Chasing 42

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My 2014 Race Schedule…well, mostly!

As you’ve no doubt gathered, I spend quite a bit of time researching and reading about gear and races, among many other running-related topics. I’ve accumulated quite a diverse pool of resources when it comes to looking at potential races in any given timeframe. This is great because it means I’m able to read multiple reviews before deciding to run a new race. Unfortunately 🙂 , I really like to travel and get excited about new races. Naturally, I want to run them ALL. Right now! Thus, setting up my race schedule for the year is as much about patience as organization and motivation. I’ve indicated in the past how important it is for me to have a tangible goal in the form of a race. However, I’ve realized this year that it’s equally an importance exercise in patience. Running is a life-long sport (hopefully!), so I have plenty of time for all of the running experiences I want to have. Thus, I need to remember how important it is to balance this out with non-race trips and exploration, which I equally enjoy. The beautiful epicurean reminds me of this rather frequently!


On the heels of my most recent adventure in Arizona, I am feeling strong and would like to maintain the level of fitness and endurance I’ve achieved to this point. Thus, I’m making an attempt to increase some of my race distances, sprinkle in a bit of travel yet again, and also take advantage of some amazing local races that I still haven’t tackled. So, without further adieu, I give you my 2014 race schedule, in all of its tentative, subject-to-change glory!

March 15th- Hawkeye 50K (Lake Macbride, IA): I’m currently on the wait-list for this event, but the odds sound like they are in my favor. It’s a local trail race that I’ve never run before, and I’ve heard plenty of good things about it so I’m  hoping to run it!

April 26th- Flatrock 101K (Independence, KS): This will be my first heavy endurance test of the year. I seemed to skip over the 100K distance with Across The Years, but that certainly doesn’t mean I’m taking it for granted. This should be a challenging course, and certainly offer me much more variety of terrain than a 1-mile track can offer 🙂

sexy ultra-running

May 13th- Market to Market Relay-Iowa: The relay was a blast last year, and I’m on board with the same group of friends for the upcoming installment!

May 24th- Backroads 100k (Booneville, IA): This is the very first 100K race in the state of Iowa, and I’m very excited to be running it! The course winds through the bridges of Madison County, and while I may not be a fan of the book, it should still be an adventure worth having!

May 31st- Dam-to-Dam Half Marathon (Des Moines, IA): My feelings are still rather mixed here. For the first time in 35 years, Dam-to-Dam has moved from a 20K race to a half marathon. This was my very first distance event, and I loved the unique nature of a 20K race. I’m sure it will be just as much fun, and full of friends as past years. Just give me a bit more time to get used to the change 😉

June 6th -8th- Relay Iowa (entire state): I’m pretty sure I’ve been pestered to run this race in 2014 since the race was in progress last year. Several great friends participated in this relay, which is the longest continuous relay run in the U.S. (339 miles), and haven’t stopped talking about it since. Thus, my expectations are high, but I have no fear that they won’t be met!

September 5th- Hallucination 100 (Michigan): This will be my “A” race for the year! The RunWoodstock festival in Michigan includes the Hallucination 100, as well as a 50-miler, a marathon, and numerous other races, all sprinkled throughout a weekend of camping, yoga, and relaxation (well, after running 100 miles, anyway). It just so happens that this race starts on my birthday as well, and I can think of no better way to celebrate than to just keep running!

Jenn Shelton quote

October 5th- Portland Marathon (OR): The epicurean’s college roommate now lives in Portland, which is providing the perfect impetus to head out west and visit a new state, and cross it off my 50 states quest!

November 23rd- Route 66 Marathon (Tulsa, OK): I’ve heard nothing but great things about this race, including loads of positive reviews from fellow maniacs, so I figured it was a great race to end the season. My task now is to convince as many friends as possible to tag along for a running road trip!

So, there you have it. Obviously, these races aren’t set in stone, and there will no doubt be some additions as well. However, it’s always exciting for me to have a plan in place for the year. Now to get out and keep logging the miles to make sure I’m ready!

What races are you running this year? Have you run any of these races before and have reviews or suggestions for me? I’d love to hear about them!

Race Report: Dam to Dam

In many ways, I feel like this entire year has been quite a whirlwind up until now. The seasons haven’t held true to form, the weather has been anything but normal (is there such a thing anymore?), my schedule has been less than rigid and regulated at work, and my training hasn’t quite had the rigor and organized discipline I’d like. I’ve been putting in plenty of miles, but my race goals have been a bit too distant, which has left me with time in between targets. However, I can always count on one race every year as a benchmark for my running progress. Dam to Dam, Iowa’s Distance Classic, was my very first race longer than a 10K, and marked the beginning of my addiction back in 2009. Since then, it has come to hold a special place in my heart, not only because it’s a wonderfully organized race, but because the tradition and proximity equate to a giant gathering of friends for a morning of running, celebrating, and “hydrating”.

Hanging out before the race.

Hanging out before the race.

Not to paint too pretty a picture, I should get the less than desirable aspects of this race out-of-the-way first. Namely, the time. The race starts at 7AM at the Saylorville Dam in Des Moines, which is only accessible for the race via busses that depart from downtown Des Moines between 5AM and 5:45AM. This was even more true this year due to flooding in the area, which limited traffic access. Now, this means meeting others at 4:15AM to carpool down to Des Moines, which in turn meant I was awake at 3AM. Well, my eyes were mostly open and I was moving, at least. I’ve probably mentioned before that I’m not a morning person, so this was a struggle. It’s a good thing I enjoy this race so much!

The view from the start is hard to argue with!

The view from the start is hard to argue with!

We were in Des Moines in time to hop on one of the first busses, which meant arriving at the dam/ start around 5:30AM. This left us with plenty of time to kill. Luckily, we are a pretty self-sufficient group, and were able to entertain ourselves. The weather varies widely this time of year, and we got extremely lucky this year. It was in the low 50s at the start, and the sun slowly emerged on the back of a light breeze. Thus, we passed the time comfortably before making our way up to the starting line. With 8,500 runners in all, the people watching alone is enough to pass the time!

8,500 runners ready to tackle the course!

8,500 runners ready to tackle the course!

This year, I was convinced (tricked? 🙂 ) by a friend to attempt an 8:00 min/mile pace for the 20K (12.4 mile) distance. My pace has been improving quite a bit as of late, but I had yet to attempt sustaining it for quite that long. I was hesitant, but agreed nonetheless, and another friend agreed to pace us during the race itself, which was really nice. We worked our way up, closer to the front of the pack, and as the palpable intensity of the crowd increased as we made our way closer, I couldn’t help but feel as if I was somehow an impostor of sorts. My energy was high, and my adrenaline was pumping, and we head out with the rest of the pack to make our way through the first mile.

Working our way closer to to the front of the pack.

Working our way closer to to the front of the pack.

Now, the first mile is a bit like squeezing pebbles through a salt shaker, so I was expecting a bit slower first mile. We hit the mile 1 marker around 8:20, which left us in great shape. Over the next 8 miles or so, the distance just seemed to tick away comfortably, and we maintained a sub-8:00 min pace throughout. I stopped to take water, took in some nutrition around miles 5 and 9, and still felt ok to chat with my two pacing friends. After the first few miles, my doubts about achieving our goal (for me, that is) vanished and I let the feel of the race take over. It’s a fairly flat course, but there are a few decent hills to give a runner pause. We tackled them boldly, and maintained our pace.

With about 5K remaining, I found myself about 50 yards ahead of my friends after a water stop, and I let my legs take over. Even after crossing the last bridge and making the final turn towards the finish, the consistency in my pace and breathing remained, and I had a bit left for a final kick at the end. I crossed the finish line in 1:37:11 with a 7:49/mile pace, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with my PR! I turned around to congratulate my friends, and they looked just as full of energy as I felt, and it was clear that handily accomplished our goal.

Celebrating after a great race!

Celebrating after a great race!

The snacks, beer, and celebrating with our large group of friends afterwards made for a perfect end to a beautiful morning. Once again, Dam to Dam served as a reminder to me of why I enjoy running so much. I have some of the most amazing friends, capable of so much, humble without question, and encouraging to a fault, and they continue to reinforce my love of running. Pinning on a bib and putting a medal around my neck at the end of the run is really just a bonus!


An Ultra-Wonderful Racing Weekend! Part II- Minneapolis Marathon

Do you look for signs? Do you witness something or experience something and wonder if the universe is trying to tell you something? I can’t say that I spend a great deal of time dwelling on the astrological significance of the things taking place around me. However, I’ll admit that I might have thought otherwise this weekend.

After running Dam to Dam on Saturday, the beautiful epicurean and I drove up to Minneapolis with some friends. The Minneapolis Marathon awaited! We had a delicious dinner at Pizza Luce (pizza and beer is a perfect pre-race meal, right?), and settled in for the evening. 5:30AM was going to come rather quickly, especially considering my even earlier alarm just that morning (I’m still convinced only zombies are awake @ 3:45AM…hmmmm, maybe I should organize a Zombie 5K and include a 3AM start time…food for thought- maybe I’ll get back to that later…anyways….). At any rate, I woke up to my alarm, stumbled around in the dark so as not to wake the others, who were running the 1/2 marathon (which began an hour later…damn them and their “sleeping in”!). I made it out of the hotel room, slipped on my shoes, and headed to the elevator to embark on the 1.5 mile walk to the starting line. I pushed the elevator button, and closed my eyes, my body still in a bit of shock over being up so early a second morning in a row. It took a few seconds for me to realize what was happening…nothing.

I pushed the button again, and then the button for another floor, and still, nothing happened. Really, was this happening? Was I trapped in the elevator at the hotel, less than an hour before running a marathon? Seriously? After yelling briefly into the air, I pushed the call button and spoke to the front desk. They sent someone up, and they reset the elevator for me. The doors opened two floors down (remember the other buttons I pushed?) and I jumped out. I wasn’t on the ground floor yet, but I sure as heck wasn’t going to risk getting back in the elevator. So, was it a sign? Was the universe telling me what I already knew…that this was probably a stupid idea. Like I said, I don’t tend to read too much into things, but this was hard to pass up. At any rate, I headed out of the hotel (after taking the wrong staircase first…I kid you not!), and made my way to the starting line, still in plenty of time.

Really? What are you trying to say?

As the gun went off, I positioned myself just ahead of the 4:15 pace group. Now, prior to this race, my marathon PR was 4:23 (Twin Cities 2010), so I might have been fooling myself, but I felt really good, and was rather optimistic after all the training I had done this season. For the first 12 miles, I maintained my pace, and was feeling really good. That’s when the urge hit me…the undeniable feeling that there was a port-a-potty in my future. At the risk of over-sharing, I’ll simply say that I avoid this scenario during races at all costs. However, I was left with no options. Location was of little important, so I diverted from the race course to find my relief. 4/10 of a mile later, I was back on the course, thinking about catching back up to the 4:15 pacer, who I was sure had passed me after my 2-minute “break”.

The course had been rerouted earlier in the week due to flooding, which meant the addition of a nice little hill with a 12.5% grade. This hill was NOT my friend after 18 miles, but I managed it, and saw the 4:15 pacer just ahead. I had caught her…I had caught my pace! Then she stopped. She pulled over to a med tent as I ran by, and I never saw her again. I found out later that the 4:15 pacer that had crossed the finish line was male, so I can only assume injury had befallen her and she was unable to continue.

I, however, did continue, and although I hit a wall around mile 21, I still pushed through it. As I approached the final turn, I caught a glimpse of my friends on the sidelines, waiting to cheer me on. One dear friend popped out onto the course and ran a bit with me, giving me a play-by-play of what to expect at the end, including seeing the beautiful epicurean at the finish line. As I crossed the finish line and saw 4:15:55 on the clock, I simultaneously erupted with joy and exhaustion. I had PR’d by 7 minutes, and on tired legs, no less! I downed as any fluids as I could keep down, and probably looked a bit rough, but I made it.

Looking good after a race-filled weekend!

After catching my breath, getting some nutrition in me, and regaining full consciousness, we headed out on the walk back to the hotel. The 2-mile walk. I still don’t believe in signs…really.

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