When registration opened for this race, I was very much on the fence about whether I wanted to run this race again. I ran it last year and while I didn’t dislike it, I didn’t really like it, either. My overall feeling was “meh.” But, running friends persuaded me to get in on the lottery, and I figured I could always transfer my entry to someone else if I got in and still didn’t want to do it.
Of course, our team was selected to run the race. I teetered between running the race, thanks to a fear of missing out, and not running the race. I knew several people who hadn’t gotten in and would have happily purchased my bib. It was a tough decision, but ultimately wanting to spend the day with my running friends won out and I decided to do the race.
I went to the expo and packet pickup on Friday of race weekend, arriving just after 4:00 pm. I spent about an hour wandering around, but was a bit disappointed with the expo; it was missing booths I had visited last year (Caribou Coffee, Ragnar Relay) and was looking forward to visiting again.
Once I was done wandering, I headed over to the Moms on the Run booth, where I volunteered until the expo closed just after 8:00 pm. For the first few hours, a coach from another MOTR location was volunteering with me, so we had a nice time chatting between visitors. I also had a nice time chatting with the race director of the Earth Day Run in St. Cloud. If you’re looking for a nice race in April, check this one out!
Fast forward to Sunday, the day of the race. I had told myself that if it was storming when I woke up, I would head back to bed and skip the race. Well, it was only misting a tad, so I got ready and headed to our carpool location. By the time I was 15 miles away from home, it started pouring and the wind was whipping. Had it not been for the friends I was running this with, I would have turned around and headed home!
The weather remained windy with intermittent rain while we drove to Minneapolis and waited for our corral to move to the start line. We arrived at US Bank Stadium about an hour prior to race time, to make sure we had time to eat our pre-race breakfast, use the porta-potties, and drop our sweats. Right as our corral started moving toward the start line, there was another big gust of wind and a brief moment of rain. The moment passed quickly, though, and it didn’t rain again until after I had finished the race and had my sweats on.
I had decided before the race that I would follow the 3:00 minute, 30 second intervals I had followed for the marathon. My starting pace was very easy and I settled in, knowing the first few miles of the course would be crowded anyway. As is expected, runners spread out more once we hit the first hill of the course; after this point, I really didn’t have to do much zig-zagging through people, which was nice.
Before I knew it, I was approaching mile 5. The time really flew up until that point, but this was when the hills started getting bigger. The next two miles would be an uphill climb. I surprised myself, though, by not needing to take any extra walk breaks. I powered through my intervals without losing much time off my pace. The stretch the 6 mile marker to the 7 mile marker felt long, but I was in the zone. I was forcing myself not to look at my watch, but to run by feel instead. I wanted a course PR, preferably something around 1:55:00, but I also wasn’t willing to be miserable the entire time. Also, I knew there were a lot of Girls on the Run and Moms on the Run cheering squads along the course, so I wanted to make sure I spotted all of them.
After the 7 mile marker, it felt like the time passed quickly again. It doesn’t hurt that this is where the course levels out, then starts dropping toward the finish. I felt like my pace was picking up, but again, I refused to look at my watch. The crowds were getting thicker, so the energy in the atmosphere was increasing.
Once I hit 9 miles, I allowed myself to look at my watch and confirmed that I was on track to PR the course, and likely even hit my 1:55:00 goal. I started running harder on the run portion of my intervals and walked faster during the breaks. With only a half mile left to go, I kicked it up another notch and was done taking walk breaks. The downhill run under the huge American flag, and then to the finish, was glorious. When I had the finish line in sight, I sped up as much as I could and sprinted across the finish line. My finishing time was 1:53:45 – a course PR!
I then collected my post-race goodies (chocolate milk, salted nut rolls, water, and salty chips) and met up with my friends. When everyone was accounted for and had a chance to snack, we grabbed our sweats and headed for the coffee line, then the beer garden. Many of us had to stop and ring the PR bell along the way!
The remainder of the day was spent going to lunch, taking a much-needed and appreciated shower, and registering for the Gary Bjorklund Half Marathon while watching football.
Ultimately, I was glad I ran this race again and had a better experience. I was tired, sore, and crabby when I finished last year. (Sorry, Nate!) This year, I felt really good and even had fun. I don’t have an interest in doing this race again, only because I’ve done it twice now and the logistics are a pain. But, I would definitely consider being involved by volunteering in some capacity.
This is was my last distance race of the year, as I plan to stick to distances 10k and under for the remainder of 2017. I’m looking forward to a break from distance, before starting training for the Gary Bjorklund Half in February.
What races are left on your calendar for the year?
Do you have a favorite fall race?