Chasing 42

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Army 10-Miler Race Report

Running a 50K in the woods makes for a perfect warm-up the day before a 10 mile race, right? After Stefan and I returned from Prince William Forest, we headed over to the D.C. armory to pick up our packets for the Army 10-Miler. I’ve been hearing about this race for the past several years, largely as a result of Stefan and Jamile being nearby and various friends visiting the to run the race. Thus, I was quite excited to have the opportunity to share in the experience myself this year. The expo itself was larger than many marathon expos I’ve been to, and it was clear that the size (35,000 runners), location, and notoriety of this race made it quite the high-profile event. We spent some time wandering around the expo, but were eager to head home and get cleaned up and find some food!

All smiles where delicious food is concerned!

All smiles where delicious food is concerned!

As it turns out, this was the first race expo I had been to since beginning my part-time job at the Delaware Running Company. I’ve learned an enormous amount about the specialty running industry (shoes, gear, apparel) in a short amount of time, and the result seems to be my viewing expos “sales” with an entirely new light. I’m far less tempted now that I know what times retail for, and when they happen to be a discontinued or updated product. It made it much easier to walk out without purchasing anything!

We headed back, met up with Jamile and the epicurean, and wasted no time leaving for dinner. An amazing gluten-free Ethiopian feast awaited us at a little restaurant around the corner. It had been entirely far too long since either of us had been to an Ethiopian restaurant (not a cuisine you see much of in Iowa), and we were elated to re-acquaint our pallets with the delicious earthy flavors. The GF injera was an added bonus, and tasted remarkably similar, and even better than the gluten-laden conventional Americanized variety. Then we made our way back home (after stocking up on some delicious ciders and micro-brews) to relax for the remainder of the evening and prepare for the race the next day.


The race began at 8AM, so we arrived around 6:45am at a parking spot within walking distance of the start outside the Pentagon, and wound our way through the crowds and security to the start. Others had said the security bottleneck had been atrocious in previous years, but they clearly made some changes because we wandered through with ease and began making our way through the various corals. I had underestimated my pace quite a bit, and was initially assigned to a slower coral, but was able to make my way further up, and Stefan and I settled in around the 7:30/mile mark.

A view from the start...

A view from the start…

Even thinking about moving along that fast was a mental contradiction of sorts. After my training this summer, I knew I was capable of holding that general pace for the full 10 miles, but my mental image of myself hasn’t quite caught up because it still seemed like an intimidating pace. Nonetheless, it was a calm, cool, sunny morning and I was feeling good so I wanted to give it a go. Luckily Stefan has a very similar easy-going attitude and felt like hanging out with me for the race despite his ability to hold a faster pace. I was certainly happy for the company and motivation!

The pre-race ceremonies were well done, and everyone seemed to be a good spirits when the gun went off. We were far enough up that I didn’t need to do much weaving through crowds, aside from the woman who was walking with heavily swinging arms and landed a light blow a bit too close to my groin for comfort! We took off at a pretty good clip, and were close to 7:00 minute miles for the first few miles, which wove through D.C. amid large crowds of spectators. I was feeling really good and trying not to get too excited about my pace, which was even a bit faster than I had hoped. My breathing was dialed in, and my legs felt fresh and strong despite the 50K the day before. I had elected to wear my Delaware Running Club singlet for the first time, and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of folks who recognized it and shouted words of encouragement. I guess I was indeed on the east coast now!

At the half-way point, I was making amazing time and sitting at a 7:12/mile average. I knew that holding that pace was probably not possible for the next 5 miles, but I figured I would simply push as hard as I could, and see how long I could hold it. As it turns out, I had about 8 miles in me at that pace before I began to pull back out of necessity. I was finally able to convince Stefan to push it a bit more, and he began to pull away, but I kept him in sight. the final two miles went over the Potomac, and then turned around and headed back towards the other side of the Pentagon. The final push took all the energy I had left, but I held on to finish in 1:13:56, which was a definite PR!


It took me about 15 seconds to down a bottle of water as I made my way through the finish chute, after I caught my breath a bit, of course. Stefan had finished just ahead of me, so it was easy to find him, and we made our way into the after-race area, where all of the different branches of the military from various parts of the country had their own tents and were handing out food and other goodies. We made our way through the light crowds (the benefit of finishing rather fast) and collected a nice haul of snacks and other fuel, along with some other swag. The epicurean and Jamile met us in the finish area, and stopped to chat with some folks before heading out. It was an enormous race, and certainly lived up to the hype, and I was quite pleased to have had the experience. Another amazing running weekend was in the books, and I had a blast #chasing42. I do love the fall race season!

Hiking with Joaquin- Part I

We had been planning our hiking adventure for several months. The first weekend in October promised excellent weather for a three-day hike across Maryland on the 41.9 mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail. The fall colors would be emerging, the temperatures would be cool and comfortable, and it would be a perfect weekend to camp out under the stars. I finally got around to purchasing a new hiking pack after extensive research and a desire for a carry-on eligible pack to make future international travel more convenient. The plan was to follow the full route of the AT over the course of three days, beginning in Pen Mar, PA on Friday, and finishing in Harper’s Ferry, WV on Sunday. That would give us plenty of time to enjoy the scenery, stop at scenic overlooks, and still set up camp with some daylight at our disposal. Alas, Hurricane Joaquin had other plans.

About a week out, the weather forecasts began to shift as a tropical storm in the Atlantic was quickly developing into a hurricane, with a projected landfall disturbingly close to our destination. There was plenty of rain in the forecast, and the temperatures were looking to be a bit lower than we had anticipated. However, plane and train tickets were purchased, time was requested off from work, and we were intent on converging on Washington, D.C. on Thursday (10/1) night for an early Friday AM departure. We made the decision to condense our trip into two days of hiking (approximately 20 miles each day), and to stay in a hotel in Harper’s Ferry on Friday night to allow us to spend more time on the trail and pack lighter for the journey.

Day 1 begins in Pen Mar, PA.

Day 1 begins in Pen Mar, PA.

I got my pack filled with the necessities, and hopped on the train Thursday night for the short ride to D.C. I was able to meet Stefan, Jamile, and Carla (who flew in from Iowa to join us) at Union Station, and we headed back to Stefan and Jamile’s house in Falls Church, VA  for a few short hours of sleep. The 5AM alarm arrived much too soon, but we are all up and ready to roll by 6AM and we headed out (after stopping for some much-needed coffee, of course). The plan was to leave one vehicle at the half-way point, and take the other up to Pen Mar for the start. It was a relatively easy drive, and we even found a wonderful little cafe for breakfast along the way. We arrived in Pen Mar, and the AT trailhead around 9AM, and embarked on our journey for the day. The weather predictions indicated a strong chance of rain the entire day, but we were prepared and determined to enjoy the experience. A little moisture wasn’t going to get in the way of an amazing hiking trip!

Gorgeous views, even on a cloudy day!

Gorgeous views, even on a cloudy day!

As it turned out, we encountered some light rain and wind throughout the day, but the dense canopy served as a rather effective natural umbrella. The trail itself was absolutely gorgeous, and I found it quite easy to get lost in the moment and find my bearing again only to discover that a considerable amount of time had passed. We found several amazing scenic overlooks with breathtaking views, despite the fog and cloud cover hiding a good portion of the natural terrain from us. The trail had its share of rocky and rooty sections, some of which were a tad bit tricky due to being slick from the rain, but we slowed our paced and carefully navigated them without incident.

We found a heavily graffiti-covered outlook along the trail.

We found a heavily graffiti-covered outlook along the trail.

Although this was a supposed to be a relatively busy section of the AT, we saw very few hikers on this first day. I’m guessing Joaquin had something to do with that! For the most part, we had the entire trail to ourselves, and it was delightful. We were able to enjoy the natural beauty that much better, and soak in the sounds of nature as they drowned out the technological buzz of our daily lives. We stopped to eat and drink when we were hungry, paused to rest at several of the shelters along the way, and let our imaginations wander throughout the day. I couldn’t help but think about Scott Jurek and Heather Anderson traversing these same trails, and marveling at the speed and distance of their daily journeys. I also found myself with a new-found appreciation for Bill Bryson’s AT tale, A Walk in the Woods, and smiling at some of our observations as we ventured around a cascading trail of new experiences and sites.

It was a bit rocky and slippery at times!

It was a bit rocky and slippery at times!

More than the hiking, though, I had been looking forward to the time with friends to reconnect and create new memories together. The transition to Delaware has gone quite well in many aspects, but leaving behind our community in Ames has been by far the hardest aspect. Throughout the first day, our conversations meandered even more than the trail itself, and it was wonderful to realize just how easily you can fall back into comfortable conversation with wonderful friends. I can certainly appreciate the allure of a solitary journey on the AT, especially from a meditative perspective, but there is simply something about the experience that can’t be captured in journals or photos. You need to be with someone to truly catalog the essence of the AT and recognize the history hidden between the rocks and roots, ready to be uncovered and added to with each new footfall. I was happy that I had three wonderful friends to share those moments with, and to add to the history together.

Stopped at a shelter half-way through the day.

Stopped at a shelter half-way through the day.

Filling up our water bottles at a fresh mountain spring- delicious!

Filling up our water bottles at a fresh mountain spring- delicious!

We made relatively good time, and covered a bit less than 20 miles the first day, arriving back at the truck at our predetermined halfway point with daylight left in the sky. However, we had overlooked one small detail. The keys to the truck had been accidentally left in the other vehicle, which was 20+ miles north of us at our starting location. We considered several options, including running the 15 or so miles along the road back to the truck. However, the temperatures were dropping, and he wind was picking up, and we weren’t really in the mood to run for a few hours. So, we decided to give Uber a try. None of us had used it before, but this seemed as good a time as any, especially considering the potential cost of a conventional cab that far off the beaten path. As luck would have it, someone responded in less than a minute, and we were tucked into a Ford Explorer 15 minutes later on our way up to Pen Mar to retrieve the truck and keys to the second truck. It was a really pleasant experience, and our driver was quite nice as well.

A celebratory selfie with Duane, our Uber driver!

A celebratory selfie with Duane, our Uber driver!

After our vehicle juggling, we made our way down to our hotel in Harper’s Ferry, ordered some pizza, and enjoyed a much-needed shower and hot meal. We relaxed for a bit, but it didn’t take long before our eyes were forcing themselves shut, so we retired for the evening. Day two was still ahead of us, and we were looking forward to another 20 miles of memories on the AT!


A Quadzilla Report: Destination White House

It’s all been building up to this final day, so hold onto your seats and prepare for a bumpy landing! The first three days of our time with the Race Across the USA were hot, humid, and tiring, but we were feeling good and enjoying life. We’d logged even more miles than we had planned, and our legs had seemingly adapted to the daily mileage because we were recovering without too much strain. We headed home from dinner with the core team members and other runners after celebrating the end of the journey the following day, and we settled in for a good nights sleep before our final day’s trek.

June 2- Day Four

We woke up a bit earlier the next more and got ready, unsure of the traffic situation now that we were so close to D.C., and wanting to make sure we arrived at the starting point in plenty of time. Luckily, the morning went smoothly, and we arrived around 6:20AM, which gave us time to get a bit more shut-eye and take care of other business, if you will. After the heat of the last three days, the cooler temps, wind, and light rain were a welcome relief. It was clear that everyone was quite tired as 7:00AM came around, but the excitement of finishing more than made up for it. On top of that, I was looking forward to running on a long stretch of paved trails after 3 days of winding country roads and minimal shoulders.

Ready for the last day!

Ready for the last day!

We took off promptly at 7AM, and made our way down the other side of the rather steep hill we had climbed at the finish yesterday, and the busy road meant being that much more attentive to traffic as we headed towards D.C. during rush-hour. We spent about 4 miles dodging traffic before finally hopping onto the Mt. Vernon Trail. The open trail, free of cars, was a breath of fresh air, and we picked up our pace a bit. I fully anticipated slowing down over the course of the four days, but legs seemed just as fresh and springy on day 4 as they did on day 1, and I was thankful for the intense training I had put in this year to make this possible. Granted, Stefan barely trained at all and still managed the same miles, so I suppose it’s all relative 🙂

After a mile or so on the trail, we were moving along nicely and I was feeling great. Then it happened. I had managed to stay vertical for three days and countless uneven roads, but the asphalt trail jumped up and bit me. I went down hard at full speed and rolled/slid to a stop several feet further along on the trail. Stefan and one of the other runners that had joined us stopped to help me up and make sure I was ok. I was more stunned than anything as I took stock of the damage. In true runner fashion, first I checked my gear and then i checked myself. I had collected a huge gouge in my knee, a nice hole in the palm of my hand, and some quality scrapes on my shoulder. I pulled out a wet wipe and wiped away as much dirt as I could, and tried to stop the significant bleeding a bit. Nothing hurt all that much, but that no doubt had more to do with the adrenaline pumping through my body than anything else. The first aid station was only a mile or so away and I knew they had a more substantial first aid kit, so I picked myself up and we kept moving forward.

Bandaged up and ready to go!

Bandaged up and ready to go!

We showed up to the aid station, and they knew I had gone down, so they were ready. I stopped for a few minutes to clean my wounds a bit more and bandage myself up (I guess that EMT training is still paying off, eh?), and I was back out on the trail in less than 5 minutes. All I could really do was laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation and recognize that it was going to make for a great story. Stefan and I continued to tick off the miles on the beautiful wooded trail, and we found ourselves having to intentionally slow down because we were moving faster than we figured we should be with another 18 miles to go. Nonetheless, the cool weather, mist, and excitement of the last day meant we were moving along at a good clip, and the miles were rolling by as we made our way closer and closer to the National Mall.

We stopped briefly at several different points to take pictures and simply enjoy being out there, and marvel at how lucky we were to be able to do something like this in the first place. After Jamile had dropped us off, she went and parked the truck downtown and road her bike backwards to meet us on the trail. She caught up to us around mile 16 and I showed off my impressive wounds when she rode up to meet us. I was still feeling a good amount of pain because I hadn’t been able to apply any Neosporin but running served as the perfect distraction and I seemed fine as long as I kept moving.

Running along the Mt. Vernon Trail.

Running along the Mt. Vernon Trail.

It was wonderfully refreshing to have the Potomac River to our right, guiding us towards the White House. Once we reached Reagan international Airport, D.C. began to come into view, and it became harder and harder not to stare off into the distance, but my desire to be distracted was balanced out by the reminder of the bloody holes in my knee and hand 🙂 You can bet I was keeping an eye on my footing!

Not a bad view for the end of 4 days of racing...

Not a bad view for the end of 4 days of racing…

We finally reached the Arlington Memorial Bridge, and crossed over, heading towards the Lincoln Memorial. We stopped for a few quick photos, and then continued down the National Mall towards the National WWII Memorial, and then the Washington Monument. The rain and cooler temps had kept many of the tourists away, so the mall wasn’t nearly as crowded as we had expected, which was wonderful. We passed the Smithsonian Castle and headed for the Capital, and then hung a left to head up Pennsylvania Avenue for the final approach. I suppose it was this final stretch when it finally began to sink in that we were going to do this, and we both got even more excited. The final stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue flew by as we neared completion amidst so much history. It was very fitting that we would end our journey, and all of the core runners would end a so much more amazing journey, in front of the White House. We made the turn for Lafayette Square and could see the group off in the distance. We picked up our pace a bit and were all smiles as we crossed the final finish line. We had done it- 4 days, 120 miles, some spilled blood, and more memories than I could count. A few of the other runners had already finished, and we all congratulated each other, and then we sat down. It felt rather good to sit down (even if it did mean I could feel my injuries in a much more pronounced manner).




One of Stefan and Jamile’s friends works at the White House, and he came out to meet us and congratulate us. He even brought with him White House coins for each of us, which was a wonderful and unique gift. It served as our medal for the day, as the RAUSA belt buckles would not arrive until later in the summer. After hanging out for a bit, we walked to a delicious burrito restaurant for some lunch. From there, we headed back to the truck. Jamile had parked at a military base (since Stefan works at the Pentagon) next to Arlington National Cemetery. Stefan and I decided it would be a good idea to run the few miles from the restaurant to Arlington National Cemetery since we clearly hadn’t run enough yet. My legs were definitely much stiffer than they had been, in part because it was almost chilly outside with the rain, but I warmed up as we went on, and it did get us there that much faster.


We arrived at the Cemetery and slowed to a respectful walk as we entered. This was my first time visiting and it was a humbling experience to say the least. The magnitude of meaning housed within the confined of those grounds was almost overwhelming and I felt honored to have experienced it. We arrived in time to witness the changing of the guard, which is a simultaneously somber and inspiring sight to behold. I was struck by the attention to detail and dedication that goes into maintaining the clockwork precision involved in the process, and could feel the respect emanating from the site and the servicemen entrusted with its care. We then made our way back to the car, and back to the house to clean up. I got everything packed, and Stefan and Jamile dropped me off at Union Station for the short train ride back to Wilmington. It’s amazing how much life you can pack into such a short period of time, and thankful doesn’t begin to describe my thoughts on the experience as a whole. It was certainly one of the highlights of my running career and my life as a whole, so thank you for coming along with me and indulging in my sometimes over-descriptive attempt at capturing such an amazing experience! #chasing42 #chasing42reports #RAUSA

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!

Want to be a Race Reviewer? (Your answer should be yes!)

I love reading race reviews. The number of ultramarathons, marathons and half marathons has grown a great deal in recent years, and all other distances are on the rise as well. People love running, and they love hearing about other people running. With so many races competing for our time and money, it makes sense to learn as much about the race as possible before pulling the trigger and adding it to your schedule.

More people are running and racing now than ever before!

More people are running and racing now than ever before!

I also enjoy writing reviews once I’ve completed races. It’s a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the experience, think about what I enjoyed and what I didn’t, and make mental notes for my next race. With each race I run and review, I get a better idea of my ideal race conditions (time, location, distance, aid, numbers, etc.), which in turn helps me plan a lot better for future races.

Photo Credit: Runner's World

Photo Credit: Runner’s World

I have enough friends that would echo my comments, and I thought it would be nice to give them an opportunity to review a race as well. Not everyone has the time to maintain a full-fledged blog, but many more folks would enjoy the opportunity to reflect back on their latest race, no matter the outcome. As such, I’m officially opening up Chasing 42 to guest bloggers that would be interested in reviewing races I am not fortunate enough to attend but would love to hear about…and hopefully others would as well!

So, if you just got back from a race, are heading off to a race, or are planning your race schedule for the future, I’d love to hear from you. Runners of all abilities and races of all distances are welcome and encouraged. The goal is to make this blog a one-stop shop for race reports in Iowa, around the country, and around the world! Feel free to fill out the embedded form, click on the race report page, or navigate up to the Race Reports header above. I can’t wait to hear from you- keep chasing!


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