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Running in slippery mud and adverse weather conditions (cold, rain, wind) can be a very challenging experience for runners, especially if we are unprepared for it. Last week, I was reminded of this while running the State Farm Run 10 miler. However, unlike last year, there was no snow/sleet so that was positive. My only goal for running this race was to beat last year’s time of 1:19. I knew I would have to average sub-8:00 miles to make that happen. The splits were pretty consistent: 6:58, 7:06, 7:07, 7:28, 7:47, 7:53, 8:13, 8:21, 8:30, and 8:05.

The course is familiar, much of it on the Mopac East Trail, which is dirt/limestone normally but which was very muddy with lots of puddles due to the large amount of rain we have received recently. There was some slipping and sliding due to the mud and I realized I should have worn trail shoes instead of my Mizuno Wave Rider 20s. But watching other runners’ feet, it is possible to find the safe zones on the trail. And I settled into a comfortable pace, primarily with two women, one who kept edging ahead as a pacer and the other who ran beside me for most of the race. We seemed to have the same target pace. And we knew that when our pacer in orange moved ahead, we tried to pick up the pace to stay with her. Interestingly enough, I realized that the pacer in orange was doing run-walk.

Somehow I was able to relax to an amazing extent during this race: in fact, I was in heart rate zone 2 for almost the entire race. Some of this calm relaxed state comes from the meditations that I’ve been doing daily for a long time and maybe some of it is just feeling more comfortable running on softer trails than asphalt roads, even if they are muddy. At one point, I checked my heart rate fearing that I was edging higher than I should and my Garmin said I was in the easy zone. Maybe adrenaline and excitement of racing neutralizes some of the heart rate spikes that I seem to experience occasionally during the week.

I did take a lot of walk breaks (usually :15-:30 in length) to refresh my lungs and give myself a better chance of that course PR. At the 5 mile turnaround, I realized we would have the wind to our back a little bit on the way back. That helped. And I paid close attention to where I was at the 1 hour mark. About 8 miles. By then, I knew I just had to reel it in and not slow down. I tried to negative split all the way back and did OK with that until the strong north wind was in my face (not as badly as last year but brisk and cold nonetheless).

It did seem a little warmer on the way back. Runners were dropping their gloves and having to stop and pick them up.

As the finish line and clock came into view, I accelerated, making sure that I reached the finish line before 1:19. And that happened. New course PR of 1:18. I had to fight for it in the mud. But despite the cold, wind, and mud, I really enjoyed running this race and all the scenic beauty especially on the Mopac Trail. There’s just something very comfortable in running on your old 50k course. Home turf. Home field advantage. Yes, some of that is mental but some of it is from muscle memory too from one of my running mountaintop experiences.

The State Farm Run is always a good test of endurance and speed before the Lincoln (Half) Marathon. And it appears my speed is returning despite the fact that I haven’t done a lot of speed work this winter. I knew there was no way I would be able to reach my 1:15 10 mile PR under these conditions so didn’t even try (too cold, windy, muddy). When tough weather confronts us, we have to set realistic goals even if they are short of going all-out for a PR. A course PR is perfectly acceptable.

Ran a 1:18:11, 7:45 pace. 9th in my age group. More importantly than the place, faster than last year: I achieved my goal. Even though it was not a lofty goal, it was an important incremental goal to help me prepare for the Lincoln Marathon.

Challenges will present themselves. When they do, stay the course and wrestle with them as best as you can. More often than not, we are able to overcome many challenges that surface. And others we don’t have a lot of control over (the weather). I try to keep an internal fire lit at all times because it tends to burn through adversity better for me. And once we get up to a certain pace and rhythm, momentum takes over to some extent. We can cruise a little. We don’t always have to push so hard. Perseverance is an important aspect of running and it’s important to not give up when we confront adversity and the unexpected in running and in life. Sometimes we give up on the threshold of major breakthroughs. Keep on running. One day, one step at a time. Let your running be effortless by visualizing effortlessness and by finding that state of flow within your runs and magnifying it. Happy healthy trails! Stay on course. Don’t give up. You can do it! I believe in you. Go chase your dreams: you can reach them if you stretch a little. One more inch.