Lake Elmo Huff-n-Puff 1/4 Marathon (10K)

The Lake Elmo Huff-n-Puff 1/4 Marathonwas not one of my pre-determined monthly races for 2011, nor did I put a lot of thought into it. On the Wednesday before the race, which was on Saturday, August 13th, I saw my schedule was unexpectedly open for a race and I decided I would attempt my first 10k distance. The farthest I had run prior to Saturday was 4.5 miles. I wasn’t sure what to expect for a longer distance, but told myself I just wanted to finish it with as much running as possible.

The morning started with some rain showers, but prior to me waking for the morning. I dressed in my normal running attire which consists of a pair of running capris and a sleeveless moisture-wicking shirt. I had charged my iPod the night before and laid out my running gear so I’d be ready on time in the morning to stop for my usual pre-race bagel.

At 6:15 am, I rolled out of bed to get ready for my day. After getting dressed, I drove across town for my Panera French toast bagel with sausage and asiago cheese. It was delicious! Along the way, I sipped on a bottle of water, but wasn’t very thirsty since I’d hydrated myself well the previous day.

I arrived at the race registration site at 7:30. Last year’s race only had 29 participants, but I wanted to make sure I was there early enough that I got my t-shirt. There was no line for the 10k, so registration went more smoothly and quickly than I had anticipated. I had plenty of time to get my iPod set up, drink a bottle of water and use the restroom.

Just before 8:30, a race official walked us a few blocks to the starting line and told us about the course. The race officially started at 8:31 am. Since the 5k participants and 10k participants all started together, I wasn’t sure how many people were in my field. As usual, people took of quickly around me and I took my slow, steady spot near the back.

The first leg of the race wound uphill alongLakeElmo. The hill itself was gradual enough that it wasn’t difficult, but the slight slope of the pavement toward the lake made one ankle work harder than the other. It was pretty uneventful and the first water stop was at the turn around for the 5k.

The course continued uphill until just after the 2 mile mark, at which point we had to turn right and head up a somewhat daunting hill. I told myself I was a warrior (having completed the Warrior Dash the week before) and this hill was NOTHING compared to going straight up a ski slope at Warrior Dash. I kept my eyes to the peak of the hill and just kept going. Before I knew it, the pavement leveled off.

Just after mile three, we took another right into the Lake Elmo Park Reserve entrance and ran along the path. The next (and last) water stop was at the park office, where two race officials handed out water and told me if I hurried, I could catch the girl in front of me. She had been in sight the entire time, but I was going for endurance, not speed. Her friend had slowed to a walk before mile two and was still somewhere behind me. Everyone else was long gone and had been for a long time.

The next few miles wound through the beautiful scenery of the park, which included more (much smaller) hills and made its way through trees. It was beautiful. The overcast skies and temperatures in the low 60s made for a perfect day for a leisurely, scenic run.

Somewhere around mile 5, the course cut across a grass and mud trail out of the park. They had warned us it might be slippery from the morning rain, but being a warrior, I actually gained speed across this section and closed the distance between me and the girl ahead of me.

The next leg was hard packed sand and took us uphill one more time. It was one hill too many. It was about 3/4 way up this hill that I had to walk. My body was protesting at the hill and the footing. I walked about 20 steps to finish up the hill and a race official directed me where to turn. He said, “once you get to the next corner, turn right and you’ll see the finish.” I had thought I had over a mile left, but had I known I was so close, I would never have walked at all!

Once I took the last turn, I did in fact see the finish line. Typically, this is where I turn up the speed and dash to the finish, but for this race I felt I had paced myself exactly right. I knew I had enough in me to finish the race at the pace I’d been maintaining but I also knew I didn’t have enough left in me to dash to the finish.

There was a small crowd left at the finish line, with the 5k participants long gone and most of the 10k participants gone as well, but they were clapping and cheering away. I have to thank them for that, considering I finished second to last! The girl I had in my sights the entire race finished less than one minute ahead of me. Not bad, considering she had been about a half mile ahead of me earlier in the race.

After handing in my bib tag and grabbing some water, I made my way back to the finish when I saw the last runner approaching. I clapped and cheered for her. She finished six minutes behind me, which I thought was great considering she had slowed to a walk around mile 2. I’m guessing it might have been her first 10k, too.

My official finishing time was 1:14:32. My pace time was slower than I’ve been running in shorter races, but as I said before, I just wanted to finish and run as much of it as I could. The field was extremely small with only 19 runners in the 10k and only five were in my division which was all women under 40 years old.

I have yet to decide whether I’ll attempt a longer distance this year, but regardless, I feel like this was a huge accomplishment. Friends and family couldn’t believe it when I told them I’d run 6.5 miles. I’ve come a long, long way in more than one way!

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