Thursday, June 20, 2013

Race report: Endless Summer Trail Series French 5K

(or, "Weather is here, wish you were great", or, "Any run is a good run")

So Rocksteady Running is doing a summer weekday night race series, the Endless Summer Trail Run Series, with four Wednesday night races, 5K to 7 miles, at regional parks. I decided to give them a try this year, and am having a blast. It's pretty awesome to wake up on a random Wednesday morning thinking "It's RACE day!". They draw an unusual combination of trail long distance and ultra runners and road runners (they're the ones in the clean white shoes), so there are lots of familiar faces and many new ones. And there's beer and pizza afterward. It's a great production.

This is race #2 in the series. After clocking a 1:00:01 (sheesh!) at the Hyland 10K a couple weeks ago, I was hoping to book a blistering sub-30. I think the last 5K I ran was... uhmmm... at least three years ago, and the one before that was while I was still in medical school. So not a lot of recent times to compare myself to.

Beer and pizza wasn't going to be a Whole30-friendly post-race snack but I wanted something good to enjoy while others drank cold frosty beer. So I brought along a bottle of ginger kombucha. I'd never tried kombucha before, but this seemed like a good time to check it out.

I zoomed out of work at 5 o'clock sharp, already changed into my run clothes. Met the husband and boys on the way home, hugs and kisses, and off to the park. It was a little alarming, as I sat in rush-hour traffic, to note that the temperature was 88 degrees. Going to be a toasty one! Drank a bottle of water and ate a leftover carrot and half a Larabar on the way there. Got to the park with 30 minutes to spare (not everyone was so lucky; they actually delayed the start by 10 minutes to allow people stuck in traffic to get there!).

Lots of friends were there -- Ethan had already run the course as a warmup, and gave me some beta. Christy went on to finish in second place for women. Amy was sparkly and ready to run after putting up some massive miles on the Superior Hiking Trail last weekend. I met Theresa, who had run 50 miles at Zumbro, then did Kettle Moraine 100K a couple weeks ago. Mike M and Ryan who I'd run with at Afton Saturday were there. Mike B reintroduced himself -- we'd run at Lebanon last winter. John was volunteering at the merch table again (I met him at the Superior merch table), and made the course his first run since a knee replacement last fall. Wow!
Having fun with Amy, even if 5K is not our distance!

Race director John Storkamp gave the usual pre-race briefing (water stop at the halfway mark, keep the flags on your left, pick up trash) with a few location-specific modifications (don't disturb the black milk crates by the trail; they're protecting nesting turtles!). Then a countdown, and we're off!

The course is a loop that goes along Medicine Lake, through the woods and through a beautiful wetlands. It's all nice wide, nontechnical trail, with dirt, wood chips, and mowed grass. The first mile is pretty gentle, and despite the heat, felt decent. The trail was thick with people for the first half of the race, though there was plenty of space to pass people. I talked with Joni, who I'd run with at Zumbro, until the pace got to be a bit much for me. I throttled it back and let her pull ahead. By 10 minutes in, my legs were letting me know that they had NOT recovered from Afton, and that this was not going to be a fast day.

We ran on, over some little rolling hills. Past a nesting painted turtle. On a long straightaway, my legs and lungs conferred and decided that we should walk. My overheated brain raised no objections, and I walked a minute, then started back up running. Whew! I was tired already.

The water stop was a little before the halfway mark, and I was ready for a drink. Those volunteers deserve hazard pay -- they survived not only heat, but man-eating mosquitoes! I gulped half a cup of water, turned the corner, and ran slam into a short, but remarkably steep hill. Power-hiked it, and at the crest, a steep downhill followed almost immediately. It was run to run down (my quads are mostly recovered from Afton), and I passed several people who were taking the downhill more cautiously. Bottomed out, and back up we go! These crazy rollers were kind of fun.

After the halfway point, the course levels out again, mostly, and goes along the lake and then through the wetlands (red-winged blackbirds!). I was pretty wiped out, and was loosely following a 4-1 run-walk along this section. Along here, I got passed by Cole, who was wearing Luna sandals and pushing a jog stroller, and Nora, mother of the baby.

Finally, after a long winding curve to the right, the trail started heading uphill again. The finish was audible, if not yet visible. Runners who had already finished were on the sides of the trail, yelling encouragement and telling us "it's just up ahead!". I broke into a run, and sure enough, there was the finish line, around a final corner and up a little hill. I ran it in in 35:17. It wasn't a 100% effort, but it was a good hard one. I was satisfied. Lots of racers were cheering at the finish line -- very cool.

After staggering around and gasping for breath a while, I reclaimed my kombucha. Pretty good! It reminded me of a Berliner Weisse -- lightly carbonated, tart, a little sweet, and the ginger was spicy and refreshing. I would drink that again, even as a post-race treat. (But if there were halfway decent beer, I'd drink that instead). I stood near the finish line and cheered in finishers, till the mosquitoes got to be overwhelming. Then wandered around meeting more friends. As the sun sank low and my stomach started to growl, I said goodbye and headed back into town. It wasn't a fast race, but it was a fun one. See you next month, Endless Summer!

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