Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Archive for the tag “marathon”

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).

RAUSA 3.2

Finished!

Finished!

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.

RAUSA 3.1

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

2014 in Review: Reflecting & Giving Thanks

It’s a bit hard to believe that 2015 is already upon us. It’s been an incredible year of running for me, and has left me even more excited for what is to come this year! The new year is typically a time of reflection, resolutions, and giving thanks for those things in your life that you are…well…thankful for. I’m not much for resolutions, as I think you should be able to begin something new or change something for the better in your life at any point during the year. In truth, I hear and read more about people breaking “resolutions” that they began on January 1st, whereas I read countless stories about people who decided to change their lives at other points during the year and are ultimately more successful. You need look no further than the change in gym attendance between January 1st and March 1st (see, 2 months…that’s about as much optimism as you’ll get from me 🙂 ) to understand broken New Years resolutions! While I may not be one for resolutions, I certainly understand the value of reflection and giving thanks.

I began this year riding a bit of a running high after just completing the Across the Years 24 Hour Run and hitting the 100-mile mark for the first time. This fed my running enthusiasm, and I was eager to begin planning my race calendar for the upcoming year. In the process, I set two larger goals for myself, and decided to let the rest fill itself in as the year unfolded. I wanted to complete my first 100K race, which was a distance I had still yet to race, and I wanted to tackle a true trail 100 mile race. My first 100K attempt taught me a lot, including how to endure my first DNF, and I bounced back to summit the distance a month later. This accomplishment left me feeling great heading into the summer months, and ready to take on my Mark Twain 100 adventure. My training over the summer months went splendidly as the miles added up, and I traveled down to the Mark Twain National forest feeling ready and eager to hit the trails. The experience proved to be more challenging than I could have imagined, and I learned quite a bit about my running and myself along the way. I ultimately completed the race with the help of an incredible partner & crew chief, and some amazing friends. That belt buckle was certainly the highlight of my running year, and has left me excited for future 100-mile (and beyond!) adventures. Along the way, I tossed in some wonderful relays with friends, as well as several marathons, and some unexpected PRs.

Adam- 2014

For as many races as I ran, there were and are always others that I’ve yet to run. The beautiful epicurean will attest to the fact that I’m constantly talking about exciting race destinations, and there is a part of me that would probably travel every weekend if I could. However, this year has given me pause to appreciate the daily miles, the early morning runs with friends, the solo lunchtime runs, and the opportunity to explore my daily existence in a new way. In total, I covered more than 3,100 miles this year, a number I could hardly fathom just a few years ago. I didn’t set out to break the 3,000 mile mark, but I did find new value in consistency. I finished up that consistency with the #RWRUNSTREAK with a group of friends this year, and ran at least once every day from Thanksgiving until New Years Day. In all, I tallied 313 miles during that period, but also grew to love the consistency of regular running even more. Today is my first potential day off, and head is telling me to rest so I can be ready for a long run tomorrow morning, but my heart is itching to get out there for a few miles. We’ll see which one wins out!

More than the races, miles, and accomplishments, I find myself thankful for quite a few things this year. Running is so much more than exercise. It truly is a way of life, however cliché that may sound, and I feel more alive, more energized, and more passionate every day because of it. It is a constant reminder of so many things, as well as an opportunity to clear my head. The beauty is, of course, that it’s also the best time to fill my head back up with crazy running plans, philosophical monologues, and stories yet to be written. The opportunity to run with so many amazing people on a regular basis leaves me incredibly thankful for such a generous, caring, energetic, sarcastic, and sincere community. Running with someone allows you to be yourself in a way that few other activities do, and I’m constantly amazed and grateful for that. On the whole, we spend far too little time truly being ourselves, and we should all be so eager to slip on a pair of running shoes and let the thoughts, emotions, and opinions flow. In particular, I’ve met some of the most amazing friends I’ve ever had through my running adventures, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. Everyone brings something just a little bit different to the table, shares something unique with me, trusts me and allows me the opportunity to open up to them. I’ll always be convinced that true friendships are forged through lived experiences, adventures, and miles traveled. I am constantly honored to share those miles with the such an amazing group of friends.

Ending the year with a fantastic Holiday party!

Ending the year with a fantastic Holiday party!

This year of running has also left me that much more aware of what an amazing, loving, and supportive partner I get to spend my life with and share in adventures. There seem to be plenty of articles out there about “how to live with a runner”, “how to live with a ultrarunner”, or “how to make sure running doesn’t take over your marriage”. There are just as many stories out there by frustrated runners with partners that aren’t as supportive as they would like, tell them they are crazy for what they love, or view running as an impediment to a strong relationship. I would venture to guess that if you are blaming running for problems in your relationship, then you may just have some other concerns to address. I have no doubt that running makes our relationship stronger each and every day. I see that in the excitement in her eyes when I share my running thoughts, the intentional inquiries about how my runs went, and the detailed support at races and the daily adjustments she makes so running continues to be a part of OUR lives.

So, as I cross the starting line that is 2015, I know that as long as I have a pair of running shoes, I have everything. Not just health and fitness, but community, friends, thoughtful contemplation, and a life partner. What more could I ask for?

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!

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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 Report: 2014 Des Moines Marathon

Races fall into a number of different categories for me. There are some races that I plan for months in advance, and direct my training towards, some that come up along the way, and still others that I register for more out of nostalgia or the potential for an enjoyable experience with friends. The Des Moines Marathon certainly holds a special place in my heart, as it was the first marathon I ever ran back in 2009. I ran the race again last year as a part of my first double, and I registered for the race this year because the timing worked out well with my training and it was a great excuse to spend some time with friends and cheer them on as well.

I picked up my packet at the expo on Saturday with very little trouble, and the epicurean and I took the opportunity to go out to dinner at the same restaurant where we had our wedding dinner. The pasta was delicious as always, and we both left with full, happy bellies. I woke up the next morning around 5:00AM to have a light breakfast and get ready. The drive down was a nice opportunity to wake up and sip some water more slowly before getting to the start. I made my way to the starting line in plenty of time for the 8:00AM gun, and the morning could not have been more perfect. Temperatures were in the 40’s, the sun was out, and there was hardly any wind. In other words, the racing conditions were perfect!

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 2.46.03 PM

I had planned all along to take it easy and use the race as a solid training run. I logged 18 miles the day before, and my legs were feeling good. The gun went off, and the slow shuffle to the starting mat quickly gave way to a more brisk pace. I lined up behind but in sight of the 3:30 pacer, but hadn’t really given much thought to my own pace. I planned to run more by feel, and just enjoy the morning. After about 2 miles, I had caught up to the 3:30 pacer, and was moving really well and logging sub-8:00 miles. As I passed the pace group, I decided I might as well maintain my pace for as long as I could and see what my legs had in them. It’s amazing how the best-laid plans can become derailed by an aggressive internal competitive nature, isn’t it?

The miles just continued to tick off on the relatively flat course, minus a few small hills. My breathing was smooth, my stride was short, and my turn-over was right on target. Before I knew it, I was 10 miles in and still maintaining my sub-8:00 minute pace. I brought a bottle of Tailwind with me, so I was able to run through several of the aid stations, but I made sure to continue to drink, and supplement it with some Honey Stinger Chews as well. I was crossing the half-marathon point before I knew it, and I hit it at 1:42, which would have been a solid HM PR if I had crossed the finish line. I was still feeling really good, but wasn’t necessarily taking it easy anymore 🙂

Finishing strong!

Finishing strong!

The course dips down into a large, open park around mile 18, and we were a bit more exposed than we had been. This was when I felt the wind pushing back a bit more than it had been earlier in the race. I maintained my pace, but I could tell I was working a bit harder by the time I crossed the 20 mile mark. Around mile 21, the bathroom break I had been resisting since mile 1 was finally too much and I ducked into a porta-potty. The stop cost me about a minute, but it was certainly worth it for the comfort! My pace slowed by about 25 seconds over the last 5 miles, but I was still feeling really good and thought I might just have a chance at a new PR. I dug deep in the final mile, and pushed a little extra when I heard the 3:30 pacer coming up behind me. I managed to pull out the same sprint that I seem to have at the end of every race, and I crossed the finish line in 3:28:44. My easy day had turned into a marathon PR!

DSM2014bib

I was all smiles, even if a small part of me wondered what the day would have brought if I hadn’t run so much the day before. I quickly found a bunch of friends that had finished up the half and the full, and we celebrated by heading straight for the beer (with some water and food along the way, of course). Everyone was in a great mood, and we made our way back near the finish line to cheer on other runners as they passed. The weather, the friends, and the race could not have been more perfect, and I was happy to add some more great memories to the Des Moines Marathon experience!

DSM2014

DSM2014-2

Race Report: Dam-to-Dam-Dam (D2D2D)

Running is about combining committed repetition with a thirst for new experiences. That’s what keeps it interesting, and keeps me motivated. That’s probably why this was an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up. When the alarm went off at 3AM and I stumbled out of bed, I was beginning to regret that thirst for new experiences. I was tempted to listen to the thirst for sleep that was echoing in my head, but I pushed past it and got ready. I was out the door at 3:30AM, heading down to Des Moines, and the day had begun.

Dam-t0-Dam was the first distance race I ever ran, back in 2009. I trained for it, and caught the running bug when I finished, so naturally it holds a special place in my heart. For the past 34 years, D2D has been an iconic 20K race in Des Moines, beginning at Saylorville Dam, and winding its way to downtown Des Moines. Over the years, it grew quickly, and became one of the largest 20K races in the country. Therefore, it was bittersweet for many folks, myself included, when the race directors made the decision to transition the race to a full half marathon.  Part of what set D2D apart was the distance, and there were plenty of half marathons to partake in. Would this change spell the end of such a long run? Happily, the experience itself barely changed, aside from the increased distance, and they put on yet another great race as they welcomed almost 9,000 runners across the finish line.

The starting line in the distance.

The starting line in the distance. I just had to run a bit to get there 🙂

As I said before, my thirst for new experiences has led me to take on some interesting challenges. Running a day of RAGBRAI last year comes to mind! Since my training mileage has been pretty high and I am trying to keep up my mileage, I knew I wanted more than 13.1 miles on Saturday. For most people, the answer might have been squeezing in another run later in the day, or adding more mileage to Sunday’s run. However, it didn’t take me long to consider just how interesting and memorable it would be to run the D2D course backwards before the race started. Normally, I would carpool down with friends, and we would hop on one of the armada of school buses that take everyone to the start since cars are not allowed at the dam. However, they didn’t say the dam was off limits to pedestrians, so naturally I thought running to the starting line, tracing the course backwards, would be fun!

A beautiful morning for a run!

A beautiful morning for a run!

This brings me to 4:30AM. I pulled into the parking ramp and had my choice of spots. I’m sure you’re shocked. I had reverse-engineered the vague map on the D2D website, so I had a pretty good idea of how to follow the course backwards. However, it’s important to note the severity of my directional “issues”. The roads north of downtown were pretty clear, so I had a feeling that getting out of downtown would be the challenge. I was right. My sense of direction is sketchy on a good day, let alone at 4:30 in the morning, in the dark, by myself. I wound my way through downtown and made it to the Des Moines River, knowing that I needed to catch a trail that would head north. I managed to overshoot it a bit, turned myself around a few times, but finally landed on the trail. I continued north at a decent pace and was feeling good. The sun wasn’t out yet, but it was already in the 70s and rather humid so I knew there was plenty of sweating in my future.

The plan was to give myself plenty of time for a nice, slow, comfortable run that would leave me some time to get to the dam and relax a bit before the start of the race. However, getting turned around in Des Moines induced a small amount of panic, so my pace increased. I had brief visions of not getting to the starting line in time, and having to run in the opposite direction of 9,000 runners to get to the start. I was probably still in a bit of a haze as I continued on down the trail, and I managed to miss another turn. I took a quick glance at the map and figured I could cut over on a road further north to get back on the route, and luckily, I was right. From that point on, the route was pretty clear and I was able to relax and let myself drift off a bit, as I’m prone to do when running by myself.

Leg one completed!

Leg one completed!

The open countryside north of downtown was incredibly peaceful in the early morning hours, and I enjoyed seeing the course from such a different perspective. I passed by many of the volunteers as they were setting up the aid stations, and I got some pretty amused and interesting looks, but everyone was friendly. They were quick to point out that I was “going the wrong way” and I assured them that I’d be back 🙂 I rounded the final turn onto the dam and began to see runners striding out and stretching as I got closer. I was able to easily blend in with everyone else and run right up to the start and make my way back to the middle of the back. Nobody even knew I had run the course, but I’m sure they thought my hydration back was a bit of overkill for a half-marathon!

Ready for Dam-to-Dam!

Ready for Dam-to-Dam!

I managed to find a group of fellow Vardos in the crowd, and we hung out and chatting for about 20 minutes before the race began. I love getting to a race and knowing I’ll see friends in the crowd. These experiences are meant to be shared with friends, and it can make all the difference during the race and afterwards as well. The dam was calm and peaceful before the start, the sun had just come up, and there was a wonderful energy in the air. The temps were rising quickly and would reach the 80s by the end, which, along with the humidity, made for a soggy day. The gun went off promptly at 7AM, and we all began the slow shuffle past the timing pad. Moving 9,000 runners off a narrow dam isn’t exactly a quick process, so you have plenty of time to “warm up” before the running starts.

My sentiments exactly :)

My sentiments exactly 🙂

My legs were feeling pretty good after the first 14.1 (added distance courtesy of my “detours” downtown), and I was pleased the that rather intense pains in my quad that I had earned the previous weekend hadn’t returned. I still planned to keep it slow and steady, and make sure I was comfortable through the end of the race. I fell into a pretty good rhythm and the first few miles of the race ticked off pretty quickly. I even managed not to get too swept up in the start of the race and go out too fast. Apparently I just need a 10-15 mile “warm-up” to avoid going out too fast. Somehow, I don’t see that being a sustainable solution for most races 🙂

Over the next two hours, we wound our way back down to downtown Des Moines. I smiled as I noticed various sights and volunteers that I had seen earlier on my solo journey. I “ran” into plenty of friends along the way, and it was great to see everyone pushing forward, (mostly) happy and energized! The trademark crowds were out in full force in the various Des Moines neighborhoods, and it became clear that the tradition and reputation that this race holds was in no danger of disappearing because of a slight course change. The hills were definitely a bit steeper than they were earlier in the morning, but I tackled them as I continued to hydrate and combat the heat and humidity.

A sea of runners.

A sea of runners.

Around mile 11 (i.e. 25), my left leg/hip cramped up a bit and I slowed down to walk and massage it out. It remained pretty tight but wasn’t getting any worse so I kept running. The course took us past the Exile Brewing Co. around mile 12.5 and I took the staff up on their offer of a small shot of beer. At that point, it didn’t really phase me! I rounded the final turn and caught sight of the finish line, which brought a smile to my face, and crossing it was a welcome relief. I looked down at my Garmin as I picked up my medal, and was happy to see I had logged over 27 miles on the course. I wandered down to the post-race festivities, claimed my hard-earned 9AM beer, chatting with some friends, and then headed back to the car. When I arrived home around 10:30AM, I realized just how crazy it seemed that I had already run as far as I had, and the day was just beginning. Then it was time to shower, eat some breakfast, and get some yard work done!

A great race day!

A great race day!

Did you race this past weekend? How did your workouts go? What crazy running ideas have been floating around in your head lately? I’d be happy to push you into them, and maybe even join you!

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!

2014

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 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!

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