Tag Archives: 10k

Views From The Finish Line…A Final Look Back.

There is never a true “beginning” to any story, nor is there ever a true “ending”. There is always a “before” and there will always be an “after” to absolutely everything.

There are, however, convenient starting and ending points for a narrative. A story arc always just feels more complete when there is a clear beginning to that tale, and a clear and concise point where that arc comes to its conclusion.

After a five year journey, which started with a vague decision to “lose a few pounds” and to “run a 5k”, I believe that this narrative has come to an end at the finish line of this week’s Twin Cities 10 Mile.

This does not mean that I will stop running, but this blog was intended to document my journey “from couch to Ironman”. That journey ended 2 years ago. It changed as I tried to find a new calling, a new passion. I dabbled in Ultramarathon and tried the 50 states marathon club. I even tried cross-country skiing. None of these endeavors excited me and those pursuits were abandoned. Finally, I decided that I just needed balence and to make running a PART of my life and a PART of my identity…not it’s sole defining feature. I decided upon this months ago…after signing up for most of this year’s events…and I made it to the end of that schedule. In the process, I tied up some loose ends and found peace in this new harmony.

Ultimately, this passion is something that will be more organic, more subdued, more balenced. It is changing my approach to running.

Events will be for fun and to motivate me to stay healthy. I have not been competative in awhile (except for the surprising results in Waconia) and I have mostly let go of that pressure. As such, the nature of these events will change as well. They will no longer be selected to push my body, and my boundaries, to the brink. They will not be extreme. They will also not be the basis of my yearly life schedule. Traveling for events will occur very rarely (if at all). I won’t bother with race swag or photos (unless included with registration fees) as the swag never gets used and all the race photos look the same after awhile.

My blog will also go dormant. This document was mostly for my own benefit. It was to keep me accountable and to track my journey. It has been successful in that regard…and I am stunned that so many others have followed this journey. But my future in the sport will be more mundane and I am finding that I have less and less to say. It is time to bring this to a close as well.

Despite these promised changes, I am not saying “never again”. I may compete in another marathon at some point. The one thing that I feel that I am missing is a World Marathon Major. There are three of these in the United States…Boston, New York, and Chicago. Chicago would be the easiest race logistically…and is the least inspiring for me. New York sounds amazing and is the biggest marathon in the world. Both races are lottery registrations. Boston is a bucket list race for almost any runner. I will NEVER qualify for this race, but I could do a charity registration. I would just need to find a charity that I believe in that would accept me. Maybe this will be a 50th birthday present to myself. Time will tell…

As for triathlons, I will do one or two local sprints every year just to keep me cycling and swimming. I will never do another full distance Ironman, but a 70.3 may be in my future. It is not a priority, but I’m not ruling it out either. It just feels increasingly unlikely. Despite two new Ironman 70.3’s being launched mithin driving distance, I have no current interest in signing up for either event. Time will tell…

USAT Age Group Nationals was an unexpected wild card. I qualified by winning my Age Group at the HITS Sprint Triathlon in Waconia. This opportunity will be too good to pass up and I know that I would regret passing on this race. I have been invited for the Olympic Distance Age Group National Championship in Omaha next year and I will also compete in the Sprint Age Group National Championship (no qualification needed) the next day. This will be the big travel event of 2017. The rest of the year’s schedule looks quite minimalist by my standards:

-Hot Chocolate 15k (Minneapolis) – April
-Lifetime Tri Minneapolis (Sprint Distance) – July
-USAT Nationals (Olympic and Sprint) – August
-Twin Cities Loony Challenge (10k, 5k, 10 mile) – October.

If I ever do a big race again (Boston, Ironman 70.3, or any full marathon), I will likely post a race report here. I can almost guarantee a few blog posts for Nationals. But my days of regular blogging has come to an end. To my readers, thank you for following me and for the encouragement and inspiration along the way. You have made this journey easier, and more enjoyable as well.

Before I sign off for the last time, I wanted to take a final look back at my five year journey…the medals, the 50 States Marathon map, and the views from the finish lines…

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Race Report: Twin Cities Loony Challenge

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October 8-9, 2016
Minneapolis/St. Paul MN
Events 104-107

For some odd reason, I consider the Twin Cities Marathon Weekend to the the official ending to the fall running season. I have no idea why I think that. I have scheduled an additional 1 or 2 marathons every single year after TCM (Disney, Detroit, Route 66 and Houston, Kansas City and Des Moines). I also tend to load up on throwaway races (Monster Dash, Turkey Trot, Santa Shuffle, Polar Dash, V-Day 5k, Get Luck 7k, etc) to stretch out the season. The end result is a brief slowdown during the dead of winter, but no real “off-season” break…until now. This was the season finale.

It’s a great way to finish the season. The Twin Cities Marathon is the biggest running event of the year in the Twin Cities, and one of the premiere marathons in the country. There is a whole weekend of activities including a phenomenal expo, multiple shorter events on Saturday, with the marathon and 10 miler capping off the weekend on Sunday.

This year, keeping with my desire to slow down a little, I opted not to run the marathon again (I am a three times finisher). Instead, I would compete in the 10 miler on Sunday, and run the 10k/5k/1 mile combo on Saturday before hitting the expo.

As has become tradition, the weather cooled off just in time for the event. Just two days before my first race, I was still training in shorts and a t-shirt. The cold front rolled in the day before the event with starting line temps expected to be in the high 30’s. This left me scrambling to figure out what to wear as I have not had to use layering in months.

One disappointment about this year’s events is…football. The starting line for the marathon and 10 miler was by the Minnesota Vikings home stadium (Metrodome) and runners were always provided pre-race access to stay warm and use the restrooms. This wasn’t permitted the last couple of years as the Metrodome was being demolished and U.S. Bank Stadium was under construction. We anticipated having access to that facility once construction was complete. However, the Vikings had a noon home game scheduled for marathon Sunday and access for runners was not allowed. Moreover, all of the parking lots near the Stadium/starting line would be charging “event rates” which would run as high as $80! Fortunately, there were other options, including parking by the finish line and taking a free shuttle to the start. Fortunately, a friend was also running the race and her husband offered to drop us off at the start and meet us at the finish. Thanks guys!

 

Saturday Events:

Thirty Four degrees. That was the morning temp…34F. Of course I have raced in much colder weather, but the coolest that I have run in the last 5 months or so was mid-fifties.

So, I over-dressed for the event.

I got down to the race site in plenty of time and parked next to the expo. It was a 1 mile hike to the start/finish line on the Minnesota Capitols front steps. I reached packet pick up and got three bibs and three shirts (10k, 5k, and 1 mile). The longer races were Brooks short sleeved tech shirts, and the 1 mile was a cotton/poly blend. All were good quality and great colors. I then ran around in circles looking for the corporate team tent (they moved it but didn’t update the map). That left me a little tight for time. I got there, got my race gear all set up, dropped my bag, and set off just in time to reach the start. The Saturday events all start/finish at the marathon finish line, and they follow the marathon route as a simple out and back. They start with the 10k using the last 3.1 miles of the marathon course. Then the events gets progressively shorter and shorter…blocking less and less roadway.

I don’t have too much to say about any of these events. It was chilly, it was crowded, and I was slow. After each event, i got some water and a small snack, returned to the corporate tent, swapped bibs, took off layers as the day got warmer, and headed back foe another round.

Finish Times:
10k – 1:03:07
5k – 32:28
1 mile – untimed

10k Finish (more layers)
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5k Finish (fewer layers)
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Once the running was over, I dropped off my gear and headed too the expo. It was the same as ever…great expo and easy to kill an hour or two. For once, I didn’t spend a dime. I got my 10 mile bib and long sleeve Brooks tech shirt (boring gray) and left to go run a few additional errands.

 

Sunday Events:

32F. Another brisk morning. Fortunately, a friend offered me a ride to the event. It saved me a lot of hassle. Got to downtown Minneapolis and the starting line at US Bank Stadium. It was still dark and about 10,000 participants were congregating for the 10 mile start (and another 10,000 runners for the marathon start 1 hour later). The sun started to rise and it was going to be a beautiful clear day. I headed to the coral and the race started. The course quickly got us out of the downtown core and along the Mississippi River. A few miles later, we crossed the river into St. Paul and the the slow 3 mile uphill grind started. Most of the 10 mile course is the same as the last several miles of the marathon…and the 3 mile uphill is pretty easy to manage at mile 4 and pretty brutal at mile 20. Fortunately, the leaves were changing and the fall colors were near peak.

My legs were a little jelly-like after my three race on Saturday, but I was able to run at a steady pace for the whole race (walked the aid stations). The temps started to climb by the end of the race and it turned into a perfect day for a run. Before I knew it, I had reached the St. Paul Cathedral and headed to the finish at the capital building.

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Finish Time – 1:45:53

I got my two medals at the finish (10 mile and multi race Summit Challenge). There was some decent food and a nice post race party. Certainly a good way to finish the season.

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Qualifying For Nationals

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Although I was pretty sure that I had qualified for USA Triathlon National Age Group Championship at HITS Waconia, it was nice to get official confirmation this morning. USAT Olympic Age Group National Championship is the only (non-Ironman) qualification only race in the United States, and is the first time that I have successfully qualified for a race. Sure, I was able to bypass the lottery and get guaranteed entry once in Houston, and I have received prefered coral placement as well, but the only way into this race is to qualify. It may not be quite as prestigious as Boston Marathon or Ironman Kona, but this is still very special and exciting for me. I never would have thought this would be possible and it exceeds all of my hopes and expectations. Omaha may not be Kona or Boston, but Omaha will be MY Kona and Boston combined. It is a validation that I have truly am a triathlete. It is validation that I belong…

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Race Report: Red, White & Boom Half Marathon

July 4th, 2016
Minneapolis, MN
Half-Marathon #27
Event #100(!)

My 100th event (well, 89th according to Athlinks since they don’t consider events without a finish time as official…so the fun runs and 100 mile cycling events don’t get counted). Fitting that it should be the Red, White & Boom Half Marathon…it has been a staple on my schedule since I started running 5 years ago. It is the only event that I have raced every year since I started to run. The half-marathon is also my most commonly raced distance.

So, I found it ironic that, in reaching this milestone, that it could be my last half.

Unlike full marathons, I am not actively avoiding the distance, but I am cutting back dramatically on all race events. I will likely limit my racing to a spring and fall running event and a summer triathlon. The fall race will be the big event of the year and will be the Twin Cities 10-Mile (no half marathon option available at that event). The summer event will be a sprint triathlon (Lifetime Triathlon Minneapolis most likely), leaving a spring race that will likely be shorter after the off-season (Hot Chocolate 15k scheduled for 2017). A half marathon will almost certainly show up on my schedule at some point…but nothing is on the radar in the foreseeable future.

I have finally settled back into a predictable training routine. Each week I do a 1 mile pool swim, a 32 mile bike/5k run brick, two 10k runs and one “long” run (10k or longer depending on my schedule). This averages out to over 1 hour/day of fitness. It feels like a good balence.

Being on the 4th of July, this is historically a hot race, and it starts early. I received an e-mail that the race would start under a yellow flag due to heat. That seemed a little excessive (mid to high 60’s with dew points in the low 60’s). I assumed it would finish under a yellow flag, but those temps don’t seem too unpleasant.

Packets could be picked up on race morning which makes my life easier. Unfortunately, they have added a 5k run to this event and have opted for two completely separate courses (same finish line) so my race is on the west side of the Mississippi River (about a 1 mile walk from packet pick up) instead of being on both sides and crossing the river a couple of times. I think that I will miss the old course…

The morning was beautiful. Parking was worse then prior years (always a nightmare for this event) even though I got there before they even started handing out packets (5:15 am). I got my stuff, hiked back to the car (to drop off the shirt and pint glass) then headed back to the start. So, I had logged over two miles on my feet before I even made it to the starting line.

The weather was ideal. 64F, slight humidity, nice breeze…and a yellow flag (seriously?) Small dose of reality hit when the cop went by with the bomb sniffing K-9. They wandered through the crowd and opened the garbage bins for a quick sniff before moving on.

The race was fine, but I did miss the old course. This one just wasn’t as scenic. It did get into the low 70’s by the end of the race and I was pouring water over my head during the second half. My speed did not return for this event (I didn’t expect it to) and I am still left to wonder why I am so much slower then before. This race was a full 21 minutes slower then my first half marathon…about 8 weeks after I bought my first running shoes. I am not that much older. Sigh…

As is the norm for this race, they offer grilled hotdogs at the finish. I have never liked these mystery meet products, but I do “indulge” in my only hot dog of the year right after the finish line.

Finish Time – 2:30:02 (grrrr…)

This brings my “spring” running season to a (late) close. In five days, my short summer triathlon season begins (training is already in full swing). Three sprints, the final two being in late August. It should be a nice change of pace…

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The Journey Towards “Life Fitness”

“I always try to explain to people that peak performance and life fitness are really different worlds. When you are trying to maximize everything you can out of your body, you’re also getting that much closer to getting an injury, getting burnt out, or paying a price that you may never get back. Life fitness is about figuring out: ‘What can I do every day so I feel better today and tomorrow and I can still go and do something and do it next year and the year after that until I’m 98?’ That’s kind of what my athletic quest is now.”

Mark Allen – Six Time Ironman World Champion

 

I found the above quote in the 2016 Fargo Marathon Results Magazine. Mark was the keynote speaker at the Fargo Marathon Expo and did a throwaway Q+A article for the magazine.

It nicely summarizes my journey for the past two years.

When I started running, it was new and exciting. I was in awe of what I could do and kept setting bigger and bigger goals for myself until I crossed the finish line in Madison. For the next two years, I struggled with motivation and burnout. I felt that the new goals (Ultramarathon, 50 marathon states, back to back marathons, etc) should be motivating but it was burning me out. I realized that my path was not sustainable. I have been radically cutting back on training and events trying to find something that I could enjoy, maintain, and that would be worth maintaining. So, this quote resonated with me.

Interestingly, in the past few weeks, I think that I may have found that balence. I have been on a regular and consistent training schedule…and I have been enjoying it. It is a far cry from my Ironman days, but more then most middle aged adults do routinely, and it should help me maintain some degree of “Life Fitness”.

Here’s the current schedule:

Monday + Tuesday: rest (work schedule does not allow for a regular workout)
Wednesday: 1 mile swim
Thursday: 32 mile bike/5k run
Friday, Saturday, Sunday: 10k run

The whole thing averages about 1 hour/day. I am not trying to break any speed records, nor do I have any complex drills. It is just “me” time. With the exception of Thursday, the whole workout is done before anyone else is out of bed. It does not take away from family time.

This feels right. It feels sustainable. It is also something I can use as a springboard for future training if the desire ever returns…

 

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Looking To The Future – It’s Time To Hang Up The Running Shoes…

In a few short weeks, I will be running my 100th event…the Red, White & Boom Half Marathon. It has been a constant event on my schedule since I started running in 2012. It seems like a fitting 100th event.

The 100th event milestone is also a good opportunity to look back on my journey and reflect on my future goals.

Over the last several month, I have had a chance to do just that. I have realized that the time has come to make some decisions about my hobbies of racing, running, and triathlon. I have come to one unavoidable conclusion.

It is time to quit.

…and I am very much at peace with that decision.

This does not mean “never again”, but racing has become a part time job that interferes with all other aspects of my life. Fitness and wellbeing need to stay. A full calendar of events, lost weekends of traveling to forgettable races for another non-PR and a shirt I will never wear…that all needs to go.

As many of you already know, my training and motivation have been…uhhh…nonexistent this season. Those who follow my blog will not be surprised by this. I tend to be all or nothing in my passions, and running has dwindled down to nothing.

Of course, I had a few reality checks lately. We lost both of our dogs to illness, we got a new puppy, I had a couple health scares (false alarms), an aging mother who is developing more health concerns, and life in general is just making its presence known. This has resulted in my workouts dropping to a couple of 45-60 minute sessions per week. I was not running outside due to cold weather, icy roads, a couple of irresponsible dog owners in the neighborhood, chronic ankle injuries, a prolonged bronchitis, and a general lack of interest in the whole thing.

Since Ironman (easily the highlight of my running career) I have struggled with dwindling interest. I have tried going back to running only. Hated it. I tried shorter events (and fewer of them). Those just seemed like chores when they came around.

I am tired of the expense, the stress and the time lost in traveling to events. Even local events are a 1 hour drive each way, plus extra time for parking and a lot of sitting around waiting for the event to start. A 5k takes up the better part of a weekend day. Don’t even get me started on the “no race day packet pickup” with the 2-3 hours of driving the day before the race.

Yep, the passion is gone.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy running and triathlon. I appreciate the health benefits. But this schedule of 2-3 weekends a month being filled with one thing or another has worn out its welcome.

I am also tired of having my hobby define who I am. Running is a small part of me, not the sum total of what I have become.

As a result, I will be making some serious changes.

For starters, no more traveling. It is too expensive, takes to much time, and involves too much stress.

Next, far fewer events (i.e.: practically none).

The only event that I will certainly continue until I stop running completely is the Twin Cities Marathon Weekend. It is one of the biggest and best running events in the nation, and is the highlight on the calendar every year. There is a phenomenal expo, a marathon, a 10 mile, a 10k and a 5k…as well as multi-event challenges. I can do as much or as little as want to. Also, if any event will rekindle my passion, this would be the one.

Aside from that, I will likely have a sprint triathlon on the calendar somewhere. I have the gear, and one event on the calendar will keep my bike from rotting in the garage. A bike ride in Elm Creek Park is a wonderful summertime experience, and I just need an excuse to get out there. The premier sprint Triathlon in the Twin Cities is Lifetime Minneapolis Triathlon and will likely remain my triathlon of choice.

This gives me a summer triathlon and a fall race. I may do something in the spring as well, but there is no obvious must do local event. Likely, I will just sign up for something at the last minute depending on schedule, weather, and motivation. Next year, it will be the Hot Chocolate 15k in April since I deferred the event this year (due to a conflict with Star Wars).

I may run an event or two at the last minute. If the weather will be beautiful, and I have a quiet weekend on tap, then I may sign up for a race just for the fun of it. But the days of developing massive training plans, and of planning my life around races, are behind me.

I had actually made this decision before WDW Star Wars. The stress of getting flights, shuttles, hotels, park tickets, and fast passes was getting to me. When I made that decision, I felt a heavy burden drop. Knowing that Disney was my final race-cation allowed me to enjoy it a lot more (and I felt less guilty spending the time and the money knowing that I would never do this again). Fargo was likely my final out of town trip for a race. Red White & Boom may be my final half-marathon (time will tell). This made for a bittersweet weekend in Fargo, but I was at peace during that final long run.

For the rest of this year, I have a fairly light schedule (by my previous racing standards), and I do intend to see it through. I have three sprint triathlons over the summer, and the Loony Challenge (5k, 10k, 10 mile) at the TC Marathon Weekend in October. It will be a final tour of some well loved events that I will likely enjoy even more without the headache of planning for 10 additional events down the road.

I am not absolutely ruling out a return to marathon and big events at some point down the road, but this return is unlikely and would be far off on the horizon. I currently have nothing on the radar. The only thing that I feel that I am missing from my running resume is a world marathon major (Chicago or New York). The thought of training, dealing with the lottery, and hassle/expense of travel is more then I want to deal with right now, but maybe someday. Alternatively, I may just sign up for one final Twin Cities Marathon if I feel compelled to run one more big race.

Another option would be going to Boston as a charity runner. The cost of this would be huge (I doubt I would be a successful fundraiser, so I would write a check to a charity I believe in). This would be an amazing way to finish the journey, but such an endeavor would be far in the future, and only if the passion was there to warrant the time, stress and expense.

For now, the running “career” is over. It was a fun streak which included the following accomplishments (by the end of the year):

-16 marathons in 11 states
-over 25 half-marathons
-over 100 events
-10 century rides
-18 triathlons
-5 Half-Ironmans
-one 50k ultra
-2 marathons in 2 states in 2 days
-membership in Marathon Maniacs, Half Fanatics, Dual Agents, and 50 Marathon States Clubs
-Ironman Wisconsin
-good health, improved self confidence, and a bucket full of memories.

Looking forward, I will continue with wellness and fitness, and I will show up to a couple of events a year for the simple joy of participating. I will blog race reports for the rest of the season, but I doubt that I will have much to say beyond that. I am following many athletes here and will continue to chear for all of you from the sidelines.

To everyone who has followed my journey and who has offered support, I thank you all. You have lifted me up when I was down, shared in my successes, and have given me more then you know…

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My Muscle Memory Marathon Training Plan…

“Respect The Distance” – Every Marathon Coach Everywhere

“Trust In Your Training” – Yoda

“As A Runner, You Will Do Some Dumb Things. But Try Not To Do Anything That Is Really Incredibly Stupid” – Me

“Whoops! I don’t know how it happened, but I accidentally signed up for another ¬†marathon…” – Facebook Meme

Welcome to my “Incredibly Stupid” race preview…Fargo Marathon Edition.

Last season, I ran 5 marathons and one ultramarathon. I finished the year in October with 2 marathons in 2 days…and I was completely burnt out on running. My plan for this season was a much lighter racing schedule, less half-marathons and absolutely no full marathons. In fact, I ended last season wondering if I would ever run another full again.

As the off-season progressed, I came to a conclusion. My marathon running days were behind me. I had a lot of marathons left on my “to do” list and came to the conclusion that (baring a return to running several years from now and tackling a really big race like New York, Chicago, or MCM) the marathons on my dream list would stay there. Running long distances just too too much of a physical toll on my body and I wasn’t having fun anymore.

So, this season had a modest 4 half marathons on the schedule. Two were Disney races, one was part of a local series that has always been on my schedule, and the last one was Fargo.

Fargo Marathon would have been a race that I would have run sooner or later. It is a 3 hour drive down I-94, is a pancake flat course, and has a really good reputation. It offers a full and a half and I signed up for the half since I could get the experience without putting my body through the full marathon training.

Winter training went poorly. Lack of motivation and a 7 week bout with bronchitis left me on the couch for most of the winter. I struggled with completing my Disney Half Marathons.

That said, part of my brain (the emotional half) was not yet ready to let go of the full marathon distance. I think it was ok with it in theory, but wanted to have one final farewell race. My rational side told me that my longest training run since October was 10k. My three long races (a 10 miler and the two Disney halfs) were painful and I struggled to finish. My rational side told me that I had absolutely no business transferring to a full.

My emotional side waxed nostalgically about one final marathon. My rational sided countered that it could only end with a DNF and possible injury. The emotional side countered that there was a 7 hour cutoff time…I could walk most of it if need be.

Eventually, (with just three weeks to go before race day) I checked online “just to see” if a transfer was even possible. It was. And a few ill-advised clicks later, the transfer was complete.

What the hell had I just done?

I quickly scrambled for a training plan online.

Shockingly, there are no THREE WEEK marathon training plans.

Who knew?

So, about the only training plan I could come up with is what I am calling the “Muscle Memory Marathon Training Plan” (or 3M plan for short). Basically push myself out the door and see what I can do, see how fast I can ramp up, and hope the legs remember the rest.

Kids, do NOT try this at home…

So, last week, I went out 3 days in a row. One lap around the neighborhood is about 3 miles.

Day one, I managed one lap.

Crap, I may not last long enough to get to the first aid station to register my DNF. Wonderful…

Day two, I managed three laps (9 miles). So much for Muscle Memory…

Day three, I was shooting for five laps, I gutted out four.

When I started this process, I honestly had no idea at all what my legs would be able to do.

The answer, apparently, was “not much”.

Thursday, I tried again. Three laps….

I was in trouble…big time.

The marathon is now two weeks away. I need to complete some kind of long run, even if it is just to boost my confidence (and hopefully build my stamina and endurance). After this weekend, it would be too close to race day to try.

I went out the door today with the plan to go as slow and as far as I could. The weather was cooperating. By the end of the morning, I had completed 6 laps (18 miles) in four hours. Finally!

Of course, this is still far less training then I usually do heading into race day. Often, I get 3-4 training runs that are over 20 miles. Not this time, but 18 miles will likely be enough to help get me to the finish on race day.

My remaining training schedule will be a few short runs…likely just some 5k and perhaps a 10k as I taper.

Race day plan is to join one of the slower pace groups (likely 5:30) and hang with them as long as I can. I did something similar in Des Moines (the second leg of my back-to-back marathon challenge) and it worked nicely. The pace was slow enough that it allowed a lot of chatting…which distracted me from the pain and suffering. Hoping that works again.

We will find out in two weeks.

“May Fortune Favor The Foolish” – Captain Kirk

 

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Race Report: Disney/Star Wars Dark Side Challenge

April 15-17, 2016
Orlando, FL
Half Marathon #26
Events #95-97

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“2:21 am. In a shuttle with all my running essentials. Bib…check. Timing chip…check. Running belt…check. Garmin…check. Magic Band…check. Lightsaber…check. The list of running essentials is a little different at Disney…”
-FB post on Half Marathon morning

To me, Disney events are “experiences”, not races. With all sorts of photo stops and other distractions on the course, speed and finish time is a secondary consideration. As long as I am fast enough to not get swept, I’m happy,

The theme again was “Star Wars”. In case you haven’t noticed, I am a bit of a geek about all things Star Wars. That said, this will be my last trip to the House of Mouse. I have reached my saturation point with Disney…grateful for my experiences with no compelling desire for any more.
Registration:

Just registering for Disney events is a huge challenge. The events are very popular, and can sell out in minutes. I have heard many stories of people trying to register the moment the tickets went on sale…and they still could not get in. I was already registered for the Star Wars Disneyland races for 2016 when the WDW races were announced. They also announced a special coast to coast award for anyone running both in the same year. If I were to run both, I wanted that extra medal. The other motivating factor to sign up this yeas was that my speed had vanished in the past 18 months. I could still use some of my faster times from my 2014 season to guarantee me preferred coral placement. However, another Disney trip would be a significant expense that was NOT in the budget (Disney is very skilled at separating cash from their legal owners). With strong spousal support (thanks dear!) we sorted out a way to make it work…if I could get registered. Fortunately, there are a lot of Disney fans who are runners and there are a lot of Facebook groups out there of runDisney fans. I belong to several, and one group has set themselves up as an official runDisney travel group who can secure tickets in advance. I put in my requests and got everything I wanted. I then had to find hotels (at WDW, it is worthwhile to stay on property since nothing outside the parks is in walking distance, and there are free shuttles from all Disney resorts to and from the start/finish lines). After all that, I had to figure out “Magic Bands” for the first time. These bands are attached to your wrist and have a computer chip in them. They are linked to your credit card (allowing for easy purchases on site), are used as a room key, serve as your park admission tickets, and you can reserve dining and attraction FastPasses. Setting it up, downloading the app, and figuring my park itinerary months in advance took a lot of work (but, it did make life easier once I reached the parks).

July 14 – Expo

Straight off the plane, I headed to the expo.

Disney had lost my bib.

They had my info, my registration, and my bib number, but no bib. Took about 30 minutes to straighten out. Got a new bib (still in coral A), my 4 shirts (cotton shirt for 5k, tech shirt for 10k, HM, and “Dark Side” challenge). Once that had been sorted out, I headed to the expo. It was a decent size, but nothing overwhelming. There was a wait to get into the official merchandise area, and some things had already sold out (early afternoon on the first day!) Fortunately, my needs were modest. I wanted an official event cotton t-shirt, a few commemorative pins and I was set (I would have bought a hoodie too, but they didn’t make any for a race in Florida). Once that was done, I went to Downtown Disney to shop and eat before turning in for the night.
Ride Photos.

Disney decided to stop outsourcing race photos for the first time. They do a very lucrative business taking guest photos at their parks and the race photos got bundled with those plans. So, for one fee, I got photos from all the races, all my ride photos and park character meet and greets. I’ll be spacing them throughout the race report. I’ll start with a few ride pics…

Test Track:

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Space Mountain:

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Seven Dwarves Mine Ride:

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Tower of Terror:

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Expedition Everest:

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Aerosmith Rock and Roll Coaster:

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April 15 – Dark Side 5k

The race started at 6am. The shuttles started rolling at 4am. I was up at 2:30am. Sometimes they have some cool things to do while waiting for the race to start. This event did not disappoint. They had set up 8 character meet and greets/photo ops with detailed backdrops. The mini-sets included Boba Fett, Jabba the Hutt, Darth Maul, Darth Vader, Captain Phasma, BB-8, Raptors (those tentacle monsters from Force Awakens), and Stormtroopers. With the lighter crowds at the 5k, and getting there early, I got through every line except BB-8. I’ll share highlights of each a little later. But I did spend as much time as I could at the photo ops before racing over to the starting lines.

The 5k course is pretty simple, and always the same at WDW. We start in the EPCOT parking lot, run for a mile outside the periphery of the park (to spread us out a little) before entering World Showcase and doing a lap. We then run through Future World and exit again…finishing in the parking area. The run through the park was great! Very scenic, lots of photographers, and just a few character photos (R2-D2, Chewbacca, Rebels, Stormtroopers, and a scenic shot of Spaceship Earth. The race wasn’t timed, and the lines at the photo ops were short (well, shorter then I expected them to be during the next couple of days). So I stopped at all of them. Once the fun run was over, I headed to the Magic Kingdom (mostly to check out the Seven Dwarves Mine Ride Coaster) before heading to Hollywood Studios and checking out the Star Wars themed attractions.

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In Park Character Meet and Greets:

Hollywood Studies has two Star Wars characters for meet and greet photo ops. These are Chewbacca and Kylo Ren. Unlike the photos at the races, there are not rushed. The actor stays in character and multiple photos are taken. Here’s a few highlights.

Chewbacca:

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Kylo Ren:

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April 16 – Tie Fighter 10k.

Race started at 5:30 am. Shuttles started at 3:00 am. I was on the first shuttle again, jogged to the meet and greets…to find that some of the lines were already cut off! I did get a couple, but the lines (and the crowds) were much worse today. The starting line was not in a parking lot, but on a closed highway. There were still 6 corals, but they were much larger. This race was point to point. It started outside of EPCOT, did a very short run from one side of the park to the other (no park tour today), followed by a run through a shopping/resort district on out way to Hollywood Studios. We had a nice run through there before the boring highway stretch to ESPN Sports Complex. Same characters as the previous day (much longer lines-45 minutes for Chewbacca) so I passed on most of them. They did have an Emperors chair set (from Return of the Jedi) that you could sit in (pretty cool) and speeder bikes, and a scenic shot at Tower of Terror. But, overall, kind of disappointing. They had moved all the starting line characters to the finish, and I had time to get several more photos. After that, I headed to the other two parks. Expedition Everest alone is worth the price of admission to Animal Kingdom. EPCOT disappointed. Future World has a retro-future charm that reminded me of The Jetsons. The 3 rides I wanted to see was Soaring (closed for refurbishment), Test Track (easily the worst coaster I have even been on…and basically an ad for Chevy), and Mission Space (retro dull flight simulator). However, there was a food and garden show going on in EPCOT where there were several food trucks with very good tapas style appetizers and deserts. I basically just ate my way through World Showcase. I headed back to the hotel early. The next day would be insanely early (even by my standards) and I had to get packed. I could not get a late checkout and time might be a little tight after tomorrow’s half marathon.

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Pre/Post Race Character Photos

I discussed this above. Some photos came out pretty good. Some didn’t. Here are the highlights.

Raptor:

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Stormtroopers:

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BB-8:

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Captain Phasma:

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Darth Maul:

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Jabba The Hutt:

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Boba Fett:

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Darth Vader:

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April 17 – Dark Side Half Marathon

I was up at 1:00 am. Shuttles started at 2:30, and I was on the first. Surprisingly, the lines were better. I got through Vader again, as well as Boba Fett. After that, I did not have time for a third. The crowd was bigger (12 corals today). Fortunately, I was able to use my 1:44 Half Marathon time from two years ago to get me front corral placement all weekend long (1:51 half marathon time or better was needed). Again, I counted on that preferred start to get me to the photos before the lines got crazy. It worked at the 5k, but not at the 10k. The course would follow yesterday’s 10k route until after Hollywood Studios. Then, it would take a long detour to Animal Kingdom before routing us back to ESPN. I figured that the first two photo ops would be the same as before (R2 and Chewie). I was satisfied with the photos I had of them and made the strategic plan to skip them and only wait in line for “new” characters. Surprisingly, R2’s line was short (shorter then the 5k). I could not pass that up. Then, Chewie’s was short as well, so I stopped yet again. I had lingered in line long enough by then that the course was much more crowded. Hollywood Studies had a big stage with Kylo and some Stormtroopers (stopped again). The road to Animal Kingdon was long and dull, once there, we did a big lap around the parking lot before entering the park. There were mini sets of the Trash Compactor and Wampa cave, Stormtroopers were on patrol, and scenic stops of “Everest” and the “Tree of Life” (stop, stop, stop), before the last stretch back to ESPN. When I got there, I received FOUR finishers medals (Half Marathon, Dark Side Challenge (finishing the 10k and Half Marathon during the same weekend), Kessel Run Challenge (finishing the Star Wars Half Marathon at both DisneyLand as well as Walt Disney World in the same calendar year), and Coast to Coast Challenge (finishing any Half Marathon in both parks during the same year). I snagged a couple more photos before leaving.

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What The Heck, This Is A Race Report, So Here’s A Few Words About The Actual Running…

I was undertrained (a 5k training run once or twice a week since October) and I felt it. I was very slow and not very motivated. Despite the character stops, my finish times were awful. I was having pain in my big toe (never had that before, and it would just randomly come and go), both ankles (chronic issue, and getting worse), and my left knee was feeling modestly unstable. Hamstrings were tight by the final race. Fortunately, I had a head start and a generous amount of time to finish…so I was never at risk of being swept. The weather was great for the 5k and the half, but very muggy for the 10k. I did a lot of walk breaks beyond the photo stops and aid stations. The aid stations were plentiful, and Disney did a good job keeping up entertained. If you are a Star Wars fan, this is a great event and I would recommend it highly. My finish times are awful, but here they are…

5K – no idea-it was untimed and I forgot to stop my Garmin

10k – 1:14:30
3341/12169

Half Marathon – 3:03:46
10423/18171
Final Thoughts:

So, was the event worth it? Mostly yes…but I am a runner and a diehard Star Wars fan, who also loves Disney…so it hit all the right nerd notes for me. However, the California and Florida experience were quite similar (WDW did a great job having a lot of character experiences off the course so the lines would not be cut off and people would not get swept simply for stopping for photos…but I expect DL to incorporate that opportunity next year). I really enjoyed it, but a more casual fan should be fine with either DL or WDW event. Running all the races at a weekend does allow more opportunities for character and running photos, and I would recommend doing so to most participants. The 5k (being untimed, and much less crowded) provides a great opportunity to do the Disney experience. Then, the more serious runners can just run the timed events and ignore the distractions.

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As I stated, I had a great time, but this will be my last big trip for a long time. They are just too expensive, too much stress planning, and too much time away from home. I am driving to Fargo next month for a Half Marathon (3 hour drive and an overnight star at a Super 8). After that, I will be staying a little bit closer to home…

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Another “A” Corral!

My 2014 continues to pay dividends! With a 1:44:03 Half Marathon finish at the end of that season (how on earth did I do that), I find myself at the front of the line for the Disney/Star Wars Half Marathon/10k/5k races!

Of course, I will not be able to use my 2014 finish times for much longer. My spring 2015 races would have landed me in corral C. My current finish times would place me in corral F.

Sigh. The joys of aging…

So, one last time, I will get to enjoy starting at the front of the pack.

For the Disney/Star Wars races, this is actually a big deal. They have character photograph stops on course. The lines get really long and they do get cut off. Starting early makes it much easier to hit these stops (especially since the speedsters tend to be more concerned with their finish times then these photos), the lines are much shorter and are less likely to be closed.

Should be a great weekend!

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The 2016 Season Is Already Falling Apart.

Well, so far, this year has been a disaster. Fortunately, I had already decided to cut back, but I am just tired of having one setback after another.

For starters, I have been dealing with a few health issues. I was diagnosed with osteoporosis last year, and I have to see my Endocrinologist periodically and get some injections for it. I also have been getting a lot of tests for suspected Myesthenia Gravis. It looks like I have a mild form of the condition and may have to try some medications in the near future.

I lost my dog to illness just days before my Star Wars DisneyLand trip (which was devastating to me…I have no kids, and this was my baby), so I was just going through the motions in California (it did help me get my mind off of things). We then got a new puppy which needs 24/7 supervision.

My mother (now 91) is getting more frail and needs me around more then in the past. Hard to do when she lives hundreds of miles away (and in another country).

To add to this mess, I have finally recovered from a bronchitis that lasted for SEVEN WEEKS! I never get sick, but this thing would just not go away. Running in the cold was next to impossible (running on the treadmill was almost as bad). So for seven weeks, I did no running AT ALL. I did get on my bike trainer a couple of times a week, but I could only handle it for 30-45 minutes per workout.

During that stretch, I only completed one run…a 5k run that I needed to finish for my year long “Summit Challenge”. It was awful. I could barely breath, and likely set back my recovery by 1-2 weeks.

Yesterday, I finally felt good, and the weather was beautiful, so I went out for my first outdoor training run OF THE YEAR. I had a very modest goal of completing 10k. I did it…

…and injured myself in the process.

When I got home, I noticed that my right upper inner thigh was tight and the arch of my right foot was in pain. This morning, I am quite certain that I have a groin strain and the start of plantar fasciitis.

Grrr…

To put it bluntly, all of these setback have me re-evaluating my future in the sport.

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