Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Archive for the tag “Team Vardo”

Training During Chaos!

Ahhhhhh! That was the sound of a deep breath after two weeks of complete and total chaos. My training for the past few weeks has been nothing if not interesting, and filled with alternative plans, added and subtracted routes, and unconventional strength-training. I’m sure everyone has found themselves in a position where training simply couldn’t be a priority in the grand scheme of other life events, and that was certainly the case for me over the past few weeks. However, as of yesterday at 1:30PM, some level of normalcy will hopefully be returning to my life. Sort of, anyway.

The chaos was the result of our packing up our life, fitting it into a POD, cleaning and selling a house, and moving in with a dear friend for the next 6 weeks. All of this happened while working full-time, and, in my case, job searching. It sounds like the perfect time to try and ramp up for some long spring miles, right?

You might recall me mentioning that the epicurean and I will be transitioning to a new home in Delaware this spring. Well, the time came to finalize the sale of our house, and that meant packing up everything we own and getting set to move it across the country. As it so happens, packing up a house is considerably more work than packing up a small apartment. Who knew?! (Ok, anyone who has ever done it realizes that, but it was new to us). It’s amazing how much you learn about your lifestyle when you pack up your home and get ready to move. You realize how much extra “stuff” you have but don’t need, and you get excited about living more minimally in the future. Well, at least that was how we felt. At any rate, the packing and cleaning took longer than we thought, as they always do, but we managed to empty our house and pack our life into a 16′ x 8′ x 8′ POD with no small amount of help from some incredible friends.

Moving with some great friends!

Moving with some great friends!

Working out to move, or moving to work out? 

Yesterday, we closed on the house and officially turned over possession. After many long days and long nights, it felt great to sit down for dinner and know we didn’t have to start packing and cleaning again when we were done. Throughout all of this, I’ve had to adjust my running schedule considerably to get in the miles I wanted and needed. This meant a few extra early morning mid-day runs (because getting up early on Saturday isn’t bad enough 🙂 ), and some strange routes. I somehow managed to keep my training on track.

Last night, as I was finishing up a celebratory 17 mile day, I realized my knees and quads were a lot more sore than they normally are at this point in the week. That’s when I realized just how much “cross-training” I had been doing for the last two weeks. I’ve gone up and down more flights of stairs, lifted more boxes, bent over to clean more surfaces, and stayed up later doing it all in the last two weeks than I ever remember doing. Moving was indeed the best “cross-training” I’d had all year, and I’m strangely thankful for it. My long run tomorrow morning is going to hurt more as a result, but as my legs repair themselves, I’m going to be better for it moving forward.

Finished packing and cleaning- our last night in our first house!

Finished packing and cleaning- our last night in our first house!

Life is going to be full of transition in the next month and a half. We will be living out of suitcases and traveling considerably. I’ve signed up for quite a few “last races” in Iowa before I leave, and I’ll be going through RRCA Coaches Certification training at the end of April. All of this will be happening while work carries on and the end of the semester brings with it much more work. However, there’s a lot of excitement on the horizon. There will be new roads, neighborhoods, trails, and races to explore, and new challenges to meet. You can expect some optimistic uncertainty from me over the next few weeks, but plenty of adventures as well.

Spring is finally in the air, so it’s time to get those legs moving! Get out there and make it happen 🙂 #chasing42

 

Race Report: Route 66 Marathon

I had been home for two days after the trip to San Juan, so naturally it made sense to get in the car and depart again for Tulsa. I had been hoping to do the Route 66 Marathon for quite some time, in part because it was a Marathon Maniac signature race, but also because I had not yet crossed a finish line in Oklahoma. I had heard nothing but great things about the race itself, as well as the people organizing it, so I began recruiting friends early this year. I was hoping that I could convince a few folks to run the half or the full so I wouldn’t end up driving down by myself. In true Vardo style, we ended up with a group of 10 people heading down to Tulsa for an extended weekend of running, food, and friends!

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 It’s about a 9 hour drive, so we decided to leave on Friday morning, which gave us all day on Saturday to pick up our packets, relax, and get ready for the Sunday morning start. The drive down was relatively uneventful, aside from the enjoyable banter that always seems to happen when many of us find ourselves in a car together. Numerous previous relay events have made us all quite comfortable travel companions, so I knew it would be a great trip.

Route 66 start

 Saturday was a relaxed day, and the weather seemed to agree with us so we had few complaints. We found a few solid coffee shops, and hit up the expo late morning. It was a good sized showing from a wide variety of vendors, for which I was pleasantly surprised. One of my friends and I decided we needed to make a “fashion statement” during the race, so we found the shortest pair of shorts in the expo, and prepared to rock them the next morning. The race committee elected not to load all of the race bags with the usual samples, but instead allow folks to walk around and pick up what they were interested. I have no doubt that this cut down on waste quite a bit. Before we left, we made sure to make our way back to meet Bart Yasso, which was certainly a running highlight for this race and beyond.

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 One of our group had family in Tulsa, so she made reservations for us Saturday night at an excellent Italian restaurant. What more could you ask for the night before a race, right? We enjoyed a lovely dinner together, and then headed back to the hotel rooms to get some rest. Sunday morning came far to quickly, but the race didn’t start until 8AM and we were within walking distance of the start, so we were able to sleep in a bit more. I donned my 1970’s short shorts and my Maniac singlet, and headed over to the starting line with everyone else. The temps were a bit brisk, but a pair of arm warmers, coupled with my compression socks, kept me plenty comfortable as we waiting for the gun.

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 Eric and I had decided much earlier that this was going to be a fun race, without any significant time goals to haunt us. We lined up around the 9:00/mile pace group, and headed out comfortably. Once the crowd spread out a bit more, we were able to pick up the pace and “comfortable” became sub-8:00 minute miles. We could both tell we were pushing it a bit, but it felt good and we were enjoying ourselves so we kept ticking away the miles. We made sure to high-five as many children as possible, and we vowed not to turn down any impromptu beer stops along the route.

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 The miles kept flying by, and the hills began to add up. I had looked at the elevation map prior to the race, and it didn’t look like anything to be concerned about. However, the constantly rising and descending terrain began to add up, and we found ourselves cursing these hills, which would have looked far less impressive before the race. We never encountered an daunting hills. We simply forgot what flat pavement looked like.

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 We hit the half-marathon mark around 1:45, and were still feeling really good. The first half of the race is run with the half-marathoners, and the crowd support was excellent. We wound our way through plenty of great neighborhoods, and fed off of the energy. We left the half-marathoners near the end of their race, and headed out on a second loop. This portion of the course proved to be far less energetic, and not quite as scenic. We found ourselves drawing on our own energy stores quite a bit more. As you can imagine, we also started to do the math and realize we were moving at a good clip and might be able to set some time goals for ourselves. This was probably a bad idea, but I tend to be overly optimistic so I should have seen it coming. We came across a friend with cramping issues around mile 17, offered some words of encouragement, and kept pressing on.

Our pace began to fall off a bit around mile 19, but we kept making good progress. By this time, we had passed two groups of people passing out Jell-O shots, which we obviously had to take, and they brought a smile to our faces J Around mile 20, we passed a perfectly timed beer stop and did our carbo-loading duty. Any race where the supporters set up their own beer and Jell-O shot stops moves up the ladder in my book.

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 The miles became a bit more of a struggle after mile 22, but we were near the end and enjoying ourselves and looking forward to crossing the finish line. The hills continued to torment us, but we fought back with salt tabs and honey stinger chews, along with the well-staffed aid stations every few miles.

At around mile 25.5, we came up on the “detour”. One of the selling points for the Route 66 Marathon is that they bill themselves as the world’s shortest ultra. They offer a .3 mile detour to a natural acoustic phenomenon in the center of the city, complete with a beer cart. We received an extra medallion as we got back on the course, and we pushed ahead towards the finish. In the end, we crossed the marathon mark in 3:56, and the finish line in 4:01.

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 I was still feeling really good at the end, and happy to have pushed through and crossed another state off of my 50 States quest. The race offered separate medals for Maniacs, which was a nice little perk, but proved awkward because they didn’t have them at the finish line and I had to wind my way through the food areas to collect my medal. Eric and I found one of our friends who had already finished, and we had a seat, drank our free beer, and waited for others to finish. Everyone else came in one-by-one, complete with smiles and smirks of varying degrees. Everyone felt the same way about the surprise hills, but we were all in good spirits and pleased with our accomplishments!

We walked the three quarters of a mile back to the hotel, and had a built-in 3pm checkout because we were staying at one of the race hotels. This was a nice perk and gave us all a chance to get showered and packed up without rushing. None of us were keen on driving back to Ames after running, so we decided we would travel up to Kansas City and stay the night there, relax, and enjoy a much easier drive home on Monday morning. The weather became rainy and windy on the drive up and there were some white knuckle moments, but we made it into K.C., found a sports bar, and enjoyed a well-earned meal.

Good friends are always up for shenanigans!

Good friends are always up for shenanigans!

I’ve said before the it’s the friends that make the race, and I was once again reminded of just how lucky I am to have such an amazing group of friends that share not only a passion for running, but are just plain interesting people. It was a fantastic race weekend with a great group of friends, and I’m already thinking about the next trip I can begin recruiting for…road trip, anyone?

A CyclONE City Running Tour(s)

I’ve always loved living in college communities. There’s a unique atmosphere of spirit and support that truly can’t be replicated in any other environment, and working for the university allows me to feel like a part of that community in a very special way. I moved to Ames, IA from Blacksburg, VA (Virginia Tech), and in doing so, traded one enthusiastic college town for another. My undergraduate experience at the University of Minnesota offered a very different sense of community connection due to the size of the Minneapolis area, but even in a city as large as Minneapolis, the Gopher spirit was and still is amazingly strong. My experiences in Blacksburg were incredible, and taught me what it is to be a part of a university community with unrivaled passion and energy. Now that I’ve been in Ames for almost 10 years, it’s clear to me that smaller towns simply make the town-gown relationship that much more intimate, and Ames continues to prove over and over why it is consistently rated as one of the best small towns in the country for a wide variety of economic, social, recreational, and educational reasons.

The latest demonstration of CyclONE spirit has come in the form of 30 individually painted Cy statues scattered throughout the campus and community. Not only are the statues themselves quite beautiful and impressive works of art, but they serve as a fundraising source for various charitable organizations, on top of fostering Iowa State and Ames pride throughout the area. The statues were unveiled just a few weeks ago, and became instant magnets for photo opportunities and scavenger hunts. It obviously made sense to see them all, and running around town was the clear transportation choice. The Ames Chamber of Commerce made the map available, and it didn’t take long for a friend to turn the map into a running route! Over the course of a week, I embarked on two separate running tours of CyclONE City. Throughout each adventure, I was once again reminded of how lucky I am to live where I do, and to have such amazing friends!

 

Photo Credit: Tim Rasmussen

Photo Credit: Tim Rasmussen

Photo Credit: Tim Rasmussen

Photo Credit: Tim Rasmussen

Photo Credit: Tim Rasmussen

Photo Credit: Tim Rasmussen

Photo Credit: Tim Rasmussen

Photo Credit: Tim Rasmussen

Photo Credit: Tim Rasmussen

Photo Credit: Tim Rasmussen

Photo Credit: Tim Rasmussen

Photo Credit: Tim Rasmussen

Photo Credit: Troy Thompson

Photo Credit: Troy Thompson

Interestingly enough, I shouldn’t be surprised that two of my previous homes have also embraced similar public art projects. Feel free to find the Hokie birds next time you are in Blacksburg, or the Peanuts gang statues next time you are in the Minneapolis area! Do you have any fun public art in your community? Have you organized a public art run before?

Going Nuclear with Capture the Flag: Trail Running Edition!

Running truly is a beautiful thing on so many levels. For me, the power running has to bring diverse groups of people together for a common goal can’t be matched. The amazing group of friends I’ve met through running continually challenge me, encourage me, support me, and bring a smile to my face no matter how bad they day might have been. I’m especially thankful that the group of friends I run with are so willing to step outside of “normal” and find new and interesting ways to enjoy each others’ company and find new ways to experience the joy of running.

Over the past few years, one of my best friends has organized an adventure race of sorts for our group. She deemed it the “Vardo Amazing Race”, and sent us on a variety of challenges across town, running in between them of course. We were put into teams, usually with folks we didn’t know as well, and we had an absolute blast along the way. Not only was it a fantastic workout, but a great team-builder as well, and something we continue to find ourselves talking about years later. This year, she invited me to help plan the event, and I couldn’t have been more excited!

Plenty of trails to explore...hopefully my shoes aren't radioactive!

Plenty of trails to explore…hopefully my shoes aren’t radioactive!

The full-fledged “amazing race” will take place in the spring, so we decided to plan an entertaining fall event. I was remembering back to my care-free childhood and the wonderful evening games of capture the flag I played with the other children in my neighborhood. It had been quite a while since I had last played, so I figured this was the perfect opportunity. As it so happens, the city of Ames and the Ames Lab were once home to a nuclear reactor, the fuel of which was used in the first nuclear chain reaction or atomic bomb detonation. Research conducted at Ames Lab played a large part in the Manhattan Project, and the teaching reaction was finally decommissioned in 2000. The reactors may be gone, but the sight remains, surrounded by a lushly wooded area in the middle of town, complete with some excellent trails. Obviously, “reactor woods” was the perfect place for a game of capture the flag.

A little warm-up before the game begins!

A little warm-up before the game begins!

We met everyone on the outskirts of the woods, explained the rules of the game, and went for a warm-up run to show everyone the boundaries for play. Then we broke everyone up into two teams, and sent them off into the woods in opposite directions. They had ten minutes to set up their flag anywhere on their side of the wooded area, and guard it appropriately. After the ten minutes, the game was afoot! It was absolutely hilarious watching both teams strategize, sneaking back and forth into each others’ territory, trying not to get caught along the way.

After about 45 minutes, both teams emerged from the woods with flags in hand, mere minutes apart. Both teams were told that they would not be victorious until the other teams’ flag was in one of our hands. We made the rounds, running up and down the middle of the course, so inevitably, it game down to a bit of luck. The winning team placed the flag in our hands less than a minute before the other team. We sounded the horn and called everyone back. People emerged from the woods, and you would have thought some folks had been lost in the wild for days based on the scrapes on their legs, and the dirt and burrs hitching a ride back with them. It was fantastic!

We didn't need to set up any traps!

We didn’t need to set up any traps!

At this point, folks may have thought the competition was over. However, we had more in store, in the form of some friendly competitions!

1. First came the mileage totals. Teams were awarded points based on the total number of half miles they had run and recorded on their GPS watches.

2. Next came the push ups. Everyone paired up with a member of the opposite team prior to knowing what they were about to do. We had them face each other, and drop to the ground and start doing push ups. The first person to stop was out, and the other team was awarded a point. Needless to say, we have some competitive spirits in our group!

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3. Last, but certainly not least came the food challenge. Previous amazing race events have included strange food challenges, such as consuming random canned goods (labels removed), drinking entire 2-liter bottles of pop as a team, and taking jello shots embedded with raw anchovies. The jello shots are still being talked about years later. However, we upped the stakes this year with 100-year old duck eggs, otherwise known as century eggs, or pidan, and 2-liter bottles of aloe juice!

Hungry after running around in the woods?

Hungry after running around in the woods?

At this point, you are no doubt asking what on earth is a 100-year old duck egg. Well, imagine peeling a hard-boiled egg to discovery it is black/brown and semi-gelatinous. Now imagine biting into it and being convinced that someone had fed you a handful of rotten fishing bait from the bottom of their bucket. Now you get a sense of the challenge everyone was up against. Eating them was option, but everyone had a chance to earn a point for their team by doing so, and we have some amazing sports in our group! The looks on people’s’ faces were priceless, and the experience is one folks will not soon be forgetting! Not even a nice dark lager could fully remove the taste of rotten fish.

I have the best friends!

I have the best friends!

All-in-all, it was a fantastic night, complete with some great trail running, excellent teamwork, and amazing memories. At the end of the night, my only regret was having never played capture the flag in the woods before!

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