Tag Archives: Twin Cities Marathon

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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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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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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Race Report: Hot Dash 10 Miler

March 18, 2016
Minneapolis, MN
Event #94

When I signed up for this race, I figured that it would be one of those “throwaway” events. I needed an early spring event to keep me doing some training during those cold winter months. This seemed like a decent one. I had never run this race before, but they had introduced chip timing and medals this year. It is also a part of a year long running series that I am doing (bonus jacket, bonus bling). I figured that 10 miles would be easy.

I was wrong.

This would be a tough one. Until about a week ago, I was laid out with bronchitis for seven weeks (right at the end of my “off-season”). During that time, I ran only one time…the TC Valentines Day 5k. I ran a few times over the last 1-2 week due to the early spring we have had…and I had a very hard time getting through 10k. Ten miles would be tough. It would be a catered training run, and a test for my stamina with three upcoming half marathons.

The other issue was the weather. We had a long stretch of beautiful weather this month (61F and sunny last weekend). This weekend was the only dip in temps we have had in several weeks. It snowed overnight, along with freezing rain. The tempurature was below freezing for the drive to the venue…and it was slick and treturous. The  start time was after 9am, and I hoped that the late start would allow the roads to go from icy to wet. For the most part, that is exactly what happened. But it was cold, and windy, and gloomy, and damp. The run would involve strategic layering, and adjusting the number of layers as the race progressed.

Overall, the race was uneventful. It was flat. The course was well known to me, and would have been scenic with nicer weather. At mile 4, in an urban/industrial area next to some urban parkland, a clearly terrified deer came running along the shoulder of the course in the wrong direction. It was clearly not used to a couple of thousand runners invading his home on a quiet Saturday morning. Glad there was a grassy shoulder…people could have been hurt if it ran down the middle of the road as we were still densely packed together. I remember marveling at its speed which contrasted my own. I was slow, and was hurting by the end (feet, ankles, knees, quads, calves, hamstrings), with nothing left in the tank by the finish line.  The only consolation is that I ran the whole thing (except for aid stations). It was a partially reassuring test for the races ahead. I could do the distance, but not quickly or enjoyably. Part of me felt like I no longer belong at these events.

Finish Time – 1:45:43

To put this finish time in perspective, my PR for the Half Marathon is about 5 minutes faster then this. Even when fully trained, my speed had vanished last season. This year, untrained, I feel like I am going through the motions, shuffling from point A to point B. This is not satisfying or rewarding to me in any way.

For our efforts, we received a very nice bamboo long sleeve quarter zip running shirt, a cheesy finishers medal of an oven mitt, the typical post race food, and a scoop of “hot dish” (what Minnesotans call a casserole). The name of the race is a play on “Hot Dish” and is supposed to celebrate all things Minnesotan (runners are encouraged to wear plaid and to sport a real or fake beard). It’s a theme. My next races will have a much better theme. One I can really get excited about!

Next up…Disney Star Wars 5k/10k/HM. Should be a blast, and a little warmer…

 

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Looking Ahead To My Spring Races…

Compared to previous years, my spring calendar is sparsely populated. This is a good thing since I was waylaid in my training for SEVEN WEEKS with a bronchitis that just would not go away.

I got sick right after the DisneyLand Star Wars HM. I am just now feeling about 100%. During those 7 weeks, I did some infrequent spinning on the stationary bike, and I went for just…ONE…run. That was the Valentine Day 5k…and it kicked my butt. It was on one of the coldest days of the winter and my lungs were not up for the challenge.

In the last week, we got some early warm weather, and I decided that I would go out for an easy 10k. Well, when you have done a total of 5k in 7 weeks, the words “easy” and “10k” should not be used in the same sentence. I was slow. I also managed to (slightly) injure myself. My hip was throbbing by the end of the run, and I felt a little bit of plantar fasciitis setting into my foot the next morning. Since then, I have limited my runs to 5k, and something aches after every one of them.

This does not bode well for my next race. It’s a 10 miler, and it’s this Saturday. I have never been worried about such a short distance (at least, not since I started running in 2012), but my run fitness is just not there. Unfortunately, the weather will be miserable as well (mid 30’s and rain). It is a part of the race series that I am running this year and I don’t want to sacrifice it. So, I will go into it as a long training run and focus of not doing myself any harm.

After that, I have a string of 3 Half Marathons at about monthly intervals before I start my summer triathlon season. I am not too worried about these. If I can pull off the ten miler, I should have little trouble adding an extra 5k over the next several weeks.

First up is the Walt Disney World/Star Wars 5k/10k/HM weekend. That should be a blast. A month later is the Fargo Marathon Weekend. I am scheduled to run the 5k and HM. I had strongly considered bumping it up to one last Full Marathon but the lack of training (and how I was feeling after running a 10k) would make this incredibly stupid. Pity, since the race is supposed to be great, it’s a pancake flat course, and has great bling (they even have a medal for the post race pub crawl!), it would also have added one more state to my marathon list, and they allow a full seven hours to finish the race.

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Love this bottle opener “medal”!!!

Finally, I have the Red, White and Boom Half Marathon on July 4th (annual tradition race for me, and the third race of my series). After that, my long races are done for the year. I have a few sprint triathlons over the summer, then a 5k/10k/10 miler combo at the Twin Cities Marathon Weekend to finish the season.

Once I finish my last HM of the season, I will have to re-evaluate my future in running races. I have the start of plantar fasciitis and IT band issues. My chronic ankle injury is misbehaving, my knees are not happy with my runs, and my motivation isn’t there. The next few races will likely help me decide my running future. But one thing is certain, Disney and Fargo will be my final destination races for the foreseeable future. To much time and money to keep up all of this traveling. Knowing that these will be the final trip actually has me looking forward to these instead of dreading these events. But, for now, I have to get through this weekend’s 10 miler. Hopefully the cold rain clears out a little earlier then predicted…

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The Year In Review/The Year In Preview

The final events of 2015 are behind me, and the running season is now complete. This a good time to reflect on the season that was, and to plan for the future.

2014 was an incredible success. I completed an Ironman and I had crushing new PR’s at almost every race distance. I was engaged and excited by my training (but I did get a little burnt out on cycling). Overall, it was an incredible season.

2015 could not live up to that year. In the end, the season was a mixed bag. I had scheduled a season that was almost as bold as my 2014 campaign. I decided to go easy on the bike, and to focus on the run, and likely attempted a little bit to much.

On the bike, I cut way back to just over 300 miles (compared to 3000 miles last year). The result was that I started to look forward to cycling again! I competed in 4 triathlons…all of them sprints. It was a lot of fun and I was able to be more competative then I had been in longer events.

Running was another matter. I registered for too many big races, including 5 marathons and one ultra-marathon. I recall being in my start coral at the Pittsburgh Marathon (second marathon of the year) and thinking “I don’t want to be here”. That made for a long season. I was committed to it, but I was dreading it as well. Many days, I wondered if I would even be able to just get through it. Somehow, I completed it all. There were no DNS or DNF this season (and I have never had one). Along the way, I finished my first 50k, my first back to back marathon, and my 15th marathon in different 10 states. I have qualified for membership in the Marathon Maniacs (jumping from level 1 to level 4), Half Fanatics, Double Agents, and 50 Marathons States clubs.

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However, my enjoyment of the long run had faded, and they have become a chore. I was going through the motions when training, and it showed in my speed. I was slowing down at all distances…especially in the marathon. I finished the season with three consecutive marathon “personal worsts”. During this process, I came to realize that my days of running marathons would soon be over.

My priorities are changing. My days of “ultra”-anything are behind me. Huge events that take months to train for, and packed schedules with a race every weekend have taken their toll. I still love to run/bike/swim, but I need balence. I am moving away from being a “competative” runner. I will never qualify for Boston or get up on a podium…and that’s OK. What I want is health and fitness. I want this to be fun. I want to participate in a few events that excite me, but doesn’t require endless hours of training. I want some balence, and not have one (or more) events eating up every single weekend.

I want to be a recreational athlete.

With that in mind, I have put together my 2016 race schedule. It still ended up being a lot busier then I wanted, but a big drop off from this year. There are no marathons. There are four half-marathons and two 10 milers. It has a big running event in the Winter, Spring, and Fall, as well as a few triathlons in summer to keep me engaged. I signed up for a local series at the last minute (Summit Challenge) which has made the year busier then planned.

2016 Race Schedule:
January-Disneyland/Star Wars Half Marathon, 10k, 5k (Rebel Challenge). 3 events in one weekend. I can’t imagine a better event for me. A few days at Disney in the middle of winter, lots of Star Wars geekiness, and a bit of running. Can’t wait for this one!

February-Valentine 5K (Summit Challenge)

March-Hot Dash 10 Mile (Summit Challenge)

April-Walt Disney World/Star Wars Half Marathon, 10k, 5k (Dark Side Challenge/Kessel Run Challenge). The sister event to the January Star Wars series. This may be my last big destination race for the foreseeable future.

May-Fargo Half Marathon and 5k. The Fargo Marathon has a great reputation and has been on my short list of “must do” marathons. It is also “almost local” (just a three hour drive up I-94). Since I am no longer running marathons, this “must-do” is unlikely to ever get done. But I can still race the “Go Far” challenge by combining the Half Marathon and 5k. The bling last year was amazing and it sounds like they will revisit the same design this year. I get the big marathon expo and event feel without having to run 26.2 miles. It also fairly cheap trip needing just one night motel stay and gas.

June-open

July
-Red, White, and Boom Half Marathon (Summit Challenge)
-Lifetime Minneapolis Sprint Triathlon. I really like the Lifetime Triathlon series, and Minneapolis is my favorite course. I look forward to this event every year.

August
-Lifetime Maple Grove Sprint Triathlon. This is the other local Lifetime Triathlon. Not nearly as good as the Minneapolis race, but it is nearby and a lot of fun.
-HITS Wacconia Sprint Triathlon
-Minneapolis Duathlon (postponed from 2015)

September-open

October-Twin Cities Marathon Weekend/Loony Challenge. The TC Marathon is one of the biggest races in the country and the biggest running event in the Twin Cities. This allows me to participate in multiple races, get to the expo, race with the corporate team, and finish the year with a bang. It gives me guaranteed entry into the 10 miler (bypass the lottery) as well as getting an armload of bling.

November-open

December-open

Looking way ahead to 2017, Disney, Fargo, and Summit Challenges all fall off the schedule. So I will likely add one or more MN running series races to the calendar, continue doing the local Lifetime Triathlons, and run the Hot Chocolate 15k that I deferred this season. If I am itching to run a marathon, I might toss my name in the hat for New York or Chicago lotteries (both are world marathon majors), and a part of me wants to run a major before I give up marathons for good. But, I suspect that my marathon days are truly behind me. As far as travel goes, I suspect the Disney runs may be my last “destination” races (unless I get around to Chicago or New York), although I may do one overnight “semi-local” (Fargo, Winonna, Duluth, etc) race a year just to keep things interesting…

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The Final Marathon?

So, was Des Moines it? Was it my final marathon?

Short answer: I hope not.

The real answer is that I just do not know. But it probably was.

Over the past few seasons, I went from couch potato to Ironman and ultra-marathoner. I enjoyed seeing how much I was capable of accomplishing and trying to push myself further. Now that those milestones have been accomplished, I lack the drive and motivation to keep doing these events. Training takes too much time, and I just do not enjoy it any more. I am burnt out and exhausted. I am also questioning the health benefits and risks of ultra endurance training. There are studies indicating possible increased health risks for ultra athletes. They show that marathon runners have the same life expectancy as couch potatoes. I am not convinced that more is dangerous. But I also believe that the health benefits hit a plateau after a certain point. Running five marathons and one ultra this year was way too much for me, although I checked off the final goals that I wanted to achieve (ultramarathon and back to back marathons). I never had a DNS or a DNF. It has been a good run. But I need to re-evaluate my goals and my future in the sport. After a lot of thought and consideration, I plan on the following changes.

1) Things that I will NEVER do again:

Ultramarathon:
I am glad I tried it, but I really wasn’t motivated or enthused about it going in, and I was undertrained for the event. If I am honest, I hated everything about it. The small scale, the endless small loops, the trail running. I am happy that this one is behind me.

Ironman:
Unlike the ultra, I loved this event. The day was the best racing day of my life. The training was a wonderful experience. But it is far too much to do as a lifestyle. I sacrificed too much and I knew it was a “one and done” before I even registered. Overall, it exceeded my expectation and I treasure the memories.

Century Ride:
I have done ten of these. Six solo century rides, three Tour de Tonka, and Ironman Wisconsin. Again, more isn’t better. I learned to dread getting on the bike for my 6-8 hour training rides. Despite a good bike fit, everything hurt afterwards. I racked the bike for months after Ironman and only pulled it out for sprint triathlon training this season. The shorter rides were so much more enjoyable. I learned to enjoy cycling again.

Ironman 70.3:
This one surprised me. It likely should not be in the “never” category, but it is highly unlikely that I will ever do another. I have completed 5 of these and enjoyed them all (well, except the swim at Racine). But they are big events to train for and traveling to these venues is a chore. I had planned to do one this year but Wisconsin Dells got cancelled, and the rumored Ironman 70.3 St. Louis never happened. I found that I was relieved. That told me a lot. I find that, looking back, my Ironman journey is complete. I have everything that I wanted from the experience and that the book is closed and I feel very comfortable with that decision. If Ironman announced a 70.3 in my backyard, I would have to consider it, but right now…I would pass on the opportunity.

Olympic Distance Triathlons:
OK, this definitely shouldn’t be in the “never” category. But I never enjoyed the distance. It is to long to be a sprint and it is too short to be an endurance event. It seems to be the worst of both worlds…which is why I haven’t done one since 2012. At almost 4 hours, it is a long event. Since I won’t be doing 70.3’s anymore, it may end up being my occasional “long” triathlon events. But, for now, I am very happy with the sprint triathlons.

2) Things that I need to change:

Less training:
Already doing this. Exercise and fitness need to be part of my life, not take over my life. The three hour runs need to go. 30-60 minute runs or swims and 1-2 hour bike rides give me all the health benefits while allowing me time to be with my family, to do my job, to enjoy summer and to have other hobbies.

Less winter “training”:
I hated training for a spring marathon. Running in the cold, in the dark, through snow and ice was an invitation to injury. Wearing twenty layers of gear was miserable. Running twenty miles on an indoor track or treadmill made me hate running. I have friends who are serious runners and will battle through these condition as a badge of honor to be ready for a spring event. I, on the other hand, feel that runners need an off season. Up north, that off season is winter. Sure I will run on the treadmill, and even get outside when the weather cooperates. But it is a good time to do some strength training, swimming, elliptical cross training, or get on the bike trainer while catching up on movies. Change things up with no big event on the horizon. Sure, I will schedule a spring 10 miler or half marathon, and I will run 8-10 miles outside when weather permits. But feeling that I have to do a 3-4 hour training run in a blizzard is not for me.

Less traveling:
Destination races are fun. But doing too many gets expensive, keeps me away from home, and gets to be a chore. My inexpensive hobby is costing me a fortune. So, I will try to limit destination races to one/year (well, this isn’t happening next year…maybe 2017!) These will either be a destination that truly excites me, or something close by that I can drive to and only cost me one night hotel (Duluth, Fargo, Trinona).

Less event photos:
The bigger the event, the more compelled I feel to buy the photo package. I need to be WAY more selective. The cost adds up fast! I will be less motivated to buy the package for smaller and local events. I will consider it under special circumstances, or if I spot an incredible photo.

Less event swag:
I bought Ironman everything after the event. I also bought stuff after the first 70.3, marathon, half-marathon, etc. I got every kind of gear for every weather condition. Aside from replacement running shoes, I should be good forever…

Less events that I have to drive two hours to pick up a bib the day before a race:
I live in the extreme suburbs of Minneapolis and St Paul. Having to get a bib the day before can be a 100 mile round trip plus parking-frequently on a work day. This is especially annoying if there isn’t much of an expo. Twin Cities Marathon doesn’t bother me since I want to spend 2-3 hours at the expo. But Team Ortho or Hot Chocolate? No thanks. I will favor events with same day packet pick up or that will mail out the bib for a reasonable fee

Fewer Events:
When every weekend has an event, it becomes a chore and eats up free time. They aren’t special anymore.

No more Team Ortho events:
I have run all of their events for years. I have the same swag that I never wear. They are overpriced and always disorganized. They were fun, but not worth the money. (The 2015 Minneapolis Duathlon was postponed until 2016…so I will be doing one Team Ortho event next season…unfortunately).

Less focus on PR’s:
As my training volume has decreased, so has my speed. I doubt that I will ever improve upon my 2014 PRs, and I am ok with that. I will run races for the joy of running and to motivate me to stay fit. That is enough.

No marathons in 2016:
This is an absolute. I need the break. Marathons always seem like a good idea when signing up, so I am taking this off the table for awhile.

No more marathon “season”:
If I run a marathon in the future, it will be as a single and isolated event. It will be a decision that I make to go through a single training and recovery cycle. I will embrace the whole process or not commit to it. Marathons are special. Doing six in a “season” strips all the joy out of it.

Spend less money:
Seems to be a recurring theme in the above points…

So, what does this leave? Well, believe it or not, I still love running and running events. In 2016 I will follow the “2 hour rule”. I will not sign up for any event or do any training longer then 2 hours. So, races will be 5k to half marathons, and triathlons will be sprints. Bike rides will be limited to 2 hours or less. I am much stronger at short to medium distance events, I enjoy them more, and they are easier to train for. It is also in line with what most recreational and fitness runners do. It will be a part of a healthy lifestyle…

The schedule still looks fuller then I wanted for 2016. I won’t be doing the Team Ortho series, or any other series for that matter. Only three triathlons in 2016, the two Lifetime Sprints that are nearby, and HITS Wacconia. I plan on doing the Loony Challenge every year. It is a 5k, 10k, 10 mile combo during the Twin Cities Marathon weekend. It lets me be part of the biggest running weekend in the Twin Cities, get involved with our corporate team, get an armful of bling, check out a great expo…all without actually running a marathon. I am also headed to both DisneyLand AND Walt Disney World for a pair of  Star Wars themed Half Marathon. I love Star Wars and Disney and these will be the most enjoyable run-cations that I have had in a long time. So much for my “spend less money”, “buy less swag”, “don’t buy photos”, “travel less” rules that I just laid out…

In 2017, I will consider bumping up the running a little by adding the MN Running Series, and I MAY consider doing ONE marathon…but only if I am feeling a true desire to run and train for one. I won’t force it. It has to be a fall marathon for the reasons I listed above. The only bucket list marathon that sounds appealing is to run one of the World Major Marathons (Chicago or New York). Both are fall marathons so I could throw my name into the 2017 lottery and see what happens. I will actually be surprised if I feel the desire to apply for one of these races, but I am leaving the door open to the possibility…

The downside to this approach is that a lot of races that I wanted to check out will never be run. I had a big “parking lot” of events that I wanted to get to, and I did get to complete several of them (Twin Cities, Grandmas, Flying Pig, Detroit, Pittsburgh, KC, Des Moines, Houston, Route 66, and Disney). Many others are just being deleted from the “to do” list. These include LA, SF, Big Sur, Portland, Seatle, Fargo, Little Rock, A1A, Toronto Goodlife, Toronto Waterfront, Ottawa, Philadelphia, and MCM. Sigh…so many “what if’s”…

The question is…will I want to do it. I don’t know. I hope so. I don’t want my marathon “career” to end in Des Moines. But I know me. I tend to be all in or all out. I get obsessed with something for awhile, then lose interest, then forget about it and move on. I worry that this pattern will repeat itself with running. That is why I am trying to plan things so carefully. I want to adjust my activity to my level of interest and stay in the sport. But I know that, even if I keep running, that I may have no interest down the road in returning to the marathon once I have moved on.

I hope that the revamped 2016 season will rekindle my interest. Time will tell…

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Race Report: Twin Cities Marathon Weekend/Ultra Loony Challenge

October 3-4, 2015
Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
10K, 5K, 1 Mile
Marathon #13
Events #83-86

This was a weird one.

Leading into this event, I felt off. My training was not ideal, and I was running considerably slower then in the past. I knew that I would finish, but the finish time would be disappointing. I elected not to worry about it. I have struggled with my motivation this season. If anything could snap me out of it, it was this weekend. The TCM is a beautiful event on a fantastic course. It is always the highlight of my season. To top it off, the weather promised to be absolutely perfect…the best it has been since I started to participate in 2012.

Then a shadow fell on the event.

Black Lives Matter announced that it would hold a protest at the event. They would deliberately block the finish line to prevent runners from crossing it. The rhetoric from that group indicated that finishing a marathon is trivial when people are dying. Caring more about finishing a marathon then about this issue was “white elitism”.

There was a lot of anxiety among runners that this would set the stage for a potentially violent protest. Police and marathon officials did not make any statements for several days except vague comments about the safety of runners/volunteers/spectators. People were questioning if the marathon would be canceled.

I will refrain from discussing the views of BLM or my opinion about them. But their tactics were horrifying. There are many several awful things going on in the world that need our attention. There a lot of strong and opposing points of view on political issues. From climate change to ISIS. From PETA to lack of clean and safe drinking water for millions of children in Africa. Both sides of the gun control debate, both sides of the abortion debate. All of these are issues full of passionate opinions and beliefs. Do all of these concerns warrant our attention, discussion and action? Yes. But to state that one group with a concern or agenda (legitimate or not) should have the right to prevent others from performing any activity under the threat of violence should be viewed as a crime. BLM stated that they would not interfere with the marathon or runners if TCM publicly demanded that the DOJ investigate the St Paul Police department. To me, that is extortion.

In response, the St Paul police and mayor announced that any disruption of the marathon would result in arrests and that there would be a strong police presence at the event. However, the local BLM also received closed door meetings with the mayor and the governor. I feel that this was a mistake. It has set a very bad precedent. Any group can now feel that can threaten a marathon and the runners involved to get favorable attention from elected officials. This likely will not be the last time this occurs. One would think that, after the Boston Marathon bombing, that there would have been zero torrerence to this kind of mass threat to the safety of 12,000 athletes. Apparently not…

In the end, a 10 foot tall fence was erected along the final mile of the course. There were clusters of 4-5 police officers every 100 yards or so towards the end. It felt like I was running in the Thunderdome from the Mad Max movies.

I never saw a single protestor.

For me, the goal of the event was to enjoy myself and to reconnect with running. The Twin Cities Marathon is the best marathon event that I have ever completed. It is a great course, great organization and fantastic crowd support. This year also promised to be the best weather that I have ever seen for this event. It would be in the low 50’s, sunny with light winds. Perfect!

I was competing in the Ultra Loony Challenge which is the 10k and 5k on Saturday with the full marathon on Sunday. I decided to add the 1 mile untimed fun run since it offered a separate metal which complements the other race weekend medals (no bling left behind is my motto).

I arrived in St Paul early. I parked by the expo (about a half mile from the race start). After hiking up the hill, I was able to pick up my bib for the short races and headed over to the corporate team challenge tent. My company had a team so I had access to this tent right next to the start and a coworker kept an eye on our gear while we were running. It was still chilly when the first race started (10K) at 7:30am so I wore long sleeved thermal top, tights and gloves. I intended to pace myself and go slowly (I did not want to blow out my legs for the marathon) and I partially succeeded. It was an out and back along Summit Avenue (the final three miles of the marathon where I would be in a lot more pain the next day). I kept an average pace of just over 9 min/mile for the whole distance…which is quite a bit faster then my recent training runs. Overall, I was quite pleased and was really enjoying the morning.

10K Finish Time – 57:06

10k finish

By the time I got back to the corporate tent, I was overheating. So, I ditched the gloves and the thermal top (keeping only a short sleeved running shirt). I didn’t bother bringing running shorts since I figured that would be a little bit chilly, but I was starting to regret that decision.

I met a couple of office mates who had come down for the 5K. It was great running with some familiar faces! We didn’t have much time to talk, and we quickly made our way to the start coral. This was another out and back on Summit Avenue, but with the turnaround moved a little closer. By the time I started to run, I was a little cold again, but warmed up fast. I again went a little faster then I had wanted and my pace was a little under 9 min/mile. It was turning into a perfect day!

5K Finish Time – 27:43

5k finish

I got back to the tent and chatted with a few other runners while waiting for my colleges to get back. Once they did, they were willing to watch my stuff for my 1 miler.

I have to admit, I felt silly doing the one miler. It was an untimed kids race. Most of the adults were running with their children. But, this year’s medals were very nice and I was willing to look foolish to bring home more hardware. Not much to say about this one. Same start and finish, turnaround was even closer. Same general pace as the other two events.

1 Mile Finish Time (unofficial) – 9:06

Once back in the tent, I did a quick change and headed to the expo. TCM always has one of the better expos and it was fun wandering around and checking out the gear. I didn’t need anything, but I did get a couple of pairs of free socks (can’t remember the last time I had to pay for these). I got my bib and my legs were already sore (not a good thing with a marathon the next morning). So I packed it in and head home to rest.

I drove to Minneapolis very early on Marathon morning. The marathon starts at 8am, but the equally large 10 mile race starts at the same location at 7am. I got there early enough so that I didn’t have to fight for a parking spot. It was chilly outside and I just hung out in the car for a while. I wasn’t sure what to wear for this race. Start temps would be in the low 40’s, but it would climb into the upper 50’s and be sunny. So, I could freeze at the start or roast by the finish. I ended up with tights, long sleeve thermal top (with a hood), throwaway gloves, and a “Police Lives Matter” cotton t-shirt (my little rebuttal to the BLM threats earlier in the week). Usually, I would avoid cotton, but I was lucky to get this in time for race day (random gift from someone on FB who’s husband is a cop and who has a friend that makes them). I figured that wearing cotton over a thermal top would not be a problem (it wasn’t).

In years past, runners could wait inside the metrodome to stay warm before the race. Since the metrodome has been demolished and the new US Bank stadium is under construction, we had to wait in the cold. Fortunately, low 40’s with layers was warm enough.

This was my third running of this marathon (and easily the best weather I have seen for this event). It is my favorite course, and I remembered why on this day. The start is in the concrete jungle of downtown Minneapolis. We leave the core by passing the Basilica and the Walker Arts Center before hitting the chain of lakes (running around four different lakes by the halfway point), followed by a run along one side of the Mississippi River, over the bridge into St Paul, back down the Mississippi and along the beautiful tree lined Summit Avenue before running past the St Paul Cathedral with a finish at the State Capitol. With the exception of the first 2 miles, the entire course is trees and water. Every mile is beautiful and packed with spectators. There is not one moment on the course where there weren’t at least a handful of well wishers cheering us on.

My legs were tired from the previous day, and I was struggling by the halfway point. By the time I got to St Paul, I was feeling lightheaded and was taking regular walk breaks. My goal at this event was just to finish. I knew that my finish time would not be one that I would boast about, but I elected not to worry about it. As I approached the finish, I realized that I was in jeopardy of getting my first 5+ hour finish. I tried to pick up the pace but to no avail…

Marathon Finish Time – 5:00:25

MarathonFinish1

The finish line festival really isn’t anything special. I got some chocolate milk and chicken broth. Fortunately, I had access to the corporate team challenge tent with better food options and changing tents.

TCM’s race medals have improved dramatically over the last few years. The 2012 medal was horrid (I refer to it as a lump of coal on a string). This year’s medal won’t win any “best marathon bling” awards, but is quite satisfactory. The series medals are the same as last year’s (which worked out for me since I got the loony last year and the ultra-loony this year and the two medals look great together…but I hope they update this hardware for next year). The finishers shirt was a huge step back. The last two years were awesome. This year was a plain white shirt with the word “Fin15her” on it.
image

I doubt that I will ever do this marathon again, but would recomend the race to anyone. Next year, I will go back to the Loony challenge and compete in the 10-miler instead of the full marathon.

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Healthy, Set, Go!

I was just featured in my company’s (Allina Heath) wellness blog…

Crossing The Starting Line

 

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My Legs Need An Offseason…

Heading into October, and my final cluster of races of the year, and I am NOT feeling good about it.

I have a 1 mile (untimed), 5k, 10k, half marathon, and 3 marathons next month (with 2 marathons in one weekend).

I am just not feeling it.

My running pace has slowed…a lot. My long slow runs used to be 9:30 min/mile, now it is 11 min/mile. The level of exertion feels the same…until I look down at my Garmin.

Part of it is my lower level of training this season (I will never match my Ironman training season). But part of it is that I am always in pain.

When going for a long run, things hurt. I analyse them long enough to figure out if this is something serious or not. Once I am certain it isn’t something vital, I block it out and move on. That is more or less what I have been doing…and not discussing any of it on my blog. But, everything is lingering. My running gait is completely screwed up, I have to go down the stairs one at a time, and someone at work asks my why I am limping EVERY DAMN DAY!

It’s not that there is one bad injury that needs rest and rehab. It is, instead, a whole bunch of little things. I have finally decided to listen to my body long enough to get a full accounting of what hurts. When I started to pay attention, I realized that it is a long list…

  1. Right 1st MTP joint (the knuckle on the big toe) pain and stiffness (worst at the start of a run).
  2. Left arch pain (generally will start up mid run). Sharp/tearing pain.
  3. Left knee instability. There is a sense that it will buckle and give out. It came close a couple of times. I don’t trust it.
  4. Right anterior knee pain-anterior (very mild runners knee). This is the least significant thing on this list. A dull ache that comes and goes.
  5. Left hip bursitis. Hard to run on and throws off my gait. Hard to sleep on that side.
  6. Sciatica-left. Doesn’t affect the run, but driving will cause some discomfort.
  7. Piriformis syndrome-bilateral. This is a small muscle in the buttocks. I don’t even notice it until I push on it. That will send me through the roof every time.
  8. Posterior Tibial Tendinosis. This is the worst of the bunch. I was diagnosed with this a few years ago. The tendon on the inside of my ankle is “shredding”. This was seen on MRI. Only fix is surgery…but the surgery results tend to be poor. Change in footwear has kept this at bay for the last few years, but it has started to bother me again. Knowing that the tendon could rupture, it is the only thing on this list that could convince me to bail on upcoming events…but it has remained at a dull ache for the past couple of months. Right side is worst then the left.

Causes for these are not known, but I have a few theories:

  1. Core weakness and instability. I was working with physical therapy in the preseason to correct this…but I have not maintained my exercises.
  2. Inflexability. I am the least flexible person my physical therapist has ever worked with.
  3. Shoes. I probably should spend some time looking for a new brand.
  4. Running too much. See below.

So, is running the cause? Am I running too much? Maybe. I am constantly training for a marathon, and I always have long runs on deck. My enjoyment of these (physically and mentally) has dwindled. The longer distances have never been my strength (I have finished in the top 5-10% in 1 mile, 5k, 10k and half marathon distances, but consistently finish in the back of the pack in the marathon). I have never been able to figure this out or have a breakthrough in the marathon.

At this point, I am trained and tapering. I intend to complete this race schedule unless something dramatically worsens (my longest training runs did not aggravate anything so I doubt that the races will either). These events won’t be pretty. I will be gimping in all of them. I predict three consecutive “personal worsts” in the marathon, but there will not be a DNS or DNF if I can help it. I may end up walking the entire last marathon in Des Moines (with its generous 7 hour time limit) but I will finish it. After that, I will have to do some soul searching about my future. I will also need to give my legs a chance to heal…

 

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