Jerry and I decided to try to qualify to race in the elite wave for TCM. I went back and forth: was it worth the hassle and last-minute race switch?

Pros: ELITE-ONLY porta potties at the start, elite fluids during the race (I don’t need the fluid, but it is nice to tape gels to my bottles if I were to need gels mid-race), elite staging at the front of the race, a last-minute sweat drop for elites… all things that are NICE, but that wouldn’t help me race faster.

Then I remembered that as an elite they have your bag (and those last-minute sweats) ready for you at the finish and escort you to the elite tent. I have fond memories of hanging out at that tent: a massage table with short, if no, lines; being able to look over results while standing next to the other (real! ha) elites; talking with and reconnecting with the other elites. That did it for me. It was then totally worth the effort.

And effort it was! First, I had to find a race longer than 10k. I had planned on racing Circle the Lake 1/2 marathon in Faribault that morning but knew their course was very challenging (very hilly and 60% or more on trails) – and their 10k wasn’t certified. I’ve always wanted to try that race, plus Craig and Jeff were racing… so I was really torn about not doing it. Next year!

TCM’s elite standards are the McMillan calculator’s equivalent race times for a 2:58 marathon. That meant a sub-38 min 10k or a sub 1:03:25 10 mile. The Stillwater Log Run caught my eye. It’s a net downhill race that I’ve really enjoyed in the past – and luckily, they allowed me to sneak in to race!

Ran it with K & R in 2013.

I knew I had been trying to break 60 at this point in my career and remember this being a really bad race. Turns out, yep, it must have been 1:03:59! I had to find the corresponding blog post. It’s here if you want to take a read.

The morning of I checked the weather. 70 degrees with a dew point of 64. Gross. I don’t race well in heat and humidity, but I didn’t allow myself to think about it. Concentrate on your foot falls instead, Nichole. They sound light and dance-like. That will carry you through, despite the weather.

I boarded the bus and tlaked to the woman next to me. She talked about the course and how it wasn’t as downhill as it has been in the past. (Bummer, I thought to myself) She warned me about the 2 mile stretch on gravel. (Another bummer… I lose a bit of time on softer surfaces) When we exited the bus she said, “That’s interesting. This is a new start area. Wonder where they’re adding on the other 2-3 miles?”

On the bus.

I went off for my warm-up, running just a mile and a half. As I was stretching near the start line, the announcer said:

If there are any 10 mile racers still here, YOU ARE AT THE WRONG START LINE!

Our bus had dropped all of us 10 milers off at the 12k start! Most of the 10 milers had caught it immediately (during the 10-12 minutes I was out of ear-shot, warming up) so had boarded the next bus to get to the 10 mile start. It looked like I was the only 10 miler left (turns out, there were others, but I was the only one a little frantic about the mistake).

I had 8 minutes to go before my race. They told me to sprint down to the corner to catch the bus that was sitting there. When I was 30 seconds away from it, it started down the road.

NOOO. But, I told myself, I can still qualify with a 12k. I have no idea what the qualifying time is… but it has to be close to a 6-min mile. I can do that, right? Small tears formed in my eyes…

One of the women lining up for the 12k saw me, knew my situation (and that I was trying to qualify), and yelled, “Is there a car nearby? Can you get her to the 10 mile start line?”

Sure enough, a tall, built Russian accented volunteer had a car — and with just 6 minutes to race start I hopped in. He drove 85 miles and hour (no joke) to get me to the 10 mile start line with 90 seconds to spare.

I lined up and took off with the gun.

The first three miles of the course are rolling hills. I averaged 6:19-6:20 through them. I gained a little time from miles 4-6, but then logged the gravel mile 7 in 6:40. Oh, no, I thought. I needed a 19:20 final 5k in order to make it under the cut off. I honestly just about gave up. A 19:20?!?

But then I reminded myself to stick with it. That I didn’t know what God’s plan for me was… so who was I to decide to give up on the plan? I also thought of the XC kids I coach… what would I say to them if they just stopped pushing in a race just because they weren’t going to reach a specific time goal? Yep, better keep truckin’ along, Nichole.

And you know what? The last mile of that race is ridiculously downhill. I logged a 5:45 or something ridiculous like that. I knew it was going to be close so gave it everything I had…

and crossed in 1:03:05. YES!!! Elite wave at TCM on Oct 1 for me! Totally worth it. Plus, now this time is good for a full two years!

Running happy, indeed!

Going out for my cool down after this race was so painful. It was so hot & sticky and my legs just hurt.

The Sunday following the race I did a double of 12 miles (6 to church and 6 home from church. My legs were SO spent. Looks like the girls were spent too.

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  1. I think my craziest pre-race story is for an indoor track meet back in Indiana 🙂 It was the last winter or two I was there and it got so cold that my car battery died on a Tuesday/Wednesday…so I called AAA to come replace it. By Saturday, my car was still dead and I was still planning on racing, so a friend dug his way out of his neighborhood, jump started my car, followed me to AutoZone for a new battery, and then I drove (at least an hour, probably 2) through snow and ice to get to this indoor track meet like ~30 minutes ahead of my race. It went terribly (go figure!), but oof! What an adventure 😛

  2. Congratulations!! Ugh, I hate taking buses to start lines for exactly this reason. It happened to me once at a marathon, when they took us all to the half marathon start, then got lost on the way to the marathon start! We all missed the gun, which wasn't a big deal for me but I felt sorry for anyone who was trying to place overall. Glad it all worked out! 🙂

  3. Wow! I must say your story is quite inspiring for me. More importantly your line – " I didn't know what God's plan for me was… so who was I to decide to give up on the plan?" is amazing 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your story


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