MDRA 15K Course Preview (and Pre-Race Thoughts)

>> Wednesday, August 01, 2018

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m racing the MDRA 15K this weekend with my boys in the stroller. I went on an easy ride this past weekend (after a decent week of workouts) to check out the course. I KNEW THE COURSE WAS CHANGING BECAUSE THE MDRA WEBSITE NOTED THERE WAS SOME FLOODING DOWN THERE AND THEY WERE RE-CERTIFYING A DIFFERENT ROUTE. Here was the old loop highlighted in blue:


A small loop to start and to finish, with this big loop around the Mississippi River.

I briefly thought about options for extending the course while getting rid of the 2 small 1-mile loops at the start and finish, and I just figured we run more along River Road to the northwest before turning around and heading down the steep hill at Hidden Falls. BUT ON MONDAY MORNING, I SAW THE COURSE HAD BEEN RE-CERTIFIED IN (what I think is) THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY! Here’s the new course highlighted in blue:

THEY MADE IT A SIMPLE “OUT-AND-BACK!” This is good for a few reasons. First, I personally love out-and-backs. Second, the STEEP hill we have to run down at Hidden Falls at mile 6.25 of the “old” course isn’t something we have to do anymore! I don’t have a brake on the double stroller, and that could get REAL dangerous! It’s a totally “unusable” hill. We go uphill from mile 2 to 3 along Shepard Road, and now we get to USE that extended gentle downhill as we run back down that way around mile 7. I couldn’t be happier!

Here’s the same new version of the map along with some numbers to correspond with some upcoming photos from my scouting trip on Sunday:



Here are some photos from my bike ride. I came onto the course from the northwest, and this was before I knew the “new” route, so #1-3 (and possibly 4 and 5 too) are NOT anything we have to run anymore in 2018.


#1: hard to tell in this photo, but this is the STEEP hill down to Hidden Falls.
SOOOO happy this isn’t part of the 2018 course!


#2: flat (but slightly rough) trail right along the Mississippi (to the right).


#3: recently flooded (and scraped off) dirty trails.

Now I’m not sure if these next 2 photos are just before getting to the Marina, or if they were just after the Marina. If they were before, then we don’t have to run on them. If they were JUST after, then we don’t run on them because they are on the trail closer to the river than the one we’re going to be on (noted by where the “4,5” is on the map above). If they were a bit farther down, then we ARE running on these trails around the 0.5 mile mark. Sorry, but I don’t recall the exact location of these next 2:


#4: VERY muddy.


#5: muddy trails.


#6: flat clear trails nearing Crosby Lake. This is FOR SURE back on the race course.


#7: the lake ahead and to the left. Just a bit farther ahead,
and the lake is DIRECTLY off the trail to the left. High water!


#8: after a 2-block steep climb (maybe the steepest of the race),
we get spit out on the gentle slow uphill along Shepard Road.


#9: up the hill, before Hwy 5.


#10: the long parking lot just before Hwy 5. We’ll be running off the road on the trail to the left.


#11: the narrowest section of old-school sidewalk at Hwy 5.
(Everything but this section is wider paved trail.)


#12: all kinds of small hills and gentle curves between Hwy 5 and the turn-around.

I didn’t photograph it, but there’s a bit of an uphill (followed by a downhill) around mile 4.5, and then we turn around and go up and down it again around mile 5 just after the turn-around. UPDATE 1 of 2 (12:30 pm): I rode past this area this morning riding hard in my favorite 15 mile tempo loop, and I forgot how long that hill was at the turn-around. Just after we turn around, it's a bit more of a challenge than I initially made it sound here. Not horrible, but still a decent hill!


MY “RACING WITH A STROLLER” THOUGHTS:

A: I’m starting off easy. I’ll line up maybe a bit farther back than usual for 2 reasons: first, I don’t want to be in anyone’s way who’s really trying to go hard; and second, I don’t want to get swept up and go out too hard with the stroller. Starting too fast + running with a double stroller + a 9.33 mile race = NOT A FUN TIME FOR STEVE.

B: I don’t know how hard the quick little turns in the first mile will be with the stroller. And I’m sure they will feel extra sucky in the last mile, but whatever. I’ll deal with it.

C: The steepest uphill to get onto Shepard Road might take a bite out of me. Along with the slow climb on Shepard. I’ll still be trying to take it a BIT easy here, noting that math equation in point “A” above.

D: Around mile 3 (once we’re up the Shepard hill), there CAN be wind in our face. It’s like climbing the famous Garvin Heights bluff as part of the Trinona Triathlon: you’re happy to be done with it and at the top, but then you’re “on top of the world” and the wind is slapping you right in the face. The stroller is affected by wind more like biking (same with the hills), so I’m HOPING it’s not breezy up there. I’d love to get up the hill and not still have to work too hard for a few more miles! And THIS is where I’ll hope to kick it up a notch and really start to “race.”

E: After all that, it’s pretty uneventful to the turn-around, except for maybe that up and down hill just before and after the turn-around.

F: Coming back down the Shepard hill with about 2.5 miles left should be fun and a bit faster - that’s a “usable” downhill. It won’t be a super sprint yet at that point, but I’m hoping it will be leading me to a nice negative split. UPDATE 2 of 2 (12:30 pm): Again, being I biked this hard this morning, I have new insight. I'm not sure just how much this downhill will help running. It's a DECENT downhill (my overall average biking jumped 0.3 - 0.4 mph over about 0.4 miles), but I'm not sure how EASIER that will make the running.

G: The final little steep downhill turning off Shepard at mile 8 MIGHT get a little out-of-control with the double stroller. Once I navigate through that, then it’s just working through all those little turns in the last mile to get back to the finish!


I TRUELY don’t have any race goals other than to not suffer too much in the first 1/4 of the race. As I started thinking about doing this race a few weeks ago, I wondered if I MIGHT be able to break 60 minutes if I ran it without the stroller (6:25 pace). And I figured the stroller wouldn’t quite slow me down by 30 seconds/mile, so I figured I could finish with the boys in under 65 minutes (6:58 pace). Well, after my stroller run mentioned in my last post, sub-65 shouldn’t be a problem - I ran 9.5 miles moderately at 6:55 pace (but it felt like my BEST run all summer, so I can’t expect to feel that great this weekend at the race!). I have NOOOO intention of shooting for sub-60 with the stroller. I think I’ll probably be around 63 minutes or so, with maybe a good day ending in the 61s.

Sunday morning is the race! Wish us luck! Check back Monday for a full race report!

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