Sunday, April 18, 2010

My first road race this year and welcome to it

A few scattered thoughts about the Earth Day Half Marathon I competed in on Saturday morning in St. Cloud:
  • Although it's not a full marathon like Grandma's or Minneapolis, the Earth Day race has an atmosphere to savor in its own right. This is my second time competing in the race and more than likely won't be the last. It's just a first-class event that's well organized and generates a lot of interest from runners, community members and local businesses alike. The three races of the weekend (5k, half marathon and 20-mile run) drew nearly 2,000 total competitors and featured copious amounts of spectators at every turn. If the Mankato Marathon organizers are looking for examples of races that draw great community involvement, the Earth Day run wouldn't be a bad one to look at.
  • The first photo (courtesy of the St. Cloud Times) is at the start of the half marathon and 20-mile races. It takes place on the bridge near St. Cloud State University. It's a pretty cool spot for a race start because it's a great viewing area for spectators (note the walking bridge above the runners) and the walled-off sides of the road give it a cavernous-like feel to runners. It's a little crowded at the start, but what race isn't? The finish line of the race (mid-field of the college's football stadium) is also a sight to behold. There's nothing like cheering spectators in an arena to get the adrenaline going for road-weary runners.
  • The second photo (also courtesy of the St. Cloud Times) features yours truly (red t-shirt, red sweat band and black shorts) near the start of the race. Contrary to my prior beliefs, the Flash t-shirt did not help me run faster, nor did it give me any superhero powers during the race. At least not that I know of.
  • This was the first race I ever ran in that featured pace setters. God bless whoever invented this concept. For the road-racing novices out there, pace setters are volunteers assigned to run the race in a specific time (the times generally vary in 5-10-minute increments) that identify themselves with signs or other markers. The volunteers at the Earth Day race each had GPS watches that tracked their distance and time down to the most meticulous detail. This made race-day strategy a much easier thought process for me. Instead of having to depend on my watch's split timing and the unreliable course mile markers, I simply picked out my target time (in this case, the guy volunteering as the 1:30:00 pace setter) early on and tried to keep up with him throughout the race. Hopefully this is something the Mankato Marathon adopts for its inaugural race.
  • Two things surprised me about that race. First of all, I did not see myself doing as well as I did. I wound up with a time of 1:29:01; certainly nothing special compared to some of the serious runners out there, but it's an improvement of 10 minutes over the time I got last year and a definite sign that my training for Grandma's Marathon is coming along nicely. Good training runs are one thing, seeing your improvement on the results sheet is an entirely different kind of motivation. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come in Duluth.
  • The other thing that surprised me: the general lack of post-race aches and pains I'm feeling. I spent the first 30 minutes struggling to move after last year's race because I was in so much pain. I limped for several days after the race and went through enough ice to build an igloo. This year? I walked around the finish line area in little-to-no pain and went for a short bike ride the day after the race. Aside for a quick icing session and mild hip pains, I'm no worse for the ware. Perhaps this is a sign that my body is getting used to the grind of running.
In case anybody's curious, the results of the race can be found here. Since my joints held up so well in the race, I plan on getting back on the running trail as soon as possible. Grandma's Marathon will be here before I know it.

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