September 30 – October 1/ 2017
Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
“Hey! I know you!”
Deer in headlights…
I was walking back from the 5K finish line towards the corporate team tent at the time. I didn’t know anyone that would be at the race. So, I was caught off guard and frantically rummaging thru the mental Rolodex trying to connect the face to a name. No luck.
“I follow the blog that you write! Just wanted to say hi…”
This may have been the highlight of the weekend. First, someone out there actually reads my ramblings. Second, someone recognized me in a crowd of thousands of people and third, he took the time to introduce himself. I was rather tongue tied and didn’t really know what to say. But, if you are reading this, thanks for making my weekend!
The weekend was the Twin Cities Marathon Weekend…easily the premier running event in Minnesota (apologies to fans of Grandma’s Marathon). It is a highlight in my race calendar every year and it is often the season finale before the Minnesota winter settles in.
This year, I was doing the “Loony Challenge” again. It is basically every event over the weekend EXCEPT the marathon. I run the 10k, 5k, and 1 mile fun run on Saturday, and the 10 Mile on Sunday. The Saturday events start and finish at the state Capitol as a series of out-and-back runs on Summit Avenue. On Sunday, the marathon and 10 mile start on neighboring blocks in downtown Minneapolis (next to US Bank Stadium…home to this year’s Super Bowl) and end at the State Capitol (all events share the same finish line). The marathon takes a scenic tour of Minneapolis’s chain of lakes and the Mississippi River before crossing into St Paul. The 10 mile route is a beeline to St Paul and the 2 races share the last 7 miles of the route. About 8000 runners are registered for the Saturday events (including the 1/2 mile, toddler trot and diaper dash) and about 25000 combined for Sunday events. The TC Marathon is the ninth largest marathon in the country and has been named “The Most Scenic Urban Marathon in America”. Having run several, I do find this course to be exceptional…and it is the only Marathon that I have completed more then once (three times total, with the 10 Miles three times as well). I was excited about this weekend. Unfortunately, this excitement did NOT translate into a regular training routine. Life events, lack of motivation for the past couple of seasons, and a general apathy about my finish times have resulted in a inconstant and uneven training cycle. This is not to say that I don’t stay active and have a healthy lifestyle. But the training plans dictating me to do a certain number of miles at a certain intensity have worn out their welcome. So, I came into this weekend with the mindset of just enjoying myself and to let whatever happens happen.
The weekend’s weather looked a little unpredictable. A cool front came thru a few days prior to race weekend. Until then, all of my running for the past several months was in shorts and t-shirt. It always gets cold just before this event and I always have to try to figure out cold weather layering (and I ALWAYS end up over layering for the first few brisk runs in the fall). Saturday would be the nicer but colder day. It would be sunny, breezy, and a starting line temp of 45F (about 15 degrees colder then I have run in for almost six months). It looked like it would warm up slowly, but stay in the 40’s until I was done running. Fortunately, I had access to the corporate team tent (heated, snacks, private bag check). I decided to wear shorts, but a long sleeved shirt and windbreaker. I brought a few more attire options to do a last second swap if it became clear that I was over/underdressed. I got down there early and it was already about 50F. I elected to start with the long sleeved jersey and windbreaker anyways since the wind still made it feel pretty cold.
Race start was a little earlier this year for the 10k (7:15 am instead of 7:30 am) and was the typical out and back run on Summit Avenue that I have done several times. The run goes from the Capitol to St Paul’s Cathedral (the Twin domes that dominates St Paul’s skyline) and along summit avenue and its 100 year old mansions. I started slow and got slower (as expected) and the air warmed up nicely. Hands and ears were fine by mile 2 and the jacket was unzipped by mile 3. With the turnaround came the bright morning sunlight on a truly glorious day. The overlook onto downtown St Paul was breathtaking. Before I knew it, I was back between the twin domes and headed to the finish.
With the early start of the 10k, I had plenty of time before the 5k start at 9:00 am. Although it certainly wasn’t warm, it wasn’t cold either (it was just right!) I didn’t need the layers anymore. I ditched the jacket and swapped out the long sleeve shirt with a short sleeved. Had just enough time to do all this before heading back for the 5k start. It was well into the fifties by this time. Oddly, the 5k course had changed this year. Usually it follows the 10k route and the turnaround is closer. This time, we went out on a different road and eventually looped back onto Summit for the return trip. I don’t know why they did it, but I appreciated the change of scenery. Once that race was over, I was headed back to bag check when I had met the only person that admits to reading my blog (pretty sure my wife doesn’t read it anymore either) before heading back for the 1 mile family fun run. I probably shouldn’t do this event (it’s a kids race and they organize the corals by grade level), but it has a nice medal that complements the 5k and 10k medals (and I NEVER leave bling behind…). It was a quick run from one dome to the other and back. Get medal, get back from bag check, and I walked about a 1/2 mile to the expo. Saturday races bibs can be picked up Race morning at the race site. Sunday events have to be picked up at the expo. That’s how I started racing the Saturday events…I wasn’t going to drive all the way to St Paul just to pick up a bib. If I was going to drive that much, then I would get a couple of shirts and medals at the same time. I was doing the Loony Challenge before the Loony Challenge even existed!
The expo was as great as always, but I just didn’t need anything. I looked around for a bit, got my bib, and headed home.
Sunday Event – TC 10 Mile (The Retirement Race)
Saturday was certainly the better weather day of the weekend. Sunday would be warmer (high 50’s), but with rain and gusting winds. It was looking like it would be a washout all day. By Saturday, the forecast improved with the rain looking like it would hold off until late morning (the marathon runners would get hammered but the 10 mile runners start an hour earlier and are obviously done quicker). I was cautiously optimistic.
I was getting a ride with a co-worker on Sunday morning. She lives much closer to the race than I do. I just drive over to her house and her husband drives us to the start and picks us up at the finish. That was really helpful this year since the Vikings and Twins had early afternoon home games in downtown Minneapolis on Saturday as well ($50+ for event parking???)
The drive to their place scared me. Torrential downpours and strong winds for the whole drive. The car thermometer was showing high 40’s instead of mid 50’s. This was not what the weatherman had promised! The rain was slowing down when I arrived at their place and the radar showed the rain clearing out for the next few hours. By the time we got to the start line, it was dry (windy and colder then expected, but dry at least).
That didn’t last.
About 20 minutes before the start, the sprinkles started. It wasn’t bad, and my windbreaker was water resistant, but there was a definite chill. I headed to my coral and it felt like I was in a wind tunnel. There was still a few drops but the wind was the worst. Once the race started, the wind turned into a very strong headwind. By mile 1, the rain started to come down a lot harder (not like earlier in the day, but I was getting very uncomfortable in a hurry).
Fortunately, it didn’t last. By mile 4, the rain had stopped and the wind started to relent. I was drying off by mile 5. The rain held off until after the race (I have no idea if the marathoners got hit later but the rain got bad again for the drive home).
The rest of the race was fine. The air temp came up a bit, it was dry, and the wind calmed down. My legs were wet noodles however (that will happen when you don’t actually train for back-to-back races). I didn’t really worry about it. The goal was to enjoy myself and to take it all in one last time. Downtown Minneapolis. The riverfront parkway. The ALARC wall. Summit Avenue. The Twin Domes. The downhill to the finish. The giant flag suspended between fire truck ladders. The finishers chute.
And, just like that, it was over.
I got my post race food, got my medals, lingered in the finish area one last time, and headed off to meet up with my crew.
So, what now? Not sure. But I need a break from racing events (and I honestly don’t know if I’ll be back but it seems unlikely). I got burnt out about halfway thru last season (100+ events in just over 4 years can do that) and I just tried to get thru the rest of that season. I almost called it quits then…but I qualified for USA Triathlon Nationals and I had deferred a 15k early in the year. I had to give Nationals a chance, and I wanted to do a warm up Olympic Distance triathlon in preparation for it. So, a mini-season was developed.
I figured a much smaller season focusing on a few quality events (over quantity) may rekindle my passion for the sport. It did the opposite. It reaffirmed my original decision. Even though I enjoy an active lifestyle, I no longer enjoy building my week around training plans, or my year around my race schedule. With age and lower training volume (nothing will come close to matching Ironman training) my speed tanked too. My chronic and lingering ankle injuries were getting worse and the knees were getting grumpier with every race. Races became a chore that was robbing me of time that I could use to do other things (like spending time with my family).
I came to the realization that I got what I needed from the sport a long time ago. I got the self confidence to try new things. I accepted the fact that I can be an athlete and that I can be successful at something new if I just dared to put myself out there and give it my best shot. I redefined myself and my view of what’s possible. And that’s pretty amazing to me.
I may do a race here and there, just for fun. My office usually puts together a team participating in a midsummer 5k. That may be the only race next year. I might throw my name in the lottery for the TC 10 mile in a year or two. Or maybe not.
Time will tell.
As for the blog, I think it’s time to retire it (again). It went on hiatus for 6 months last winter but returned as I had a few more stories to tell.
If I have more stories in the future, I may revive this blog again. But the stories may have nothing to do with running or triathlon. It may be about a new adventure that I have not even considered yet.
Time will tell…