Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

Sunday, July 9, 2017


    Two years ago, my friend Brynn invited Erik and I to do a 4 mile road running race in her neighborhood (Saint Anthony Park) on the 4th of July. Geographically isolated from every other neighborhood in Saint Paul, the Saint Anthony Park neighborhood resembles a small town which becomes particularly evident during its 4th of July celebration. After the race there is a parade down Como Avenue complete with throwing candy which is so small town classic. As for the race itself (called the Langford Races because they start and end at Langford Park), registration is available the morning of, it costs a whopping 50 cents, there is no swag (well, you can pay extra for a t-shirt), and there are no prizes. And there is chip timing! So for someone whose last blog post showcased too much racing paraphernalia, this was a perfect race.

When we did this race two years ago, Erik and I were just beginning to ramp up our running for Twin Cities Marathon. We ran the 3 miles to the race start and I had all good intentions of running with Brynn and chatting the whole way at a slightly faster than comfortable running pace. Then we were going to run the “long” way home to get in at least 12 miles on the day. In essence, I had no intention of “racing.” At the start, I saw Allie Rykken who legitimately lives in that neighborhood (not that you can’t race if you don’t live in the neighborhood, but it is kind of like a local affair and even though it is only 2 neighborhoods away from mine, it is on the OTHER SIDE of the train tracks:) 

So Allie, Brynn, and I all started running together. The course is 2 x 2 miles through the neighborhood. We were able to maintain a conversation but it was a bit short as we were all a little winded, especially after running up the hill on Como. By the time we started our second lap, Allie and I had dropped Brynn (oops). We weren’t talking as much now and by mile 3, when we started our second climb up Como, it was clear we were racing. As skiers, we know how to work hills, and Allie and I passed a few people on that uphill. As we started the descent to the finish, Allie pulled ahead of me and I could never run fast enough to catch her. My time was 30:24 and I was pretty stoked to be able to run sub-8 minute miles. 

This year, as I thought about a “short” race to run, several 5 K’s came to mind, but in the end, I really wanted to do the 4th of July race in Saint Anthony Park again. There were numerous reasons for this...I can run there and back, the aforementioned cost, lack of paraphernalia, a “hilly” course which I think works to my advantage, and since I wasn’t really “racing” 2 years ago, I was fairly certain I could crush my previous time. 

In anticipation of this race, I did running speed workouts every week. I also did a couple tempo runs and was satisfied to be able to do 2 x 15 minutes w/ 5 minutes rest at 7:30 pace. Then a couple weeks before the race we took a trip to Banff and while I didn’t do any running, I did do a lot of hiking. For me, racing should never trump vacations. It was a good mental break from my usual daily routines (and can provide this blog post with some pictures!)…

We climbed a mountain and saw lots of glaciers…

Looking at Victoria Glacier (and Mount Victoria) from the summit of Fairview Mountain above Lake Louise. Photo: Erik

We played in the snow…

Hiking through some snow on the trail to Eiffel Lake from the Moraine Lake Trailhead. Photo: Erik

And climbed on some rocks!
A giant boulder on the aptly named Rockpile Trail at the mouth of Moraine Lake. Photo: Erik

Then it was back to Minnesota for a week to fine-tune some training for the 4 mile race. And then it was July 4th and the race was here! Craig and his girlfriend, Eva, decided to join us, too. While Craig’s girlfriend biked, we averaged 8:30 miles on the way to the race, which provided a sufficient warm-up for me.

I lined up with Brynn and although I was a bit farther back than I thought I should be, this would also help keep me from going out too fast. The gun went off and I was surprised to see Brynn next to met after 50 meters, but then she dropped back and Allie zoomed by me. There was no talking this time- our pace was way too fast. I ran around a few people and then settled into a fast but comfortable pace. I could see Allie and another girl I know, Anna, ahead of me, but let them stay there. My first half mile was 7:16 pace, which is pretty fast for me. I passed Anna and several others the first time up the Como hill. I was feeling good. By the start of the second lap my breathing was more labored but could tell I was gaining on Allie and a group of girls. By now I was breathing hard and trying to focus on my running form and actually breathing a bit deeper to calm myself down.

I passed Allie as we turned onto Como for the last long uphill. Now the sufferfest was beginning. I thought, “I am never doing this race again!” I just kept running fast and breathing hard and telling myself this was temporary. By the time I got to the downhill, Craig and Erik were both cheering for me. I did attempt some kind of sprint to the finish, but was pleased with the time reading on the clock. My last half mile was 6:56 pace, so I’ll take that. When I finished it took me about a minute to catch my breath and a couple more before I could start cheering!

Craig, who ran a lot faster than me, said we had to run slow on the way back home which I thought was funny because Craig’s “slow” pace is like my marathon pace. We actually ended up running over 10 minutes per mile on the way home while Eva coasted on her bike and informed us she was very hungry.

My time was 29:14, a solid 1:10 minutes faster than 2 years ago which breaks down to 7:19 average per mile this year compared to 7:36 average 2 years ago. I think this shows some good improvement but also think I’d have to train a lot more to get much faster. It was also interesting to see that they had a “record” board up with the fastest times for each age. It turns out I hold the record for 30 year olds. This is quite an anomaly because every other record around age 30 is 5 minutes or so faster but somehow no fast women have ever ran this race when they were exactly 30! I didn’t have my phone on me, otherwise I could have taken a picture of my running record:) 

I doubt I’ll be targeting this race next year (mentally I find it’s much better to only do a few races and not repeat them so often) but the secret is out if you are looking for a no bling, inexpensive 4 mile running race on the 4th of July- consider the Langford Races!