So, I might have a bit of a problem…. I keep showing up at races. In the space of 8 days I’ve run 4 different races, with today being the fourth. I did the Moose Mountain Marathon, followed it up the next day with the Minnesota One Mile, and then on Friday there was a 5K fun run called the Run@Work 5K that I participated in.
All week I was also seeing reminders that there were two really fun trail races this weekend. Yesterday was filled with other activities, but around the middle of the day, my wife comes into the office and says, “So you’re going to run the William O’Brien tomorrow aren’t you?” It wasn’t so much a question as a statement that she knew I was thinking about it, and was probably going to mention it to her later in the day. She knows me pretty well.
This morning we headed out to William O’Brien State Park for yet another race, a nice 10 mile trail race around the park, with a bunch of fun rolling hills. My wife had just done a 15 mile trail run on Saturday, so she sat this race out, and got some quality reading time while I ran. We arrived a bit early because I still needed to register, but that process was hastened by the fact that I had filled out the paper form at home the night before.
I wandered around the start area while people gathered and said hello to a bunch of other folks that I have met through the running community. I had never run this race before, but from the elevation chart I had seen someone post, it didn’t look too terrible. At 9AM sharp we were sent out of the starting corral on our way. There were only a couple hundred runners, so the bottlenecking wasn’t too bad. Plus, our first section was a small loop on the other side of the freeway, by the St. Croix River. After you descend into this area, it’s VERY flat, and it serves to spread the crowd out quite nicely.
After climbing back out of the river area we then proceeded to the main hiking trail around the park. After Moose, I was ready for just about any type of hill, and was pleasantly surprised to find that most of the hills were pretty tame comparatively speaking. Most of the terrain was akin to the Elm Creek Park horse trail loop… wide, grassy, and non-technical. The western loop of the course was pretty solid rolling hill after rolling hill, but overall nothing too steep.
I went out strong, and managed the first couple of miles sub-10 and right at 10 per mile. I knew that I needed to treat this as a training run, so I very deliberately eased off after mile 2. I managed to find a nice pace, around 10:30-11:15 per mile, that I knew would get me to the finish well before 2 hours, which was my goal.
I managed to run up almost all of the hills except for three of them. The first one was really long and early on in the course, so I knew I wanted to conserve myself. I then walked one other particularly long stretch of grassy hill, but was rewarded with a beautiful view of the surrounding area at the top. I wish I had kept my phone with me to snap a picture of that spot.
Around mile 9, I started having some stomach issues. I didn’t carry water with me, and therefore didn’t drink enough when I took my shot blocks. My digestion was rebelling and I took the opportunity to walk up a long gradual hill before the final turn to the finish. Thankfully, by 9.5 I was feeling fine again.
One of the things I really enjoyed about this race was how it finished on one end of a prairie, so you could see the finish from a good quarter, to half of a mile away. I ran this last little bit with a guy that had been leapfrogging with me the whole race, and who had also run many of the Rock Steady Running races. We slammed across the finish line at 1:49, which was solidly below my goal time. Early in the race I had the number 1:47 stuck in my head as the time I’d be finishing in. I’m happy to report that my mental math was dead on… if the race ended at 10 miles. The course was actually closer to 10.2, so I didn’t quite make 1:47, but I’m totally happy with my time.
As I said to start this report, I think I have a problem, and that problem is running a lot, and running a lot of races. I guess there are worse problems to have in life. I just need to keep myself healthy, and keep the mental game in check, and I should be able to continue having a problem for a long time to come.