Wednesday night was the final ESTRS race of the season, and this incarnation was held at Hyland Park in Bloomington. I left right from work because I knew that traffic from downtown St. Paul wouldn’t be very much fun. It ended up taking me close to an hour to get there, but I arrived nice and early, which gave me an opportunity to socialize for a while, as well as apply more and more bug spray.
The temps on Wednesday were in the 90’s with massive humidity. Right from the moment I got out of my car I knew this was going to be a hot one. The only saving grace was the large bank of storm clouds that was threatening from the northwest. I really hoped it would end up raining on us, but I had to settle for solid cloud cover instead. The rain did eventually start falling, and I know the final runners got nice and soaked, but I had started my slow trek back across the cities by that point.
I lined up at the start with Wendi, even though I knew she would drop me pretty quick. We launched and started down the initial woodchip/dirt path. The ground was soft and I was feeling good, so I let myself enjoy a faster pace for a bit. In actuality I should have backed off a bit sooner than I did. The heat and humidity was brutal and my fast start would come back to haunt me later.
The race is two lollipops, end to end, with an aid station on the path between them. By the time I was finishing the first lollipop, and coming into the aid station, I knew that I was going to be in for some suffering on the second half. I dumped water on my head and caught a direct shot from a water cannon to my chest, which helped to cool me down. I hit the second lollipop and things started to fall apart around mile 5.
By mile 6 I was pulling over a 12 minute mile and feeling pretty deflated. I was hot and my shirt was rubbing my chest uncomfortably. I made a decision, at the end of mile 6, that I was going to lose the shirt. I don’t have a “shirtless figure” to match most of the other guys I run with, but damn it all, I was hot and tired. I pulled off my shirt as I left the woods for the final 1+ miles to the finish. The surprising thing…. it seemed to work. My final mile of the night was my second fastest of the evening. Between the desire to finish strong, and the cool air on my chest, I felt 10 times better. I locked into a solid pace and started picking runners off one at a time.
As we got closer and I could hear the crowds cheering I gave it one final push and dropped to sub-9 pace for the final two-tenths of a mile. I crossed the line with great people cheering me on and went to seek out some lemonade and a beer. By this point the storm clouds were really threatening, so I stuck around long enough for the drawing and then hopped in my car for a slow trip home. My wife had already sent me a message that up north the rain was coming down hard, and as I left the parking lot my phone beeped that we were in a Flash Flood Watch/Warning.
It took me a lot longer to get home than normal, but I managed to make it safely without sliding off the road in a massive rainstorm. One construction area I passed through was flooded, but thankfully it wasn’t too deep and all of the cars around me were able to navigate it OK. I worry that shortly after I passed through it, it would be larger than what would be safe to cross. Hopefully, no one got stuck in it.
After arriving home it was time to clean up and reminisce on a great summer of trail runs. I volunteered for the first three runs this summer, but I had a free entry to this one, so I decided to get in a good race. Once again these races emphasize how great of a trail running community we have in Minnesota. Every night that I attended these races, either volunteering or running, I was surrounded by great people who all love spending a night getting dirty on the trails.