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October Running Report

The past month turned out to be rather eventful, so I thought I might share some of the highlights. I just finished raking leaves, and the temps are on the decline so I know the white stuff isn’t far behind. However, this has been one of the more legitimate fall seasons I can remember in quite some time, and it’s been perfect running weather. The result was an enjoyable mix of running activities that kept things interesting and entertaining! I managed to rack up some decent mileage along the way as well 🙂

Run for the Roses 5K/10K: As previously reported, I began the month with a great pair of race PRs. They came out of the blue considering the significant distance I had logged the day before, and it felt great to feel like I had some of my speed back after feeling a bit sluggish that past few months. Earning 3rd place finishes in my age group for both races was a nice surprise as well!

Vardo-Style Slumber Party: When it comes to ultra-training, it’s always nice to train for the overnight portion of longer races. The distances are pretty straight forward but there is no way to simulate running overnight without just doing it. So, I thought it would be fun to turn an overnight training run into more of a group event and invite everyone out to stop by when they wanted, and for as many miles as they wanted. I started running at 10:00PM on the 10th, and kept running until around 9:00AM on the 11th. I was really happy that so many friends decided to come out and log some miles throughout the evening and we had a blast. I stuck to the same 5-mile route so folks would be able to join us on the hour, and it worked out perfectly. I had company the entire evening, with other folks running anywhere from 5 to 25 miles. We got expectedly loopy in the wee hours of the morning, but the constant flood of energy kept me going, and I was happy with the 51 miles I logged. I managed to stay away until Saturday evening before crashing pretty darn hard!

Des Moines Marathon: October is prime marathon season, and the DSM marathon is becoming a nice little tradition for me. I can always count on other friends being down there, so it’s a wonderfully social race, and it didn’t hurt that I ended up with a marathon PR this year either!

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 2.47.08 PM

Niland’s Cafe Run: Last week, a good friend decided he wanted to run to a cafe in a neighboring town for breakfast. This random run is one of the reason I love my group of friends so much! The cafe was 20 miles away from his doorstep, and the route was a straight shot down a former highway. I’ve biked this route on many occasions and have always wanted to run in this general direction, but this was my first chance to do so. Six of us in all made the journey, I logged 24 miles, and there was a stack of chocolate chip pancakes waiting for me at the end. Does running get much better than that on a beautiful Saturday morning? I think not!

Halloween Run: Our running group has a nice little Halloween run tradition that we kept alive this year as well. Everyone donned their best costumes or selected from the handy costume bin that one of our wonderful group members keeps on hand for just such occasions. Our route this year meandered around town a bit more than in past year, but it meant we were able to stop at several houses, as well as pass out candy to people in their cars while they were stopped in traffic. We even swung by a friend’s house to give her daughter a personalized reverse trick-or-treat experience, and she made out like a bandit with her candy stash! The Jello-O shots a few of us snacked on as we made our way around town helped put us in the spirit as well!

This picture managed to get even more creepy!

This picture managed to get even more creepy!

Overall, it proved to be an excellent month of training and racing. The numbers and the experiences will make the impending winter months that much more enjoyable. How was your month? What do you have on the horizon?

Total Runs: 26

Total Miles: 292.69

Year-to-Date Miles: 2,614.3

 

Race Recap: Des Moines Marathon

So, where was I? Oh yes…I was drifting off to sleep after returning from a wonderful Indianapolis Marathon trip and PR. Normally, I would be looking forward to sleeping in on Sunday morning, eagerly anticipating our pancake Sunday ritual and a lazy morning. However, this weekend, thanks to some friendly encouragement (ok, it didn’t take much), I decided to run my first official “double”. It was only fitting that I returned to scene of my very first marathon 4 years earlier. When I lined up at the Des Moines Marathon in 2009, I truly had no idea how far I would come in such a short period of time. Many things have changed in my life over the last 4 years, mostly for the better, and throughout it all, running has been a consistent companion.

DSM- Marathon Map

I woke up around 5:30AM, and slipped on my running clothes, including my newly christened Marathon Maniacs singlet, and ate a small breakfast. It was a tad chilly, but 38 degrees feels a lot better when there is no rain coming down, so I didn’t mind one bit. I hopped in the car and pick up a friend who was running the half and graciously agreed to stick around until I was done, as well as cheer on many of our other mutual friends running that morning. We arrived in Des Moines with plenty of time to spare, and were able to park a few blocks from the start in a private lot, which was certainly convenient. We both wandered down to the start area on a bridge over the Des Moines river and soaked in the race atmosphere.

Photo Credit: DM Juice- Waiting on the Locust St. bridge.

Photo Credit: DM Juice- Waiting on the Locust St. bridge.

We probably only waited around for 15 or 20 minutes, so I didn’t mind being a bit chilly. Despite having run a marathon the previous day, my legs felt surprisingly strong and painless. I was a bit stiff, but no more so than I would normally feel prior to a long run. I guess the high mileage training over the past few months was starting to pay off!

The gun went off promptly at 8:00AM, and we slowly worked our way to the starting pad and began running. The full and half-marathons began together for the first 2.5 miles, so my friend and I were able to run together. I had lined up near the 3:45 pace group, thinking that I would attempt to hang with them as long as I could, and hopefully come in under 4 hours. As the routes split, I waved goodbye to my friend and promptly jumped into the Porta-potty quickly. Aside from finishing, I truly had no initial expectations for this race. I was unsure how my legs would respond after the previous day, and I wanted to have fun returning to the scene of the crime!

Photo Credit: DM Juice- The race total topped 10,000 this year for the first time!

Photo Credit: DM Juice- The race total topped 10,000 this year for the first time!

I caught up to the 3:45 pacer, and passed him after a mile or so. From that point on, I was on my own. I ran into several other Maniacs along the route and again soaked up the reciprocal energy that came with our common bond. I was hitting 8:20 miles through the first 10 miles and still feeling good so I just decided to continue running how I felt and see what happened. As usual, the crowd support along the route was fantastic, and the water stops were well-organized and announced well in advance. The race organizers have been putting this race on long enough to really know what they were doing and it showed.

At the half mark, i was still pulling down 8:20 miles, and my legs were feeling pretty good. I had forgotten how subtly hilly the course was, however, and they began to sneak up on me more and more. I fought the urge to look back and see if I could spot the 3:45 pacer, but I knew from my splits that I had banked a few minutes. I could have easily slowed down if I had wanted, but my legs were feeling good, and my endorphins were pumping!

Around mile 18, just as I was entering Waterworks Park, my legs reminded me that I had run a 3:30 marathon the day before. The park has a reputation for being a difficult stretch because it is fairly open and usually has less crowd support. However, I have always enjoyed the opportunity to silently reflect on my running at that point, and I took advantage of the next three miles to process how the weekend was unfolding. I pulled back to an 8:45/mile pace, but kept pushing forward and even received a wonderful pick-me-up from a couple of friends who rode into the park to cheer folks on!

Photo Credit: DM Juice- Definitely a beautiful course.

Photo Credit: DM Juice- Definitely a beautiful course.

i entered a loop around Gray’s Lake and could hear the 3:45 pace group not far behind me. At that point, I was committed to holding them off as long as I could but had already arrived at a place of happiness and contentment in a weekend of hard work. I remained consistent through those final miles, and my legs continued to hold up, although I was certainly ready to be done running for the weekend. As I entered the finish area, my friend was waiting to cheer me on and I pushed it hard through the finish line. I crossed the line in 3:42:53 and I was ecstatic! If it hadn’t been for the previous days’ race, I would have earned a PR in Des Moines as well.

DSM Marathon-1

I picked up my medal, ripped off my timing chip, and collected my water and snacks in a process that has now become almost ritualistic. We claimed our free beer and relaxed for a bit, and then headed back to the car for the drive home. As I look back at my first marathon and draw comparisons, many things haven’t changed. However, my confidence in my ability, regardless of time, is in some ways the biggest accomplishment of all for me. In a simple, unassuming manner, I proved something to myself this weekend. Training will always be there, but these experiences will continue to be special no matter how many times I cross the finish line. I’ll always find something unique to remember, someone to connect with, and some way to grow as a runner. This weekend taught me to truly “embrace the race”.

Race Recap: Indianapolis Marathon

My training this year, and particularly this fall has exceeded all of my previous expectations and performances. I’ve been equally excited and exhausted by the miles I’ve logged and the time I’ve committed leading up to Across the Years on December 28th. Throughout it all, however, I’ve grown immensely as a runner, and found a decidedly beneficial balance in my life that has served me well on numerous levels. This past weekend, I tackled yet another new challenge amidst the variety of training scenarios I have been putting my body through during the fall. I registered for the Indianapolis Marathon on Saturday and the Des Moines Marathon on Sunday, officially attempting my first “double”, as my fellow Maniacs are fond of calling it!

All smiles on the way to Indy...after the sun came out and we woke up :)

All smiles on the way to Indy…after the sun came out and we woke up 🙂

On Friday morning, I hopped in the car with three friends for the 9 hour drive down to Indianapolis. My mind may not have been quite awake yet, but I managed to toss my bag in the car and try to conserve as much mental and physical energy for the weekend as possible. On the one hand, I was treating both of these races as a combined training weekend. However, my personal competitive nature meant I was itching to see just what I was capable of after so much more training than I had ever done. My previous marathon PR of 3:54:49 in Little Rock this past spring was floating around in my head, taunting me to push my body and see just what my legs had. However, I was committed to waiting until the morning of the race to truly decide how I would approach Marathon #1 of the weekend. We went out for an early sushi dinner and retired to the hotel room to get a solid night of rest. For the evening, convincing my mind and body to fall asleep so early was enough of a challenge!

The perfect pre-race meal!

The perfect pre-race meal!

We woke up around 5:30AM on Saturday morning, and began to get ready and eat a small breakfast. We loaded up the car since we needed to check out of the hotel before leaving for the race, and then hopped on the shuttle at 6:40AM. Leaving this early for a race that didn’t start until 8:30AM wasn’t ideal, but it meant not driving ourselves, which we certainly appreciated afterwards. The sky was overcast, although the darkness hid the full extent of the cloud cover. The light drizzle, however, was immune to the rotation of the earth and greeted us through the 35 degree temperature. We arrived at the starting line, and situated ourselves in one of the race tents to try to conserve body heat before the race.

Trying to stay warm before the race!

Trying to stay warm before the race!

The Indianapolis Marathon, in its 18th year, is a club race, and still relatively small (around 700 runners) with a multiple out-and-back course that takes runners through various area parks and wooded areas, along paved trails. We are able to avoid downtown, and the number of runners and looping course is perfect for interacting with friends and other runners on multiple occasions. I lined up in my assigned corral, although it was unclear what pace was affiliated with this place in the starting area. I decided about 3 minutes before the gun went off that I would seek out the 3:30 pacer and try to hang on as long as I could to see what I really was capable of under race conditions. The course was incredibly flat, so I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to test my body.

Everything laid out...ready to run!

Everything laid out…ready to run!

The gun went off, and I could see a pacing sign ahead of me so I raced to catch up, only to discover it was the 1:50 half-marathon pacer. I pushed on, and finally happened to run into the 3:30 pacer after about 3/4 of a mile. I only noticed him because of the conversation he was having with runners around him, as the rain had destroyed his sign. From the beginning, he was an amazing pacer and I was impressed. He was very calm, kept everyone comfortable, and engaged everyone on an individual level, going out of his way to make runners feel more at ease as they trekked on. Over the course of the race, we had a variety of fantastic conversations about marathons, ultra-running, and life in general. He was certainly an experienced pacer, and an asset to the Indianapolis Marathon.

I stuck with him and wet hit 8:00 minute miles pretty consistently. The variety of conversations, combined with a surprisingly large contingency of spectators helped the miles melt away effortlessly and my legs were feeling great. Several friends fell in with us around mile 8, and I was able to run with them for a solid 6 miles before we separated into different paces. I was able to hold out on a bathroom break until around the halfway point, but finally broke down. Luckily, the pacer stopped as well, and we raced to catch up to the 3:30 group together, and fell back in with our consistent miles. I hit the half-marathon mark in record time, and my pace was incredibly consistent. I was simultaneously excited and curious as to just how long I could maintain it!

The longest out-and-back was a rather long straight-away in both directions, which did get a bit tedious at times, but my spirits were high and I was excited by my endurance, which kept my spirits high. At the 20-mile split, I was still moving strong and feeling pretty good, although my legs were definitely starting to get a bit tired, and I could feel the impact of the pavement on my feet a bit more. Around mile 22, I could tell I wasn’t going to be able to maintain my 8:00 pace for the next 4 miles, and after I hit mile 23, I dialed back around 30 seconds for the final 5K. My feet were heavy, but I was still feeling really good and incredibly excited by my progress.

Throughout the race, I kept running into various friends and fellow Marathon Maniacs, and the energy exuding from that expansive support group no doubt had a great deal to do with my continued push forward. As I entered the park and closed in on the finish line, I knew I had to be close to my crazy 3:30 goal. I kicked as best I could, and crossing the finish line never felt so good, mere seconds behind a friend who had run a phenomenal race himself. I looked down at my watch and was greeted with 3:30:01!!! My official time was 3:30:41, and either way, I had destroyed my previous PR. I was a bit in shock to be honest. I knew I had trained well, and gained a bit of speed, but I certainly never saw 3:30 in my immediate future. I broke into a wide-mouthed smile as they handed me the medal, and I made my way through the shoot. I gathered some water and snacks, and the two of us made our way back near the finish line to cheer on other friends as they crossed.

Some great memories embedded in that medal!

Some great memories embedded in that medal!

In the following minutes, I was able to see friends hit BQ times, new PRs, age-group placers and cross the marathon finish line for the first time ever. The level of accomplishment in my circle of friends was incredible and I couldn’t have been more proud to know each of them. Everyone laid it all out on the course, and walked away with incredible efforts to be enormously proud of and memories that we all shared together. That small city park on the outskirts of Indianapolis was the site of some amazing running memories amidst a diverse group of friends, and being a part of such an amazing running community is by far and away what keeps me motivated day-in, day-out.

We hopped back on the shuttle bus, snuck into the pool shower area at the hotel to clean off quickly, and then back in the car for the another 9-hour drive. We spent the time chatting, celebrating, planning future races, discussing other possible adventures, and of course stopping every hour or so to stretch and eat! We rolled into Ames around 10:30 and I walked in the door tired, with sore legs, and some amazing memories!

Before drifting off to sleep, I filled the beautiful epicurean in on our adventures, and got everything set up for the next day’s marathon. I would get up in a mere 6 hours for marathon #2…but that’s a story for another blog post!

My 6-Month Reflection

It’s a bit hard to believe it’s July 1st already. The past 6 months seem to have flown by, and yet I find myself still wishing I had more time to get more things crossed off my ever-evolving to-do list. Regardless, this is as good a time as any to stop and reflect on the first half of the year as I look forward to the second half. I’ve had quite a busy winter and spring, and I’ve commented before on my period of goal-less activity. That being said, I’ve still accomplished quite a bit, and I’m really looking forward to the challenges that await me over the next 6 months!

It has already been a crazy 23, uh, I mean 2013!

It has already been a crazy 23, uh, I mean 2013!

31 in 31: I wanted to start the year off right by running every day in January, and it was certainly a successful start to the year! I also pledged to run 2013 miles in 2013 and I’m well on my way to that goal as well.

Marathon PR: My only major race during the spring was the Little Rock Marathon. When I initially registered, I was looking for an early marathon in the spring so that I could plan for multiple spring races. Although I didn’t get a chance to register for any additional marathons during the spring months, I was pretty darn happy about PR’ing in Little Rock! It was a great race and it left me hungry for more speed.

Speed Increase: Although I haven’t been as intentional about my speed work as I had hoped, I’ve still made some great strides has my speed and endurance have both increased. My average paces are continuing to drop, and I’m seeing times that I didn’t think possible even a year ago.

Nutritional Awareness: It can be easy to look to races when talking about goals, but I’ve been really pleased with the work I’ve put into my nutrition research as well. With the beautiful epicurean’s help, I’ve been experimenting with a lot of different foods, and exploring some great endurance nutrition substitutes as I work to remove the GUs and gels from my training.

Marathon Ready: My schedule was incredibly busy the first 6 months as I worked on finishing up my dissertation, and that meant not being able to travel to as many races as I had hoped. However, I pledged to keep my endurance up so I could run a marathon on any given weekend. I’m happy to say I’ve kept my training up, and have run an additional 5 unorganized marathon distances this year.

I’m A Maniac: I’ve talked about wanting to join the Marathon Maniacs since last year, and I hit my race goals to do so. However, I just recently took the plunge, paid my dues, and entered the InSane AsyLum. I couldn’t be happier! I can already tell that this group is a perfect fit for my brand of crazy, and I’m going to thoroughly enjoy meeting other maniacs throughout the country!

The 24-Hour Plunge: I may not have run this race yet, and in fact have many months of training left to go, but I’m pretty darn excited about simply registering! I’m going to voluntarily run for 24 straight hours around a 1 mile track. Brilliant!

Piling up the mileage in 2013!

Piling up the mileage in 2013!

As I look back on just the last 6 months, I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have the support of family and friends, and the opportunity to lace up my shoes every day and see where the road or trail takes me. I hope your first 6 months have been full of memorable experiences and learning opportunities. Let’s make the next 6 even better!

And the winner is…

Have I mentioned before that I have a problem with getting over-involved? I have quite a few interests, and the result is that I want to do everything I see, read about, or hear about! I’m a strong believer that life isn’t about the things you own, but rather about the experiences you have and the memories you make. That’s probably why my mind is constantly racing from one idea to the next, and also why I want to run every interesting race I read about or hear about. Unfortunately, I’m not independently wealthy, and I don’t have the skills to become a full-time runner (although, I’m not sure I’d love it as much if it was my JOB!). Thus, I am forced to decided every season which races to run and which races to keep on the “someday” list until time and money afford me the opportunity. Combining races and vacations can certainly be fun, but I’m pretty sure that if we scheduled all of our vacations around races, the beautiful epicurean would far less excited about travel…and the reality is that our dual-affinity for travel and experiences makes for a great pairing!

And so, without further ado, here are my race plans for the fall season!

September 2: HyVee Triathlon I was asked by a friend to cover the run portion (10K) of this triathlon, and I’ve never experienced the race atmosphere of a tri so I jumped at the chance! Now, if you are thinking that this may somehow lead to me competing in triathlons at some point in the future, don’t get your hopes up…water and I don’t get along very well- long story.

September 9: Sioux Falls Marathon– This is a nice close drive, and it will allow me to add another state to my list. It’s also my birthday weekend, and what better way to celebrate, right?

September 15: Wabash Trace Trail Marathon– Remember when I said I wanted to be a Maniac? Well, running this race will provide me with just such an opportunity!

October 27: Surf the Murph 50-mile Trail Race– Yes, I am going to bite the bullet and see what 50 miles feels like. The race is close to my parents’ house, so if push comes to shove, and I can just run back instead 🙂 Additionally, the training plan I followed for my 40-mile trail race was actually a modified plan for a 50-mile race, so I’ll be familiar with the schedule as well- bonus!

November 17- Northface Endurance Challenge 50K (Kansas City, MO)- I really do love these Northface events, and running in KC will give me another state for my collection…a perfect way to round out the fall!

Now, I’m guessing there will be some smaller races tossed in locally as well, but these are my target races and the races I will plan my training around. It will certainly be a busy fall, especially when I combine this with a full teaching load and dissertation research, but I’m looking forward to it. I thrive on being busy and I think this qualifies!

New Goal: Become A Maniac!

Despite what you might be thinking based solely on the title, I”m not referring to having myself committed. However, as I was doing some more research and reading other running-related blogs, I came across a great blog entitled Frayed Laces, and the author mentioned joining Marathon ManiacsI had seen this group referenced previously on a race page, but hadn’t thought much about it. However, after seeing the group name again, I headed over to their website to read about them.

As it turns out, the group is comprised of awesomely motivated and dedicated marathon and ultra-marathon runners who compete in absurd numbers of races in very short periods of time. The criteria for entrance begins with running either 2 marathons in 14 days or 3 marathons in 90 days (Bronze Level) all the way up to running 52 marathons in 365 days, running 30 marathons in 30 states/provinces/countries in 365 days, or running a marathon in 20 countries in 365 days (Titanium level). Although it shouldn’t surprise me, it was still hard to get my head around the idea of someone attaining the Titanium level, but of course, there are those that have done it.

Photo Credit: Marathon Maniacs

My running insanity hasn’t reached Titanium levels just yet (and probably never will) but the opportunity to be a part of a group that includes such dedicated athletes is certainly enough to make me shoot for Bronze level status this fall.

This decision, coupled with the flooding in Duluth recently, is going to narrow down my race selection a bit. I now have the added motivation of working towards maniac status as well!

My addiction to running has reached the point where I sometimes feel like a maniac, so I suppose it’s only fitting that I get the piece of paper to prove it!

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