2023 USATF MN 8K Cross Country Championship RACE REPORT!

>> Monday, November 06, 2023

I knew this race was coming up, but I finally signed up for it just a few days ago. I hadn't raced a cross country race in 7 years! Time for some fun.

Gettin' pumped on the way out.

No porta potty shot (*GASP*), but a nice bathroom at Gale Woods Farm.

The start line (right of car) and finish line (left of car) for the
women's 5K currently underway with barns in the background.

The winning female! (Cailee Peterson.)

2nd-4th coming in. Second was a former student of mine (Helen Dolan) and
3rd was triathlon buddy Suzie McEwen. Suzie was the Masters champ!

Helen (with TOTALLY relaxed wrists!) and Suzie back there.

Back in the bathroom, the women's room (to the left) had NO line,
but the men's was out the door as the men's race started in 30 mins!

Suzie told me that she overdressed in a t-shirt, so I was going to strip down to my team's tank-top. It was a beautiful 50 degree November day! (Just a bit breezy.) She told me there was only really 1 bad hill on "the loop" and that there were some hills on the out-and-back to get to the loop. I was ready to suffer on some hills:

Men's 8K. Yes, lots of loops: out, around, and back to the finish; then out to
the loop again, but then with TWO loops before coming back to the finish.

I was about to jog the out-and-back section, and during the race I'd learn that the "bad hill" on the loop was just to the left of where it says "Large loop" on the map. But it was all rolling hills with very little "flat" areas.

Running past the pig barn early in the race.

Wide angle gentle downhill between 2 cow pastures (cow to the left).

Warming up behind local rockstar Daniel Docherty.

I was catching up to Docherty on my warm-up, which was a bad idea. I let up and he did some strides to pull away. We went down that hill in the distance in that last photo, and then I snapped these 2 photos where I turned around:

That was a big climb ahead. At the top is where "the loop" started...

... and here's looking back the way I had just come. So now to
get up THIS little hill as well. Lots of hills throughout this race.

More men appearing in the starting area.

Stripped down to my race jersey! The shades came off to race.

Rockin' the "pinky and the brain" shorts.

All the men started congregating at about 10:55, and we were all lined up to race at 11:00 a.m. There was plenty of space on that wide starting line. I was in the "back row" which meant I had 2 people ahead of me. We got the gun and we were off!!!

I instantly bumped elbows with an older guy as I shot around him, but I kept it pretty easy starting off. We rounded the corner by the pig barn, and I was in the gravel road a bit - I preferred that over the grass on the out-and-back section (although the grass was in good shape so I can't complain!). I was slowly passing people here-and-there.

I didn't know what to expect for my splits, and I hit my first half-mile split after climbing the big hill to start "the loop." I was quite happy to see my first half mile was 3:03. I had hoped to be under 32:00, and that pace had me under 31:00, so I hoped I wasn't going out too hard. I eased up a LITTLE, but still found myself passing someone just after the first half-mile. Spoiler: I'd only pass 1 other person for the rest of the race! My next half mile was decent as well:

• MILE 1: 6:09 (3:03.9 + 3:05.9)

Just after that was THEE HILL that Suzie warned about. It wasn't too bad, but it was a real slow down, that's for sure. I actually MISSED my 3rd half-mile split (I don't know the last time that's happened during a race) and was now headed back on the out-and-back towards the finish line ready to start the route all over again. I tried counting what place I was in, and it was easy starting off, but then a BIG pack came through and I had to guess a little. When I saw the turn-around in the distance, I guessed I was in about 35th place overall. The 2 mile split came near the turn-around, and I did the math to see that I had a slow 3rd half-mile split:

• MILE 2: 6:15 (3:09.6 + 3:05.7)

I mean, those times were still better than I thought I'd be doing. AND ON THOSE HILLS. I was happy with this... and hoping I could keep it up. I was running a little scared as there was a decent sized pack right behind me at the turn-around, and some of them looked "older" like me.

Start and finish, with looping to start over again.

I ran up that nasty hill to start "the loop" again, and I said something like "NOT HAVING FUN" to Andrea Haus who was cheering, and she said "Oh this is fun, right?!?" I shrugged my shoulders as I ran off. She added "...maybe a LITTLE fun?!?" So I gave a thumbs up to her behind me.

I caught the ONLY OTHER RUNNER of the race from mile 0.6 through the finish, and it was right after my watched beeped for mile 2.5. "Halfway there..." I said to him from just behind him. He surged a little, and then I did to, and I got around him shortly after. His breathing behind me kept pushing me hard, and I was working to find the best/fastest/shortest lines on this loopy course.

• MILE 3: 6:15 (3:09.3 + 3:06.6)

I was feeling OK, and my splits weren't suffering! It was time to see if I could start eeking the pace up a little. Unfortunately, the next mile started with that dumb hill. Here's split 6 (mile 3), and I was heading south up that hill, and you can see that all 3 loops were dark blue... AKA slow:

Screw the blue.

We finished the loop only to start the loop again for a 3rd and final time. I saw Andrea again and said "STILL not having fun!..." I was also OH SO SLOWLY gaining on the tall man with long blonde hair in front of me. I'd been trying to track him down for miles, but he just pulled me and pulled me. We hit all the lines similarly, and then we started passing some lapped runners on their 2nd loop as we were on our 3rd. This was a pretty fast mile:

• MILE 4: 6:08 (3:05.3 + 3:02.7)

We were at the farthest point on the loop from the finish, and we just needed to get back home! The first half of the last mile included that final trip up that bastard of a hill, so it wasn't fast, but then I really tried to bomb it to the finish. I ALMOST got up along side of the tall blonde man heading up the final hill on the out-and-back with about 0.25 miles left, but he kept pulling away: a GREAT rabbit... but I also would have loved to catch him. We had been coming up on another running in front of us for the last 1.5 miles, but neither of us could catch him either. It was like a team effort to push to the finish line.

• MILE 5: 5:53 (3:08.5 + 2:48.1 [0.49 miles])


Steve Stenzel, 42, M, St. Paul

34th out of 60 overall
1st in 40-44 age group
(out of at least 3)

The entire race, with half mile splits.

A guy dying at the finish line with 3 older guys coming in the distance.

A sweaty selfie 1 minute after finishing.

A gold medal in my age group!

I know I was faster than everyone in the 50+ age group (as the winner there was Rob E who was 60 sec behind me), but I'm not sure of the times of the guys in the 45-49 age group - if they were slower than me, then I was the overall masters champion as well! WILD!!!

422 feet of elevation change over 4.99 miles vs. 183 feet in my normal 5.5 mile "river loop."

Pace, with 6 drops slower than 7:00 pace.

Overlay the 2 and it makes a lot of sense.

Working hard! ;)

A shot from my wife at home with my medal...
before changing clothes and helping to cook for the rest of the day.

Well, that was a fun way to end the running season here in MN! I'll update with more about this race if I learn anything else.


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