As I had planned out my Fall races, I kept thinking of new sates that I could add. Somehow, the Omaha Half hit my radar. I checked flights and details and all seemed to work out. Then I got the idea if I am going out to the Midwest, could I get a neighboring state. I found the Circle the Lake Half and immediately tried to figure out if this was doable. Logistics were looking insane from the start since Fairbault, MN and Omaha, NE weren’t actually that close.
Since I’m pretty good at figuring out travel logistics, I figured everything out at decent prices and pulled the trigger to make my MN/NE double weekend a go. I would fly into Des Moines, drive up to MN from there and then after that race, drive the 5.5 hours down to Omaha for Sunday’s race. It was more time in the car than I wanted to spend, but logistically it actually broke everything up the most at the cheapest rates for flights and car rentals.
The price for this race was $50. More than I’d ideally like to pay for such a small race, but the race was a fundraiser to help clean up and preserve Circle Lake. Knowing that made the price a little more bearable. Plus, we got a nice t-shirt and medal which is always a plus. There was only one set price, so registering so late didn’t effect the cost for me.
The race was slated to start at 9am. I would also get to “sleep in” until about 7:15am with the later race start. That was actually pretty weird for a race morning. I was staying at a hotel about 20m away, so my goal was to take my time and get there by 8:15am. I knew it was a smaller race, so I wasn’t worried about parking, etc. In fact, the race started across from a bar called Boonies, so I really didn’t worry about it.
The race was actually a little north of Faribault in a small town called Millersburg. At least that’s what the directions said. You were to pick your bib and shirt up at Boonies and then park about a half mile down the road the at Town Hall. Can’t make this up. It’s that small of a race. I pulled into the Boonies parking lot to just grab my bib before I headed over to the town hall. I knew right away from my first experience with the volunteers, that these people really cared about this race and runners and were some of the nicest volunteers out there. Once I got my bib, I headed over to park and hang out until about 8:40am and then walked down to the start line.
The actual start line to the race was in the parking area across from the bar. Slowly all of the runners filed in and shortly before 9am, the announcers said go and we were off. This race would be half #46 for me and state #27. Even better is that since I had run Grandma’s Marathon the year before, it would actually make MN completely green, meaning I was done and wouldn’t need to go back.
I didn’t have high expectations in terms of my finish time since I was doing a double again. I figured I’d come in around 2:35 and of course do the run/walk so I could rest my legs as best as I could. I had seen the course online and it showed some hills, but it didn’t look that bad. Yes, I was wrong. Way wrong. These first few miles took us out of town and onto Circle Lake trail. Now, seeing trail on the course map, I thought it would be something like a rail trail. I knew we would run on dirt at some point, but this trail was actually just a dirt road. All roads were open, but I have to say the race was very vocal about staying with traffic facing you. I think I heard the reminder about 20 times before the race started. I really appreciated that.
It was pretty hot on race morning and I felt it in these first few miles. The humidity showed at 92% at race start and a temperature of 70 degrees. Way too hot for me. There was some shade on this trail which was nice, but otherwise we were in complete openness the rest of the course. We actually had to run this trail twice as at the end of the first go around, we took a right to loop back around and then once we finished a second time, we took a left to head onto the rest of the course.
I stuck with my 4/1 ratio these first 5 miles, but as we came through the trail a second time, I was really starting to feel the heat. As I turned left onto that country road, I knew I was going to be in for a doozy, but just wasn’t sure how bad it would be. I probably should have known it would be bad as staring right at me was the first decent hill of the race.
As I finished up mile 5, this one lady said to me that we’d probably spend most of the race together and she had been pacing off me. While that was nice, I told I was pretty much done already and to not pace off me as I couldn’t promise anything. We did however end up running cat and mouse with each other for the rest of the race. We came down the hill on the backside of mile 5 and there was another hill. A bigger one. One that ended up having two peaks. But before we could hit that hill, we had to take an out and back on another dirt road. And guess what was on that road? more hills. Really, I can’t this up. Every time I thought there might be a flat part, there was actually more hills. While the hills were’t high, they were just long, gradual climbs.
It’s probably in these miles that I really lost it and the wheels just came straight off. In fact, I would say miles 5-8 were probably the hardest for me. By this point, the clouds had burned off and the sun was just beating down. It was getting hotter and while I tried to stay hydrated but realistically I was probably over hydrating and water just sloshed in my stomach. I had also lost my run/walk in these miles. Actually, it was probably more back in mile 5, but by the time I got into these middle miles, I was just trying to find a point on the course and run there. There was no ratio at all. I was also happy to see sport drink at each water stop, which was about every 3 miles. I was even happier that it was actually Nuun.
At the mile 8 water stop, the volunteer handed me some cups and said “you’ve got some bad hills up ahead, good luck.” He looked so stoic. I wanted to cry. We were also back on dirt road with the sun continuing to beat down. I was getting slower and slower and it felt like the miles were ticking away at the slowest interval ever. The volunteer wasn’t wrong. Those hills between mile 8 and 10 sucked.
Just before mile 10 we came upon the next water stop and turned another right. The volunteer at this station said we were almost done and there were no more hills. I politely (okay, I thought it was polite at the time) told him I didn’t believe him and that I was really not likely Minnesota right now. As soon as I came up on the 10 mile mark, I told myself to get it together. I had a 5k left and as bad as this was, I had to finish.
That’s when I decided to go to a 2 min/30 second ratio. I figured I could run 2 minutes and then enjoy a short break. And for about 2 miles that actually worked. While the volunteer back at mile 10 wasn’t wrong, he wasn’t right. These miles weren’t as hilly, but there were still hills and still very much wide open to the sun. Mile 11 into 12 was a little weird. We ran into this neighborhood and went all the way as far back as we could. All of a sudden there were 2 men hanging out in chairs with a table of water cups and a bunch of cones. I asked if we had to run around the cones or just turn and go. They just stared as me, so I asked again. I said I didn’t want to come this far to get disqualified. They laughed and said if you want to run around the trucks, go ahead, but otherwise feel free to grab water and turn to the grass path. I was honestly a little annoyed by their response. It really wasn’t clear what you had to do.
I grabbed more Nuun and turned to start down the grass path. It was weird, I was confused but I just went with it. Quickly onto the grass path, we hit mile 12. At this I contemplated walking most of the rest of the way. I mean in reality, I probably did, but I did try and shuffle a little. I am almost embarrassed to admit it, but this last mile split was 14:09. So basically I walked it. Let’s just be honest.
As soon as we got off the grass path, we headed back up another little hill and into the home stretch. We had just one more turn onto the main road and then there would be the finish line. I really tried everything I could to run. I’d run for 10s and walk for a minute. I was hurting and feeling pretty awful. I had not planned for the weather to be what it was. Somehow, I slowly made it to that last turn and from there we had about .35 miles left.
In that last bit, I was cursing myself with everything I had. I actually probably put more energy into cursing myself than actually finishing. Oops. I slowly waddled my way to the finish and finally just after the 13 mile sign, I told myself to get it together and run the rest in. I got myself to a shuffle and that was the best I could do. Somehow I did and as they called my name out at the finish line, I couldn’t have been happier to cross over that mat. I immediately found a small piece of ground and plopped myself down. I was shaking and just nauseated. I had probably run my 2nd or 3rd slowest half and was pretty worried about how I would feel for Sunday.
Once I pulled myself off the ground, I saw a table with cookies, bagels and apples. They were locally picked apples and probably one of the best apples I had ever eaten. There were 2 gentlemen there talking and asked me what I thought of the race. I told them I was a 50 stater and was happy to be done with MN and didn’t plan on coming back to run anytime soon. I said while this course had some of the best volunteers, I was just not prepared for the openness and those hills. They laughed and the one guy he was the race director. Well, sir, you run a great race, but if you could implode those hills and plant some trees for more shade, it’d be an even better race.
This was certainly not the race I had hoped for. Typically when I do a double weekend, the time I put up for this race is the 2nd race time. I was hurting and not in great shape. With your race registration you got a free Bloody Mary or soda at Boonies and I immediately went for the soda. Typically I am not a soda person, but I just wanted the sugar. I downed 2 right away before I started walking back to my car.
While this wasn’t my race at all and I didn’t like the course, the race itself was run pretty well. My biggest complaint is that it started at 9am. While it was nice to sleep in on a race day, it would have been nicer to have started earlier, even 8 am, and try to avoid some of the heat. I am not sure why they wait until 9am. Moving it up even that hour would be great. You seriously get some of the nicest volunteers and the swag is good for a small race. I should have known when I picked up my bib and saw the saying on the shirt as “a hill of a race “that I was in for a doozy.
Once I got myself together, I hit the road to Omaha. I had 5.5 hours in the car ahead of me. Knowing how I was feeling and with that much time in the car, I was certainly worried about stiffening up. I was glad I brought my moji as that helped I think. As I was driving into Omaha, I used it on my legs. The drive went pretty smoothly and once I got into Omaha, I dropped the rental car and headed to the hotel. Once there, I quickly grabbed food and planned for an 8pm bedtime. I wasn’t as stiff as I thought I would be, but I was still sore. As I was going to bed that evening, I was so scared of what Sunday’s race would bring me. Knowing how poorly I did in MN, I truly thought that my first three hour half marathon might be looming before me. It wasn’t what I wanted, but I didn’t have high hopes at all. At this point though, I just wanted to get another state completed. Whatever would happen would happen. By 8:05pm I was in bed and ready for sleep. A new day was coming with a new race.
Official Finish Time:
7/8, Female 30-39