I'm used to races starting at around 7am, meaning that I'm usually getting out of bed by 5:00. So, you can imagine how good an 8:30 start on Saturday felt. After a bowl of raisin bran and a a quick shower, I was out the door and on my way to South Minneapolis. The course was point-to-point, which means we started at Lake Nokomis and finished several miles away at the Lake Harriet Band Shell. Since I like to get to races early, I got a nice parking spot near the start line.
|One lap around the lake, then down the parkway to a finish at the North end of Lake Harriet.|
Since this was a point-to-point, there was a gear bag drop. I stuffed my warmups and a clean t-shirt into a bag, and dropped it off so the officials could hauled it to the finish and my things would be waiting for me when I was done. Most of the fun prior to the race (and during, and after the race) was people watching. There were over 1900 folks in my race and another 3500 doing the 1/2 Marathon - and at least half of them were in costume. I was dressed in my customary 'Man in Running Clothes' costume, but others were in some very elaborate get-ups. Some of the most common costumes were Sesame Street characters, super heroes and, believe it or not, Thing 1 and Thing 2 - LOTS of Thing 1 and Thing 2.
|Do you have 2 red shirts, 2 white circles, 2 blue wigs and a friend? Well, then you can be Thing 1 and Thing 2!|
Now, I should mention that in the past, the course was an out-and-back, meaning that the start and finish line were both at Lake Harriet. The course for both the 10-mile and the 1/2 Marathon was recently changed, and by 'recently' I mean 'within the last couple of weeks'. As a result, some of the logistics for the event were a little, well, sloppy. For example, there were only about 12 pot-o-potties at the 10-mile start area for 1900+ racers. When there were only 5 minutes remaining until the start and several hundred people were still waiting to use the can, I knew that things were in bad shape. It got to the point where people were squatting in the reeds near the lake. Not fun. I was feeling modest, so I decided to wait my turn. The gun went off and I was still in line. Ugh. I wasn't too worried though - the race was chip-timed, so the clock wouldn't start for me until I crossed the timing mat. In any event, I was eventually able to 'do my duties' and jog towards the start.
Getting stuck in line at the port-o-potties turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Most of the racers were already out on the course when I started, so there wasn't nearly the crowd there could have been during the first few miles. My goal for the day was a sub-1:31:00. That meant holding splits of 9:05.
The plan was to run the first few miles conservatively, push harder for miles 6 through 8 and then hold on for dear life for the last 2 miles.
Mile 1: 9:01
I felt great, the weather was perfect and there were mostly clear roads ahead of me. Other than dodging a few walkers, it was smooth.
Mile 2: 9:06
I was starting to catch up to a few more people, but it still wasn't bad, I just tried to stay light on my feet and enjoy the day.
Mile 3: 9:12
We had just finished our lap around the lake. It was starting to get a little crowded. The running still felt easy though - perhaps a little too easy.
Mile 4: 9:09
This mile included one of the courses only significant uphills. My time was pretty close to target, but I felt like I could squeeze out a little more effort without blowing a gasket.
Mile 5: 8:52
Ahh. That's more like it. I was in full-blown cruise control at this point. The hardest part was passing runners in front of me. I didn't want to be rude. These folks wanted to have just as much fun as I did. Though, it was a little frustrating having to weave through traffic.
Mile 6: 8:57
Cruise control was holding steady. Whenever my Garmin told me my pace was dipping, I took a few quick steps to bring my speed back up
Mile 7: 9:00
The course was downright crowded at this point. I tried to grab a drink at an aid station, but everyone seemed to want to stop at the tables rather than running through. I said 'screw this' and just held on a couple more miles until the next station.
Mile 8: 8:52
By now, I was getting pretty pumped. There was one pretty beefy uphill, but I managed to plug through it. There were still tons of other racers on the road, and I had resorted to hopping up on the curb from time to time to get around everybody. Note to other racers: if you are going to wear a costume, please don't choose one with WINGS. It's hard enough to get around you on a normal day, but those wings make you about 5 feet wide.
Mile 9: 8:53
More of the same - I'm still pumped and the course is still crowded. There's not much left to do here but gut it out to the finish.
Mile 10: 8:29
Okay. I REALLY tried to speed things up for the last mile. I was still passing people like crazy, but managed to avoid any accidents. The crowds were great. There were hundreds of people lining either side of the street for the last 1/2 mile. I tried to 'Hulk Hogan' the crowd again, but I don't think they got it. My Garmin read 1:29:30. Not only did I meet my goal, but I broke 90 minutes to go along with it. Sweet!
Mile 10.1: :40
Yep. The course ran just a little long, or at least that's what my Garmin told me, and who do you think I'm gonna trust? I hit the finish line and stopped my Garmin - 1:30:10. Not bad for a fun little run.
There wasn't a whole lot to this. I got my bag, stripped out of my grodies and threw on a dry shirt. The 5K racers were ready to go, so I decided to hang around to watch the start - it was good for a little more people watching and interesting costumes. Some even dressed up their dogs for the '5K-9'. I could almost see the Bark 'n' Sniffer at home rolling her eyes.
Shuttle buses had been arranged to transport the 10-mile and 1/2 Marathon racers back to Lake Nokomis. I moseyed on over to the pickup site. I thought, hey, this'll be great, I can grab a lift and make it home by noon. Then I saw the line. Crap. Evidently, there were only 2 buses arranged for the 5400+ racers that needed a ride.
I ended up waiting in line for just under 2 hours. Yes. I waited in line longer than I actually ran the race. Were I smart, I would have packed my cell phone and wallet in my gear bag and simply called a cab. Shoot, I probably could have invited a few strangers to share the cab to keep the cost down. Oh well. At least I got to chat with some other friendly running folks.
In the end, I had a great day. Sure the logistics cramped things up a little bit, but the running itself went really well. Plus, the swag was top-notch - and you KNOW how much I like my swag. We all got running hoodies and medals with skulls on 'em. Nice.
The only thing left to do now is to pick some more races. The Wife was out of town visiting her dad in Tampa. I'm hoping that if I play my cards right, I can convince her to let me do Ironman-Florida in November, 2011. Keep your fingers crossed.