Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Campwannarun Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 16; 2nd Edition 
19.3 miles raced in 2022 races
Race: Campwannarun Half Marathon
Place: White Bear Lake, MN
Miles from home: 22
Weather: 62; Windy; somewhat rainy

When I ran the snowshoe race after being a Minneapolis resident for all of six days, I was invigorated to race again, after two years of lethargy, mostly brought on by the pandemic. Unfortunately, the damage I did to my ankle from both the frostbite and by repeatedly ramming it with a snowshoe set me back a more than a few days. A week later, just as I was feeling somewhat recovered, I partially tore my calf muscle on a run. Taking 12 days off (after 14 days off earlier this year following some dental surgery) left me extremely behind where I have been every other year for the past decade when April came around. With a potentially difficult challenge coming up in May, I knew I needed to find out as best as I possibly could where I was fitness-wise. I knew it wasn't going to be where I wanted to be by a long shot, but where I happened to be was at least knowledge I needed. 

I remembered seeing there was a half marathon not too far away from me back when I was looking at nearby races for the upcoming year. A relatively low-key event, the Camp Wannarun Half, was exactly what I was looking for. It wasn't as flat as I would like for a race but the ease with regards to packet pickup and getting to it and parking and everything else seemed like it would be a breeze (It was.) So on Wednesday, I pulled the trigger and signed up. In spite of being quite nervous, especially since I haven’t raced in a calendar year, I was eager to take on the 107th half marathon of my life. 

Morning of Race:

Sleeping in my own bed the night before race is a luxury that I have rarely been able to take advantage of in my 20-plus years of racing. I am often racing across the world, and as comfortable as any hotel could possibly be nothing, is as nice as sleeping in your own bed, using your own towels and eating your own food. This ease of planning is the only reason why I can see why some people enjoy running the same local races year after year.

I got up the morning of the race and the forecast which had called for mid 60s at race time as well as some potential thunderstorms and wind looked like it was correct .The temperature doesn’t seem that high but it was the warmest day of the year so far here in the Twin Cities. As it has already topped the high 90s in the last city I lived in (Austin), I wasn't exactly complaining. But, of course for the guy who hates heat, it was the hottest of the year.

Check in for the race was fairly simple and I found myself back to my car with about a half an hour to spare. I took a quick little nap, ran to the port-a-potty right before the race began and with three minutes to spare I was heading to the starting area. This might be close to the 500th race of my life but I still get butterflies when I toe the line. I caught the last 30 seconds of the race director's instructions, walked to the pavement, gave a quick look at the competition, and away we went!

First 5K:

I had seen from the previous results that if I have run something that I was capable of it would’ve been relatively easy for me to win. But I knew I wasn’t there right now and was hoping that there would be one fast guy or a girl who would take off at the start and relieve me of any sort of thinking along the lines of "Crap. Now the three of us are gonna be racing all day long for the win, aren’t we?" 

Luckily for me, not only did a guy shoot out of the block but so did a young lady right behind him. With another gentleman between us I found myself in fourth place with two other guys jockeying for the same position before even half of a mile had gone by. We would stay in these same places for the first two miles until another young lady passed all three of us and pulled a little bit ahead. Over the next mile or so, as we left Bald Eagle Lake and the lovely lake homes behind us, it became the four of us jockeying for position with no one seemingly giving much of an inch.

To Mile Six:

As the miles ticked by I was quite surprised to see that I was running right around a seven minute pace. My goal for this race was to run around 1:33 which was ten seconds slower than I was presently doing. We left the homes of the lake and began running along a frontage road with no much of a shoulder.  It definitely could use a repaving as well.

I put one of the male competitors behind me and was watching another battle with the woman in front of me. At this point, as I had passed and then passed by the guy ahead of me, I had no idea where were would all end up. A little further up the road, the third place guy was closing the gap on the second place woman, who had once held a sizable lead. First place was out of sight. Go on with your bad self.

We were now running next to another lake (Otter Lake) for about half of a mile until we steered closer to the highway and more or less lost sight of the lake.  Or more accurately, with faster cars approaching, there was less enjoying of the scenery and more watching grills of trucks.

Suddenly, right before the fifth mile, I found myself on the heels of the woman in front of me. I knew I shouldn't stop the surge I was having just because I wasn't exactly ready to pass her so I went by with gusto. As we continued down this long straightaway, I was trying to reel in the guy in front of me as well. With flecks of gray in his hair I assumed he might be in my age group and I didn’t want him to win the age group without a fight. (Ends up he was 38, so just a youngster.)

On to Mile 10:

Turning off the shabbily paved road we were on was a joy because not only were we treated to fresh pavement, but we no longer had to deal with the traffic on the frontage road. Most drivers were courteous and gave us a wide berth. Some did not. It is a bit unnerving when you are paying attention but only half-so because you are wondering if your body parts are going to keep working and how in shape you are.
Unfortunately, around the 8th mile we really began to experience hills I wasn't expecting. Meanwhile another runner had passed me and I was quite surprised giving how large he was. And by large I do not mean in any way demeaning rather he just was a muscular fella who seem to be moving at a great clip.
I more or less felt I was going to be in this position with regards to the other runners for probably the rest of the race. I wasn’t gaining on anyone and no one seem to be gaining on me from behind. Six place isn't too bad, I guess.

Fortunately, these back country roads we were on were far less busy than the frontage road. But with all the twists and turns, and I soon learned a lot more hills, it was getting harder to keep track of the runners in front of me. For the most part, I could only see Grey Flecks and Bigger Guy and as the hills began to take their toll, they got further in the distance.
So here I sat in sixth place with each sequential place in front of me being almost the exact same
distance between the runner in front of them. Ever once in a while the course would curve around the beautiful lake we were running next to (we had rejoined Bald Eagle Lake from the North) and I could see what was happening far ahead of me. It appeared that the young lady running second was beginning to falter somewhat. I wondered if third place guy would eventually over take her.  (He did, but the young lass of 18 had a stellar showing of 1:32:05). I love racing like this where even while I am a competitor, I am still watching what is going on around me like I am a spectator. 
There was maybe a baker's dozen of spectators and a few volunteers braving the elements (heavy wind all day and some downpours later) to hand out little bottles of water. I tried to thank them all for taking time out of their day to make my day fun. As usual, my sputtering along, combined with the Doppler effect, probably had my complimentary words sounding like "thxfORBEINOuthere".

At the 9th mile I grabbed what was my only drink of the day. While the weather was a little bit warmer than I would ideally want, the cloud cover kept things relatively cool. The bottle of water was surprisingly cold as well.  Man, there is nothing better than a cold drink when you are racing and not much worse than a warm one. Also, here is where the rain that had been smattering sporadically really began to pick up and in the distance they were more than a few thunderclaps.  That will help you pick up the pace!
As I finished the small bottle of water and turned my head to throw it into the trash, the guy in front of me , who I had begun to pick up some ground on, apparently turned on the throttle. He was now out of my sight.
To the Finish:

I simply wanted to get to mile 11 because we would be repeating the first two miles of the race and therefore there would be no more unknown. Unfortunately part of the "known" was that we had more than a few rolling hills left to conquer. Here and there I would see Grey Flecks was gaining on Big Guy.  Looked like he would probably beat him in the end.  I, on the other hand, was just falling further behind. (Grey Flecks DID eke out a four second victory over Big Guy.  Would have loved to witness that finish!)

As I pushed forward feeling pretty good about myself I suddenly heard footsteps behind. I was shocked to see someone I hadn’t seen all day coming up to pass me. As there were a multitude of races going on at the same time, al lending in the same place and starting later than us, I thought perhaps he was in one of the shorter distances. As he moved by with ease I didn’t feel like I had much of an answer for him either way. But soon after passing me, he sat down about 20 yards in front of me and went no further. With about a mile left, I suddenly had a feeling that maybe he WAS in my race and perhaps I should attempt to pass him.

Unfortunately, I had too little real estate left when I decided to make that move. I closed the gap considerably but he ended up beating me by three seconds. I was pushing hard but not all out.  There was zero reason to hurt myself by doing some last second gasp to move up one place, if that was even the case. After finishing, I turned to him with a congratulatory fistbump and asked if he was in the half marathon.  He said yes and I said "Crap.". I almost never let someone past me in the latter stages of a race and here if I had simply known he actually racing me,I don’t think I would’ve let him either.  

All told, however, with the course conditions and me being the most unprepared I have been for virtually any race, I finished fairly decently. My time of 1:35:34 was not exactly what I was hoping for but was far better than it might’ve been for a variety of other reasons. I ended up seventh place overall and the only man or woman in the top 15 finishers who is over 40 years old. Not too bad for an out-of-shape old man who is just trying to get back to where he was racing a few years ago before the pandemic wrecked everyone's lives. 

This marks the first time I have ever run a half-marathon in Minnesota. In spite of the less-than-stellar time (only my 89th fastest out of 107) it will be memorable for me. It's my 30th state to knock out a half marathon in with a whole slew of them coming up soon. More importantly, this race helped shake off the rust and show me that while my training miles rarely impress, when it comes to race day, I almost always have more in the tank than I think.

While a bit tired the rest of the day and into the next, I was more than shocked to not be sore at all. Perhaps I have a few good races left in my after all!

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