It started out a little rainy on the drive over to Stillwater, Minnesota but the weather turned out to be perfect for the Gopher to Badger 1/2 Marathon. Laura was kind enough to get up early with me to go to Stillwater for the start, take some pictures, and drive to the finish line in Hudson, Wisconsin. For those of you not familiar, the Gopher and the Badger are the respective mascots of the Universities of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Today, thankfully (though in animals terms highly improbably) the Gophers triumphed over the Badgers with Gerad Mead of Minnesota taking home the title.
Before the race I said "hi" to some of my pacing friends from the Minnesota Pacers. It was nice to actually be racing and not pacing after a pretty full pacing schedule this spring and summer. I was less nervous knowing that I didn't have to worry about 10-20 other runners counting on me to run an even pace. Here I am talking to the 1:35 pacer and Ragnar teammate Dan:
There were a good amount of runners, but fortunately the start wasn't congested at all. I told myself I was going to run by feel and though I was shooting for a 1:20-something, I didn't want to limit myself and go too slow if I was ready to run faster. I also didn't want go too fast if 1:20 wasn't possible.
So off I went, by feel, hanging with two guys for the first mile. I hit the lap button on my Garmin to check my split: 5:39. Whoops, I guess the adrenaline of the start made running by feel a little trickier than I was planning. I decided that I'd back it off a little bit because I knew no matter how good I was feeling I wasn't ready to run that pace for a 1/2 marathon.
Around mile 2 I grabbed some water and Laura was there to offer some encouragement. I smiled and she snapped a picture of me--obviously she wanted to capture how handsome and athletic I was looking with an extreme close-up.
Miles two and three I was able to reign the pace in a little bit and hit 6:05 and 6:02. I was still feeling pretty good at this point and confident that I was at a good pace. I cruised through the next few miles at a similar pace, though it was difficult to know quite how I was doing as my Garmin and the mile markers were not agreeing. I'm used to the mile being about .01 different due to GPS error. Every course is measures a little long, but these miles were going from 1.05 to .94. Oh well.
There were some hills between miles 5 and 7 and that slowed me down a little--one of the miles in there was 6:31, but fortunately that was pretty much it as far as any significant hills.
At some point I could see the next runner ahead of me, I think around mile 9. I checked to see how far behind him I was based on a tree he passed. Using my tree-based calculation he was about a minute and twenty seconds ahead, so I knew unless he fell apart I probably wasn't going to catch him.
We crossed the St. Croix River at mile 11--probably the nicest view of the race. The bridge was almost a mile long. At that point I snuck a peak behind me, and I couldn't see anyone. Although I knew I wasn't going to catch the runners ahead of me and it appeared that no one was going to catch me, I still wanted to pick it up for the last mile. From 12 to 13 I ran at 5:37 or 5:57 pace depending on whether you believe the Garmin or the mile markers. I came in right at my goal--unofficially a 1:20:10 chip time. Also I unofficially finished 9th out of 588 runners.
Laura was invited to come into the finishing shoot with the photographer to take a picture, so she got this nice shot of me finishing. It was great having her there--I couldn't ask for a more supportive wife.
Here I am basking in some post-race glory before hitting up the food table. Next weekend it's the Ragnar Relay!