And it's a wrap. My 2017 racing season (limited as it was) is in the rear-view mirror. My "A" race of the year was the Medtronic TC 10 Mile, which was last Sunday on a beautiful, crisp morning. If you read my "Missing Workouts" post recently, you'll understand why I was a bit unsure of how the race would unfold. This was a rebuilding year with a baby in the house and some core strength issues to fix, but I didn't really anticipate in advance the setbacks from lack of sleep and old injuries that would creep up.
Before I get into the race recap, I'll give you a few highlights from the last 2-3 weeks. There were some big changes in our family life, but also some quiet time to get away to my hometown of Bemidji. My boys' school was closed the last week of September due to the Ryder Cup in our district, so we spent a week at Grandma & Grandpa's. With time off work and more flexibility in my schedule (and help with the kids), I was able to get more of my workouts in. It's amazing how a few quick runs can get my legs feeling a bit more like themselves again. We had cool & damp weather, but that led to some cool views as well.
During my time "Up North" I also took a deep-dive into nutrition. I had my annual physical recently at LT Proactive Care, which included a follow-up care appointment with a Registered Dietician & Personal Trainer. My main homework from that meeting was to tackle food sensitivities beyond my known avoidance of gluten, soy & most dairy. Coach MK suspected that that food sensitivities were behind my joint pain, and I was getting tired of the extra pounds my body wouldn't let go of. After just a week of cutting out corn, eggs and sugar, I was down 3 pounds and my joint pain had diminished quite a bit. By race day I'd dropped another two pounds, and was officially at my "race weight." It is pretty incredible what happened when I removed trigger foods that cause inflammation! I'm looking forward to testing each food individually, in hopes that I don't have to keep all of them out of my diet long-term.
On Saturday, I finally had a chance to meet Coach MK Fleming. She's based in Colorado, and although she's been coaching me via phone, email & Training Peaks since February, this was our first meeting that didn't require technology! It was fun to connect face to face, and to hear about all the clients she had racing over the weekend at TCM, Chicago, Portland and other large races. She didn't feel the need to give me a very detailed race plan since I'm still rebuilding and can also gauge my intensity pretty well, but she did give me a few cautions. The big one was not to go out too fast through the early hills. The TC 10 Mile course is rocket-fast in the first two miles, but also has two major climbs in the first half. The key is to relax and cruise on the downhills, but also to stay relaxed on the climbs. It's not worth going deeply anaerobic to hold position, and I'm OK with letting runners pass me on the climbs, knowing I'll have more left in the tank to cruise down Summit Ave. Her other caution was not to do anything crazy that would leave me with an injury. She wanted me to enjoy the time I had 'to myself' and to come out of it ready to get strong for 2017. In my head I was thinking a 65-minute 10-mile race was about as good as I could possibly pull off given my current fitness level, and that was only if the weather and everything else came perfectly in line.
Here is a look at how race-day unfolded:
4am. My alarm rang. Ouch! I didn't get to bed as early as I would have liked, so this felt early! I prefer to get my breakfast in 3 hours before a race, so a 7am start leads to a really early morning. I'd frozen my breakfast shake the morning prior, and pulled it out of the freezer just before bed. It was still semi-solid after a short night, so I had to dunk it in hot water to get it ready to drink. I didn't want to risk running the blender and waking up the kids, so it had to be prepped in advance. Here is what was in my shake:
- Almond milk
- 1/2 banana
- Almond butter (~2 TB)
- Chocolate Dynamic Greens
My shakes usually include spinach or kale, chia seeds and flaxseeds, but I decided to keep this one simple (and lower in fiber) to reduce the risk of GI issues. It worked perfectly!
5:45am: Drive to Minneapolis. I prefer parking near the start for the TC 10 Mile, especially since US Bank Stadium wouldn't be open to keep us warm. I arrived at about 6:15, just in time for a short warm-up jog and a pit stop before dropping off my gear bag. Kudos to TCM for putting out plenty of Biff's so the line wasn't bad at 6:30am!
7:00am: The elite women took off, part of the USATF 10-mile Championships. I've always wanted to be part of that event as I LOVE the 10-mile distance, but I'm not in that kind of shape right now. This year I was happy to be racing in the USATF MN Team Circuit, among the locally competitive runners. We started at 7:05, amid the crisp autumn air and a surge of adrenaline.
Here is what the course looks like, along with my 'workout summary' from Training Peaks:
(Training Peaks is a program that some of our top coaches use in coaching their clients. They are not a sponsor of Life Time Run or this blog).
You can see my splits here. Lap 1 covered the 8 seconds it took me to get across the start line, so lap 2 is actually mile 1.
And a chart with my heart rate, pace, cadence & elevation data:
The scale of the chart makes the hills in the first 16 minutes look massive. Although it is not as steep as it appears, the drop in the first 3 miles is significant, and I've typically gone out so fast that I end up running 'positive splits' with the 2nd half slower than the first. For once I was more cautious in the first downhill miles (6:35-6:26) and didn't totally fall apart on the climb up to the Franklin Ave Bridge (Mile 3 - 6:45) or the climb on East River Road up to the University of St. Thomas (Mile 6 & 7 - 6:53 & 6:37). You can follow the red line on the chart above to see how my heart rate climbed steadily throughout the race, with a few bumps (no spikes!) on the hills. That was a good sign that I was putting in a consistent effort.
Thanks to my friends at Grifftown Photography for the photo, though I don't look thrilled by their choice of photo location on the toughest hill of the course...
As I neared the top of 'the hill', I remembered in MK's email to her TCM/TC10 runners that she had suggested a short time to back off the intensity when we reached Summit Ave. That kept me going on the hill, as I looked forward to the break. I couldn't remember if it was 1/4 or 1/2 mile break for the 10-milers (maybe the 1/2 mile break was for the marathoners???) My brain was getting foggy and my legs & lungs were burning, so I decided the 1/2 mile recovery segment sounded like a good plan. Once the half mile was done, a few runners had passed me but I felt ready to tackle the rest of the race. Summit Ave is full of gradual climbs and slight descents, but most are not significant enough to cause a big change in pace. As each mile ticked off, I was able to maintain or pass a few runners, and my pace dropped from 6:53 & 6:37 on the hill down to 6:17 & 6:28 for miles 8 & 9. I knew MK would be waiting to cheer me on at Mile 9, and I wanted to round that final corner with enough energy in the tank to pick up my pace for a final downhill push to the finish. I didn't end up seeing MK, but when climbing a small hill around the corner where she was standing, my hamstrings really tightened up. I didn't want to injure anything, so I backed off ever so slightly. I tried to relax and cruise through the flat stretch as we approached the Cathedral, knowing a big downhill was ahead. When I reached that descent, I felt like I had new legs, and turned it on! The finish at Twin Cities is magical, as we descend under a massive American flag hoisted on a ladder truck from the St. Paul Fire Department, and take on a final surge to finish in front of the MN State Capitol.
I finished with what I think was my fastest final mile ever on that course, a 6:08. My cautious approach early on had paid off with a negative split, and a final chip-time of 65:09, for 6:31 pace. It's not a PR, but is a good sign that my fitness level has improved dramatically since I started working with MK last spring, and that I'm in a good position to build towards faster running in 2017.
Onward to 2017 and Chasing Potential!