Chasing 42

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Archive for the tag “PR”

Race Report: Run for the Roses 5K/10K

One of the best parts of the fall season (in addition to cooler weather, hoodies, bonfires, apple cider, and comfort food) is the large number of local races taking place. In the Ames/Des Moines area, I could easily run a race every Saturday and Sunday for weeks on end. Unfortunately, my bank account can’t necessarily support this, but it’s fun to be able to support local groups, causes, and often friends organizing the races. The Run for the Roses is just such an event, and an annual Ames tradition, with this year’s race being the 28th annual. I don’t typically plan ahead much for smaller races, and have a tendency to sign up at the last-minute, and this race was no different. There were so many friends running the 5K, 10K, or both that it seems like a no-brainer, so I signed up a few days prior to the October 5th event (albeit, too late to get the discount given to our running group!).

My training has been a bit seat of my pants since completing the Mark Twain 100 and recovering. I know I have the Des Moines Marathon and the Route 66 Marathon coming up, but training for those is really just a matter of maintaining my fitness after my legs were recovered. I was happily surprised that the recovery period after the MT100 was quite short, and I was out running again three days later with only minimal stiffness. I had to smile knowing that my training had obviously paid off in that regard.

The race itself was on Sunday morning, but I still managed to go out for my normal Saturday morning run and logged 25 miles. I decided to run to the start of the race on Sunday morning, which would add about four and a half miles to my day and get me near where I wanted to be when coupled with the 5K and 10K. My intent all along was to run both races comfortably and treat them as training runs with a lot more friends. I haven’t really felt like I’ve had a lot of speed in my legs lately, but have mainly chalked it up to logging more miles than ever before. Thus, I had no expectations other than to have fun, and run with a great group of friends. The 5K started at 9AM, and I got there about 20 minutes early to pick up my packet and pin on my bib. I lined up with a couple of friends who are far more speedy than I, and figured I’d try to hang with them for a mile or so, and then taunt them as they went whizzing by me. I shouldn’t have underestimated my competitive spirit quite so much.

The final stretch of the 5K w/ Eric (in a tutu) hot on my heels! (photo credit: Tim Fencl)

The final stretch of the 5K w/ Eric in a tutu hot on my heels! (photo credit: Tim Fencl)

The gun went off, and I took off fast, but was still fairly comfortable. After almost a mile, I wondered why my two friends hadn’t passed me. I yelled back at them and told them to stop sandbagging and pick up the pace. That’s when Ben pointed out that we were running a 6;40 pace. I was quite shocked by this, and definitely didn’t feel like I was moving that fast. I briefly considered slowing down, but my internal competitive nature got the best of me and I decided to see what I could do.l I kept pushing and was able to maintain about a 6:45 pace through the first two miles, despite quite a few rolling hills. The course runs along a trail for the last mile or so, and both Eric and Ben were close on my heels the whole way. I naively thought for a moment I might be able to hold them off, but soon realized they had more speed in them then they had kicked out. Ben passed me as we were flying down a curving hill. I continued to hold off Eric, but I slowed a bit coming up a short, steep hill near the finish, and he passed me with a slap to the ass about 100 feet from the finish. I had no intention of going out as fast as I had, no aspirations of finishing as strong as I had, and certainly didn’t expect a PR. However, I finished in 21:21 (20/378, Garmin Time 21:07, no chips), which was in fact a PR!

I was a bit surprised and all smiles as I downed a bottle of water and started chatting with Eric, Ben, and others. However, I felt like I had put it all out there for the 5K and I still had to run the 10K. I told myself I would take it easy, and that I had already accomplished more than I expected. However, I couldn’t help but wonder what, if anything, I had left in the tank. The number of 10K runners was significantly less, but it was still a decent crowd (over 1,100 participants for the two races). After about 30 minutes to catch my breath and rehydrate, we lined up to do it all over again. I went out considerably slower, but still felt comfortable with a 7:30 pace. Ben took off ahead of us relatively quickly, but Eric and I stuck together longer. We ran into another friend who was out for a run of his own, and he hopped in and began pacing us. I stayed with the two of them through the halfway point, but fell back after a 7:49 mile. However, I managed to push hard those last three miles, and I kept the two of them in sight the entire way. I was hurting a lot more towards the end of the 10K, but realized that I had a chance at a PR yet again, so I kept pushing. I crossed the finish line in 47:33, which was good enough for 20th out of 71, and another PR! My hands fell to my knees and I kept the same goofy grin I’d had on my face since the start of the 5K.

Roses-Medal1

After we recovered a bit, we all made our way up to the middle school for made-to-order omelets and other breakfast goodies. We sat around chatting, and wondering where our times left us. The final surprise of the morning was finding out that I took third in my age group in both races! I’ve never placed in my age group in any race, so this was pleasant surprise, and I couldn’t help but crack one final smile as I picked up my two medals. I wish all Sunday morning training runs could be this much fun! As always, the race was very well run, the volunteers were fantastic, and the food was delicious. Alpha Omicron Pi & Ames Area Running Club have this race down to a science at this point, so if you are looking for a local 5K/10K with lots of energy, I highly encourage you to check out this Ames area favorite!

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!

Race Report: Northface Endurance Challenge

Its been quite the race season for me. My miles have piled up at a rate I didn’t think possible a few years ago, and I’ve fallen even more in love with a sport I have every intention of participating in for the rest of my life. Thus, it was fitting that I finished up my 2012 race season with my third ultramarathon of the year. Not only did I start the year with an ultra, but I accepted my second Northface endurance challenge, which is where my ultra-history began (I make it sound mildly epic, despite the fact that my “history” started last year, and I’ve now run a total of 4 ultramarathons).

The Northface Endurance Challenge 50K in Kansas City, MO is the second to last race in the series, and the only road race on the calendar. After finishing my first 50-miler a few weeks back, I didn’t so much train for this 50K as I did taper after the longer race. This quasi-organized training schedule left me a bit anxious, but I’ve also been pretty busy in other areas of my life, so I luckily haven’t had as much time to obsess over my schedule either. In addition, since neither the beautiful epicurean or I had spent any significant time in KC, we decided to turn it into a mini-vacation, which added to the stress-free nature of the race. In all honesty, this was probably the least I’ve thought about any race this season. By in large, this didn’t prove to be an issue, as my endurance is quite high at the moment (go figure, right?!). However, my lack of observation did catch up to me in what appears to be the theme of my entire year- HILLS!

Friday Afternoon: We arrived in KC around 3:30PM, which gave us plenty of time to head over to packet pick-up. As luck would have it, I ended up booking our hotel is pretty much the ideal location for both the race and the rest of our weekend activities. Packet pick-up was within walking distance, and was relatively well-organized as I expected. Northface contracts with a company to provide “virtual race bags” in order to save both on costs and environmental impact. I’m quite a fan of this, since most of the handouts you receive in your race bag end up in the garbage anyway. We picked up my bib, shirt, arm-warmers, and water bottle, and headed back to the hotel to drop everything off before dinner. The swag for the race alone almost makes the registration cost worth it, so I was quite pleased! We had dinner at Waldo’s Pizza, which had incredible pies and an enormous craft beer selection- I highly recommend it!

Saturday Morning/Race Morning: The starting line was located at Frank A. Theis Park, which was only a few blocks from the hotel, so we left the room around 6:15, getting there in plenty of time for the 7:00AM start. Northface had to change the starting times for all of the races due to city restrictions (I believe), so it was quite a whirlwind as the 7 o’clock hour approached. This is the only race in the series without any participant caps, so the numbers were perhaps a bit higher but still not overwhelming. They had fire pits set up at the starting line for folks to keep warm, which was really nice. It was 38 degrees at the start, and I knew it was going to get a bit warmer, so I opted for shorts and s sleeveless running shirt, along with gloves. I was wearing a new pair of Smartwool compression socks (review forthcoming) which served the additional role of keeping my legs warmer at the start as well. They lined up the runners based on the race they were running, with 5 minutes separating start times for the 50k/marathon/half marathon/10k/5k. This made things a bit crowded but still manageable. Things ran right on schedule, and about 150 or so runners took off at 7:00AM for the full 50K experience.

The start/finish area

It didn’t take long for me to realize that Kansas City was a hilly community! For the next five hours, it seemed as though I was either going up or going down one hill after another. Had I read the race description more carefully (or perhaps just not blocked it out of my memory?), I would have remembered the words “surprisingly hilly” as they described the eb and flow of elevation change from 720 feet to 1020 feet, which seemed to be repeated so often that I felt like the needle of a record player moving back and forth over a broken record. We wound our way through downtown Kansas City, through the University of Missouri- Kansas City campus, and  in and out of historic neighborhoods with grand old houses. One of my favorite areas was down along the Missouri River which we reached after descending what seemed like thousands of stairs down into the Mines of Moria. The banks of the river were a calming respit from the more active scenery of the city, and there are some amazing bridges crossing the river. Alas, going down stairs meant we also had to make up that elevation decline, and I was ready to hurl my water bottle into the fires of Mount Doom when I got to the top.

Have you been to this part of Kansas City?

Luckily, the aid stations were very well placed along the course, and nicely stocked with fluids, GU, and fruit. In all, it was a very visually stimulating course, which definitely helped the miles go by that much quicker. They had countless intersections blocked off so I had plenty of opportunities to thank KC’s finest for their help, some of them more pleased to be out there than others. At one point, after the marathon and 50K participants followed the same course, we split so that the 50K runners could get in the extra distance. These 5 additional miles may have been the hilliest of all! After the last ridiculously steep hill, I got to the top and was greeted by volunteers congratulating me for making it to the highest point in Kansas City. You don’t say?!

The lone flat section of the course!

Despite the hills, the race seemed to go by rather quickly, and when I reached the 26-mile mark, I realized that I had maintained a pretty consistent pace and was actually at or near my marathon PR time. So much for slowing down a bit, eh? I kept on pushing, and at mile 28, I was fairly certain that the race organizers had made a mistake. We couldn’t possibly be going up this hill, could we? Alas, we did, and I pushed through! Luckily, the knowledge I gained from reading ChiRunning proved very useful and the angled stride strategy probably saved my legs on all of the hills.

In the last mile, we finally received a bit of rest as we hit some nice downhills on our way back to the park. The last half mile was all down hill, which gave me an extra burst of energy (or was I just falling forward at that point?) and I pushed hard into the finish. I crossed the line in 5:06, which almost seemed ridiculous to me when I saw it! I had been shooting for a time somewhere between 5:30 and 6:00, so I was ecstatic. The beautiful epicurean was there to greet me at the end, having arrived extra early after missing my finish in Sioux Falls…I guess she knows me pretty well 🙂

Crossing the finish line…early!

All said, it was a fantastic race, and a wonderful weekend. We stayed in KC a few extra days and did some shopping, visited some museums, and ate some great food…all within walking distance of our hotel. Did I mention that our hotel was on a hill?

A great end to a great race season!

Hijacked by Hills: Surf the Murph Race Report

After so much research, preparation, training, and organization, it almost seemed surreal to be heading up to MN on Friday afternoon. The beautiful epicurean and I left early enough in the afternoon so we had time to get up to MN and visit with family, as well as get settled and have a nice relaxing dinner. I may have felt some nerves, but more than anything I was just anxious to get out there and start running! The combination of so much training and the taper of the past few weeks had left my legging revving pretty high, just waiting for the starting “gun”. I didn’t quite know what to expect from my first 50-mile race, and this race met all of my expectations and more!

Friday Evening: I set out my clothes for the next morning, got my drop bag ready, and laid out my breakfast so I didn’t forget to take in any early nutrition. I made a last second decision to wear my shorts over my running tights and commit to having them on for the entire race. The forecast called for early morning temps in the high 20s and highs in the low 40s so I figured I was safe. I had done a good job of carbo-loading the past two days, so I had a nice simple meal of quinoa with roasted vegetables and chicken. I may have wanted a beer to calm my nerves, but I resisted. I set the alarm for 4AM and closed my eyes in an attempt to get some sleep.

Am I really going to do this? The bed was so much warmer!

Saturday, 4AM: When I was young, I could never sleep on Christmas Eve. The anticipation of waking up the next morning to see what Santa had delivered was too much for my little mind to take, and I tossed and turned the entire night, seemingly amped up on a bottomless pot of coffee. The anticipation for this race matched that excitement, and I found myself tossing and turning quite a bit, but still jumping right out of bed (quietly, of course) as soon as the alarm went off. I proceeded to get my running clothes on, and consume my banana w/ peanut butter and protein bar, along with 12 oz. of water. I was ready to go!

Packet Pick-Up, 5AM: There was no packet pick-up the day before the race, no doubt because of the small number of participants. Thus, they began handing out race packets @ 5AM, and we arrived at the park shortly after 5AM. We had driven out to the course the night before, but I was still paranoid enough about something going wrong that I didn’t want to take any chances. As expected, the fact that I over-planned meant that we arrived with no problems, I walked right in and picked up my packet, and headed back to the car to stay warm, all in about 5 minutes. I’ve never been a fan of “hurry up and wait” and this was no different. Can’t we just start running, already?

Race Debriefing, 5:45AM: All of the runners convened around the starting line to listen to one of the race directors give us a heads up. Everyone performed their own personalized warming dance, huddled around headlamps, covered in varying layers of cold-gear. A few folks managed to come in varying degrees of costume as an homage to the impending pagan ritual of high fructose corn syrup gluttony. I figured that dressing up for my first 50-miler probably wasn’t necessary. The director’s debriefing consisted of letting us know that the trail had been personally marked by her with reflective ribbon, the trail was in great shape, and they had seen plenty of deer and only one pack of coyotes. Great!

Lap 1, 6AM: The “gun”, otherwise known as the race director yelling “go!” and starting the clock, went off @ 6AM, and our shivering group of runners headed off into the dark, light dancing playfully off the various reflective materials as our headlamps and flashlights pierced the darkness of the forest. I’ve never started a race in the dark, nor had I ever used a headlamp and/or flashlight to run, so this was an added virgin experience. I quickly realized several things. First, my headlamp wasn’t putting out enough light to be helpful, but my flashlight (which conveniently clipped onto a pocket in my gloves) worked perfectly. Second, NOBODY WARNED ME ABOUT THE HILLS! I suppose it should have occurred to me that they didn’t randomly name this race “Surf the Murph”, but good grief! The first 5.5 miles contained enough elevation change to make me sea sick and leave my quads burning. This didn’t bode well for the next 12 miles. However, I was hopeful that contained within this 17 mile loop would be some compensation for the hard labor we put in during the front half of the course. The middle 6 miles did provide some respite from the undulation of the previous 5.5 miles, at least in as much as the hills weren’t quite as steep. After the first hour or so, the sun began to rise, and I was able to start taking in my surroundings. Despite several close calls on the downhills, I had managed to stay on my feet, and I gained some confidence as the morning sun illuminated the beautiful wooded trail we were running along. The aide stations were wonderfully spaced every 3-4 miles, and very well-stocked with nutrition as well as eagerly helpful volunteers. One of my favorite parts of small races is the volunteers always seem to be experienced runners themselves. Having that kind of support and encouragement along the way goes a long way! Now, lest we get complacent with the smoothly rolling hills through the fields during the middle 6 miles, we were revisited by the storm surge of the final 6 miles back through the beautiful tree cover. The hand-made signs encouraging us to talk to our pain and embrace the hills made it clear that the organizers understood the joke they were delivering. They just weren’t terribly eager to deliver the punch-line! I came rumbling up one more hill (of course) towards the starting area, happy to see smiling family, and felt like I had already run a marathon. I had to repeat that journey twice more. Lap Time: 3 hours 14 minutes. 

Lap 2, 9:14AM: I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to head back out, but the sun was up, I was refueled and restocked, and ready to roll. My legs were already pretty darn sore but I had a better idea of what to expect, which was nice. Again, the first 5.5 miles were brutal, and they all seemed new in the daylight. Suddenly I was cursing entirely new hills, and my catchphrase for the day quickly became “seriously?!”. The worst part about this loop was having a complete sense of what to expect and knowing I had to do it for a third time before I was done. I definitely took full advantage of the aide stations, though, and the brief rest at each stop was very welcomed. Around the half-way point, I began running with a far more experienced ultra-marathoner, and it was great to hear about some of the other races he had done, as well as pick his brain a bit. He had done the race twice previously as well, so he gave me some great pointers on tackling some of the hills. This lap also saw the first of 4 distinct distance memories, that of the half-way point. At that moment, however briefly, I relaxed and let out a giant smile, announcing the milestone to a runner a few yards behind me. She didn’t seem all that amused. I rolled into the starting area at the end of the second lap, holding onto a better pace than I had expected. Lap Time: 3 hours 28 minutes. Total Time: 6 hours 42 minutes. 

Lap 3, 12:50PM: I did a lot more refueling before venturing out for the third lap, which I was not looking forward to “running”. A fellow runner came into the start area a minute or so after me and announced that he was done. He had cramped up and had no interest in trying to run the third lap. Was I feeling leg cramps at that point? Maybe I was? At any rate I left my wonderfully supportive parents, announcing to them that I wouldn’t be back there for at least 4 hours, and I gingerly headed out. This time I knew exactly what to expect. That didn’t make it any easier. I repeated the same 5.5 mile torture for a third time, all along calming myself with the reminder that each hill I tackled would not be one I’d need to tackle again. I found myself alternating between walking and running a bit more on this third lap, and didn’t even try to run up any of the hills. As expected, the descents just kept getting more and more painful, as I felt my quads get shredded. My next distinct distance memory came at mile 38.5, which was around the end of the 5.5 hill torture. I’d never been so happy to see an aide station in my life. I cheerfully continued on, hitting 40.1 miles (my next distinct distance memory), which marked the longest single distance I had ever run. From there, the last 10 miles were probably fueled by a strange combination of emotion, commitment, vanilla wafers, and M&Ms. Final Time: 10 hours 49 minutes. 

I’ve never been so happy to see the word “finish” in my life!

I had mentally established a goal of finishing in under 11 hours many months ago, based on what I thought I knew I was capable of or planned to be capable of in the future. When I approached the final hill and could see the finish line, I’m pretty sure my entire body let out a sigh of relief as the intensity of the day hit me like a wave breaking on the shore. I crossed the finish line, somewhat unceremoniously, but was greeted by the beautiful epicurean and my mother. In their own way, each of them understood not just the accomplishment, but the work I had put into it, and they were all the congratulations I needed after such an incredible day.

Do I look as tired as I felt?

It felt absolutely incredible, and all of the miles I had logged seemed that much more worth it. I had just run 50 miles! I gingerly headed to the car, eagerly awaiting the shower and warm meal that awaited me. This leg of my running voyage was complete. I guess the best way to learn how to surf is to be thrown into the waves after all. Oh, and I guess I have a new PR, eh?!

The awards were personally branded for each finisher!

Watching the Clock

I’ve mentioned before that I love statistics and thoroughly enjoy keeping track of my times, miles, totals, etc. The fact that I maintain Strava and Dailymile profiles should be evidence enough of that (feel free to click and follow me if you’d like!). With the numbers in the back of my mind, I’ve found myself in the past week getting a tad more antsy for my upcoming 50-mile trail race. Although I know that I’ve put in the miles and my training has gone well, I still just really want the race to get here! I may not be warding off the injury gremlin, but I’m still pacing back and forth in my head quite a bit. The fact that I’m of course tapering and thus running far fewer miles than I have been isn’t helping either. The weather has also been pretty darn gorgeous, especially with all of the fall colors, so I’ve wanted to run even more.

One of the most beautiful college campuses in the country!

So, although my training plan called for relatively slow and comfortable runs of 7/5/7 this past week (Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday), I may have walked out the door on Wednesday afternoon intent on something different. Our neighborhood is pretty much the quintessential small town neighborhood with beautiful old-growth tree-lined streets and well-established homes. Just going for walks with the dog is enjoyable because it “feels” like a neighborhood is supposed to feel, or at least how I always assumed it should. I only had 5 miles on the schedule for Wednesday, so I wanted to experiment with running solely in the neighborhood, staying between two parallel streets 7 blocks apart.  I figured I could run up and down the streets doing “neighborhood repeats” and see how many miles I could squeeze in before I got bored. I started out at a relatively comfortable pace as I planned out the moves in my head. However, after the first mile I was feeling really good. I hadn’t really run a 5k distance since my race this summer, and I was curious if my training had increased my speed anymore, despite no intentional speed work. Thus, I took off and pushed myself for the next 3.1 miles. It felt great to speed up and down the tree-lined streets, all of which were so quiet you’d hardly know anyone was living there. I kept an eye on my Garmin, and after running the math and cutting out my warm-up and cool-down distances, I had kicked out the 5k in 23:24, which was a new PR (non-race, of course). Well what do you know, eh?!

Split Time Distance Avg Pace
Summary 34:21.7 4.33 7:56
1 8:22.5 1.00 8:23
2 7:54.4 1.00 7:54
3 7:48.1 1.00 7:48
4 7:42.1 1.00 7:42
5 2:34.7 0.33 7:51

I was feeling pretty good about myself, and my legs still felt great later that night. This is good, since speed work a week and a half before an ultramarathon probably wasn’t my smartest move, but I did shorten my total distance to account for the speed, which helped quite a bit. The next day, I had 7 miles on the calendar at half-marathon pace, so I knew I could go a tad bit quicker. However, my brain has an uncanny ability to never shut off, so I still had the previous days 5K success on my mind. The 10K race has been one I’ve not run all that often and has become increasingly more awkward distance-wise as I’ve increased my mileage. I’m at the point now where I don’t really feel warmed up and fully comfortable until 5 miles in, which isn’t much good for a 6.2 mile race. However, I was feeling really energized and it was another gorgeous day, so I decided I’d give a 10K a try and see where I was at time-wise. My PR up to that point was 54:09, which is certainly respectable, but I felt like I had more in me now. I was right.

I hit my pace hard, and never really let up as I kept myself moving forward. I was paying more attention to my posture and stride, as well as my foot-strike, and it is still amazing to me how much of a different those adjustments have made. I hit the 6.2 mile mark and looked down at my watch to see 50:48 staring back at me. I had destroyed my previous PR! Alas, there was nobody around to hand me a medal, or announcement my name as I arrived at the finish line. I had to settle for some furry critters greeting me as I came back in the house with a smile on my face.

The Garmin doesn’t lie!

I suppose after I check this 50-miler off my list, I may need to register for a few more 5K and 10K races to make it official 🙂

An Ultra-Wonderful Racing Weekend! Part I – Dam to Dam 2012

My apologies for not having a post up yesterday…arriving home @ 10:30PM, after a long weekend of running and friends, doesn’t leave much time for blog posts! However, after running Dam to Dam on Saturday, and the Minneapolis Marathon on Sunday, not only was I quite pleased with my results, but with the whole weekend. We’ll start with Dam to Dam, and save the Minneapolis Marathon for part II.

The Dam to Dam 20K holds a special place in my running memory because it was the first distance race I ever ran, back in 2009. After joining Team 12.4 to train for the race, I had no idea that it would turn into a lifelong passion with amazing friends becoming the icing on the cake. As I think back to that first race, it has become quite clear to me that my running mindset has definitely evolved. Gone are the significance butterflies in my stomach, replaced by the sarcastic joy of complaining about a 3:45 alarm while simultaneously looking forward to sharing the experience with a great group of friends.

Although I don’t exactly remember the alarm going off @ 3:45, I still managed to wake up and get my butt to our rendezvous point for the car pool down to Des Moines. After barely making the shuttle bus out to Saylorville dam in previous years, we didn’t want to take any chances, and we ended up making it onto one of the first buses. Unfortunately, this meant we arrived at the start @ 5:30AM…and the race didn’t start until 7:00AM. Clearly the only reasonable thing to do was stand around complaining about the early time and critique peoples’ choices of apparel…always a fun way to pass the time 🙂

Ironically, by the time we made it through the port-a-potty lines, we barely made it to the starting line and ended up at the very back of the pack when the gun went off. Knowing that I was running a marathon the next day, I truly did go into this race planning to take it easy. However, with thoughts of my PR at the Drake Relays 1/2 Marathon fresh in my head, I really wanted to see what my legs could do this time.

The course is fairly flat, and because the first 7 miles or so are out on rural roads, there is a fairly sizable shoulder. This worked out great, as I ran most of the time on the gravel or grass, off of the road. I ended up treating it as a bit of a trail run, which means less wear and tear on my feet and legs. The added bonus to this was that I was one of the few who did run on the side of the road, so I was able to easily maneuver around everyone. As such, I was able to maintain a really strong pace, and I was feeling great after resting pretty responsibly the previous week.

I considered slowing up and taking it easy a few times, but the internal competition took over and was too much to overcome. I pushed on, and when I crossed the finish line, I was pleased and somewhat shocked by my time. I had finished in 1:46:46! This came out to an 8:35 pace, and was far faster than I even thought possible. My previous PR at Dam to Dam was 1:59, and although that was two years ago, this most recent time still brought a huge smile to my face. Along the way, I had PR’d for the 10K checkpoint, and would have no doubt PR’d for the half marathon if I had kept going.

Somehow, the water, Powerade, and beer tasted that much better (which was good, because the pulled pork sandwich didn’t interest me in the least…my only complaint about D2D is the lack of decent recovery food at the end). When I caught up with numerous friends, I was delighted to hear that several PR’s had been set that morning. The beautiful weather, relatively cool temperatures, and calm winds definitely benefited all of us!

Celebrating is always so much nicer when you can do it with friends, and we did just that…for approximately 10 minutes, after which point we headed home to load up the car and take off for Minneapolis….part II awaits!

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