Monthly Archives: October 2014

Race Report: Monster Dash Half Marathon

October 25, 2014.

It was the typical Team Ortho train wreck. I signed up for the race a year ago. They sent me my packet three times, with three Monster Dash jackets, 2 bibs, and 2 chips. Despite this, I had to go to packet pick up to get my series jacket, series medal, and early pick-up for next year’s Polar Dash (including bib/chip/fleece). Packet pick up was on Thursday evening and all day Friday. I knew I had to go Thursday…they would run out of everything by Friday (always go early to Team Ortho packet pick up). Unfortunately, there was a MN Wild hockey game in the same building that night…so it was a nightmare getting there, parking and getting in the door. I made it with 5 minutes before they closed. The place was empty and pick up went smoothly. The next day was a disaster. They ran out of event jackets, series jackets, and just about everything else.

Race morning was perfect. Tempurature was in the low 50’s, and would get up to 60. It was sunny, but the wind was a little gusty. I originally was planning to do this race as a training/recovery run. But, I realised that I had set PR’s in almost every race distance that I ran this year…but not in the HM. I felt that my half marathon record was strong for me…and unlikely to fall. It was 1:54:43. I thought that I might be able to shave a few seconds off…if I ran a perfect race.

I arrived at race race site very early. I knew that parking and traffic would be an issue.  The weather was ideal and I was just in a short sleeved shirt and shorts. The wind was a bit of an issue and I found myself a feeling a little chilled, but I knew I would warm up once I started running. There were several people in costume (there would be a lot more at the 5k untimed fun run), but I was shocked to see how many were in multiple thick layers and huddling in bus stop shelters. Last year, the race temps were in the 20’s and the water tables were full of ice cubes in cups. This weather was perfect!

While waiting in the start coral, I bumped into Lisa, who I recently met at Ironman Wisconsin, and is on the IM Wisconsin FB page. She was nursing an injury and planned on taking it very easy. She introduced me to her friend, Molly who is a multi-Ironman finisher and who is ridiculously fast. She too was going to be taking it easy, but that was sub 1:40 territory for her. While we were all chatting about Ironman, another finisher came up to join the conversation (I was wearing an IM Wisconsin finishers shirt). Amazingly, all of us had massive GI issues during the Ironman that started during the swim! We all got lost in the conversation when we realized that the national anthem was playing. It was almost race time. We said goodbye and parted ways.

I wanted to hook up with the 1:50 pace group. I looked around and saw that I was standing next to the 1:45 pace group. I knew that 1:45 would blow me out of the water. That would be a 9 minute PR. The 1:50 group was far behind me and it was too crowded for me to try and we’ve back towards them. Even with the 1:50 pace group, I had no expectations that I would stay with them the whole time. I just hoped that I could stay long enough that I could hang on for a PR once I started to fade. With the 1:45 group, I expected to get dropped early and the get picked up by the 1:50.

I kept up for the first mile or so when I noticed that Molly was running next to me. We started talking and we kept pace with the 1:45 group. We are both in health care and had a lot in common. Chatting made the miles fly by. We eventually pulled ahead of the pace group. I knew that she was running slow by her standards, but this was flying by my standards. I was able to keep up, so I let her pace me. At every split, I would look at my Garmin and I would be floored that we were under 8 minute/mile. I never run this fast!

By mile 9, she announced that she would be walking the next aid station. I knew that I could not do that. I would not return to this pace if I took a walk break. I assumed that my pace would slow and that she would catch up and then I would try to keep up again. Instead, the 1:45 pace group caught up with me. By this point, I was at mile ten and on track for a crushing new PR. I had 5k to go. I was determined to keep up with this pace group. I did. I almost lost them at mile eleven when we hit the only real hill on the course (and the only time I ran slower then 8min/mile). I kept them in my sights and kept pushing. By mile twelve I started pulling ahead of them. This was incredible. Never dreamed of crushing my old PR like this…

Finish Time- 1:44:03 (broke old PR by 10:40)!

I have participated in 8 different events this year and have set new PR’s in 7 of them. The only one that is missing is the full marathon. That PR is 4:25. I should be able to break that with ease based on today’s results. I get one more chance this year for a clean sweep. That happens next month at the Route 66 marathon.

Thanks to Molly (my unofficial pacer) for helping me achieve something I never thought possible! This also confirms to me that I have fully recovered from Ironman Wisconsin and ready to attack the end of my season!

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Behvior. Belief. Identity.

“You are not an athlete.”

“You can’t do this.”

“Why are you wasting your time?”

“You are a fraud…and you know it.”

“Why are you even trying?”

“You will never change.”

“You. Will. Fail.”

 

On any given cold, overcast or windy day, these thoughts would be my traveling  companions. I could be several hours into a long run or bike ride, and these thoughts would fill my head every time.

I was training for an Ironman Triathlon.

I  had already completed 7 marathons and 5 Half-Ironmans triathlon. I had run fast enough to qualify for the Houston Marathon. I had finished in the top 5% of competitors in some big 5k and 10k races.

But, I wasn’t a “real” runner…and I knew it.

Less than three years earlier, I was obese and sedentary. I had been my whole life. I had been very successful in other parts of my life In those ares, I was confident and self-assured. But I have always been overweight. I had always been weak and uncoordinated. And, deep down inside,  KNEW that I always would be…

I joined weight watchers (again) to try (again) to lose a few pounds. I knew that I would not reach my ideal weight, nor would I keep it off. I knew that it wasn’t possible.

Except, I did reach my ideal body weight, and I have stayed there. But I still believed it to be temporary. I was really just a fat guy in a temporarily skinny body…

Friends (in real life and online) would ask me for training advice. Some were actually quite accomplished. I would often wonder how they would respond when they found out that I was just a fraud.

For 30 weeks, I committed myself to an intense physical training program to train for the Ironman. I averaged 14 hours of training every week. For the final seven weeks, I trained for a minimum of 22 hours/week, and peaked at 29 hours. I traveled over 4000 miles during that training period (with over 100 miles swimming, 1000 miles running, and 2500 miles cycling). The physical demands were incredibly punishing. The physical transformation was startling.

But, that was the easy part.

The mental journey was so much harder.

For 30 weeks, I would face a barrage of doubt and negativity from my subconscious mind. It was going to fight me every step of the way. For eight straight hours on some long training days, my head would be flooded with negative thoughts. I would try to fight back By reminding myself of all my achievements, and of how far I have come. But, it was a losing battle. After a 100 mile bike ride, I would be more emotionally exhausted than physically fatigued.

I would picture myself crossing the finish line. I had that tape on an endless loop in my head. There was just two problems…

1) I truly didn’t believe it that it could happen.

2) Deep down, my inner view of myself was obese and sedentary. Nothing that I could do would change my inner identity.

Despite all the turmoil, I kept training.

For over two years, I had these thoughts racing in my head with every new challenge. From my first 5k, to my first marathon, to my first triathlon, I had learned to tolerate the negative self talk and tried to use it as fuel to just keep going. This was no different. It was just magnified.

The mental transformation was the hardest part of my training. Molding my body was easy compared to trying to change my inner beliefs and to remold my sense of identity.

The change took months, and the change was subtle and gradual.

But change did happen.

I recall one day when it struck me. I was scrolling thru the Twin Cities marathon website (I had completed this race twice despite believing that I would fail). I came across the “Midwest Endurance Challenge”. It was a series of three events: TC Marathon (done), Grandmas Marathon (done), and the Birkie.

The Birkie is a 50+ km cross-country skiing event. My inner mind was silent as I read this. I didn’t ski. I had tried once and failed miserably. I was eight years old, and wiped out…on the tow line…for the bunny hill. Ten kids behind me crashed into me and I ended up on the bottom of a pile. I endured jeers and ridicule as I walked back to the chalet. I have never skied again.

Yet my subconscious mind was quiet.

I knew nothing about skiing. I had no equipment. I would not even know where to start. I would normally be laughing at myself for even reading this…but there was nothing…almost.

What I detected was subtle yet startling. There was a quiet confidence that I could do it if I set my mind to it. There was an expectation that I would succeed.

My mind wasn’t telling me “you can’t”. It was saying “of course you can”.

I believed in myself.

Finally.

I accepted the fact that was an athlete…at last.

 

Last month, I completed my Ironman Triathlon with a finish time of 15 hours, 42 minutes and 11 seconds.

The human body can do miraculous things when the mind gives it permission to succeed.

Despite the physical pain I endured that day, it was an emotional celebration of my journey.

The legacy of that day is my inner transformation. Some of the physical changes are temporary. I can’t maintain that lever of physical conditioning indefinately…nor would I want to. But, my sense identity has been remolded. My belief of my capabilities has been transformed.

The human body is capable of far more than our minds believe possible. The words “can’t” and “impossible” are simply the minds reaction to getting pushed out of its comfort zone. But both of those words are lies. Those lies keep us paralysed in the same place forever…unless we find the courage to break those chains and to challenge what is possible.

“If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it, then I can achieve it.”

 

Environment. Behaviors. Capabilities. Beliefs. Identity.

At last week’s Weight Watchers meeting, a diagram was put up showing 5 barriers to (or opportunities for) success. They were concentric rings. The outer rings were environment and behaviors. Those were the ones that most members viewed as their biggest struggles. In many ways, that is true. It is the day-to-day battle. Overcoming the temptation of donuts in the break room, boredom snacking, and making time for physical activity are everyday battles. You can see them and challenge them every day.

I was struck speechless by the two inner rings.

Beliefs.

Identity.

These were the issues I had been fighting with for the past 30 weeks. As long as I believed that I couldn’t do it would struggle. As long as my self-identity clashed with my goals, then I would fail.

Altering either is very difficult. There is no direct way of tackling it. I found that it can take years. You have to challenge yourself to do things when you truly believe that they are beyond your abilities. You must continue to challenge your beliefs and repeatedly prove them wrong. As you tear down this belief system and build up a new one, then you may be able to modify your identity. Your identity is hard to modify, but it is not made of stone.

Identity is malleable.

Identity can be softened and remolded with time, persistence, patience, and courage. The new sense of self that emerges can be stronger, more confident and more self-affirming. This revised sense of self is the key to permanent change.

My identity has changed. I am fit. I am healthy. I am an athlete. And I KNOW that I can do whatever I set my mind to doing.

That is my Ironman legacy. It was worth the journey.

 

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”-Muhammad Ali

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Race Report: Twin Cities Loony Challenge

October 4-5/2014.

Since I finished Ironman Wisconsin, I have struggled with my workouts. I assumed that this would be the case, so I deliberately loaded up my schedule with several running events. The first of these was this past weekend. It was the Twin Cities Marathon Weekend, and I wanted to participate in someway, even if I wasn’t up to the challenge of a full marathon. So, I opted for the Loony Challenge. It is a three race series (10K/5K/10 mile) over two days.

With 3 races in such a short period of time, I knew that none of my finish times will be exceptional. I could follow a few strategies. The first is to pick a race as my competitive race (preferably the first one) and go all out for that event, then I would just get thru the rest of the runs. Alternatively, I could approach this as a long race with break in the middle, and pace myself a little slower. This would give me three pretty good times, and would likely place me higher in the overall standings. I opted for this second strategy. I have already set major PR’s this year for the 5k and 10k. Neither of those were at risk of falling no matter what my strategy was this weekend. But, my 10 mile PR is very weak. I have only run this distance one time, and I was injured at the time. The 10 mile PR should fall, and the PR should be huge, regardless of my strategy. If I decided to focus on this race, my new PR might be stronger. But, the 10 miler was the last event of the series. My legs would be stiff going into this event even if I walked the first two races so, I elected to race the series as best as I could. Even with this strategy, my 10 mile PR should be an impressive improvement…I hoped. As I noted, I have struggled with my runs. My training run pace has been very slow lately, and my legs get tired quickly. This may not be the slam dunk that it should be…

 

Loony Challenge-Day One:

Packet Pickup (Part One):

The weather turned cold a couple of days prior to race day, and I was completely non-acclimated. I had no idea what to wear (and I usually end up over-dressing). I decided to dress lightly and I brought some additional layers just in case. I would have access to the corporate team tent and there is typically a changing room available to us. I arrived at the race site (the Minnesota Capitol building) very early, grab bedmy gear and walked over to the venue. It is cold…and very, very windy. I would need to layer up. Packet pickup could not be easier. I was running both the 5k and 10k today. We had our own packet pickup area and I could use the same bib and chip for both races. They gave me my packet, two race shirts (finally, they had different shirts for the 5k and 10k races…and they were both tech shirts instead of cotton!) and a bonus pair of running socks. I then headed over to the corporate team tent. I was still early and had plenty of time to change into warmer gear. I met with a few familiar faces, had our team photo, and I headed out to the starting line.

TC 10K:

This is a simple out and back course along the last few miles of the marathon course. It is a little hilly with the biggest one at the very beginning. The weather was quite cool and I was glad I layered up. I had no idea what my pace would be. My training runs have been quite slow. I was hoping to keep all my races for the weekend under 9 min/mile but wasn’t sure if that was realistic. By the half mile point, I was in the high 7-low 8 range and my legs felt good. I was exactly where I wanted to be…I just wasn’t sure if I could maintain it. I did. By the turnaround, I was still in the low 8 min/mile. The turn is always a boost seeing relatively few runners ahead of me and a flood of runners behind me. That gave me a bit of a boost and spurred me on. I was still on pace. I passed the St. Paul cathedral on my way to the Minnesota State Capitol and the finish

Finish Time-50:55 (8:10 min/mile)

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TC 5K:

I had about 45 minutes before the 5k. I headed back to the corporate tent, relaxed and socialized. Before I knew it, I had to get back to the starting line. I could tell that my legs had stiffened up during the break. The course was the same, they just moved the turnaround a lot closer. My pace was slower (as expected), but was still in the mid 8’s. I was able to sustain that until the finish.

Finish Time-26:41 (8:36 min/mile)

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Packet Pickup (Part Two)/Expo:

Once the race was over, I headed over to the expo. This is one of the expos that I have most enjoyed, and it lived up to expectations again. Lots of vendors, samples, discounts, lectures etc. I had to come down to pick up the 10 miler bib. Once done, I headed home.

 

Loony Challenge-Day Two:

TC 10 Mile: 1:38:21 (10:31)

I didn’t plan on having any exceptional runs this weekend. I expected my 5k and 10k time to be way off my PR times, and they were. I hoped the 10 mile would be different. I had only run one 10 mile race in my life, and I was injured at the time. My old PR was 1:38:21. Even under this weekend circumstances, I should not only beat that PR, but I should crush It…

The 10 mile race starts 1 hour before the TC Marathon. The TC marathon starts in downtown Minneapolis, takes a long scenic route around the chain of lakes and the Mississippi River before coming almost back to the starting line and then turning into St Paul and to the Capitol. The TC 10 mile starts at the same spot and goes straight to St. Paul. Hence the subtitle “The Shortcut to the Capitol”.

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It was even colder the the previous day, but not windy. I made it down in plenty of time, dropped off my gear and lined up in coral two. The race started right around sunrise. Due to some storm damage, they had to modify the course which resulted in some significant bottlenecks on the course. Fortunately, they anticipated this and took a few precautions. They spaced out the corals a little more then in previous years. They also narrowed the starting chute to space us out a little more. It seamed to work as I never had to slow down due to course congestion. This course is quite hilly. Most of the marathon course is fairly flat, but most of the hills are on the 10 mile part of the course. My legs were definitely still fstiff rom the previous day and my pace had slowed a little. Fortunately, I was still able to keep below the 9 min/mile pace. As the course went on, my legs got more fatigued…especially on the 3 mile hill midway thru the course. I reach the 10k turnaround. My surroundings were familiar from yesterday. I kept moving and I reached more milestones…the 5k turnaround, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. I reached the final downhill and the finish line was in sight. I got a slight burst of energy as I crossed the finish line.

Finish Time: 1:27:50 (8:47 min/mile).

New PR! I broke my old PR by 10:31!

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I go thru the finish area, picked up my medals (10 mile medal and a separate Loony Challenge medal), got my finishers shirt and gear bag. Overall, a great experience with great swag, great volunteers, wonderful community support and a huge PR. Overall, a great way to spend the weekend!

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Loony Challenge Final Results:

Total Time: 2:45:26 (99/391 Overall, 5/12 AG). Pretty pleased with the results!

For anyone who is interested, these are the medals from the “Ultra Loony Challenge” ( 5k, 10k, Full Marathon). I may have to do this next year…

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Edit: Twin Cities in Motion announced that they have made an error. The course had to be altered from previous years for safety reasons. After the race was complete, they determined that the course was short by 0.14 miles. They have issued an apology. My PR was huge, and I would have certainly have PRed, even if the course were longer. I have decided to keep this as my 10 mile PR for now. Since my HM PR is at a faster pace then my 10 mile PR, I am confident that this PR will fall in the near future. It is a little disappointing, but I am glad that the organizers admitted the error and informed participants.

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Ironman Wisconsin-Part 12: The Videos

Not too embarrassing…

 

Here’s a more general event day recap video.

 

Overall, it was a really great experience!

 

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October 1, 2014 · 4:25 am