After having plenty of runs on the trails near home this week I was ready for a change of view and a faster pace. I decided to run the Nerstrand Big Woods 1/2 Marathon. I haven't run a 1/2 in 5 years. I ran this race before and a few Mora 1/2 Marathons as well as the Winter Carnival 1/2's which I really enjoy. There aren't very many races of at least 1/2 marathon distance in MN in the dead of winter.
I figured about a 2 hour drive to Nerstrand, that was correct. The sun was shining, the sky was beautiful blue, there was a nice stiff breeze. The temperature was 42F, a bit chilly, so I opted for shorts, gloves and a long sleeved shirt.
After registering for the race I milled around the church for a while but didn't recognize anyone, so headed back to my car until start time. I decided to grab my iPod before I went to the start line, I also grabbed a Cliff shot to put inside of my hand held bottle filled with Heed.
There was a 5K, 10K and 1/2 Marathon and we all had the same 900 start. We began on a dirt road near the church, where we would finish as well.
After the dirt road we were on asphalt county road for a very long time. I was surprised that we weren't turning into the state park. Where are the trails? Damn. It's hot. Within 2 miles I stepped off the asphalt, onto the dirt shoulder to remove my long sleeved top. To my amazement, I received good natured whistles. I tied my shirt upon my waist and continued to run on the asphalt. Within the next mile I came upon Dave Just. I asked him where the hell the trail was? He asked me if I hadn't read the Course Change bulletin at the church. Ah, no, I hadn't. He told me that the state park was closed to foot traffic because of all of the rain! The park was closed so the race was rerouted. ALL ROAD. At first I was bummed, then pissed, then decided whatever..enjoy the beauty of the day. And enjoy I did!
The miles clicked off, I had a gel and drank my Heed. I was listening to music, taking in the leave change and the other runners. It was a beautiful day. The course was all hills. Big hills. One hill after another. So much so that it reminded me of running Vermont 100, except during the second half of the run, we NEVER ran downhill. It was all uphill. I ran every hill, every step, telling myself this was *only* 13 miles, run as hard as you can, every mile. I did. I was panting and sweating and having a blast.
I kept leapfrogging with another gal. I would catch her, pass her and pretty soon she would be at my elbow. She had an iPod too, so I tapped her on her elbow and gave her a thumbs up "good running" I said. She said the same. We ran side by side up some god awful hill that lasted over a mile. I was losing steam, running as fast as my legs could carry me up hill. She said 'there's one mile left. Let's run a 730" Shit. I said 'you lead, I"ll follow'. She did, she kicked it up a notch and ran into the finish. Good lord, I hung on for dear life and felt every muscle in my body tighten up. 732. Wow. It was great, really. I haven't run so hard since I was breaking 10 hours at Ice Age this past May.
Thanks to the gal, I ran a 1:55. A PR for me, on one hell of a hilly course. Made me happy!
At the finish I watched Larry Pederson, Karen Gall, Mick Justin and Kate Havelin come it. It was an awesome day! I'm glad I decided to go at run the Nerstrand 1/2.