The Minnesota Distance Running Association 15k State Championship race was this past weekend, and because it is a part of the MDRA racing series, like a few of the other races I've done this summer, it drew a good crowd of local, speedy teams and runners.
This year the race was held in/around Crosby Farms in St. Paul. The course started with a small loop that was a little more than one mile, then did a large loop, before concluding with a final little loop at the end. There were a couple of decent climbs, mostly early on around miles 2-3; there were some sneaky gradual, extended inclines; there were a few killer steep little charges toward the finish; and there were a lot of twists and turns, some pretty sharp, scattered throughout. The weather was decent: cloud cover which was great, but extremely humid.
I don't know if was the humidity or the high mileage I've been doing lately, but when I showed up for the race, I was DRAGGING. I met up with the MN RED crew and went out for a warm-up jog. Even at our 9:00/mile warm-up pace, my body was begging to stop and just walk already. Gulp.
Not only that, but prior to the race, another racer/avid follower of local running spotted me and mentioned that it should be a highly competitive race for the women because there was an athlete from Team USA in the field: Meghan (Armstrong) Peyton. Double gulp. I like competition, I thrive on it actually, but this morning was not feeling like a zippy day for racing. Also to be honest, shame on me, but I didn't know who Meghan was, so I just nodded my head and smiled when she was brought up as one of the front-runners for the "W." Turns out (I Googled her after the race), she has an extremely impressive resume!
But despite a lethargic body and some talented competition, my brain kicked into competition mode and I focused on: 1) trusting my training, and b) myself/my race, because I can't control what others do.
Race time! I started on the line right behind Meghan, and decided that I was just going to sit in her pocket and see what unfolded. I didn't know how my body was going to respond today, and I find it much easier to run relaxed when I let someone else do the work early on (sorry, Meghan). So for the first 4.5-5ish miles, Meghan was firmly in control of the race (and TCTC's Stephanie Price was in the mix too). We were clipping through the miles steady and strong, and it was looking like it was going to be a battle to the finish. But right around mile 5, I started to make a slow move to put a little distance between the two of us (at this point, it was just Meghan and I leading the women's field). Meghan came right along with my first couple of surges, but then eventually a small gap started to form. It didn't happen quickly, and I didn't ever doubt that if I faltered, she was going to be right there to hunt me down, so I kept driving through the second half of the race.
For a moment, I was running alone, but just ahead was a small group of dudes so I set out to reel them in. I caught up to them and hoped we could work together to finish the race strong. Eventually the pack started to scatter, but I was still able to cut down pace on the last few miles, for the most part, and ended up finishing first for the women, and I believe setting a new state record for my age - 52:15 (5:36/mile pace). Meghan finished a strong second at 53:02. My time was a bit of a drop in pace from my half in Duluth, but it was a good
exercise mentally and physically for learning how to "turn it on" even
when it doesn't feel like all cylinders are firing.