Mankato 10K (6.2 miles)
Average Pace 13:06/mile
For some reason, working up to this race, I thought this was going to be the 4th year that I'd participated in Mankato Marathon weekend. I don't know why, but I kept thinking I had run the half twice and the 10K once previous to this race. But, when I sat down to write this blog, I could only find records that I had ran the half in 2013 and the 10K in 2014.
After reconsidering, I realized that made sense, since I have only completed 5 half marathons in my career: Monster 2012 (which happened pre-blog, so I have no recap for it), Lake Minnetonka 2013, Chicago 2013, Mankato 2013 and Monster 2013. After those half races, in 2014 I upped the ante to the Little Rock Marathon, and then fell ill to the fate that was plantar's fasciitis.
*Sigh* Could it be true that I haven't run a real distance race since early 2014?! Ok, ok - technically I did the TC 10 mile at the beginning of the month, so I can't let that get me down too much.
Regardless of this being my 3rd or 4th year participating in Mankato, for 2015 I was back for a repeat. With this being such a well organized race, and my gym offering a shuttle bus on race day, how could I decline? (On a side note, our bus even made mention in the local paper - ha!)
So, at 5am on a cold Sunday morning, I found myself yet again in my gym's parking lot, contemplating why I was running ... again. This debate held even more weight now that I'm over 3 months pregnant. So I had a hard time answering myself when I asked ... why was I running this again?
Oh right, the medal.
By about 6:45, our bus had pulled into the pre-race staging area / race day parking lot. That gave me 45 minutes until the start for my race, the 10K, which was scheduled to start at 7:30. The half and full marathoners were to start just after us, at 8am.
With time to kill, and not needing to use the bathroom (thank goodness, since a cold and dark porta-potty is definitely NOT fun), a fellow bus rider and I walked over to the gear exchange tent. We had forgotten that the shirt sizing for this race was unisex, and had both registered for a shirt size too big.
Lucky for both of us, a size down was available for swapping. And even luckier for me, for the first time ever, I actually preferred the color of the shirt for the distance I was registered to run (in both previous races, I had pined for the opposite distance's color way).
See what I mean? Here's the 10K shirt - oooh, so pretty.
The half shirt this year, in comparison, was a neon green color. I definitely drew the long straw this time (finally).
Since shirt exchange was a quick and easy process, we headed back to the bus to warm up for a few minutes and debate wardrobe choices. For those running, it was fairly easy to justify ditching their warm up sweats once they hopped off the bus. But for me, knowing my run/walk strategy, I was having a hard time ditching my sweatshirt.
And no, the fact that it had a unicorn on it had NOTHING to do with my inner debate.
With about 15 minutes left until gun time, I made a game time decision to keep the sweatshirt. Worst case scenario, I could always tie it around my waist as I ran (my belly isn't THAT big yet). Plus, I remembered I was mighty grateful at TC to have had the extra warmth when I finally slowed down to walk, and that memory wasn't quick to be forgotten. Sweatshirt in tow, several of us started meandering over to the starting area.
Before lining up in the corral, a cluster of us from the bus teamed up for a group photo.
And then, it was time.
Unlike in years past, the corral system for the 10K this year was a little helter-skelter. Mostly, I think this was due to the fact that the Half and 10K start gates were right next to each other, and not well signed from a distance. With literally minutes before gun time, many people originally clustered near the half gate, only to find they were in the wrong place. Suddenly, just before the national anthem, mobs of people were desperately trying to shift over and line up in the right place.
This left me with some concerns as to how people were seeding for time (as I didn't want to be a slow poke holding back a speedster). But ... what could I do about it now?
Amid the push of people, the announcer made some very garbled statements, and then someone came on to sing the national anthem. I hate to say it, but the entire process was kind of a joke. The mike kept cutting out, so everything was like "ah ... crackle ... and ... crackle ... right turn ... crackle ... "
To make matters worse, in addition to the cutting out issue, when the singer came on for the anthem, there was some sort of musical feedback behind her voice. So not only was she cutting out left and right, but some weird pop song was playing in the background when her voice did come through.
It really was too bad. To have a live singer like that and not be able to appreciate it? Bummer.
But ... the race must go on. And it did.
Bang! Time to run.
Getting out of the starting gate was a bit of a chore. The entire mob was essentially walking to the start mat before heading out, and it felt like we were in a group of cattle. Thankfully, once we cleared the gate, the crowd shook loose a little and things started to move.
A great feature of this course, by the way, is the first portion of the race. Although you start in kind of a boring parking lot and have to make several right hand turns to get out and go around the block, the nice thing is - there is TONS of room. So despite the fact that the crowd choked up at the gate, and people may not have seeded the best pace wise, there was plenty of room in the first half mile plus to shake out and get around folks. Without any elbow throwing or curse words (yes, TC, I'm looking at you).
That being said - my original plan was to run/walk in quarter mile intervals, but since the race had a slower start, there was plenty of room to shake out pace wise, and it was nice and cool, I ended up running a fair portion of the first mile. Though, truthfully, part of my motivation to keep running may have been due to the fact that I knew those from my gym running the half race would be on the far side of the parking lot cheering and taking photos. And I didn't want to slow to walk just as I came up on the group.
Pointless pride. I haz it.
Sure enough, around the half mile mark or just over, I passed my friends. They all cheered, I waved, and then I carried on. From there, I made it a fair distance down the road until I finally decided to throw in the towel and take my first walk break. I think that was around 0.65-0.75 miles. Basically, I slowed to walk at just a bit before the course takes us off the main road and turns right into the local neighborhood development.
Which, by the way, was absolutely perfect for me to run through. Tons of young families were out in their front yards spectating. And every little girl under the age of 12 that saw me, once they realized my shirt had a unicorn on it, gave me a look that resembled something like this.
And yes, even a few boys, too. At least the ones who were young enough that their "manly" side (that isn't supposed to like girly crap like unicorns) hadn't kicked in yet. Heh.
After the turn into the neighborhood, on the even quarter mile, I decided I was going to hold myself accountable to run/walk intervals. So, starting again at 1 mile even, I ran 0.25 miles, walked 0.25 miles - alternating back and forth. Well ... at least as consistently as I was able to. There were a couple times where water stops or whatever weren't quite timed to that interval, so I did some minor tweaking here or there.
Don't get me wrong, holding myself back like this was not easy to do. Especially when the speed walking granny in front of me kept passing me as soon as I finished my run intervals. But, with baby on board, I had to hold myself more accountable to a maintainable pace. And I knew a metered interval was the only thing that would keep me honest. So quarter miles it was, speed walking Granny or not.
Lucky for me, it seemed every walk interval ended right at the base of a climb. Wahoo! (Can you see my eyes rolling?)
By about mile 3, I found myself surprised that we were still running through the residential neighborhood. What I remembered from the 10K course in 2014 was that around mile 3 or so, we cut out of the neighborhood and hung a right for a long downhill coast. And secretly, I was looking forward to that change in scenery. This year, that turn off didn't happen until well after mile 4. Apparently, this was due to a minor course change for finish location in 2015. Oh well, at the end of the day, it didn't bother me that much. I just had one more mile of running with my fan group - the girls aged 12 and under demographic. Hahaha.
Finally, though, we hit the downhill. And I was ready. Taking the stops off, I let my wheels spin all the way down.
With no resistance due to incline, the run felt great. I wasn't even breathing heavy!! Before I knew it, I had ticked off close to 3/4 of a mile at a healthy clip. And ... as an added bonus, I finally left that speed walking Granny in my dust. Heh.
You can tell I was having a good time, since mile 4 was my fastest split. And ... what?! Is this my first ever negative split race?! I think it is!! Wahoo!!
Keeping my momentum going, just at the bottom of the hill as I was getting ready to slow and walk, I heard a "Hey Natalie!!" Surprise! One of the folks from the gym was there to cheer us on ... and snap a few photos. Of course that meant I had to keep running.
Action shots. I love them. Especially when I look so bad ass in my InkNBurn pants.
Following an extended run interva1 down hill and past my friend, I started to realize I could kind of use a little more water. Thankfully, just a quarter mile down the road at the base of the hill, there was another water stop. There, I took my time walking and enjoying my water.
And then, with less than a mile left, I carried on. To be honest, from there on out, I don't recall much, since I was just focused on finishing. I wasn't particularly tired or anything. I just wanted to get to the finish line and be done. Oh ... and eat.
Yes, pregnant women are hungry. A lot.
In the last half mile, I do recall rounding a corner and thinking - "Good! I should see a finish line now, since we're in the final stretch." And then getting really angry because the route veered right and went up a pretty decent incline, which blocked my visual of the finish (since you couldn't see it from the bottom of the hill). That pissed me off - who wants to run a hill in the last half mile of a race?
Not wanting to use my last bit of run energy on the hill, I walked up the incline as quickly as I could. And when I had the finish line in view, I just picked it up and ran straight to the finish, passing the cheer section from my gym and collection a fist bump or two as I went.
Glancing at my watch, I knew my goal of a sub 1:20 was possible, but might be a stretch. Trying to keep a healthy pace (for me and baby), I hoped for the best and stomped on the mat.
Boom! Another race in the books.
Once I cleared through the finish line, I collected my medal and then lined up for food.
This is where my only negative beef about Mankato came rolling right back into front of mind from 2013 and 2014.
Despite being a well organized race, for some reason their process for distributing food is painfully slow. There were - at most - 15 people in front of me, and yet it took me over 10 minutes to get to the beginning of table that held the post race snacks. Being pregnant and wanting food N-O-W, it took every ounce of my self control not to yell out "JESUS CHRIST PEOPLE! It's chips in a bag, and bananas, and granola bars. THIS IS NOT A LIFE OR DEATH DECISION. Stop contemplating every damn option on the table, grab a few things, AND GET OUT OF THE WAY FOR THE REST OF US!!!"
Thankfully, they handed me a bottle of water right at the finish line, so every time I felt the urge to yell I would fill my mouth with a swig instead. That meant I finished my water in line, so after I got food, I walked over to the post race beverage station and grabbed another bottle of water and a chocolate milk. (For some reason, this section had no line and you could walk right up to the table, grabbing what you wished for. Why couldn't the food be the same way?!)
And lest you think pregnancy hormones made me all food crazy, several of my friends who came in after me and ran the half said that their wait was equally bad, if not longer. One person even told me she said f-it after waiting in line 10 minutes and getting nowhere, walking away with nothing to eat after a 2 hour run.
Thankfully for her, and the rest of us in our group, we had our own post-race buffet waiting for us just a few blocks away.
Once there, we all socialized and celebrated our finishes. And then, eventually, we loaded back onto the bus (not pictured) to ride back home.
So ... with Mankato on the books, where does this leave me? Three months pregnant and no more races scheduled for 2015 ... am I done running until after "the big day"?
Well, before I answer that question, I want to point out that I am extremely pleased with my performance at this race. If you look at my 10K performance at Mankato this year to last year, knowing that I'm currently 3 months pregnant and ran alone, I did pretty damn good:
Granted, I had plantars last year, so it's not exactly like I was in tip-top shape. But even if you put that fact aside, compare this race to how I did at Women Run the Cities just a few weeks prior:
Looking at these results, I have to say - I'm pretty happy with the level of fitness I'm able to keep up with right now, and I'm obviously mastering how to manage my reduced capacity without bottoming out as hard as I did at WRTC. This is encouraging to me as I continue to gain weight (and grow a tiny human inside of me).
That being said, I hope to be able to continue this level of activity for the next few months. BUT ... winter is coming, and in Minnesota, that means snow. And ice. And the idea of a pregnant woman running in those conditions doesn't seem so wise.
So honestly speaking, this may very well be my last race of 2015. And by the time 2016 races fire up, I might be large enough that I decline running them until after baby arrives. (This does not apply to indoor options ... ahem, Tri U Mah, ahem). Which means ... I just added bib #68 to my collection, and it may be awhile until we see another one join "the wall".
But don't worry, this blog will still be here. And some day, who knows ... maybe I'll be racing with a new partner in tow!