Since I finished Ironman Wisconsin, I have struggled with my workouts. I assumed that this would be the case, so I deliberately loaded up my schedule with several running events. The first of these was this past weekend. It was the Twin Cities Marathon Weekend, and I wanted to participate in someway, even if I wasn’t up to the challenge of a full marathon. So, I opted for the Loony Challenge. It is a three race series (10K/5K/10 mile) over two days.
With 3 races in such a short period of time, I knew that none of my finish times will be exceptional. I could follow a few strategies. The first is to pick a race as my competitive race (preferably the first one) and go all out for that event, then I would just get thru the rest of the runs. Alternatively, I could approach this as a long race with break in the middle, and pace myself a little slower. This would give me three pretty good times, and would likely place me higher in the overall standings. I opted for this second strategy. I have already set major PR’s this year for the 5k and 10k. Neither of those were at risk of falling no matter what my strategy was this weekend. But, my 10 mile PR is very weak. I have only run this distance one time, and I was injured at the time. The 10 mile PR should fall, and the PR should be huge, regardless of my strategy. If I decided to focus on this race, my new PR might be stronger. But, the 10 miler was the last event of the series. My legs would be stiff going into this event even if I walked the first two races so, I elected to race the series as best as I could. Even with this strategy, my 10 mile PR should be an impressive improvement…I hoped. As I noted, I have struggled with my runs. My training run pace has been very slow lately, and my legs get tired quickly. This may not be the slam dunk that it should be…
Loony Challenge-Day One:
Packet Pickup (Part One):
The weather turned cold a couple of days prior to race day, and I was completely non-acclimated. I had no idea what to wear (and I usually end up over-dressing). I decided to dress lightly and I brought some additional layers just in case. I would have access to the corporate team tent and there is typically a changing room available to us. I arrived at the race site (the Minnesota Capitol building) very early, grab bedmy gear and walked over to the venue. It is cold…and very, very windy. I would need to layer up. Packet pickup could not be easier. I was running both the 5k and 10k today. We had our own packet pickup area and I could use the same bib and chip for both races. They gave me my packet, two race shirts (finally, they had different shirts for the 5k and 10k races…and they were both tech shirts instead of cotton!) and a bonus pair of running socks. I then headed over to the corporate team tent. I was still early and had plenty of time to change into warmer gear. I met with a few familiar faces, had our team photo, and I headed out to the starting line.
This is a simple out and back course along the last few miles of the marathon course. It is a little hilly with the biggest one at the very beginning. The weather was quite cool and I was glad I layered up. I had no idea what my pace would be. My training runs have been quite slow. I was hoping to keep all my races for the weekend under 9 min/mile but wasn’t sure if that was realistic. By the half mile point, I was in the high 7-low 8 range and my legs felt good. I was exactly where I wanted to be…I just wasn’t sure if I could maintain it. I did. By the turnaround, I was still in the low 8 min/mile. The turn is always a boost seeing relatively few runners ahead of me and a flood of runners behind me. That gave me a bit of a boost and spurred me on. I was still on pace. I passed the St. Paul cathedral on my way to the Minnesota State Capitol and the finish
Finish Time-50:55 (8:10 min/mile)
I had about 45 minutes before the 5k. I headed back to the corporate tent, relaxed and socialized. Before I knew it, I had to get back to the starting line. I could tell that my legs had stiffened up during the break. The course was the same, they just moved the turnaround a lot closer. My pace was slower (as expected), but was still in the mid 8’s. I was able to sustain that until the finish.
Finish Time-26:41 (8:36 min/mile)
Packet Pickup (Part Two)/Expo:
Once the race was over, I headed over to the expo. This is one of the expos that I have most enjoyed, and it lived up to expectations again. Lots of vendors, samples, discounts, lectures etc. I had to come down to pick up the 10 miler bib. Once done, I headed home.
Loony Challenge-Day Two:
TC 10 Mile: 1:38:21 (10:31)
I didn’t plan on having any exceptional runs this weekend. I expected my 5k and 10k time to be way off my PR times, and they were. I hoped the 10 mile would be different. I had only run one 10 mile race in my life, and I was injured at the time. My old PR was 1:38:21. Even under this weekend circumstances, I should not only beat that PR, but I should crush It…
The 10 mile race starts 1 hour before the TC Marathon. The TC marathon starts in downtown Minneapolis, takes a long scenic route around the chain of lakes and the Mississippi River before coming almost back to the starting line and then turning into St Paul and to the Capitol. The TC 10 mile starts at the same spot and goes straight to St. Paul. Hence the subtitle “The Shortcut to the Capitol”.
It was even colder the the previous day, but not windy. I made it down in plenty of time, dropped off my gear and lined up in coral two. The race started right around sunrise. Due to some storm damage, they had to modify the course which resulted in some significant bottlenecks on the course. Fortunately, they anticipated this and took a few precautions. They spaced out the corals a little more then in previous years. They also narrowed the starting chute to space us out a little more. It seamed to work as I never had to slow down due to course congestion. This course is quite hilly. Most of the marathon course is fairly flat, but most of the hills are on the 10 mile part of the course. My legs were definitely still fstiff rom the previous day and my pace had slowed a little. Fortunately, I was still able to keep below the 9 min/mile pace. As the course went on, my legs got more fatigued…especially on the 3 mile hill midway thru the course. I reach the 10k turnaround. My surroundings were familiar from yesterday. I kept moving and I reached more milestones…the 5k turnaround, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. I reached the final downhill and the finish line was in sight. I got a slight burst of energy as I crossed the finish line.
Finish Time: 1:27:50 (8:47 min/mile).
New PR! I broke my old PR by 10:31!
I go thru the finish area, picked up my medals (10 mile medal and a separate Loony Challenge medal), got my finishers shirt and gear bag. Overall, a great experience with great swag, great volunteers, wonderful community support and a huge PR. Overall, a great way to spend the weekend!
Loony Challenge Final Results:
Total Time: 2:45:26 (99/391 Overall, 5/12 AG). Pretty pleased with the results!
For anyone who is interested, these are the medals from the “Ultra Loony Challenge” ( 5k, 10k, Full Marathon). I may have to do this next year…
Edit: Twin Cities in Motion announced that they have made an error. The course had to be altered from previous years for safety reasons. After the race was complete, they determined that the course was short by 0.14 miles. They have issued an apology. My PR was huge, and I would have certainly have PRed, even if the course were longer. I have decided to keep this as my 10 mile PR for now. Since my HM PR is at a faster pace then my 10 mile PR, I am confident that this PR will fall in the near future. It is a little disappointing, but I am glad that the organizers admitted the error and informed participants.