May 23rd, 2015. Stillwater, Minnesota.
The forecast was in the 60s and moving into the 80s, chances of spotty rain showers, which means humidity and clouds. It was an 8 am start time, and I had to drive about 40 minutes to my friends house so her mom was able to drop us off at the start. The start line drop off was race-illegal, the start location was not ideal for on-site parking or drop off, but we made it work by walking a block from where we were dropped off. Definitely better than the 10 minute yellow bus ride most other runners had to take. We waited in the port-o-pottie line for about 15 minutes, because there were 8 of them for everyone. Eight. Craziness.
The start line was also not close at all to the finish line, which isn't uncommon, but the weird part was that we ran mostly on a bike/paved trail. The cheer zones were when the trail crossed the road, which is also where the fuel/water stops were. It was a bit amusing, I'm assuming, for our cheerleaders finding where they would be able to see us, getting there, avoiding the road closure/traffic stop. But they were at each possible cheer zone, and it was amazing!
The run itself wasn't the greatest, to be honest. I had prepared to the best that I could according to the elevation they had posted on the race website, but they changed the posted course on the website on race week. The original race started in a neighborhood and followed roads the entire way, which is easy to train for if you're able to replicate (or run the actual course). The actual race was on a bike trail, which isn't as easy to replicate DAYS before the race.
A downside to having a tree lined trail, is the lack of a breeze. Since this day was cloudy, it held the humidity in, and the trees kept the breeze from giving us any sort of break. My girlfriend started to overheat pretty quickly, so this was difficulty number 1. At about mile 3 I was at max for the heat so I ditched my shirt, thankfully friend's mom happened to be right there so I handed it off to her. Friend apologized profusely for slowing us down, and told me to keep running, but since I told her we would walk the entire thing if we had to because I didn't sign up to do the race alone and she had zero reason to be alone. It was a run for fun, not for time, and I was going to stick by her side unless she decided to leave the race early. She said she would have felt terribly for a long time if she quit, so we ran/walk for random periods of time when she felt up to it.
This trail is beautiful, well paved, tons of miles to take on, and there is an unpaved portion for horses which makes it even more majestic. The trail is also hilly, and not the every once in a while big hills, it was filled with the small frequent hills. There was a hill at least twice a mile. My girl friend had sciata issues going into the race (she never told me it was for at least a month before hand, probably knowing I would've told her to stop training), and those little hills put her in a lot of pain. I went into the race with tight shins, and those little hills flared my shin splints. Welcome difficulty number 2.
When we started the road portion of the race, there were a few big hills, which are expected in Stillwater (if you know the area, you know they're actually called bluffs), but after the first 8 or so miles having a lot of hills my shins were SHOT. Welcome the stupidity that I tell myself: ignore the pain and push on.
We slowly ran the last mile, most of it was down hill. I kept checking my Nike+ Running app, and told her the time we were coming up on. We finished the race at 3 hours, give or take a few seconds. When I told her at the 13 mile mark that if she walked the last few feet that she would surpass the 3 hour mark, she gave me the look of disgust and pushed through it.
While it wasn't the prettiest of runs, it was a beautiful scenery, and I'm so glad I stuck with my girlfriend to finish the race together, since we started this adventure together. She's taking the rest of the summer off, except a few fun 5ks, while I start marathon training officially on Monday.