Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

A Quadzilla Report: The Race Across Virginia

I hopped in the car and headed out east the Monday after an amazing Market to Market weekend, with 1700 miles separating myself and the critters from the epicurean. I managed to tackle the trip in two days of “quality” time in the car, and we arrived at our new home on the afternoon of May 12th. Mind you, this was a home that we purchased despite my not seeing it in person, as I was unable to travel out with the epicurean to house shop. Luckily, I trust her completely, and she found us a wonderful new home! There was a flurry of unpacking and organizing over the next week (don’t worry…it’s still happening, but more to come on that in a later post), but I managed to stick to my training schedule pretty well and do some initial exploring of the area. I figured out pretty quickly that I wasn’t in the flat lands of Iowa anymore, and the combination of hills and humidity meant I was in for a period of adjustment. So, despite only having been in our new home for a couple of weeks, I decided to register for a significant running challenge in a part of the country I had spent very little time. That’s what everyone does, right?

In all fairness, I had actually registered for this series of races before we made the decision to move, and the move just made the opportunity that much easier to take advantage of and enjoy. Late last year, I read about a group of runners who were planning on embarking on a trans-continental run from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., beginning in January. I was immediately intrigued, and my interest grew substantially when I found out that the race would be happening in conjunction with a research project to study the long-term impact of running on endurance athletes. The combination of running and research was right up my ally and I quickly explored how I could possibly get involved. In addition to the initial group of 11 core team members, the group was providing the opportunity for runners to join them throughout the country, either for an entire state, a 4-day experience, or a single day. The route involved running roughly a marathon every day consistently, with various rest days as the team crossed into a new state. In total, it meant that the core team members would be running for 140 days and would cover 3,080 miles in total.

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The thought of some day completing my own run across the U.S. has been on my mind for some time, but I’m clearly not at the point in my life where that is a possibility. The team took a southern route, so driving from Iowa wasn’t really an option, and flying didn’t seem necessarily financially responsible when lodging and transportation to each of the starting points was factored in. However, the last 4 days of the race involved running across Virginia and finishing on the White House lawn (or across from it, technically). Luckily, we happen to have two very good friends who live in the D.C. area who also happen to love running, and it didn’t take much work to convince Stefan and Jamile to join me on this adventure.  What’s more, they graciously agreed to pick me up at the airport and organize our transportation. Stefan and I would tackle 4 straight marathons, and Jamile would join us as an amazing support crew, and we’d spend the rest of the time relaxing throughout Virginia when we weren’t running. It was wonderful to see two familiar faces after arriving in Delaware, and I was excited to visit with them and share the adventure!

May 29-Day Zero

One of the most exciting aspects of moving to the east coast for me is the increased access to public transportation. When I lived in NYC, I loved not having to drive anyone and still have access to everything the area had to offer. Thus, I was excited to hop on a train Friday morning for the 90-minute ride to D.C. Stefan and Jamile picked me up at Union Station, and we headed back to their house in Alexandria to get packed up. Our plan was to stay at a hotel in Fredericksburg, VA for the first three nights, and then drive back to stay at their house the final night. This would position us well for fairly easy drives in the morning out to the starting lines. Since the route itself was mainly along public roads, with some trails tossed in when available, the start and finish lines were simply easy access points in the road once the required distance had been met. We made it out to the hotel, got checked in, and then went and did a bit of exploring in town. Although I lived in Virginia for several years, I had never visited the town and it was fun to walk around (with coffee in hand, of course). I had forgotten how much I loved all of the history on the east coast, and this part of Virginia is filled with it, so we had plenty to see, while also taking it easy before our first marathon in the morning.

Exploring historic Fredericksburg...

Exploring historic Fredericksburg…

May 30- Day One

We woke up extra early on Saturday morning for the first race since we were uncertain of how things would play out and we wanted to make sure we weren’t late. The “start” was an intersection out in the country where the group had finished the previous day, so we had GPS directions and found our way out there without any issues, and arrived around 6:30 for the 7:00AM start. We met with the race organizers and received our bibs, shirts, and buffs, and hung out and waited for others to arrive. There were 7 remaining core team runners that had been at it since the beginning, and we had a chance to meet everyone briefly. There were several other folks that were joining us for the remaining 4 days, and 1 other runner was half way through the full 9-day Virginia leg. I was feeling comfortable, well-rested, and excited to get things rolling. I’ve run plenty of long distances and marathons, but this was my first attempt at a Quadzilla (4 back-to-back marathons) and there were still some nerves turning over in my stomach, but I knew I had trained well for it and my body was ready to handle the stress. We could already tell the weather would be a bit more of a challenge, with warm temperatures and high humidity, but the plan was to take it slow and enjoy ourselves. I was treating this set of races like other ultras and slowing my pace while continuing to push forward.

Let's get this party started!

Let’s get this party started!

We began promptly at 7AM and our small group of runners was off, heading down a lonely country road. It was the first of many peaceful country roads we would traverse over the next 4 days. I decided to play it safe and I opted for my Salmon S-Lab 12 pack so I could carry plenty of water, as well as nutrition and other emergency medical supplies. There were aid stations every 6 miles or so, but I knew the heat would lead me to want more than a handheld bottle could carry. This proved to be a smart decision and I was grateful for the extra hydration. This was actually the first time I had worn the pack, as it was a replacement for my S-Lab 5, which I was able to get replaced for free after the zippers rusted shut. I very quickly realized that the minimal added weight was unnoticeable and the extra storage capacity made this an even better pack!

Stefan and I took off at a relatively controlled pace and initially tried to stay around 9:00 min/mile. This seemed reasonable at the time, but I had neglected to factor in the hilly terrain, much like that which I had recently discovered at home. We ended up falling in with one of the core runners, and had a wonderful conversation with him over many miles. We were able to hear some of his stories from the previous few months of constant running, as well as learn more about the research project he was working on in conjunction with the event. The miles just seemed to tick by as we chatted about running research, physiology, and academia in general, along with learning more about his experiences during the event. It wasn’t until we were startled by a rather large snake in the middle of the road that we realized we had missed a turn a few miles back and gone off course. Since it was a small event and the roads weren’t closed, the course wasn’t marked so we were required to follow the directions we had been given to stick to the course. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, but it does mean looking at the directions instead of leaving them in your pocket. We stopped for a photo-op with the snake, and then turned around, while also calling one of the support team members, who was nice enough to come pick us up and bring us back to the course turn we missed. We ended up adding about 3 miles to our already long day, which would come back to bite us later on.

Snakes...why does it always have to be snakes?

Snakes…why does it always have to be snakes?

Around mile 18, the heat and hills were beginning to get to us and we realized it wouldn’t be smart to try and maintain the pace we were hitting so we bid adieu to our new friend as he continued on. I was amazed that after almost 3,000 miles, he was still able to tackle the road so effortlessly, and that proved to be the case for each of the core runners. Our respect was instant, and our amazement continuous! We slowed our pace a bit, and the heat began to get to Stefan a bit so we made sure we were hydrating well, along with taking advantage of ice at the aid stations and Jamile’s wonderful personal aid stations along the way.

The end is in sight!

The end is in sight!

We decided it was in our best interest to take it easy the final 10 miles, so we enjoyed being outside (despite the intense sun!) and took in our surroundings. Near the end of the route, we were sent along a beautiful wooded trail towards a state park for the finish, and the change of scenery and surface provided some much-needed relief from the heat and gave us a chance to enjoy the experience even more. We were by ourselves for this final stretch, aside from Jamile’s timely roadside assistance and the reality that we would be doing it all over again for the following three days began to really sink in. We entered the park and were able to see the “finish line” up in the distance, and the support folks and a few other runners lingering and waiting for everyone to come in for the day. There was no ribbon or formal finish line, no inflatable arch, and no medals at the end, but it didn’t matter. Our sense of accomplishment was all the reward we needed and we were all smiles as we crossed the finish line. What should have been close to marathon distance became almost 30 miles after our detour and we couldn’t have been more happy to reach the end!

Finished!

Finished!

We lingered about for a bit chatting with folks and were able to cheer on a few other runners who weren’t too far behind us. Then we hopped back in the truck and headed back to the hotel to shower and rest a bit. I’ll never get used to just how refreshing and rejuvenating a hot shower can be after a long distance run, and I was feeling much better. The sun had taken its toll, but my legs still felt fresh, and I was sure this was a good sign for the days to come. The rest of the day was spent eating, relaxing, and hanging out. I was reminded yet again that although I love to run because it gives me a chance to push myself and test my abilities, it is ultimately more about the people I’m with, and I couldn’t have been happier to be sharing this experience with two amazing friends. We were all looking forward to the next three days and the laundry list of memories that were just over the horizon!

…to be continued :) #chasing42

Market to Market 2015: The Speedy Streakers Strike Again!

It’s still hard to believe that my 10 years in Ames was at an end. Quite a bit has changed in my life over the course of those 10 years, not the least of which is my passion for running and the friends that I have picked up as a result. Thus, it was only fitting that my last weekend in Iowa was spent with an amazing group of friends doing what we love to do…run! This was the third year in a row that we’ve participated in the Market to Market Iowa Relay, and our Speedy Streakers team has the relay and the preparations down to a science at this point, which made for an amazing weekend. This race was my farewell of sorts as well, so there was plenty of chatter leading up to the race, and I was looking forward to a fantastic weekend of running and shenanigans!

Our goal, as a team, has always been to have as much fun as possible, with a little running thrown in, and we certainly hit the mark this year! We always find a theme so we can prepare costumes accordingly, and we landed on “Barrel Full of Monkeys” this year, although “What Does the Fox Say?” was a close second. The opportunity to dress up in a monkey costume was just too good to pass up, obviously!

We made it out of Ames eventually :)

We made it out of Ames eventually :)

The 78-mile relay begins in Jefferson, IA and follows a series of trails all the way to downtown Des Moines. We packed up the rented 15-passenger van on Friday afternoon and took our time heading down to Jefferson and our hosts for the evening. Interestingly, we managed to have a bit of trouble even leaving Ames, but only because we clearly had to stop at a few bars on our way out-of-town to help condition ourselves for the following day (minus our driver, of course). It’s carb-loading, right? The drive down took us to two other bars, including a stop for dinner, and a stop at a teammate’s Aunt’s house for more carb-loading. Did I mention that our team could easily be called the Iron Livers? :)

We awoke bright and early on Saturday morning (May 8) after a short but restful burst of sleep and donned our costumes before heading down to the starting line a few minutes away. We met up with some of the other Vardo teams and cheered folks as their waves took off. It was quite convenient that M2M was giving away bananas- we took advantage and grabbed plenty to hand them out to other runners. What else is a monkey to do?

Would you care for a banana?

Would you care for a banana?

From the beginning, our relay experience was about equal parts running and delicious Jello-O shots, and we made the most of the day. In previous years, I’ve added on additional miles by running various legs with other teammates, and I crafted a repeat performance again this year. However, everyone was in a nostalgic mood and wanted to make the most of the day, so we had multiple runners for 14 of the 17 legs of the race, and we easily tallied the most collective miles of any team out on the course!

Truly a team effort!

Truly a team effort!

We treated each exchange point during the relay as a mini-party and did our best to embrace the crazy of the day. The legs all blended together a bit for me, and the weather was relatively cooperative (not too hot, and some wind off and on), so it made for a beautiful day to be outside running. My legs felt great for most of the day, and I did my best to scale back my pace a bit this year. In past years, I’ve logged some significant miles, but forgot I was going long and also proceeded to run the entire day at more of a 5K than marathon pace. I was determined not to be quite as tired this year, and I succeeded for the most part. My legs were still plenty tired by the final collective leg, which several of us ran together and then met the rest of the team to run in the final 1/4 mile to the finish, but overall I felt great. I ended up collecting a bit over 33 miles for the day, which suited me just fine!

M2M15-4

We crossed the finish line, collected our pint glasses, and were all smiles after another successful relay! We were committed to having as much fun as possible during the after-party this year so we decided to rent a hotel room in downtown Des Moines, not far from the finish, which meant no driving needed. We stopped by our hotel room to shower and then headed back to the after party to meet up with all of the other Vardos. I was able to see a lot of folks and inevitably, the line of “goodbye” moments began. It was wonderful to see so many people but talk about an emotional rollercoaster! Good grief, I love this group!

M2M15-5

 

The rest of the evening was a blur of toasts, cheers, antics, late-night pizza, and some memories that I will hold dear for the rest of my life. Throughout the day and night, I did my best to forget that I was leaving on Monday morning and just enjoy the time. What actually happened was a mixture of bittersweet moments with some of the best friends anyone could ask for…I went out with a bang doing what I love with folks I love, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Transition and change are rarely easy, sometimes necessary, and hopefully a part of the relentless forward progress of life. I woke up Sunday morning and we stopped for breakfast on the way home. I’d fought the tears off up until that point, but the dam broke and the tears came flooding out into my coffee. I knew it was happening, knew it was the right choice, but saying “until next time” is never easy. This weekend wasn’t just about running, or having fun- it was about cementing relationships with some amazing people and being reminded what true friendship is all about. I knew I could take those things with me when I drove off on Monday morning…and I did. #chasing42

Pacing Chronicles: The Lincoln Marathon

Have I mentioned that April and May were busy running months? So, as soon as I got home from running the Iowa Able 5K & 10K on May 2nd, I hopped in a car with a few friends and headed down to Lincoln, Nebraska to run a marathon the next day. Are you still following? I should probably back up and explain how I ended up in such a whirlwind scenario, although if you’ve read my blog in the past, then you probably aren’t surprised by this series of events.

Many months prior, as I was beginning to pull together my spring racing schedule, a friend suggested the Lincoln Marathon. I hadn’t given it much thought because a) I’d run the GOATZ 50K in Nebraska, thereby checking the state off my list, and b) I could probably live content for the rest of my life having never returned to the state again (no offense to my Nebraska friends :) ). However, I knew that of the two major marathons in Nebraska (Lincoln & Omaha), this was by far the better of the two in terms of organization, crowd support, and course appeal. What I didn’t realize until the week before was that it also sold out ridiculously quick. I was alerted to the need to register the morning that registration opened in order to ensure my spot, a fact that I laughed at a bit. However, registration opened on a Saturday morning at 3 or 4AM, and I’m normally up early for a long run anyway so I went ahead and registered to lock in my place. Sure enough, the race sold out in around 8 hours, which surprised me to no end, but I had my slot, and a smile on my face.

The main motivation for running this race was so that Eric and I could pace our friend to her first sub-4 hour marathon. Although neither of us had any extensive pacing experience, aside from my recent half-marathon success, we ran with her consistently every weekend so we knew we could push her while keeping her out of her own head as much as possible. The same wildcards (weather, nutrition, terrain) applied, of course, but it was also an additional opportunity to take another racing trip with a couple of good friends before heading out east. So, fresh off of a 5K PR and plenty of energy, we hopped in the car and headed for Lincoln.

We got to town in plenty of time to hit up the expo, which was surprisingly large and full of some excellent vendors. Perhaps I had pleasantly underestimated the quality of this race, eh?! We picked up our packets, and took some time to wander around the expo and resist the temptation to buy unnecessary running gear. We then headed over to the free pasta dinner, which was a great perk and quite convenient as well. After dinner, we drove back to the friend’s apartment that we were staying at, and settled in for the evening. It was a nice, low-key evening and we were able to get plenty of sleep before waking up early to head over to the start.

An expo photo-op!

An expo photo-op!

Eric and I were doing our best to inject plenty of levity into the morning, and it made for a light-hearted pre-race routine. The starting area had plenty of access to indoor restrooms and porta-johns, and everyone was milling about. With temps in the 50’s and the sun coming out slowly, I could tell that heat might be a factor later so it was really just a question of how far we could make it before the temperature began to impact our pace. Eric had been nursing a sore foot (which he later found out was a stress fracture) so he was uncertain of how the race would go and decided not to stick with us, which left the pacing duties to me. Since I knew the heat might be a factor later on, I decided to try and go out a bit faster than the needed 9:09/mile pace so we’d have some time in the bank for the later miles. We waited for about 10 minutes after the initial gun went off, and we were on our way!

Let's get this party started!

Let’s get this party started!

The first few miles ticked off smoothly, and the crowds thinned out pretty quickly so we didn’t need to do much weaving to stay together and on pace. I wanted us to stay ahead of the 4-hour pacer and I used him as a guide of sorts, while also monitoring our pace every 1/2 mile or so. The whole first half of the race was run along with the half-marathon, and the crowd support was superb. It was wonderful to be able to feed off of the energy around us, and we ran the first half below target pace, just as I had hoped. We hit the half-way mark with a few minutes in the bank (1:57:40), and the sun beginning to loom a bit heavier as the clouds parted and the mercury rose. It wasn’t a particularly hilly course up to that point, but we had logged around 1100 feet of elevation gain, which is still more than either of us were typically accustomed to in Ames.

Alas, the second half of the race was another story. Once we left the half-marathoners to cross the finish line, the crowd support tapered off. As the heat and sun-exposure increased, our pace tapered off as well. It seemed to hit my pacing charge all at once around mile 14, and I could tell she was beginning to struggle a bit. Had the conditions been the same for the second half as the first, it would have no doubt been a very different story. However, the weather in Ames during the spring had not allowed for any amount of heat acclimation (2-3 weeks needed for proper acclimation) and it was taking its toll on her. Despite a few angry miles, especially during an annoying out-and-back portion of the course, she kept pushing and I kept us moving forward. This was by no means a result of under-training or lack of fitness, as she had pushed hard this spring and had a stellar training stint. We kept moving forward, focusing on relentless forward progress, and with the aid of plenty of water and ice, some forced nutrition, and some motivational preaching on my part, we kept knocking out the miles.

When a race goes really well and every clicks, it is almost always an amazing feeling. However, I truly believe that we learn much more about ourselves when the race gets hard and our body isn’t sure it wants to do what our mind commands. Those are the moments that prove why we love running, love the thrill of the race, and why we voluntarily struggle and push ourselves beyond our limits when it would be much easier to give up or stay home for that matter. There was no giving up and her love of running pushed her forward, and it was a pleasure and an honor to be a part of that, and help in some small way as we made our way to the finish line. With a few miles to go, the burden seemed to be lifted a bit, and we picked up the pace and pushed toward the finish. One of the perks the race is finishing inside Memorial Stadium, and you can’t help but feel a thrill of energy as the stadium comes into site, and you round the corner onto the field. One final kick gave way to a strong finish on the comfortable turf of the 50-yard line and we crossed the finish line victorious in 4:23. We had conquered the beast once again, and it was a wonderful feeling!

All smiles at the finish!

All smiles at the finish!

We found Eric pretty quickly, as he had finished just two minutes prior (doesn’t everyone run a marathon on a stress fracture?!), and we celebrated by helping ourselves to the generous post-race spread of food, water, and Gatorade. We might not have hit that 4:00 mark for her this time, but there’s no doubt that it will happen. It had been a challenging race, and although it had not necessarily transpired the way we had hoped, it was still a marathon finish and I have a feeling there were some lessons learned along the way that wouldn’t have been possible had things gone according to plan. Sometimes those experiences are even more valuable! #chasing42 #chasing42reports

Lincoln 4

Race Recap: Iowa Able Foundation 5K/10K

The races came fast and furious in April & May, and next up was the Iowa Able Foundation 5K/10K. This was a must-run race, as it was organized by several great friends, and all of Vardo Nation came out to run or volunteer! I was heading to Lincoln, NE that afternoon with a couple of friends to run the marathon the next day, so I fully planned on using the 5K and 10K as comfortable runs to get my muscles moving before the marathon the next day. I should have known better!

I ran to the starting line at Ada Hayden Park, and arrived a bit early to pick up my packet and chat with everyone before the race. The weather was absolutely perfect for running, which put everyone in good spirits, and the normal race-morning energy was buzzing through the air. After hanging out for a bit, I wandered up to the start with a few friends to wait for the signal to head out. It was a small field, so I ended up at the front of the pack, despite having no intention of remaining there. I was relaxed and simply enjoying being able to spend time with friends before moving in a few weeks. We received the “go” signal and I took off at a strong pace, still planning to slow down and take it easy. However, after about 100 yards, I was near the front and my internal competitive spirit kicked in. I was a lost cause at that point, and I gave in to the urge to race :)

Lined up for the start of the 5K. (photo credit: Iowa Able Foundation)

Lined up for the start of the 5K. (photo credit: Iowa Able Foundation)

Slow, easy miles are important to training but so is speed and tempo work and this definitely fell into the latter category. I was breathing hard pretty quickly, but my legs were moving smoothly and I was comfortable otherwise. It was a strange sensation to see the leader ahead of me, and recognize that there were only 6 or 7 people between us. The figure 8 course is a loop I’ve done countless times over the years, so I had no fear of the unknown, and knew exactly what to expect with each turn. I hit the first mile at 6:51, which I knew was fast for me. For a split second, I questioned whether I could hold it, but I knew at that point that I was committed and I was going to put everything I had that morning into those miles. I maintained my pace during the second mile and closed the gap between myself and several of the runners ahead of me. By the time my watch buzzed 6:52, I recognized that I had a shot at a PR and I pushed a bit harder. I kept my eyes focused ahead and saw a friend take the lead, and I knew she wasn’t going to give it up. After another half-mile, I was able to pass a few folks that clearly went out too fast and ran out of gas (I hoped my tank still had a bit left!), and I made the final push for the finish line.

Holding pace near the end of the 5K.  (photo credit: Iowa Able Foundation)

Holding pace near the end of the 5K. (photo credit: Iowa Able Foundation)

I held onto my pace for the final mile, and finished in 20:43, which was a solid PR by almost 40 seconds! It was the first time I had seen “20” when I crossed the finish line and I was equal parts surprised and elated. I ended up finishing 5th or 6th, and 1st in my age group, which was another first for me. Not bad for a casual Saturday morning social run, eh? I was breathing heavy, but recovered quickly, which was good because I had signed up to run the 10K as well :) However, I had my achievement in hand, so taking it easy on the 10K was much more manageable.

I ended up running the entire 10K with another good friend, and it was a great opportunity to chat and just enjoy being out running on a beautiful Saturday morning. We weren’t taking ourselves too seriously (not that I ever really do!), and it made for a great cool down run. The first part of the course was identical to the 5K. However, the course then hopped onto the Upland Trail, which is where some folks apparently got a bit confused by the route. We didn’t realize this until we saw a group of runners heading toward us and in the opposite direction. I was pretty sure we were going the right way, but didn’t mind all that much either way. At one point, we ran into a group of folks heading the wrong way, and I gave them some general directions for getting to the 10K mark distance-wise. Towards the end of the course, we even took a slight detour up a small trail to the top of an earthen mound that overlooked the park, just to take in the view. We scrambled back down and finished out the race, crossing the finish line in 52:40, with big smiles on our faces.

10K Shenanigans!

10K Shenanigans!

Overall, it was the perfect Saturday morning race combo! The weather was beautiful, the volunteers were fantastic, the organizers put on a great race along with plenty of food and entertainment perks, and I was able to spend the morning with an amazing group of friends. Mornings like that are why I run! :)  #chasing42reports #chasing42

It's all about the friends!

It’s all about the friends!

Race Recap: HyVee Half Marathon

The quest to play catch-up continues, and April/May were quite busy racing months! The HyVee Half Marathon was held on Sunday, April 26th as part of the HyVee Road Race series. It has typically been the culminating public race event in conjunction with the highly competitive Drake Relays, and this year also lined up with the RRCA National Convention. Since I was participating in the RRCA Coaching Certification program, it only seemed appropriate that I sign up for the half marathon as well. I’ve run this race in the past, most recently in 2012. At that time, it was known as the Drake Relays Half Marathon, and it has since been bought out by HyVee and restructured, including a new course. I had heard mixed reviews from friends about the new course, but the opportunity to run another “final” Iowa race with friends was too much to pass up!

Not only was I running the race this year, but I had been asked by a friend to pace him to a 1:45 finish, which was his half-marathon goal. Having just completed the Gambler Half Marathon, I knew that I could hit that mark, although it was a bit faster than one would normally aim for in a pacing capacity. I woke up far too early and met up with a few friends, including Tim, who I was pacing, and we carpooled down to the race in Des Moines. I often wonder how many additional hours of sleep my body would receive if I wasn’t a runner, and the early morning drive reminded me of that once again. Of course, I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world!

The calm before the race :)

The calm before the race :)

The course is fairly flat, with a couple of more significant hills at miles  5 and 10, but still with only a hair over 400 feet of elevation gain. We got there in plenty of time to pick up our packets in the morning and walk back to our conveniently close parking space to drop off our bags, which was nice. Since it is a local race, there were quite a few fellow Vardos in attendance, so it was great to hang out and chat with everyone before the race. The weather was cool and comfortable, perfect for running. Tim and I did a few strides near the car to loosen up our legs, and then we headed to the starting line. We found the 1:45 pacer as well, so we had an additional gauge of our time and proximity. It’s a fairly large field, but still very manageable, and we were off within about 30 seconds of the gun sounding.

The first few miles ticked off smoothly, and we kept our pace around 7:50, which gave us a few seconds buffer for the later miles. The route itself was actually quite enjoyable, and the crowd support was decent as well, which helped energize us and keep us on track for our goal. As expected, we gave a few seconds on the hill around mile 5, and again around the later hills. The aid stations were about 2.5 miles apart, and large enough to allow us to run through them and grab a glass of water as we passed. I’m a fan of running through aid stations in shorter races, and especially when they are large enough to prevent any major traffic jams as the running flock to the left or right for their water and Gatorade fix.

It was a great morning for a race!

It was a great morning for a race!

We rebounded after the first hill and knocked out some fast miles before approaching the longer hill around mile 10. At this point, we were squarely on pace and feeling good. I was able to keep chatting with Tim and run next to our ahead of him the whole time once the crowd thinned out a bit, which was nice for offering some encouraging words. He was cranking the miles out and looking strong, and our consistent mile splits were making me quite happy. By the last 3 miles, our pace was solid, and sticking to it became a bit of a game for me. Pacing has been one of the last skills for me to better understand in my evolution as a runner, and it was exciting to be having such a successful outing. Although there was certainly no actual pressure, I still felt a bit when it came to helping a friend achieve his goal, and I think that added intensity was just the boost I needed to stay on task.

HyVee Half 3

We entered Grays Lake with a few miles to go, and knew that end was closing in. One of the highlights of this particular race is the opportunity to finish on the iconic blue oval at Drake Stadium. As soon as we neared the finish and could see the stadium, we picked things up just a bit to ensure we would hit our mark. We made a final surge to the finish line and crossed in 1:45:17 (Garmin time)! It was fantastic to see the time and we were both all smiles at the end :) We found friends that had already finished, and waited a bit for others, and then we headed over to the after party to replenish our calorie stores and celebrate a wonderful morning of running! Tim ran a fantastic, consistent, and well-paced race, and it was a pleasure to share the experience with him. Another #chasing42 opportunity was in the books!

Guest Tech Review: Tom Tom Cardio GPS Watch

It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a gear head, and love all of the running technology available to us today. As a faithful Garmin user, I’ve had little experience with other GPS watches. Thus, when a friend purchased the Tom Tom Cardio, I was eager to hear his thoughts on the watch. Below is his review.

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Guest Review: Tom Tom Cardio

Four years ago I got a surprise package in the mail from my parents which turned out to be the Garmin Forerunner 405. It was my first GPS watch, and suddenly my running life was changed forever. Gone were the days of consistent “free running” as I loved being able to track my distance and pace. As I’m sure many can relate, it could be both exciting and disappointing, depending on the run.

This past winter, though, I could tell the Forerunner was on its last legs and, with training for my first marathon around the corner, I thought it might be time for an upgrade. After scouring through online and friends’ reviews of GPS watches, I ultimately decided on the TomTom Cardio. What drew me to the TomTom watch was, first and foremost, that it had an accurate GPS tracker, which is obviously most important to all runners. What enamored me about it further was the built-in Heart-Rate monitor, which was reportedly very accurate.

I must say, jumping four years in watches was a big difference. Imagine going from one of those original Blackberry phones to an iPhone. Similar qualities, but big differences. The Forerunner had some features I didn’t use, specifically the GPS tracker which could (I think) tell you where you actually were. I would imagine you would use this for Geocaching. It also had that pesky touch bezel (more on that later). The Cardio has lots of features I assure you that I will probably never touch. It also has some that I might use someday down the line. But let’s start with the basics.

Setting up the watch to run is vastly simpler. I simply have to touch right twice on the touch pad thing just below the screen. That sets up the GPS tracker and the heart-rate monitor. Picking up signals is hit or miss. I’ve literally ranged from picking up a signal in 10 seconds to 10 minutes. I haven’t figured out a reason why it takes so long yet, since most of my runs leave from the same place. I’ve simply learned to fire the watch up when I decide to go run, as opposed to when I’m walking out the door.

The screen while running is also extremely customizable, which is great. It gives you one set of information large on the screen, and two smaller. Personally, I have time as my big one, overall pace and distance as my small ones. Other options include current pace, overall heart-rate, and current heart-rate. You can mix and match any of these features, which is pretty neat.

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To pause the watch, you have to click/push left on the touch pad. The default setting is to hold it down for a second or two, so you prevent bumping it and accidentally pausing your workout without knowing it. The pause screen only shows heart rate, which I would like to try and change. But at the same time, it’s nice to see what my heart-rate is if I have to stop at an intersection. To end your workout, just touch left again. Super simple.

Another aspect I love about the watch is that it doesn’t beep at every mile. I know some runners enjoy their watch letting them know each mile has passed. Me? Not so much. If you like knowing every mile that you hit, though, you can turn this feature on. It’s called the lap feature, and it’s also customizable. So if you’d rather have your watch beep every 5k, for example, you could set that instead.

Another setting is the tempo feature, which I haven’t tried out. Let’s say you want to run your next 5k at a 7 minute per mile pace, you can set the Cardio to that setting. If you deviate too much from that pace, the watch will beep at you until you get back to that pace. This could be a great feature, especially if you’re big into tempo runs. I’m not a big tempo run person, so I rarely venture into this area of the watch.

Yet another feature (so many things on the watch!) is that of the race setting. Let’s say you have a time goal of running a 42 flat in a 10k. You can set the Cardio to “pace” you to the finish. This is similar to the tempo feature. This will tell you your pace, distance run, and distance to the finish. It also has a finish line on the watch as you get closer.

Finally, I want to delve into the heart-rate tracker. I mentioned this was what put the watch over the top for me. I wouldn’t say I was ever curious about my heart-rate before, but this watch is slowly changing that. I love that it’s automatic, and takes heart-rate through the wrist, instead of with a strap-on chest piece. Over time, I’ve started to look at my heart-rate more and more, specifically after I run. I don’t train by it, like some people, but I now have a very good idea about what it should be during a run. I’ve found it especially interesting to go back to races, or workouts, on Strava (and yes, that’s a shameless plug for you to follow me) and look at my heart-rate. In areas of the race where I either felt great, or not-so-great, I can easily see that reflected in my heart-rate.

Heart rate monitor- Photo Credit: Engadget

Heart rate monitor- Photo Credit: Engadget

So far I like the Cardio a lot. It’s very comfortable to wear, easy to use, and it doesn’t freak out if I randomly touch it or get it sweaty, like the touch bezel did. All in all, I would give it a 4.5/5. It doesn’t get a perfect 5 for two reasons. It can be a bit frustrating when the GPS doesn’t pick up right away, and because it is much more than I thought I would ever pay for a running accessory (and that’s entirely because of the heart-rate monitor).

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You can find Ben hitting the roads and trails around Ames when he isn’t jet-setting around the country, trying to convince high school students to attend Iowa State. He is currently training for his first marathon, Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, on June 20th.

RRCA Coaching Certification- Just call me coach!

It’s no secret that I love many different aspects of running. Heck, I wouldn’t be writing a blog otherwise, right? Not only do I love running itself, but I love the research that goes into deciding on workouts, races, shoes, nutrition, and many other aspects of running, and I love talking to other people about it. In many ways, I’ve brought the same research skills I use in my professional life to my running life, and they’ve served me well. Over the years, as I’ve learned more and more, I’ve really enjoyed being able to help new runners, and provide advice to friends when it comes to their training, nutrition, race decisions, gear, and various other running-related items. So, when I saw the notice last fall that the RRCA (Road Runners Club of America) would be hosting their annual convention in Des Moines this year, and they would be offering a coaching certification class, I knew I had to sign up. After talking through (and justifying) the expense with the epicurean, I pulled the trigger and registered.

RRCAConvention

The coaching class (and convention) was held April 23-25, and it was a fantastic experience! Since we don’t have a RRCA chapter in Ames, I haven’t been involved with the organization in the past so this was my first opportunity to not only go through the certification course, but learn more about RRCA and network with folks around the country. The class itself was broken up into different modules and covered a wide range of topics. We spent three solid days learning the ins and outs of coaching while getting to know each other and picking the brains of three wonderful coaches and instructors with countless years of experience. The schedule was broken down as follows:

Day One

  • Introductions
  • Coaching History
  • Types of Runners & their Training Needs
  • Running Physiology
  • Building a Periodized Program

Day Two

  • Coaching Nutrition
  • The Business of Coaching
  • Sports Psychology

Day Three

  • Building Training Programs
  • Injuries, Heat, Altitude, and Running Form
  • Case Study Work- Putting it all together!

It was clear from day one that a great deal of time and effort had been put into designing this course, which made the educator in my very happy and at ease with my decision. The course focused on all levels of running, which was nice to see and led to a very well-rounded experience. My own experiences running have mainly been the result of my own decisions, running with friends, and putting together training “programs” myself without necessarily knowing the “why” behind what I was doing. I can’t tell you how many issues of Runner’s World and online articles I’ve poured over since I started running, and there seems to be a new “go to” workout every month, which can make it hard to decide what is right for you, let alone what is right for someone else. This is where the information on physiology and training needs became very beneficial.

RRCA-1

I’ve certainly talked to plenty of runners that ran in high school and college and learned second-hand about some of the workouts they completed. However, that was not a reality for this asthmatic kid, so it never really sunk in. Spending time in this course discussing how to set up a specific periodized program based on running needs and goals was incredibly beneficial and probably the most interesting aspect of the course for me. I feel like I have such a better understanding of how to go about helping folks train for reasonable goals, and how to measure their progress and adjust their training accordingly, which is key when working with folks who have individual needs, goals, and life circumstances. The information on nutrition, business, physiology, and psychology all seemed to provide the “why” and the “how” for making those training plans a reality. The result was an incredibly well-rounded and information coaching course that met all of my expectations and more.

In addition to the course itself, we had the opportunity to attend various other aspects of the RRCA Convention, which only added to the overall experience. It was an amazing feeling to be surrounded by hundreds of people who are equally passionate about running as I am. I was able to make some new friends, share stories, and generally network. Once the course was over, we were required to take an online exam based on what we learned, which grilled us on facts, figures, and challenged us to put our new knowledge into practice. It has been quite a while since I’ve had to take an actual exam, and it was no joke! The threshold for passing is quite high so there was very little room for error, and I definitely felt a sense of relief and excitement when I submitted my exam and received my passing grade (with plenty of room to spare, thank you very much!). We also had to submit our CPR & First Aid Certification, which meant going through a new Red Cross Course. As a former EMT, I knew what I was doing and more, but I had let my certification lapse, so it felt good to get that taken care of before leaving Ames as well.

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What’s next? Well, I’d love to see just how I can put my new coaching skills and certification to good use. I am planning on looking into volunteer coaching opportunities, and will eventually explore starting a small coaching business that will allow me to take on private clients. In the meantime, if you are thinking about seeking out some coaching assistance with your running goals, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’d love to work with you to help you achieve your goals and continue #chasing42 !

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