Lake Johanna 4 Mile Race Report (with Both Boys!)

>> Monday, March 18, 2019

Saturday was the Lake Johanna 4 Mile. It's a free race for Minnesota Distance Running Association members, but my wife had to work. So as I joked with everyone at the race, if I were to TRULY take advantage of a FREE race, then I can't have childcare costs and I suppose I'll just have to race with the boys!

I checked out the course the day before with Charlie, and I tweeted 8 photos in this thread to share course conditions. I wasn't going to race it if the boys would be in danger with big ice chucks or too many big, unavoidable potholes. But it was OK! Not perfect, but OK.

It was the 2nd weekend in a row of a "late" race: the week before was a 10 a.m. start at O'Gara's Irish Run, and this one was an 11 a.m. start. So I had my pre-race oatmeal, and the boys wanted some too:

My bigger bowl on the left.

Pre-race potty shot, again still at home, pre-shaved and pre-contacts. Causal morning!

Three bungee cords would do the trick. So like any dad/man, I used 7.

Map at the race site. Note the uphill 1st mile, the nice downhill 2nd mile,
the long climb around mile 3, and then a fast downhill to the finish.

I realized about 3 minutes after leaving home that I had forgot my Garmin! I had time to turn around and get it, but I chose not too. (I still had a watch, though.) I was mostly concerned about going out too fast or too slow as I'm used to having 1/2 mile splits. I told the boys "Well, I guess I'm just listening to my body for this race!" And good little Catholic boy Charlie piped up: "No, you should only listen to Jesus." I told him I don't recall any direct running advice from Jesus, so I guess I'd be on my own for this one.

Digging and testing "seats" in the snow.

That's my car (and LOTS of ice). We got one of the last
spots in the lot, RIGHT next to the finish line back there!

Breaking ice under the picnic tables. Then we all went onto the frozen lake for a bit.

Porta-potty selfie!

Full parenting disclosure: I wanted Charlie to come in the porta potty with me just to make sure he wasn't touching everything and that he could reach the hand sanitizer when done. Henry was going to wait, but then he asked to come in too. Yes, I know we didn't ALL need to be in there, but we were actually all able to pee at the same time: I used the mini-urnial, and the boys put up the seat and peed in the toilet together. It was joyous. Family bonding time.

We jogged a bit of a warm-up (just over a mile), I stood and stretched by the car for a bit (as they sat in the car to stay warm), and then we loaded up to race. They were fine in the stroller warm-up without snow pants, so they just hopped in along with the portable DVD player and a "Sylvester and Tweety" Looney Tunes DVD.

Walking up to the start. Lots of ice there!

Turned around and ready to start once the rest of the traffic
gets directed past. Notice the ice I'm standing on.

Rob E told us the course was well marked, so ONLY turn at the orange arrows. He got some cars out of the way, AND WE WERE OFF!! I spun out wildly on the ice that I was parked on. It took me 2-3x as long to get up to speed because I couldn't get the stroller moving on that ice! But I don't think I got in anyone's way - I started in a good spot a bit farther back than I needed to be.

Moments after the start.

Cropped version of us back there from the last photo.

That last photo courtesy of these guys: Brian and Rae!

A year ago, Brian raced with Rae to a 24:20 finish at this race, and then we decided we'd have a "Dad Off" with the strollers in 2019 at this race. But he broke his foot at the TC Marathon last year, and is still working his way back. He still stopped by to cheer this year.

May have to update this for 2020!

Two blocks into the race, we crossed the finish line, as the race is a full lap around the lake plus those 2 blocks. I had popped outside and worked my way up to 9th:

A photo from race buddy Tom R. I'll have more of his photos in a few days!

Maybe about a half mile into the race, I found myself trying to work past the 2 guys right in front of me in that last photo. And I had the thought: "Ummmm, I'm breathing PRETTY hard. This might not be smart. I'm REALLY going here..." I got past them, one other person passed me, and I settled in behind this tall guy:

In 8th. First is WAY up there, 2nd - 6th are a pack, and I'm with 7th.

I ended up passing that guy UP one of the hills before the first mile marker. Again, was this dumb? One other guy passed me, and I was back in 8th. He cheered me on as he went by.

We ran up to Brian D. who was reading off 1-mile splits. "SIX MINUTES!" he says as I run past. That's what my watch said too. Yep, that was FAST. When I did my first double stroller race 3 years ago, it was at this race, and I ran a fast 6:06 first mile. And I didn't think I was in better shape this year - I was just going out harder.

We flattened out and turned to the straight section on the south edge of the course. This was the best/smoothest road with nice shoulders (oh, and along Snelling was great too):

Up over a little hill by those runners, then down a nice slow incline.

That was the last photo I'd make during the race, because I WAS HURTING. I know mile 2 is usually faster (because of NO big uphill and a NICE downhill), but I was ready to post a slower split. I figured it could be around 6:10-6:15 based on how hard I went out. But mile 2 was 6:02! Not bad!

I knew mile 3 would be slower. That's the long uphill. We first ran on Snelling for a bit and then through a little neighborhood before heading back onto Snelling for a bit. I looked back when I first turned off Snelling (right around mile 2), and I had a decent 1 block gap over the next runner. There was a slick spot in that neighborhood, and I ended up slowing up over it a bit, but it wasn't bad at all. When I turned off Snelling for the last time (around mile 2.75, ready to really start heading up hill), I looked back again. Now there was a PACK of runners just 20-30 seconds back! "Let's see... I went out HARD, am slowly DYING, I'm pushing a STROLLER, about to go into a long UPHILL section of the race, and the majority of my running has been on a FLAT treadmill. Yep, I'm getting passed by a pack of runners shortly."

That road heading north from around mile 2.75 to mile 3.6 was the worst part of the race. Uphill, lots of potholes, and LOTS of loose asphalt, gravel, and road salt on the shoulders. I was legitimately afraid of popping a stroller tire! Here's a photo from 3 years ago when I complained about it being a rough road, and it was SO MUCH WORSE this year:

2016. Why was I complaining then?!?!?

I'd run in the road when I could, but it was also the stretch with the most cars (so I was only in the road for the first 2 blocks or so). I was pretty happy to see my mile 3 split be 6:08 - that could have been MUCH worse! When I ran here with both boys 3 years ago, I posted a 24:16, and now I was at 18:10 at mile 3. If I could run the last mile faster than 6:06, I'd have a double stroller PR! Which would surprise me! (But I was racing SOOOO hard, that a faster time wouldn't be that unusual... IF I could hold on.)

I BEGGED for the top of that hill to come where we got to turn left and head downhill. When we did that, we were next to a large SUV, so I had to stay on the narrow shoulder and NAIL a big pothole. And up ahead were some slushy parts that re-iced over now that the temps were in the 20s. So I had warned the boys that it could be rough. A runner in front of me completely moved to the other side of the road to get over the most icy area. That would have been too risky for me, so I made sure to adjust my grip, run very "upright," and I just tried to let the stroller pull me over it. It was bumpy and jittery, but we made it across no problem.

And the good news was I HEARD NO ONE COMING BEHIND ME YET! I managed to hold off the other runners up that hill! I booked it down the hill, and I was in pain. Here's Tom's friend taking photos just 1 block before the finish, and LOOK AT THAT FORM:

I have many more hilarious photos from Tom's friend that show even worse form. I'll post those soon.

Behind me: some loose road on the right (it was worse around mile 3),
some ice behind that, and a pothole. All standard this year.

Shortly after this photo was taken, I looked up and saw the clock at the finish line. ... 23:52... 23:53... it said. "Aww f*ck it... I can't let up yet! I might be able to go sub-6!!" I hit the line flying, not sure if I had broken 24:00 or not. I checked the results later, and they said I had!

Here's where I would have loved to have had my Garmin. My mile 4 split was 5:48, but I'm sure those half miles were drastically different: maybe like 3:10 and 2:38.

Steve Stenzel, 38, M, St. Paul

5:59.75/mile pace

8 out of 182 overall
6 out of 17 in the 30-39 age group

[No Garmin, but watch splits at mile markers of 6:00.69, 6:02.05, 6:08.25, and 5:48.33 = 23:59.32]


• Holy pain, Batman. I went out HARD, and I HELD ON. That was NOT the plan. This was just going to be a hard "tempo" effort, and it turned into a hard "race" effort. I hadn't hurt this much since the TC 10 Mile.

• Look at those results of people behind me. I had a 0:49 cushion before the next runner. I somehow managed to pull away over the last 1.25 miles, which was uphill for 2/3s of that. I don't know HOW I did that! (Well, maybe the negative split long treadmill runs helped with that.)

• I think I got the most "sweet Dad" remarks at this race. I get them whenever I race with the boys, but as I talked with Brian B at the end of the finisher's chute, so many racers behind me came through and high-fived or fist-bumped me. As the boys were opening the stroller to crawl out, one guy said "That little one in there beat me too?!?" I said "Ha! I guess they did!" He replied with "... wait... you have TWO in there?!?" And then someone else saw them climbing out and said "And they're not LITTLE!!" A few guys introduced themselves to me later to congratulate me. It's always very sweet.

• I was the first "older" guy to finish. Five of the 7 guys in front of me were in their early 30s. The other 2 were teenagers. I was the oldest guy to finish before the guy a minute behind me (who was 53).

• My ankle was A-OK! I slightly turned it last week at O'Gara's Run, but I (SOMEHOW) managed to avoid turning it any worse in any pothole at this race. There were no issues! It's still not 100%, but it's still getting better each day. Racing didn't hurt it.

• After a decent race at O'Gara's Irish Run 9 days ago, and then a GOOD race this past weekend, I can say "Operation Don't-Start-The-Season-Slow" has been a success! Last winter, I didn't do any hard running, and I was disappointed once I started racing again. (12 months ago, I ran the Hot Dash 5K at pretty much the exact same pace as this race, only that wasn't as hilly, and I did NOT have a stroller.) This winter, I've made it a point to work in some semi-regular speed work, and it's been working!

Fresh schmutz on the stroller frame from all the schmutz on the roads.

The dudes and I after I got the stroller loaded.

I Instagrammed this one. :)

More playing in the snow.

A selfie with Brian (and Rae) before they left.

Boys playing. Henry's under a picnic table, and Charlie's by that big tree on the left.

Sarah with the MDRA promised me TWO cookies if I reported back to her about the course conditions!

Telling the boys I had 2 cookies for them in the car was the only way I got them to get out of the snow. Then that night, we went to Captain Marvel at Grandview. Here's a past-bedtime post-movie selfie:

Bring on "Endgame!"

Now for a slightly easier week, and then I need to really start hitting the trainer harder. Multisport season is just around the corner!


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