Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Archive for the tag “trails”

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!

Flag 5

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!

Fall in Iowa…Short but Sweet!

As I’ve said before, I’ve been looking forward to beautiful, sunny fall days for perfect running conditions. This past week was a rest week for me, so my mileage was lower to give my legs a chance to recovery. This meant I could take things easy over the weekend, with scheduled runs of 14 and 10 miles respectively on Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday’s run entailed a 5AM start in order to meet up with some friends. Early morning runs seem to be the one exception to my early wake-up allergy, and it felt great walking out of the house in the dark to tackle some miles. The first 8 miles were very comfortable, and a great opportunity to chat and catch up while running down the middle of the road (one of the joys of living in a small town in Iowa). We met up with our running group a bit later, and I ended up pushing my pace at that point, but was still feeling really good so I went with it. We got stuck in a brief rainstorm, but nothing too extreme, and the cool rain felt rather refreshing so I wasn’t complaining. I ended up running a bit longer than 14 miles, as I have a tendency to do, and ended up with 16.68 miles, which still got me home by 8AM, which was great! I had plenty of time to eat breakfast, clean up around the house, and settle in to watch the Arsenal vs. Swansea BPL game 🙂

Fall 3

Yesterday, I ended up spontaneously inspired to hit the trails by a friend, and I headed out to a local off-road favorite. I got started a bit later than usual on a Sunday due to the Minnesota Vikings game in London, but it was nice to finally see the Vikes pick up a W! The beautiful epicurean dropped me off at the park, and I headed out onto the trails. Once I passed the grasslands, and ventured into the woods, things got even more interesting. I have run these trails numerous times, and was fairly confident of my directions. However, I must have turned left instead of right at some point, because I ended up on a series of trails I had never seen before, and it was a blast just plowing forward, totally uncertain of where I was or where I was going. I was confident that something would look familiar eventually, so I wasn’t too worried, and the new trails game my brain that amazing endorphin rush that comes with a new route.

Every trail needs a bridge...even if the creek it goes over is bone dry!

Every trail needs a bridge…even if the creek it goes over is bone dry!

The semi-out-and-back route still totaled about 6 miles, and then I headed back towards home for the remainder of the run. As soon as you leave the park, the country road turns south, and you head up a significant hill. That’s when the wind decided to test me! I found myself heading up a half-mile hill into 30 mph winds, and I was gassed by the time I got to the top.  The wind didn’t let up, and the next mile and a half was a slower than average and my knee started to bother me, most likely from adjusting my gate while heading up the hill. I made my way back home via an infrequently traveled country road, and was reminded of the beauty that exists around me in Iowa. The sun was shining, the winds died down, and the air was just cool enough to be refreshing. Looking out over the fields of golden corn, ready for harvest, and listening to nature made for a nice reminder not to forget to slow down and enjoy the ride. Races are important, as is sticking to a training plan, but I run because I love all the little things in between. This weekend was a fantastic reminder of that!

Fall 2

Harvest time in Iowa...

Harvest time in Iowa…

Fall 6

Fields of gold!

Fields of gold!

Looking Ahead: A Busy Fall Season!

It is once again in the 90s today, which a bit of relief finally on the horizon for next week. For many of you, I realize that these temps are either a) commonplace, or b) desirable out of a love for summer. Aside from the more relaxed pace and change of activities, summer has never been one of my favorite seasons. I tend to find myself more productive the busier and more structured I am, so seeing Fall right around the corner is quite exciting! Classes at Iowa State began this past week (hence the late post), and my independent summer gave way to quite a bit more activity. I’ll be defending my dissertation this semester (fingers crossed), as well as teaching two classes, looking for a job, auditing a course, and training for my first 24-hour event in December. It’s going to be a busy next few months, and I couldn’t be more excited!

Aside from the “race” to graduate, October appears to be a peak month for crazy, so I thought I would provide a bit of a preview. Over the course of 3 weeks, I’ll tackle 4 significant races, and log quite a few miles in between. Along the way, I have no doubt that I’m going to form some wonderful memories with great friends, and I can’t wait.

October 5th

This is the one weekend all month that I don’t have a race. However, I do have a 28 mile training run on the calendar, so I suppose I can call that an un-official ultra, eh?

October 12th

I’ll be traveling to Lincoln, NE to run the Market to Market relay- Nebraska. As you may recall, I ran the Market to Market Relay- Iowa earlier this year and had a blast. I’ll be joining several of the same friends, along with some new friends for 78 miles of running from Omaha to Lincoln. The segments are relatively short, so the day should fly by pretty quickly, and I’ll probably squeeze in a few extra miles as well. It should be another great relay experience!


October 19th

I’ve had the Indianapolis Marathon on my calendar the longest of my races this year. After running the Little Rock Marathon with a few friends, we decided we needed to do a fall marathon together so we signed up within a week of finishing Little Rock. The date and nice flat course must have looked mighty appealing, because close to 20 other friends signed up over the coming months, including the beautiful epicurean, who will be running her first half-marathon! The result will no doubt be an amazing road trip, a great race, and another state crossed off my list in my quest for 50!


October 20th

Indianapolis was going to be my last major race before Across the Years, but that was before my friends decided to challenge my crazy! Several of them have thoroughly enjoyed going down to the Des Moines Marathon to cheer on friends. This race has a history of being a first half-marathon and marathon for many folks in our running community, including yours truly. So, they decided we should drive back from Indianapolis after the race to be back in time for the race. They also suggested I just go ahead and run the Des Moines Marathon as well. Obviously I couldn’t say no to this challenge, so here we go!


October 27th

Nebraska is about the last “local” state I have yet to cross off my 50 states list, and I was eager to find a unique race to fit the bill. The G.O.A.T.z 50K was run on a series of trails near Omaha last year, and I had several friends who ran the race and thoroughly enjoyed it. I figured this would be a perfect opportunity to not only cross Nebraska off my list, but enjoy a trail race as well. Nebraska certainly isn’t a destination I would think about traveling to for any other reason, so it’s funny to me that I’ll be heading that way twice in a month!


So, there you have it. I’m sure I’ll sprinkle in some other adventures as well, but I’m definitely looking forward to the running memories that October has in store for me!

Back to Basics: Hitting the Superior Hiking Trail

Teaching, working on an independent study, writing my dissertation and training has made for quite the hectic summer. Our trip to Maine two weeks ago was a perfect race getaway and I couldn’t have been more happy with the entire experience. It was an amazing, albeit busy vacation. That journey left the beautiful epicurean and I longing for something a bit more relaxed and low-key. We may not have scheduled our two summer vacations as well as we could have, but stealing away to the North Shore of Minnesota for an anniversary camping trip was just the peaceful and relaxing getaway we both needed.

Is it time to go running now?!

Is it time to go running now?!

I’ve been in love with Lake Superior for quite some time, and the beautiful, ocean-like waters and wooded environment have become a favorite source of calm for both of us over the last couple of years. This year, we headed out for our first solo camping adventure with a car full of camping essentials, a wonderfully stocked gluten-free pantry, and a Vizsla eager for adventure. Our destination was a wonderful campsite at Gooseberry Falls State Park.

Checking out Gooseberry Falls.

Checking out Gooseberry Falls.

The falls are a popular day trip and tourist attraction for locals and visitors alike, but once you get past the easily accessible falls, you enter the best trail system in the country! I was thoroughly excited for the opportunity to run and hike the surrounding trails and do as much exploring as possible. There is something about new trails and the thrill of the unknown that brings me such joy, especially when I have no destination in mind, other than wherever I decide to stop, turn, and head back to camp. The past week did not disappoint on any level.

Nature's stage was alive!

Nature’s stage was alive!

We arrived on Monday afternoon, and we squeezed in a nice little hike down to the Falls to get Looper acclimated to her new hiking pack. She was a bit hesitant at first, but wore it proudly by the end of our trip. The next day, I headed out on my first adventure along the Superior Hiking Trail. This 296-mile trail follows the rocky shore of Lake Superior from Duluth all the way to the Canadian border. I picked it up just beyond the North falls and headed southwest along the Gooseberry River for several miles. I stumbled upon an old bridge that appeared to have been abandoned some time ago. Just on the other side was a beautiful field of wild flowers, and butterflies everywhere. It seemed like a perfect resting and refueling point. In all honesty, I could have set up camp there and been completely happy! The whole run back to camp, I found myself daydreaming about that field, and did my best not to trip over the rooty, rocky single track trail. it was a perfect way to begin my running adventures.

Every day on the Superior Hiking Trail.

Every day on the Superior Hiking Trail.

The next day, we headed up to Tettegouche State Park for a wonderful morning of hiking and exploring. It was a great morning, with some fantastic climbs, and we soaked in the beautiful views. On the way back, I decided I wanted to start my run for the day a bit early. So, we pulled off the road outside Beaver Bay, I changed into my running clothes in the car, and I hoped on the trail and ran back to camp. The next few hours were filled with beautiful views of the lakeshore throughout the entire run. I had to keep reminding myself to look forward and not constantly strain my neck to the left to enjoy the postcard view! I had only planned on 8-10 miles, but had neglected to remember one of the most important rules about trails. They aren’t straight 🙂 Needless to say, when I got back to camp, I had logged 14 miles and still had a big, dopey smile on my face!

It's easy to just keep running when you have views like these!

It’s easy to just keep running when you have views like these!

On Thursday, my plan was to tackle more of the Superior Hiking Trail. I hoped back on the trail, and headed north after finding my way around a slight detour. This was the run that proved to me just how much more I love trail running. It seemed as though there was something new to smile about around every turn, and it was so quiet that I might as well have had the entire trail to myself! After some beautiful wooded scenes straight out of a Bob Ross special, the trail climbed and followed Bread Loaf Ridge. When I got to the top, I was greeted by one of the most incredible views of the surrounding forest and lake that I had ever seen. I soaked in the cool air as the sun danced on the water and I could have lost myself forever in that moment and not cared. In an instant, it became my favorite running view of all time. I meandered back down the ridge, into the forest, and eventually back to camp, passing waterfalls and listening to the uninterrupted sounds of nature around me. I’ve never spent much time meditating, and the thought of sitting still for long periods of time is hard for me to swallow, but this run fit every definition of a meditative state I have ever read.

Such an amazing trail run- can I just stay here?!

Such an amazing trail run- can I just stay here?!

We ventured out for a final hike on Friday as well. On the advice of some wonderful friends who had just returned from the area, we headed to the Split Rock River Loop just north of Gooseberry Falls. This 6.5 mile hike proved to be our favorite of the trip and rewarded us with stunning views of the lakeshore. In addition, we happened upon several backpacking campsites along the trail. When we reached the final site, it was occupied but the folks camping were just on their way out. They invited us over to check out their site, and we were hooked! I’m not sure either of us could have dreamt a more perfect campsite, with plenty of space, access to trails, and miles of lakeshore to ourselves. We were in love and determined to stay there at some point. We may have discussed it the whole way back to our campsite 🙂

Looper was born to hike :)

Looper was born to hike 🙂

As we drove back on Saturday, we enjoyed blissfully reflecting on a wonderful week of camping. The weather was perfect (lows in the 40s/50s, highs in the 70s, the bugs were minimal, the hiking was great, our campfire meals were delicious, we rested and read, and I ran the trails like a kid in a candy store. In addition, we had recently read a story about resetting your internal clock with a few nights of camping, and his trip did just that for us. It also made us realize just how simply we can live, and be completely happy and content. When we got back, we were both even more invested in downsizing and minimizing our lives.

Oh, and that amazing hike-in campsite on the Split Rock River Loop…we already have it booked for next year!

Running Etiquette: A Few Brief Thoughts

The more miles I log at different times throughout the day and week, the more fellow runners I have encountered. Whether I’m driving, walking, or running, I find myself compelled to look as a runner passes, in the off-chance that I know them. Although I logically realize that far more people are out running on a daily basis than my relatively small group of friends, I still feel a general connection with other runners as they pass. I find myself asking about their goals, how long they’ve been running, their favorite races, and wondering whether I’ll see them again. That connection, for me, means a smile and a nod are compulsory. If you pass me on the road or trail, I’m going to smile and/or nod at you, whether I know you or not. To me, it is common courtesy. However, over the past few months, I’ve noticed more and more people completely ignoring me, as if I wasn’t there. I certainly understand that sometimes, in the middle of a run, you enter “the zone” and you tune out everything around you. I get it, really, I do. That being said, I find it hard to believe that such a high percentage of the people I pass are so engrossed in what they are doing that they don’t notice me pass 12 inches from them. Heck, sometimes they don’t even move and I’m forced to run to the side to avoid a collision. These encounters have had me thinking more about common running etiquette, of which I am by no means an expert. There are MANY people who have been lacing up their shoes far longer than me, but there are some basic tenets that just seem simple and logical. Perhaps you have other points of etiquette or interesting stories of breaches in etiquette? I’ve love to hear them!

1. Smile/Nod/Wave: You don’t have to do all three (but you definitely can if you aren’t otherwise in pain), but one of the three seems simple enough. You are acknowledging a shared respect for the sport, the effort the other person is putting forth on that given run, and a shared interest. This means you need to make eye contact. It’s ok, you can look at me. I promise I’m not going to steal your soul or turn you to stone!

2. “On Your Left”: Traffic laws (left/right) apply to running in most instances. Most cyclists understand this (or learn very quickly), and you’ll hear them holler “on your left” with enough warning for you to move to the right and allow them to pass. Those that don’t usually hear me saying “on your left” as they fly by on either side of me. This same standard applies to running. If you are going to pass me, and there is nothing otherwise blocking the path, try to pass me on the left and let me know you are doing so. When I’m out running by myself, especially when nobody is around, I can weave worse than folks leaving the bar at 2AM. I want to make room for you, I promise. You just need to let me know.

Stay to Your Right

3. Single File: Whether I’m walking, running, or racing, nothing drives me nuts more than a group of three or more people lined up across the path. If there are three of you, and one of me, it’s not asking too much for you to fall back into a single file line so I can pass without running out into oncoming traffic or diving off a bridge into the river. If you are in any sort of organized race, don’t do it at all. I fully support running/walking with friends, but it’s important to be respectful of everyone else who signed up for the event and paid the same registration fee that you did.

4. Run Against Traffic: You are much smaller than a car is, and you want to do everything you can to make sure those cars see you. Reflective gear is great, but please run against traffic so you can continue to be alert, even if the cars aren’t. Runners have a right to the road just like cyclists (who ride WITH traffic), but that’s not an excuse to be stupid and put yourself or others in danger!

There are plenty of other commentaries on additional points of etiquette for the road, races, and trail running as well. These four simple points just seem to be the most common areas I’ve noticed as of late. Running is an amazing sport, and fosters an incredible community feeling if you let it. Whether you are running to be fit, train for a race, or simply to prove you can, you can follow these simple points of etiquette and collect your running card as you walk out the door!

Bonus Etiquette- This one’s for spectators at races. As a runner, I love a race with lots of crowd support. The creative signs and cheering can be just the motivation I need to keep moving forward after I’ve hit a wall. In what I can only assume is a good-intentioned effort to encourage, many folks love to yell out “you’re almost there”. For future reference, if you and I can’t both see the finish line, then I am NOT ALMOST THERE! I realize you are trying to be nice, but if I’ve been running for 10 or 20 miles, and still have several miles to go, I’m probably well aware of every footfall, and know exactly how many MILES I have left to run. So, pick something else to shout. Pick ANYTHING else. Just don’t tell me I’m almost there when I’m not! 🙂


Stopping to Smell the Roses on National Running Day

Yesterday just happened to be National Running Day. This event serves as a perfect reminder of the universal power of the sport. Running represents an activity that is universal across countries, oceans, cultures, and years. The organizers of this even describe National Running Day as follows:

“National Running Day, held annually on the first Wednesday in June, is a day when runners everywhere declare their passion for running. Wherever we are and whomever we’re with, we run—fast or slow, alone or with others, all over town or just around the block. It is a coast-to-coast celebration of a sport and activity that’s simple, inexpensive, and fun. It’s the perfect way for longtime runners to reaffirm their love of running and for beginners to kick off a lifetime and life-changing commitment.”

Reasons to love running :)

Reasons to love running 🙂

I decided that I would head out on a short run, but would take the time not to concern myself with pace, distance, or route. Rather, I set out from home and explored the beauty of nature around me. It has been an incredibly wet couple of weeks, and that has meant every corner of the landscape is bursting at the seams with beautiful colors and dramatic foliage. Although Iowa is without question ruled by farmland, I feel incredibly lucky to live in a community that strikes a wonderful balance between development and natural space.

5 minutes from my house!

5 minutes from my house!

There are countless parks, green spaces, and other natural areas within running distance from my front door, and I don’t always take the time to stop and really absorb that beauty. I’m getting ready to embark on a pretty rigorous training schedule for the remainder of the year, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity to really stop and smell…everything.


At the end of the day, running truly is about connecting for me. It has opened up doors for me and allowed me to connect with other runners, as well as the community I live in, and a community that stretches around the world. However, running has also allowed me to connect with my environment in a way I never had before. I truly believe that there is no better way to appreciate the natural beauty of an area than to run in, out, and around it.

I run

Doors will continue to open for me as I log more miles, explore more areas, and run more races. The prospect of those new connections keeps me excited and motivated to keep running, and for that, I am thankful.

Market to Market Relay: The Speedy Streakers!

There is no question that the popularity of long distance relay races has increased in recent years, in large part due to the Ragnar Relay series. The possibility of running in one of these multi-stage events has always been in the back of my mind, but the timing and location has never made it a possibility. However, with this increased popularity, other races have been popping up around the country. One such event is the Market to Market Relay series. It started with a relay from Omaha to Lincoln, Nebraska (78 miles), and added a second race in Iowa this year. That’s where I come in.


My amazing group of running friends in Team Vardo was quick to jump on the opportunity to participate in the first Iowa Market to Market relay, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to give relay races a shot. I knew I would enjoy the company, but I was uncertain of the race experience itself. I’ve been pushing myself towards longer and longer distances, and away from more speed work, so the relay represented just the opposite. However, the race and the experience far exceeded my expectations and ended up being the canvas for some amazing memories!

Heading to the start!

Heading to the start!

Our team, the “Speedy Streakers”, had been exchanging messages for several months in preparation for the race, and when the day rolled around to finally embark on our journey, we were raring to go! The race started in Jefferson, IA, and ended in Des Moines, IA. As luck would have it, one of our teammates’ parents happened to live in Jefferson, so we drove down Friday night to stay with them, and relax a bit before the race the next day. Her parents were amazing hosts, fed us a delicious dinner (and breakfast), and gave us a great place to sleep. I’m definitely a fan of waking up and being less than a mile form the starting line of a race 🙂

Let the fun begin!

Let the fun begin!

The race itself was extremely well-organized. Teams of 6, 7, or 8 started in waves, accordingly to anticipated finish time, and faster teams started later. We comprised a mixed gender team of 7, and didn’t think of ourselves as terribly fast, but still ended up being slotted in wave 6 with an 8:30AM start time. This meant being able to sleep in a bit more, which was also very nice! We made our way down to the starting line to meet up with the two other Vardo teams, and see them off for their 7:30AM start time. The air was brisk, and the wind was whipping, but the sun was out so we had no major complaints. Luckily, the wind was blowing from the northwest, so we enjoyed a tailwind for almost the entire relay!

Let the relay begin!

Let the relay begin!

The relay itself was broken into 17 stages, for a total of 75 miles. I ended up running the 1st, 8th, and 15th stages, and I was happy to start things off. My adrenaline was pumping at the start, as it is for most races, and I made every attempt to calm myself down so I wouldn’t start out too fast! Based on my most recent training, I was anticipating running around 8:00 minute miles. The first leg was a 4.8 mile segment, so I knew I could push myself a bit more. I took off with the others in our wave, with the rest of the team hopping in the van to race to the next checkpoint. I knew I started out a bit fast, but when I hit the one mile mark and looked down to see  6:54, I realized just how much I had been pushing. I haven’t been doing much speed work yet this season (although I am going to be starting soon, and have made the new shoe purchase- more to come later!), but I figured I’d push it as hard as I could and see what happened. I flew into the first checkpoint and handed off the chip timer to my teammate, and when I stopped my watch, I saw that I had averaged 7:16/mile over those 4.8 miles. Certainly fast than I had expected from myself!

The first of many handoffs!

The first of many exchanges!

Throughout the day, each stage transitioned really quickly, and everyone on our team was going fast enough that we just barely made it to most of the checkpoints before we needed to make the handoff. As a result, there was very little downtime, and everyone spent the day pretty fired up. We had packed plenty of snacks and water/Gatorade, but the energy and pace of the day meant we didn’t consume nearly what we should have by the day’s end! The quick pace of everything, and the time we spent hoping in and out of the van made for some great conversations and plenty of great running memories.

By the time I was due to run again at stage 8, we had almost caught up to the other Vardo teams, which meant we would start seeing them more at the checkpoints. It was great to be able to spend the day with so many friends, in addition to all the new friends and crazy runners we met along the way! My second leg was a bit longer at 5.8 miles, so I figured I had better take it a bit slower at first. However, my legs clearly had other plans as I clocked my first mile at 6:46! I was still feeling great, so I kept pushing it. With the wind at my back, I felt like I had leveled up in an old Nintendo video game as the miles kept flying by amidst the beautiful Greenbelt Trail. Despite a deceptive hill in the final half mile, I ran into the checkpoint with plenty of energy. I ran my second leg at a 7:12/mile pace. I’m pretty sure these were two of the fastest runs I had ever ticked off and it felt wonderful.


We kept on jumping from stage to stage, only getting a bit lost once 🙂 By the time my last leg rolled around, everyone was beginning to feel a bit tired, but our energy was still high. This was my shortest leg, at 4.2 miles, and I was determined to leave it all out on the course. By this point, we were getting close to downtown Des Moines, so we started to see more pedestrian traffic along the trail. This last leg proved to be my most unusual run of the day. After a mile or so (which I hit at 6:46), I ran past a wedding in progress at a public park. I’m guessing they didn’t realize there would be a relay race going on behind them, and it took quite a bit of self-control for me not to yell out “Congratulations!” as I was passing 🙂 Then, after another mile or so, I saw a few young boys up on the right. I didn’t think much of it and didn’t notice what they were doing until I got closer and saw one of them winding kite string in his hand. Before I could react, I felt the kite string clothesline me like a giant spider web wrapping itself around my neck! Instinctively, I pulled it off by yanking hard on the string, and ripped the kite right out of the tree without stopping. I probably could have felt a bit bad for ruining the kite, but they really should have known better considering how much traffic that part of the trail was getting. I started to slow up a bit, but still managed to pull into my final exchange with a 7:31/mile pace.

After we made the final exchange, we met up with our anchor runner to run across the finish line together near Principle Park in Des Moines. We crossed the finish line in a little over 9 hours, and ended up averaging 7:29/mile as a team over the entire 75 mile course. We had far exceeded all of our expectations and ended up placing 23rd overall, out of 211 teams. After 9 hours of running from point to point, the after party in downtown Des Moines made for a great way to round out the night. Beer always seems to taste better after running, doesn’t it? All-in-all, my first relay experience was a fabulous one, and we are already planning for our next relay experience!

Definitely a successful day!

Definitely a successful day!

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