Saturday, July 26, 2008

"I'm a lumberjack, and I'm OK..."

"...I sleep all night and I RUN all day!"

OK, perhaps those are not the exact words to the classic Monty Python song. But today at Lumberjack Days, I felt like I could run all day!

Early this morning I hopped in The Silver Hornet and headed to the scenic river town of Stillwater, MN (the "Birthplace of Minnesota," as it were). I would be running in the 10 mile road race that is part of the Stillwater's annual Lumberjack Days celebration.

I ran this race in 2005 and haven't run it since. It just never worked out in my schedule. I decided about a week ago that I was going to do it again, figuring I would run at least that far on a training run, so I might as well race!

The course is point-to-point. They bus us out north of town to the Square Lake Park. We would run on county roads through farm country and the beautiful St. Croix River valley, and eventually finish near the historic Stillwater lift bridge. The course is quite scenic and contains a few rolling hills. But, by and large, it is a pretty flat course.

A dorky self portrait at the Square Lake Park starting area

At 8:00, 1100 runners started charging back towards Stillwater. Getting out of the park was a little slow due to a narrow road and a large crowd, but as soon as we hopped onto the county road, things opened up considerably.

We had a nice day, if not somewhat warm. Not a cloud in the sky, and I am guessing the temperature was around 70. A classic summer day in Minnesota. I had settled into a nice groove and found myself running very comfortably.

The miles felt like they were flying by. I just kept clipping, passing the runners that were slowing down as the race went on. On the occasional hill, I pushed myself to maintain my pace. Running felt almost effortless today.

If I may digress for a moment; I have never run with headphones, nor do I understand why anyone would want to run with headphones (it is well established that I am a bird and nature guy!). That being said, I completely respect anyone's personal decision to listen to music while they run. Honestly, to each their own. But I observed this humorous exchange between two guys who were obviously running the race together, one without headphones, and the other with, that I thought was worth sharing:

Guy without headphones: "Five miles!"
Guy with headphones: "What?"
Guy without headphones: "I said we just passed five miles."
Guy with headphones: "WHAT?"


Clearly, these two might not have been getting a lot out of the shared racing experience! :)

Anyhow, back to the race! By the 5 mile mark, I came through in the low 41 minute range. I felt great. My breathing was calm, and my running was strong. At this point, I just knew I was going to have a good day and decided to try and push myself.

Between miles 6 and 7 was a nice downhill where you could really gain some speed, and from mile 7 on home was mostly flat, so you could really cruise if you wanted to. I never felt at any point that I was pushing too hard or that I was going to crap out. For some reason, everything was working today. I kept hammering away until I got into Stillwater and made my way towards the bridge.

The finish was lined with tons of screaming people, so it was kind of cool to run through that environment. I crossed the finish line, looked at my watch, and just started clapping.

I finished the race in 1 hour, 19 minutes, and 55 seconds (results here). This blew away my previous 10 mile personal record by more than 5 minutes.

Post race at the Lumberjack Days race, with the Stillwater lift bridge in the background

I have never kept that high of a pace for a race that was longer than a 10k. This week was really busy and somewhat tiring at work (coupled with a schedule-altering corporate outing), I didn't sleep particularly well the night before, and last night's pre-race dinner consisted of some unidentified leftover Bolognese-style ragu from my freezer (I am still unsure which batch that was) with pasta, a bottle of Red Hook Longhammer IPA to drink, and some spicy nacho cheese Dorito's for a snack(by the way, yum!). I am still not sure how everything clicked today.

In spite the busy week that was, along with a somewhat questionable pre-race meal, I had a fun, memorable, and satisfying race. In fact, this was one of my best races ever in terms of management and performance. I am pleased!

So how does one celebrate? Why, with the semi-regular post-race tradition of Chinese takeout for dinner, of course! And it goes without saying that there will perhaps be a beer or two to celebrate a new personal record. While watching NASCAR night racing from Indianapolis. Wow, not a bad day!

Triple Kung Pao on the left, Hot & Spicy Chicken on the right...

Until next time,

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