This morning my wife and I woke extra early so that we could pick up a friend of ours and head 45 minutes away to run in the Break the Stigma trail race. My wife and my friend were doing the 5K race, I however, signed up for the 10 miler.
For people who don’t know, Break the Stigma is a local project to help bring awareness of mental illness, and break through the stigma that surrounds it. As someone who has had mental illness affect my life in many and various ways, it’s important to remember that it’s OK to talk about it, and we need to have a culture that accepts talking about mental illness.
Today’s race was another fundraiser for the cause, and a chance to simply show support. The race was held at Whitetail Woods Park down near Farmington, MN. This is a brand new park in the area and the trails are mostly unfamiliar to people who don’t live nearby. The night before I looked at the course map and noticed how many little loops and backtracking segments there were, and I said to myself, “This doesn’t look like it’s going to work well….”.
The 10 milers launched at 8am with a startline of a specific sign post in the parking lot (gotta love trail running). Immediately I knew that I was going to end up at the back of the pack. There were a ton of big runners in the group including John Storkamp and Kevin Langton. I tried to keep up with people for the first couple miles, and even latched onto a running buddy for a bit, but it was clear that there was no way I would be able to maintain the pace these guys were throwing down.
We started out by doing a large section of the 5K course before heading out to the deeper woods for the larger portion of the course. Apparently all of the 10 milers were accidently directed the wrong way near the 2 mile aid station and we completely missed a good 0.8 section of the course. This ended up foreshadowing much of the rest of the race.
Once I was out on the 10 mile section of the course I dropped back from my running buddy and settled into a nice easy 10:30 pace and tried to overcome the fact that I went out way too fast. The humidity was getting to me though, and I could tell that my back half would probably be quite slow. My legs are supposed to be recovered from Grandma’s Marathon by now, but they still felt sluggish and tight. I managed to find my way through the first of two weird loops and as I left the second aid station I downed a pack of fruit snacks, since I didn’t have any Cliff Blocks left.
Around mile 8 I noticed a sign directing me down a side path. As I traveled down it I realized I had yet another rock in my shoe, and for the second time in the course I had to completely stop, take off my shoe, and get rid of the rocks. It was my fault for not tying my shoes tight enough. I corrected this mistake and continued making my way down the side spur, until I came to a course marking that seemed to say that I should turn around. So I did and headed back to the main trail. By this point the fruit snacks decided that my gut was not their friend and I actually had to walk a bit to allow my digestion to catch up.
Once I got back to the main trail I headed towards the finish. As I approached the finish I looked at my watch, it said 9.2. I was a bit confused, but apparently I wasn’t the only one. I came to find out that people were coming in with finish miles anywhere from 8 miles to 9.2. Apparently people out on the course were very confused, and in an effort to make a longer course, all the loops and turnarounds simply made for a really confusing route that meant that the final mileage was pretty much useless to determine who won.
I made my way over to the finish, last in my age group, second to last in my gender. Found my wife and friend and enjoyed the rest of the morning with pancakes and chatting with lots of really great running people. Sure the race was a bit of a cluster when it came to the route, but I got a nice 9 mile run, on some beautiful trails with people I like being with. Wish my legs had behaved better, but there’s plenty of time to keep working on them till my next big races.