The day began with a meetup in the K-mart parking lot as is becoming the tradition for out of town events. Rachel, Penny, Maria, Erik, Erin and myself met up with Rick and Kristy who were driving the camper to fit all of us. After loading our things into the camper we headed out to the park. We timed it to get out to the park right at 6:00 when packet pickup began. As we were getting out of the vehicle, we met up with Heather and Doug. Rick and Kristy still needed to register, but the rest of us were preregistered. For some reason Erin's registration didn't get processed correctly, but it was taken care of quickly. After picking up our packets we retreated to the camper to put bib numbers on and chill for a bit. Rachel and I wanted to warm up a bit before the race started and as we started to head out there was a suggestion to take a group picture. Doug was kind enough to take pictures of the group with all of our cameras. After pictures Rachel and I started to run along the route for the race. It gave me a chance to pick her brain about Liberty as we ran. I asked as many questions as I could think of and she gave me all the advice she could before we completed our warm up and were back in the starting area. We waited with the others as the race director made last minute announcements.
A few minutes after 7:00, the race started for the 10k runners. 5k runners would start about 10-15 minutes after the 10k to give us some time to clear out of the way. I started off right around the pace I was running at the start of this year's Fargo Marathon. My plan was to be conservative for the first two thirds of the race and then open it up and see what I had. After 30 seconds I had lost sight of Rachel and the rest of our group started behind me so I was on my own. We looped around on some trails near the river before passing the swimming hole. I had found a decent rhythm and things were going well. A few of the runners around me were already gasping for breath. I figured they had started a bit too fast and were going to have a long day if they kept up the same level of effort. My breathing was still controlled and deliberate, even with the fairly brisk pace I was keeping.
Shortly after passing the swimming hole and crossing the bridge to the south side of the river, Rick caught up with me. He had started in the back of the pack and his plan was to run by heart rate. We chatted for a bit about the course and how well organized the race seemed. From what we had seen so far, there had been volunteers at every intersection pointing the way as well as an excessive amount of marking on the course. We didn't think it was possible for anyone to get lost with all the steps the race director had taken. Without really thinking about it, I had been speeding up along with Rick. Once I realized this I told him I needed to let him go and we parted ways. As he pulled away, I heard him joke with a couple of girls ahead of me that the mud hole we were currently going through was the first water stop.
This part of the course was out in the open, we were running though a fairly flat prairie away from the river. There wasn't any shade and we either had the wind at our back or it was calm and I was heating up quickly. Sweat and sunscreen dripped into my eyes stinging them a little. At the start of the race, I saw Rachel tie a rag onto her fuel belt. I wished I had the same foresight to bring something along to wipe the sweat off my face. Once we finally turned back towards the river, the breeze picked up and felt wonderful. There was another section that was muddy, but like the first area they had put down some planks to run on and keep out of the slop.
When we reached the tree line along the river, the 10k course met back up with the 5k route. There was an aid station there and I grabbed a cup of water before heading off again. We followed along the river and I started to pass people. I was unsure if they were 5k or 10k participants. I found a couple of girls that I had seen start the 10k with me and had been running right around the pace I had been going. I decided that I would let them pace me for a while and took up a position just behind them. I kept up with them for another mile or so until just before the next aid station. I passed this aid station without taking anything because I still had my handheld bottle of poweraid. Looking up ahead, I thought I saw John Lindquist, but with the sweat in my eyes and not wearing my glasses I couldn't be sure. I picked up the pace a little to close the gap between us. When I caught him, I slowed a bit and he sped up just a bit so we would stay together. I asked him how it was going and he told me that he started too fast. He was keeping up with Heather and it didn't feel too fast until he got a few miles in. I did what I could to lift his spirits and try to get a little more out of him than he was ready to give. We stuck together for a little more than a mile before he said he needed to back off a little and let me go.
Once I left John, I was focused on the finish. There was less then a mile left and I didn't need to hold back any longer. After passing the last aid station there was a nice downhill that I flew down. I felt good and took full advantage of the hill. I crossed the bridge back to the north side of the river and thought about the upcoming hill. Last week when Erin, Erik and I ran the course we walked up the hill because of it's steepness. Today I felt good enough that I would try to run it. Going up the hill wasn't too hard, but when I got to the top is when it hit me. My heart was pounding and I was struggling to breathe. There was less then a quarter of a mile left and I kept pushing. The finish line was a bit further away then I would have liked, but I was able to keep up the strong effort. The last hundred feet or so I could hear someone coming up fast behind me. It was a girl I had passed right after the hill and she was at a dead sprint. I made up my mind she would not pass me and started to sprint myself. I think I heard Rachel shout some encouragement, but I was working hard enough that it barely registered in my brain. Giving it everything I had, I held her off to the finish line. Volunteers pulled off the tag from my bib and I took a few steps forward to get out of the finisher's chute. Heather and Doug were there to greet me as I went down on one knee to catch my breath. I finally remembered to turn off my Garmin and saw my time was just a little over 1 hour.
|Kristy, Maria, Penny, Rachel, Erik, Erin, Jon, Heather, Rick before the race|