Monday, October 31, 2011

Scare in White Bear and weekend Race Report

I saw no fewer than six brides, fourteen Green Bay Packers, eleven cats, two "Scream" killers, and fourteen monsters. There was also a family dressed in black that had glow sticks stuck to them. I asked them if they were the characters from "Tron" and the tallest one replied, "We're stick people!" On closer inspection he was totally right--the glows sticks were arranged perfectly on the black background the make them look like stick people.

I've run the "Scare in White Bear" once before, in 2009, but this was the first time I ran a Halloween race at 7:15 PM on a Friday night.

We met our friends Matt, Joy, and Tom at Matt and Joy's place in White Bear Lake. After Matt and Joy transformed into C.M. Punk and Clay Matthews and I turned into a member of the Minnesota Running Wild we hopped in the car and drove out to the race. After warming up and snapping some pre-race photos it was time to get our speed on and rock a 5k in the dark.

The course was the same as it'd been in 2009, except in 2009 it was on a Saturday morning. The darkness and larger crowd made for a little more interesting run. Even during the kids' run at twilight things were getting sketchy; I watched a kid take a spill on the first turn. Fortunately, he was dressed as a football played and his pads prevented any serious injury.

Though the route was flat and fast this was yet another race where a turnaround had us running back towards other runners. The street wasn't closed and all 164 runners were "officially" supposed to stay on the bike path after making a quarter-mile loop around the park. After turning around I was running back on the left side of the bike path next to the road. I figured I could drop off the curb if I needed to--unfortunately after a couple of encouraging words from runners someone yelled at me to get to the right so I did.

There were a lot of sections where I couldn't see very well and sometimes people didn't see me coming so I had to kind of stumble into the leaf-littered grass next to the trail. My second mile was 5:45--sandwiched between a 5:23 and a 5:29--costing me my chance at breaking 17 minutes.

I still had fun even though I was one of maybe ten runners without a costume. I won the race in 17:17. The second place finisher was the patriarch of the stick people family. I also got a high five from some guy in a costume that consisted of a sweatshirt, sweat pants, and mask I didn't recognize.

After grabbing some water, chips, and a banana I hung out with Tom and Laura until Laura had to call our friend Brit to tell her about my "fun run." Tom and I left her to cheer for the costumed runners and Matt and Joy. Joy and Matt finished strong looking smiley and happy the whole race.

The next day Laura and Brittany hit monstrous PRs at the Monster Dash 1/2 Marathon. Jared and I followed them on our bikes. We also saw Jared's brother and lots of members of MN Running Wild. I tried to talk Laura into writing a guest post on her awesome race but I guess I might have to write one for her. She's crazy busy right now-- she'll be leaving for Florida to present at an early childhood convention (during my birthday).

Speaking of my birthday if anyone's interested in running with me (virtually or otherwise) I'm going to hit up 29 kilometers for my 29th birthday on Saturday morning (November 5).

Here's some shots from the "Scare in White Bear:"

Joy pumping up the crowd:

I'm in there somewhere:

Matt and Joy flying to the finish:

Matt and I getting pumped for the race:

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Big Woods Run 10k Race Report

What's more fun on a Saturday morning in October than to driving to a church in the middle of the southern Minnesota countryside and running a 10k? Lots, but I still had a really good time at the Big Woods Run down near Faribault, Minnesota.

The race started at 9 AM, so even though it was an hour drive, I still got to sleep in to the late hour of 5:45 AM. Driving through Faribault, I saw several bank signs that said it was 41 degrees. What the signs didn't say was that the wind was blowing in gusts of 10 to 20 miles-per-hour. Perfect weather for the singlet with arm warmers look.

The Big Woods Run had a 5k, 10k, and 1/2 marathon. The 5k runners were bussed somewhere out in the woods while the 10k and 1/2 marathon started at the same spot next to the church. After a brief warm up, I lined up near the front of the pack, listened to a trumpeter (or was it a bugler?) play the national anthem.

The race started down the highway on a slight downhill. I stayed with the lead pack for about 20 seconds but the pace felt slow so I went on ahead. I was on a quest for a PR and even though I knew that a trail race wasn't the ideal place for one, the threshold was very low. My 10k PR was very soft--set back in 2009. I did not, however, want to run a slower pace than the MDRA 7 mile this past February, so I decided I needed to set the pace. The race was going downhill and I passed mile mark at around 5:30.

The course followed the road for another 1/2 mile or so and I was starting to think I should have worn my Kinvara 2s rather than the NB MT10s. The MT10s are great on soft trails but offer no cushion on pavement and the bottom of my right foot was getting hot.

The race finally turned into the woods. I was by myself as I went through the water stop. The course was pretty--it winded through the state park among red, orange, and brown trees. Enough leaves had fallen off that it was still pretty windy. There was a lot of leaf litter and some ruts in the trail, but for the most part the footing was pretty good. Around 3 miles the trail went on a road out to a cone and back around. Some course marshals told me to run to a cone and turn around it. Unfortunately I misinterpreted the signage and turned around at the 1/2 marathon cone rather than the 10k cone--probably less than 50m extra.

The course then turned back into the woods and soon I was running at oncoming 10k and 1/2 marathon runners. This was probably my least favorite part of the race. I was way over on the right side of the trail and having to maneuver around more roots and such. Also, I had to slow up a few times for runners running 3-5 abreast who didn't see me coming. Oh well. I also saw a poor young lady trip and fall. I would've stopped, but she was getting help from her friends.

Around 4 1/2 miles in there was a significant but short hill. I tried to relax over it but it definitely slowed me up. I was by myself again as the course had turned me away from the oncoming runners. At the one mile-to-go sign the course went back up the hill we'd ran down at the beginning of the race. Now I was running with the 5k runners and there was a strong crosswind keeping things interesting. Going around the 5k runners and up the hill slowed me down, but not too much.

The finish wasn't overly exciting--it was cool to win the race but I was mixed in with all the 5k runners so I decided against airplaning or high stepping. My time: 36:44. Slower than my 10 mile race pace a couple weeks ago, but run on trails, by myself, on a windy, windy day.

After a cool-down I went inside to enjoy some soup and bread, courtesy of St. John's United Church of Christ. I got to see a guy I paced at the Minneapolis Marathon. In June we happened to run into each other on a training run at Afton state park. I chatted with him and his friend for a while and then got my award--a nice "Big Woods Run" fleece blanket.

It was a nice day--a PR and a win along with getting to see the sights of Nerstrand Big Woods state park. Now it's on to the "Scare in White Bear" 5k for what will be, I hope, the completion of my year of PRs.

Here are some shots from my awesome cellphone camera:

The start/finish area:
My award:

View of the church from my cool down run:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Chicago Marathon

This past weekend Laura, our friend Jared, and I went to Chicago for an awesome trip to see the city. We left the Twin Cities Friday evening and after a little detour through the sprawling metropolis of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, we arrived safely in the suburbs of Chicago. Saturday morning we all went for a run through the McMansions outside Chicago and enjoyed a delicious crepe breakfast.

Then, it was time to go into the big city. I hadn't been to Chicago since I was seven and Laura had never been there, so we went downtown to see some of the sights. We were thinking of going to the Shedd Aquarium as it was free for Walgreen's employees and their guests. Brittany's kind of a big deal at Walgreens, but the line was long and we weren't sure we'd all get in for free. Instead, we enjoyed a Chicago-style hot dog and watched the occupy Wall street (I guess occupy Chicago) protesters marching around.

After walking past Soldier's Field along the waterfront, we participated in yet another running-related activity. Sunday was the Chicago Marathon and we figured it'd be fun to get some free crap at the expo. The expo was probably twice as big as Twin Cities' and rivaled that of Boston. We enjoyed sampling Cliff bars, Chobani yogurt, Gatorade, and all manners of health food. We then walked a couple miles across the city to cram some Gino's east deep dish pizza on top of our quasi-nutritious "sports" food. Two words to describe the pizza: yum (don't tell me how to count).

Naturally, the next moring we decided to get up early and watch the Chicago Marathon. What's more fun the waking up early to watch some elite marathoners and thousands of athletes we don't know run through the streets of Chicago? It was actually really cool seeing Moses Mosop, Ryan Hall, and several other elite marathoners fly down the streets of Chicago at sub-5 minute mile pace. I also got to see a friend from Minnesota Running Wild who now lives in Chicago. He flew through Chicago to finish in 2:47--whew!

It was exciting and motivating to see all those runners stream through the streets. It was also exciting climbing a fence so we could go underneath a street. We had to get to the other side of the runners to make it back to the train station. I was so pumped about the fun weekend with Laura, Brittany, and Jared that the first thing I did when I got home was put on my new Hattoris and go for a run.

This weekend I'm continuing my quest for PRs at the Big Woods 10k. Laura left me for the weekend to go to some wedding in California, so I'm on my own driving down to Faribault. I also have an excuse if this post is riddled with typos since she's not here to proof read it. Enjoy the pics from our trip.

Gino's East (Jared's really excited):

The lead pack at the half:

The lead pack around 16:

Uh oh, Hall's fallen back:


Walking under a bridge:

Posing at the halfway point:

Monday, October 3, 2011

TC 10 Mile Report

The morning of the Twin Cities 10 mile didn't start out great. My Nebraska Cornhuskers played Wisconsin the night before and got killed after a promising start. I tried to turn the game off three times but had to finish watching the blowout and thus gave myself five hours of sleep the night before the race. I was frantic that morning and didn't leave enough time to get to the start--the line for the bus was way longer than I remembered it being when Laura and I ran the marathon in 2009. Thankfully, unlike 2009, our bus driver didn't get lost and we got to the Metrodome 15 minutes before the race started. Despite all the morning hectic-ness, lack of sleep, and mediocre mileage in September, age-graded, pacing, and experience-wise the TC 10 mile was the best race of my season.

The night before the race we had some runner-friends over, some of whom were running the marathon and some who just came to eat pasta and have fun. We chatted about running while Dean Karnazes's "Ultramarathonman" played in the background. Then the Husker game came on and people started clearing out as most intelligent runners (like Laura) like to go to bed early before a big race.

After the craziness of the morning ended and I'd sort of warmed up by running to the start, throwing my bag in a pile of drop bags labeled "extras" (I didn't have time to wait in the huge line to give it to one of the volunteers sorting them numerically) I made it towards the front of the first wave. I didn't get the memo that the elite women got a head start on the elite men so when the gun went off I yanked off my throwaway sweatshirt and then stood for a few more minutes--shivering--until the real start.

The start went great. I really didn't have to maneuver through traffic and I hit the first mile at 5:48. I was shooting for a sub-60 and the first mile felt good. I tried to stay with a pack as there was a little bit of a headwind or crosswind for most of the race but I seemed to keep getting caught in no-man's land--not sure if I should slow up to get with a group or speed up to catch a group ahead of me.

As we crossed the river from Minneapolis to St. Paul I knew I needed to keep the pace up because the last five miles were mostly a slight uphill grade. I did well and by the time we turned onto Summit Ave I'd built a bit of a cushion. I hit the 5 mile mark at 29:15 (according to the manual lap split on my Garmin. Mtec results had me at 29:10 yesterday and 28:56 today) and by the time we climbed to Cretin Ave hill to Summit Ave I'd settled in a pack of four runners.

I stayed with those runners on and off for the rest of the race. Our pace slowed a little for two of those Summit Ave miles--6:05s, but then we started picking it up again. At mile 8 I momentarily thought I was at mile 9; the thought briefly demoralized me when I heard a friend, Steve, cheer, "turn on those wheels, Nate!" I gave him a "woo00!" and pumped my fist.

After mile 8 I left the pack. They caught back up to me, passed me, and then I caught back up to them--all between miles 8 and 9. Just before mile 9 the pack pulled away from me again. In the meantime I'd been watching a pair of Collegeville runners about 50 - 100 meters in front of me for the last few miles of the race. At mile 9 I picked up the pace and hoped I could catch them before the finish.

The last quarter mile I went as fast as I could. I caught all the runners in the pack I'd been in but the Collegeville boys stayed ahead of me. My kick was also a little early as I couldn't hold my speed through the finish as one runner passed me with 10-20 meters to go. I was a little upset I hadn't got past the Collegeville boys and had mistimed my kick--but I was thrilled with my time: 58:19.

It was a great day for a race--changing fall colors, cool weather, and great competition. My last mile split was 5:22 and the rest of the race all my miles were between 5:45 and 6:05. After getting my post race food and massage and correcting some papers in my car I jogged a couple miles and spent the rest of the morning cheering with Steve and his daughter at mile 24 of the marathon. They had some great signs including, "Mortuary ahead, look alive!"

Lots of friends were running the marathon and I got some great pictures and cheered until I was hoarse. Then, I got to see Laura and run alongside her until about half-a-mile from the finish. She improved her time from her previous marathon by over 15 minutes. I was so proud of her and all the runners who finished the marathon--especially considering it was much warmer for the marathon then the 10 mile.

Laura and I then enjoyed some giant burgers and a pitcher of beer before spending the evening relaxing at home.

After recovering for a couple days I'm planning on finishing my year of PRs by running a 10k in two weeks and a 5k two weeks after that.