Sunday, August 14, 2016

btn big 10k recap

Disclaimer: I received an entry for RAM Racing BTN Big 10k to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!

Feel free to read my more succinct (and of course, my personal opinion) Pro/Con list of the race over on

Ok, so I'm not insanely into college sports (or honestly, care much about them at all), but I DO love to run races. Of course when the opportunity to run BTN Big 10k came up, I opted in, and was lucky enough to receive an entry. I was super excited because three other pros got in, including my BRF Angie.

Now, I didn't go to any of the schools that are in the Big Ten, so I went with what I'll call my 'sister' school U of I. I visited that place quite frequently, as a TON of friends from the neighborhood went there. I went to UIC myself, aka the U of I in Chicago. The University of Illinois system comprise three campuses — Urbana-Champaigne, Chicago, and Springfield. Anyway, I did think about just going with the generic option ('BTN Fan' gender-specific tech shirt), but U of I seemed fitting enough for me, plus orange and blue = Bears as well. And orange, because BibRave ;) But anyway...

So, when registering, you chose the school you wanted to represent. Your options were Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, or Wisconsin.

Packet pickup was available the week of the race from Tuesday–Friday at Fleet Feet Sports Old Town location, 10am – 8pm each day. That's pretty awesome. I had a meeting in the city on Tuesday, August 2, so I went at about 2pm to grab my packet. Pickup was a breeze, even with the other 2 packets I had to grab. The other two also got extra swag – bandana (thanks to the BibRave code) and a water bottle. I didn't even have to mention those items to get them – they were on top of it! All packets I grabbed were of different schools, too. For everyones packet (including your own), just provide your QR code that they sent via email.

Front and back of the shirts I picked up at packet pickup.
Best on the right, of course ;)

They had plenty of people working, so even if it were busy, I think there wouldn't have been much wait. They validate parking there, too, so I only had to pay $2 instead of $12. You could also have chosen to get your packet mailed, which I think was $10–$15. No race day pickup, but I think with the amount of days they had it available, that's acceptable.

RAM Racing did a great job at communicating everything about the race. What amenities were on course and what would be at each station, the new course for 2016, corral info, and then about a week or two before the event, you could find a participant guide on the website that detailed just about anything you might have a question about.

I had to wear my BibRave gear for the event rather than my school shirt, but worked out perfectly, as it's orange. So I added a blue Sparkle Athletic skirt to make the perfect Illinois race outfit.

Heading to the start corrals.

For the race, mom and I parked at Soldier Field. It was a quick walk post-race, but maybe 15 minutes to get to the start line. We met up with Angie, Frank, and Kelly. The Pros took the opportunity to take some fun photos before heading to corrals. Corrals weren't being monitored, though if you were in A–C, you wanted to be there with time to spare, because they blocked those off maybe 10–15 minutes before the race start. I was in Corral H... the last one, so had no worries. Angie and Kelly decided to run slow with me, and it was a ton of fun. It was nice to be able to take mid-run selfies, or just fun photos of each other running (without being asked) with great backdrops like the lake or the skyline. We did 45/30 run/walk intervals, except for the inclines (Angie told me Chicago has no hills, so I couldn't call them hills) in which I prefer to walk up and run down haha.

Instead of explaining the courses multiple turns, I'll just show a map here:

It was nice to have the first few miles on the streets of Chicago. It helped with congestions and allowed for a more enjoyable race experience. Also, I do a LOT of races on the LFP, so it was nice to have a little bit of scenery change. (Don't get me wrong, the LFP is awesome and beautiful views... but a change is always nice).

Obligatory pre-race selfie!

Frank, Angie, me.

My one issue with the lower portion of the path, the part that's next to the lake, is that it's filled with bumps and potholes and cracks. I'd love it if the city would fix it. It's been like this way too long. I know it's not the races fault, but definitely something you want to be aware of if you run down there ever. Watch your footing.

At the aid stations they had Nuun first and then water. This made it easy to know where to go for what you wanted. I do believe they were in different cups, too (Nuun cups for Nuun and then something more plain I think for water). The 10k had 3 stops. There were also two opportunities for fun slip-n-slide inflatable tube type action, which Angie took advantage of. While it was 'cooler' temps when we started, that sun heated up the place real quick. I know I was crazy sweaty by the end. I was glad to have brought my Orange Mud Endurance Pack with ice water in the bladder, so I could drink a little bit every few minutes. At 7:05 it was 71 with 73% humidity, and I'm pretty sure it was in the 80s when we finished, with bright, sunny skies.

Great day!

What being a Pro means... being on your phone all the time,
even during races for Snap Chat, photos, videos, etc.

Slip n Slide fun!

After you finish, you received a bottle of water, a towel you could dip into ice cold water (if you got there in time. The side we were on were out of towels, though there were some unused ones near the boxes on the floor that I snagged, and then people used the bottled water tubs to soak their towels), and then you proceeded to your school's area to grab your medal. There was a tag on the bib you had to rip off to exchange for your medal. Each school had it's own ribbon, and then the medals were the same. You also could get bananas and Clif Bars (their new nut butter fills!).

Almost finished :)

The Finish Line!

Silly Josh!

The post-race party was where it's at. Each school had it's own tent, and you could go chat with alumni, take photos with a backdrop, and grab school sunglasses. There was Goose Island 312, Amylou Sausages (spicy or savory) which included ketchup, mustard, pretzels, handy wipe, and these delightful creme de Pirouline. It was all very filling.

It's important to hydrate post-race.

Great medal.

There was music, games, and photo ops with cheerleaders and mascot. We met up with Cass and took some more Pro photos, along with plenty of laughs and chit chat. Josh, Kelly, Angie, my mom and I stayed till about the end, which was 11. 



She's funny.

BibRave Pros!
Angie, me, Frank, and Cass

Then we all (minus Kelly) went to Dunkin' Donuts for some snacks. We said goodbyes around 12, when mom and I had to hit up Road Runner Sports for packet pickup for another race the next day. Always busy! It was sad to say goodbye to my BRF and her #ProSpouse, as we didn't know when we'd see each other again. Boohoo. Good thing we talk everyday at least ;)

Rio Donuts. Getting into the Olympic spirit! haha.

I'd definitely encourage any one to run this race. Don't be shy or afraid if you aren't into the Big 10 stuff. You can enjoy it even if you know practically nothing, like me :)

RAM Racing is really hitting their stride and nailing it with the Chicago races (that's all I've run, I'm sure the others are great too) - amazing swag (which has been happening for quite some time), but also just great all around. Enjoyable courses, cool shirts, fun post-race party, large post-race party so it didn't feel too crazy crowded (even though it was pretty dang crowded!). Really fun. I think something they do right is send out a survey after their races to get feedback from the runners. They take into consideration what the runners say and then adjust to make things better the following year. I'm guessing maybe the crowd was too big to have a Soldier Field start? Maybe too much congestion on the course? So they moved it. I can't verify that's why it was moved, but from what I've heard, seems like maybe that's why.

Either way, kudos to them on another successful race, and I'm looking forward to running a bunch more of their races in the next few months (I just did the Humboldt Park 5k for the first time on Sunday it was awesome).

Read what the other Pros had to say about the race:

By the way, want to run any of these with me? Great swag and I've done the first two before and had a blast!

Friday, August 26
Soldier Field at 7pm
A cool black technical t-shirt with a reflective log (gender specific)
Amylou Sausages and Bell's Brewery
Maggie Speaks
Code: BibRaveRTN = free RAM Racing multi-funcitonal bandana/headwrap

Saturday, September 10
Grant Park, Chicago at 7am (both half and 5k)
Men and Women both welcome and encouraged to participate!
Awesome 2016 medal, long-sleeve tech shirt (gender specific)
Code: BibRaveMM = free RAM Racing multi-funcitonal bandana/headwrap

Sunday, September 18
Blurr Elementary School Grounds in Bucktown at 8:30am
Amazing technical fleece-lined hoodie featuring the Chicago flag (gender specific)
Code: BibRaveBT = free RAM Racing multi-funcitonal bandana/headwrap

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