Thursday, July 28, 2022

I Finally Moved Up a Spot in Minnesota

In 2015, I qualified to be included on the Mega-Marathon List.  This is a list of runners who have completed at least 300 marathons.  The worldwide rankings are maintained by a group in Japan.  There’s also a list that only includes runners from North America.

When I first made it onto these lists, I ranked roughly 500th in the world and 100th among North American runners.  At the time, I didn’t have any ambition to move any higher.  For a few years, I was running 50+ marathons a year, but in 2016, I cut back to about half of that.  At the same time, more and more runners were racing frequently, either to get onto this list or to qualify for the Marathon Maniacs Hall of Fame.

As I expected, I didn’t move up at all in the next few years.  Then something unexpected happened.  In 2020, there were far fewer opportunities to run marathons.  If you wanted to keep racing, you had to seek out small races that could get permits during a time of strict restrictions on public gatherings.  Most runners ran few if any marathons that year.  Some stopped training, so they weren’t ready to race, even when larger races started happening again.

I actually ran more marathons in 2020 than I did in 2019.  When the Mega Marathon List was updated at the end of the year, I was surprised to see that I moved up to 83 on the North American rankings.  In spite of that, I still ranked seventh among runners from Minnesota.  Minnesota isn’t a high population state, but it has a lot of prolific marathoners.

At the end of 2021, I was again surprised by how much I moved up.  For the first time, I moved into the top 400 in the world rankings.  On the North American list, I moved up all the way to 66th place.  In Minnesota, I was still in seventh place.

The rankings are updated every six months.  I just saw the latest update for the North American list.  I only ran nine marathons in the first half of 2022, but that was enough to move up to 62nd place in North America.  That’s all well and good, but I was more excited to see that I finally moved up among Minnesota runners.  Here’s a list of all the Minnesota runners with at least 300 marathons.  I’m now tied for sixth place.

I’ve moved into a tie with Les Martisko, and I’m only two marathons behind Mark Stodghill, who sits in fifth place.  It’s worth noting that these totals are through June 30th.  Since then, I’ve already run six additional marathons.  The list won’t be updated again until the end of the year, but it’s likely that I’ve already moved into fifth place.

In the next year or two, I could move up one more spot on this list, but the top three Minnesota runners are so far ahead of me that I won’t catch up to them in the foreseeable future – if ever.  That’s OK.  Moving into the top four or five would be nice.

If you’d like to see the entire North American list, here’s a link:  Mega Marathon List

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Race Report: 2022 Xenia Avenue Marathon

On July 23, I ran the Xenia Avenue Marathon in Brooklyn Park, MN.  This was the third straight year that I did this race.  It only takes 35 minutes to drive to Brooklyn Park, so this race is too convenient to pass up.

This was my third marathon in six days.  I didn’t plan it that way.  When I signed up for the race, I didn’t know I would also be doing days 3 and 4 of the Summer Camp Series.

Packet pick-up was Friday afternoon at Orchard Trail Park, which is also where the race starts.  Race morning packet pickup was also available, but driving up to Brooklyn Park on Friday gave me an excuse to have dinner at Rocky Rococo, which is one of my favorite pizza restaurants.  This is a chain that’s all over Wisconsin, but they only have one location in Minnesota, and I don’t get up to the northern suburbs that often.

A couple days before the race, we each received an email with pre-race instructions.  Among other things, it advised us that there was a chance of a morning thunderstorm.  The race would go on, rain or shine, but if storm sirens went off, the race would be suspended.

The race started Saturday morning at 6:30.  Our course was one short loop, followed by five laps of  longer loop.  The short loop included about one mile of residential streets.  The rest of the course was on paved bike paths.

Parking at Orchard Trail Park is limited, but we could also park across the street at Champlin Park High School.  This race is a fundraiser for the Champlin Park High School Cross Country Running Booster Club, and several of the students were race volunteers.  When I arrived for the race, the students directed me to the parking lot.

After parking, I consulted the weather app on my phone.  The forecast had improved.  There was still a thunderstorm in the forecast, but it looked like it wouldn’t arrive until mid-afternoon.  The time limit was eight hours, so everyone would be done by 2:30 PM.

The temperature was in the upper 60s.  That was a few degrees cooler than I expected.  Humidity, however, was high, and I also expected it to warm up significantly during the race.  This was my third hot marathon this week, so I paced myself accordingly.

Before the race, I saw at least half a dozen runners who I knew.  I also saw dozens of runners I didn’t recognize.  The race has grown since the first year.

I lined up in the middle of the pack.  That seemed about right.  About half of the runners were faster than me, but the runners right in front of me were going at a pace that was comfortable for me.

The course started with a loop around Orchard Trail Park.  Then we left the park on a bike path that took us to the Rush Creek Regional Trail.  We followed this trail for only a short distance before leaving it to enter a residential neighborhood.  Then we ran on streets for about a mile.  This was the only park of the course that wasn’t on bike paths.

Until I got to the streets, I stayed behind the runners in front of me.  There wasn’t much room for passing on the bike path, and we were still packed together.  On the streets, I had plenty of run to run at my own pace, but I continued to go at a relaxed pace.

About halfway through this section, we turned onto Xenia Avenue.  The race is named after this street, even though we were only on it for two blocks.  This was an excuse to give the race a name that started with “X.”

After completing a loop on city streets, we returned to the bike path and retraced our route back to Orchard Trail Park.

When I finished the short loop, I was surprised to see volunteers holding cups of water and Gatorade.  In previous years, this was a cupless race.  There were bottles of water and Gatorade at the aid stations.  You could pick up a bottle at the aid station, but you needed to carry the bottle with you until you finished it.

I wore a fuel belt, so I could carry a bottle with me between aid stations.  As I went through the aid station, I picked up a 16 oz. bottle of water from the table.  I took a walking break while I drank about half the bottle.  Then I put the bottle in my holster to save the rest for later.

After the short loop, I needed to do the longer loop five times.  The long loop started the same way as the shorter loop, but we kept going west on the Rush Creek Regional Trail.

There was a tunnel where we needed to cross Douglas Drive.  This was the only street we crossed, so we never had to contend with automobile traffic.

After the tunnel, the trail continued through Oak Grove Park.  On the west side of the park, we did a short out-and-back.

When we returned to Oak Grove Park, we left the Rush Creek Regional Trail and turned to run past the playground and picnic area.  This is where a second aid station was set up.

As I neared the aid station, I took a walking break, so I could finish my bottle of water and discard it at the aid station.  I always drank either before or after an aid station.  I walked while drinking, and then I continued walking until I had walked for at least a minute.  That was my run/walk strategy.

There were port-o-potties in the start/finish area, but Oak Grove Park had permanent bathrooms.  I was drinking so much that I had to make two bathroom stops during the race.  Both times, I used the permanent bathroom.

After going through the park, we did a loop around a meadow just south of the park.  Then we went back through the park, which brought us past the same aid station again.

The aid station in the start area only had bottles of water, but this one also had bottles of Gatorade.  As I came back to the aid station, I picked up a bottle of Gatorade.  It was a 20 oz. bottle, so I only drank a third of it before putting it in my holster.

After that, I had a consistent pattern of picking up a new Gatorade bottle every third time that I reached an aid station.  That worked out to a bottle per lap.  I was drinking more in this race than I did in my previous race.  After each of those races, I felt dehydrated.  Today, I was determined to drink enough.

We finished the long loop by returning along the Rush Creek Regional Trail until we got back to Orchard Trail Park.

Some sections of the trail were serpentine.  Usually, I try to run the tangents, but there was a lot of bike traffic on the Rush Creek Regional Trail.  I’ve learned from experience on this course, that it’s safest to keep right at all times.  Sometimes a bike will come rapidly around a turn, and the rider won’t see you until the last second.

The course was well-marked with signs and chalk arrows.  In addition, there were volunteers stationed at every turn and junction.

It's worth noting at this point that the volunteers were all encouraging us.  At one junction, the volunteers were blasting music, dancing, and cheering enthusiastically, while also making sure we knew which direction to go.

There were volunteers on bikes leading the first runner in each race.  As I was nearing the end of my first lap of the long loop, one of these volunteers rode past me.  Then I saw the first runner in the half marathon.  He was already nearing the end of his second long lap.  He finished in 1:22.

Early in the race, I was going faster than I did in my last two races, but I didn’t feel like I was working hard.  For the first nine miles, every mile was between 10 and 11 miles, and that pace felt comfortable.  After that, I began to slow down.  My next several miles were slower than 11 minutes.  I attribute that to conditions getting warmer.  It wasn’t warming up rapidly, but the temperature was rising.

Early in the race, it was partly sunny.  Along the Rush Creek Regional Trail, we had lots of shade, but other parts of the course were more exposed to the sun.  By late morning, it was cloudy.  Not having as much sun exposure helped.  I didn’t feel nearly as hot today as I did in my last two races.

Early in my third lap of the long loop, I saw another volunteer on bike go by.  He was followed by the leader of the marathon.  I wasn’t quite to the halfway mark, but the leader was already a full lap ahead of me.  He went on to finish in 2:45.

At the halfway point, I was on pace to finish in roughly 4:41.  That’s much faster than my other two races this week.  I expected to slow down in the second half, but clearly, I was going to break five hours by a wide margin.

I maintained the same effort for the rest of that lap.  With two laps to go, I started to pick up my effort.  At first, my mile times were still slower than 11 minutes, but as I kept working, I started to bring some of them back under 11 minutes.

The chip mat at the start/finish line was the only one on the course, but there were volunteers recording bib number as we ran by some of the remote corners of the course.  In my second-to-last lap, one of those volunteers said, “one more,” as I went by.  Indeed, I only had one more full lap, but I still needed to run about two miles to finish my current lap.

As I neared the end of that lap, I heard a runner approaching quickly from behind.  I turned my head in time to see the lead woman go by.  I knew she was the winner, because she was the only woman to lap me.

Early in my last lap, I saw one of my friends going in the opposite direction.  He asked me if we were going to beat the storm.  I said, “no problem.”  I didn’t have any new information since the race started, so I wasn’t expecting a thunderstorm any sooner than 3:00 PM.

A minute or two later, I thought I heard thunder.  As I was running through Oak Grove Park, it seemed like it was getting dark.  This part of the course is under a thick canopy of trees, so it was always a little bit dark, but it seemed like it was darker now than it was earlier in the race.  I wondered if the clouds were getting thicker and letting less light through.

The out-and-back section just west of the park is out in the open.  When I got there, I thought I felt a drop or two of rain.  I didn’t see any drops hitting the pavement, but I had to wonder if a storm was about to start.

I only had a few miles to go, so I was going to be OK.  I had friends on the course who still had two full laps left.  If a storm started now, their races might be jeopardized.

I didn’t hear thunder again, and I didn’t feel any more drops.  I pressed on and finished the race in dry weather.  As I was coming into Orchard Trail Park for the last time, I felt a strong breeze.  That's when I realized that I never noticed any wind before that.

I finished in 4:47:45.  My second half was seven minutes slower than my first half.  That was disappointing, because I felt like I was working much harder in the second half than I was in the first half.

After the race, I was talking with my friend, Tom, who had finished several minutes earlier.  When I mentioned hearing thunder, Tom said he heard that too, but he thought it was an airplane, not thunder.

As we were talking, we saw a bright flash of lightning.  Several seconds later, we heard a rumble of thunder.  I hurried to my car, getting there just before the rain started.  At first, it was just raining lightly.

By now, it was in the upper 70s.  For runners still on the course, a little rain would actually feel good.  Lightning, however was another matter.  That’s never a good thing.

As I was driving to Rocky Rococo for lunch, I heard a loud crack of thunder.  It was so loud, it startled me.  If I wasn’t sitting in my car, I would’ve jumped.

A few minutes later, I was indoors, getting pizza at Rocky Rococo.  I never heard sirens, but I can’t say for sure that I would’ve heard them indoors.  Where I live, they’re pretty loud, but every city has its own storm sirens.

When I left the restaurant, it was raining a little harder.  It wasn’t a downpour, but it was a steady enough rain, that you’d get soaked if you were outside for a long time.  As I was driving home, I saw lightning once or twice, but I never heard any storm sirens.

After I got home, I periodically checked the race results.  My friends all finished the race.

Race statistics:
Distance:  26.2 miles
Time:  4:47:45
Average pace:  10:58
Lifetime Marathons/Ultras:  462
Minnesota Marathons/Ultras:  88

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Race Report: 2022 Summer Camp Series, Day 4

Today was day 4 of the Mainly Marathons Summer Camp Series.  Today’s race was at Warner Lake County Park in Clearwater, MN.  The race started at 6:00 AM, and it’s a 20 minute drive from St. Cloud to Clearwater, so I had to get up early.

After yesterday’s race, I worked hard to rehydrate.  Today was going to be another hot day, although not quite as hot as yesterday.  That wasn’t my only concern about the weather.  When I got up, I checked the forecast and saw a chance of a morning thunderstorm.  I pulled up the radar picture and saw a band of storms moving in from the west.

The race didn’t start until 6:00, but I didn’t want to drive in a thunderstorm.  I rushed to get ready, so I could drive to Clearwater before the storm arrived.  My worst fear was driving in the dark on a two-lane road that’s not familiar to me, and then having my phone lose the GPS signal.

As I drove to Clearwater, I saw lightning in the distance, but it wasn’t raining yet.  I arrived at the park by 5:00.  I saw the Mainly Marathons trailer and RV in the parking lot, but I didn’t see any other cars.  I didn’t see anything set up yet.  Then I remembered seeing a pavilion when I stopped by this park on Saturday.  I moved my car to the corner of the parking lot closest to the pavilion.  When I walked over to the pavilion, I saw Jesse setting up.

About 20 minutes before the race, it started raining, but it wasn’t raining hard.  It was windy, but I only felt scattered drops of rain.  We were on the southern edge of the storm.  It was mostly missing us to the north.

Like all Mainly Marathons races, this one was multiple laps of an out-and-back course.  We started at the pavilion.  Then we went around the north end of the lake and a bit farther west before turning around and returning the way we came.  It was just over eight tenths of a mile each way, so we had to do 16 laps for a marathon.  I find more laps to be harder psychologically.

Yesterday, I came into the race well-rested, and I still took almost five hours to finish.  Today, I came into the race tired from yesterday’s effort.  I slept well, but I still didn’t feel like I had much energy.

I knew I would be slow today.  I just didn’t know how slow.  When I did two races of this series last year, I was race-walking, and my slowest time was 5:33:16.  This year, I was running, but I wasn’t confident I would be much faster than last year.

I started running at a really relaxed pace.  My first mile took just over 12 minutes.  The temperature at the start was the same as yesterday, but the rain and wind made it feel much cooler.  I didn’t initially feel the need to take walking breaks.

I was expecting to have sore muscles from yesterday, but I didn’t notice any soreness as I started running.  Even the sore spot near my left hip wasn’t bothering me.  I didn’t have any energy, but my legs felt much better than I expected.  In some respects, I felt better than yesterday.

The rain didn’t last long.  By the time I finished my second lap, it was obvious that we were done with the rain.  Some parts of the course weren’t even wet.  Where there was a canopy of trees, the rain never made it to the ground.

After my second lap, I paused at the aid station to get my camera.  During my third lap, I paused occasionally to take pictures of the course.  The main aid station was under the pavilion.  That’s where we started and finished each lap.

As we left the pavilion, we were on a paved path, but only briefly.  Then we transitioned to a gravel trail.

About halfway to the turnaround, there was a self-service aid station, similar to the one we had yesterday.

Just past the self-service aid station, we crossed a wooden bridge over a creek.  From the bridge, we had a nice view of the lake.

After the bridge, the trail was packed dirt.  This section had a few roots, but they were easy to avoid if you were paying attention.  I never tripped on a root, and I trip on everything.

By the time I finished my third lap, I was getting tired of having the weight of my camera in my fanny pack.  After that lap, I stopped at the aid station long enough to put my camera away.  As I began my next lap, I started to feel like I had more energy.  I was still running slowly, but not as slowly as I was earlier.

During my fourth lap, I started to notice some minor chaffing on my legs.  I usually smear Aquaphor on my legs to prevent chaffing.  I didn’t do that this morning, because of the rain.  Now that the rain was done, it was time to apply some.  I had a small tube of it in my fanny pack.  I stopped in the middle of that lap to apply some.  For the rest of that lap my hand was greasy.  When I finished that lap, I used a paper towel to wipe my hand.

After four laps, I was on pace to finish in about 5:10.  That was disappointing.  I knew I wouldn’t break five hours today, but I didn’t expect to be this slow this soon.  After all, I wasn’t taking any walking breaks yet.  I had to wonder how slow I would be by the end of the race.

I was drinking Gatorade at the same rate as yesterday.  After four laps, I had to refill my bottle.

I ran continuously for one more lap.  Then, in my sixth lap, I started to get hot.  That’s when I started taking walking breaks.  Yesterday, I walked for one minute each time I reached a turnaround.  Today, I walked for a minute at the far turnaround, but I felt like I was getting enough of a rest break at the main aid station.  I always had to stop long enough to drink as much Gatorade as I could.

In the middle of my eighth lap, I felt my left shoe graze my right ankle.  That hurt quite noticeably.  This has been a problem since the middle of May, but it hasn’t been happening as much recently.  It never happened yesterday.  When it happened today, I was on a section of trail where the footing was sometimes uneven.  That may have been a contributing factor.  I hoped it wouldn’t happen too many more times.  Each time hurts more than the time before.

Now that I was taking walking breaks, I expected to slow down a little.  When I finished my eighth lap, I was still on pace to finish in about 5:10.  That was a pleasant surprise.  I still expected to slow down in the second half, but I thought I had a decent chance of breaking 5:15.

I would normally wear gaiters for a trail course, but I neglected to pack them.  Even if I had them with me, I might not have worn them.  I was expected heavy rain.  For the first half of the race, I wasn’t noticing any grit in my shoes.  About halfway through the race, a small rock got into the back of one of my shoes and settled right under my heal.  I had to hope it would move somewhere that didn’t hurt as much.  Eventually, it did, but not before I started to notice grains of sand in my toe box.

Early in the race, there were several runners ahead of me.  Most of them eventually slowed down and started taking walking breaks.  There were two runners, however, who were always way in front of everyone else.

The fastest runner was already finishing his eighth lap when I was just starting mine.  He was doing the half marathon, so that was his last lap.  In the second half of the race, there was only one runner ahead of me.  I didn’t know her, but we all had our names on our race bibs.  Her name was Talia.

For the first several laps, Talia was farther ahead with each lap.  Halfway through the race, she was already about half a lap ahead of me.  She seemed like she was off to the races, and nobody was going to keep up with her.

For two or three laps, I saw Talia in about the same place.  Then, in my 10th lap, I got farther along the trail before I saw her.  For the first time in the race, her lead got smaller.  That made me wonder if I could gradually catch up to her if I picked up my pace.  My competitive side suddenly took over.

I thought I could go about 30 seconds per mile faster if I started working harder.  I could shave off another 30 seconds if I stopped taking walking breaks and just ran continuously.  That might be fast enough to catch her by the end of the race.

It was risky to pick up the pace like that.  I could overheat and blow up.  I only considered it because there was a strong breeze.  The breeze might be enough to keep me from overheating.

I picked up my effort for the rest of that lap.  I took a good long drink of Gatorade and then started my 11th lap.  I was able to pick up my pace without causing any discomfort in my left leg.  When I got to the turnaround, I kept running.  As I got farther though the lap, I started looked for Talia.

For the second straight lap, I made it farther before I saw her.  As I passed her, I looked at my watch.  I looked at my watch again when I reached the pavilion.  I took me three minutes to get there after passing Talia going the other way.  That meant she was about six minutes ahead of me.

I still had 8.2 miles to go.  I had to go almost a minute per mile faster than Talia to catch her.  I didn’t want to count on her slowing down.  I assumed I had to speed up.

Yesterday, I rarely got faster than 11 minutes per mile.  Today, I got as fast as 10:16.  If I could keep that up, I would catch her, but I risked blowing up.

Trying to catch Talia made the race more exciting.  I wasn’t just running to finish.  I was going for the win.  The race was on.

By now, most of the other runners were doing a lot of walking.  After all, it was getting hotter.  When people walk, they’re more likely to travel in groups and talk to each other.  The trail wasn’t very wide.  Increasingly, I had to work hard to find room to pass people.

On one of my laps, I reached the turnaround just as three other runners were getting there.  I usually keep right going around the cone, but there wasn’t room.  I tried to go around on the left, but if I went around the cone, I would run into Jim and Bettie.  I spun around on one foot to change direction.  As I tried to reverse direction, I lost my balance and fell sideways into Jim.  Neither of us fell over, but I’m sure I knocked him off balance a little.  I apologized, but the expression on his face told me he wasn’t happy about it.

As I got closer to the end of my 12th lap, I started looking for Talia.  There’s a clearing just before we get back to the pavilion.  When I saw Talia going out on her 13th lap, I could see the clearing just behind her.  I did another time check.  She was only two and a half minutes ahead of me when I finished that lap.

I had to refill my Gatorade bottle.  That added another 20 seconds to her lead, but I was still withing three minutes.  In one lap, I had cut her lead in half.  I started my next lap knowing I wouldn’t have to fill my bottle again before the end of the race.

When I got to the bridge, there were three other runners there.  I heard one say, “It’s a race now.”  I could only assume that he had just seen Talia go by and noticed that I was catching up to her.

Besides the marathon and half marathon, there was also a 5K, a 10K, and a 50K.  The 5K consists of one full lap and a shorter lap that has a different turnaround point, which is marked with a yellow cone.  I knew when I reached the yellow cone, I would be close to the turnaround.  Right after the yellow cone, you go around a corner.  From there, you can see the turnaround.

As I was nearing the yellow cone, I saw Talia coming around that corner.  We both reached the yellow cone at the same time, but from opposite directions.  It can’t take more than about 40 seconds to get to the turnaround from there.

After I made the turnaround, I started looking to see if I could see Talia ahead of me.  I didn’t see her until I reached the bridge.  Talia stopped to get water at the self-service aid station.  I passed her and kept going.

Now that I had passed Talia, the hard part was over.  Now I just needed to stay in front of her.  I still had just over five miles to go.  That’s more than enough time to blow up on a hot day if you’re running too hard.  I eased up a little in my effort.

When I got back to the aid station, I took a good long drink of Gatorade.  I left the aid station just before Talia got there.

I had three laps to go.  As I started my next lap, I took a much more relaxed stride.  I felt like I did at the beginning of the race, when I wasn’t trying at all to run fast.  I expected my pace to slow down to about 12 minutes per mile.  The next time my watch recorded a split, it was 11:00.  That included a stop to drink at the aid station.

I didn’t need to run as hard now, but I still had to overcome some pain.  I was noticing more and more grit getting into both of my shoes.  Almost every step was painful.  At this point in the race, I just had to do my best to ignore it.

I figured it would be a good idea to resume taking walking breaks at the turnaround, to make sure I didn’t overheat.  When I got there, I turned first, to see if Talia was coming.  She wasn’t within sight, so I started walking.  I walked for one minute.  I resumed running just before turning a corner.  After going around that bend, I still couldn’t see her.  I had a safe lead.

When I got back to the aid station, I wanted to make a bathroom stop.  Yesterday, the bathrooms were right next to the course.  Today, they were a distance away.  I couldn’t afford to lose time now.  I had to wait until after the race.

As I began my 15th lap, I continued to run easy.  When I saw Talia again, I appeared to be about four or five minutes ahead of her.  When I started my last lap, I expected to get farther.  I did.  I got all the way to the boat launch before I saw her.

Just then, my left foot kicked my right ankle again.  This time, I couldn’t blame it on uneven footing.  Near the boat launch, we briefly ran on pavement.

In that last lap, I was really feeling the effects of the heat.  I just had to hold together for about a mile and a half.  I wanted to do more walking, but I forced myself to run.  It didn’t have to be fast, but I needed to keep running.

At the turnaround, I looked at my watch, so I could do a time check.  I was shocked when I saw my time.  I wasn’t going to break five hours, but I was going to be much closer than I ever imagined.  I was going to have negative splits by several minutes.

I didn’t see Talia again until I was across the bridge.  I checked my watch.  My lead was almost nine minutes.  I could walk the rest of the way in nine minutes, but I forced myself to keep running.

I finished the race in 5:03:28.  I ran negative splits by more than six minutes.  After finishing, I needed to lean on the table for a minute to catch my breath.  Then I went to sit down for a few more minutes.  Then I made a long-overdue bathroom stop.

Walking to the bathroom, I felt soreness in my left leg, even though I was walking slowly.  I never felt any soreness during the laps that I was running hard.  When I’m exerting myself, I can tune out a fair amount of discomfort.  Now that I was more relaxed, I suddenly felt soreness that I was suppressing before.

I got back to the aid station in time to see Talia finish.  I congratulated her on a good race.  She might not have known it, but she pushed me to run much faster than I would’ve on my own.  She also made the race a lot more fun.

By now, it was 83 degrees.  That’s not as hot as yesterday, but it’s still hot.  There’s a swimming beach not far from the pavilion.  I noticed it when I was at the park on Saturday.  I brought a swimsuit and flip flops, with every intention of cooling off in the lake after the race.  With all the grit in my shoes, that now seemed like a bad idea.  After swimming, I’d need to put on the same shoes and socks to drive back to the hotel.  If I took them off, I wouldn’t want to put them on again.  Instead of swimming, I cooled off by sitting under the pavilion and enjoying the cool breeze.

When I got back to the hotel, I was able to add a new medal to my chain.  I’m not doing tomorrow’s race, so this is as many pieces as I’ll get.  For people doing the entire series, their chain of medals will have eight pieces after tomorrow.

Race statistics:
Distance:  26.2 miles
Time:  5:03:28
Average pace:  11:34
Lifetime Marathons/Ultras:  461
Minnesota Marathons/Ultras:  87

Monday, July 18, 2022

Race Report: 2022 Summer Camp Series, Day 3

On July 18, I ran the third race of the Summer Camp Series.  Summer Camp is a series of marathons and half marathons in central Minnesota put on by Mainly Marathons.  This series was previously known as the Minnesota Brothers Trail Series.

This year, the Summer Camp Series consisted of five races.  Each one is at a different venue.  Two of the venues were new this year.  I’m not doing the entire series, but I want to experience each race venue at least once.  As it turns out, the races with new venues happened to be on consecutive days.  Running on consecutive days doesn’t give me much time to recover between races, but it’s convenient for traveling to the races.

I stayed at the same hotel in St. Cloud where I’ve three or four times before.  In the last three years alone, I’ve spent 31 nights in this hotel, so I’m getting to know the area pretty well.

I drove to St. Cloud after lunch on Sunday.  On my way, I made two stops.  First, I stopped in Clearwater to familiarize myself with the park where tomorrow’s race will be held.  Then, I went to the park in Sauk Rapids where yesterday’s race was held.  Several of the runners were still on the course, and I got a chance to say hello to a lot of runners I know.  Everyone was talking about how hot it was.

When I got to my hotel, they didn’t have a room ready yet.  While I waited, I went grocery shopping to pick up food for breakfasts and post-race snacks.  By the time I got back, my room was ready. After unpacking, I went to Whitney Park, to check out the venue for today’s race.

I had an early dinner at House of Pizza in Sartell.  They have pizzas with interesting combinations of toppings.  I had their roasted garlic potato pizza, which is the same pizza I had before the first day of the Running Ragged 20in20 Series, two years ago.

I got to sleep as early as I could.  I slept well for half the night, but then I woke up and had trouble getting back to sleep.  When I got up, I didn’t worry about whether I got enough sleep.  Instead, I worried that I might have let myself get dehydrated yesterday.  I was either outside or in a hot car for most of the afternoon, but I didn’t have anything to drink until dinner.  I don’t usually drink much before a race, but this morning I made an exception.  I also reminded myself to take in plenty of fluids during the race.

Today’s race was held at Whitney Park, which is a large athletic complex in St. Cloud.  Our course was and out-and-back route that went most of the way around the perimeter of the park.

The course was paved, and it was extremely flat.  According to my watch, there was only 27 feet of ascent in the whole race.  That’s an average of one foot per mile.

We ran clockwise around the park for just over a mile.  Then we made a U-turn and ran counter-clockwise until we returned to the starting point.  To complete a marathon, we needed to run this route 12 times.

The race started at 6:00, but I needed to be there early to pick up my race packet.  People doing the entire series already had their race bibs, so there were only a few of us who needed to pick up our race packets in the morning.

Today was another hot day.  When the race started, it was already 75 degrees.  The forecast high was 95.  It wouldn’t get that hot until late afternoon, but it climbed into the upper 80s before I finished.

There was an aid station in the start/finish area with water, Gatorade, and a variety of food.  There was a table where we could leave our water bottles.

Usually, these races only have one aid station.  Today, there was also a self-service aid station on the opposite side of the park, which had water, Coke, Sprite, and a cooler full of ice.  It was positioned where we would pass it twice on each lap.  If I had known there would be two aid stations, I would’ve brought two bottles.  I only had one bottle, so I left it at the main aid station.

I struggled at the Firecracker Triple earlier this month, and my training has been hampered by an inflamed tendon in my left leg.  I wasn’t really sure if I was up to racing on  two consecutive days, so I planned to pace myself very conservatively.  The hot conditions gave me an extra reason to go slow.

When we started running, I went out of my way to start slowly.  My pace was so slow that it felt awkward at first.  Even so, there were only a few runners ahead of me in the first lap.

At each of the aid stations, I took a one-minute walking break.  I did that to keep from overheating.  Walking for a minute gives your body a chance to cool down.  For the first few miles, my pace (including the walking) was about 11 minutes per mile.  After a few miles, my pace slowed to about 11:20.

I was sweaty, but didn’t feel hot.  The walking breaks were effective in giving my body a chance to dissipate the excess heat.

Kevin Brosi does a lot of these races.  Kevin tells bad jokes to anyone who will listen.  Apparently, Kevin has raised his game.  Now he puts them on signs too.

Kevin can be forgiven for the bad jokes, because he’s there early every day to help set up.  He makes sure all our ducks are in a row.

By the end of my third lap, I had already emptied my 20 oz. bottle of Gatorade.  I refilled it and headed out on my fourth lap.  I continued drinking at the same rate for the whole race.  At first, it seemed like I was hydrating well.  After five laps, I already had to make a bathroom stop.

For the first half of the race, I often thought I heard footsteps.  It always seemed like there was another runner right behind me.  I eventually realized it was the sound of my camera bouncing up and down within my fanny pack.

After six laps, I was on pace to finish in the low 4:50s.  I expected to slow down in the second half, but it seemed likely that I would break five hours.  I was hesitant to make that my goal.  I had to wait and see how I felt in the second half.

Before starting my seventh lap, I refilled my bottle again.  I also took the time to take my camera out of my fanny pack and put it in my drop bag.

By now, the temperature had climbed into the 80s.  I felt warmer, and I was sweating more, but the walking breaks were still doing their job.  I didn’t feel like I was in any danger of overheating.

My pace slowed down a little.  In the first half of the race, it ranged between 11:00 and 11:30.  In the second half, several of my miles were slower than 11:30.

Speed is relative.  I was running at a pace that I regard as slow.  For many years, I consistently finished marathon with times in the 3:20s.  Today, I was on pace to be an hour and a half slower than that.  Most of the other runners seemed to regard me as the fast guy.  Indeed, I was the first runner to finish six laps.  By the end of my eighth lap, I was already at least one lap ahead of everyone else.

When I did the Running Ragged 20in20 Series two years ago, I often tried to be the first one to finish.  When I was only competing against other runners who were doing the whole series, I could do that.  Sometimes, a new runner would show up with fresh legs.  When that happened, I knew better than to try to complete with them.

Today, I was the runner with fresh legs.  Most of the other runners were already on their third consecutive day.  Some of the runners did the 7-day Heartland Series right before this one.  For them, this was the 10th day in a row.  I had some soreness in my left leg, but I’m pretty sure everyone else had more aches and pains than I did.

Although I didn’t have a bottle at the secondary aid station, I realized there was still a way I could make use of it.  It occurred to me that I could stop there to put ice cubes in my hat.  Each time I went by there, I thought about it.  Each time, I told myself that I could consider doing that later, but I didn’t have any immediate need to do that.

When I finished my 9th lap, I finished another bottle of Gatorade, but my bottle had warmed up in the sun.  The Gatorade was warm, and it wasn’t at all appetizing.  I still finished it.  Then I started to refill my bottle.  I wondered if I could put ice cubes in it.  Then I saw the volunteers were scooping ice cream to make root beer floats.  I left a little room in my bottle and asked them to put a scoop of ice cream in it.  Then I put the cover on.  A Gatorade float may sound weird, but it was a way of chilling the Gatorade so it wouldn’t warm up as quickly.

In my 10th lap, I started to feel really hot.  Sweat from my forehead was dripping into my eyes.  The salt made my eyes sting.  It was time to start putting ice in my hat.  I had already run by the self-service aid station once, but I could stop there on the way back.

When I got back to the self-service aid station, I opened the cooler and put a handful of ice in my hat.  The hat I was wearing today has a large opening in the back and half of the ice went right through it.  I put more ice in my hat.  This time I was more careful to keep the ice in the front of my hat.  When I put it on, half of the ice still fell through the back.  The ice that remained in my hat felt good.

This is the first time I can recall putting ice in my hat during a marathon, but I’ve often done that during hot-weather ultramarathons.  It’s effective in cooling you, but the cold ice on your head can hurt at first.  There wasn’t actually that much ice in my hat, so it didn’t hurt.  Within a minute or two, I could start to feel it melting on top of my head.

The ice made me feel more comfortable, but it didn’t take long for it to melt.  Early in my 11th lap, the ice cubes were already gone.  Ice water from my hat ran down my neck and into the back of my shirt.  The cold water in my shirt helped cool my back.

When I passed the self-service aid station again, I felt like I was OK for now, but I decided to stop there again on the way back.

I put ice in my hat again.  This time, I got most of the ice to stay in my hat.  That was both good news and bad news.  It would eventually cool me down, but it was painful at first.  It also seemed to make me feel sluggish.  Having so much ice on my head caused a rapid surge of blood flow to the top of my head.  When that happens, it can briefly make you feel short of breath.  I’ve experienced that before.  I didn’t actually feel short of breath, but I had to slow down.

A few minutes later, I could feel ice water filtering through my hair.  That felt good.  I felt much cooler now.

Near the beginning of my last lap, I stopped again to pee.  I could’ve waited until after the race, but the port-o-potties were a distance away from the start/finish area.  I decided to stop while I was going by anyway, so I wouldn’t have to walk there after the race.  That says something about how I felt.  I would rather lose time during the race than have to do extra walking later.

When I was halfway through my last lap, I looked at my watch.  It was obvious that I would break five hours, but not by as much as I previous expected.  My previous mile had taken 11:44, and I assumed I would continue to slow down.  I neglected to consider that my previous mile included a bathroom stop.

In the second half of that lap, I was sure I was slowing down.  In retrospect, I may have been overly pessimistic.  I felt awful, and the last mile seemed to take forever, but I may not have slowed down at all.  I may have actually sped up in that mile.

I finished in 4:55:40.  That surprised me.  I was expecting to finish in 4:57 or 4:58.  I slowed down in the second half, but only by about two and a half minutes.  That’s not bad when you consider it was much hotter in the second half.

The medals for these races are designed to link together to form a chain.  You get the top piece and the piece indicating the year for doing at least one race of the series.  For completing today’s race, I got the piece that says, “Viking Voyage.”  That was the name of today’s race.  For each additional race in the series, you get another piece to add to the chain.  Finally, if you do the entire series, there’s an extra piece.  Here’s what my chain looks like so far.

After finishing, I was out of breath.  I had to lean on a table for a few minutes before I could walk away.  I finished my Gatorade and sat down on a bench for a few minutes.  Then I got a root beer float and sat down again while I drank it.  I needed several minutes to recover before I could walk back to my car.

During my last lap, I made I bathroom stop, so I wouldn’t have to walk back to the port-o-potties after the race.  That turned out to be a bad decision.  After sitting for a few minutes, I needed to make another bathroom stop, so I had to do that extra walking anyway.

After the race, I briefly had a symptom that I can only assume was heat-related.  My vision was slightly impaired.  When I looked at the grass, I saw a combination of white and green.  It was as if the grass was covered with cotton balls.  That eventually passed, but it was disconcerting.

When I got back to my car, the first thing I did was to check my weather app.  It was now 87 degrees.  When you factor in the sun and the humidity, the “feels like” temperature was 99 degrees.  No wonder I felt so awful.  I felt like I was doing OK for most of the race.  It was only in the last three laps that the heat took a heavy toll on me.

When I got back to the hotel, I switched into recovery mode.  My first priority was refueling.  I drank three glasses of chocolate milk and ate four mini-scones.  I wanted to replace carbs as quickly as possible, while also getting some protein.  I refilled my water bottle and put it in the refrigerator to get cold.

I had some symptoms of dehydration.  I had to be careful how I moved my feet, or they would cramp up.  If I stood up too quickly, I would get light-headed.  I worked on rehydrating for the rest of the day.

After a race, I usually take a hot bath and stretch.  I took a bath, but I was careful not to get the water too hot.  Then I did some stretching.

One of the advantages of driving to a race is being able to bring anything you need.  I didn’t have to travel light.  I brought a variety of gel ice packs from home.  My hotel room had a full-size refrigerator, so I was able to freeze them overnight.  After I dried off, I iced the sore spot in my left leg.

Ideally, I wanted to ice it and then hop in the hotel’s whirlpool.  I was worried I might easily overheat in the whirlpool, so I settled for just icing, and then waiting for my leg to warm up on its own.  Then I iced it using a different ice pack.  I had enough of them to do that five times.

Tomorrow’s race is expected to be just as hot as today’s.  Given how wiped out I felt after today’s race, I’m a bit worried about tomorrow.  I may have to go much slower.

Race statistics:
Distance:  26.2 miles
Time:  4:55:40
Average pace:  11:17
Lifetime Marathons/Ultras:  460
Minnesota Marathons/Ultras:  86