Get in Gear 2019

Following a slightly damp group run on Monday night, the fearless leader of the group delivered a weather report for the weekend: cold and rainy. He noted that this is traditional weather for the Get in Gear races. The “Annual Rite of Spring” takes place in Minnesota April, which may or may not be very springtimey, and the cold, wet, slushy years stand out in our memories.
This year promised to be memorable. The chance of snow was just low enough to give us hope that it wouldn’t happen, but not very much. Thursday night, I started getting ready: tights, wool socks, long sleeves, light mittens, hand warmers, old sweatshirt to wear at the start, a hat warm sweats and more hand warmers for my drop bag, a towel.
I took Friday off and headed to race headquarters just before noon, bringing some old shoes to donate. My email from Get in Gear said my “elite entry” would be number F43. One of my favorite things about this race is the generous awards: three deep in each five-year age group, the prize is a nice shirt, and first place gets a free entry into the next year’s race as an “elite runner.” The shirt is mailed along with a letter of congratulations, and the comp entry is emailed the following year. All of these address me as “Dear Elite Runner,” which fills me with mirth. Incredibly, I have won my age group three times, though I have never actually run an elite time (I think my best was 41:40 in this race). Last year the race was not included in the team circuit, so in the absence of truly elite competition, I won with a blazing time of 44-something. This will be the last year I run GIG for free, at least until I age up and start training hard again.
Some of this  year’s champions

I have mixed feelings about Get in Gear. It’s traditional and the overall organization is excellent, but it’s 1700 runners big in the 10k alone, and so many runners spreading out over the park grounds makes for what my team leader calls a “goat rodeo.” This would be the true test of all the stress-management techniques I’ve been practicing over the past five months.

On Friday I ate well, slept well, and on Saturday awoke almost too mellow. The first thing I did was open the window. Where was the bad weather we were supposed to have? Nowhere in sight. When I arrived, I was so happy to be warm and dry and to see my teammates I didn’t give much thought to race performance. And I forgot to take a picture! Sorry, my excellent and beautifully photogenic teammates. Anyway, talking to them mellowed me out even more. The Twin Cities Running Company master’s teams are very strong, and now that I’m at the older end of my age group, my main function is as kind a pinch-hitter for races that not everyone wants to run. Get in Gear is not one of those races; it’s popular.

I ran a short warm-up, did a few strides, and lined up very, very carefully, staying a bit to the side and checking who was behind me. I’m cautious about getting jostled or tripped; I’ve fallen flat in three races, and road scrapes hurt. The 1:30 half-marathon pace group was just ahead, and so were several runners I recognized as being about my pace. This worked out very well. My stats say I passed 15 people, and ONE person passed me.

I figured I’d start at a 7-minute mile pace, but I never did quite fall into that. I was under a 7:10 pace for the first two miles, then started to get a bit of a foot cramp. I wasn’t worried about it, and it went away by the time I got over the bridge. I really felt excellent, and again, maybe a little too mellow. Even in the midst of the crampy foot, I was just taking in the sights. I saw an old running buddy out cheering and called out to him, barely recognizing my strong voice. If I felt so good, why wasn’t I running faster? I picked it up a bit going down the bridge, but just a little.

I almost caught up with a runner I knew who had apparently started too far back. I knew he raced a bit faster than I usually do, but I had never run faster than a 9-minute mile with him because he is smart and knows that easy runs should be run an easy pace. But now he was running fast. He was wearing Vibram toe shoes – remember those? How retro! And his stride was amazing! He was totally in the zone and not in the mood to chat. I enjoy that about races.  You see a different side of people.

I mean, Vibrams. Really. Here he is after the race, still doing fine.

At the water stop, manned by the excellent group Capital City Runners, I looked for my dear friend Alan, found him and gave a quick shout as I grabbed a Gatorade cup from him. That gave me a boost, but I still wasn’t picking up the pace. And then the hill. I did have a strong finish. I’d hoped for at least under 45 minutes, didn’t quite make it, but felt I had a good run with conservative training and no major injuries, except for a sore middle toe which was probably due to my shoes being a bit new.

I congratulated some teammates, caught my breath, and then turned around just in time to see Andriette finish. Now 64, Andriette is a champion in her division, and came away with an enormous medal.

I skipped the cool-down my teammates suggested, because to them, a “cool-down” means “let’s run at least a couple more miles.” No, 8-9 miles is a good day for me, thanks. I excused myself with “I think my toenail might be about to fall off.” They said “Oh, okay,” and took off.

You know you’re in a hardcore gang when the response to “My toenail might be about to fall off” is “Oh, okay.”

I had a nice talk with Andriette. We have this little routine: I try to find out the secrets to her staying power, she tells me something about going vegan, and then I inwardly tell myself not to ask her again and hope she’ll tell me something different next time. This time she did also mention cross-training. All the best veteran runners bike or ski also. I will be in the market for a new bike soon. I will not be giving up ice cream or any other dairy product.

The other highlight of my weekend was seeing Gary of the Charities Challenge series, out there in full form with his camera and cheery voice. He always has hugs for me and gets in a photo with me and tells me I make him look good. With old friends, one can be forever young.

It’s Gary making me look good.

Gary notes that the 5k is the best distance to run for a good workout. I wholeheartedly agree. Run a few 5Ks during a training season and come out fitter. I also think short, family-oriented trail races will pick up the dwindling interest among runners who are a little burned out on full-frills half-marathons.

Moving right along, I am glad I went this year. I got a free zip jacket from the GIG Crew that was clearing out old merchandise. There are always free massages, which makes a lot of difference in my tight shoulders, and a lot of free food: chocolate milk, bread, peanut butter, yogurt, bananas, and a new vendor was giving out tubs of hummus. A lot of value. Incredibly, I was still hungry and got a fish basket at Sea Salt.

I got the kiddie basket at Sea Salt. They do not have fries, they do not need them.

Final results of Get In Gear:  45:13, second in my age group only to one very consistent competitor, who ran 45:10. I thought about the times during today’s race when I wondered if I could push a little harder but just didn’t, and I thought about my cautious start, and my newish shoes, and all the little things that can cost you three seconds, and turned this over and over in my head before I realized the total futility of such thinking. I’m going with my initial gut reaction to the results, which was whew! Now there’s no pressure for me to register again just because I got a free entry for winning my AG, and run it again just because I can’t resist a bargain. There will be plenty of time to push myself when I’m in my 50’s.

For now, I think I’m still good to run the Mudball. I had a wonderful day today, and wait until you see me tomorrow! Okay, maybe I won’t be fast, but I’ll be all kinds of sunshiny happy goodness, and this is a cheap race that deserves a special place in Good Fast Cheap. Can’t wait.

Nice photo Gary got of me wearing my medal backward



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