USATF MN 15K Championship Race Report (the MDRA 15K)

>> Monday, August 06, 2018

I've been talking a lot about running this race with the stroller. And yesterday was the day. If you missed the lead-up posts, here are 4 quick links:

- On a run with the boys a week ago that cemented the idea of racing with them
- A course preview and my pre-race thoughts
- Henry's stroller running anniversary
- Stroller running totals over the last 2 months

The day before the race, the boys and I went to the "Minnesota Soda Festival" at Blue Sun Soda in the north metro. Here are some photos from that on my soda blog. The boys also got HUGE candy necklaces:

Sunday morning was race day. My wife had to work, which is why I was planning on racing with the boys. My wife took off around 6 a.m., and I got the stroller loaded as the boys still slept:

Pic from a few days before (seen in this post) when I tried out the stroller on the hitch-mount cargo hauler.

Traditional "taking care of business" photo in the basement bathroom at home.

We left home at 7:10 for an 8:00 race. That's TIGHT for me. The stroller did well on the cargo carrier. (I added 2 more bungees to make 6 holding it on.) When we got there, the boys wanted to jog down to the race start themselves:

In the long Crosby Farm parking lot. Race start is past that porta potty and
down a big hill. We are currently on the race course around mile 3.5 and 6.

We jogged some trails as a warm up. Luckily, because of the
changed course
, we didn't have to run through THIS.

The boys playing along the Mississippi as I ate a PowerBar 25 minutes pre-race. Also: a tree-rection?

Then the boys peed on a tree as one final "I don't want you telling me you need me to stop to pee during the run" pre-race check.

I knew this would happen, and I didn't fight it: racing with the boys takes SOOO much of the pre-race focus away. I usually have a PowerBar about 60 minutes pre-race, and a GU maybe 20 minutes pre-race. So this PowerBar was late, and the GU was RIGHT before the start.

Less than 5 minutes to the start!
(And an awkward photo of race director Heidi M behind us.)

Receiving pre-race commands from Heidi. 30 seconds to go!


Start flag way back there. Running to the outside to pass some people. (Pic from Tom R.)

Aaaaaaaaaannnnnd just like that I realized I was WAAAAAAAY too far back. As I mentioned in my "pre-race thoughts" post, I planned to line up farther back to (1) take it easier at the start, and (2) to not get in anyone's way. But I was WAY too far back. It felt like less than a jog as I finally made it up over the start line. I kept it patient, and worked my way to the outside. I jumped into the wet grass off the trail to pass big chunks of runners 2 times in the first 0.25 mile. Here's what a zoomed-in version of my first mile pace chart looks like, and you can see how I'm floating around 9:00 mile pace before picking it up 3 times in the first 0.4 miles, and then one final pick-up near the end of the first mile:

"Settling in" to a nice spot just after the first mile.

THE GOOD NEWS is that starting "too far back" really did it's job in the first mile! My first 2 half-mile splits were 3:31 and 3:17 for a 6:36 mile 1. That 3:31 felt like it could have been well over 4, so the fact that I was "forced" to keep it at that pace helped keep me from blowing up!

I heard nothing but Sylvester and Tweety "Looney Tunes" for 9.33 miles.

Along lily pad covered Crosby Lake.

Working up the nastiest 2-block hill before mile 2. Notice all the guys in front of me...

... and after that hill, notice the pack of 5 (1 man and 4 women) in front
of me who passed me on the way up. Brutal. Glad that was done.

Mile 2 was about what I expected: half mile splits of 3:25 and 3:55 (up that hill) for a 7:21 mile 2. Now we were heading up that slow long hill along Shepard Road. AND I WAS WORKING A *LITTLE* HARDER THAN I HAD PLANNED! And I was DRIPPING sweat during this sticky race! The weather that was noted in the results said "70s, very humid, calm." I like to be cold. I'm OK with the heat. But when the air is THIS thick and humid, I don't do well. Especially pushing a stroller.

Teammate Jordan passed me! I got a pic of his butt. And notice we're still running UP.

Also, that's the last photo I took (around mile 2.2) until just before the turn-around (around mile 4.4). That's how spent I felt. I was NOT running this first half THAT easy like I thought I might.

Not to sound sexist or misogynistic (and I realize NOTHING good starts like that, but hear me out...), but I'm used to running right near the lead women. I had a handful of women beat me at the Brian Kraft 5K, and 2 women just barely beat me at the Raspberry Run 1 Mile. So having these packs of women running past me made me want to keep up a bit. It was subconscious at first before I realized it. It wasn't for any sort of "I ain't lettin' no wo-mun beat me" sort of a reason; it just wasn't what I was used to in my races. And therefore I think that pushed me a bit harder than I had planned.

The boys and I were getting ALL sorts of comments from runners and spectators. The best was around mile 3 when I got cheers from a guy who I was passing. Then he said "Shoot, I just lost 2 spots!" I laughed and said "Three!" He said "you mean you have TWO in there? Awwwww jeez..." It was great. Once I got through the first 1.5 miles of hopping around people, the rest was extra fun with the stroller.

Mile 3 was 6:59 (3:38 and 3:19).

Mile 4 was 7:01 (3:25 and 3:36).

The stroller helps keep me pretty consistent. Pre-race, I wondered how far under 65 minutes I go could, and now I was just hoping to get back to 65 minute pace (6:55s).

Brian D (14) and others heading back after the turn-around (maybe 90 seconds ahead).
It never got REAL tight with the stroller, but I had to make sure I was on the edge of the trail.

GOOD NEWS HERE: I thought we went up and down a hill before turning around (only to go up and down it again). But pre-race on the drive there, I noticed the turn-around was on the TOP of the hill. So we only had to go up, turn around, and go back down. We (essentially) got to skip a hill. Nice.

Mile 5 was 6:53 (3:24 and 3:29).

I was still really only passing people, with no one passing me. Eric P shot past me around mile 1, but I don't think ANYONE else passed me by this point. I had a LITTLE trouble passing a woman on this section of winding trail because she had headphones in and would always take the best line. So if I tried getting around her on one side, the trail would curve and she would (unknowingly) cut me off. When I had an opening, I shot past her. THAT was the biggest issue I had all day, and it was hardly an issue!

The 1 block section of narrow sidewalk near Hwy 5.
I ran with a wheel in the grass up ahead meeting a big pack.

Mile 6 was 6:45 (3:24 and 3:21).

I was spent. I had to tell myself I wasn't going to walk before the finish. Pre-race, I planned on being able to BOMB down the long slow hill on Shepard, but now I was planning on just holding my pace so I could "catch my breath" a bit. I was at the mercy of the little hills: I gained on people during the downhills, and other runners pulled away on the uphills.

Mile 7 was 6:38 (3:19 and 3:19).

Nice descending splits over the last few miles! I mean, I was hashed, but at least my splits looked nice. #MinorVictories

Heading down Shepard, I had been on the tail of 1 runner. When he passed a "Molars Milers" runner, I let the first guy go and stuck with the Molars Miler as a way to not blow-up before the finish. But when we turned off Shepard onto the steepest downhill of the race, my legs TOOK OFF. I just tried to move my legs fast enough to keep up with the stroller. I glanced at my Garmin at one point and it said I was at 4:55 pace. A few seconds later, I looked again: 4:49 pace. No, not 5:49 pace, but FOUR:49 pace. Yikes. I caught the Molars Miler and another guy on that downhill.

Back along Crosby Lake. If it were 2 inches higher, it would have been on the trail.

Mile 8 was 6:46 (3:27 and 3:18). The 3:18 was taking it easy down Shepard, and then the steep hill.

I WAS DYING. I was SOOOO hot. I stared at my Garmin waiting for mile 8.33. "OK, just 1 mile left now..." This was the twisty, turny part of the course, and I was trying to prepare for the rough trails in a few spots and the short steep little hill before the finish. I was STILL catching people though! And I was gaining on Suzie F as well. I passed her, and she said "Can I have a ride? I can just ride on top by your bottle. I'm dying." Yeah, me too Suzie!

Mile 9 was 6:51 (3:30 and 3:21).

One guy passed me down there, but then I caught Eric P before the finish. So I think only ONE person passed me from start-to-finish, and no one passed me in the final kick where I thought the stroller could really slow me up a lot. And that final little hill was BRUTAL.

Final 0.33 miles were 2:06 (6:17 pace, which included that nasty uphill too.)

Oh, and I had taken off my shirt before mile 4. (Pic from Tom R.)


Steve Stenzel, 37, M, St. Paul

1:04:07 chip time (6:52.3 pace)
1:04:23 gun time (6:54.0 pace)
64.48% age graded

18 out of 33 in the 30-39 age group
69 out of 157 men
84 out of 263 total

Garmin: 1:04:13, 9.33 miles, 6:52 pace

The boys splitting a cookie post-race.


• In case you were wondering, I was pushing about an extra 115-120 lbs. The boys are about 90 lbs, the stroller is nearly 25, and then we had 3 water bottles and some extra gear. I say this all the time, but it pushes like a bike: you feel the wind and the hills more like cycling. Only it has no brakes, so that steepest downhill around mile 8 was FAST.

• Speaking of the hills, here's my Gamin data. The elevation is on an odd scale, but it shows what we all felt:

Steep uphill before mile 2, longer easier uphill until
mile 2.2ish, then a little uphill to the turn-around. And back again.

Pace data.

To note on the pace data: the SLOW steep hill before mile 2, longer easier hill just after that, a burst of speed just after the turn-around going down that hill, hitting sub-5 pace for a while down the steep hill at mile 8, that short brutal hill just before the finish, and then a sprint to the finish.

• I ended up "racing" this more than I thought I would, and the humidity took a big BITE out of my time. I posted a week ago about a 9.5 mile stroller run with the boys, and that was 9.5 miles at 6:55 pace that just felt GREAT. Well, it's because that day was a bit cooler with NO humidity. So going just a FEW seconds faster/mile at this race felt like I was working 10x harder. Seriously.

• This was my slowest race since 2008. I did my first half marathon in January of 2008, and that was my slowest 13.1 at 1:29:25. That pace was 6:49.5/mile. This was a few seconds slower. It's an automatic PR because I've never ran a 15K before, but also a pace PW.

• My feet have never been so wet in a non-raining race! I didn't realize it until I got home and took off my shoes and started SLOSHING through the house. I was sweated through! Tom R (who's start and finish photographs of me I showed above) said "I don't think I've run a race before where my socks were waterlogged, and I didn't go through any puddles." Here's a photo of my wet sock prints in my dining room:

Anyway, back at the race, we had some snacks and cheered in other members of our team:

Go Tom! (And another photo of Jordan's butt.)

The boys caught 3 little toads...

... and Charlie kissed one. Of course.

Laurie getting high-fives from my boys!

This photo from a teammate of Laurie seems to capture just how thick and humid the air was.

SUPER sweaty post-race team photo (just missing Jamie): the boys and me,
Laurie, Joan (down low), Jordan (not just his butt this time), Tom, Dan, and Jennifer.

When I put my jersey back on for that photo (after taking it off before mile 4), it was COMPLETELY SOAKED THROUGH. As my shoes were as I noted above. And later while stretching at the gym, I had some strange dried salt marks on my calf sleeves:

Crusty and gross.

That quick downhill around mile 8 hurt my toes. THIS was brewing:
a big blood blister on the end of my middle toe. Yay.

Time for a rest day or 2. Again, check the links at the top of this post for some pre-race posts. Back in a few days with more race and team photos!


kirt,  1:04 PM, August 06, 2018  

stroller race at long lake gear west on this sunday. also kids race.

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