Old Habits Die Hard – Salomon #CityTrail Minneapolis 10 Mile Race Report

I made an accidental entry back into racing this weekend up in Minnesota.  While it wasn’t an all-out effort that I ran at the Salomon CityTrail Minneapolis 10 Mile, it was certainly much harder than I planned to run.  Despite plans to run easy, once the gun went off and I was in an actual race, I found that my racing instincts and desire to compete came back strongly.

The Salomon crew imbibing post-race. Brent Knight on the left, Greg Hexum on the right.
The event is one of several CityTrail events that Salomon puts on.  This one is in conjunction with The Loppet Foundation, a cool organization that advocates for active lifestyles and outdoor fun, focused especially on youth and families.  I headed up to help work the event for Salomon, demoing shoes and the like, but figured I’d hop in the 10 Mile with my teammate Greg Hexum (a Duluth-ian) and Brent Knight, the Salomon tech rep in the area.  With less than three weeks of running under my belt coming off my tenosynovitis injury, I thought 10 miles on urban trails at even 6:30/mile would be a stretch.

Greg and I ran the day before at a 6:30 pace for ~10k, and I was feeling a little thrashed.  After 4 months of no running, my body is just sore and achy after every run right now, not used to the pounding at all.  Add in the pints of local Surly and Fulton beer the night before (hey, it was just a planned training run!) and I had very low expectations.

The course started in Robbinsdale, a bit north of Minneapolis and snaked its way along bike paths and urban greenways all the way down to the lovely Sculpture Garden in downtown.  It contained a surprising amount of windy, rooted singletrack.  But the first mile or so was mostly paved, so we rolled pretty quickly from the gun (horn, actually).  Hexum was planning to use the race as a tempo run, and he led the charge.  Brent and I were maybe 20 yards back and decided that if we were going to be in range, we might as well try to run with the lead group of guys.

A 5:35 opening mile felt surprisingly smooth.  It was like I was engaging in a weird experiment in muscle memory and residual fitness, trying to run that type of pace.  I lined up behind Hexum through some slower, singletrack trail miles before getting a bit antsy around mile 4 and pushing a bit.  I took the lead and started to extend it before I really realized I was doing so.  Not wanting to run by myself for the amount of miles that remained, I reigned it in and let Hexum take the lead again.

We kept the pace honest, but conversational through the next several miles.  I was tired and a bit achy, but relatively controlled and untaxed aerobically.  The Nordic skiers who were running with us seemed to be having a bit of a rougher go, but they were hanging well.  (The race, by virtue of its northern locale and partnership with the Loppet Foundation—which fosters a big Nordic community—attracts many locals who would consider Nordic skiing their primary sport.) 

Hexum announced to our pack of four around mile 7 that he and I were just out for a run—not racing—just in case anyone was itching to make a move.  I thought about it for a minute and said I would be down to race a bit if anyone wanted to run a hard last mile or two.  Eric Fagerstrom took the lead shortly thereafter.  I latched onto his shoulder, and he and I broke away a bit, pushing the pace on some more winding singletrack through the 8 mile mark. 

Shortly after, we hit a patch of flat bike path.  Knowing I’d have the advantage (the Nordic crowd tends to excel at steep/techy stuff, but less so on flat terrain), I pushed a little through here, running near 5:00 pace.  This was difficult, but not exceedingly so.  A few short pitches up some embankments, and down another bike path to the Sculpture Garden brought me to the finish.  The course was a touch short of 10 miles due to some late course changes, and I came in at 9.81 miles in 59:37 via my Suunto Ambit3.  Eric came in a minute later, followed by Matt Liebsch, the other skier from our pack.  Hexum finished his tempo in 4th place, while Brent finished 6th.

If this was an ultra race, we could call it UTGS (Ultra Trail du Giant Spoon), since the course circumnavigates said spoon at race's end.
Adding to the Sculpture Garden

Post-race festivities featured beer (complements of the stellar Surly Brewing Company), barbecue, and music.  What else would you expect at a trail race?  Even if it was CityTrails. ;)

Apart from the unexpected residual fitness, the other good news was that my toe isn't really bothering me.  I wrote in a post last week that it has yet to give me any pain, but that it gets a bit swollen and has a small amount of fluid in the tendon sheath, which is disconcerting.  However, even with the relative "abuse" of the weekend's higher intensity running and longer mileage (and an inability to ice post-run), my toe never hurt and honestly seemed to be irritated less that in previous weeks.  I will take that as an encouraging sign and continue to hope that this injury is behind me.  

I've run 31, 36, and 43 miles the last three weeks (chronologically), so I'll continue to cautiously build.  Next weekend, I'll be up in Chicago for the Soldier Field 10 Mile.  I had a free entry from last year's second place finish, and it's always good to see family and friends up there, so I figured I'd hop in.  I won't truly race, but might run it as a long tempo with an athlete I coach.

The local beer of choice both pre- and post-race. Quaff ON!