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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!

My 2013 Endurance Goals

It’s easy to avoid committing to something when it only exists as a series of passing conversations with friends. Over the years, I’ve had the best intentions to complete quite a few things, but they’ve never gotten much further than a passing comment or an adrenaline-fueled pronouncement. Now, this is not to say that I haven’t kept myself busy, because I certainly don’t have any empty time just lying around waiting to be picked up by another great adventure. However, I’ve shared before that my race goals for 2013 have been a bit up in the air following the Little Rock Marathon, and I knew I needed to get things set in stone before the heat of the summer set in. Otherwise, the reasons to avoid the heat would begin to overwhelm my desire to run. As such, I am considering this my official “no turning back” endurance announcement.

My first commitment is returning to the scene of the crime for RAGBRAI 2013. You may be wondering how often I’ve gotten out on the bike this year, what with all the running miles I’ve been logging (I’m sitting at around 1100 right now). The answer is…none. Well, I suppose I can count the handful of rides I’ve done on the trainer in the basement, but that’s about it. That’s why I’ve decided to pick one day of RAGBRAI (Tuesday, July 23rd) and run the route instead. This particular leg weighs in at about 50 miles, and is close enough to home that I won’t have any of the travel and lodging concerns that typically come with a longer race. I’ll be running from Perry, IA to Des Moines, IA.

RAGBRAI-route-2013

While riding RAGBRAI last year, I saw several folks throughout the week that were running portions of the course, and I was extremely impressed to say the least. Over the past year, my passion for endurance races, ultra-marathons, and other crazy running adventures has exploded, so this seemed like a logical challenge! At some point in the future, it would be amazing to attempt to run the entire RAGBRAI course, but I’m not quite there yet. It’s never actually been successfully done in the 40 year history of RAGBRAI, but there is an amazing guy attempting it this year, and I wish him the best of luck. Hopefully I’ll even see him out there on the road. By running, I’m guaranteed to see pretty much the full scope of riders, and I’m sure to have some great interactions with people throughout the day, which I’m really looking forward to as well. In addition, it’s the closest leg to home, so many of my friends will be riding as well, so I’m sure to run into them.

ragbrai spandex (flat small)3

Interestingly enough, this happens to be the same week that I’ll be traveling with the beautiful epicurean to Maine to run the Great Cranberry Island Ultra. Not only will this be an amazing and challenging week of running, but it will be a good training benchmark as I prepare for an even more significance 2013 endurance goal. After my first 50 mile race last fall, I was completely hooked on ultra distances and wanted to continue pushing my body. Running a 100k race seemed like the next logical step. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a race that worked with my fall schedule and didn’t involve a significant financial commitment. However, we were already planning a trip to Phoenix during the holiday season again this year, so I thought I’d scan the race schedules and see if anything was being held while we were there.

GCBI50K

As luck would have it, I found a race. At this point, I should mention that I’m pretty good at rationalizing just about any decision I have my heart set on making. So, although I had initially been looking at 100k races, I knew I had found the perfect fit when I saw the Across the Years  6 day & 24, 48, & 72 hr Footrace. Now, I don’t have any experience with timed races, but this truly seemed like too amazing of an experience to pass up. Although I wish my body was capable of running for 6 straight days, I was immediately drawn to the 24-hour option. After doing the math, running for 24 hours straight seemed to be the training equivalent of a 100-mile race. This is certainly a jump past the 100k mark I had initially set, but I have six months to train, and already have an excellent base to build on. The race itself is going to be as much mental as it is physical, and that challenge excites me even more. I’ll be spending 24 hours running a 1 mile loop over and over again…perhaps Einstein’s definition of insanity is coming to mind at this point?

ATY-Website-Header-6-Day

I’ve finalized my training plan and began week 1 this week, leading to the December 28th race. I am certainly not naive enough to think that this is going to be an easy task, or that I have plenty of time. I know that I will need to focus on my training and nutrition as much, if not more, than I ever have before. Ultimately, that’s what excites me about both of these challenges. My mind thrives on being pushed to extremes and testing what I’m capable of, and the next 6 months are going to do just that. I’ll be experimenting with a lot of different nutrition and gear options, so you can look forward to those reports as well.

It's nice to have company when you are running for 24 hours, right?

It’s nice to have company when you are running for 24 hours, right?

So, I am putting these goals down in writing not because I have any interest in a pat on the back, but to make them real. Each of us has goals we want to achieve and things we’d like to accomplish that we maybe think are just out of reach. However, unless you really stretch yourself, you’ll never know! Feel free to share your goal…put it down in writing…make it real!

Race Report: The (Almost) Run to Exile

Have you ever had a running day that ebbs and flows so much that you are pretty sure time has sped up and you’ve lost a day? Saturday ended up being that day for me, thanks to two uniquely different runs that added up to my June marathon. In keeping with my quest to run at least one marathon each month in order to stay trained, I went to bed Friday night with the intention of making Saturday that day in June. I was registered for a brand new half marathon in the afternoon, and figured I could squeeze in the other half marathon in the morning during my normal AM group run. This did indeed work out as I had hoped in terms of numbers, and also left me with some crazy memories!

I woke up around 6AM, which seemed decadent after last weekend, and left the house around 6:30AM to meet up with friends for a 7AM run. The weather was cool, and although the threat of rain persisted, the sun did make an appearance as well. I’ve been training pretty hard lately, so I wanted to take it a bit easier in the morning and make sure I saved some energy for my afternoon race. The route took us out in the country a bit, and then back into town, and I was able to maintain a comfortable pace while chatting with friends along the way. By the time I made it back to the house, I had logged 14.5 miles. I was in good shape for the afternoon run.

Any race that ends at a brewery can't be bad, right?

Any race that ends at a brewery can’t be bad, right?

A bit of soreness crept in later in the morning, but a few ibuprofen and a nice cup of coffee cured what ailed me. Around 12:30PM, the beautiful epicurean and I, along with a great friend, headed down to Des Moines to pick up our race packets at the Exile Brewing Company. The inaugural Run to Exile was due to start at 3PM, with busses take us to the starting line at 2PM. When we arrived, the registration line was rather long, which left us a bit uncertain about having enough time to get everything picked up and still hop on the bus. We made our way to the front and collected our materials in enough time, and flagged down a few other friends that were meeting us before the race. Thanks to a random friend sighting, I found the bus in time while the epicurean caught her bus for the 5K a bit later.

Not a bad haul for a race, eh?

Not a bad haul for a race, eh?

We arrived at the starting line, and I realized that this was going to be a very small half-marathon. In total, there were only 80 people registered (69 finishers). We got off the bus at a community park, and made our way through crowds of parents cheering on their children at a softball tournament. In many ways, the mood was more similar to a regular group run than to a race. The starting line consisted of a sign with the race logo, and an arrow pointing us in the right direction along the trail.

As I mentioned, this was the inaugural running of the Run to Exile, and there are always kinks to work out the first time around. This meant communication might have been lacking a bit, and a 3PM starting time turned into a 3:25PM start. The mood remained relaxed, and nobody seemed to mind. I definitely had the sense that folks were just looking forward to a nice afternoon run, and I was happy nobody got too upset at the volunteers during the delay. We finally got the go-ahead, and we headed out along the Greenbelt Trail for the majority of the race.

After running my first leg in the morning, I wasn’t entirely sure what me legs had in them, but I figured I’d feel it out in the first few miles and just listen to my body. I hit the 1 mile mark at 8:02 and had a sense that I might be going a bit fast. When my Garmin read 7:52 at mile 2, I knew I couldn’t sustain my pace, and my legs leveled out over the next few miles. At around mile 8, my legs were starting to feel the effects of the days miles, but I stayed on pace with a bit more effort than before. By that time, it had begun to rain just enough to be refreshing so I didn’t mind in the least.

Around mile 10, I began to be more aware of the moisture content of my shirt, and the resulting chaffing I could feel setting in. I wasn’t keen on carrying my shirt the rest of the race, but figured it was a better choice than bleeding at the end! I had enough juice left for a kick the last few miles, and was able to pass a few people as a rounded the corner towards the finish line.

A great way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

A great way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

I claimed my medal and a bottle of water rather unceremoniously, and made my way down to the brewery to find the epicurean and our other friends. It wasn’t until they asked me about my distance that I looked down at my Garmin and saw the 12.77 mile final staring back at me. Had the route really been off by that much? Unfortunately, the 5K was off by even more, and ended up only being a 4K. This left more than a few people upset as you can imagine. We claimed our beer and snacks and hung out inside for a bit before deciding to make our way back to the car and get out of the wet clothes. I was definitely happy to have brought a dry shirt.

Not bad for the second half marathon of the day!

Not bad for the second half marathon of the day!

 

All-in-all, it was still a really enjoyable experience. The gear bag with shirt and beer glass was an excellent touch, and the free beer at the end always creates a smile. More than that, it was just fun to hang out with friends and celebrate our accomplishments (and maybe complain a bit about the routes…seriously though, you really need to measure your courses carefully!). At the end of the day, I had run over 27 miles, so I hit my goal as well. It was a strange experience in a number of ways, but the memories will definitely remain and I have no doubt that we’ll be talking about the (almost) Run to Exile in the future!

Getting Lucky in Minneapolis!

Apparently the luck of the Irish is strong with me, because my running pursuits have now resulted in me “Getting Lucky” twice just this month! Although most cultural traces of my Irish identity have been absorbed by my now White identity, I still have a soft spot in my heart for Ireland, and hope to one day trace my ancestry through the rolling hills of the beautiful Irish countryside. Until I’m able to book my trip to Dublin, I’ll have to settle for running and beer, which both have a long and storied history in Ireland!

You can't go wrong with a sponsor like this!

You can’t go wrong with a sponsor like this!

After “getting lucky” and setting a PR at the Little Rock Marathon a few weeks back, I was excited to head up to Minneapolis for the Get Lucky 7K. I’ve run numerous Team Ortho races in the past, and completing the full “Monster Series” was a fantastic experience, so I knew the Get Lucky race would be no exception. However, this race had the added significance of being the first 7K race for the beautiful epicurean!

After being diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, she has embarked on an incredible journey of personal experience and life adjustment. We’ve made significant and delicious changes to our diet, and found ourselves that much more committed to a healthy lifestyle on all fronts. You can read about her journey in more detail at What If…? Gourmet. After previous attempts at running, she decided to once again try to start running at the beginning of this year. Since January 1st, I’ve had the pleasure of watching her steadily increase her distances and decrease per pace, and more importantly, fall in love with running 🙂

Now, I know I haven’t been running all that long myself in the grand scheme of things. I think it can be easy to forget the basic joys and motivations of running when you are caught up in the details of training and preparation for the next race. Ok, at least that’s the case for me. However, for the past two and a half months, I’ve gotten to watch the beautiful epicurean return home from run after run, each time more happy than the last. Sometimes its beautiful outside, sometimes its dreary or snowy or dark, and sometimes her body feels great and other times her legs feel like lead weights. Throughout it all though, is the glint in her eyes that comes with something new and exciting. The glint of joy and personal accomplishment is unmistakable and its an absolutely beautiful and breathtaking sight.

Get to start...in 45 minutes.

Ready to start…in 45 minutes.

We took that motivation and energy up to Minneapolis, excited to toe the line for her first 7K. We left in plenty of time, but ran into some traffic as we got closer to the starting line. I was worried that we’d be late for the start, so she got out of the car and headed for the start while I parked the car. I got the car into the ramp and sprinted for the starting line. Luckily, the reality of 10,000 + runners meant they were releasing people in waves, so I had plenty of time to find her among the crowd. We ended up waiting about 45 minutes before we crossed the timing pad, and we were off!

I ran with her for about the first mile. The crowd had separated, and we were moving along really well. She was looking and feeling strong, and it was such a wonderful experience to be running alongside her during a race! After that, she turned me loose and I headed on ahead. I was determined to push myself hard enough to make it to the finish line with plenty of time to get situated so I could get a picture of her crossing the finish line. The roads were a lovely combination of ice and slush after some rather cold weather (surprise, right?!?), so I minded my footing but pushed myself in the cold air (about 22 at the start).

Crossing the finish line, surrounded by other runners!

Crossing the finish line, surrounded by other runners!

I crossed the finish line and was able to step off to the side and work my way into position for a perfect view. I knew she was feeling good on race morning, and she had a great final training run a few days prior, so I knew she was going to have a great race. However, she still surprised me with her pace and energy! She was all smiles at the end of the race, just like every other run, and the mark had been set. We walked up the path, through the crowd, and claimed our medals together, passing by the frozen cups of water (Mother Nature’s way of encouraging us to drink more coffee!), and headed for the car.

Proudly showing off her first race medal!

Proudly showing off her first race medal!

I’ve had the post-race conversation with countless friends in the past, recounting the details of the race and recapping how well we thought the race went. However, this was the first post-race conversation I’ve had with my partner,  so it held so much more meaning. She has been such an incredible support structure for me through all of my training and races, and the opportunity to now return the favor is quite gratifying. I have no doubt that we have many miles and races ahead of us, and I couldn’t be more proud or more excited to be able to run them together!

The first of many...

The first of many…

Tapering and the “Injury Gremlin”

Running is a physical and mental sport. After several marathons and other races, I am very well aware of this fact. In order to go out and run a race or train for any sizable amount of time, regardless of the weather conditions or your excitement, you need to play the mental game. You are ultimately fighting the Gremlins in your head. For me, one of the worst Gremlins is the “injury gremlin” and he typically emerges when I begin to taper close to a race. Suddenly every small pain and creak in my body has more meaning than it should. I’m not a fan of him.

Did I mention that I just entered my taper?

After hitting the pavement harder than ever before over the past three months, the time has finally come for me to enter the simultaneously coveted and difficult period of tapering before my race on April 21st. I have thoroughly enjoyed pushing myself with weekly mileage increases and I’ve seen marked improvements in my endurance and speed along the way. However, I’m not going to lie- I’m a bit excited to regain a bit of time in my life for other activities! This is especially important since Spring  has sprung early and there is plenty of work to get done outside so the lawn doesn’t turn into something out of a children’s horror film.

Up until now, I haven’t given tapering all that much thought prior to a race, aside from knowing that I had to ease up on my mileage. However, I know I’m not alone when I say that this is when every runner’s mind starts to mess with them. I don’t want to ease up too much and find myself losing momentum leading up to the race. On the other hand, I certainly don’t want to over-train and not have enough energy left when race day rolls around. Additionally, the “injury gremlin” starts to emerge. I know you know what I’m talking about. I may have been accustomed to some aches and pains over the last couple of months, but now that I’m tapering, every twinge and muscle cramp suddenly becomes significant and I get paranoid and think it’s much worse than the reality seems. For this reason, the last few weeks leading up to a race are as much about mental training as the rest of your training cycle, if not more. After my first marathon, I assumed the “injury gremlin” would go away with subsequent races, but I’m fairly certain at this point that I’m always going to be dealing with my mind’s attempt to psych me out! Perhaps it’s simply a manifestation of our brains telling us we shouldn’t be working this hard 🙂

At any rate, I’m going to be working very hard over the next few weeks to taper intentionally. I’m going to be following a strict running schedule, and not succumb to the temptation to squeeze in a “few more miles” even though I know the competitive spirit in me is going to want to push on. I’m also going to try and squeeze in some more cross-training, with cycling being my preferred method. It can be a great low-impact workout that helps to maintain your cardio and endurance, and strengthens your legs without the stress of pounding the pavement.

In doing some reading on tapering, I was happy to confirm that my 3 weeks of tapering seems just about right for the 40-mile distance I’ll be tackling later this month, although I’m sure a few more days would be ok as well. In general, the timeline breaks down something like this:

Marathon Distance: 19 to 22 days

15K to 30K: 11 to 14 days

5k to 10K: 7 to 10 days

This period is also a great time to start making sure you have all your ducks in a row. Are your shoes still holding up? Do you want to change out your laces? Have you ordered the nutrition you’ll be using during the race? Do you have all of the gear (water bottles, sunglasses, socks, etc.) that you need for the race? Do you have your travel plans confirmed and know the location and time for packet-pick up? What are you going to be eating the night before the race? Can you tell that I’m a planner? 🙂

So, as I maintain my level of fitness and endurance and prepare myself for the race to come, I’ll be doing my best not to let the “injury gremlin” creap into my head and mess with the hard work I’ve already put in. As is always the case when defeating a gremlin- just add water!

Other Tapering Resources

Runner’s World- It’s Taper Time

Marathon Training.com- Tapering

Runningnut.com- The Ultimate Marathon Tapering Guide

Marathon Training Tips- Slow Down For Maximum Performance

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