We signed up to be members of the Minnesota Distance Running Association a couple of months ago. They sponsor the Dome running that we take advantage of during the winter. They also put on several free runs for its members, so we figured it was worth the reasonable price. Today was one of their runs.
Steve, Steph, and I were all planning to run. Borsch and my brother Mike came to cheer. The run is set up to be a cross country run on a series of trails in Theo Wirth Park just west of Minneapolis. Before the race, we chatted up some other local runners. Danielle had done this race last year and announced that it had been the hardest race of any distance she'd ever done. Gulp!
I didn't have a lot in the way of goals for this run. I haven't run a cross country race since my high school days 10 years ago. I was hoping to keep it under 10 minute miles for the 4 mile race, but depending on the footing, amounts of hills, and muddiness, I knew it could be slower. Mostly I was just treating it as a hard tempo run in preparation for the Winter Be Gone Duathlon next weekend. Steve had looked up the field last year. Seventy-one runners had finished. I heard that 69 finished this year. The course was 4 x 1 mile loops, so it really couldn't have handled a lot more people than that.
Steve lined up toward the front. He was hoping to finish in the top 10. There are a lot of old school guys there, and some of them are really speedy! Steph and I lined up toward the middle. It was a pretty informal start. They shouted go, and we took off! The announcers had said before the start that there was only one real hill in the race and that it was marked. Right after we started, however, there was quite the uphill. The loop was actually a lot of fun. There were lots of downhills and uphills with one stretch of flat that was probably around 1/10 of a mile long. I was really glad that we've had a dry spring. That course would have been a real mess if it were wet. I would have been worried about my IT bands if we were slipping and sliding all over the place, but it would have made for fun race photos!
I hit the first loop in 9:08. Sweet! I was on track for an OK time after all. I hit the second lap in 9:07. Another great split. Mile 3 wasn't as beautiful. The leaders had already lapped me at this point, and I knew I was barely halfway there. I had started counting the frontrunners, and when familiar steps and breathing came up behind me, I shouted to Steve that he was in 4th. My split was 9:26 for lap 3. The great thing about doing 4 laps is that I had an attack plan by the time I was on my last lap. There were several catchable people ahead of me, and when I looked back, I didn't see anybody. Since I didn't have anybody to hold off, I focused on pegging people off. My previous laps had told me that the last steep uphill meant that there was about 600 meters left, and that's when I decided to really push it. I had been following two women wearing blue T-shirts for most of the race, and this was my chance! A middle-aged guy was cheering us on, and he told me to gun for them. I smiled and told him, "That's what I'm trying to do!" With just a couple hundred meters left, I attacked. I passed them, and they made no attempt to keep up. I finished mile 4 in 8:47 for a total time of 36:29 and an average of 9:07:45. Not too shabby! I had to lean up against a tree for a second because I really thought I was going to barf. That last lap was a tough one. It passed quickly, though, and Steph came in not too far after me. She's working through and injury and ROCKED the course. Lots of pics coming on Steve's blog... I'm working on the photo thing.
I am a little sorer tonight than I had expected. It was not a long distance, but those hills really did a number on my legs. It was sure great training for next weekend. My 2009 race schedule is starting to take shape. Now I just have to drop a bunch of registration fees.
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