Friday, January 24, 2014

Another Weekend, Another Race

Whether I'm ready or not, racing season seems to have already started. I've already paid for two races, the Yukon Days 3 mile Snowshoe Race and tomorrow's Securian Half Marathon, where Laura will be running her first race of the year. I'm now debating whether or not to sign up for the Afton Trail Run 50k in July, and then the Chicago Marathon in October.

I guess tomorrow's half marathon is not really a "race" for me, as my training has been pretty miserable up to this point. If I want to run the Afton 50k, I'm really going to have to stay on top of keeping up with injury prevention and start running a little more consistently.

I want to train for a 50k again for two main reasons. First of all, I really enjoyed my last Afton 50k. Secondly, I love telling people I'm training for a 50k so they get all impressed and say something like, "that's so far." Plus, it's great when people ask, "how far is 50k?"

I like to think that I'm not some running snob who thinks that anyone who has to ask, "how far is a 5k?" or, "how far is your marathon?" is a total moron. I am, however, a little bit of a math snob. So when a runner or someone who I know has run multiple 5ks asks me how far a 50k is, I have a really hard time not saying, "try multiplying 3.1 miles by 10, genius."

I have such a hard time not saying that or something like it, that sometimes I do mistakenly let my math snobbery slip and say, in a real sarcastic manner, "well, a 5k is 3.1 miles and a 50k is ten times farther than that." It feels mean, but sometimes I just can't help it. It amazes me how many people make it through life without being able to multiply by ten. Of course, if we just went with the international system of measurement and measured everything by kilometers and all those other great metric measurements, none of this would be a problem.

Tomorrow the Securian Half Marathon may be cut to a quarter marathon due to horribly cold weather. A quarter marathon is half of a half marathon, and a half marathon is 21k. Since I've learned from experience that most people have no interest in doing the math to figure it out, a quarter marathon is 10.5 kilometers, or 6.55 miles. I guess I'll find out tomorrow morning if I'll be running 13.1 miles in bone-chilling wind chills of -17 degrees Fahrenheit, or only 6.55 miles in internal organ-freezing wind chills of -20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Happy Running! 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Race Report: Yukon Days 3 mile Snowshoe

I don't know of any races in Minnesota that take place entirely on a frozen lake other than the events at Yukon Days. I suppose I could do a Google search to find out, but opening up a new tab in my browser and typing all that in seems like an awful lot of work.

Packet pick-up for Yukon Days was at C.G. Hooks Eatery, conveniently located across the street from the lake. When I went inside to get my number and Yukon Days sweatshirt, I ran into Jim McDoonell. Jim taught a "Running with Snowshoes" class in February of 2010 (read about it here). I said "hi" and thanked him for the class.

He seemed to remember me, but he may have just been being polite. Either way, he's a pretty tough guy. At 60 years old he's still racing in a kilt, singlet, and arm warmers. While the temperature on the lake was warmer than the polar vortex we'd just finished, a northwest breeze put the windchill around 10 degrees Fahrenheit--not kilt weather if you ask me.

After pinning on my number and dropping my sweatshirt in the car, I strapped on my snowshoes and started heading down to the lake. Halfway down the bank, I checked the back pocket of the shorts I was wearing under my running pants to make sure I had my car key. An unsuccessful hunt for the key and a subsequent rise in my anxiety level made for a perfect warmup. Resigned to the fact that my key was either buried under the snow or locked in my car, I went back towards the lake, planning to call Laura to get me after the race.

As I stepped down the steep bank, I felt something in the front pocket of my running pants--the mystery of the missing key was solved. Fortunately it was too late for my body to bring down my heart rate and turn down my adrenal glands; I was ready to race.

Following a short warmup, I chatted with a friendly runner from Minneapolis, got well-wished from Jim, and started off on the three-mile trek around White Bear Lake. I ran behind the two lead runners for about 100 yards, but the pace was feeling pretty slow, so I decided to pick it up and run in the lead.

The course was a laid out with cones in the shape of the triangle with sides of 1.2, 0.8, and 1 mile long. About a quarter-mile before the first turn, the binding on my right snowshoe slipped off my shoe and up around my ankle. It was a little uncomfortable, so I decided if I felt like I had enough of a lead at the turn I would fix it.

Alas, as I turned left to run past the fish house village on White Bear Lake, the two gentlemen were still close behind me. My unreasonably competitive nature pushed me forward, risking a welt around my ankle to hold my lead.

Running past the fish houses was the best part of the race. I was kind of hoping the fisherman would come out of their houses--maybe do a little cheering, offer some refreshments, or scream things like, "you're scaring all the fish away!" or, "this lake is for fishermen, not yuppies running in snowshoes!"

For the second time I was disappointed. The only fishermen I saw were two guys drilling a hole with a gas-powered auger and some kid in snow pants jumping over holes in the ice. There were a couple fresh holes along the course, and my dark side secretly hoped that one of the two runners behind me would step in a hole and the other one would stop to help. Then, I could fix my binding and win the race in comfort.

Karma paid me back for my evil thought by subtly slipping the binding of my other snowshoe onto my ankle. The two runners were still close behind me at the next turn, so I had to suffer with ankle discomfort for the last mile of the race.

My lungs began to heat up and my legs felt heavy as I prayed to see the finish line through the foggy winter weather. The last half mile was really tough. There was a one mile race before the three mile snowshoe, and the runners had left the snow all sloppy, making footing a problem. I pushed ahead, slipping and sliding left and right, somehow keeping my balance.

I did manage to keep my lead, and finished first out of 47 runners in a time of 21:45. I cheered for about ten minutes and chatted with the second and third place runners for a bit. The second place dude was running the three mile "no snowshoe" race next, where he ended up finishing fifth.

Jim came in eighth overall, and his legs looked pretty cold and red after running in a kilt. Talk about tough.

I won a sweet mug for my effort, out of which I'm savoring the sweet taste of victory (it tastes like coffee) as I type this race report.

Training didn't go so hot last week--I was pretty busy with work and other commitments. I'm hoping the long MLK weekend and fewer weeknight obligations this week will help me get back into a better training routine.

Happy Running!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cold Racing Time

It's time for my first race of the year, and I'm super-pumped. While pacing Polar Dash was fun (for awhile), I can't really count it as a race. My time of 1:40:50 will probably be an all-time 14 mile best since 14 mile races are very rare, but despite feeling Arctic-explorerly tough, Polar Dash was not a race kind of effort.

On Saturday, however, I will be running a race-effort. I am registered for the Yukon Days 3 mile snowshoe race. While I've only run in snowshoes once this year, I'm going to try to get out again tomorrow morning. I had a blast racing the Yukon Days 6 mile in snowshoes a few of years ago.

I was a little bummed that they didn't have a 6 mile snowshoe this year, but it's probably for the best. My right knee still isn't 100%, and now I'm having some issues with my lower leg on the other side. I was telling my chiropractor the other day that it's hard for me to remember a time when something wasn't sore in my legs. When I'm "healthy," I'm usually sore from higher mileage or tough workouts, and when I'm not, there's something bothering me in my hip, calf, knee, or whatever else can get sore in my leg.

I don't even care though. I love running and I love racing. There's something about competition that just gets me fired up. As of today, fog is in the forecast for Saturday, so the scenery should look as sweet as it did three years ago.

2011 Yukon Days

Happy Running!

Friday, January 3, 2014

2014 Polar Dash: Pace Report

Frozen eyelashes, beard-cicles, and numb extremities along with a great co-pacer made for a memorable Polar Dash fourteen mile race. I guess Team Ortho thought it'd be cute to do a 14 mile in honor of 2014 The past couple of years I'd volunteered at Polar Dash, first as a course marshal and then as a hot chocolate technician. This year I paced this beautiful race for the first time, running along the Mississippi with a group of 3-10 runners looking to make their New Year's dreams come true.

The day started out swimmingly when my old Honda Accord coughed to life after spending the night outside in sub-zero temperatures. I'd packed it full of all the necessary running paraphernalia: two hats, three pairs of gloves, hand warmers, Saucony Peregrines, and a penguin suit. In the spirit of fun, all the pacers and many of the volunteers sported fashionable yet comfortable penguin attire.

On my way out the door
The race started at Shriner's Hospital for Children.Team Ortho did a nice job with the starting area by having some propane heaters spread around the lower level of the parking ramp for runners to huddle around. Fortunately for me, as a member of the illustrious Team Ortho Polar Dash Pace Team, I was able to join the rest of the pace team inside Shriner's to keep warm before and after the race.

I hadn't seen several of my running buddies in awhile, so it was great to meet a few of them at the start of the race. I had the privilege of co-pacing with Nate Wohlfeil, a pretty talented runner out of Winona. It'd been awhile since I'd run with Nate, and it was cool pacing with him rather than trying to keep up with him in a half marathon or during a leg of Ragnar.

Our fearless pace team leader ended up rolling in slightly behind schedule, but he quickly got us our pacing signs and sent us on our way. Nate and I elbowed our way to the front of the 573 fourteen mile runners and 1142 runners of the 10k as the National Anthem played over the loudspeaker. I did my best to assure runners that I meant no disrespect to America as I squeezed my way through the packed bunch of bundled runners, doing my best not to poke anyone with out 1:35 pace sign (see some photos of the start line here).

The race itself was pretty memorable. I had a great time chatting with Nate and cheering for runners--for awhile at least. We traded off the sign frequently since wrapping our fingers around the wooden dowel made our digits numb in a hurry.

The course involved several out-and-backs on Mississippi River Blvd. While the wind wasn't blowing too much, it was gusting just enough to make it pretty uncomfortable whenever we were running into it. Somewhere around mile eight the race became far less fun. I tried to stay chipper and encouraging, but my hands were painfully numb and my eyelashes were so frozen that every time I blinked I could feel the ice crystals shatter.

Nate did his best to stay chipper as well, but his eyelashes were just as frozen as mine. He had gloves that were warmer than mine, so he graciously carried the sign for the last couple miles. We did have three runners stay with us for the duration of the race, and one started chatting with us right before the half marathon timing mat.

"I've never run a half marathon before," he said.

"Well," I said, "you're going to now." Nate mentioned that we weren't quite there yet, so I made sure to caution the half marathon would-be finisher not to hurt himself in the next half mile.

Our half marathon split was 1:34:14, and since the course didn't appear to be terribly accurate and has a track record of being short, I'll count it as a win. The last nine-tenths-of-a-mile was cold, but seeing the finish line was sweet. If I pace this race next year, I really hope it's not 15 miles. A half marathon is more than far enough when the temperature is cold enough to form icicles on my beard and nearly freeze my eyes shut.

After the race I hung out with the other pacers in the Shriner's building. After listening to pacing stories, eating my post-race pretzels, banana, and salted nut roll, I bundled back up and made the half-mile trek back to my car.

While pacing Polar Dash was miserably cold, it was a great start to my running year. I notched 14 miles the first day of the year. Then, on the 2nd, I knocked out another more miles when I accompanied my buddy Don Sullivan for 15 miles of his 40 mile birthday run.

Today I'm enjoying my first rest day of the year, catching up on some reading, and doing a little school work.

Happy Running!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 - It's Goal Time!

Happy New Year! We're starting the year off with some beautiful Minnesota weather, and by my calculations the temperature in Eagan at 12 AM on New Year's Day was -9 degrees Fahrenheit--the perfect goal setting weather.

I could go on about how I'm pacing the Polar Dash half marathon this morning. Race time temperature is forecast at -8. There's nothing like a beautiful Minnesota morning to start the New Year with some weather to remind you you're alive.

But enough about the weather, it's time to think about some goals for the year. I went and read my goals over the last few years, and just looking at my blog archive helped me come up with some goals for this year.

Goal 1: Set a 1/2 marathon PR.

Goal 2: Help a couple runners meet their goals.

Goal 3: Break three hours in the marathon again.

Goal 4: Ride my bike to work more than half the days in April and May.

Goal 5: Write more than 50 blog posts this year.

Goal 6: Read at least two books about running.

Goal 7: Raise some money for World Vision.

That should do it for the year. There are some other things I'd like to accomplish, but seven goals is enough. I'll try to remember to come back to these goals periodically throughout the year to remind myself what I'm up to.

Happy New Year everyone. Thanks to all my readers. Just like last year, you're invited to post any of your goals here, or on the Facebook link. Have a wonderful, blessing-filled year.

Happy Running!