First Race in 14 Months: a (Virtual) 10 Mile

>> Monday, October 05, 2020

Yesterday was an exciting day. I planned to race for the first time in 14 months (since the 2019 Heart of the Lakes Triathlon). It was a made-up course that I invited friends and teammates from my endurance sports team at the gym to race with me:

Our route around the Mississippi.

There was some bad news in the few days pre-race. First, teammate Niko (who is usually around my speed) told me he was going to have to not race as he tweaked something in his leg. Understandable, but a bummer. Second, teammate Jamie (who is ALSO usually about my speed) accidentally showed up the day before... and then once he realized he was 24 hours early, he just decided to "get er' done." He sent me this late morning the day before the race:

I like how he labeled it: "Race with friends... on the wrong day."
And about the time I was HOPING to be able to run! Dang!

SIDE NOTE: it's my 6 year anniversary of meeting Jamie. We met DURING the 2014 TC 10 Mile (that I did as part of the Loony Challenge that year). We ran for half the race together, and then ended up going to the same gym, and then ended up on the same running team! Here are 2 pics of us from that race report:

At mile 5 together.

Just before mile 8 and STILL together.

OTHER SIDE NOTE: I did my LAST race with Kym (the 2019 Heart of the Lakes Triathlon), and she was doing THIS 10 mile race with us too! Here's a selfie from that race report:

Back when we could be physically close to other people. Such a simpler time.

Anyway, back to yesterday... we woke up to the coolest morning of the season. We covered our tomatoes the night before, and my car had a layer of frost on the windshield that my wipers couldn't get off right away:

35 degrees and CALM.

I took off extra early (around 5:45) to go mark a few spots of the course. Two areas where the trail splits I made sure to direct runners to the "easier" curve as opposed to the big ole awkward curve that went around 2 different parking lots:

Veer left.

And most importantly, this 3rd marking: the turn around
at the far southern point of that map above.

I swung by home again to do something in the bathroom [YOU KNOW], and then I crossed the river for the race. Before too long, we had a crew ready to run! Richelle showed up (with her hubby who was going to cheer) to do the final 10 Mile in the "Loony Challenge." Glen (from our gym) showed up to take water bottles out to the mile 6 / 7.5 point so we could have a sip if we wanted. And then Kym, Nadine, and myself were there to race!

A socially distant pre-race selfie. L to R:
Kym, Mark (cheering hubby), Richelle, me, Nadine, Glen (water boy)

Our starting line was just right out-of-frame in the background of that photo. My wife and boys showed up 10 minutes before we started, and my wife got an acceptably awkward photo of me RIGHT on the starting line as we were getting ready:


Ready, set, GOOOO!!! That's Nadine, Kym, and me taking off...

... and Richelle was spaced-out (physical space, not an "air head") behind us.

Chalk markings all over as there were a LOT of people out there doing the
TC Marathon or 10 Mile "virtually" (as both of those should have happened yesterday).

I went out conservatively, but it was also weird not "racing" with other people. I QUICKLY learned an "issue" that I wasn't expecting: many times in a longer race like this, you'll "settle in" and run with some people around you. At times, you can zone out a little and just run the same pace as those around you. Well, there was no one to "settle in" with, so I always wondered how sporadic my pace was!

The night before the race, I admitted my race goals out loud to my wife. It went something like this:

"I initially said I hoped to break 65, but I think that's quite do-able. [As I mentioned in this post.] I know that 1:03:05 is my personal worst, so breaking that and not setting a NEW personal worst would be great. But I might not care how I do. I know if I'm feeling good and running decent splits, that then I'll WANT to try to race more - I like to push myself when I'm doing good. I think I'll know 'what's up' around mile 4-6. If I'm not feeling it, I'll be content just to treat it like a hard tempo run and I won't be bummed."

That's totally how my mind works: running a good race? Well then PUSH HARDER and see if it can even be better! Running a crappy race? Well, it's already crappy, so don't push too hard when it already sucks.

6:18 was a number in my head. If I ran 6:18s (or 3:09 half-mile splits on my Garmin), that'd put me at 1:03:00, or 5 seconds faster than my personal worst. It wasn't a HARD AND FAST goal, but just something I kept in mind.

• MILE 1: 3:03 + 3:08 = 6:11. "Nice. I expect them to slow down (in fact, I WANT them to), and that's fine!"

Crossing the river was BEAUTIFUL. Here's a photo that Richelle's hubby got from the Lake Street Bridge:

Steam, fog, and fall colors.

Kym's photo from as she ran: the sky was orange and there was fog right in the middle of the river.

Another YWCA teammate biked as her hubby ran the virtual marathon,
and they had scenes like this where they were too! Magical!

• MILE 2: 3:10 + 3:07 = 6:17. "Still under my pace goal! Still feeling good."

Just past the rail bridge was a flock of 25-30 turkeys! It was just beautiful out there!

• MILE 3: 3:07 + 3:13 = 6:21. "Not bad for the first 'climb' of the race."

There was a little climb up to Franklin at mile 1.5 or so, and then there was this slightly bigger climb up into St. Paul around mile 2.8. We were in the "hilly" section of this race: up into St. Paul, then down under the Lake/Marshall Bridge, then up the other side, then up the steep little "gut buster" that on the normal 10 Mile course is at mile 5 (and Marathon course with 5 miles left). During our race, it was just before mile 4.

I was excited to see my family, as they were planning on walking across the bridge from the starting line. I heard them cheer as I headed up to them (and threw down my white shirt):

Still feeling good climbing that hill!

Thanks for being out there guys!

Kym and Nadine!


I think my wife's pic beats this one by Richelle's hubby. Oops. ;)

My wife's pic from where they were standing: the fall colors and a reflected moon! What a morning!

• MILE 4: 3:05 + 3:17 = 6:22. "OK, here's where the race STARTS..."

That 3:05 was nice, but that 3:17 was the final climb in that section before a nice little downhill towards Summit and then some flat easy sections heading towards Ford. I got to the top of that hill and my Garmin beeped for mile 4, and then I TRIED to pick it up.

• MILE 5: 2:58 + 3:03 = 6:02. "SIX OH TWO?!? You can't hold that, but try to keep the pace up!"

I had no idea what would happen to my pace for the last half of this race, but I knew that here at mile 5 I was under 31:20, which meant I was "on pace" for a sub-63! But FAAAAAAAAARRR from a sealed deal.

• MILE 6: 3:08 + 3:07 = 6:15. "Just keep them under 6:18s if you can!..."

At mile 6, we met teammate Glen with our water bottles! THANKS GLEN! He saw me coming and he opened my bottle and got ready to hand it to me. (It was an old "finish line chute" bottle of water that I got handed some time in early 2019, and as we joked, it probably went from "BPA free" to "100% BPA" and was more plastic than water at this point. Ha!) Glen grabbed a photo as I ran towards him to grab the water:

Thanks Glen!

I took a sip and slammed it down on a concrete wall 100 feet away so I could grab another sip in 10 minutes when I ran back. I was now entering the little out-and-back stretch on the southern part of the course. And I was starting to (appropriately) hurt.

Seeing Glen gave me a little boost, but then I slowed up:

• MILE 7: 3:06 + 3:12 = 6:18. "Boom. 6:18. Keep doing this."

Another thing I told my wife pre-race was that mile 7 was my "check in." I said that *if* I'm feeling good, and *if* I'm at 45 minutes flat, and *if* I can run 6:00 pace for the last 3 miles, then I would hit 63 flat. THAT'S A LOT OF "IFs!" Well, I'd actually been upping the pace and not taking it easy the last 3 miles, so coming up to mile 7, I KNEW I could NOT do 6:00 miles through the finish. (Spolier alert: I was right.) BUT I also knew that I had built myself a cushion. I was actually sub-44 minutes! I was somewhere around 43:50! So doing the math, I knew that I could run 6:20s for the last 3 miles and break 63! I didn't know what I could do, and I was ready to push hard, but I knew that sub-63 was IN THE BAG!!

Kym was starting the out-and-back as I came back through to climb up to the Ford Bridge:

I was able to muster a "thanksglen.... gokym" *huff huff* as I ran across the street.

Richelle coming back down the hill after the out-and-back
to go under the bridge and then climb up to cross it.

Here's Kym crossing the bridge while taking a selfie video and pointing to the fall colors:

The middle of the bridge was our last high point of elevation. I crossed the bridge, took a sharp right, headed down through the trees, and got back on West River Parkway.

• MILE 8: 3:08 + 3:19 = 6:27. "Ouch. That quick climb to get on the bridge SUCKED. Speed up!"

I was so excited to hit mile 9 as that's the edge of where (pre-COVID) I'd usually run. This is all pretty familiar territory, but now it was REALLY friendly scenes.

• MILE 9: 3:13 + 3:05 = 6:18. "I thought that was going to be faster. I've raced this WELL. Go hard!"

I used that nice little downhill about a half mile south of Lake Street. My splits were not really speeding up though. I HAD RAN THIS SO VERY WELL!! I kinda approached this with the idea that I'd take it easy and not throw down real great times but then build to a strong finish. But I had been racing well since mile 3ish. I was pooped! Solid run!

Charlie ran up to me, and then I left him in the dust like the loving father I am.

Eyes closed. Hurting.

I HATED not having a finish line. I just had to run until my Garmin hit 10 miles...

... and I had 0.07 miles left from where I told everyone the finish line was.
DAMN IT. (I ended running just past where the trail splits ahead.)

• MILE 10: 3:03 + 2:58 = 6:02. "I think this was my first 10 miler that DIDN'T end sub-6! #ImHashed"

I was thriiiiilled to see this:

Awwwwww yissss!!


Steve Stenzel, 39, St. Paul, M

6:15.30 pace

31:15 first half / 31:18 second half


• I was hoping not to set a personal worst, and I ended up beating 4 other 10 mile race times of mine! My 1st and 3rd 10 miles were 1:02:43 an 1:02:44. And my 2 "Loony Challenge" 10 miles were 1:02:34 and 1:03:05. (Technically, that 1:02:34 was 1:01:42, but that was the year the race was accidentally short, and the "equivalent time" they noted would have given me a 1:02:34.) So this was my 6th fastest 10 mile out of 10. Not bad. OH HEY... I JUST DID MY 10th 10 MILE! CORRECTION: I forgot about Goldy's Run 10 Mile 18 months ago. I had a 1:02:03 finish there, so this "race" was my 7th fastest out of 11: I've had 4 slower and 6 faster. Still super happy about this, though!

• As I started mentioning in the last few paragraphs, I really raced this well! To not close with a SUPER fast mile is so unlike me. But it was because I was pretty hashed. (And possibly slightly due to the fact that there weren't thousands of spectators around.) I'm SO glad I tried to start easy. This worked out well for me.

• Jumping off that last point: I've NEVER ran my fastest mile of a 10 mile in the middle! It's ALWAYS been the end. Until this race. Mile 5 was 6:02.08, and mile 10 was 6:02.21. And NO mile was sub-6! But I still had a decent overall time! And really close to evenly split when I was expecting to really (overly) negative split this.

• There were NO lingering issues from being hit by a car 8 days before! Here was the post from a week ago if you missed it. I was REALLY concerned about my calf, but it was fine after 36 hours! Whew! I felt fine in a "shorter long run" test last week, and then my wife helped take out my stitches 48 hours pre-race.

• My only "pain" was a sore right hammy/glute. It started to ache a bit around mile 4.5 or so, and I got just the slightest bit worried about it around that last climb unto Ford around mile 7.5. But my legs felt FINE walking around post-race. My only issue was some beat-up "toe tips" from running so hard. And that's usual.

• My Garmin pace is pretty normal looking / unimpressive. There's HARDLY a dip before mile 4 for climbing that hill away from the river, but then a nice burst of speed going down the hill just after mile 4. The 2nd slowest "dip" is the turn-around at mile 6.75, but the slowest dip is after that around mile 7.5 (which was that final curving climb up to the Ford Bridge when I was dying!...). And then just a slow build to the finish without my usual major burst of speed:

Next to finish was Kym, but she didn't see us and she turned around to finish as she didn't want to have to run too far. So we didn't get a pic. Then came Nadine:

A high-five from a friend just 20 feet from the finish!

Richelle finishing the Loony Challenge with her 3rd race in a few days!

The view down to the river (where my boys played for a while).

The s'mores waffle my wife picked up from Black Waffles on the way home for the boys to split.

I took a hot bath after eating a bagel and some eggs. When I picked my stuff up in the bathroom, I found my GU top. I had a Roctane just before seeing Glen (around mile 5.75) and I put the top between my shorts (my pink jammer and wind-proof briefs because IT WAS CHILLY). I was able to chuck my GU in a trash can at Highland Parkway after sucking it down, but I forgot the top was in my nethers:

Don't litter, kids.

An afternoon walk to Remix Delights for ROOT BEER cotton candy and some popcorn.

Back with more on this race sometime soon. But first, I'll have a post in the next day or 2 about my wife's TWENTIETH TC Marathon which she ran this past weekend!!

p.s. Here are some related posts: our 10 mile race course preview, when I was hit by a car 9 days ago, my last 2 long runs to prepare for the race, and an early prediction for the race.


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