Looked for a good last race of winter/first day of spring test race to run and like a good neighbor, the State Farm Run was there. Last Saturday, on day 852 of my runstreak, I ran the State Farm Run 10 mile race in Lincoln, Nebraska. I had not run this race in many years. The race begins and ends here at State Farm Insurance on 84th Street in east Lincoln.
This race is the first race of the Lincoln Track Club official race season. With it being primarily a trail race (8 miles of it is on the East MoPac trail), I aimed to break my 10-mile PR I set last year (1:15). At least I knew the surface would be favorable (softer surface than pavement from State Games of America course). The weather, however, was a different story.
As an asthmatic, I am a little more susceptible to changes in the weather than many folks. The cold air does affect my breathing. We awoke to a very cold and windy Saturday morning with temperature in the 20s. Until recently, I was not even running outside when it is under 20F (run inside on treadmill). So I layer up to prevent problems and cover my mouth with a mask when needed to keep the air in my lungs as warm as possible.
Even our dog Misty tried to get me fired up for the race. I ran a short miler with the dog before leaving.
After running with the dog, I had a sense of the cold and windy weather we were facing. I took necessary precautions. 4 layers of clothes on top and bottom plus double hats. There really is not much windbreak on the State Farm Run course (except for the beginning part of the MoPac East trail portion). We had the wind at our backs the first mile or so as we ran south from State Farm but that was about it.
Arriving at the race site, I watched some of the kids race and cheered them on to the finish line, pointing to the finish chute for a few of them that had trouble finding it. The kids run a 1 mile race 1/2 hour before the 10 mile race starts.
Even though I had coffee before the race, once arriving, it was colder than I anticipated. Unfortunately, the cold can create issues with tight, sore muscles and issues with muscles not warming up well enough to function optimally.
Here is what I looked like for much of the race in ninja runner protective garb.
Back to the race. We lined up for the start, ducking behind each other to stay out of the wind. Running into the wind is how you want to start a run. Get the wind at your back later. The race starts with a short loop around State Farm building, then we run south on 84th Street to the MoPac east trail. I passed many people in the first mile to try to establish my pace that I was seeking. My goal was 7:30 splits to PR the race. First mile split was right on target: 6:52.
As we reached the MoPac East trailhead, I was excited to see the trail that had been part of my Market to Market 50k adventure. I had not run on MoPac East since then. The familiar softer limestone and long wooden bridges were welcome memories of a very favorable race experience from the past and for a while, that made me forget the cold and wind. Then it began to snow. Yes, snow flurries most of the race. Not enough snow to be a factor, but it was a little discouraging. We were all saying: WHAT? SNOW?
Tried to focus on the soft comfortable limestone surface, shortening strides, staying on pace, and relaxing (trying to relax). Passed some people on the trails, some passed me.
It was nice to see Walton, Nebraska again (Walton was on the 50k course that I ran). The tall grain elevators that stand out there in Walton really spoke to me. I think that was the 21 mile mark of the 50k course (the drop bag location). Again, maybe the happy memory bank coming through for me again when I needed it.
At about 4 miles, the leaders were returning to finish the race, having already reached the 5 mile turnaround on the trail.
At the 5 mile turnaround, Ann Ringlein (owner of Lincoln Running Company) caught up with me and we encouraged each other and I said “Negative splits”. I dared to check my watch here. 44:28 up to that point, just under PR pace. My mile splits for the first half were good, from 6:55-7:38 range.
When we made the turn, the omnidirectional wind shifted into our face (it seemed to be in our face going east too but somewhat of a crosswind). The wind was a factor on the way back. So was the cold.
By 10k mark, I was struggling with fatigued, cold breathing a little. I squeezed in a 10-second walk break here, the only one of the race. I was having to cover my mouth with the ninja runner mask. My breathing was a little labored. Was the fatigue due to the cold or the runstreak? Not sure. It was necessary to turn my head southward to try to not be pounded by the wind so much but the wind resistance was there and it was an issue.
Then my hamstrings tightened. This was a problem with one hamstring during last week’s trail race when I accelerated too fast. But now both hamstrings were feeling tight, sore, stressed, and tired. Maybe it was the cold. Or racing a little faster than my training last week. I only did one day of speed work due to the hamstring injury last week.
The seventh mile split slipped to 8:19, then 8:25. I was struggling to get back to the race pace that I wanted and knew I was capable of but my muscles and lungs were not cooperating. I was exerting maximum effort and not getting the return I was used to, my relaxation techniques did not work past 10k until the very last loop when we were getting buffeted by the wind. My body felt like it was frenetically frozen (frozen despite frenetic efforts to stay moving with speed and gusto).
By the 9 mile split (8:51), I knew the PR was not going to happen. I was disappointed and upset and was simply fighting through the cold and wind to get back to State Farm. I wore my ninja mask over my mouth for much of the race. I had to in order to keep warm and to keep the air in my lungs as warm as possible. Also wore gloves for 8-9 miles and carried them for about a mile. for only about a mile were my hands anywhere near warm. It was 28 degrees at the start and not a lot of sun after the start to warm us.
When we finished off 9 miles, the race returns north on 84th Street to State Farm. The wind was really hitting us hard at this point. I should note there is a slight elevation increase on the second half of the race, not noticeable normally but magnified a little on a tough weather day. I knew there would be no age-group prize for my performance here. It just slipped out of my grasp.
At 9.5 miles, I watched my Garmin roll over past 1:15, my 10 mile PR. Rats! I could see the finish line but was not close enough to cross it. One more counterclockwise loop (the same one we ran clockwise earlier)!
Late in races, I try to pass anyone within reach. I picked up the pace enough to squeeze past a lady whose pace was slackening. That’s the only person I could catch. I rapidly set a new achievable goal of staying UNDER 1:20. Not a second over!
Frozen to the bone, I increased my pace to the finish, apparently so much that my Garmin died at 9.93 miles. GRRRRRR! One thing after another! Fortunately, the chip timer took over at that point.
Official time: 1:19:15, 7:56/mile pace, managed 8th in my age group (of 28), 120th overall of 447 runners, and 89th among 219 men. Significantly, I achieved my sudden secondary goal of breaking 1:20. And I passed at least one person in the last 1/2 mile.
Frozen, upset, and disappointed, I meandered to the bagels and bananas, grabbed a few, and wondered why my hamstrings and lungs would not cooperate on the same day. Not ideal race conditions by a long shot for someone with asthma and susceptible to cold. Maybe my hamstrings did not get enough recovery/treatment after last week’s race.
So what are the good parts? Strava says I ran my fastest 400 ever (1:30) during this race, there was a pretty fast 5k, 10k and 15k stretch (2nd fastest ever sez Strava). It was a great effort through at least 10k or so! I finished the race, I met my secondary speed goal and I passed someone at the end. I’ll chalk up the rest as an adventurous learning experience in compression wear and 4 layers of running clothes. I don’t think I could have run any faster, my hamstrings have been sore for 2 days since so that says it was maximum effort. Just need to work on a stronger finish. I was in a good running groove for 10k and fell out of it somehow. Sort of felt like the wheels (or one of them) fell off this race. Ninja runner will return soon with less layers, more determination, and running mojo.