Saturday, September 12, 2009

Humbled by humidity at the Get Ready To Rock 20 Miler

My snazzy new shirt from the Get Ready To Rock 20 Miler - long-sleeved and black; always a nice touch.

Saturday morning I had the pleasure of joining a number of local marathon aficionados in the city of White Bear Lake for the Get Ready To Rock 20 Miler. As this is a few weeks prior to the Twin Cities Marathon, a lot of runners use this as a final tune up.

(As a side note, just a few miles south of my race was the Bear Water Run. Not one, but TWO 20 miles races occurring in the same town, on the same day, and at the same time! You can't say we don't have options here in Minnesota!)

Let me set the scene for you; a couple of days ago, the National Weather Circus was predicting a high of 66 degrees for Saturday with clouds and occasional rain. I am thinking, "Sweet! It will be cool!"

Saturday arrives. On my drive over to the race, prior to the sun rising, it was already 68, muggy, and humid with little to no wind. Ick! When the sun did come up, it was a hazy sun, which further added to the stagnant grossness of the morning. A big swing and a miss on the forecast.

Yours truly before the race. If the setting looks a lot like that of the Northern Lakes 10 Miler, that is because it is the same place! Same headquarters, using a lot of the same route as well.

Since there is nothing you can do about the weather, I just prepared as best I could. I decided to carry my hand bottle with me so I could always have fluids. I did not plan to run this race all out or anything ("It's just a long training run," I kept telling myself), and I was preparing to dial it back if need be.

The race started at the White Bear Lake high school, ran though the residential areas for several miles, turned north and would run two clockwise loops of Bald Eagle Lake before returning to the school for the finish.

My first half of the race went OK. I made it through the half way point at 1 hour, 30 minutes exactly. The route does offer a fair amount of shade in many places, so I was feeling alright. Many lovely views of the lake here. I saw dozens of ducks and geese congregating near the shoreline, and some of the residents of the lake were even performing the unenviable task of pulling in their docks for the winter (more signs of fall!).

Lots of fantastic, friendly volunteers were handing out water and HEED sport drink (not my personal favorite; to me, it tastes like you dipped a cup directly into your water softener, but that is just my opinion!). They were offering words of encouragement, as well as words of consolation about the weather. Hats off to all of you! You made a difficult day of running much better!

The heat and humidity really started to catch up to me. The sun was getting higher in the sky, and I could feel myself losing energy and slowing down.

And then, somewhere around 15 miles, everything went to hell in a hand basket.

Video footage of Jean hitting the proverbial "wall" sometime around the 15 mile mark... :)

Despite taking adequate fluids and gels, I was sapped of energy. Normally I do a good job of pacing myself, but not today. In hindsight, while I thought I had gone out at a slow enough of a pace, I should have started even slower to account for the weather and to conserve more energy down the stretch. The last five miles contained a mix of attempted running, shuffling, and intermittent walking breaks.

At one point I saw an ambulance go by me, lights and sirens on full blast. I was fearful that they might have been en route to treat another runner behind me. After I saw that, I was content with my slow pace. No need to do anything stupid. I wasn't feeling all that great by the 18 mile mark, and I thought I might puke if I tried to push it, so I just stuck with the the run-shuffle-walk plan all the way back to the finish.

The aftermath; yours truly following the race, using the trunk of The Silver Hornet to prop myself up!

When I crossed the finish line, I looked as if I had fallen into Bald Eagle Lake. Every article of clothing from head to toe was drenched and clinging to me. Sweat was even dripping profusely from the bill of my cap. I handed my tag to one of the volunteers. He took one look at me and said, "Tell me there was someone out there spraying you guys with water, and that is why you are so wet?"

I replied, "Actually, there was a guy with a hose spraying people around the 18 mile mark...but this is mostly sweat. It was brutal out there!"

He smiled, laughed, and shook his head. "Way to go, nice job!" he said.

I crossed the line in a crowd-pleasing time of 3 hours, 20 minutes, and change (that is right...1 hour and 50 minutes for the second half...ugh!). I thought 3 hours on the nose would be a good goal, as I have been right in that zone for the last two marathons I have done. I have been feeling great about my training, and don't think I am training poorly; rather, I just think it was a bad day (temperature when I finished was 79 with a dew point of 65...yuck!).

My lackluster performance in no way should take away from the race, or its organization. They put on a good show. In addition to orchestrating the 20 miler, there were also 5 and 10k events going on. They do a really nice job keeping things coordinated, the volunteers were excellent (as noted earlier), the course around Bald Eagle Lake was beautiful and well marked, officers from the sheriff's department were controlling traffic at all the major intersections (thanks Officers!), and the race was relatively inexpensive considering the distance (I preregistered for $35). Kudos to the Final Stretch crew!

In closing, these things I know:

  1. Running in heat and humidity sucks. This has me looking forward to my first winter run in below zero weather (seriously)
  2. I shouldn't be afraid to run even slower at the start in weather like this
  3. The semi-regular post-race meal of Chinese take-out (Empress Chicken & Mongolian Beef from Ming's Garden this time around) was excellent
  4. The beer I am sipping as I type this, Dark Horse Brewing Co.'s "Crooked Tree" I.P.A., is tasting really good right about now

Hoping it will be much cooler in Des Moines,

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