Friday, May 27, 2011


This post has been incubating in my head for far too long. Much like my last post it was delayed by just being too busy. On many of my runs I've been thinking about one of my favorite parts about running: being outside!

Sure, the treadmill is fine, but one of my favorite parts about running is nature. I wish I could run on trails and in less urban areas more, but fortunately even in the Twin Cities I get to see a fair amount of natural beauty in in town and in the 'burbs.

A little over a week ago I took some time to drive out to Afton State Park, just east of St. Paul. I'm running a 50k out there July 2 and I thought it'd be good to get a couple of runs in before the race. I must say, it was one of my favorite runs of the spring.

There's some crazy hills in the park, but it was also a great day for running. The temperature was in the low 60s and there was a pleasant breeze. The trails I ran on went by the St. Croix River, through some prairie and oak savanna, as well as through deciduous forests and stands of pine.

The wildlife I came across on my run was awesome. It'd be nice to bring a camera on a trail run, but I'm nearly certain I'd sweat on it and ruin it. If I did have a camera I could have gotten shots of wild turkey, a scarlet tananger, and two large white tail deer.

It was great running at Afton but I'm also fortunate to have a couple of parks within running distance of my house. At Fort Snelling State Park I can run by the Minnesota River on a very flat, sandy trail, and at Lebanon Hills Regional Park I can circle several small lakes. I also see lots of birds around Eagan--cardinals, egrets, eagles, and turkeys to name a few.

Getting outside and running in the spring in Minnesota is great. Tomorrow we're headed up to a couple of state parks near Duluth and I'm looking forward to getting some quality trail running in up there.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Northern Lakes 30k Pace Report

I've been dragging my feet on putting up a new blog entry lately--not for lack of material but because I've been a little busy this week. School's winding down which means getting teaching stuff wrapped up. My training for an upcoming 50k is also picking up and after my run on Saturday I'll be over 70 miles for the week. But enough with the excuses--on to the pace report.

It was pretty cool and a little rainy for the Northern Lakes 30k. The cool weather meant one thing--I got to wear my sweet Asics arm warmers. Unfortunately my fan club didn't come along so I didn't get any pictures of me looking awesome in my pacer singlet and arm warmers.

My group was the 2:29 or 8 minutes per mile group--whichever was closer. Most of the people in my group were training for an upcoming marathon--either Fargo or Minneapolis, and they all seemed to be using it as a training run. It was a nice group to run with--one gal had hurt her hamstring and she was using the run as a test run to she if she was going to be ready for the Minneapolis Marathon. It went great for her--she stayed with me for several miles and then took off on her own and finished ahead of me.

Everyone in my group was really nice and no one complained about the pace which was nice because either my Garmin wasn't doing great, or, more likely, several of the miles markers weren't in the rights spots.

The route was nice, circling a couple lakes and going through several suburban neighborhoods. The last section around Bald Eagle Lake was a little brutal--the wind was whipping right off the water blowing across our faces. A couple guys in the pace group tucked in behind me which was fine with me; it made feel like a real professional pacer.

I ran mile 17 a little quick--only one guy was with me at that point as as everyone else had either fallen back going by the lake or went on ahead. The guy who was still with me was picking it up and so I went with him until the last 1/2 mile and told him to go and finish strong. I ended up finishing in 2:29:02 and I was pretty happy with it--pretty spot on pacing.

My next pacing duty will be at the Minneapolis Marathon for Team Ortho. I'll be pacing the 3:15 group and I'm looking forward to it.

This week I had some great runs and I'm hoping to blog about one of them this weekend.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

TC 1 Mile Race Report

It'd been around 9 years since I'd raced anything resembling a mile--a 1500 in May, 2002 while running track for a small college in Nebraska. It was at the conference championship meet in the slower of two heats. I ran well, hitting 4:20, a PR at the time. Little did I know it'd be a PR for probably the next 10 years. I was hurt the next season and didn't run anything longer than the 800. The next year I retired from college track and field.

So this year I decided to race another mile. I was coming off 2 marathons, racing Boston and pacing Brainerd, and pacing a half marathon--all within a month. I also had done about 1/2 a speed workout. Still, I was hoping to break 5 minutes, thinking maybe my endurance would take care of my total lack of anything resembling speed work.

After finding parking in downtown Minneapolis and somehow making it to the start, Laura wished me luck, took my sweats, and tried to convince me to wear a long sleeve. It was pretty cool and a little windy but I was sure I'd be faster in a singlet. It wasn't raining but there was a bit of a mist coming down. Perfect weather for a marathon but not so much for a mile.

I jogged to the start and saw Sam Ryder, the MN Pacers ringleader. He wished me luck before I headed off to see some MN Running Wild folks and chatted with them before doing some strides.

There were several waves of the mile before the start of the Open Wave. I chatted with Scott, a fellow MN Running Wild member as well as Ben, Candice, Tom, and Adam. I lined up near the front of the pack and waited about 15 minutes for the race to get underway.

The start was pretty congested and it was hard to get in a good rhythm once things got going. There was only one layer in front of me but it was apparent that they were going to go just a little slower than I wanted to. After getting around them I got a little too excited and started moving too fast. I believe I came across the quarter mile mark at about 68-70 seconds depending on the difference between gun time and chip time.

I tried to relax at this point but I was still moving too fast at the halfway point and crossed at around 2:22. After that I don't really remember my 3/4 split, but I think it was around 3:47-3:50. At that point I was trying to hang on. I could feel my form falling apart and my lungs getting ready to explode.

As I rounded the curve the finishing clock came into view. It was going to be close--4:22--I tried to sprint--4:40--tried to pick it up a little more--4:50--maybe, I stop my Garmin and it tells me 5:01. My official time was 5:02. I watched a video of the finish and it was some consolation that I beat the guy wearing a shirt that said, "Sub-5:00 or Bust."

I was right at the puke threshold when another MN Running Wild member, Don, came up and congratulated me. I thanked him and then informed him that I was trying to decide if I was going to puke or not. I had a terrible taste in my mouth and it was watering profusely. He pardoned my rudeness as I walked away to spit down a storm drain. Fortunately I managed to keep everything down besides unholy amounts of phlegm and saliva. I then went and congratulated a couple of other runners, although that might have happened before I saw Don. The order of events is a little hazy at this point.

I found Laura in the bleachers by the finish to watch the elite women and elite men run their miles much faster than I ran mine. My lungs were grocery bags filled with fire by then and my breathing had a curious wheezing sound. It seemed that whatever mucus I didn't manage to spit down the storm drain was gurgling in my trachea.

The finish of the women's mile was pretty sweet, but if you're a running fan I won't spoil it for you if you haven't seen the results. Same with the men's, though I will say that I gave David Torrence a high five. Both the men's and women's mile can be watched here: USA One Mile Road Championships.

This morning I paced a 30k up in White Bear Lake. I'll put up a pace report for that one approximately whenever I feel like it. Tomorrow I'm hoping to hit Lebanon Hills for some trail miles. It was a good week of running with 66+ miles. Next week I'll enjoy my first weekend in about a month without racing or pacing some event.

Here I am coming to the finish:

Must... break... five... minutes... dang.

David Torrence pumping up the crowd:

Sara Hall finishing:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

New Prague 1/2 Marathon Pace Report

As much rain as we dealt with during the Brainerd Marathon, the New Prague 1/2 Marathon made up for it. Driving from Eagan to New Prague it looked like it might rain, but it turned out to be a pleasant morning for a run. It was sunny, a little breezy, and an all-round nice day to be running.

My job was to pace the 1:40 group--7:38 miles from start to finish. Once again, I had a smaller group of about 10 runners at the start of the race. One runner, Adam, who I hadn't met before, runs with the MN Running Wild and we were both familiar with each other's names, though we'd never met. It was cool having someone I sort of knew in my pace group again.

After the first few miles my pace group started to thin out with several going ahead of me and several getting dropped back. By mile 10 there was only one other person running with me and after we crossed the timing mat he said, "Ten miles is the farthest I've ever ran in my life."

"Awesome," I said. "You're looking strong. You shooting for 1:40?"

"Actually my goal is 1:45," he said.

I was pretty impressed that he was able to stay with me for 10 miles when he was shooting for a time 5 minutes slower than what I was pacing. He hung on with me a couple more miles but since I never caught his name I wasn't able to check the results and see how he finished.

I ended up passing quite a few people between miles 8 and 13. It wasn't really that warm--probably in the mid 60s by the end of the race--but for us Minnesotans it was quite a bit warmer than what we've been running in all winter. I'm guessing that's why there were a good amount of people not able to hold onto the pace they were hoping for.

Considering how warm it was I was a little surprised to see so many long sleeve tops and running tights. One gal in my pace group early on had on long black tights and a gray long sleeve top with a hood. Whew, I would've been baking in that thing. Kudos to her though, she tied the gray thing around her waist and after she went ahead of me around mile 6 or 8 (one of those water stops) I never caught back up to her.

It was another fun race for pacing. I got to run with some nice people and many expressed thanks to me at the finish. One guy told me I'd run the first mile too fast, saying I'd run it at 7:15. I don't know if he started he watch wrong or was mistakenly following the 1:35 pacer, but I couldn't resist showing him the lap splits on my Garmin. First mile--7:43.

All the pacers, once again, were pretty solid with their pacing. So far I've really enjoyed being part of the Minnesota Pacers. I was pretty happy with my pacing at new Prague--I was within 10 seconds every mile and finished at 1:39:41 after being right on pace at mile 10. I slowed down quite a bit the last 400m or so, but I think the course was a little short. It measured 13.11 on my Garmin and I guarantee I didn't run the tangents perfectly. Another pacer had 13.09 on his Garmin.

Laura got to run the 5k and she did awesome, setting a new PR. She's planning on running the Twin Cities Marathon again this year--her second time. She's also doing a 1/2 marathon in July so she's gearing up her training this month. I've been doing some running with her which has been nice. She also let me write a training plan for her which was a dream come true--I love writing training plans.

This next weekend I'm pacing the Northern Lakes 30k in White Bear Lake. I'm pretty pumped as the route looks nice and my pace--8 minute miles--should make for a very pleasant long run.

Some shots from New Prague--

Here I come, nice and slow--gotta hit that 1:39:59:

Pacers comparing who was the most "spot on:"

Pace sign and trophy wife, fresh from a 5k PR:

Monday, May 2, 2011

Brainerd Marathon Pace Report

It rained. Here's the scene that greeted me on race morning:

The night before we enjoyed a pasta feed and a few beers at the race expo. We met some of the runners who were interested in pace groups and chatted with them a little bit. Then, Pacer Sam spoke to the crowd (actually about 25-30 runners) in the speakers area of the expo. Unbeknownst to us he had us join him on stage and give a few words of advice to the runners. Pacer Adam stole my advice of starting out slow so I said some nonsense about taking it one mile at a time after mile 20.

Then, we headed to our lodging. The Minnesota Pacers got to stay in a sweet "cabin," part of the Grand View Lodge Resort near Brainerd, Minnesota. We each got our own room and bathroom as well as free coffee (I know, right!?). All part of being part of, "the largest pace team in the world."

It was my first time pacing with the Minnesota Pacers and I must say it was an overall positive experience. Sam Ryder, the guy in charge, is a ball of energy--enthusiastic to say the least.

After sleeping in my comfortable quarters, I awoke to the pleasant sound of rain pounding the cabin roof. It was wet, windy weather waiting for us to run 26.2 miles through the back roads of Brainerd.

Since my wife didn't pack for me I had a couple snafus with my gear. Adam and Leah were nice enough to let me ride up with them and Adam provided me with a Cliff bar for breakfast since I didn't have the foresight to pack food. I also found that a brand new tube of chapstick can double as body glide (won't be using that on my lips anymore). I also didn't pack my sweet arm warmers or gloves, so my hands and arms had to be a little chilly.

The shuttle to the start line was a little bit of a disaster. I guess some of the race's shuttles had backed out so there were a couple of minivans and one of the ambulances shuttling runners to the start. It ended up delaying things by about 20 minutes, but it all worked out in the end.

Once I got moving my hands and arms started to warm up. I had a nice group of runners running with the pace group. One in particular, Dan, was very friendly and he stuck with me for 21 miles. He was a local and he knew the course so it was great having him in the group. He took off at about mile 21 and right after he left a lady named Sheila went by us and said, "I've been following you for 21 miles!"

"Great!" I said. "I hope I don't see you again until the finish."

Unfortunately I did catch back up to her and after she told me she was hoping she wouldn't see me again I told her to stay with me and I'd bring her to the finish under 3:50. Shortly after we passed Dan. I told him he was almost there and offered some encouragement and he said, "I'm doin' the death march here."

I was also running with a couple other runners, one from Eagan, so it was cool chatting with him about the local running areas. He and another runner stayed with me almost the whole race and finished around a minute behind me. I thought I lost Sheila at the mile 25 water stop but every time I looked back she was pretty close. Then, right at the finish she passed me. Both our times were 3:49:53 but the results have her ahead of me. She was going for a BQ and did awesome.

Although it was raining and windy at times, I still really enjoyed pacing the Brainerd Jaycees Run for the Lakes Marathon. The volunteers were great and with only 102 marathon finishers there were probably almost as many volunteers as runners.

My final time of 3:49:53 was pretty good for my pacing duties. My first half split was 1:55:07--my first negative split ever in a marathon. I think a did a pretty decent job with no miles faster than 8:30 and none slower than 8:59--right around the 8:47 pace I was supposed to be running.

The other pacers also did and awesome job. Dan, who paced the 3:20 group, ran a 3:19:59. Awesome. I think all the pacers were within a minute of their time--even Leah, who had her Garmin crap out on her in the first few miles. She ended up using a Jaycees' phone to pace after that halfway point. Color me impressed.

Here's Leah and I at the finish:

After enjoying a nice post race massage we headed to Zorbaz for some food. Awesomely, they happened to have beer tasting going on in a tent by the restaurant. Here are Adam, Dan, and I having an awesome time:

It was a fun race and I'd definitely do it again. Next week I'll be pacing the New Prague 1/2 Marathon and the week after that a 30k in White Bear Lake.

Happy running!