Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Why I Love Small Town Races... and a Little Knitting


This past Saturday I ran in the Knife River Solstice Run - a 5K. This race has traditionally taken place on a hot and humid day. Not this year. It was in the low 50's, wind off the Lake (which is just across the highway from the start/finish area) and it had been raining when I left home. It is an out and back course through the village of Knife River, and seems to incorporate every major hill in the town. A lot of the local folks turn out for this race, either to participate as a runner/walker or to volunteer (or both). It is a fundraiser for their recreational council. The organizers do a fantastic job, with a well-marked and 'peopled' course, nice post-race refreshments, cool graphics on the shirts and an abundance of door prizes (and this year they had something for everyone!).

I have been running this race off and on for the past 15 or so years. At first just as motivation to get out the door and run (back when I had small children) and now as a test of how fast I have gotten. This year I had a goal of breaking 24 minutes. I have been more serious about my running (= actually having some kind of plan and training for a race) in the past 1 1/2 to 2 years and the effort is showing. I have gotten faster, and more importantly, fitter, over the year, especially in the last 6 months or so. Running with friends who are significantly faster has been a huge factor. That, and willing to push myself harder.

I went into Saturday committed to actually racing, not just running a medium-hard effort. Last year I ran this course in 24.50 something, so I knew breaking 24 was a reasonable goal. With cooler weather there was no concern about overheating, I just had the wind as a factor. I even broke with my tradition and warmed up with an easy run for 4 minutes before the race (I have been of the attitude that is what the first mile is for ;-> ).

This is a small town race, so not a lot of participants, though the number varies from year to year and the wet, windy, cool conditions may have kept a few folks away. It also takes place a week after Grandma's, so many runners are still recovering from their half or full marathon efforts. That doesn't mean their aren't some very talented folks who show up, just means the possibilities for placing are much higher!

I had pre-registered for the race and when I arrived I was handed bib number 3. Hmmm, last year I had number 4 and was the fourth woman overall.... An omen? I joked with the volunteer about this - and the pressure to perform and then wandered into the building to decide exactly which layers to wear for the race. The wind was howling near the start/finish and it was a bit drizzly, so I opted to keep a jacket on over my short-sleeved shirt. I have a habit of wearing a hat (held over from the days of wearing glasses) but wasn't sure it wouldn't just be a bother due to the wind. Kept it on for the start and ended up tossing it to a volunteer very early in the race.

I know quite a few folks who live in the area, so got in a lot of visiting and catching up prior to race start. Then it was out the door to visit the port-a-pottie and warm up. I headed out to check on the first section of the course that turns from paved road to rutted dirt to single-track trail as it climbs a hill adjacent to Knife River. The footing would be interesting, but doable. Headed back, thinking I would make one more pit stop only to discover I had no time.

My usual tendency is to line up somewhere in the middle of the pack, but that day I decided 2nd row back was appropriate. At the start the group took off and I soon found myself within several feet of a very fast runner (she won the women's race in 19.+). Uh oh!! Better back off a bit or I was going to be in a lot of trouble later on. Eased up a bit and found a pace that felt doable. Although I had my heart rate monitor on I did not look at it, figuring not knowing was better than knowing, that way I couldn't psyche myself out.

After climbing the single-track hill the course skirts around a wayside rest area, then it is back to the roads, into town on a slight downhill, around a corner and then a long climb up the the high point of the course. In a headwind. Uugh! At the top one of the volunteers commented about being done with the hill - but I knew better. The course turns right, descends a little, turns right again and descends for a little over a block before you hit the turn around and start climbing again. Out and back courses are fun because you can see the race unfold and encourage other runners. I felt like I was crawling back up that hill and was looking forward to the long downhill on the other side. There is an aid station at the bottom and that is where I jettisoned my jacket (the hat had gone long ago). Then it was back up the hill, around a few curves and onto the rest area and then the single-track. I knew once I hit that it was just a few blocks to the finish. At this point I was by myself but with a woman runner somewhere behind me - but how far back? Couldn't hear anybody breathing or any footfalls so figured not too close.

About two blocks from the finish the course comes out of the trees along the river and there was the wind, coming in off the Lake. Nothing to do but try hard to keep standing upright and run as fast as I could into the finish. I deliberately did not look at the clock or my watch as I ran in - didn't want to know until after I finished.

23:35 (by my watch)! Over a minute better than last year and well under the goal I had set myself! There was a little problem with my number and time - the way I had things folded and pinned tore off a portion of the corner with the hole they hang on the "skewer" and my number/place was 'lost' for a short time, resulting in my being called in to the tabulation area to give them my watch time. I ended up finishing third for the women (see - the number is a predictor!) and first in my age group (the overall women's winner is also in my age group and the organizers do not give out double prizes). The mug is my age group prize, the body glide was my door prize. Just last week I was borrowing some body glide during a long run as I had forgotten to apply aquaphor prior to heading out the door. Interesting how the world works. Needless to say, I am very happy with my finishing time and probably bored more than a few friends and family with my texting them the details ;->

I was surprised by how tired I was, and how dead my legs felt, later that evening - more akin to how I feel after a 20 mile run. That tells you how frequently I really race. I had a 'medium' length run planned for Sunday out at Jay Cooke State Park (less than two weeks until the Half Voyageur so time to taper) and was wondering how that would go. In the meantime I tagged along with Mr. Wildknits to Iron River to look at an airplane (his work) and brought along my knitting.

The graph of the pattern I am incorporating. The feather was found at the airport - not sure what type of bird it is from, but depending on how you hold it, it can look grey or blue. Very cool.

Start of the patterned portion of the hat - not much to see yet (picture taken at another airstrip, Sunday morning).

Pattern completed

Not sure who the hat is for, but having fun looking through patterns and designing as I go. I am trying to remember to write down what I am doing so the pattern can be shared in the future.

Sunday I ran for two hours out at Jay Cooke with Leslie and Sam. They trusted me to plot out the course (we were aiming for 12 miles). I had a plan that incorporated most of the trails on the south side of the swinging bridge as well as some trails on the north side. My goal was to not have to do any out and back sections. I knew from last year that the trails would most likely not be mowed once we got more than a mile from park headquarters. Too bad, as they are fun trails. I had forgotten about some of the killer hills back there (and obviously did not look closely at the topographical map). Again, I was surprised by how dead my legs felt! After weeks of running 20+ milers I figured 12 would be easy. Not to be. I was beat by the time we finished. On the way back in to town we stopped along the St. Louis River to immerse our legs. The sun was behind the clouds and the wind was whipping so it was a short stop, plus you couldn't see the bottom of the river for it was a bit disconcerting to walk in very far.

From here on out no long runs planned. Will head north on July 4th for the Tofte Trek 10K Wilderness Run. This is part of the UMTR's Minnesota Trail Series, which I am entered in, so made it onto the race schedule. I have not run this course before, though have skied, hiked and run in the area. The goal is to take it somewhat easy as it is only a week before my goal race and I do not want to get injured. Sunday's run involved a few rolled ankles and reminded me to focus my attention a bit more when running!

Off to work on a dreary, windy day. The plan was to run a 6 mile course but we shall see what I decide on. The current weather is less than inspiring. West winds gusting pretty high from the looks of the trees out my window. Yup, what I would be running in to the whole way. But then again, strength training ;->


SteveQ said...

Without looking up the results, I'm betting the first woman was Rochelle Wirth.

I'm trying to figure out why wearing a hat is connected to wearing glasses.

Oh, and congrats on a fast race! I haven't picked up a third place finish yet this year.

That mug is identical, except the words, to the Voyageur 50 mile one.

Chris said...

Congrats, lucky #3! Now - can you register early enough to get 1 or 2 next year? ;)

wildknits said...

Steve - the first woman was Kathleen Monoghen (sp?). She is fast, as is Rochelle. Woman in their 40's - speedy bunch.

The hat kept the rain off of my glasses. Part of why I finally went to contacts is getting tired of not being able to see in the winter (fogged up) or when it rained. My depth perception is just off enough without them that trail running becoming more hazardous.

Thanks for the congrats! I am finding it kind of addicting to run so well, makes me wonder how fast I could get... though I am also thinking of running an ultra so not sure the two are compatible.

I have a similar mug from last years Half Voyageur (9th place woman - first ever race of that length). Think it is the same potter.

And Chris - I am thinking of asking for a higher number next year - just to take the pressure off! ;->

Helen said...

Nice race! Sure you can do ultras and get faster at short ones too - just don't try it all in the space of 24hrs like I did last weekend...

Enjoy a nice taper for Half V - that's why you felt tired on the 12M - your body is telling you to taper - it's just hard to hear it sometimes!! Me, I am deaf...

wildknits said...

Helen, no worries about that! Though I could be accused of being a bit hard of hearing also ;->

I am being told that my 6.3 mile run today in 53.59 is not following the rules of a taper.

Felt pretty good and my focus was on not breathing too hard (despite the hills - started off with a 270+ foot climb, then a few more climbs, topping out at 1167', then descending over 2 miles to 629').

From here on out it is mellow, easy runs - well except maybe this Saturday in Tofte. That said, I do live in Duluth...

Jean said...

Congrats on such a great race! The small town races really are the best, aren't they? So much fun!

Best wishes at the Tofte Trek. I have run that twice, and it is an interesting race. The first year I did it, there was a ton of mud. It was awesome! :)