Brian Kraft Memorial 5K 2019

I ran in the rain and it was ok.

I’m happy to report that the No-Burnout plan is a fair success. I did the 5k-10k specific workouts I described, plus some progression runs and some strides, with at least two easy days between hard workouts. That’s pretty minimal compared to what I was doing five years ago. Even so, my usual final dress-rehearsal 5k workout (5x1k at 5k effort) wore me out badly, and I took it easy for the ten days before this race.

With all the rain in the forecast, I let go of expectations. At first Accuweather warned of a possible thunderstorm, so I signed up in the final hour for online registrations, the day before the race. At that time, the forecast said 50% chance of rain at the start, 50’s with low humidity, 8 mph winds. Great conditions except for the rain. I got out my old rain poncho, which made me look like a dork but covered me up so much nobody recognized me at first. That was kind of a bonus.

I soon found my teammates. They reminded me of another bonus: this rainy weather was a lot better than the humid crap we had last year. And we had a van to store our stuff while we ran. I made it to the start line still warm. What a relief. I didn’t get many photos, but you’re glad about that because it means this will be a fairly short report.


A lot of fast runners show up for Brian Kraft, but under 500 runners total. What seems like a low-key spin around a lake turns out to be an impressively fast race. Prepare to be blown away by This year’s results: 421 runners with an average finishing time of 22:25. A median time of 19:10 for men, 23:27 for women.

Most of these fast runners are humble, gentle souls, but at the start line, you gotta watch out. I’ve been good lately at lining up carefully. My stats show that I passed 35 runners and was passed by 32, so I started in the right spot. It did make for a slow start, but soon I settled into a 6:50 pace, give or take a few seconds. Based on how my training had gone, I wasn’t sure how long I’d hang onto it. I passed some teammates I’d been unable to catch at last year’s City of Lakes, but still felt good. Before I knew it, I was over halfway done and still holding on strong.

The whole race went like that. Solid, steady, in control. I never felt really crappy at any point, and had a tiny bit of extra speed in the final kilometer. This makes me think I could have run the whole thing faster and possibly beaten last year’s time. Maybe I could have and maybe I couldn’t have. I did stay true to Goal #1; I hung in there and finished feeling good.

I had a lovely cool-down with my lovely teammates and then we went to Nokomis Coffee and I finally got the lovely nordic waffle breakfast sandwich I’ve been wanting to try.

While at breakfast, I got some texts from other runners who had gotten in and dry at other places. I got in touch with Dash, knowing he was trying for a PR in this race. He hadn’t been sure he’d go sub-20, but I was sure. A few speed workouts, some focus and fairly decent conditions were all he needed. Our running club, Twin Cities Running Experiment, is now 4000+ strong according to Dash once said “We push and pull each other.” I think that’s still true.

A bit of analysis on my own race: My age-graded performance from the MTEC results shows I’m at 75%, about the same as last year. My gun time of 21:24 puts me 6th among women in their 40’s, which gives me hope for what I can do when I’m in the 50’s age group in a couple years.

Looking back at previous results, my best performance was at age 45, when I ran a 20:08 gun time, just a second faster than the previous year’s time. And looking back, I wasn’t even happy with that. These days, I try to be happy with what comes. I still get the blues sometimes. Especially if I’m cold and wet after a race, I’m prone to the post-race crash. Trying to describe this to a teammate, I said it’s like being a toddler – I’m cranky and weepy and I don’t know how to express it, I know I need a nap but I can’t calm down for it. These days I know when it’s coming, so I made it home before I got to the breaking point. I recommend an epsom soak after a cold rainy race. I’ll be okay.

Another bonus: My feet were wet for so long I was finally able to get rid of some calluses.

I hope I’ve made some happy memories. Running with a team helps a lot. Just look at these beauties.


Next up will be the USATF Minnesota Association Open & Masters Outdoor Track & Field Championship on Sunday, June 9.  I’ve never run a track 800 meter race, so maybe something new will cheer me up.

I have some thoughts brewing for more blog posts, too. I’ve talked to so many athletes and we all have some struggles, though we all smile big for these photos. Running becomes a coping mechanism, and sometimes it mirrors the ups and downs of whatever you’re coping with. For now, I just want to say thanks to everyone who was willing to get wet and messy to be a part of this great day.

Of course, now it stops raining.


The Mighty Mile: Twin Cities One Mile 2019

This is a long post, but includes explanations of age-graded performance and USATF team scoring. And it is an epic tale of wonder.

The hardest part about the Twin Cities One Mile is sitting at work all day thinking about it, or trying not to think about it, trying to build up some excitement about it without letting the jitters take over. Having no definite goal time this year, I wasn’t worried about it until the afternoon slump hit and a nap sounded a lot better than a race.

A message alert pulled me out of my reverie. My teammate Willow was offering me a ride. Also, our team leader Sonya was reaching out for last-minute pinch-hitters; we didn’t have a complete team on the roster. Why hadn’t I thought of that? I’d registered the day before. Now, knowing I was needed, the old fire in the belly started to stir again.


Me and my team at last year’s Twin Cities One Mile

On my way out, another message from Willow: She didn’t think she could make it; family emergency. Now things were getting interesting.

For those who aren’t familiar with USA Track and Field Minnesota, this is an annual competition where eight races are scored for each team. Team scores are based on the number of complete teams competing at each race (usually about 8-10), and determined by adding the fastest runners’ times. To have a complete team, there must be at least five runners in the open category for men and women, and there must be three runners to form a master’s team. Masters divisions include runners in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s; runners in the older divisions can score in the younger divisions. On my team, we had two young runners, two in the 50’s division, and me. With Willow out, and only Sonya and our open runners definitely faster than me, the pressure was on. Kim would likely run about my speed, so I could pace off her.

I went into the Mill City Museum to change into my uniform and found Cheryl Paxton and her husband Bobby, who a couple years ago had the goal of breaking the single-age records for his races that year.  This year, he’s working with a PT to build strength and correct imbalances, something we all have to do as we get older. I’ve often turned to Bobby for advice, so we compared notes about that. 

We also talked some about the new wave starts. Last year’s TC1 put all the team circuit racers in the same wave, which made for some congestion and jostling at the start. Bobby told me he had almost gotten knocked down. I had too. Dash had lined up with me in support and caught me when I stumbled, but it cost us both precious time, and he’d just barely missed breaking six minutes. No one was really to blame; the start of a race that fast is always insane, but those of us who’ve been through it get pretty wary. Bobby said he’d start in an earlier, less competitive wave away from any potential bulldozers, and I felt glad to be in a women’s wave where I’d know exactly where to line up.

In the one mile, it’s better to not think about it and just unleash all your crazy inner-child energy at the start. Back at a Meet of the Miles when I was in my early 40’s, when I was always fretting about whether I’d go over or under six minutes, I asked one of the fastest women in my age group whether there was a race strategy that would help. She said there really wasn’t. “Just run stupid,” she said. It made me laugh, but I did run a good mile that day and I still think it’s a good strategy to just abandon all prudent thoughts and go as fast as you can. As another top contender put it, “It’ll be over in less than 10 minutes.” You can do anything for under 10 minutes, right? Not really, but you can make yourself believe you can one the adrenaline kicks in. To me, this is the absolute best thing about racing the mile. For that time, all your mental energy is devoted to pushing your body, and all other thoughts will clear out. You become wonderfully, magically stupid.

I headed out to start my warmup and soon ran into Ken Rosen, out cheering near the first turn on the race course as the early waves went through. The wave starts, while they make for a long night, are an inspiring celebration of running, the simplicity and inclusiveness of the sport. A surprising number of social runners come out just to cheer this event. Ken is highly social and knows more runners than I have ever met through a decade of racing. He offered to do my warmup with me and he introduced me around, always adding “she’s really fast.” I do miss the days when I was truly really fast, but the reputation sticks, which I guess is something. One day they’ll say I was fast and then I’ll know I’m over the hill. This hopefully won’t be until I’m so old people are also saying stuff like “Wow, I hope I’m still running at all when I’m that old.”

The Friends and Family wave: People of all ages running together.

Back at the USATF tent, some of the usual racers were gathering. Laurie, coach extraordinaire for MDRA track Thursdays, was out talking to Steve S., who was back again for another victorious sub-5 mile after having accidentally run 10 miles the day before. I can’t be a spoiler for Steve’s race report, nor can I in any way approach the amazing detail he puts into these, but I will say I did tell him I was sure he’d go sub-5 again.

Me, Laurie, Steve:  So happy to be here

I also ran into Dash. He had also registered last-minute. Immediately I forgot everything but this one thrilling thought: “You’ll finally get to break six minutes!” He said I shouldn’t say that before it happened. So okay, I didn’t say it, but I did.

I went inside to stretch a bit. Time had slowed to a crawl. A random kindly stranger wished me luck and asked if I had a goal. “Six and a half would be great,” I said, trying to convince myself it was. “Well, I’m thinking seven and a half would be great for me,” she said.

“It is great,” I heard myself saying, and let that sink in. “It’s all great. We’re going to be great today.” Great great great great, I kept saying to myself on my final warmup.

At the start line, all the great ladies were doing accelerations, light and quick as the wind. There were only 78 of us in the Women’s Championship wave. Even in my prime, I sometimes felt like a duckling among swans in this milieu. Now, I know so many of them that I lose that feeling in their friendly recognition. Even the very fastest master’s ladies, who would soon leave me in the dust, gave me a nod and a smile. They’re a remarkably humble bunch. It’s a humbling sport.

The announcer did his best to re-inflate our humble egos. “Some of these ladies have run twice as far for a warm-up than they’re going to race today!” That was cute. But then he made a bolder point. “These are the fastest women in the state of Minnesota! They’re going to run the fastest mile of any women in the state!” That made me feel a little like I did when Ken had introduced me as really fast, but there was some truth in it; there really aren’t a lot of women in our age groups who could do what this wave of 78 swans were about to do on this night.

I didn’t have time to worry about how fast my heart was already beating before the clock started. When we took off, it felt more like unleashing my energy than pushing it. In the first minute I was so full of adrenaline that I couldn’t gauge my actual physical effort, I knew my eyes wouldn’t focus well enough for me to check my watch, and only seeing faster teammates ahead of me reassured me that I hadn’t gone out too fast. Soon, the first quarter marker showed that I was only a bit faster than my goal 6:30 pace, and still feeling good. After we turned the first corner, Dash cheered for me, giving me a much-needed boost.  After a quick downhill and another turn, it would be PUSH PUSH PUSH until the end. I was starting to gain on Kim. At the start of the last quarter she was just a couple seconds ahead.

I know this course pretty well and I know not to try to put on a sprint until you start to see the crowd lining up at the finish – and not to wait too long after that either. The amazing Kim stayed a second or two ahead, but I passed another competitor and came within a split second of another.

And that was it! About as fast as I’d hoped – well, almost 6:35 by clock time, but close enough to last year’s time for me to maintain the same age-graded performance.

After a drink of water and a cough drop I was ready to watch the final wave, the men’s championship.  Previous years have had us hoping to see someone break the 4-minute barrier. This would not be a year for that, but it was still breathtaking to watch them. I set my watch to line up with the clock time, and went out to look for the men I knew. They were all looking good to make their goal times. Most notably, Dash – I screamed when I saw him, which didn’t do wonders for the track-hack I’d already developed from racing in low humidity, but he was going to beat it with time to spare. His new PR is about 5:50 with many more PRs to come. I jogged up to the finish and found him exchanging congrats with teammates.

The MDRA men’s racing team! Super fine

And now, the best part: Debriefing with teammates. Highlight of the day: The Amazing Amy came out in the last-minute call for a complete team, so we ended up having a complete team for the 50’s category as well. This is the best last-minute pinch-hitting stunt that my superheroic team has pulled off since last year’s Fitger’s 5K, when Amy, Willow and I made it to Duluth just in time to register. Showing up is big in the team circuit. This keeps us in the running to win again, despite fierce competition. Some of the fiercest is, of course, Run ‘n’ Fun, who gathered for their team photo also:

Run N Fun

And, the Twin Cities Running Company angels, below:

Me in the middle, living the dream

At this point, I was too excited to notice how cold I was getting, and didn’t quite get into my sweats before I started to shiver. Dash offered me a ride home, which I gratefully accepted, and I checked in with Willow on the way. Things were okay on her end, and she was relieved we’d stayed in the running as a team. Ever supportive, she even took the time to lift my spirits about the dreaded age-related decline. “What counts is you went! You’re strong! And you place!” I didn’t place in this race, but I do feel strong, and the Brian Kraft 5K is still ahead, so Willow will get her chance to kick my butt again.

I keep mentioning age-graded performance, which I discussed with Bobby and Willow today. The AGP is shown as a percentage in MTEC results and on some online calculators. The score is a percentage of the best time on record for the distance for a given age and gender.  Some calculators offer a rough interpretation, such as that over 90-93% makes an athlete “world class,” over 80% “national class” and over 70% “regional class.” When Bobby was breaking regional records, he was well over 85%, easily keeping up with many men half his age. Willow described herself as “average,” but being average is pretty honorable in either of the TC1 Championship waves (I was 48th out of 78). Her time in last year’s mile gave her an AGP of 71. Mine is holding steady at 74. Kim, just a couple seconds ahead of me but six years older, gets an impressive 80. I’ve never had an AGP over 80, so that’s as high as I’ll set my sights for now. We’ll see what the future brings.

For now, here’s to honoring the gift of fitness and celebrating the results. Hold that thought.  See you soon.

The Fairest of them All at the Mudball

On wobbly legs I got ready for this morning’s Mudball. Yesterday’s Get in Gear 10k had taken a lot out of my legs, but I still had 4.5 miles in there, I could feel it. Plus, trail running is different than road running. Plus, I need a shakeout, Plus, bragging rights. If not bragging rights, losing the run for once would keep me humble.

The Mudball trail race goes back to 1964, when a dozen or so strong young men lined up to see who was fastest under Quaking Bog’s challenging springtime conditions. A tradition was born that grew to include more runners, who rightly decided that mud must always be part of the tradition.
The run eventually expanded to about 80-100 runners, including 40 or so women.  It is perhaps not very ladylike. I care nothing for ladylikeness and have run it six or seven times, and was the women’s winner three times. I dubbed myself Queen of the Mudball, and the Minnesota Distance Runners Association got a couple good photos of me in 2017  and ran with it, so to speak.
One of the 2017 MDRA photos. I was a little bit fast not long ago.

And so, on shaky legs, I headed to the bog. There, the usual gang of suspects had gathered. The first thing I discovered was that I wasn’t the only one who had run Get in Gear; a few others had the same swagger. At least two of the women were sure to beat me soundly, I knew, plus at least one of the girls. Keeping humble seemed to be the theme of the day. Until, to my surprise, John asked me to lead the kids’ race. I’d win something after all, even if it was with a head start in front of the biggest mud puddle.

John and Lee Welcome the 2015-2017 Queen to do the Kids’ race honors

This was possibly the most fun thing I have ever done in my entire running career. It consists of following a set of markers over a quarter-mile course, looking back to encourage the followers, then stepping out before the finish line. I gave the loop a test run to make sure I could spot all the markers because I get lost easily, but John had assured me it was an easy job, and it was. I’d watched Kirt do it in other years, and he made a good Pied Piper, but he couldn’t possibly have enjoyed it as much as I did.

After this great warmup, it was time to begin the Mudball, which would follow a 0.9 loop five times, almost exactly as the original Mudball did. John and Lee called out the start and we were off. Within a few minutes I remembered that this is a HARD course. It’s a fun race with a fun theme, but hard. One year when it was warm, it was the hardest race of the entire year for me if heart rate means anything. I don’t wear a heart rate monitor anymore because I trust my effort level now, but on tired legs, with a tired mind and on a hard course, yes, hard.

Yet, somehow I always forget the difficulty in the joy of tackling this crazy thing. The mud puddles add a small thrill. You have to slow down to pull your feet through them. Two runners lost a shoe in the mud this year. Legend has it that on other years, some shoes have never been found – lost sacrifices to the phantoms of the bog. You pull out of the mud eager to fly again.

At a recent trail running seminar at Mill City Running, it was noted that short trail races may be the wave of the future. I support this and it makes perfect sense. Runners may grow tired of the hassle and expense of road races, and turn to the trails. And why should trial running be all about ultras? A short, fast trail race is more than a trial run, and more than a road race. It’s an adventure! A battle! A celebration of freedom, nature and the human spirit!

Or so I told myself as I skidded through the course’s second mud puddle for the fourth time, and gradually lost track of the runners ahead who were also on lap four. Tired, giddy, dizzy, depleted and perhaps dehydrated, I faltered on a downhill and my head swam. Not knowing where to turn, I went straight, then realized it was the wrong uphill. Did I mention I get lost easy? So there I was, punishing myself with extra credit on an already hard run, then laughing to myself as I tried to catch back up. By the time I got back to the start/finish, I wasn’t even sure if I really had only one lap to go, but I did, so I found my second wind.

Near the start/finish area at Quaking Bog

I finished on two feet, and my sore toe felt better than it had at the start. I credited the mud soak for that. Not that I recommend soaking your bruised toenails in mud, but it won’t hurt.

It’s a little bit interesting to note that except for a couple years when I flew solo, every time I’ve run the Mudball I’ve had a different companion to cheer me, though only one of actually ran it himself. Legend may say that in the end, one by one I outran them all. The Queen of the Mudball has no king! She rules alone, she does not “clean up nice,” she does not suffer these muddy-shoed ruffians, even though she is one of them. This is not an accurate theme, but legends are rarely based on unembellished truth.

Local legend Julie V. looks to be in full form based on today, and may soon be once more turning in age-graded performances of over 90%. I got another photo with her. At this point she’s asking why I want all these photos with her. I’m getting to be too much of an age-grouper groupie, and need to tone it down a bit. But here’s my one-more photo:


Local legend Steve Q. is also back in it, after battling illness for most of the winter. It feels like true springtime to see friends starting to get their strength back.

The organizers assure me that, though I’m no longer reigning Queen, the honor of Mudball royalty extends as long as a history of this run is kept. Thank you, MDRA!

And they lived happily ever after.
So ends a great weekend. More photos and details to follow, once they are posted.

MDRA 7 Mile 2019

It’s been a few years since I ran this fun hilly 7-mile race in Hopkins, MN. I’m glad I did. Conditions weren’t perfect – a bit cold and blustery – but sunny and relatively free of snow and ice.

The second of the three spring races free to members of the Minnesota Distance Running Association, this race is often used by veteran runners as a training run to get ready for a goal race later in the spring. I guess I’m a veteran now.

I wouldn’t have had the energy this morning for the usual hassles of a full-frills race, but that’s not what this is. Registration and bib pickup is in the Hopkins Pavilion, which has ample parking for the ~200 runners. Because the start is still near the Baptist Church where pickup used to be, we had a 1/4 mile jog to the start line, but I saw this as a bonus. A good warmup is important on a cold day.

The beautiful Hopkins Pavilion

Inside the pavilion, I quickly got a recycled bib with a chip-timer, did some stretches and got some water. Nice indoor bathrooms. Plenty of space. Did I mention this is a free race? You don’t get treatment like this at the Frufru Chocolate Martini Disco Run or whatever the kids are doing these days. Just saying.

Inside the Pavilion

Again, there’s no sound system. The only announcements were brief instructions provided by Heidi as she stood on a chair and called out the usual warnings about the open-road course, and a much-appreciated warning that the wind would be in our faces in the last two miles.

The lack of loudspeakers or music makes it easier for the runners to talk. I looked around and found George, a speedster who starts training in the spring at a pace most people would love to ever reach. Later, I’d have the pleasure of running near him for about 2-1/2 miles, while course marshals called out “Go George!” Soon, his run progressed to a pace that would have been a strain for me. “Train, don’t strain,” I reminded myself, and let him go. Sigh.

George will probably run the 25k next week. I’ll see him next in two weeks, at the Fred Kurz 10 Mile.

The 7-mile course is the same course that’s used for the MDRA Ron Daws 25K, held the following weekend. Two years ago I ran the 25K at an overall 7:45 pace, painfully, because I’d set a goal of running it in two hours. I felt like hell after 12 miles and by 13 wanted badly to give up, but I was on pace for two hours and extremely stubborn. This year I felt a 7:45 pace would be good for the 7-mile, as long as I didn’t feel any pain in my tricky left heel or slightly damaged right hip.

On the way to the start, I chatted with some of my track buddies from the MDRA summer track workouts (which are also free). Tom just wanted to run at a pace within a minute-per-mile of his best pace at this race (6:38, just a couple years ago). He succeeded mightily with a 7:15 pace. Bill just wanted to beat Kirt. I told him he should aim higher than that – we both know Kirt has had limited time and is not in top form. Bill managed a 7:19 pace, finishing about 4-1/2 minutes ahead of Kirt. Michael started out faster than me, held steady, almost let me catch him, then outsprinted me at the finish. None of this surprises me. When you run track with people for a few seasons, you know what it means when they say what they say.

Armed with this knowledge, I lined up appropriately, took deep breaths, and started cautiously. I soon found myself keeping up with George, and other runners who are normally faster than me, and asked them too about their goals. So now I know that when a real speedster says he’s going to run a race at his easy pace (8-minute miles) and then run strides in the last couple miles, it could mean his overall pace is going to go all the way down to 7:09. There’s everyday easy, and then there’s race-day easy.

The same was true for me. A 7:45 pace feels fairly hard for me when I’m out on my own, but racing on this beautiful day, I shook off all the fatigue that had built up over the week and opened my heart to the pure joy of it. I was mindful of the hills, taking short quick steps and being careful not to over-stride, but every time I reached the top of a hill, I opened up and picked up the pace.

About halfway through, there’s a water stop, and the great Randy Fulton gave me an energy boost. I noticed the hill after that wasn’t a strain at all. A young man had to pass me, but as we exchanged words of encouragement, I found myself laughing. Laughing! On a hill! I don’t recognize myself.

The last two miles featured the ice-cold headwind Heidi had warned us about. It reminded me of the finish at the Securian half-marathon – a wind tunnel that takes your breath away. Still, we were done with most of the hills by that point, and I didn’t lose much speed. With 4-5 minutes to go, I started pushing hard. Just before we turned the last corner, I pushed past Michael, shouting “last quarter mile!” He knew I was wrong, saved his energy, and passed me 20 seconds later. A couple young women passed me too, but I still felt my finish was strong for where I’m at right now.

It was great to be done, get a cup of water, congratulate everyone, and hobble back to the pavilion, where more water, bananas, bread and cookies awaited us.

Back at the pavilion

The cookies and bread are donated by Great Harvest, my favorite bakery. The bread is made with freshly milled whole wheat. A typical bagel would have upset my stomach, but Great Harvest bread never does.

I got my results just a few hours later: 7:48 overall pace, 7th woman and first in my age group. The winner, 35-year-old Dan LaPlante, finished in 40:42, followed by Brandon Kotek in 41 minutes. F1 Sara Conrad finished in 50:27. This may be a small race, but again, there’s plenty of competition if that’s what you need.

A few of us decided to head over to the nearby Yum restaurant for more breakfast. This is what it’s really all about! Fun and camaraderie. Thanks to this great running community.

Gloria, Amy and Chris are more friends from MDRA training opportunities. More info at

Remember, if you missed the fun today, you still have the chance to run it TWICE in the Ron Daws 25K, another bargain race, which follows the same hilly course and will feature the same great organizers and amenities.

Race Report: Lake Johanna 4 Mile

Springtime in the Twin Cities is a dicey time to run outside, but it was a beautiful day, there was a good cheap race, and I was in.

This race gets an A+ here on GoodFastCheap because it’s free with an MDRA membership, which is in itself a bargain. For $25, the membership also includes a race calendar/training log, an informative magazine, and discounts at local running stores, and two other free MDRA races: the Hopkins 7 mile (March 31), and the glorious Mudball trail race (April 28).

I am Queen of the Mudball! (F1 in 2016)

And the Lake Johanna 4 mile is darn good. With a tradition going all the way back to 1961, the organizers of this race do a brilliant job every time. Registration is a breeze; you can now sign up online, but same-day registration is also hassle-free. The results are promptly posted and reliably accurate. There’s bread and cookies from Great Harvest at the finish, and a lot of door prizes.

How is this all done on such a small budget? Well, as you can see, it’s not fancy. First off, the roads aren’t closed, sparing the usual top expense. The sleepy suburban roads surrounding Lake Johanna in Arden Hills don’t get a lot of traffic. I felt safe during this race (though I don’t think it would have been safe with headphones – MDRA didn’t ban them, but said wear them at your own risk, and I saw no one who took that risk). There is some slush on parts of the roadside this time of year, and I was worried about ice, but our diligent Steve had driven the course and taken photos of the few possible caution spots.

This is it! Most of the rest of the road was drier than this spot.

Second, because of our awesome athletic community, this race is supported by an unbeatable team of volunteers. Many thanks to both MDRA and the Northstar Running club. Rob, Sarah, Jack and the others made it look easy, but as anyone who’s ever volunteered on a chilly race day knows, it’s not easy.  I appreciated this course being so well-marshalled, so I made sure to say thanks to the volunteers even while I was running. If I missed anyone, thank you!

Another key money-saver: The bibs are re-used. Therefore, these super-cheap races come with super-accurate chip-timing.

There’s no shirt, no expo, no medal, no prize for winning your age group, no beer, no music or announcing sound system, no warming tent, no massage tent, no VIP area, no fanfare. A lot of people must want these things if they’re willing to pay so much more for them, but I could do without them. I like these smallish races – not so small that I can’t see the runner ahead of me, but big enough I have plenty of good company.

And PLENTY of good competition! The front runner turned in an impossible 20:49 on this hilly course. The aforementioned Steve, who had driven the course to make sure it was okay to run with his kids in a double stroller, placed 8th with a ridiculous 23:59 – yes, pushing a double stroller. (I don’t know how. He writes about it in his own blog here.)

Here I am with legendary Bill, newcomer to the M60-69 age group, who ran an impressive 28:19. Think he must have won his AG? He was third. But we’re just getting started this year.

I stopped to talk to Bill, who has paced me well in many track workouts made possible through MDRA. (These workouts, held Thursdays in the summer, are also free. The coaches are great and the turnout has been wonderful – all ages and abilities.) Though he has been running many years and was much faster at his peak than I ever was, he also seems to be holding up a bit better; I’ve teased him a few times, “It’s like I’m getting older and you’re not!” Today I said to him with a shrug that I had accepted slowing down as long as it was at a normal rate. “Noooo!” he said. He gets it. When my performance first started declining, he and Bobby were the first people I turned to for advice – and I gathered advice from all the best of the veterans – but for now, I’m not applying all of it 100%. I will someday, at least when I hit a new age group in two years, but one bit of advice I hear a lot is that it’s good to take it easy for a season, even for a year if it’s a hard year. This feels right to me right now. We talked a bit about adjusting goals to align with Goal Number One: keep running for as many years as possible.

Just then, I saw one of my Goal Number One heroes: Now 66-year-old Julie, who I hadn’t seen since the City of Lakes Half-Marathon. On that day, I was weeping because I didn’t finish, and she was smiling because she was cheering on her friends. I was a little bit injured – just pain, nothing really to cry about – and she was too injured to run. I was humbled by her strong determination to remain positive, but saddened that this amazing athlete, who had beaten me a year previously at the Twin Cities 10 mile, with a 92% age-graded performance, was sidelined. But today…”Julie, are you going to run?” She was! “It’s the first race I’ve run in a year and a half,” she said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

So happy Julie’s back!

She ran a 33:14, tying with Sherry, who is 60.

So how did I do? I predicted I’d run at about the same pace as I did at last week’s flat 8K. I did, coming in at 29:27, good enough for first in my age group, surprisingly. Like last week, I started out at a cautious pace and progressed it. I had to pass the famous Kirt in the final mile, but Bill had informed me that he’s been working and hasn’t had time to train, so I wasn’t alarmed; I just said “Hang in there, Kirt” and kept pushing. I had some good push at the end, and almost caught Sue, who had won the women’s 50-59 category, but she beat me by a second.

This is a hilly, challenging course. I’m amazed by the stars who crushed this run, especially the ones who seem like they’ll keep crushing it their whole lives. I also said hi to Gloria, who won the women’s 70+ division with a 40:18. Like me, Gloria has sometimes experienced a weird twinge deep to the gluteus, maybe the piriformis; she termed it “Runner’s butt.”

I guess in total I ran a bit over 5 miles. I never get much of a warmup, because I’m too busy stargazing and gabbing, and I didn’t get much of a cool-down either. I ran a bit on a walking path and found the patches of ice got bigger and slicker, and finally found myself stepping over a sheet of ice that led to intersecting paths with a longer sheet of ice on one side and a long flooded stretch on the other.

Standing there looking stranded was Dash – yes-that’s-his-real-name Dash, please-don’t-ask-me Dash. We headed back together. I felt only what I always feel running with him – a little bit lighter, a little bit bewildered. He told me this was the second race he’d run today. Yes. He’d run a shortened 5K, picked up and figured he could make the 11:00 start. Of course! Why don’t more races have an 11:00 start? Then we could all be crazy and run two races in the same day. And yes, he beat me again – not by much, but this is going to be a good year for him, I hope. He didn’t stay for the prize drawing and I didn’t win any, and I bet neither of us realized until just now that he could have given me his ticket.

On a side note, someone asked about the ice-grippers I had on the shoes I was wearing for my warm-up. I found the old order on Amazon, and they are still available (for $14.99): Action Traction Ice Cleats for Shoes. They work pretty well on mixed terrain, and fit well over any of my size 8 women’s shoes.

On another side note, to help me recover, I went to the Tula yoga and wellness center, which was offering a free class sampler. I’ve always wanted to try aerial yoga.


It’s like getting an assisted stretch in a beautiful soft hammock. It felt wonderful. Stretch out all those tight spots, plus some tight spots you didn’t know you had. You can do inversions with ease, and your back is supported. I ended up staying for the boot camp sampler as well. I may have to go back to Tula. But that will be a separate topic.

Thanks to all who were a part of this lovely day!

Addendum side note: The next day at Sunday services at Groveland UU, a friend said she had seen me running on Snelling Avenue. I had to think a moment; then I remembered some cars honking and cheering in the slightly more trafficy section that was Snelling. I was a little bit zoned-out mentally at points during this race, but when I was tuned-in, I was feeling joy. My friend said I was smiling. Goal #2 is to keep it fun and feel the joy. I’m on my way.