Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Biggest Loser Final Results

My exciting news of the day is that I won our 8 week biggest loser contest.  I dropped a total of 23.6 pounds. I've noticed how the weight loss has helped my running and would like to keep pushing forward with it to hopefully further help my upcoming race season. Collectively the 9 of us in the contest lost 87.6 pounds. As excited as I am to win I'm a little disappointed that the competition is over.  Having some strong people to go up against kept me focused, and it will be hard to replace the motivation they gave me.

Thanks to DJ, Sarah, Ruth, Nycol, Colette, Katie, Kayla and Amanda for competing against me.  I hope you all got as much out of this experience as I did.

Blast From The Past: Turkey Trot

After running the Full Moon 5k I convinced my sister to run the 5 mile turkey trot with me.  We drove together to Edgewood and again I felt very out of place.  Steph commented on how many people were wearing "stretchy pants".  We registered, got our packets and I told Steph what I'd learned about not tearing off the tag on our race number.  As we walked back to the car to drop off our packets we were looking though them and had each found a packet of Gu that was included.  Neither one of us had every tried it, and we put them in our pockets and lined up for the race. We saw someone lined up to run pushing a stroller and joked that we should do our best to keep ahead of them or we'd be embarrassed.  We ran the first mile quite quickly, again I started a race too fast. Slowing down after mile 1 we were passed by the stroller.  We managed to make it out to the halfway point before giving in to the urge to walk. Since the course was an out and back we could see who was behind us at this point.  We were struggling, but told ourselves we wouldn't be last, there was an elderly woman about a third of a mile behind us and we should be able to keep in front of her. We ran and walked for a bit longer then Steph decided to try her Gu, she had chocolate outrage.  Not knowing the proper way to eat one of these things she squirted the entire thing into her mouth, and made a face indicating it wasn't really that good.  I made some smart ass comment about the taste and she tried to laugh keeping her mouth closed because it was full of Gu.  Some of the Gu shot out of her nose and we had a great laugh about it, the volunteers along the course must have thought we were insane.  We were hurting and slow, but having a great time.  A short while later the elderly woman who we swore would never pass us did.  Officially I think there were a couple of people who finished after us that day, but not many.  We had a great feeling about running one of our longest runs together and enjoying the day.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Birthday Run

Last year, I was introduced to the concept of a birthday run.  Rachel decided to run marathons on back to back days to celebrate her birthday. Before this it had never occurred to me to run to commemorate special events. Since running with her last year I've adopted this concept myself.  Remembering my Grandma before her funeral, thanksgiving, christmas, and even my wedding have all been celebrated by running with friends.  It's a tradition now that started with Rachel and I'm truly grateful she included me last year to start it all off.

This year Rachel was going to do another marathon to celebrate her birthday, with my birthday being 1 day before hers I decided to join her as I also wanted to do something big for my birthday.  One night when a group of us were out running, Maggie suggested that we extend the event to 30 miles because I was turning 30.  This idea was well received and the birthday marathon became the birthday ultra.

The week leading up to the event Rachel was experiencing some pain in her legs and since she was not able to rule out the possibility of it being a stress fracture she decided she wouldn't be joining us for the run. I was disappointed to hear this, but I'm glad she's disciplined enough to do what needs to be done to heal up.  I know there will be other runs we'll have the chance to share in the future. Even though Rachel was injured she still planned out a route for us and came over to Maggie's to send us off in the morning. It was great to see her as we prepared to head out. Joining us on our run were a couple of faster runners from Grand Forks, David and Eric.  Although they had never met any of us in person, that had come to know Rachel online from following each others training. David had done this distance before, but today would be Eric's longest run.  They had some difficulty finding Maggie's house due to the messed up interchanges in Moorhead, but eventually they did find it and we headed off for our adventure.
David, Eric, Erin, Maggie, Jon, Jerry, Cory
We drove out to a small church southeast of Hawley, MN where the run would start.  Getting out of the vehicles and putting our gear on I noticed it was a bit cooler then I was expecting.  The temp was somewhere between 5° and 10° with a light breeze. As the entire group started off together, Jerry lead them in singing "Happy Birthday" to me.  I joked he finds any excuse he can to sing to me.  Cory and Erin were both a little concerned about some nagging injuries they have been experiencing so they would run a different route that would keep them close to where we parked in case they needed to cut the run short. Together they found the motivation to get in around 12 miles with neither one hurting too much. After about a mile, Jerry, Maggie, David, Eric and myself broke off from Erin and Cory and I had a chance to run on a couple of roads in the area that I'd never been on before. This first out and back took us west and then south of where we'd started.  The road heading west had some nice rolling hills and many trees lining the road.  When we turned South the road was much flatter, and was lined by fields instead of trees.  Heading south we fought the wind and several of us got out the masks we had brought along because of how cold it was feeling. I went a bit faster then I should have on this first out and back because I didn't want to hold the group back too much.  After about 13.5 we arrived back at the church and some of us made adjustments to our gear.  I dropped off my hydration pack and switched to a handheld bottle since Erin and Cory would drive along stopping every mile or so to provide support.  I also took this opportunity to eat a bacon sandwich.

Jerry continued on with us for a mile after our rest stop, but turned around after that because he wasn't going to do the full 30.  David, Eric, Maggie and I continued on south towards Rolag and some larger hills. The rolling hills were starting to get to me, it was very different from the flat ground I'm used to running on. 

The 30 mile club
The 8 miles heading south were among the most difficult I've ever run.  I wasn't doing a great job of staying on top of my fueling. Fortunately Maggie was keeping an eye on me and forced me to get some more calories down.  Near the turn around point Erin produced a 5 hour energy I had packed and suggested I take it.  It seemed to help, but my lower body was still hurting.  After the turn around things picked up for me mentally, I had 22 miles down, 8 to go and I had just run the route I would be returning on so there would be no surprises. My physical condition was another story, my body was screaming at me to stop. I wanted to sit, or lay down anything to take some weight off my legs and give them a chance to rest. I found some brief rest when I'd stop to refill my water bottles and could lean forward on the truck.  I was slouching more and more as I ran and Maggie kept reminding me to straighten up so I could breathe properly.  It was a struggle, but I forced myself to throw my shoulders back and hold my head up. About halfway back Maggie started to get excited about how far I'd gone, it was closing in on marathon distance and she was eager for me to go beyond that.  Not wanting to talk much I would just show her my Garmin when she asked how far I'd gone. Miles 27 and most of 28 either passed quickly or I was out of it enough that I don't really remember much of them. I do remember looking up and seeing the church looming on the hill ahead with a little more then a mile to go and thinking that I would need to run past it to get my 30 miles in.
Nearing the church and the end of the run
Somehow I was able to find a rhythm and started to pick up the pace once I could see where I would finish.  Although the last mile was uphill it was one of my fastest of the day.  I had misjudged how far away the church was and didn't need to run past.  It felt great to be done and everyone had some words of encouragement and congratulations for me.
Post run celebration

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Blast From The Past: My First 5k

My very first event as a runner was the Full Moon 5k on November 13th 2008. The race was on a Thursday night.  I remember arriving at the running store, at the time it was the Dick Beardsley Running Company, seeing the parking lot more full then it had ever been.  I had only been running for a month or so and was amazed at how out of place I seemed. I had worn a grey fleece hoody and some loose fitting athletic pants.  I walked toward the store noticing how many people were wearing shorts or tights that night.  I picked up my race packet and headed back out to the parking lot to find a coworker who was also going to be running.  I finally found her and tagged along as she picked up her packet hoping to absorb any knowledge about this new environment I could from her.  We pinned our race numbers on and decided to leave our packets in her truck.  Not knowing any better I peeled off the perforated tags from the bottom of my race number and left them in my packet.  We lined up towards the back of the pack and before I knew it the race had begun.  I tried to pace myself as best I could, but wound up starting too fast, it was a habit I still have to work hard to avoid.  The actual race it self is just bits and pieces of memories now, the volunteers were dressed in Halloween customs, I did do some walking, and it was a dark night.  I do vividly remember the last turn and sprinting towards the store giving every thing I had to finish strong.  I crossed the finish line and was dimly aware of someone trying to find the tag I had torn off my race number earlier and then walking to find a place to sit down away from the crowd and wanting to throw up.  My coworker eventually found me and brought over something to drink.  I think some door prizes were awarded and then I headed home. I found out later that the tag I had torn off was used in recording the results, so I don't have an official finishing time for my first race.  The night was fun in an odd way and I was eager to try another event.
Kristi and I before the race
Just as we're crossing the starting line

Saturday, March 19, 2011

21 Miles

When I stepped outside this morning the moon was shining brilliantly.  I could easily see my shadow as I started to run to the store. The plan was to run to the store, meet up with the Saturday morning running group, and then possibly run back home with Rick. I chose the 6 mile route to the store and started to make my way around our neighborhood.  The temperature was 26°, but the wind was at a brisk 16 miles per hour. As I headed west I watched a cloud appear to move in and glide past the moon and I wondered, was the cloud really moving, or had I just moved underneath it as I ran. A bit later I heard an odd noise off in the distance, I wasn't sure if it was the wind whipping through the trees or maybe a dog.  A couple minutes later I heard it again and thought it might be geese honking.  At this point I looked up and over the city and saw a pale yellow color in the sky. The reflected light of the city looks nothing the colors of a sunrise.  Turning back to look at the moon I thought it looked much more like a sunrise. Running down Veterans I saw a number of mice that had lost their hiding places as the snow melted this past week, as I approached them they would scurry off into the dark.  The last mile to the store was fairly uneventful, some ice had built up on this sidewalk since Thursday when I last ran this route and I had to slow down occasionally.

Reaching the store with 6 miles already done I could see that we had a great turnout today, the store was mostly filled and we still had about 15 minutes before we'd head out.  I waited to use the bathroom, ate a few shot blocks, and talked with a few people before heading back out with the group.  This weeks route was a little odd, the full marathoners ran a 5 mile loop 3 times, the half marathoners would run a 4 mile loop twice, and the 10k runners would just do an out and back. Us back of the pack runners quickly formed our group consisting of Rick, Kristy, Kris, Maria, Erik, and myself.  We ran the first loop as the course was marked and arrived back at the store for the first rest stop. I had decided this would be where I would take in the majority of my calories and had brought a snickers along, but it had partially frozen in my pocket. It took longer then I thought it would to eat it, and down a 5 hour energy and I had to catch back up to my group. The second loop I modified so that we wouldn't run as much on the sidewalk on 13th Avenue where it was icy and out on road on 17th Avenue where traffic was starting to pick up. The consensus when we got back to the store was to repeat the route we took the second loop but on the third loop we'd run it backwards. Kris and Maria had headed out about a minute before the rest of us and Kristy pushed to catch up with them leaving Erik, Rick and I slowing playing catch up ourselves.  We had an interesting conversation about the importance of doing things to alleviate chaffing and different strategies to avoid it over the mile or so it took us to catch up to the women. The third loop passed quickly and soon we were on the home stretch.  Erik and Kristy started to push the pace and I felt good enough to want to keep up with them but I decided to hold back to be able to run home with Rick.  When we got back to the store I talked with Rick and we decided that 21 miles would be enough for me today if I was going to get another run in on Sunday.  We hung out at the store for a bit chatting before Erin dropped by to pick me up and the mornings adventure was over.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Biggest Loser Update and Future Plans

A quick update on my Biggest Looser progress, down just over 20 pounds in 6 weeks.  With 2 weeks left in the contest I'm in the lead, now I just need to hang on through the end.

This years race schedule is starting to take shape. Right now Erin and I are signed up for the Fargo Marathon and Trail Mix.  Trail Mix is April 16th in Bloomington, MN.  It will be Erin's first 25k trail run, and my first 50k event. The Fargo Marathon is May 21 and will be Erin's first marathon. The other event on our calendar is a birthday run on March 26th.  Rachel and I both have birthdays in late March. Initially she was planning a birthday marathon, but Maggie talked us into doing 30 miles for my 30th birthday. It's going to be fun to run with them on what will be my longest run ever. The schedule beyond May is still up in the air.  I'm thinking about trying to do a half ironman on June 11th, but haven't committed myself to it yet and I'd like to do the 50k at Afton this year. This fall I'd like to find a 50 mile run to do, but haven't really locked in on any specific event yet. I may open the search to include 100k events. Between the big events we'll probably fill up the schedule with things like the Tour of Lakes bike ride, Turtlefest 5k, our anniversary run, and I'm trying to talk Erin and some others into doing Average Joe's for their first triathlon.  It should be another busy summer.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Blizzard Changes Our Plans

Saturday mornings Erin and I run with a training group organized by The Fargo Running Company.  The group is aimed at having people ready to run the Fargo marathon in May. Friday night, just after I've gone to bed Erin comes in with my phone and tells me I just missed a call from Rick.  I call him back and learn that the group run is canceled because of the weather.  So much for my plan to run to the store and with the group.  Oh well, I turn off the alarm and decide that I'll sleep in. When I finally get up Saturday morning my body is screaming at me "WHY AREN'T YOU RUNNING". It's been quite a while since I've missed a Saturday long run. I look at the weather and decide I don't really want to go out with the wind as high as it was.  I also decide I am not going to run on a treadmill for 3+ hours.  This looks like a good spot for a step back week. Later in the day I get a text from Maggie about running on Sunday. We go back and forth for a bit before deciding to run from our house Sunday morning.  The wind should have died down by then, but it will be a little colder, seems like a good trade off.

This morning we get up and get ready.  When I first check the weather the wind is calm and it's 4° out.  We finish getting dressed, Maggie comes over and we head out on our way.  Although the air is cold it feels quite nice out.  We're all dressed well for the conditions and the miles start to pass.  Running along the Old Milwaukee trail we can start to see a runner approaching us.  I ask Erin "Hey, does that look like Erik?" Sure enough one of our friends from the training group comes running up.  We stop and chat for a bit, make some remark about what are the odds of passing each other and then continue on our way.  Shortly after that we stop off at my parents house.  After we'd made plans to run with Maggie, I dropped off some Poweraid there so we could top off our bottles today.  It would up being about the perfect spot along to the route to use the bathroom and  fill up. Our route takes us past the store on our way home and shortly after we pass it we see a couple of runners ahead.  Kris and Maria, the other runners we normally run with on Saturday are running towards us.  We stop and chat with them for a bit and then let them finish the little they have left of their run.  Heading south along veterans was rough going. The sidewalk had not been plowed, but most of the drifts were hard enough to run on top of.  The occasional spot where we'd break through the snow pack slowed us down, but we made it through without having to adjust the route.  The last few miles Erin was feeling a little sluggish, it was the furthest she'd ever gone and a bigger jump then it should have been from the previous week.  Maggie encouraged Erin to pick the pace up in a few spots and we made it back to the house still running strong.  Erin was kind enough to fill up Maggie and my own bottles and then leaving Erin at the house we ventured out for a few bonus miles.  We picked up the pace in places as we started our 5 mile loop, but evened things out with some walking. Maggie tends to run most of her miles on trails and gravel roads so the hard pavement was not treating her very well. We still managed to tough out enough miles to get 20 in for the day. It was a beautiful day for a run and I had a great time with Erin and Maggie.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Two a Day Workouts

Most days I'll run in the morning and cross train after work.  I find the cross training helps keep muscle groups in balance so I don't over develop one area and neglect another. Generally I'll treat 1 workout as a hard one and one as recovery, I may run hard in the morning, but the bike ride in the afternoon is relaxed and is all about just moving.  Conversely I may have a recovery run but bust ass at the gym later in the day. I wouldn't recommend this to most people, but it's been working for me for the past few months.

Every couple of weeks I like to get together with some friends who are ultra runners.  Running with them has always been fun for me.  I admire what they've accomplished and the work that they have put in to make all their goals happen.  They've been incredibly supportive and encouraging when I've gone out with them.  Even though I knew they could easily outrun me they dialed back the pace a little and I've never felt like I was holding the group back. Erin also loves running with this group although when she first had a chance to run with them she was a bit intimidated by their accomplishments as well. It was her first trail run and Erin's running resume at the time was only a couple of half marathons, but after that first run, she was hooked.

Last night we meet up with our friends for a run.  Being a Thursday we had run in the morning with the group from the store, so this would be the second run of the day.  We meet up in Moorhead and soon were prowling the city in the dark.  With the recent snowfall footing was hit and miss along the route.  Some people had shoveled sidewalks and the warm weather had dried them off, while others had left the snow sit slowing us down considerably as we went single file.  The wind was a bit stronger then I had expected and going into it was chilly, but when we turned around the cold was quickly forgotten.  The 5 miles passed very quickly and Maggie and I had enough left to sprint at the end of the run. Runs like this help inspire me to put so much into my training.  When I'm tired in the morning and would rather sleep in or it's just a day I don't feel like putting in the effort I can remember back to experiences like this and know it's all worth while.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Misc Updates and Todays Run With Erin

Biggest Looser Update
I dropped almost 15 pounds in February. Although I've only won 1 week of the competition I'm in the overall lead, each week I seem to be fairly consistent with my weight loss.  There's another month to go, but I'm hopeful I can hang onto my lead to win this.

About 2 weeks ago I heard about a relatively unknown pool in the area from a friend. I've been looking for a good place to start swimming, but I've been concerned about how busy most of the pools in the area are.  I'm just getting started with swimming and I prefer not to embarrass myself too much.  I've heard lane sharing is common at the Y so I've avoided going there, so for the past 2 weeks Erin and I have been going to this other pool and learning how to swim.  It's not like we were completely new to the water, we've just never really focused on getting somewhere quickly in the water. Staring out was as hard as we expected.  Wow do we suck.  However we are making progress.  We've gone 3 times so far but already we're becoming more confident, faster, and able to go longer.  It's just like when we first started running, we had a hard time going 5 minutes on a treadmill.

Tempo Tuesdays
I do my speedwork on Tuesday mornings, lately it's been all treadmill running at the gym so I don't have to worry about footing. An added benefit of the treadmill is I can tightly control my pace and force myself to go as fast as I'm planning.  A few weeks ago I did my first 1 hour 10k and last week I had a monster run getting almost 6.5 miles in 1 hour.  It's nice to see improvements see the gap start to close between my abilities and those I strive to be like.

Saturday Group Runs
The past couple of Saturdays have been cold.  2 weeks ago I saw 22 below at a bank as I ran to meet the group and yesterday was just below zero when I headed out.  Both weeks we've run from the downtown Y and I've run from our house to meet the group there.  They've been solid runs for me, 20 miles 2 weeks ago and 21.75 yesterday. Unfortunately a problem has popped up for Erin.  When we start off her hands are fine and on shorter runs there are no issues.  On longer runs she has issues with her hands getting dangerously cold.  2 weeks ago we shortened the route by a mile because of how bad her hands felt, and yesterday Erin got a ride back to the Y from the final aid station with Rick's wife Kristy.

This Morning
Erin was feeling down about not getting her miles in yesterday and we had picked up some goose down mittens that she wanted to try out. I was a little tired, but wanted to get in a recovery run.  We headed out without a definite plan or route, just seeing how it would go.  Starting out we took the 6 mile route to the store and decided that we'd head back along 42nd street. I mentioned to Erin that if we got 10.5 miles in today she'd have 20 for the weekend. That seemed to help motivate her and we added in a loop to make sure we got the distance in.  The first mile or 2 Erin's hands were almost too warm, but after that they adapted and she was comfortable the rest of the way.  The pace was a little slow, but very enjoyable.  The sun had already come up when we started our run and it snowed the entire time we were out.  After our run we finished the morning with brunch at Famous Dave's.