday, August 27th I returned to Flint to run the race for my fourth time. It feels like that number should be higher because it’s become such a routine race for me to do around the end of August. Somewhere around 6,000 people participated across all of the events this year, with the 10-mile race drawing almost 4,000 people between the run and walk.
Since Flint is a 45-minute drive for me I’ve always waited until the morning of the race to get my packet. I usually park in a lot that is half a mile from the expo area. By the time I walk down there, back to the car, then back to the start, I’ve already done a mile and a half prior to the race. No big deal since I like to warm up anyway but this time I opted to go on Friday afternoon just to save myself some time in the morning.
I ended up kind of pushing my luck on race day by arriving only half an hour before the start. I usually like to give myself more of a buffer because some of the roads close by 6:30, but luckily it all worked out. I jogged from the parking lot to the race area for a bathroom stop and still had about 10 minutes to spare. People who have done the 10-mile race 30+ times started first. They get extra recognition and a group photo, and it’s always inspiring to see them on the course.
While I waited for the start I looked at my Garmin splits from the 2019 race which was my PR for Crim. My average pace was 7:32 that year and the first mile was 7:55. I saw that I slowed down to 7:47 for the mile with the Bradley hills but still made up for it throughout the rest of the race. It was good to refresh my memory and remind myself that things balance out during the race. I didn’t need to worry about the hills or a slow start.
Last year the race implemented a rolling start to help alleviate concerns tied to the pandemic. They maintained some form of that this year by assigning starting times in 15-minute blocks based on estimated pace. I was able to start in the first wave of runners at 7:00 and it felt kind of weird that the crowd wasn’t bigger. The start of the race usually feels so massive! Of course less congestion and fewer people to weave through is a good thing though.
I glanced at my watch when I hit the first mile – 7:42. When I looked at the elevation later I realized that we climbed the whole first mile. 7:42 was pretty good for an uphill warm up mile. As I ran next to a guy he commented on what great weather we had. I said that if my hands were cold a couple miles into the race that was probably a good sign! It was clear, in the 50s, and I didn’t really notice any humidity. The guy said he was already starting a bit fast and I said maybe that just meant it would be a PR kind of day! I wondered if I was starting too fast myself after hitting a pace of 7:26 for the second and third miles. We had the benefit of some downhill stretches though. It was only the second race in my Brooks Hyperion Elite 2 shoes and I was curious to see if the “super shoes” with a carbon plate really might help me go faster. I always like to milk the momentum when I run downhill but have noticed that I feel especially fast flying down hills in these shoes. I also noticed the pounding sound of the shoes from some of the runners around me and realized I seemed to be running lightly and quietly. I hoped my shoes might work a little extra magic for me!
We ran past some frat houses around the campus of Kettering University and I was kind of surprised that people weren’t partying out front like they have often done in the past. The crowd support along the course has been pretty amazing some years and I’m not sure if we’re still in a slump as we work our way out of the pandemic. I was a little bummed that there wasn’t a ton of support from spectators. It was nice to at least see the old standards I’ve come to expect like Champagne Corner, a woman bouncing on her mini trampoline, a beer stop, and a guy who sings karaoke from his driveway. I think they’ve all been there every year I’ve done the race.
I managed to run the fourth mile in 7:22 and the fifth in 7:20. That was pretty fast for me and I hoped I’d be able to maintain it. The real shocker is that after climbing the Bradley hills, one of the toughest parts of the course, I only slowed down to a 7:29! I must have really gained some momentum going downhill afterward because I definitely had to work on those hills and was over an 8:00 pace while climbing.
When I hit the halfway point of the race I knew I could be on track for a really good time if I could keep it up. I worried a little bit when I felt my problematic left hamstring during the eighth mile. Fortunately it was a momentary thing that didn’t linger. I didn’t do a good job of aiming to run the tangents during the early miles but it was on my mind the rest of the race. There was a 13-year-old kid near me at times during the second half of the race and I noticed that unlike many people around us, he ran the tangents as well. I always think about how I didn’t start running races like this until my 30s and I’m so impressed when I see kids who are so disciplined and accomplishing so much.
As I hit the 9-mile mark I caught up to the 7:30 pacers. I’m not sure how that worked since I was averaging 7:20s! That last mile was GO time and I picked up the pace even more. Music blared and crowds cheered in a couple spots. It gave me such a boost that it made me especially aware of how much I had missed that throughout the rest of the race. I could see the final turn up ahead and knew I’d have about a quarter mile left to give it my all. The last stretch of the race is always a little dicey on the uneven brick road. I was flying fast enough that it didn’t seem to bother me. My main thought was that I wanted to push as hard as I could and I hoped it wouldn’t give me a heart attack!
I saw the clock as I approached the finish line and couldn’t believe it was still under 1:14:00! My prior best had been just under 1:16:00. I crossed the line with an official time of 1:13:54 which was close to a 2-minute PR.
My official stats had my average pace a little slower because I didn’t run the tangents perfectly and added some extra distance. Anything in the 7:20s sounds good to me!
I grabbed water, chocolate milk, and a granola bar then ran into a friend who also got a big PR. I wandered into the post-race celebration area and found a place with a bell to ring to celebrate PRs and had to get a picture there.
When I saw a massage area I thought it might be a good idea to check that out. Although I felt fine at the moment, I was wary about my hamstring, plus the whole left side of my leg from my hip down to my knee always has issues. A student from UofM Flint worked on me and I had to let her know that she could use more pressure. I’m used to cringing my way through massages to feel like issues have actually been worked out. Sure enough, I really felt it in my IT band. I hoped the brief massage might help me from getting too sore later in the day.
I got my free slice of pizza and ran into another friend as I lingered around the team tents area. I’ve participated in Crim’s corporate challenge in the past, where Detroit’s Big 3 automakers race against each other. That’s another thing the pandemic has taken away the last couple years. The team leader from my work told people that we could meet by the tents to chat about our races even though we didn’t have our own specific tent. I met up with him and a couple of other guys and talked for a while before heading home.
Of course I’m totally thrilled with my results. A day or two before the race I had started to worry that I may have sabotaged it thanks to juggling too many things and getting too little sleep throughout the week leading up to it. I got less than three hours of sleep at the beginning of the week when I worked third shift followed by first shift, and three hours a few nights later after going to a concert. I knew that was not ideal so I’m really lucky that it all worked out. I suspect my fancy shoes helped, but my fitness and the good weather were probably factors as well. This race has been warm and humid in the past so it made a big difference to have such ideal conditions this year.
I’ve also found myself racing a little differently in recent years. Instead of starting slower and gradually speeding up throughout a race, lately I’ve locked into a faster pace early on and have realized I’ve been able to hang on. That approach has been a little scary at times as I’ve worried that I could crash and burn. I haven’t yet though and it’s resulted in some pretty solid races! This nearly 2-minute PR will help fuel my motivation as I approach my next marathon in mid-October.