Monday, May 30, 2011

Race Report: Stillwater 10K

Happy Memorial Day!  I hope those of you who are in the U.S. are enjoying your day off... I know I am!  Thanks to all our veterans and servicemen and women who have made and continue to make countless sacrifices for our country.

On Sunday, I ran the Stillwater 10K, part of the Stillwater Marathon weekend of racesStillwater, located east of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, holds special significance to me and several of my friends and family: my friend Seth ran his first marathon there in 2009, future hubs ran the 12K race last year (that distance was discontinued this year in favor of a 5K and 10K), and the Ragnar Relay course goes through Stillwater.

Mark and I headed to Stillwater about 5:30 a.m., enjoying the sunrise, music on the radio and the drive.

Downtown Minneapolis at sunrise
The weather here continues to be cool and rainy on weekends and pleasantly sunny during the week, so I had a hard time deciding what to wear for the race.  I ultimately settled on my Ragnar t-shirt, my trusty gray pair of running shorts (I don't even want to tell you how many years I've had those shorts!), and a pair of INKnBURN arm sleeves, which were a birthday gift from future hubs back in April.  They worked great!

Click HERE for more info on these sleeves.
Mark dropped me off at Stillwater Junior High School, where the 10K start was located, then headed towards downtown Stillwater to find a place to park and wait for me at the finish.  I did a quick warmup jog, stretched, and used the porta-potties before the race started at 7:00 a.m.  The skies turned overcast, and I felt cool and my legs had goosebumps on them, but I knew that I'd warm up fast enough once the race started.

My goal for the race was to beat my 10K PR of 52:57, earned last July.  Mark warned me that this would be a hilly course, but I thought I'd be able to make up for any lost time on the downhill portions.  I positioned myself towards the front of the start corral, said a quick prayer, and waited for the horn to go off.

The first mile went by quickly.  There was a slight rise for the first two blocks, then a gradual decline for a half-mile.  I passed several runners as the pack of participants thinned out and people found their own paces.  There was a slight uphill before the first mile-marker, but it wasn't bad.  I was working hard, but I felt like I was at a pace that I could maintain for a while.

Mile 1 - 7:32

We continued running through the nice residential parts of Stillwater, encountering a few mild rises and declines.  It seemed like this race never had any flat sections.  My iPod has been testy lately, so I'm glad it was working fine during the race.

Mile 2 - 8:02

There were two water stops before mile 3, which is usually unheard of, but the 10K course followed the latter portions of the marathon, 20-mile and half-marathon courses, so of course water is needed for those runners.  I skipped those water stops and kept going.

Just before mile 3, there was a nasty hill.  My pace slowed considerably as I trucked up that hill, and several people passed me, which was disheartening.  The hill reminded me of the steep incline I traversed during my first leg of Ragnar last year.  I kept on moving, and once I reached the summit, I walked for about 15-20 seconds to catch my breath before starting to run again.

Mile 3 - 8:41

While I was busting out my first two miles, Mark was at the start line for the marathon, 20-mile and half-marathon races, taking pictures and cheering on the runners.

Love this shirt!

The start

A good crowd of runners

See bib #22?  That's the lady with the purple "Don't Be Last" shirt.
After the runners passed through the start, Mark walked over to the finish line area at Lowell Park, taking pictures along the way...

This was one of Mark's favorite pictures of the day

The iconic Stillwater Lift Bridge, spanning the swollen St. Croix River

See the gold height sign?  There used to be a pathway underneath that for people to walk on.  It's still flooded.

He took a few photos of the 5K and 10K finishers...

First female 10K finisher

She just passed the guy...

... and he realizes that he won't catch up with her.

Kim, one of our Team Ortho friends, and her son.

Her son finished his first 5K race ever.  Good job, little man!
Out on the race course, I was trying to keep up my speed.  After hitting the 5K mark (and passing the 5K start line and balloons), the course turned from residential streets to county roads.  There were a few small rises, but mostly a gradual downhill.  I walked through a water stop and drank a cup of water.

Mile 4 - 8:00

There was a steep downhill between miles 4 and 5.  I just let my legs coast on that downhill, as I did on most of the downhill portions of the course.  I checked out my Garmin a couple times and noticed that I was getting a 7-minute mile reading.  Good, I thought, that should make up for that awful hill before mile 3.

Mile 5 - 7:53

There was another gradual uphill after the steep downhill, but then it leveled off and turned into another gradual downhill for the rest of the course.  My legs were getting tired of the hills, and I took another short walk break (about 15-20 seconds), but I knew that the finish would be coming soon, so I commenced running.  I passed some of the participants walking the 5K.  I took in the sights of the course... the historic buildings along the waterfront, the Minnesota Zephyr train, a few coffeeshops.  I thought about my friend Seth, knowing that he ran this part of the course two years ago as he was finishing up his first marathon.  I wondered what he thought about when he was running.  I thought about Mark, waiting for me at the finish, and that made me smile and pick up the pace a little.

Mile 6 - 8:17

I could see the finish line balloons in the distance, and as I turned onto Mulberry Street, I focused on keeping a strong pace through the finish.  I didn't think I'd have the strength to sprint, but I picked up the pace a little.  I rounded the corner and found myself on a dirt path straightaway toward the finish line.

Off in the distance, in blue

Nasty heel strike... does anyone else find that their form goes out the window as they're approaching the finish line?

I look simultaneously determined and pissed

This is my favorite of the finish photos that Mark took
When I saw that the clock was in the 51:xx range, I knew I had a PR in the bag.

I'm sure some of the spectators were wondering what was on my arms

Last .20-mile = 7:43

The Red Dragon (my Garmin) read 50:09.  Here are my official stats:

Official finish time: 50:07
Average pace: 8:04/mile
Overall place: 49/249
Gender place: 22/162
Division place: 6/35 (25-29 age group)
I made my way through the food area, picking up water, a banana and bagel, and other items.  I found Mark and also talked to Kim and gave her son a high-five.  Then, Mark and I headed toward the waterfront to take pictures.

Me, in front of the Lift Bridge

I can't believe how high the water is!

This shot is a little blurry
Future hubs and I headed over to the Water Street Inn so I could redeem my free beer coupon at their outdoor patio.

Grain Belt... "The Friendly Beer"
This was a great race and I'm so thankful I reached my "A" goal of a new 10K PR.  I really liked the course, despite how hilly it was.  Its beauty made up for the hills.  The one thing that was lacking was spectator support.  There were very few people out on the course cheering, and there weren't a lot of spectators at the finish area either.  I'm assuming that more showed up for the longer races, but it seems as if more people attended the previous years' races.  I also hope that they bring back the 12K (with finisher medal!) for next year.  There are so many 5Ks and 10Ks here in Minnesota during the summer that it's nice to have a unique distance offered.

The swag, including some of the post-race food
The race expo was small, but I scored a great deal (60% off list price) on a Mizuno tank top and a Skirt Sports running skirt.  I've never worn a running skirt before, so I'm looking forward to trying it out.


  1. What a great recap - LOVE THE PIX. Way to crush your goal time!!! Super job! Can I say I'm surprised you had tattoo arm sleeves - kind of cracked me up - wasn't expecting that from you (no idea what I was expecting since I don't really know you, but that wasn't it) - they look like they did the trick perfectly and they are oh so cute!!!!! Great job on the race - you're so fast!!!!!!!

  2. Wow! You killed that PR. I do see heel strike pics of me as I am running "fast." l like to think I don't do that all the time.

  3. Way to go! You did great on a hilly course. The arm sleeves were good luck for both of us today!
    What a deal on your Skirt Sports skirt...they are my favorite.

  4. Awesome race and PR girl! Looks like you had a nice strong finishing kick! Congrats!

  5. Congrats on the PR! Stellar time on a hard course!

    And YES I have terrible form on a finish sprint. I hate seeing pictures of it - I'm actually leaning BACKWARDS!

  6. Awesome job! I would kill for a 10km time like that right now!

  7. Glad I was able to be your personal photographer for the race. Next time, if I am not also running, hopefully I can get start pictures of you too. I just realized I never took a "before" picture.

  8. Great time!! Congrats on the PR :) I loved the picture of the first female finisher passing that guy lol.

    p.s. - love those funky arm sleeves...very cool!

  9. Awesome job! And aren't the deals at races on race gear great?! I try my best not to buy anything until a race expo or post race sales.

  10. Woohoo! Way to go on the PR!! And love the "friendly beer" shot!

  11. nice job, Richelle!! congrats on the PR!! Way to tough it out on a hilly course! you rock.

  12. Wow!! Congrats on such an awesome race!! :) And I am loving the tat sleeves! I'm so happy for you and your PR!! Wooo hoo!

  13. Very cool! The water in Stillwater is high! I love that town, don't you? Great job on the PR. I ran the marathon in 2009, and know those "nice" hills!
    Those sleeves? are great!

  14. Your sleeves are stellar! And the pics captured totally show off the race! Congrats on your PR Richelle!

  15. Congrats on the race and the wonderful PR!!!! The next step will be the under 50'.
    Great pics.

  16. Hot diggity dog, you got your PR! Congratulations!!!

    I hope you like your running skirt. Once I got my first I never went back to shorts. Occasionally I'll run in my winter tight pants, or some capris, but 99.5% of the time (or higher!) I am in a skirt!

    And I agree on the bad form at the end. I look at race photos from the middle of a race and you can see that for the most part I hit in the middle of my foot. But at nearly every single finish I kick up the pace - and end up with the heel strike!