Tag Archives: Twin Cities

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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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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Race Report: Valentine’s Day 5K

February 13, 2016
Minneapolis, MN
Event #93

Although this this event has been around forever (oldest Twin Cities winter running event), I have never been tempted to run it. I run for bling, and I want chip timing. This event was always an untimed “fun run” with no medal. Last year, they added chip timing. This year they added bling. They also made it the first race of a series “Summit Challenge” that gives guaranteed entry to the Twin Cities 10 mile (one of only 2 events in the state that is a lottery). So, I signed up.

When race day arrived, I was very under motivated. The air temp was -10F. I would have to arrive early to get one of the few parking spots near the start line. So, this would be a 1 hour drive each way, and 1+ hour of waiting around for a 5k. I would have to layer up to the point that I would have a load of laundry from this 30 minute event.

The things I do for bling…

Fortunately, there was no wind. I didn’t count the layers as I put them on, but I had 6 thermal tops/jackets and 4 sets of bottoms. I ended up being nice and toasty.

I got there very early, hung out in the car and went down to get my packet. The event shirt was long sleeved, pink, and stated “Running makes me HOT”. They also had back tags to indicate relationship status-Green “Single”, Red “Taken”, and Yellow “It’s Complicated”. I saw a lot of yellow tags on the course. Did not see any mingling with the green tag folks (but, it’s hard to try to meet people when everybody had every square inch of their body bundled for the polar vortex).

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Not much to say about the event except that it was nice. It was one lap around a downtown lake. Most of the ice was off the path/road, but it was cold and crowded…I possible to try for a PR. So, I just fond a comfortable pace and plodded along.

Finish Time: 31:54

We got a heart shaped medal at the finish (the organizers of this event have never been known for their medal design, but have really stepped up their game in the last 1-2 years. This medal was not jaw-dropping, but a surprisingly nice 2.5″ effort for this organization). There was also some hot cocoa which everyone reached for as they scuttled back to the warmth of their car as fast as they could.

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Next event (and second series event): Hot Dash 10 Mile-March 19.

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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

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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.
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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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The Final Training Push…

It had been an interesting few months. I had an intense running spring and a busy triathlon summer tailing into an intense running fall. This has resulted in odd training patterns. My last triathlon of the season is tomorrow, but I have not done any recent training swims or rides…opting instead to work on my run (and using one race as training for the next). Yesterday, I did a slow 21 miler. This would seem a little odd and early 6+ weeks out from a marathon, and two days out from a sprint triathlon. But I have 3 marathons in October (nothing in September), including 2 back to back marathons (2 marathons in one weekend).

So, what is the game plan?

Well, for starters, I need to be more careful in setting up my race schedule in the future!

Next, I viewed the triathlons as “fun” events and as an excuse to cross train. I stopped cross training a couple weeks ago when I hit the heart of triathlon season 3 races in 15 days), and focused on running. I figured that yesterday would be a good time for my last long run. Next week, I will shorten the run but will have back to back long runs each week to prepare for the back to back races. I will then stretch out my back to back runs. Next week will be 15 miles/18 miles, then 18/18, then 18/21, then taper.

Twin Cities Marathon will come three weeks later, with a 10k/5k/1 mile combo the day before (so, basically a 10.3 mile/26.2 mile combo). Then another quick taper heading into the dreaded 26.2/26.2 combo. I end the season two weeks later with a half marathon. I am looking forward to the downtime as planning and executing this schedule has been a challenging mess…

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Race Report: TC 1 Mile

May 14, 2015.

It day was supposed to be a complete washout.

It was pretty close.

It rained all day. Mostly drizzle, but it never stopped. The wind could not make up its mind. It would be calm for a few minutes, then gusting and swirling the next few minutes. Temps were in the low 50’s.

The race was canceled last year due to tornados (a perfectly reasonable reason to call off an event). It didn’t matter to me since I was out of town. The last (and only) time that I competed in a mile was two year ago.

The traffic to the race was awful. The new venue was questionable. The parking situation sucked. There would be no finishers medal. None of that mattered. I had come here for one reason.

I wanted a PR.

I also wanted to crush my old PR of 7:11.8…

…and I really wanted to go sub 7 minutes.

I just wasn’t sure that I could do it.

I am not a fast runner. I do no speed drills. I only did four training runs geared towards this event (the only four speed drills that I have completed in the last two years).

The old venue was 12 blocks straight down a pedestrian mall in downtown Minneapolis. The new venue is one block over-straight down one of the busiest roads-during evening rush hour. I think the move is due to construction at the old site.

The event is held downtown on a work night. A lot of big companies put on a big corporate teams for this event. All they have to do is put on their company shirt and walk a few blocks after work to the start line. Then they can hang out at a local bar afterwards.

The new staging area is better…there actually is a staging area now. The rain resulted in a sharp decline in the number of participants (about 1600 runners, down from 2600 two years ago), so many of the starting waves were combined. They didn’t announce this until just before the event, and many runners didn’t get there in time.

I parked near the finish line and walked to the start in my company running shirt, shorts, and already trashed running shoes. I was also sporting the garbage bag. Perfect weather for the garbage bag running accessory.

I reached the starting line and went to packet pick-up. I received my bib and realized that I had nowhere to put my event shirt (there was a bag drop, but I didn’t really want to walk back here after the race, then walk another mile back to the car). So, I just decided to wear two shirts tonight. It was only one mile after all.

I met some other corporate team members for the mandatory group photo. There were three of us. Two years ago, there were 60. Weather will do that (especially since none of our workplaces is near the start line). We then lined up. I was in the second wave. I got into my start coral and lined up at the 7 minute/mile. I ditched the trash bag with a minute to spare. Moments later, we were off.

The wind had died down (bonus), and the rain was a drizzle. There was some standing water on the course that I had to weave around (puddles could have hidden potholes). The tempuratures was the biggest problem. I have mild asthma which is triggered by exercise in cool weather. This weather would set it off. In my training runs, my lungs would burn a lot more in these weather conditions then if it were 10 degrees warmer. I took my inhaler shortly before the race, but knew that it would impact my chances at a PR. I was right…my lungs were on fire in the first tenth of a mile.

The plan for this event was simple. Run as fast as I can, then try to run even faster, and don’t slow down until the finish line.

Something I noticed about 1/4 of a mile into the race…we were going uphill. It wasn’t steep, but it was constant. We actually had an elevation gain of 140 ft over the 1 mile course (another reason I dislike this new venue…I recall the old course being pancake flat).

Once we got going, the runners thinned out a bit. I was still weaving more then I would like. This is not a good thing on such a short course where every second counts.

I kept glancing down at my Garmin. Sometime, I was in the high 5 min/mile pace, sometimes high 7 min/mile. I really wasn’t sure if I was on track for the PR or not, but I had my doubts. The weaving, the uphill course, and my breathing were all conspiring against me. I was not having the race that I wanted. All I could do is keep pushing and hoping for the best. I finally see the finish line just as I thought that I could not keep up this pace any longer. I was able to maintain for the final few yards.

Finish Time- 6:50.7

New PR (improved by 21.1 seconds).

I have to say that I was surprised given the circumstances. I desperately wanted to finish in under 7 minutes. Part of me dreamed of sub 6:45 and I came very close.

Overall, I am very pleased by the outcome. Looking at my race schedule, I figured I had two chances at a PR this season…this race and my Ultramarathon in two weeks (only because I have never completed an ultra before).

With this race behind me, I need to get one more long slow run this weekend in preparation for the only “A” race on the calendar.

I really hope that the weather is better for that event…

Edit: I was looking at my finish times compared to my new “predicted” finish times based on the Galloway Migic Mile formula. They are surprisingly close (except for the marathon of course).

1 mile – 6:51.

5K predicted – 22:56 (actual – 22:49).

10k predicted – 48:49 (actual 47:40)

Half Marathon predicted – 1:47:29 (actual 1:44:09)

Marathon predicted – 3:52:54 (actual 4:26:15).

So, according to this, I should still have a little room for improvement on the mile given my 10K and HM performance) and have a lot of room for improvement on the marathon…

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Race Report: St. Paul Turkey Trot 10K

St. Paul MN. November 27, 2014.

Some events are “A” races. Some are train thru events.

This is a shameless grab at nice bling for a short and inexpensive local event.

For a 10K and a registration fee of $30, I get me a pair of running socks, a long sleeved tech running shirt, and a nice 3″ medal (sadly, nicer then my Ironman medal…)

As usually happens this time of year, the mercury plummeted the night before the race. Race morning was -1F with a real feel of -12F. I don’t run well when I have to be bundled up, and I was just coming off a marathon 4 days earlier. I had no expectations for this event (well, I expected to freeze…and to run slower then a tortoise running thru peanut butter).

To make it even more fun, the event was also a complete train wreck! These guys send out spam emails every day. They get ignored. One came thru telling us that same day packet pick-up was canceled. I would have to drive 50+ miles (each way) to pick up a packet on the day before Thanksgiving between 12-6pm (sorry guys, I have a job). Otherwise, we had less then a week to ask for our packet to be mailed out for an extra $9.

Of course, I didn’t see that e-mail. I found out about this 3 days before the event. It was too late to have anything mailed out. I send them a message on FB and thru their site e-mail. No response. I finally found the email of the race director. He replies to show up at their truck on race morning and they would take care of me.

Somehow, my bib and socks arrive by mail the day before the race (odd, I never paid for that and I only reached the race director that morning). No shirt (that would be picked up after the race…but they had already run out of my size at packet pick up).

The race itself is an out and back on a highway in St. Paul. The 10k goes first, then the 5 K goes out in waves. The 10k and 5k merge for the final mile. I have run this road several times as it is a common course for local race directors. The road was thankfully free of ice and snow.

It was darn cold, I had multiple layers and ran slowly. I didn’t bother with the aid stations since all the beverages were frozen anyways. I just got into the zone and ran my race.

Finish Time: 1:01:41

I grabbed a few snacks and got my medal. The 10k medals were noticeably larger then the 5k medals this year (glad I did the 10k!) I went to pick up my shirt and they were out of mediums. The large was huge, so I took a small which is a little too snug. I e-mailed the race director and it looks like they will mail me a correct size (they offered this for everyone last year, but didn’t this year). A lot of participants noticed that their finish time was off by 50 seconds or so. This was corrected a day later.

Overall, I enjoy this series as training runs. They have nice gear and bling. This was more disorganized then usual and was disappointing. Looking at next year’s event, many do not offer same day packet pick-up. If this is the case, I will likely have to avoid these events in the future…

This was also my last race of 2014. It has been a successful year, but I don’t consider the season to be over quite yet. I have the Polar Dash-Yeti Challenge (10k/5k/1500m) on January 1st, and the Houston Marathon weekend on January 18 before I head into the off-season. After that, I have one off-season half-marathon in March before the 2015 campaign kicks off with the Pittsburgh Marathon during the first weekend in May.

Unfortunately, the roads remain awful, and I may have to marathon train indoors…ugh!

 

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Race Report: Monster Dash Half Marathon

October 25, 2014.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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