What better way to prepare for the Illinois Marathon than run a hilly, trail 10k two weeks out?
My better marathons have come from running anywhere from a 5-10k race two weeks before. Specifically, a 5k before Twin Cities, 8k before the Cowtown, and 10k before Chicago. I read (somewhere) that some elites do something like this as well to get the legs moving at a faster pace before going full taper. More importantly, it works for me.
Some of you may remember, I did the Taxman last year. We had a rain/snow/sleet event that day, making the trail super muddy and forcing the race onto a four loop (for the Half) alternate course.
I sure as hell wasn’t doing the Half this year because of Illinois, and because Lapham is brutal. Instead it was the 10k for me, one lap on the black trail (mostly) around the park and up the lookout tower.
This year brought significantly better weather. Sunny and in the 40s is almost perfect for any time of year. After some rain and snow during the week, I wasn’t sure about the trail conditions, but there only ended up being a couple super muddy spots…and one snow spot.
As we lined up, I saw a couple other dudes I’ve seen at trail races before. And these guys are pretty legit.
Naturally, I decided my best decision was to go out with these guys.
Lapham Peak is super hilly (we got almost 1,000 ft of gain in the 10k) and on the heels of a hill/stair workout during the week, I figured at some point the hills would get me.
After sticking with the lead pack for the first two miles (7:01 first mile…6:04 grade adjusted) my legs began to feel it. The start of Mile 3 gets the steepest and second longest climbs of the course, and that slowed me down considerably.
Fortunately, knowing the course, I knew after that we had some flatter terrain awaiting. Of course, with the rain the flatter terrain also meant the muddier terrain. Still, after a slower third mile, I rebounded with a quick Mile 4 (I should note I didn’t look at my watch at all during the race so these splits are coming via post-race Strava).
Mile 5 was my favorite part of the course, and a section I don’t think I had run before. It was all single track as a part of the Ice Age Trail, but it was also almost entirely uphill.
And that brought us to the tower. Lapham Peak has a lookout tower at the top of a hill. A majority of races incorporate going up and down the tower into the race, and this was no exception. Stairs straight up and down certainly throw a wrench into a run, especially with a half mile (roughly) to go.
After traversing the tower, there’s one more climb before a mostly flat, if not downhill, charge to the finish. I was pleasantly surprised to see that my rumble to the finish was slightly faster than Marathon Pace and on trails. It felt like I was crawling.
I churned my way into a 6th place finish and 2nd in my age group at a 50:38 official time. Juuuuust a bit under an 8 min pace, which I’ll take at Lapham.
Always nice to run a 10k with more elevation than your marathon will have. But now (ok after today’s tempo run) it’s full taper ahead to Illinois.