Saturday, May 30, 2009

Accidentally fast at the Northern Lakes 10 Miler

It has been three weeks since the Fargo Marathon, and I had only run three races this year. Feeling a little behind on my racing schedule and wanting to do some running, earlier this week on a whim I signed up for a race. Expectations were pretty low, and I really had no intention of trying to run hard. I was just looking forward to doing a race.

Saturday morning I had the pleasure of joining several hundred other local runners in the beautiful northeastern suburb of White Bear Lake to do the Northern Lakes Run. We had a good mix of folks here. Some were running the 30k as a tune-up for Grandma's in three weeks, and a number were doing the 5k. I split the difference and would be running the 10 miler.

Yours truly, outside of the race headquarters at White Bear Lake High School

What a gorgeous day for running! Temps were in the upper 50's and gradually rose into the mid 60's with lots of sunshine and zero humidity. We Minnesotans must be living well, because we have been treated to excellent weather in recent weeks.

The course for the 10 milers was a relatively flat counterclockwise loop around Bald Eagle Lake. They say the original Twin Cities Marathon course used some of these roads back in the day. This course is also where they hold the Get Ready To Rock 10k in the fall, which is where I got my 10k PR of 45:28 back in 2006 (foreshadowing alert!).

Gathering at the train tracks near the starting line; 10 milers here, 30k'ers off in the distance

The start of the race was interesting. Both races would start north of the school near the railroad tracks simultaneously at 8 AM. The 10 milers were heading south, and the 30k'ers would head north in the opposite lane.

Right as 8 AM rolled around, off in the distance we could hear the sound of a horn. Of course, that would be the train coming from the east! This would effectively hold up the start of the race for a couple of minutes until the train passed. I heard one runner joke, "Hey, the 10 milers are OK to start!" (we were heading south and not crossing the tracks!), which drew a good laugh from the crowd. I think the race start might have been slightly behind schedule anyhow, so this was probably not too much of a problem. Still, the timing of the whole thing was impeccable, and rather humorous at that!

The train that held up the show

With the train out of the way, we finally got going. And despite telling myself I was going to take it easy, I found myself running a pretty good race pace (for me), making it through the first mile in a shade over 8 minutes, even after wading through a lot of traffic at the start. So much for taking it easy! I was feeling good though, so game on!

There was a fairly stiff breeze that felt as if it was coming directly from the north. This meant we were going into it for the first few miles before we rounded the northern tip of the lake to turn south. I was maintaining my roughly 8 minutes per mile pace. At the halfway point, I remember looking at my watch. 40:10. Not bad. I felt like I was having a decent race.

The course is very pretty. Lots of nice homes along the lake, bass fisherman in their fancy boats were busy working the shoreline, birds were singing all around (cardinals, catbirds, blue jays), and many ducks were floating around in the bays. Many beautiful signs of summer all the way around. This is why I love Minnesota.

Everything was going well until about the 7 mile mark. Here, we hit the south end of the lake and had to turn back into the wind, which was blowing really hard by now. Then, my left shoe became untied. Crap! I had to stop, losing valuable seconds.

But I managed to regroup. Once we got away from the lake, it was pretty much a southward journey with the wind at our backs all the way to the finish. The road crossed back over the train tracks (no trains this time!), wound through some neighborhoods, and ended in the parking lot of Decoys Restaurant. The finish line was in sight for close to a half mile away, so I tried to pick up the pace coming down the home stretch.

By my watch, I finished in 1:19:44 (official results still pending). I started out the day without any expectations, and I ended up kicking butt. I established new 10 mile PR by 11 seconds...AND, to think I lost time having to stop and tie my shoe. Wow, what a day!

Here's what my new 10 mile PR looks like

So I now have two different PR's for two different distances, both set on the same roads. And, that makes two consecutive races where I have established a new PR. Not quite sure what is going on here, or if I can attribute this to better training, eating well, or drinking really good beer (Or perhaps a combination of the three? Ha ha!). Whatever the case, I am enjoying this trend!

Dinner consisted of the semi-regular post-race tradition of Chinese takeout. And the folks at Chin Yung did a damn fine job with the Hot and Spicy Chicken and the Triple Kung Pao. Yum! It certainly was a tasty way to celebrate a new milestone.

Just spicy enough to make your nose run! :)

On to the next,

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