Rocky's Run 6K Race Report

>> Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Sunday was the final race in the MDRA Grand Prix series for 2016. I raced the first 3 races of 2016, and then was injured all summer. I had no reason to race for any more points in the series (I was 28th overall before this race), but it felt "nice" to be able to end the 2016 series RACING again!!

Pre-race Instagram with the caption: "Getting pumped up for #RockysRun cross country
race this morning. #ThisIsMyJam #NotReally #LovefoolWasOnNext"

Porta potty row with the University of Minnesota Women's CC team in the background.

Traditional pre-race selfie.

in a porta potty. Technology is amazing. God bless America.

There were U of M markings all over the course. This course was set up weeks ago,
and lots of different races have been run on it since then (5Ks, 6Ks, 8Ks, and 10Ks).

I WAS going to be racing Steve Q, but he was not feeling it race morning.
But he still stopped by to cheer! Nice to see you Steve!

Just before the race started (like about 90 seconds before), my wife showed up with the boys. She ran there with them in the stroller - it's about 4 miles from home. There was a last-minute potty stop needed by Henry, and a last-minute poopy diaper by Charlie, so they got going late, and she basically had a 4-mile tempo run pushing 105+ lbs of stroller and offspring! Nice job, Hunnie!

I ran off to the starting line and snuck in on the far left edge:

I'm right next to the flag.

Moments after the start.

It totally looks like I was leading the race in the pic. Sweet. But there was a huge pack of U of M women's CC runners far to my right that were all in front of me. At some of the first hills just past the driving range netting, I saw that there were 8 guys in the lead, then nearly 30 female college runners, then me. (I'd come to find out later that I started in 34th place, so that was behind 8 men and 25 college women.)

Talking to THEE legendary Rick Recker pre-race (who has been officiating many of the races on this course over the last few weeks), he noted that this course is harder than it seems. I agreed. I'd raced this once before in 2014, and when I looked back at the photos, the little hills seem downright invisible. But all the constant elevation change combined with running at a angle at times really eats you up. And there are lots of times when you're turning right as the trail is leaning to the left, and it's HARD to "run" through that. Later, I heard someone say that THIS COURSE IS ONE OF THE HARDEST (IF NOT THEE HARDEST) IN THE BIG 10.

I'd started making my way through SOME of the college women when we looped back around near the start before the first mile marker. Here I am behind a big pack of U of M runners:

Running up to my boys.

A high five for Henry...

... and one for Charlie!

Running off.

At the first mile marker, 3 of the college women in front of me were doubled-over catching their breath. (Later I heard they were track runners who went out SUPER hard.) At that point, I had caught 11 runners. My first mile splits were 3:00 and 3:06 for 6:06.68 total. "Uhh, I felt like I went out at a moderate pace - not too fast - and this is FASTER than my first mile at this race 4 years ago when I was in the best running shape of my life! What?" I didn't expect to maintain this, but I was pleasantly surprised.

My wife and the boys saw runners coming across the golf course, so they staked out another spot to find me around mile 2. She told the boys she knew I was coming because (in her words) "he's in the middle of all of the college girls." I could HEAR her eyes roll as she told me that.

Lots of U of M CC runners coming up and over a hill.

I was at the tail end of those college runners, looking for more high fives!

Cute smiles as I run off!

My second mile splits were 3:00 and 3:22 for 6:23.30 total. "These hills are STARTING to get to me, but I'm still feeling pretty good!"

We looped around a lot in the 3rd mile, and I saw my wife and the boys running up to cheer me on at one other spot. There were a number of spots that had sand filling in holes on the course, and I tried to jump around those, but some were unavoidable. My third mile splits were 3:07 and 3:17 for 6:24.87 total. "I wanted to keep my finishing time under 25:00, but I have a shot at sub-24. Go!"

With just 90 seconds left, I'd passed 17 total runners (16 female college runners and one 20-something man), and I was closing in on a few more. I got around 3 more college women and saw my family in the distance:

Henry lounging by the course. Charlie running around barefoot.
(Yes, it's Nov in MN, but it was around 60 degrees at this point!)

Henry shot up for another high five!

I missed Charlie's high five here. Henry stepped out too much. Oops. Sorry little man.

Running off to the finish. My Garmin had the last 0.81 miles at 6:20.23 pace.

That woman in black just in front of me increased her lead, but I held off the one in yellow behind me. So I ended up catching 20 runners after starting 34th:

Finishing as the 1 lonely male RIGHT in the middle of the U of M Women's CC team.
(Finisher 19, 20, & 27 are Sarah, Abby, & Sarah, and I ran with them for a bit
around mile 1.5 [based on the cheers from everyone around me.])


Steve Stenzel, 35, M, 6K
6:27.07 pace for 3.72823 miles

14 out of 98 overall
7 out of 52 males
1 out of 1 in the 30-39 male age group

Unofficial Garmin data: 6:18.77 pace for 3.81 miles


• I was only 38 seconds slower this year than I was 4 years ago when I was in the best running shape of my life. I was hoping to be a minute slower or so, but I was just 10 seconds slower/mile. Not bad!

• As we got farther into the race, I realized that my increased leg work at the gym over the years made this CC race easier. Sure, I was a bit slower than 4 years ago, and I'm sure that could have been a reason I was feeling better, but just a BIT of the reason. I had NO instances of my legs buckling under me or any weird/awkward footstrikes like I had 4 years ago. My increased leg muscles REALLY helped support me on this course. It's not nearly as noticeable while road running, but it was on the grass.

• Road racing is to CC racing as road riding is to mountain biking. This is something most everyone knows. I realized a day after the race that I never counted my footstrikes at any point during the race. I do that during training runs to make sure I'm not over-striding and heel-striking. And I will do it during races to check on my form and to take my mind off the pain. But in a loopy, winding, turning CC race like this, I never thought to do it. It's like the difference between a road bike ride where you're looking straight ahead for miles where you can let your mind wander vs a mountain bike ride where your mind is always engaged on what you need to do to not kill yourself at the next turn in 0.3 seconds.

• Soft surface racing is AMAZING. My quads were a BIT tired the day after the race, and my left calf was the tiniest bit sore after walking Henry to school. After a "normal" race, my body would have been a lot more tired/sore. I need to do more running on grass/trails!

The boys ran up to me just after I finished for some BIG hugs!

Barefoot sprinting!

Crazy hugs.

I show this photo for 2 reasons: the sweet sweat marks on my back, and the
CC runner about to chuck to the left (that was right at end of the finisher's chute).

Some tights I would totally wear/race in.

LOTS of post-race cookies. The lady behind the table said "the left table
is gluten free, dairy free, and nut free. And the right table is HIGH OCTANE!"

Playing in the damp tunnel under Larpenteur Ave.

The boys loaded up in the stroller ready for Mama to push them back home. Thanks for coming!

Back with more photos shortly! There were a few friends out there on the course snapping photos.


SteveQ 10:37 AM, November 08, 2016  

Well damn! The woman I went there to see - and didn't see - is in three of your photos.

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