You know what it is. The next entry in the Wisconsin Trail Assail Series. And yes, I am continuing to regret doing the 5k instead of the 10k at the Mother’s Day race. Much like the last recap, more on that below.
The penultimate race in the series was at Minooka Park; a place I’ve never loved running at. We used to race here in high school, and I always had unpleasant memories of the hills and heat of an early September race. The hills would still be a factor, but on a crisp weather day, temperature wasn’t an issue.
This race’s signature is taking the runners up and over “Killer Hill” multiple times. We start at the bottom, and the finish line is up at the top. And you better believe that, since the course is two loops for the 10k, that I had to go up 3 times.
The first time up the hill is a solid 200m into the race. Being confident in my 10k and trail racing ability, I know the strategy (for me) for a nearly 100ft steep climb. Walk. No need to run that hill when we had to go up two more times and had 6 miles still to go. In a weird way, this was great mental training for me to run my race and not worry about all the runners passing me on the uphill.
After we got to the top, it was time for my favorite (and strongest) part of a trail race: bombing the downhill. Quickly (like sub 6 miles on the downhill quickly), I worked my way back into the chase pack as we neared the end of the first mile.
A little ways later, the Half split off to add their extra distance, shrinking our pack to nearly nothing. One dude immediately ahead of me (and definitely in the 10k) continued to churn up the hills on the back stretch. Having raced against him before, and my legs not feeling as lively as at Pike Lake, I chose to let him go, figuring I wouldn’t see him again.
On a long grinding uphill, around the second mile marker, I got passed by two guys really working the uphill. Naturally, I figured they were in the 5k and let them go.
Nearing the end of Loop 1, I was trying to figure out where I was, place wise, in the race. I knew who the two leaders were, and those guys were laying down sub 42 on a hilly trail race: I wasn’t catching them. I also knew I wasn’t catching the other guy from the chase pack. With the way others in the lead pack were running, and the guys who passed me in the back loop, I figured I had to be in fourth. They were definitely all 5k guys, right?
I knew going up Killer Hill the second time, I would see who was in front of me. The top three guys were cresting the hill as I approached. But much to my surprise, the two guys who had just passed me, and another guy in a yellow shirt were all headed back up the hill. Seventh. Yikes.
Naturally, I walked Killer Hill the second time as well, after gaining on the runners in sixth and fifth leading up to it. I took the time to give myself a quick pep talk. I knew on the first loop they had used more energy to pass me on the hills, and to run up Killer Hill…twice. And I knew over the last 2 and change miles I could “out suffer” these guys on the hills to the finish. Let the chase begin.
After bombing down the hill again, I was able to close the gap, and make the pass into sixth just before a small loop that we had to run around a rugby field.
Coming around the field, I closed on the runner in fifth. On a turn, he saw me and again powered up a hill on this area. I let him go, and was able to pounce as we hopped off the loop and onto the main course. Fifth.
Next was the kid in the yellow shirt. He was fading fast, and I knew I could get him once we hit the hills of the last mile. Turns out, I got him before that. With about a mile and a half to go, I made the pass into fourth. I’d argue this was the perfect place on course for a strong pass. I could power up a long hill, which is a soul crusher, and bomb the downhill to get more space. I did just that.
As we emerged from the woods in a field for the back loop, I took a glance back and didn’t see anyone. But I wasn’t going to pass another opportunity to attack a downhill. After the race, my buddy Eric (who said he had been trailing me by about 100m the whole way) said he lost track of me around this area. Perfect. I should note, he also moved all the way up to a sixth finish from 9th/10th at halfway.
On the back loop, I deliberately saved enough energy (much like the Quarry Crusher) to power up the last hill if needed.
I took a glance over my shoulder to see two guys, plus Eric emerging from the woods. All closer than I would’ve liked. Churning up the hill was about as unpleasant as you would’ve guessed.
But I was able to notch a fourth place finish (again) by running my race, and not getting sucked into what others were doing.
The finish pushed me into second in the age group standings for the series with one to go. If you’re the guy in the lead, feel free to not show up to the last one!