At the first fluid station along the TC 10 Mile course, Kara Goucher snatched up a cup -- along with a few strides on Katie McGregor. The two favorites ran together for the opening three miles Sunday, and when Goucher edged ahead, she expected McGregor to come right up with her.
It didn't happen that way. That blew up the game plan that coach Alberto Salazar had mapped for Goucher, but it didn't matter as she won the U.S. women's 10-mile title in 53 minutes, 16 seconds. McGregor could not break out of a sluggish rhythm and finished second in 55:04, with Kelly Liljeblad third in 57:06.
Goucher, who grew up in Duluth and now lives and trains in Oregon, broke the course record of 53:51 that McGregor set in 2006. She steadily stretched her margin to win a $10,000 purse and a wealth of confidence as she trains for the New York City Marathon on Nov. 2.
"My coach didn't want me to take the lead until halfway,'' said Goucher, a 2008 Olympian who will run her first marathon in New York. "I moved to the side to wait for [McGregor] to come, and she didn't. So I thought, 'Well, now I'm here.' I made my move 3 miles early.
"This is a big honor. I never thought I'd come through Minnesota in the competitive season. It's been fun.''
Josh Glaab of Superior, Colo., won the men's division in 50:29; former St. John's standout Chris Erichsen of Bloomington was 47 seconds behind.
With the national women's 10-mile championship on the line, both Goucher and McGregor expected a fast race. But both are training for the New York City Marathon, and their heavy workouts -- combined with 48-degree temperatures and intermittent sprinkles -- dampened the pace.
So did Goucher's early lead. McGregor, of St. Louis Park, said she could never get out of low gear. When she fell behind, Goucher had no one to push her. Running alone behind the lead vehicle, Goucher weaved around on the road, trying to get a clear view of what lay ahead. McGregor, alone in second, found it difficult to push her pace.
"It was just one of those days when I couldn't get it going,'' said McGregor, a five-time winner of the event. "It was just slow.
"I hoped I could keep close and maybe catch up on the hills, but it was like I kept getting pushed back. I'm a little frustrated. I feel like I've done a lot of work, and I should have been able to run faster.''
The work will continue for both women as they prepare to run in New York. Salazar was pleased with Goucher's time under the conditions, but she has some intensive training ahead. She anticipates four or five more tough workouts before a prerace rest period.
That's always the hard part. Goucher doesn't like to take it easy, and she expects to be a little nervous before her debut at 26.2 miles. But Sunday's race helped put her mind at ease.
"It would have been great to run faster,'' Goucher said. "But this gives me confidence. I closed well in the last mile. I ran really well. In the middle of a 100-mile week, I don't think it was that bad.''