Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Race Report: St Louis Marathon

This past weekend, Laura and I flew down to St. Louis to see some friends and do some running. I was ready to take a shot at a marathon PR, and though I was feeling like it was unlikely due inconsistent training and my knee issue, I was going to take a shot at it anyway.

On Saturday after we came in, we picked up our friend Stephanie to go with us to the Rock 'n Roll St. Louis expo. It was in downtown St. Louis, where the World Series just happened to be taking place. The expo was pretty good--lots of exhibitors, a cool Brooks section, and some quality free samples.

After the expo, we went with Stephanie to tour around downtown a little. We checked out the stadium where all the fans were gathering before the game. It was cool seeing all the excitement for the home team, but not so cool walking through all the secondhand smoke. There were tons, I mean tons of people smoking. It maybe wasn't the best place in the world to walk around before a marathon, but it was fun anyway.

We also spent some time at the St. Louis Arch. I'd never seen in up close before, and I didn't realize how massive it was. We asked several people to take our picture in a comedy of errors where no one could seem to get the arch in the photo.

After a pre-race meal, we went to bed early before the Sunday morning race. I didn't sleep too hot--I'm nervous before every marathon because there's just so much that can go wrong.

The morning of the race, we got downtown pretty easily. It was chilly, but thankfully they had some heaters for people to stand around, which we did after checking in our gear. After setting a meeting place, Laura and I said goodbye and gave each other a good luck kiss--I should have asked for two.

Race start
 I knew going into the race that setting an PR and breaking 2:50 was going to be a tall order. The first few miles, however, felt pretty good cruising at a 6:29 pace. I chatted with another runner named Nathan off and on, and he helped me out seeing the turns. The sun was blinding and for a lot of the race I had a tough time seeing. I also thought they could have done a little better job having course marshals letting people know which way to turn, as it was sometimes tough to tell.

Running into the blinding sun (image credit to Stephanie)
I'm not sure when I lost Nathan, but when I did I ran a long section of the race by myself. The course went into Forest Park, the most scenic part of the race, and also the location of the friends we were staying with, Andy and Stephanie. When I first ran by them, I tried to throw them my visor, which caught on my numb fingers and went about three feet. Thankfully there was no one else around and they had no trouble picking it up out of the middle of the road.

Andy took Stephanie's picture while she cheered in the park.

Soon after I saw them I really started to feel fatigued. I was fighting to keep on pace, and losing. Around mile 18 a runner named Chad caught up to me. We talked a little about matters of faith, and he encouraged me to stay with him. He really provided a needed pick up at a tough point in the race.

Going into the last few miles I had lost Chad and was again running alone. I was getting the dreaded lightening bolt cramps in my hamstrings and calves, but was still moving. I managed not to walk--but barely. I tried to keep a cheerful disposition and hammed it up a little bit, cheering for the runners going the other direction and waving to the crowds.

Hamming it up at the finish line

I'd never been so relieved to see a finish line. I was able to pick it up a bit and looking a the pictures afterward I didn't look too bad. My time was 2:57--not even close to a PR, but at least I hit my "B" goal of running a sub-3 hour marathon. I maybe could have done better if I had gone out for a PR, but oh well.

Laura met me at the finish line--she'd finished the half in 2:05, which was about what she expected after having ran Twin Cities Marathon two weeks previously and not having done a ton of running in between. We were both pretty beat.

I learned some good lessons from this race, but I think I'll save those for another blog post.

Happy Running!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Taper Madness....

Did I shave my legs for this?

So at physical therapy yesterday, the PT told me I had to shave my leg. Then I have to put Kinesio Tape on my quad, knee, and gluteus medius. Is that embarrassing? Not as embarrassing as relieving myself while running.

Saint Louis, 2009

 Anyhow, I'm looking forward to the race. We're flying to Saint Louis tomorrow morning for the Rock 'n Roll Saint Louis Marathon.

Here's the goals:

"A" Goal

Run a 2:49:00 or better

"B" Goal

Finish sub-3 hours

"C" Goal

Finish, not in too much pain from my knee,

Thanks are in order:

My wife, for putting up with all the dirty laundry, sneaking in runs whenever I can, and running with me. She's so inspiring to me, and I wouldn't even be running right now if it weren't for her.

My parents, for giving me good enough genetics to run, but not so good of genetics that I get a big head.

The rest of my family, for reading my blog even though I mostly write about running.

My co-workers, for putting up with my frantic taper madness, in which I become a basket-case and forget to do things I normally wouldn't. I used to like tapering...

All my "running" friends, for "getting" it. The weird eating habits, the strange routines.... wetting yourself to PR in a half marathon (I've never done that), but still... you guys are awesome.

My non-running friends, for listening to meaningless conversations about running, and pretending to be impressed.

Andy and Stephanie, for hosting us in Saint Louis during the world series.

Happy Running!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mankato 1/2 Marathon: Pace Report

I rolled in to 'Kato about 8:20 PM on Saturday night to stay with our good friends the Yenishes. I'd agreed to pace the 1:30 half marathon group as part of the Mankato Marathon races, but since we'd hosted some company the night before, I drove the hour-and-a-half to Mankato at about 6:30 PM.

I was a little disappointed I missed the marathon expo—I heard good things about it, including the fact that Kathrine Switzer was one of the featured speakers. I would have loved to tell her I really enjoyed her book, "Marathon Woman."

The Yenish hospitality was superb, though I don't think it's available to many of the 3,000ish runners of the weekend's various running events. If one wanted to find their own nice family to stay with they might have to do a little more leg work, and would probably be better off just getting a hotel room.

The Yenishes were nice enough to live about half-a-mile from the shuttle buses area, so I jogged down to the Verizon Center parking lot to ride the shuttle to the Mankato State University campus. It was a brisk thirty-four degrees Fahrenheit, but I was dressed well with a heavy jacket over two running shirts, shorts, wind pants, gloves, and hat. The shuttle ride to the start went off very smoothly (take note Twin Cities Marathon), and there was no waiting out in the cold.

I chatted with a nice gentleman on the shuttle who was running his third marathon after having started running at age 59. He was looking forward to the race, and so was I. The fall colors were fantastic, though at 6:37 AM they were still not visible as the bus drove through the morning darkness.

After meeting some pacers, I found the pace director, who had picked up my packet for me. The race organizers had arranged for the pacers to be able to wait inside a bus stop warming house, though I felt bad that civilian runners kept getting asked to leave. It was chilly outside!

After a start line photo with the pace team, Kathrine Switzer, one of Laura's idols, gave some inspirational words at the start of the race before I froze my skull off during the national anthem. The bald fade haircut seemed like a good idea, but in the 20 degree windchill it was a little chilly.

Laura and K.V. Switzer at the 2011 Boston Marathon

I gave my standard, "who else is shooting for a PR?" joke at the start. and I had a big enough group that it actually drew a couple of laughs. One guy did ask, "is that really your PR?" He was 19 though, and he was losing his voice, so I'll give him a pass. Looking behind me at the start line, the race looked pretty full. After the race I found out that and between the 10k, half marathon, and marathon, there were almost 2,700 finishers.

Course map from Garmin data (plus the extra mile I ran at the end

The race course went south out of town, then made a loop to the east before coming back north through some scenic countryside near the Blue Earth River. I ran pretty even splits (considering how many rolling hills there were) up to mile 10. My group was all looking pretty good at that point, so I told them to go on ahead of me. The weather was perfect for racing, and the course was net downhill, so I'd told them they'd all go out and get PRs.

Course elevation profile from my Garmin

One guy, Craig, was hurting. He'd run Twin Cities Marathon two weeks before, and he'd decided to run Mankato on a whim. My group had gone ahead, so I said I'd stay with him until mile 11. After running between 7:01 and 6:39 per mile, I ran about a 7:11 with him, then wished him good luck.

From there to the finish I was mostly by myself. I caught one guy around mile 12, but convinced him he was looking good, and he accelerated past me with about a mile left. With about 1/2 a mile left, I caught one more runner, and he ended up running to the finish with me.

The finish was nice because I could see it from a quarter-of-a-mile away, which gave me time to pick up the pace. I sped up slowly so I wouldn't lost the guy I'd caught up to. I came through at 1:29:57--my best performance as a 1:30 pacer.

The pace director had the finish line announcer interview me over the loudspeaker. When he asked me how I came so close to my pace I replied, "good luck." That got a few chuckles, and it was at least a little true. He asked me if the weather or the course was a factor and how it affected my pacing. "It was a great day for racing," I replied. "My group was looking strong at mile 10, so I told them all to go for PRs. They all did a great job."

"We saw them finish," he said. He said some other stuff and I don't really remember how I answered, but at the end I said, "thank you." I admit I felt like a little bit of a big deal getting interviewed in front of all those people.

It was great seeing Craig afterward after leaving him at mile 11. He ended up running a 1:31:03. "Thanks," he said as he shook my hand after telling me about his finish. I then ran into the 19-year-old, who gave me a sweaty hug—my third hug in three years as a pacer. He fnished in 1:29:18.

After freezing my fingers off for about an hour, the Yenishes took me over to Applebees to see some camp friends (Laura and I met at a Lutheran camp near Faribault). It was pretty great seeing them--Kevin was in my wedding and his wife Kelly had just run her first half marathon. It was great catching up with them and their three kids. The last time I'd seen them they had two kids, and Kevin had help me change the brakes on Laura's Saturn.

I'd definitely recommend Mankato Marathon. It was well-run event and a beautiful course. If you're looking for a fall race in Minnesota, this is a good one.

Happy Running!

Thursday, October 17, 2013


I've been on fall break the past couple weeks, so I thought I'd share with you some fun reads around the web.

Think icing is the best thing for your injury? Think again. Turns out compression might be better. Read this article for sure. If you're not convinced, read this one, which says icing might even slow healing down.

Twin Cities local celebrity runner and journalist of "C Tolle Run" fame, Olympian Carrie Tollefson, just finished the Twin Cities Marathon. If you go to this page, you can watch her journey from start to finish (start with Episode 133).


Friends telling you running's going to ruin your knees? Tell them they don't have a clue by pointing them here, here, and here. Or, if you don't like to read long articles (what are you doing here?), you can tell them that runners' knees are better in the long run—less arthritis, fewer knee replacements, and stronger. Plus, they don't turn black like runners' toenails.

Happy Running!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fall Weekend Fun

This past weekend's weather was fall-a-rific. I know I've mentioned this before, but I love running in the fall, and my two runs this weekend were some of the best. Saturday morning, I got a nice eight mile run through the beautiful city of Norfolk, Neb. on a new paved trail. It runs along a canal and through public land with high grass, stands of oak trees, and the sweet smells of the poultry processing plant. There's something tranquil about running next to water, trees bursting with fall colors on a cloudless day, and the savory aroma of "Chicken In a Biskit" in the air.

I was down in Nebraska to visit my parents, sister, brother-in-law, and nephew. Laura hasn't met the new nephew yet, so we got lots of quality baby Bentley time.

Enjoying the fall weather with a walk
 I also got to do a little fishing with my dad. We often make a $3 bet—a dollar each for the first fish, the most fish, and the biggest fish. I'm pretty sure I'm leading the all-time series, but this weekend he beat me on most and biggest fish, and I beat him on first fish by a minute. The final score was 10 bass to 8. Dad won the largest fish with by half-an-inch (although my dad measured his fish with reeds, then I measured the reeds with a tape measure, so I'm not sure his 16" fish was legitimate).

One of our 18 fish
After making the six hour drive back to Eagan on Sunday, I put in 18 miles—the longest I'll run until the St. Louis Marathon on October 27th. My run went through the beautiful trails of Lebanon Hills Regional Park. The miles flew by with vibrant fall colors, a barred owl sighting, and lots of people walking their dogs.

I had to take it a little easier than I was planning last week—I'm still feeling the 10 mile race in my legs, so I cut back the mileage and intensity a little from what I had planned. I still have no idea what to expect for the marathon.

Happy Running!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Twin Cities Marathon Weekend!

Hold on, because it's a long one. I decided to even roll out some headings for readers who may prefer to skim and scan rather than try to read through blocks of texts.

Expo Time

Laura and I love expos. We're kind of strange. When we went to visit our friend Brittany in Chicago, we ended up spending an hour walking through the expo at the Chicago Marathon, despite the fact none of the four of us were actually running the race. In Boston we went to the expo twice (and pretty much ate two free lunches there in Gu, Cliff, and Gatorade samples), and saw a couple of different panels with some well-known running people. I'm pretty sure we'd go to the Twin Cities Marathon Weekend Expo even if we weren't running any of the races.

This year there were two different seminars I was interested in: the Tollefson family and a doctor from the Mayo Clinic talking about what it would take to break two hours in the marathon. I only caught bits and pieces of the two hour dude, but I did get to listen to the Tollefson family panel. Carrie Tollefson is a Minnesotan who went to the 2004 Athens Olympics in the 1500m, and this weekend she was running her first marathon. Her husband, parents, and two sisters were also on the panel. Laura and I love to watch C Tolle Run—her husband Charlie is hilarious.

Laura and I with local celebrity and Olympian Carrie Tollefson
It was awesome hearing them talk about what is was like to be in the Tollefson family. Her husband, Charlie, has done several Iron Man Triathlons, and Carrie's sisters and parents are all very successful people—in life and athletics. Carrie just had a baby and only had 12 weeks of good training before the race. She still ended up running just over a three hour marathon. Laura and I both got to ask her questions, which was also pretty sweet. Now, Carrie has been kind enough to answer questions for me on my blog and in person. At the end, she showed a video of the 2004 Olympic Trials—it was pretty sweet to hear her comment on her race while watching it.

Party Time

After the expo, we rushed home to get ready for our 3rd Annual TC Marathon Party. I would say it was a smashing success. We've had different people there every year, and it's always fun to chat about running, eat pasta, and get pumped for racing.

Laura and Carol with "Prefontaine" in the background
We drug our TV upstairs to put on some running-themed movies, made some pasta, and drank some fall-style beer. We topped it off with some Cliff bars for dessert, then people cleared out early to get some good sleep before the race.

Race Morning

The shuttle buses from the Sears parking lot to the Metrodome just keep getting worse. This year we got there earlier than 2011, and that year I barely made it to the start on time. This year I cut it even closer and didn't get as close to the front as I wanted to. They decided to load one school bus at a time while twenty other buses sat there and waited. After we'd been in line for half-an-hour, a couple volunteers said the 10 mile runners could come to the front, so of course everyone in the back assumed they were the only 10 milers in line, and they peeled out of line to the front. Beautiful.

On the bus
I did, however, make it to the start before the gun when off, and though I was much farther back then I wanted to be, the race was chip-timed, so I was only slowed because of spending the first half-mile weaving in and out of runners to get in a good position. 

The TC 10 Mile

I thought about throwing down a longer race report later, but this one's long enough. My race went well. I went out with a 5:53 mile, and considering the number of people I had to pass, that was pretty good. MTEC Results said I passed 704 runners in the first five miles.

The course was also a little prettier than I remember—maybe the sun wasn't in my eyes as much this time. The route ran along the Mississippi River for several miles—longer than I remember from 2011.

The miles really zipped by, and though my legs were pretty tired from a hard week's training, I felt OK. I came through the halfway point at 29:08, still feeling like I had some gas left in the tank.

At mile 6, my legs started to feel heavy, and I ended up running a couple of miles right at six minutes flat. I was hoping to keep all my miles at 5:XX, but 6:00 isn't too bad. The last section of the race is a gradual uphill, and while it's not overly strenuous, it is hard to pick up the pace before things flatten out with about a mile left.

I saw a buddy I know from Minnesota Running Wild around mile 7, and I had enough energy to give him a thumbs up and a "WoooHooo!" After he yelled, "Turn on those wheels!" At that point, I started to catch up to the second and third place women, and passed another couple runners as well. With a couple miles left a guy built like a fullback barreled by me, but I think he was the only one who passed me in the last couple miles.

With a little less than a mile to go, a dude in a Run n Fun singlet pulled up next to me and made like he was going to pass me. I'm glad he did, because it really got my inner competitive beast rattling my rib cage. I picked it up and kept him from passing me, and for the last half a mile he'd pull even, the unreasonably competitive creature would pound the walls of my chest cavity, and then I'd pull ahead. I ended up beating him to the line by a second, though I was wheezing like a two-pack-a-day old lady whose riding cart broke down in the Wal Mart parking lot 10 feet from her car, causing her to have to carry her six cartons and Virginia Slims and case of Slim Fasts the rest of the way to her Caddy.

Anyhow, it was probably silly to sprint to the end. Though I only beat Timmy to the line by a second, his chip time was 28 seconds slower and he's seven years younger than me. I was going to tell him "good job" and thank him for pushing me to a fast finish (my last mile split was 5:26), but he put his hands on his hips and wouldn't look at me. Here's the finish video. I wasn't going to chase him down because at that point I saw my friend Linda. She was passing out mylar blankets, and she was much friendlier than Timmy (I don't know if he goes by Timmy—could be Tim or even Timothy).

Then, one of my old co-teachers from Quest Academy, DJ (a fellow Children's Country Day spouse), and his two kids were passing out bananas! It was like half the people I knew were giving me stuff.

DJ got a nice shot of me after my finish.

After a quick massage, some food, vegetable broth, and a chocolate milk to go, I saw our friends Brittany, Jared, Zach, and Brit and Jared's little twins. I talked to them for a while before heading to to the car to grab some stuff and change. Then, I jogged up Summit to watch the marathon. Oh, and I finished my 10 mile in 58:25--six seconds slower for then my 2011 PR.

The Marathon

I jogged up Summit, hoping to meet up with the Running Wild buddy to cheer with him for a couple hours like I did two years ago. Unfortunately, after jogging for three miles and walking another half mile, I saw him and his daughter passing me on Nice Ride bikes, and they were going the other direction. "Where you going?" I asked.

I didn't hear what he said—something about a hill. "How far is that?" I said.

"About three miles," he said.

"That's too far," I said. And it was. I stopped right there and watched the race for about an hour. Here's some shots of what I saw:

Lead pack of men, Sergio Reyes (finished 4th), Josphat Boit (finished 2nd), not sure who's in third

Male winner, in fourth place at this point, Nick Arciniaga

Female winner, Annie Bersagel

Carrie Tollefson

After watching for awhile, I walked down to a park I'd passed early to get a picture of the beautiful fall day. Though it had started raining a little, the view was still great.

The whole time I was getting text updates on Laura, so I decided I would jog back towards mile 24 when I got the text that she was there. In the meantime, I watched under a tree and struck up a conversation with another spectator who offered me a beer. Awesome!

So here comes Laura, all smiling and stuff, looking like she's out for a jog in the park. At his point, she's already ran 24.5 miles! "I'm feeling great!" she said. And she was. She was moving at a nice pace, despite having hurt her back on Friday, going to the chiropractor twice, and icing and heating it for 24 hours. We ran for about a mile together before I peeled off and tried to get a couple shots of her. The crowds where thick, however, and my hands were cold, so this is the best one I managed:

She flew into the finish, and while it wasn't her fastest time, it also wasn't her slowest and her back was fine. We met up for a finish photo and the Capitol, then headed for Applebees for some much deserved post race chain restaurant food.

It was a great weekend—nice running weather, good friends, and the Huskers won decisively. I had a tonload of people I know finish the marathon and 10 mile, including one of my Running Room 10 Mile Clinic members, who ran a personal best time and shaved almost a minute per mile off her time from last year.

The only downside to the weekend is I think I might be coming down with a UTI. Talk about photo finishes—I barely made it to several different bathrooms—two different port-a-potties while I was watching the marathon, a Starbucks near the marathon course, and Applebees after the race. I guess I'll be gulping down cranberry juice and gallons of water the next couple days. Stupid kidneys filled with stones.

Happy Running!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

TC 10 Mile: Goal Time

I pretty much mentioned this already, but I might as well reiterate it, if not to solidify the goals in my mind.

My running has been going pretty well the last month. I've been staying consistent with my weekly mileage hovering in the mid-70s. I've got a couple of nice runs in with some of my faster running buddies, including a 17 miler with the last four miles all under 6:40 / mile, and this week I got a nice 14 mile trail run in with the last mile at 5:56.

I've also been enjoying the nice early-fall weather, getting in some nice runs along the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers. Thursday night I put in a tough threshold interval run in with 3 X 10 minutes at about half marathon pace. I tried to really push it in the last interval, and being able to drop that last 10 minutes to a 5:49 pace gave me a little bit of confidence going into tomorrow's TC 10 Mile.

Although my training is going well--no injuries, knee's doing fine, paces are getting faster--everything I said in my last post still holds true. I'm in the midst of my highest mileage in over a year, my base training was not as high as it's been in the past, and I'm not tapering at at for this race.

Still, I'm going for it, not matter how unlikely it is that I'll set a PR. My plan is to start out at about 5:50 pace, try to pick it up after a couple miles, and see if I can hold on. If I can break 58 minutes, fantastic. If I just break--oh well.

So that's it--no B goal, just a plan to get as close to 58 minutes as possible. It should be interesting...

Happy Running!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Here We Go...

I love running in the fall. I think I've mentioned it before, but it truly is awesome to run in cooler, drier, beautifuller weather. Summer's nice in its own warm way, and winter can be alright. Spring's got its charms with warmer temperatures and melting snow, but fall's is where it's at.

I've been trying to hit the training pretty hard. I don't have quite the base I had the last couple falls, but I've definitely done a better job keeping my mileage up since school started this year. I've been averaging over 70 miles a week the past five weeks, and I'm starting to think shooting for a PR at the Rock 'n Roll St. Louis Marathon might not be totally out of the question.

But before I get too ambitious, I've got to think about the TC 10 Mile happening on Saturday. After I see how that goes, I will really know what to think about for a marathon time. When I ran the 10 mile in 2011, I hit 58:19. Based on my 10k a couple weeks ago, hitting a PR this coming weekend in not super likely for the following reasons:

1. Not near the base I've had in the past. Almost zero training in the winter, a slow start to the summer working to recover from my knee injury, and then an inconsistent summer due to traveling.

2. Peak week. In theory, this should be my highest mileage week before the St. Louis Marathon. It won't be as I'm substituting the 10 mile race for a long run, but I'm not really going to reduce my mileage during the week at all.

3. Tired legs. I've been hitting it hard the past five weeks. My legs are sore all the time. Any marathon runner who puts in decent mileage knows this feeling, and it's not conducive to running a fast race.

4. That 10k I mentioned before. My time seems to indicate that I'm not going to be able to run a PR time. In fact, the McMillan calculator says I'll only be able to run a 59:53. I hope I can do better than that, but 59:53 is over 90 seconds slower than my PR. Plus, my PR 10 mile pace is only 4 seconds/mile slower than my 10k pace a month ago.

So there's all the reasons why running a PR is unlikely. Despite all that, I'm going to try to anyway. There's a good chance I could blow up and not even break an hour, but if I'm not going to PR, I might as well not PR in a serious way.

St. Louis is three weeks from Sunday. How bad I blow up (or, if some miracle occurs and I don't blow up) will give me some indication of a goal time to set for that race. In the meantime, I'll keep churning out the miles.

Happy Running!