After 12 weeks of training the race began. But a few comments about the before part of the race. The race directors had to change the course due to a bridge being closed in St Cloud. They notified everyone of this change via e-mail before the race and updated their course maps on the website. They also made it very clear that there would be no race day packet pick-up (so for an Earth Day event they wanted you to drive to the city 2x’s. St Cloud is a little over an hour for us). What they didn’t make as clear was that a local high school track team was doing proxy packet pick-up for a $5 donation. Well worth the cost since it would be cheaper than 2 trips up to St Cloud. I knew things would be a little different since I’m on a USATF team, but it didn’t look like they offered race-day pick-up. After several e-mails and a little frustration I found out that I would be able to pick-up my packet at the USATF tent on race-day! Shew!
We got to St Cloud with plenty of time to get ready and warm-up on a pretty good morning for racing. It was mid-40’s with a sometimes strong wind. It was a little hard to decide what to wear for the day because the wind was still cold but I hadn’t brought a dry-fit t-shirt so it was either long sleeves or just a singlet (I was wearing shorts no matter what). I opted for the singlet and cotton gloves (and it felt good for the majority of the race). The campus of St Cloud State Univ is right next to the Mississippi River and would serve as a good place for the looping course. This would prove to not be one of my favorite
race courses. On the right is a map of the course from my Garmin.
The races website also called this a fast and flat course. It may be fast with a winning time of 66 something, but it isn’t flat. I will say that the course had an overall elevation loss but there are a lot of spikes on my elevation chart:
My official time is 1:36:58 my watch said 1:36:51 for the race so that’s pretty close! However, my Garmin said it was 13.25 miles not 13.1, oh well I guess. It is a certified course and I know that there are differences in distance because we tend to cut the corners a lot closer than they do on the measuring device. Either way it still didn’t help my final time be where I wanted it: 1:30 or 1:34.
We started right next to the St Cloud State University’s Recreation center after all the pre-race formalities. Everyone took off and I set into a comfortable pace going through town heading towards a lake which we went around for the first mile. Imagine everyone’s surprise when we came through the 1 mile in 5:50 something… Since the course had been changed the old painted miles weren’t accurate anymore, but someone had put the mile marker and its big bright yellow balloon at that mark. Everyone looked at their watches and discussed the situation. I took a look at my watch and realized the error and kept on going! A little farther around the lake they had the mile marked with a big clock that read 7 something. My split was actually 6:50, a little fast but it was comfortable. We then ran through town and I felt comfortable with the pace, I wasn’t really passing many people but still felt the pace was solid. I came through the second mile at 6:40. I really need to figure out how to make the Garmin show the split time and the overall time so I don’t have to do estimated mental math. I knew I was still sub-7 but didn’t realize I was that quick. The third miles we crossed the Mississippi River and had a nice down hill along the river. It was tree covered and probably could be pretty in the summer, if you aren’t racing a 1/2 marathon! I came through the third mile in 6:42 and still felt good. I took a Clif Shot Blok as planned, but had trouble getting the bag back into my pocket. I decided to hold onto in my hands for awhile longer. At this point the overall time is 20:13. This was a 6:44 pace with an overall race projection of 1:28.
This fourth mile did a little out and back that was annoying. We went about a tenth of a mile down a little road hit a water stop and then did a 180 and headed back out. A comment to the race director would be to make this water stop accessible both ways on the course not just the one direction. After that we headed back up out of the river valley and I hit the mile mark at 6:52. We then went up and over the Mississippi River again. Right after we crossed the bridge we went onto a sidewalk that was lined on both sides with cheering fans. This was a great feeling as they were pretty close to us and sent a surge through me, wiping away any pain I was feeling. It was more of an uphill mile back onto campus for the second loop of the campus. I came through the 5th mile at 6:59. We continued around campus, running through a plaza and alongside the river. The elevation chart show a quick steep uphill, but I don’t really recall this one. I do know that we went downhill under the bridge we had run over during the 5th mile before bottoming out again along the river valley. We went through the Gu stop (which I didn’t take) and I talked with another guy wearing an MDRA jersey – he’s not on the USATF team but runs with the club sometimes. I tried to keep in contact with him but like so many other “marks” he pulled away. I came through the 6th mile at 6:59. I took another scheduled Shot Blok. We went through the relay exchange area and I was pretty sure the clock said 43 something so I felt pretty good. My watch actually says I ran the first half in 45:07 which is still pretty good. This had me at 6:53 pace which is a 1:30:13 projected finish.
At this point we came to the hardest hill on the course which was a longer sometimes steep uphill that went for 3/4ths of a mile and climbed about 90 feet in elevation. I had planned to take it conservatively up the hill since I hadn’t been running a lot of hills around here. The course leveled out along the shoulder of a major entrance road into the city. This was now also running into the wind which we’d do for the next several miles. I posted a 7:42 mile. We continued along the road making a detour into a sub-division. Nothing too exciting happened here as I slipped into the monotony and mid-race doldrums. I ran a 7:29 8th mile. During the next mile which continued boringly along the road a guy went by and I decided to stick with him. It felt good to “open” back up a little bit and get into a solid rhythms again. There wasn’t a lot of crowd support along the road but occasional pockets of people cheering. At an aid station I let the guy I was running with get away from me but I managed to drop back to a 7:13 9th mile. I was at 1:03:31 for 9 miles. This had me just over 7 minute pace for the whole race and a projected finish of 1:32.
We finally turned off the main road and headed into a sub-division next to the St. Cloud Country Club. There were some little hills up and down along the way. I managed to to run a 7:25 for the 10th mile. As we continued through the sub-division I was running near the edge of the road and managed to scrape my arm on a metal fence post. That pretty much describes how I was feeling. I was quickly getting exhausted and was starting to get passed by more and more people. Occasionally I would try and go with them, this would work sometimes! Right before the 11 mile mark we climbed a hill that at that point proved to be pretty formidable to concur. I came through the mile at 7:59. My Achilles started to hurt a little bit here, nothing major but it was saying hello! Now the race is pretty much downhill along a bike trail to the finish – easy right? And the wind to the back to boot! They had some fun signs along the way such as only two more miles to go and such encouragement as go and catch that person, or something like that. It was pretty much all lost on me as I was focusing on running and not getting passed by too many people. The downhill did help a little as I ran a 7:56! Sadly I fell apart during the last mile. Not really sure what happened but the torrents went by as I was getting passed a lot and didn’t have the energy to mount a surge to go with anyone. I ran a 8:14 13th mile. As we came into the clearing near the parking lots you could hear the finish but it was still a long ways off. We made several turns before it was finally in sight. I was trying to finish strong and ran a 1:44 last tenth(or quarter). As I neared the final couple of hundred yards some woman started to pass me. This seemed unacceptable so I stepped and went with her. She didn’t like that and kicked it up a notch. Enough of this crap, I dropped into bottom gear and laid out a huge kick. It’d be interesting to really see how much I beat her by but since it is chipped timed there isn’t anyway to know unless they video taped it!
To make myself feel a little bit better I’m gonna get all geeky with you and my Garmin. I subdivided the race into 0.10 mile distances and it produced 132 splits! Remember that my watch actually thinks the course was 13.24 so the last split is just 0.04 of a mile. It says I ran that short segment (approx 64 meters) in 11 seconds which is a 4:56 pace. So even though I couldn’t handle any more on the course I was able to summon the strength to sprint for 64 meters and out kick a woman!
I struggled to keep standing as they cut my chip off and I shuffled to get water. “Water, water, that’s all they have?” I said to myself a little frustrated, exhausted and upset. But as I left the chute area I realized they had stuff set up inside the field house. They actually had a ton of goodies: Gatorade, cookies, bananas, apples, oranges, bread, and pizza. We sat and ate a little bit so I could recover! After sitting for awhile I wandered over to get a free massage. They were massaging the calves, hamstrings, and glutes. It felt really good. The only damage to my body is my stupid toe-nail has a blister again and my Achilles feels a little tender.
We didn’t stick around for the awards or anything but I showered and we spent the afternoon in St. Cloud. The final breakdown is 209/1773 overall, 180/895 males, and 40/157 age group.
[tags] Half Marathon, Earth Day, Race Review [/tags]