Friday, April 24, 2015

Earth Day 1/2 Marathon: Pace Report

Another pacing gig is in the books! I won't say too much about this one. If you're interested in the race, the great event, and the course, check out my other Earth Day reports here: 2012 and 2014. Laura and I really enjoy this event, and last Friday afternoon we drove up to St. Cloud to pick up our race packets, grab some dinner, and watch Sister Act in our hotel the night before the race. Watching Whoopi Goldberg turn a struggling nun choir into a class act ready worthy of performing for the pope really got me pumped for pacing.

On race morning we munched on some granola bars and bananas before heading to St. Cloud State's field house to meet up with the pacers and get ready for the race. After a couple of years of not-so-great weather, this year was perfect. It was sunny, cool but not too cold, and only a slight breeze.

Ready to race
I had a nice group of runners in my 1:40 group at the start of the race, but for some reason we didn't seem to stay together much as runners dropped off the pace. We caught up to some other runners as we neared the finish, and as often happens people let out words or sounds of disappointment as they watched their goal slipping out of reach.

Pace team, mostly unaware the photo had already been taken
During this race I also got to sample a new energy gel. I was handed a salted watermelon flavored gel, then asked my pace group if anyone wanted to trade. "Hell no!" replied a runner who was apparently more happy with whatever flavor he'd received. It wasn't quite as bad as I thought, but I'm definitely not going out to buy a box.

I finished the race in 1:39:55--a nice way to start off the pacing season. Coming up I'll be pacing the 1:35 group at the Lake Minnetonka 1/2 Marathon, the 3:35 group at the Fargo Marathon, and the 3:35 group for the Med City marathon. Pacing season is underway!

Happy Running!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Favorite Running Movies: Biopics

Looking to watch some running movies? Here are my favorite biopics:

5. Without Limits

There are going to be two Steve Prefontaine biopics in this list, and if you were on a track or cross country team, you've likely seen both of them. I enjoy both the Prefontaine biopics. Neither were a big commercial success. "Without Limits" explores Steve Prefontaine's brief running career, highlighted by the 1972 Olympic 5k. Though this film may have better production value than "Prefontaine," the style of the film and parts of Prefontaine's life that they highlight (or completely fictionalized) doesn't entertain me as much as "Prefontaine."

4. Chariots of Fire

This is one of the most well-known running movies out there. "Chariots of Fire" follows British sprinters as they train for and then compete in the Olympics. I enjoy this movie for the most part, but the storyline seems to drag at certain points. The stories of the runners, however, are compelling, and the soundtrack is killer.

3. Running Brave

 Billy Mills is the only American thus far to win a gold medal the Olympic 10k, finishing first at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. This film follows Billy's amazing career, from humble origins to the University of Kansas to the Marines, and finally the Olympics. Mills' story is compelling and makes for good drama. The movie also focuses on Billy's love interest, and though it can sometimes be over-dramatic, "Running Brave" is worth a watch.

2. Prefontaine

This life story of Steve Prefontaine is done as a faux documentary. People from Pre's life are "interviewed" as they narrate the events surrounding Pre's life and death. I prefer "Prefontaine" to "Without Limits," but others will definitely disagree with me.

1. McFarland, U.S.A.

Of all the movies, this one is the most well-produced and best acted. I'm a sucker for underdog stories, and the story of the boys of McFarland beating the odds to become an excellent cross country team is a good one. Kevin Costner does a nice job playing a cross country coach and father in need of redemption. Though they took some liberties with the story, this was still an excellent film.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Fred Kurz 10 Mile: Race Report

Saturday was the perfect day for a race. It was sunny, cool, and just a little bit breezy. The temperature rose quickly, jumping from about 36 at 7 AM to 40 by 8:30 AM, to over 50 b y the time the race was over at 10:30 AM.

The Fred Kurz 10 Mile is a unique race, handicapping the start times of each runner with the goal of having everyone finish at the same time. Runners submit two recent race times, and are then given start times based on their estimated finishes. The earliest runners began at 8:30 AM, and the goal was to have everyone finish at 10:30 AM. My start time was 9:30 AM, which was perfect as my "A" goal was to run under 60 minutes.

I had one other runner starting with me, and she was also aiming for a sub-1 hour finish time. The race started at Wayzata Central Middle School, went on a sidewalk for about half a mile, then turned on the Luce Line Trail, a crushed limestone rails-to-trail path. The young lady I was running with started out at a good clip, running ahead of me for about the first mile. Deciding not to keep up with her, I ran my own pace, and at about a mile I ran past her.

Around two miles in I began passing runners who had earlier start times. I knew there were a few runners who had a later start time than me, so my goal was to not be passed. At three miles I was on pace for a sub-60 minute time, averaging about 5:55 a mile at that point.

At the turnaround, the wind was now at our backs, and I knew if I could keep the pace I would break 59 minutes. I was now passing a lot of runners, and had yet to be passed. Passing a runner I recognized, I said, "Way to go, Kurt!" He told me I was only the second runner who'd passed him.

With two miles to go, I thought I might have an outside chance of setting a new 10 mile PR, so I really tried to push it. Coming into the last mile, I knew my "A" goal was in the bag, but if I could run a really fast last mile, a PR wasn't out of the question.

I turned off of the trail and onto the sidewalk. Still passing runners, a minute later the finish line was in sight. Seeing the clock, it looked like it wouldn't be a PR. I'd run about as fast as I could, so dropping 15 seconds or more off the last two miles just wasn't going to happen. I came across the line at 58:32, making my "A" goal and missing a PR by 13 seconds--just over 1 second per mile.

Though it wasn't a PR, it was my best race of the season so far and the first time I've hit an "A" goal in a long time. I ended up finishing third overall and winning the 30-39 age group. My prize was a sweet MDRA hat. I'm feeling good about this early season, coming so close to a PR as I haven't set a PR since 2013. I hope this will be a good jump start to the season and lead to some PRs this year.

Happy Running!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Fred Kurz 10 Mile: It's Goal Time

I'm a little late getting this one going--the Fred Kurz 10 Mile starts in a few hours. I'll have to move quickly here with my goals.

I'm hoping to run a good race, but at the same time I'm in the midst of a tough week of training and have not cut back at all for this race. I've already run over 50 miles since Monday morning, so we'll see how well I can run this one without fresh legs. On to the goals:

A: Break 60:00
B: Break 60:30
C: Break 61:00

In about three hours, I'll find out what happens. It's been a long time since I've accomplished an "A" goal, so I'm hoping today's the day.

Happy Running!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Favorite Running Movies: A Series

A couple weeks ago, Laura and I went out to a $5 Tuesday movie in Rosemount. We also joined some reward program, which meant free popcorn for both of us! Woot, woot!

We watched "McFarland, USA," the story of a cross country team of underdogs and their coach (played by Kevin Costner) in central California. Watching the movie made me think of all the other running movies I enjoy, and it also got me to check out and watch a couple of running movies from the library. I thought writing a series of blog posts based on categories of running films would be a good way to share some of these entertaining films.

That's right; I said categories of running movies. Running movies is not a category in and of itself, so I'll break things down into three categories: biopic, comedy/drama, and documentary. Stay tuned for my picks on the top movie in each category.

Happy Running!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

MDRA 7 Mile: Race Report

My second race of the year is in the books, and it was definitely an interesting one. Though it was chilly, the wind in Hopkins wasn't a factor as the slight breeze and sunny skies made conditions for the MDRA 7 Mile quite pleasant.

The race started off well, and unlike the Lake Johanna 4 Mile when I went out a little fast, this time I started out a little farther back and let the lead runners go. After about half a mile I was running by myself. I could see the two leaders, both wearing neon running gear, quite a bit ahead of me.

When the course turned toward the first mile, I could no longer see the two neon runners. They popped in and out of view for about half a mile, but by the second mile they were completely out of sight, and I was running alone in third place.

At the third mile marker I was running a little slower than I needed to to break my "A" goal time of 40:08, but a PR was well within reach, and picking up the pace a little to hit the "A" goal was not out of the question, but then things got away from me. And by got away from me, I mean I took a little half mile detour through the streets of Hopkins.

Here's my Garmin-created map of the 7 Mile. Notice the little loop in the upper left:

Here's the loop up close:

At the three mile mark, I was supposed to turn right, but unfortunately I continued going straight. Though the course had nice blue arrows spray painted on the roads and sidewalks, I must have been looking at my watch and failed to notice the little blue arrow that directed me to turn right. I realized I'd probably made a mistake when I went past Birchwood Lane and there were no little blue arrows. Had I turned around at that point, it wouldn't have been so bad, but instead I kept going.

Fortunately the little detour brought me back to the course where I joined a group or runners to go past the 3 mile marker for the second time, this time with an extra half a mile on my watch.

I didn't get too upset--I decided I'd check my split at 7 miles and give myself 75% credit for that 7 mile time, and just try to forget about my official finishing time--the MDRA 7 Mile is just a free fun run anyway, so who really cares about my "official" time?

Anyhow, this race was hilly with a capital "H." Right after mile 4 (4.5 miles for me) there's a hill that's roughly three quarters of mile mile long with a grade of about 2%. Though it took some pop out of my legs, the rest of the race had more downhill then up.

I was passing a lot of runners at this point--they'd had a half mile advantage on me, but I was making up some ground. My unofficial 7 mile split was 40:28 (I took the split at 7.04)--slower than my 40:08 goal but faster than my PR. I eased up a little then, but not much. I still wanted to finish strong.

Even after slowing down a little for the last half mile, I finished the race at 43:34--a 6:13 pace if you discard the extra half mile and a 5:49 pace if you factor in the extra half mile.

As I was walking back from the start, another runner approached me and said, "Hey, are you the guy who got lost?"

"Yes," I said.

"Yeah, I wanted to yell to you, but you were too far ahead of me. I saw you go left and I started to go left, but then saw the blue arrow and made a hard right across someone's lawn." I guess I was glad he didn't get thrown off by me too. "I was doing a tempo run," he continued, "and I didn't know quite how fast you were going. I was going to try and stay with you, but I got stuck there in no man's land."

"Oh well," I said. "I guess I just got a little extra workout."

"Yeah," he said. "Good thing it's just a fun run."

"Yep. No trophies on the line today."

After a short cool down, I enjoyed a nice post-race cookie and chatted with Peter, a friend whom Laura and I are always seeing at the YMCA. He was sympathetic to my poor directional skills, and made me feel better when he said, "There were a couple of places when I thought to myself, 'if I weren't running with other people, I wouldn't know which way to turn.'"

Though things didn't go quite as planned, I'm still pretty happy with the race result. I ran hard and I'm feeling like I'm in pretty good shape. Now I'll just have to wait until my next race to see if I can run a fast time without getting lost.

Happy Running!