Saturday, June 07, 2008

Meteorology is not an exact science

Southern Minnesota should be good on Saturday morning, with showers and thunderstorms developing in the afternoon, the TV weather people said on Friday night. Alrighty, then.

Saturday at 4:50 AM, I hopped into The Silver Hornet and headed south to Rochester. More specifically, I was heading just east of Rochester to the Chester Woods County Park to partake in the Chester Woods 10 Mile Trail Run.

Rain was falling as I left the Twin Cities, but the clouds parted to treat me to a gorgeous and colorful sunrise. This was going to be a beautiful day.

Come to Rochester! See the world's largest ear of corn! I passed this water tower en route to the race.

The Chester Woods park is spectacular. What a beautiful piece of property! It sits along the edge of a creek and reservoir and features some very mature forests. The race course utilized a network of trails that would take us all over the park.

Shortly before the start of the race, I could see gray clouds moving in from the west. What the hell is this? It wasn't supposed to rain until this afternoon, or so I thought! Shortly after 8:00 AM, the gun fired and we we off on our adventure.

A shot of the race registration area, while the sun was still shining!

For the most part, the hills were rolling and gentle, and the trails wide and runnable. You did have to watch your footing in places, especially where the horses had been. There would be some bigger hills towards the later stages of the race, including the "Big Dam Hill" (which, appropriately enough, overlooked the dam!).

An incredibly unique feature of this race was its mile markers; they made their own Burma-Shave signs to denote the miles. I am too young to remember, but apparently this was a clever roadside advertising scheme by the makers of Burma-Shave that dotted the highways in an era gone by. A series of signs would have some catchy phrases, and the last one would tell you how many miles were left. Very cute!

I felt a bit sluggish at the start, but soon fell into a rhythm and ran my own comfortable pace. Aside from some curious onlookers in the campground, the only other people I saw were runners and the always enthusiastic volunteers, who were most kind and incredibly supportive the whole way around.

Now, about the weather...

The skies clouded up quickly, and it wouldn't be long until I started hearing some thunder in the distance. Uh-oh, this might not be good. Shortly after the 5 mile mark, a runner passed me and said, "Think we will beat the hail?"

"I hope so," I replied, somewhat puzzled. "It is not supposed to get bad until this afternoon, right?"

"No, it is only 20-30 minutes away!"

"[Expletive deleted]," I said.

I became a little concerned. Not so much for me, but for The Silver Hornet sitting outside in the middle of a wide open parking lot with no shelter! Ugh. I was really hoping this didn't materialize.

Shortly thereafter, I wondered to myself; how does he know that hail is supposedly on the way? We were both out in the middle of nowhere! Did he have KARE 11's "Skyscan" radar piped into his running watch or something? This mystified me, and still does.

Anyhow, by my 7th Burma-Shave markers, the skies had sufficiently darkened, and thunder was starting to crackle. Just past my 8th Burma-Shave markers, the heavens opened up. We got positively dumped on; big raindrops, thunder, and the occasional lightning bolt danced off in the distance.

But, thank goodness, there was no hail! It was only rain, and lots of it in a short amount of time.

I crested the "Big Dam Hill," enjoyed a spectacular view of the reservoir in the midst of a downpour, and made my way towards the finish, which would be mostly downhill from here.

One of the funniest things ever said to me during a race happened during the last mile when a young lady passed me. We were both soaked to the bone, and she said, "I didn't realize there was going to be a wet t-shirt contest today!"

My response: "Yes, and I am sure I am the loser!"

After a laugh, we chatted briefly, cursing the local TV meteorologists, but also noting that the did keep the temperature down nicely. So maybe that wasn't so bad after all? High 60's are better than low 80's!

I crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 33 minutes, and 10 seconds (by my watch), and I was very happy with my performance. I thought I ran pretty well today and felt very good. These trails were nice!


A lady parked near me kindly took my picture shortly after the finish. The picture does not do justice to how wet I was, but every stitch of clothing was saturated, and my shoes waterlogged. I wrung out a surprising amount of water from my microfiber running shirt that supposedly does not retain water. :) And wouldn't you know it? While I was cleaning up at my car, the sun started to shine again!

All things considered, it was a fantastic day on the trails, and the people were incredibly nice. Following the race, they had all kinds of food and drink (including dill pickles for salt replenishment!). Another lady in the parking lot offered me a fantastic homemade M&M cookie. Mmmmmm! In spite of the rain, I think it is safe to say a good time was had by all.

Three cheers to the Race Director and all of the volunteers. They did a splendid job, and bless all of those folks who stayed out at the aid stations in the rain! Well done.

To this runner goes the semi-regular tradition of post-race Chinese take-out for dinner; and let me tell you, the "eight treasure" beef and the hot and spicy chicken were firing on all cylinders.

Until next time,

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