Monday, June 27, 2011

2011 Averages Jo's Sprint Triathlon

Last year I participated in my first triathlon at Average Jo's and I was excited to head back there again this year. I had talked Erin into giving it a try because last year was so fun. This year was also fun, but in a more challenging way.

Erin and I got up early and drove out to Perham. On our way to the park we passed a familiar looking minivan traveling the opposite direction.  As they passed I recognized Cassie and wondered if she was having trouble finding the park.  Then I saw her turn around in our rear view mirror so I slowed down so she could catch up.  When we got to the park there were a few other people there, but not many.  We walked over to Cassie's van and said hello to her family before heading over to pick up our packets and to get marked for the race.

After getting our packets we grabbed our gear and headed for the transition area to setup in a good location.  We found a spot on the last rack right on the end towards the bike exit.  I've heard from other triathletes that it's easiest to be on that end so you don't have to fight getting your bike down the crowded rows during the race.  After racking the bikes we then leisurely unpacked all of our other gear.  Cassie setup right next to us and kind of followed along with what we were doing.  This was her first triathlon too. As we were setting up, I could see the race organizers setting up the buoys for the swim course. Last year the swim stayed near the shore so it was possible to touch the bottom of the lake almost the entire way.  This year the course was straight out into the lake.

As the start time got closer Erin and I decided to head into the water to get used to it while Cassie decided that she would stay out of the lake until the event started. We were told the water temperature was 66°, based on feel it was colder then it was the previous year and colder then the water at liberty where I was wearing a wet suit. Erin was shivering almost immediately, but I seemed to tolerate the cold fairly well.  After being in for a couple of minutes I was quite comfortable.

When the race started I made the decision to walk as far as I could into the lake to minimize the amount of swimming I would have to do.  I hoped I would be able to make it to the first buoy but that was overly optimistic. When I was forced to start swimming I did better mentally then I did during the 1.2 mile swim a few weeks prior.  Knowing that I made it through that definitely helped my confidence and I was relaxed enough to put my head in and swim properly for a while. When I finally emerged from the lake I was near the back of the pack, 150th out of 170 participants.

After jogging up the hill to the transition area I dried off as best I could before putting my biking shoes on.  I struggled to put on my spandex top and red Dick Beardsley shirt before heading out on the bike.  The bike course has a gravel road on a hill at the start and end. This year the gravel was very soft and made keeping momentum difficult and had me concerned about tipping over once I was clipped into the pedals.  Once I cleared the gravel I started to fly.  I was a bit tired from the swim, but it didn't seem to effect me too much.  Throughout the entire 12 miles I kept moving up the field and by the time the bike had finished I had passed 63 people.  On the way back up the hill I stalled out about halfway up and decided just to run the bike back to the transition area rather then risk tipping over.  I shed my bike shoes, put on my running shoes and Garmin  and headed out on the run.

As I started the run I was dripping sweat from the bike and out of breath.  The run starts down a hill and my legs had some difficulty remembering just what running felt like.  Once I had the downhill behind me I started to find a rhythm and build speed.  After going so fast on the bike it felt like I was crawling along, but I was holding a solid pace just under 10 minute miles.  I was able to hold this pace throughout the run until near the end when I came across a guy who looked like he was struggling.  He had started to walk which allowed me to catch him.  When I was along side of him I told him that we should run the downhill and could walk the uphill.  When we made it to the uphill I convinced him to push a little longer and get to the top.  I kept pushing him along in this fashion until we were close enough to sprint to the finish line.  I felt really good about getting him to the finish line a step in front of me.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Track Workout

After the race on Saturday, Erin and I were standing around talking with some friends when one of them invited us to do a track workout with them at Discovery on Tuesday morning.  The last time I had been on a track was in college.  A few of my friends wandered over and were goofing around when we decided to race about 50 meters.  I remember going all out and wanting to puke at the end and still loosing my a large margin.

Since the rain hadn't moved it yet Erin and I decided to give it a try.  Terry said the group meets at 5:30 so we figured we'd be there a few minutes early.  When we got there the parking lot was deserted.  We wandered over to the track thinking that maybe some people live close and just run over, but no one was there either and it looked like the track was locked up.  Eventually we saw someone else who walked over and let us in. She said she normally gets there right at 5:30.  A few minutes later more people started to show up, I guess we were the only ones who didn't know not to show up early.  I ran a few warm up laps and then went over to where the group was gathering.  Today's plan was to run 400 meter repeats.  Every 3 minutes we'd head out once around the track and stop when we finished to rest until the next 3 minute time period.  Erin decided that she wasn't interested in doing any speed work after all the hard running last week.

I made it through 4 of the repeats before I was tired enough that I needed to skip a repeat.  After taking one off I did the next one and needed to take another break after that.  I told Erin this would be my last repeat.  After my 6th repeat I was more then ready to be done for the day.  Erin and I jogged 1 more lap to cool down and we headed home. I think we'll try to work in more track workouts into our schedule.  The flat surface had a lot of cushion and is very nice to run on.  I don't know that we'll be doing the same workouts as the group, but I think it's an environment where we can make a lot of progress.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

2011 Perham Turtlefest 5k

Last year at Turtlefest I put together a great race and improved my PR by around seven minutes to 26:10. My goal for that race was to run under 30 minutes somehow I was able to beat that by a good margin. I was really looking forward to going back this year and trying to improve on that effort. I has hoping that I would be well recovered from the Chase Race and Hillsboro and that my hard effort in each of those races would leave me in better shape for Turtlefest.

Erin and I got up early Saturday morning to drive down to Perham.  When we got there we drove to the park where the race was last year.  On our way to the park we passed what looked like the finish area for the race which seemed odd.  When we got to the park it was empty so we headed back to where we saw the finish line. This year the race organizers had changed. The local cross county coach was running the race now and as part of the change the route had been moved a little.  After picking up our packets we had a little bit of time to kill.  As we waited we saw Jill and talked with her for a while.  Ray also showed up with his kids who were all running the race this year. Erin and I were a little disappointed that Connie didn't come with but we were happy to see the rest of the family with Ray.

Erin and I warmed up and headed over the where the race would start.  The race started on the road and would eventually move onto the bike path. There wasn't chip timing at this race so we both started a bit more forward in the crowd then we normally do.  Since my goal was to improve on my chase race time I had my splits memorized and figured I'd just try to beat each of them by a few seconds.  The first mile I was able to shave off 12 seconds and I was feeling really good.  I figured I would raise the intensity a bit for mile two and hope that I could hang on through the end of the race. I was able to make it through mile two, but I was really feeling the strain of the effort.  The last mile seemed to drag on forever.  I kept looking at the Garmin to figure out how much was left and each time I checked I didn't think I could hang on until the end.  Eventually the route moved out of the trees and I could see where the finish line was.  Somehow I picked the pace up a little knowing that I had a chance to go under 25 minutes. As I rounded the last turn I could see that the clock and gave it everything I had.  When I finished I wanted to throw up but felt good about the effort I was able to give. As I waited for Erin to finish I talked with Ray and Terry.  The congratulated me on my run and my new PR.

As Erin was finishing I shouted encouragement and she gave a strong finishing kick to finish right around the same time as the chase race. I thought she had beaten that time, but we needed to wait for the results to be posted to be sure. Erin wanted to sit for a while after the race to catch her breath.  We talked about how things had gone and she said the thought during the race that she wished she was running a marathon instead so she wouldn't have to be working so hard.  When she was feeling a bit better we got up and went over to check the results.  We confirmed that she had taken a second off her chase race time for a new PR.  I knew I had a good time, but didn't think I would be so high in the overall standings.  I had taken 61 seconds off my chase race time.  I knew it was a good race but I was blown away by how well I was able to do.

Ray's family had a good day with all of them placing in their age groups. Erin came in at 29:13, a new PR, and I had run 24:40 which was good enough for second place in my age group.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

2011 Hillsboro Road Race 10k

Jarrod, Me, Erin, and Rick before the race
Two days after the YMCA Chase Race was the Hillsboro Road Race.  Erin and I both signed up for the 10k.  The day of the race Rick emailed me and asked if we wanted to ride with him in Eunice and I told him we'd love to.  After Erin got off work Rick came picked us up and we headed for Hillsboro. Erin and I were preregistered, but Rick still needed to register. We picked up our stuff while Rick registered and headed back to the camper to drop our shirts and for Rick to change.  Erin and I headed to the starting area while Rick was changing to try to meet up with a friend from the daily mile.  Eventually Jarrod found us which was good because we were having no luck finding him.  We chatted for a little while before Rick found us and it was time to start the race.  At the start there was a slight breeze and it was probably in the upper 70s, but the humidity didn't seem to be too high making for decent running conditions.
The start of the race
Rick and I passing Eunice near the halfway point
Based on the McMillan running calculator and the results of the chase race I knew I could run around an 8:35 pace.  I decided I wanted to be a little more conservative than this and decided I'd shoot for somewhere between 8:45 and 8:50.  My goal was to get the race done under and hour so even if things went poorly at my conservative pace I could still slow down and reach my goal.  Rick's plan was to start off with me to warm up and then start pushing harder.  As we started running he was pushing the pace just a little faster then what I was shooting for, but I figured I'd keep up with him for a while.  Near the 1 mile mark Jarrod passed us and shortly after that Rick started to speed up as well.  I started to look more at my heart rate than pace and tired to find a level where I was working hard but could keep it up for the entire race. As I neared the halfway point I started to develop a side ache that lasted a mile or so before it went away. As the course twisted and turned around town the direction of the wind was always very obvious.  When it was at your back you immediately heated up but when you turned into it you cooled down.  Somewhere between miles 4 and 5, I caught back up to Jarrod who wished me luck on the rest of the race.  I wanted to talk to him more, but was working hard enough that I couldn't talk all that well.  The rest of the race I focused on catching up to the next person and passing them.  As I neared the finish line there was a good sized group of walkers coming in from the 5k.  I avoided them as best I could and crossed the finish line.  After kneeling for a while to let my heart rate drop a little I got up and found some Popsicles that were available to race participants.  With as warm as I was it was the best tasting popsicle I think I've had.  I talked with Rick a little while before Erin finished.

Erin, Jon and Rick after the race
After the race we stood around and talked while door prizes were given out.  When the door prizes were all given out Jarrod headed out but some of the rest of us hung out a little while longer while the winners were announced. As things were winding down we went over to check the official results. I had come in at 53:35 and Erin finished just under 1:05.  Both of us had set PRs.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

2011 YMCA Chase Race 5k

The day after my attempt at the Liberty Half Ironman I was very sore.  My legs felt heavy and my lower back was hurting. I was able to do some light biking at the gym to recover. The biking seemed to help and I was able to bounce back quickly and felt fairly good heading into the chase race.

The day of the race there were some storms moving into the area in the evening.  There wasn't supposed to be much lightning, but there was a potential for some very heavy rain and it was warm and humid. My goal was to try and better my 5k PR of 26:10 from just about a year ago at Turtlefest. Erin was hoping to break the 30 minute mark. We headed towards the downtown Y and on the way realized Erin forgot her Garmin so we had to head back to the house to get it.

When we got to the Y we did a quick search of the crowd for people we knew.  We saw a few acquaintances, but none of the people we hoped to see.  While the kids races were going on Erin and I did a mile to warm up and when we got back to the starting area it had started to rain.  Many of the participants huddled under a tent that had been set up for the race to avoid the rain.  Erin and I headed just across the street to the parking ramp to get out of the rain and avoid the crowd.

A couple of minutes later the announcement was given to line up and we took up a position toward the back of the pack.  Once the race started I hung back before crossing the starting line.  It was chip timing and I wanted to have some room to run once I got going. It didn't take me long to catch back up to Erin and settling down into my planned pace.  The route went south along seventh street and I started to pass a few people.  I wondered if I was heading out too fast, but decided to stick to my plan.  As I crossed 13th Ave. a guy had gotten out of his truck and was yelling at the volunteer blocking traffic.  I think I heard him whine something to the effect of why does the route have to go here.  I laughed with some of the other runners near me before continuing on.

When I passed the halfway point I thought to myself, "only a mile and a half left, I should be done in 20 minutes" It took a few seconds before I realized if this was the halfway point I could just look at how long I had been running and see how much longer it would take.  I was relived when I saw I would only be running for another 12 minutes or so.  I was huffing and puffing, but was still holding my pace.  I wanted to slow down, but kept thinking about how soon this would all be over.  When the route reached island park again I was happy to have some downhill to help keep the pace up, but I knew I would have to pay for it with some uphill just before the finish.

As I approached the last uphill there was a guy in front of me who looked like he was in good shape.  He definitely wasn't breathing as hard as I was and I thought he would easily finish before me.  As we went up the hill I kept gaining on him and moved off to the side to pass him.  I thought for sure he would pass me just after turning the last corner, but he didn't.  I looked up to see 25 minutes still on the clock and I dug deep to finish strong.  As I passed the finish line I stopped the Garmin and staggered over to where volunteers were removing chips.  After they cut mine off I grabbed some water and headed back along the course a little ways to wait for Erin. From where I was standing I had a good view of the course and of the clock.  Right on schedule I saw her turn the corner and I let out a yell.  As she ran past I gave another shout of encouragement and followed her to drop off her chip.

We had both met our goals, I had finished in 25:41 and Erin had come in around 29:14. Now we just need to recover before running the Hilsboro 10k on Thursday.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

2011 Liberty Half Ironman

Last year, I participated in my first triathlon at Average Jo's in Perham.  It was a sprint triathlon and I had a lot of fun.  I figured if I could do that last year then this year I could step it up and do something a bit longer so I registered for the half ironman option at Liberty. A half ironman is a 1.2 mile swim followed by a 56 mile bike ride and finishing with a half marathon (13.1 miles).

With all my long distance running events this spring, training for the bike and swim portions of the triathlon was largely done as cross training between my focused workouts on running. I've accumulated about 1000 miles of biking during the past 6 months but most of those miles have been short easy rides.  I had been swimming regularly until recently when finding pool time has been a bit harder with my event schedule.  I'm a stronger swimmer then I was last year, but going into the event I've lost a bit of my swimming fitness that I had a few months ago.

One of our running friends, Ray, was also doing Liberty this year.  We decided to drive together which worked out great for me because I could talk to him about all of the small details along the way.  Friday after I got off work, I packed up all my gear and drove over to pick up Ray.  As I waited for him to get all of his things together, I chatted with his wife Connie who I had run the twin cities marathon with last fall.  It was great catching up with her and hopefully we'll have a chance to run together this summer.  Once we had Ray's stuff packed up we headed back to our place to pick Erin up and were on our way out of town.

Finding the hotel was easy and as we walked in packet pickup for the race was in full swing.  Erin and I checked into the hotel first and then picked up my packet.  I quickly looked through it and saw some familiar and unfamiliar things. I recognized the timing chip and strap from other races as well as the bib number.  In addition to this I also found a bright pink sticker and a sheet of paper with my number on it that looked like it was meant to be folded over and stuck to itself.  I asked Ray about these items and he said the sticker was for my helmet and the other sheet of paper was for the bike.  Did I mention it was nice having someone there who had gone through all of this before?  We dropped our stuff off in the hotel and waited a few minutes for Ray's buddy to show up before heading out to get a bite to eat.  Since no one had a strong preference for where to eat, we decided to go to the restaurant right next to the hotel.  After supper, Ray and Ryan left to visit a local triathlon supply store and Erin and I headed back to our room. We decided to meet up with Ray at 5:00am the next morning to find a place to grab breakfast.

Neither Erin or I slept very well and I was up before the alarm went off.  I quickly packed up my stuff and loaded up our truck.  On my way out, I discovered that instead of the hotels normal 7:00am start to their breakfast they had it ready before 5:00am.  I called Ray and we decided just to eat here instead of finding a restaurant. As far as hotel breakfasts go, this one was good.  I had some premade french toast warmed up in the toaster with some sausage before heading back and making myself a waffle.  The breakfast area was packed when we got there, but quickly cleared out as the other athletes left for the park. We decided it was time for us to get going as well and followed Ryan to the park.
Ray and I before the start of the race in the transition area
When we got to the park we were directed to a parking lot and started to unload our gear to setup in the transition area.  We had to walk about a quarter of a mile from the truck to the transition area.  On our way into the transition area, volunteers were marking participants.  On our right arm, left shoulder, and front and back of our right leg was our race number.  Also on the right leg was an X indicating Ray and I were both doing the long course.  On back of our left leg was our age.  After getting marked we entered the transition area and Ray picked out a spot along the fence.  Erin was allowed to enter the area to drop off the stuff she was carrying, but after that she had to leave.  Since Ray picked out a spot by the fence Erin just hung out on the other side and could chat with us as we got ready.  We lined up our gear on the ground and put some sunscreen on before it was time to put on the wet suits.  This was only the second time I had mine on and it would be the first time I've used it in the water. We walked down to the lake and had a chance to get in the water.  It was much warmer than I thought it would be.  Ray and I swam out a while and I was happy with how the wet suit felt. I got out of the water for the prerace announcements.  When I got out of the water I ran into our old neighbor JJ.  We chatted for a bit before the announcements and then headed over to the start area to wait for the race to begin.
JJ and I before the race
Waving to Erin before we start
Ray and I were both in the third wave for the swim and JJ and Ryan were in the second.  There was 5 waves of participants for the long course and 4 for the Olympic distance.  Each wave was 3 minutes apart with the first Olympic wave waiting a few extra minutes after the last wave from the long course.  When it was time for my wave to start, I ran out into the water until it was about waist deep and dove forward to swim.  I got a few strokes in before getting hit by some splashing when I was trying to breathe.  This was one thing I was not prepared for.  When I did my training in the pool, I didn't have to contend with this level of traffic.  I tried to collect myself and started swimming again. My breathing wasn't as deep as it should have been and I felt a little panicked but I struggled along as best I could.  After I managed to start swimming and put my head in the water, I figured I should probably look up to make sure I was still on course.  I felt like I had been going straight the entire time, but when I looked up I had been heading off to the right by quite a bit and had attracted the attention of one of the kayakers. I tried to correct my course and when I looked up again it seemed like I hadn't made any progress.  I was feeling a lot of anxiety about the rest of the swim and thought  about dropping out even though I wasn't even a quarter of the way through the swim.  I was breathing quick and shallow and knew I needed to turn things around if I was going to finish the swim. A guy on a kayak came over and asked if I needed to rest.  I took him up on the offer and grabbed on.  The rules state that you can rest by using aid like this, but you can't move forward along the course while you're getting aid.  I took a few seconds to collect myself and tried to relax my breathing before heading out again. I decided that I was more comfortable keeping my head out of the water and being able to keep an eye on the buoys. After reaching the next buoy, I looked ahead and thought that this was going to be impossible for me.  The turn around for the Olympic course was still way out there and I needed to go past where that was. The field was starting to thin out as people from the waves that started after I did continued to pass me.  I was using my legs to propel me much more than I had intended to. Because I wasn't putting my head in the water to swim properly, I needed to use my legs if I was going to get anywhere.  I rolled onto my back and did the backstroke for a while before rolling back on my stomach and sighting the buoys again.  Even on my back, I was still pulling to the right and couldn't seem to stay on course.  Somehow I made it out to the buoys indicating the Olympic turn around and was able to finally get a good look at how much further I would need to go before I could turn around.  The swimmers I could see around me all looked like they were struggling as well which helped my confidence a little. Maybe I wasn't doing as poorly as I thought I was.

When I reached the turn-around I was feeling quite proud.  I had just gone what seemed like an impossible distance.  Now I just needed to turn around and do it again.  For some reason, once I turned it felt like I was hardly moving so I put my head in the water and tried to work hard to get going again.  I was still having problems breathing because of the waves, but I managed to feel like I was making progress again.  I stopped for another rest at another kayak and the guy gave me some words of encouragement.  He talked about how far he had gone paddling to this point and I had gone further than this since I was on my way back. The rest and kind words seemed to help and soon I was on my way again.  When I made it back to the Olympic turn around I met up with the bulk of the swimmers participating in that event.  In some ways it was comforting to have more people around again, but the trade off was more waves and the occasional bumping into people.  There was one guy who seemed like he was trying to occupy the same space I was and I had to take a few moments to spit water out and collect myself after our encounter.  I tried some more of the backstroke, but with more swimmers around me it didn't work too well.  I remember turning over to my stomach at one point and it felt like my brain did an extra turn.  I was feeling a little light headed and I wasn't quite sure why.  Fortunately, I was getting close to the end of the swim and tried to keep focused on moving forward.  As I neared the shore, I tried to see if I could start walking but wasn't close enough yet.  I put my head down and pushed hard again and soon enough I was able to start to see the bottom.  It felt great once I was able to stand up again and walk toward the shore.  As I left the lake, I felt a lot like how I imagine it feels being born.  I was lightheaded and dizzy, wet, and I had no idea what was going on.  I struggled to walk up the hill to the transition area thinking I should maybe be running at this point.  Then I realized running was not going to happen in the condition I was in and kept lumbering up the hill. I had given everything I had in the water and wasn't sure I could do much at all on the bike. I found Erin waiting for me and I asked how long I had been in the water.  She told me I was right around an hour and I felt a little encouraged.  I felt like it had been a lot longer and was happy that I was close to being on schedule.

Getting out of the wet suit took a little more effort then I would have liked.  I remembered to take my timing chip off first, but had trouble reaching the strap attached to the zipper.  Eventually I found it and started to pull the suit off.  My balance wasn't the greatest at this point and I stumbled a bit.  My plan was to eat a nutty bar and take a 5 hour energy, but I forgot all about the 5 hour energy with as tired as I was.  I made sure I put my helmet on first so I didn't forget it and get disqualified.  I started to walk my bike to where I could mount up.  The bike course begins with a hill climb and I took it easy to start off with.  Knowing that my time in the swim was close to what I was expecting, I thought I had a good chance to make the cutoff for the run if things went well.  I figured I'd hold back for the first loop of the course on the bike and then try to pick up the pace the second time through when I had a better idea of how much time I'd need to make up.
Heading out on the bike
The course was well marked and most intersections had people stopping traffic so slowing down was unnecessary.  The hills were more then what we have around here, but for the most part the terrain was friendly.  The up and down did make it a little hard to figure out how well I was pacing.  I could look at my overall average pace, or my average for the current 5 mile section, but it didn't help much as the up and down hill would wildly swing my current pace. There was a good amount of other participants around me on the first loop. A few people were doing the long course with me, but most were doing the Olympic distance and only needed to do one loop.  Near the end of the first loop there is a steep hill.  At the top of the hill you turn right on your first loop and left on your second.  As I approached a volunteer asked me which loop I was on and I told him.  He told me to go right and said he would see me in just a little bit for the second loop.  I thought he was a bit optimistic but appreciated the encouragement and pushed on into loop two.

I picked up the pace a little on my second trip around the bike course.  At this point there weren't too many other riders around me, but most of the time I could see at least 1 other rider.  I started to pass people and felt good about my chances of making the cutoff.  The first half of the second loop continued to go well for me.  After getting halfway on the second loop I started to fade.  I had gone through the water that I had with me and was anxiously awaiting the next bottle exchange.  Unfortunately, I knew it would be a while before I would get there and started to back off on the effort I was putting in.  In addition to being behind on hydration, I was getting very sore from the swim and being on my bike for so long.  I could feel a little bit of cramping near my hips but it didn't get too severe.  As I continued my ride, I ran across other bikers who were just out for a ride on a beautiful day.  Most of them wished me good luck as they passed me and it was nice to hear some positive words when I was hurting so much. The further I went the more and more I needed to get off the saddle to climb hills.  As I climbed, my legs burned but the downhill gave me a chance to rest and the burning subsided. When I reached the steep hill, I dropped it all the way down to first gear and did everything I could to keep going forward and keep the bike upright. At the top of the hill I made the turn to do the out and back part of the course.  I was thinking I was way behind everyone, but going head to head was a little encouraging to see other people who were a few miles ahead of me.  I was looking at my watch and doing a little bit of math and I started to realize that I would miss the cutoff. I rode the rest of the course without the volunteers at the intersections as they were pulled at the cutoff time. I pushed through the rest of the bike and arrived back at the transition area.  Erin was there to greet me and I asked her if she had seen volunteers pulling people off the course when they got back. She hadn't seen them doing this, so I had a little dilemma about whether to continue or not. Based on the condition I was in, I decided that calling it a day would be the safest option.  If support was pulled from the run course, I would not be able to make it and even with support, I was behind on my hydration and could easily get myself into trouble.
Coming in after 56 miles
After deciding that I was done for the day, I changed into some more comfortable clothes before heading over to the finish line to drop off my timing chip.  After that, I headed over to where they were serving food.  Erin told me about how she's been smelling them grilling for hours.  I wolfed down a couple of mini burgers before heading back for a couple more. It was amazing how delicious they were.  We then went back to the finish line to wait for Ray.  As we waited, we saw JJ finish.  I went over and congratulated him and chatted briefly about how it went.  A few minutes after he left we cheered as Ray finished.  When he saw me his first words were "I'm sorry."  We met him at the end of the finish chute with his jacket.  It was a little cold in the park and I figured he'd want it right away.  We went over the food area and I talked a little about how it went for me.  I was a little disappointed in my DNF, but it was hard to feel too bad about what I had accomplished.  I'm amazed that I was able to complete the swim and after all of that exertion, bike 56 miles.  I need to come back to this event and finish the half iron man, but I'm sure it will happen.  I learned a lot this year and will be able to improve next time I try.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

2011 Birthday Run: A wife's perspective

A while back I asked Erin to put together a writeup of my birthday run from her perspective. For reference, this is what I remembered about the run. Here's what she came up with.

The Birthday run idea came from a close running friend, Rachel. It is her birthday in March as well as Jon’s. I had thought about trying to put together an organized run with some friends for Jon’s birthday, but when we heard Rachel was planning something, we decided to join birthday celebrations and do one big run together. Since Jon was turning 30 this year, it was decided some brave souls were going to attempt 30 miles in his honor. Shortly before the day of the run, Rachel had some injuries that were not determined – it was believed she could have stress fractures in her leg – definitely not something to mess around with. She decided to back out of the birthday run (for very good reasons!) although she still organized the event and got up early that morning to see us off. We headed over to Maggie and Cory’s house the morning of so we could carpool together out to Hawley, MN – the location of the birthday run. Jerry, an Ultra runner friend decided to join us for the run as well. A couple of new runner friends, Eric and David were joining us from Grand Forks for the day. They had met Rachel through the dailymile website and were willing to travel down for the day to join our adventure. It was nice having some new people to run with – these guys are super nice and encouraging! J So, after they found their way to Maggie and Cory’s house, we decided who was going to drive in which vehicle and headed out to Hawley. The weather was hovering around 10 degrees, which was welcoming compared to the negative temps we’ve had previously. The wind was calm to begin with but picked up after a while. We met at a church just outside Hawley and everyone got their gear ready. We were ready to begin the birthday adventure run!
All seven of us (Jon, Maggie, Cory, Eric, David, Jerry, and I) headed out together as a group. Jerry started singing Happy Birthday to Jon so we all joined in. The rest of the group started out pretty fast, I was trying to reign myself in since I’m not used to starting so fast – I was worried I’d get burned out from the first couple of miles. The original route was a big loop, but since Cory and I were a little worried about being too far away from the truck, we decided to do our own route. I had been battling some ankle tendinitis issues and he had some foot issues that were giving him problems. So, since neither one of us wanted to be too far from the truck, we decided to go out two miles in one direction and then head back to the truck and then repeat that with a couple of other roads, shooting for a total of 12 miles. Jerry wanted to get about 15 in, so he went with the rest of the group – they were all shooting for around 30 miles total. Cory and I were only able to run with the rest of the group for about a mile before their route broke off from ours. Although I was bummed that I wasn’t going to be able to run more of Jon’s birthday run with him, I knew it was the right call. Plus, I knew Jon was in good hands with Maggie. I trust her and know that she can get Jon through some tough miles.
With that, we said our good-byes and good lucks and Cory and I headed on alone. I hadn’t really known Cory all that well before this run, but I was fortunate enough to run with him today. It was really nice getting to know him better. Time flew by and both of us were feeling pretty good. My ankle wasn’t causing too many issues and his foot wasn’t bothering him, either. We cruised along, letting the miles add up behind us. I really found out that Cory and I are a lot alike – we both like to have very concrete plans of what a run is going to be before we head out, whereas both of our spouses like to wing it and put on “bonus miles!” We had a great time chatting about all different kinds of things. I was concerned that I was holding Cory back because I knew he was much better on hills than I, but he reassured me he wasn’t out to break any speed records. We saw a deer on our run (or should I say Cory saw a deer and pointed it out to me – I never would have noticed it!) As we got closer and closer to it, he kept running a little further away – but always in the same direction we were running. Finally, he got frustrated that we weren’t leaving him alone and he darted off into the woods almost taunting us to follow him. On our last out and back road, we were both starting to have some issues. My ankle was starting to bother me and he was starting to feel light-headed. I offered him some shot blocks, which definitely seemed to help. We ended up walking most of the last mile and a half although Cory ran the last little bit to get his mileage up to 12. I had just shy of 12, but was worried about my ankle, so quit while I was ahead.
We got back to the truck right about the same time the group was returning to the vehicles after their first loop of about 13.5 miles. I asked Jon how he was doing – he said he was struggling. I was a little worried that he was struggling already when he wasn’t quite half ways done. I knew that the rest of the group could run much faster and I was wondering if perhaps they had tried to keep the brisker pace that they had originally set out on. Later on, I found out that was the case and Jon had managed to keep the pace with them, but it meant that the rest of the run was going to be harder because he had gone out too fast to begin with. Jon grabbed his bacon sandwich and scarfed it down while the others refueled or switched out some gear. Pretty soon, they were ready to head back out again. Jerry wanted to put in a few more miles before heading home, so he joined them for another mile or so before turning back. The others were in the long haul for about 16.5 more miles.
After they headed out again, Cory and I took turns changing into warm dry clothes. When we were ready, Cory drove in the direction they were headed until we caught up with them. At this point, Eric and David were going further ahead and every once in a while looping back to catch up with Maggie and Jon.  Cory knows exactly what to do when crewing for Maggie – I realized I should be taking notes so that I know what to do in the future when Jon needs me to do this for him. He would stay within a mile or so of the runners, either ahead of or behind and make sure he was available if needed. Occasionally, we would refill water bottles, get Powerade out or find some snacks or other gear they needed. Some water bottles would freeze up, so we’d put them up by the heater to thaw out while we dug out a different water bottle for them to use in the meantime. It was fun seeing them out there conquering the hills and putting in way more miles than I can imagine taking on right now. Cory and I found things to chat about and he played around with the new ipad touch he got to try out from his workplace. I had brought a book, but was more interested in watching the runners and seeing what I could do to help them on their journey. It was hard watching Jon struggle – I knew he was hurting but didn’t know what I could do to help. Cory had some wise words for me – just be there for him – get what he needs and that’s all you really can do. He said, sometimes we might know what they need before they do – we might have to think for them and anticipate what they need before they realize they need it. I never know what to say to encourage runners as they set out to do something they have never accomplished before. For a few of the runners (Jon and Eric), this was going to be the longest run either of them has done before. I was grateful for Maggie because she was watching out for Jon and would tell him that he needed to drink more, or that he needed to consume “x” amount of calories the next time he saw us. It was getting harder and harder for Jon to eat. He even refused a nutty bar – which he normally LOVES. Maggie would run ahead a little with Eric and David and then come back and make sure Jon was ok. Jon was starting to walk more and more – especially up the brutal hills. I could tell the miles were taking a toll on him. At one point, I remembered that he had a 5 Hour energy shot in the pick-up and ran out to give it to him. He had forgotten he had it with and was happy to take it. It definitely helped him later on. I knew that I couldn’t have him stop too long at the truck or he would want to call it quits and hop in. At one point, he stopped to get a short rest and leaned on the truck for a while – anything to take pressure off his aching feet. I could tell his body was hurting and his legs were to the point of ready-to-be-done.  Maggie quickly reminded him not to rest too long – she knew that he needed to keep moving. I think Jon would’ve been ready to call it quits if I had let him sit down in the truck. The turn-around point was a huge mental break through for Jon – I could tell his spirits improved when he knew he was over half way done and the rest of the way would be a little more downhill than uphill as well as the wind at their backs.
Eric and David finished their 30+ mile run and decided to hop in the back of the truck as we drove behind Jon and Maggie for the last couple of miles. Eric and David were both thrilled to be done – they did a great job! I could tell when Jon saw the church because his spirits lifted and his pace quickened. We all got out of the truck and cheered Maggie and Jon on as they reached the church parking lot. Jon finished strong right after Maggie. I was so proud of him for pushing through the physical and mental hurdles he was faced. We all gave high fives and took some pictures before we hit the road back home. All in all, a great run for all those involved. Thanks everyone for making it such a memorable day! 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

North Country Trail Hike

Saturday after the Buffalo River Run we drove out to Rick's cabin to go on an organized hike put on in part by his brother John.  The hike was a 4 mile point to point route on the North Country Trail through an area that John helps maintain. We made it through the trail run without picking up any tics, but we made up for it on the hike.  I lost count of how many I picked off during and after the hike.  After our hike we enjoyed some burgers before heading back to town to cap off our busy day.
Ricks brother John (In blue)
Erin and I before the hike
Erin(In green) and the rest of the group before the hike
Erin and Kristy
The conga line on the trail
Some moss with stuff sticking out on top.  I think that was the technical term.

The blue marks indicate we're on the trail.
Big stuff growing on a tree trunk.  Again I'm using technical terms.
Rick on a bridge on the trail.
A beaver chewed this tree down, where it chewed was nice an smooth, but where it cracked as it fell over had stuff growing in it.
Top view of the tree
Looks like the beaver didn't finish this one off.  Quitter.

Small stuff growing on the first floor
A toilet with a view
I won't want to sit on this
Large mushroom.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Buffalo River Trail Run 2011 10k

The day began with a meetup in the K-mart parking lot as is becoming the tradition for out of town events. Rachel, Penny, Maria, Erik, Erin and myself met up with Rick and Kristy who were driving the camper to fit all of us. After loading our things into the camper we headed out to the park. We timed it to get out to the park right at 6:00 when packet pickup began.  As we were getting out of the vehicle, we met up with Heather and Doug.  Rick and Kristy still needed to register, but the rest of us were preregistered. For some reason Erin's registration didn't get processed correctly, but it was taken care of quickly. After picking up our packets we retreated to the camper to put bib numbers on and chill for a bit. Rachel and I wanted to warm up a bit before the race started and as we started to head out there was a suggestion to take a group picture.  Doug was kind enough to take pictures of the group with all of our cameras.  After pictures Rachel and I started to run along the route for the race.  It gave me a chance to pick her brain about Liberty as we ran.  I asked as many questions as I could think of and she gave me all the advice she could before we completed our warm up and were back in the starting area.  We waited with the others as the race director made last minute announcements.  

A few minutes after 7:00, the race started for the 10k runners. 5k runners would start about 10-15 minutes after the 10k to give us some time to clear out of the way.  I started off right around the pace I was running at the start of this year's Fargo Marathon.  My plan was to be conservative for the first two thirds of the race and then open it up and see what I had.  After 30 seconds I had lost sight of Rachel and the rest of our group started behind me so I was on my own.  We looped around on some trails near the river before passing the swimming hole.  I had found a decent rhythm and things were going well.  A few of the runners around me were already gasping for breath.  I figured they had started a bit too fast and were going to have a long day if they kept up the same level of effort.  My breathing was still controlled and deliberate, even with the fairly brisk pace I was keeping.

Shortly after passing the swimming hole and crossing the bridge to the south side of the river, Rick caught up with me.  He had started in the back of the pack and his plan was to run by heart rate.  We chatted for a bit about the course and how well organized the race seemed. From what we had seen so far, there had been volunteers at every intersection pointing the way as well as an excessive amount of marking on the course.  We didn't think it was possible for anyone to get lost with all the steps the race director had taken. Without really thinking about it, I had been speeding up along with Rick.  Once I realized this I told him I needed to let him go and we parted ways. As he pulled away, I heard him joke with a couple of girls ahead of me that the mud hole we were currently going through was the first water stop.

This part of the course was out in the open, we were running though a fairly flat prairie away from the river.  There wasn't any shade and we either had the wind at our back or it was calm and I was heating up quickly.  Sweat and sunscreen dripped into my eyes stinging them a little.  At the start of the race, I saw Rachel tie a rag onto her fuel belt.  I wished I had the same foresight to bring something along to wipe the sweat off my face.  Once we finally turned back towards the river, the breeze picked up and felt wonderful.  There was another section that was muddy, but like the first area they had put down some planks to run on and keep out of the slop.

When we reached the tree line along the river, the 10k course met back up with the 5k route.  There was an aid station there and I grabbed a cup of water before heading off again.  We followed along the river and I started to pass people. I was unsure if they were 5k or 10k participants.  I found a couple of girls that I had seen start the 10k with me and had been running right around the pace I had been going.  I decided that I would let them pace me for a while and took up a position just behind them.  I kept up with them for another mile or so until just before the next aid station.  I passed this aid station without taking anything because I still had my handheld bottle of poweraid.  Looking up ahead, I thought I saw John Lindquist, but with the sweat in my eyes and not wearing my glasses I couldn't be sure.  I picked up the pace a little to close the gap between us.  When I caught him, I slowed a bit and he sped up just a bit so we would stay together.  I asked him how it was going and he told me that he started too fast.  He was keeping up with Heather and it didn't feel too fast until he got a few miles in.  I did what I could to lift his spirits and try to get a little more out of him than he was ready to give.  We stuck together for a little more than a mile before he said he needed to back off a little and let me go.

Once I left John, I was focused on the finish.  There was less then a mile left and I didn't need to hold back any longer.  After passing the last aid station there was a nice downhill that I flew down.  I felt good and took full advantage of the hill.  I crossed the bridge back to the north side of the river and thought about the upcoming hill.  Last week when Erin, Erik and I ran the course we walked up the hill because of it's steepness.  Today I felt good enough that I would try to run it.  Going up the hill wasn't too hard, but when I got to the top is when it hit me.  My heart was pounding and I was struggling to breathe.  There was less then a quarter of a mile left and I kept pushing.  The finish line was a bit further away then I would have liked, but I was able to keep up the strong effort.  The last hundred feet or so I could hear someone coming up fast behind me.  It was a girl I had passed right after the hill and she was at a dead sprint. I made up my mind she would not pass me and started to sprint myself. I think I heard Rachel shout some encouragement, but I was working hard enough that it barely registered in my brain.  Giving it everything I had, I held her off to the finish line.  Volunteers pulled off the tag from my bib and I took a few steps forward to get out of the finisher's chute.  Heather and Doug were there to greet me as I went down on one knee to catch my breath.  I finally remembered to turn off my Garmin and saw my time was just a little over 1 hour.
Kristy, Maria, Penny, Rachel, Erik, Erin, Jon, Heather, Rick before the race

Friday, June 3, 2011

Heading into the racing season

Since the Fargo Marathon I've had a couple of weeks to relax before the crazy racing season hits.  I've been recovering well and starting to get back into my training schedule.  Tomorrow is the Buffalo River State Park 10k.  I'm excited to hopefully improve on my 10k PR and to have a chance to do an event with most of my running friends.

The following weekend is the Liberty Half Ironman.  I'm starting to get nervous about that event.  I'm hoping I'll make the cut offs, but I think there's a good chance I won't be able to even start the run portion of the event. I'm trying not to worry too much about it, and just have confidence that I'll be able to make it through.

The Y has a summer challenge that's been keeping me focused the past few days. Each day you go to the Y you get a stamp on a card that can be redeemed for prizes as you accumulate the stamps.  It's funny how small things like this keep me motivated.