Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Boundary Waters Bank Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 16; 10th Edition
127.6 miles raced in 2022 races
Race: Boundary Waters Bank Half Marathon
Place: Ely, MN
Miles from home: 246
Weather: 49 Degrees and 94% humidity

There’s so much about this race weekend to talk about that it’s going to be hard for me to limit myself to not bore the bejesus out of everybody, so bear with me. 

First and foremost the marathon weekend I attended in Ely, Minnesota was the first that my new company, Sherpa, would be sponsoring. That alone is a huge part of what’s going on in my life right now and without a doubt could be a long story. Suffice it to say that the entire marathon weekend went off amazingly and I couldn’t have been happy with how things turned out. I have been in touch with this race since its inception (running the marathon in 2018) and it just keeps getting better. to be a part with it moving forward is a huge honor and one full of excitement for me and all those involved

My app partner for Sherpa, Heather held down the fort on the day of the expo and by the time I got there in the late afternoon, it was like everyone already knew her name and everything about the company. Just a stellar job by her connecting with the community, runners and everyone else. I wasn’t even supposed to be here this weekend as I had a speaking engagement in California, but that was canceled. So last minute I decided to come up to Ely and assist even though I knew Heather would represent us well. A few days before the race I noticed how awesome the weather would be for me for racing and decided I might as well run the half-matathon! In hindsight, I can’t imagine having not been here for this weekend.


I decided that even though I wasn’t in the shape I wanted to be to race as well as I would like to represent us, I would give it all I had.While I have had a much better training year than the past few, I haven't had a lot of opportunities to race. Sure, I did six half marathons in six days in May, but that was more like a multi-day stage event than it was just one race. Last weekend I did a trail race here in Minnesota that was supposed to give me an idea of how my training had been going. Unfortunately it was 100% humidity and warm and left me quite deflated as an end result. It didn't leave me with much of an idea how I would run, on roads, in better weather. So, unsure how I was going to feel when I toed the line, I simply did just that.

First 5K 

The race started and immediately one of the runners took off to the front. Not long after that another runner followed him and it was clear that I was going to finish, at best, third today. As we climbed up the short hill at start, one other runner was in front of me and the first female runner was next to me. As we crested the hill and started going down I was able to open up my stride a little bit and put distance between me and the first female runner. Over the next mile and a half, while there some uphill to mention, these were nevertheless the best two downhill miles of the whole course.

I was surprised at one point to hear some footsteps closing in behind me. I thought that the female runner had caught up to me on the downhill. In fact, it another male runner who soon left both me and third place in his rearview mirror. I was now sitting solidly in fifth place and had a feeling this might be where I was for the rest of the day. I didn't know for a few more miles how close the lead female runner stuck to me for most of the race. Sneaky sneaky!

Nevertheless, two separate 6:30-ish minute miles to start the race me feel pretty darn good about what the rest of the day might hold. I hadn’t run that fast in a race in quite some time. Our third mile had some downhill but also a little bit of a rise to contend with. When it was still under seven minutes for me I was pretty happy. I thought I might be able to get a 1:27 today if things went really well but mostly I was hoping just to break 1:30. It had been six years since I had been under that barrier, something which used to be relatively routine for me.

Lollipop to Mile 7

My first big challenge of the day would come right before the 4th mile when a steep uphill would present me with an idea of exactly how the day was going to go. There were some crowds here and there are some people sat at the ends of their driveway even in little bit of drizzle.  As I churned along it was awesome to see the Sherpa name on so many signs out here.  All the hard which has gone into this was making me proud. The signs still surprised me.  I had moments of "Hey, that's MY company!" followed by realization that yeah, well, of course it is out here.

When I ran 6:58 for the hilly mile I can say that I almost jumped for joy. I felt certain it was going to be over seven minutes and to tackle it under that was a huge surprise. As we ran towards the very small town of Winton Minneapolis (population: 180) I knew there was a little loop of about .8 of a mile. At this juncture, where I was just about to head out on the loop, the first two runners were coming back at me and were in lockstep. I was taken aback to see the previous second-place runner so close to first place.  The last time I had seen them was before the fourth mile and there was probably 100 yards between them. It looked like it might be a fight to the finish. (It appears it was as only only 29 seconds separated the 42 year old David Hyopponen and the 32-year old Henri Carlson who took second.)

After I finished my loop, the next rolling hills segment is where I would see virtually every other runner in the half marathon. I spent as much energy as I could spare to say good job and wish them good luck on their race. They did the same to me and it was a wonderful exchange of camaraderie. I saw my app partner Heather, who is dealing with a foot issue recently, doing a solid job of running smart without hurting herself. We exchanged a high five and I got ready for a steep climb before a nice steep downhill to take me out of this loop. I felt for certain I would have another mile over seven minutes but keeping it in the sixes again, leaving me elated.

Onto Mile 10: 

With a long straightaway I could see fourth place up ahead of me but with about a minute and change of a lead I wasn’t certain I would be able to catch him. I simply wanted to get to the 10th mile and then attempt to turn on any jets that I had left. A small spritzing of rain was coming out of the sky right here as we traversed the hillier northern route along Miners Lake. We made a detour off of the road onto a bike path that had not been part of the course when I ran it for years ago and I can say I was happy to avoid a big uphill in front of the Grand Ely Lodge. 

I could tell by the cheers behind me that I had a runner not too far in the distance. I love using little tactics like that (crowd noise) to not look back and give the pursuer any sort of notice that I might know they are there or be concerned about them.  That’s racing, son! Turns out the lead female had been hanging around and might have been getting ready to strike for my place. Fortunately for me, I was still feeling good.

Even at this part in the race, where things were going well, I was still afraid the wheels would fall off.  In fact, it was right here in the 2018 marathon where I got passed like I was standing still by a marathoner to give up first place in the race. To this day I still don’t know how a seasoned older veteran set a huge PR on this tough course to beat me and I am still a little salty about it. I didn’t want to repeat letting anyone passing me here so as we shot through the wooded bike path, I picked it up the best I could.

To the finish:

Now on the southern part of Miners Lake we had one of the longest straight stretches of the race.  This was the type of running that I like best. When I can zero in on a target instead of having to run up and down little small risers and guess where my prey might be is where I can usually make a move and reel people in. A huge testament to the skill of the runner in front of me is how in spite of me picking up the pace he stayed the same distance in front of me,  In fact, he might have even increased his lead.  Jerk.

I knew the last two miles were a slow steady uphill with two big bumps to contend with as we ran to the finish through the streets of Ely. I began to nervously look at my watch and do the math. I was far less concerned about where I was placing even as I put more distance between me and my pursuers and more concerned about making sure I broke the time goal that I wanted. As we passed by the finish line in the park (we would have to cruelly leave it just to come back. Put on blinders!) I saw the awesome Race Director Wendy in virtually the exact same spot I had seen her four years ago. A wonderful smile and happy face from her definitely lifted my spirits and I bore down in spite of the hills. Turning around a few blocks later to head towards the finish I threw down my fastest mile since the second mile of the day. I could see the red of the unforgiving clock blinking away ahead. I knew 1:27 wasn’t going to happened but perhaps I could still sneak in 1:28. 

With a block to go I could see it was going to take a herculean effort and risking pulling something in my old legs for a few more seconds was not worth it here. Instead enjoyed the last 250 meters to take in all of the Ely residents cheering me on as they came out to support this wonderful race. (All except the one car which blew right through barriers about 100 feet in front of me and was promptly pulled over by some of Ely’s Finest. Good work, officer!)

I finished in 1:29:13 which was not only good enough for fifth overall
but gave me my fastest half-marathon in six years. It was still only my 41st fastest half-marathon ever (out of 114) but it is a step in the right direction after so many others in the wrong. It made me think I might still have one last PR attempt in me after all!  Not too bad for the oldest finisher in the top 10. (Sure didn't think that was going to be a thing I was saying about ten years ago!)

So many people had such great days. If you didn't click any of the links, know that the Ely Marathon is world-famous for allowing runners the option to run the race, CARRYING A CANOE! There were so many reasons we chose this race to be the one we sponsor for the next three years and this is undoubtedly one of them. 

A plethora of exciting things are going to be happening in the next months with myself and Sherpa and Ely and I cannot wait to bring them all to you. As for now I will be happy with my finish for a day or two and get ready to get back on the horse again on Saturday for another race and hopefully another leap forward in regaining what has been lost in the past few years!

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