Saturday, April 30, 2011

Last of the Really Long Runs

Today was our second and last twenty miler. Rick laid out a great course that offered some new scenery as well as a handy spot for an aid station. The course was an out and back with a five mile loop at the far end. We would pass the aid station where Rick was handing out water and Powerade every five miles. We all agreed that it was a well thought out course.

Our group started out running at a conservative pace. Jon pointed out that these long runs were all about spending time on your feet not about speed. We were all feeling great at our first aid station stop. As we approached Rick's van we caught up to a runner from the class walking along the road. She apparently had some severe pain in her IT band and naturally was quite upset about it. As one of our guest speakers put it, our training forces us to tread the fine line between peak performance and injury. We all could certainly empathize with her.

The loop part of the route circled the Prairiewood golf course so traffic was light. We ran the first loop clockwise, stopped at Rick's van for a water refill, and ran the same loop counterclockwise. Kristy and Shirley, who had started a bit faster than the rest of us, were waiting at the van for us. We would finish the last five miles as one good sized group.

At the start of our last five mile stretch, Jon was going to push us to maintain our pace. It is hard to force yourself to keep going after this many miles. Having someone to motivate you makes a huge difference. We gradually increased our speed over the last five miles, and the last mile was the fastest of the day. Erin really kicked in the afterburners with several blocks to go. I had all I could do to keep up. The whole group had a SUPER run! We all finished strong even after twenty miles.

The marathon is only three weeks away now. Everyone in our little back-of-the-pack group should do very well. We have inspired and encouraged each other as we strive to accomplish a pretty amazing test of endurance and will. I know that I could not have come this far without the group and our amazing coaches. In fact I think it's time to express my opinion about some of the "coaches" and brag about the coaches I have had the privilege to run with.

I have noticed that some of the "coaches" tend to treat these group runs as nothing more than a chance to get their long runs in. They can be seen running in pairs or singly. The only encouragement from them is a "good job" as they run past. In my opinion, as a "coach" they should be running with one of the groups, monitoring everyone's progress, and offering advice on any issues that come up. Or, if the entire class gets too spread out, they could adjust their speed to allow them to spend some time with the pairs or single runners. I know I would be quite frustrated if I signed up for the class and found myself running alone every week.

As it is, I do not run alone. None of us back-of-the-packers runs alone. Rick and Jon see to that. They have been incredible coaches. While one of them may spend time with another group or individual, one of them is always with us on our runs. They are there to answer any questions and pass along the lessons they have learned through their running experiences. Some days we have Lamont or Eric (both from the Fargo Running Company) there to share their experiences. That's is what I expect from someone working as a coach.

Wow! Sounds like a pretty serious rant. Maybe a little levity at the end of this post is in order. I saw a preview for the new version of the movie Arthur when we were in St. Cloud. I enjoyed the original version when it came out. The character that really made the movie was Hobson played by Sir John Gielgud. His character is still one of the funniest I've seen. Here's one of my favorite scenes. Hobson is meeting Arthur's latest lady friend/escort. Funny stuff.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

What The Hell Have I Got Myself Into?

It's time for some introspection. Years ago when I started taking Tae Kwon Do my main goal was to improve my physical fitness. Soon I found myself surrounded by people who would casually discuss things like how many boards or bricks they could break. They would recount their exploits in past tournaments -- how many fights they had won or lost, etc. Before I knew it I found myself getting into a ring to try and kick my opponent in the head more times than he kicked me. I punched, kicked, and smashed boards and bricks with my hands, feet, and head (on purpose!). Most people would find these activities quite unusual, while for me and my friends it was normal. I had become (mad scientist music playing) one of THEM.

This morning I went to the downtown YMCA for the scheduled twelve mile group run (three times around a four mile loop). As we were getting ready to take off Jon and Erin asked me if I would like to run an additional 4 mile loop. While most people would probably find a way to gracefully decline such a proposition understanding that twelve miles is actually quite daunting, I found myself with a silly grin on my face and nodded yes.

We started the first loop and Jon and I went out pretty fast. After a mile I checked our pace on my GPS and hoped I could keep it up. What I hadn't realized was that Jon was letting me set the pace. While I was trying to keep up with him, he was trying to keep up with me. We were like a runaway train and finished the first loop very quickly. After a short stop to gulp some Powerade we were off for loop number two. Again our pace was fast. In fact it was even faster than the first loop. About halfway around we were joined by Jackie who is training for the half marathon. She was somewhat faster than Jon and I, but we sped up even more to keep up with her for the rest of the loop. Now there were three cars on our train.

Jon and I waited at the Y for the rest of our group (Rick, Erin, Kris, and Maria) to finish their second loop. After they had a chance to get a drink we all left together. This time Jon and I stayed with the group at our normal long run pace. The third loop went well. Back at the Y Erin and I said our goodbyes to the others and took off on loop number four. About halfway through Erin's foot started to hurt, and I could feel the effects of my speedy loops earlier. I glanced at my GPS when we had maybe a mile left and was startled to see that we had already run a little over sixteen miles. Apparently the loops were a little longer than four miles. We  toughed it out to the finish and slowly hobbled our way to our cars.

On my way home I realized that I am surrounding myself with people who casually say things like, "I'm running a 25K race on trails covered in mud so thick it sucks the shoes off your feet." Or "I'm running a 50K race on those same muddy trails, but I want to fight my way up the hills twice as many times." Or last but not least, "I ran a 135 mile race in northern Minnesota the first week of February (Hello? Have you heard of the Icebox of America?). I had to pull all of my gear and had to be concerned about hypothermia from the -40 degree temperatures and the hallucinations brought on by sleep deprivation and physical exertion."

Agreeing to the extra miles today made me realize that I was becoming (mad scientist music playing) one of THEM.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Earth Day Half Marathon Weekend

We went to St. Cloud on Friday afternoon trying to outrun the nasty winter weather that was coming. The trip went well. We took Lynette's new ride -- a bright red Kia Soul-- that we bought last week. After checking in at the hotel we went to the college to pick up my race packet. There wasn't much schwag, just a cloth grocery bag and a shirt, but the shirt is a technical t-shirt which is great.

We left the campus and went for supper at Panera. Julie and Mary introduced us to this restaurant on a recent trip to the Twin Cities and we loved it. We both had a sandwich, but I also ordered the mac & cheese which was amazing! We went back to the hotel and waited for our friends Don and Shelly to arrive from Wisconsin. They spent the weekend with us and were there to cheer for me at the finish.

Looks like I'm in for a cool run.
When we woke up Saturday morning there was a layer of snow on the cars, but at least the streets were clear. The weather was cold (low thirties), cloudy, and windy. I got pretty chilled while waiting for the race to start. I warmed up quickly once I started running. I was just behind the 11:04 minute/mile pace group that would finish the race in two hours twenty-five minutes. I was hoping to stay with this group and finish under two and a half hours.

Starting line.
I saw Shirley, another runner from our training class, at the starting line. We ran together for a while, but she was running a little faster than I wanted. She slowly pulled away and I kept to my pace which started a bit slower than the pace group. I caught up to Shirley and the pace group at about the four mile aid staion. I was able to stay with the pacer for the rest of the race.

The course was a nice mix of residential streets, bike paths, and even some grass through the park. The crowds along the course were great. It's amazing to have people you don't know cheering for you. There were a lot of volunteers at the aid stations. It made it easy to get through them quickly.

Heading down into the park.

Old Man River -- The Mighty Mississippi
Shirley started to fall back a little after about eight miles. I forced myself to keep up to the pacer. She did a great job of keeping me motivated even though she was running the hell out of me. The end of the course was a big downhill run. I let gravity do its thing and just tried to keep my feet moving fast enough to keep from skidding down the hill on my face. There was still about a quarter mile to go after I reached the bottom of the hill. People along the road kept telling me that I was almost there. I've discovered that the finish line is deceptive. It seems to keep moving further away as I approach it much like the never-ending hallways in scary movies.

Keeping up to the pacer.
Shirley nearing the finish line!

I crossed the finish, heard them announce my name, and got my medal. It was over and I was thrilled to have done it in two hours twenty-two minutes! I saw Shirley nearing the finish line as we were walking to our car. It is great that she finished. Now it's back to the training grind. Only five weeks to go until the big race. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

First Twenty Mile Run

Today's group run was a fifteen miler, but since I'll miss next week's twenty mile group run because I'm running the Earth Day Half Marathon I decided to go an extra five miles today. The course was made of three five mile loops (four loops for me) that started and ended at the Fargo Running Company. The weather was ideal -- cool and overcast. Everyone was in great spirits which made the fifteen miles I ran with the group fly by. I did the last five miles solo, and while they weren't nearly as enjoyable as the miles run with the group they went pretty well.

All-in-all I had a pretty decent week even with some long days at work. It felt good to get most of the runs in. I'm planning on taking it easy on the runs this week. Next weekend I'd like to push myself a bit and run a strong race at a faster pace. I'll have to see how I feel during the race.

Do a little off-roading?
My shoes took a little bit of a beating today. There were some large puddles to skirt around and of course the lawns are really swampy. I'll take the mud over the ice and snow any day.

My next post will be a race recap. How exciting!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Two Week Update


Lynette and I went down to the Twin Cities last weekend to vivit some of the family. We had a great time and enjoyed seeing everyone. I missed the Saturday morning group run, so I had to do it solo on Sunday after we got home. I had mapped out an eight mile loop starting and ending at our house that I would run twice. I figured I could refill my water bottle and use the bathroom halfway through the run.

The weather was sunny and cool -- perfect for running. Everything was going great until I got to about the six mile mark. The road I had planned on using to get back home was completely blocked with an earthen dike. Fargo is preparing for some serious flooding this spring. I had two choices. I could make my way to the next road that would get me home, but I would have to run along a very busy street with no shoulder. My other choice was to turn around retrace my steps. I chose to turn around which meant I would get back home with less than half of my run left.

As I made my way home I did some zigging and zagging through some neighborhoods to add on some more miles. This left me with only 3 1/2 miles left after a quick stop at the house. These last miles were BRUTAL. I ran rather aimlessly around my neighborhood just trying to get the miles in. I kept looking at my GPS to track my progress which was painfully slow. My legs felt heavy, and it seemed that parts of my feet were numb. I finally shuffled my way through the sixteen miles. I've never been so grateful to be done with a run.


I missed a couple of my weekday runs due to a week of very long days at work. I really need to start getting up at four in the morning again so that I am sure to get these runs in. Tuesday evening was the only night I ran, and it was great! The weather was gorgeous. I started at a nice easy pace and picked it up after a mile. The last six miles were the fastest I have ever run. It was a great morale booster.

Saturday morning was the eighteen mile group run (nine miles out and back) in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. We got to D.L. a little after six. It was really foggy and quite cold. I worried that I was underdressed for the weather. I was wearing just a base layer plus a light second layer both top and bottom. Unlike everyone else I didn't have a cap or gloves. I warmed up once we got running and found that my choice in clothing was perfect. I heard many of the others complaining about being too hot beacuse they were wearing too many layers.

Rick was kind enough to set up an aid station at the 4 1/2 mile mark, so we were able to get some water, Powerade and gels. There was an unattended aid staion at the turnaround point at nine miles. The coaches encourage all of us to carry some liquid and refuel often. These stations make it very easy to stay on top of hydration.

Erin started her run from the first aid station. She is recovering from an ankle injury and ran twelve miles. Her husband, Jon, started with the group but stopped at the aid station around thirteen miles. His foot has been hurting since last weekend when he ran thirty miles to celebrate his thirtieth birthday. They both have races coming up, so they were smart to scale back their traing a little in order to heal. The rest of our group made it all eighteen miles. The last two miles were fairly difficult, and I was glad when the run was over.

It is so much more enjoyable running with the group. There are seven of us that make up the back of the pack. We talk, joke, and laugh our way through the miles. I noticed that my legs would move on auto pilot while my brain was occupied by conversation making the miles really fly by.

I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of distances we will be running over the final six weeks. I was told the longest run will be twenty-two miles. I imagine this will happen the first part of May allowing for a couple weeks of tapering before the race. It's only two weeks until I run my first half-marathon and just six weeks until the Fargo marathon. I'm getting really excited!

Last but not least I want to say a huge "thank you" to Lynette. She has been so supportive through this whole ordeal. I hadn't realized just how time consuming the training was going to be when I started. Many mornings I roll out of bed at four which has to disturb her sleep. Other days I run in the evening which is time away from her. As the long runs are becoming more time consuming every week. I could not have come this far without her encouragement and support.