Even the losers, get lucky sometimes

At some point it has to warm up in Minnesota, it has to – right?  Somebody say yes……..

Last year for the Get Lucky 7k/21k it was roughly 65 degrees. This year? On March 16th it was about 15. While getting lined up at the start, the cold weather and the slick road conditions were the two main topics of conversation. The third was my friend Darik’s secret weapon to beating me in yet another race.

Would you like it better if you were faster?

Would you like it better if you were faster?

Darik had in fact taped a Cheetah to his back. Crap, even though I wasn’t trying to race I certainly couldn’t beat him now.

The cheetah attracted a lot of attention, although not everybody got the reference (I won’t tell anybody if you don’t get it, just click here and be in the know: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3R-rtWPyJY).  And since we were passing people all morning, a lot of folks got to see it go by and have a nice laugh.

I am running 12 Half-Marathons this year (my friend Stacy is pushing me to do 13 half marathons in 2013 – and of course they are 13.1 miles so there is a lot of symmetry there, something to consider) I figured I should start jotting down my thoughts about them, in case I get any bright ideas next year I can remember what the runs were all about.

The Get Lucky 21k is the only Half- Marathon in Minnesota in March, it also happens to be a challenging run that is very well-organized.  2,663 people got officials times this year, considering the weather conditions that was a good turnout.

The course:  The run is an out and back, so there was no net elevation gain or loss.  However, the start line is at 792 feet and right about the turn around point you hit 710 feet so the back half of the race is noticeably tougher.  Definitely a narrow course in many places, particularly the turn around where you get really bunched up.  Not sure about you but the out and back courses are both frustrating (hey the guy that is winning the race is already heading back and I am not close to mile 5 yet)  and motivating (hey look at all these people who I am ahead of!).  The course itself is not really a draw here, but it gets the job done.

Scenery: You run along the river for a time and on the way “out” on the course get a nice view of downtown St. Paul.  The way back “in” when you might welcome some distractions does not offer a lot to look at.

Packet pick up:  There were multiple dates, and an option to have the packet sent to you (watch out for those handling charges).  You could even get you packet for the 21k race morning, which is nice in a pinch.  Thumbs up.

Parking:  $7.50 gets you a spot right next to the starting line, or you can find free parking in the neighborhoods around the start.  Pay the $7.50!  Big thumbs up here.

Swag: A nice “Get Lucky” hoodie, Stain glass finisher medal, free beer coupon on your race bib and you can keep your “Get lucky” timing chip.  Thumbs up with a wiggle!

Port-a-potty situation:  Honestly this should maybe go at the top next time, really I don’t always need to use the potty (I have a three-year old, it’s called potty) but I really like to know I could without standing in line for 25 minutes.  At the start/finish there were plenty of port-a-pottys.  Along the course there were a couple but not many.  Luckily, I did not need to use any on course so the nice set up at the start/finish gets a thumbs up.

Running with your friends?:  This is where I struggle with the “Get Lucky”.  There is a 7k and a 21k, and to make it manageable for the number of people (about 10,000 did the 7k) the race is split into two locations.  7k is in Minneapolis and the 21k is in St. Paul.  My wife did the 7k with friends and her sister, but we were unable to car pool to the race or really hang out afterwards because of the split location.  I don’t know how they make that work with the number of people who run, but it would have added to my enjoyment of the day.

Overall:  It was a good time, and I imagine I will be back next year.  Definitely a fun vibe to the race and tying it in with St. Patricks day obviously helps with the festivities.

Oh, in case you were wondering Darik did beat my by 4 seconds, that cheetah made the difference.


I see dry land

Plans had been made, babysitters had been arranged, and I had been looking forward to running the Gary Bjorkland Half Marathon (part of Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN) since last June. Unfortunately the lottery system was not in our favor, f-bomb.

Conspiracy theory alert:  If you pay to have the race packet shipped to you – then you get in!  Huh?  This is not based on fact and as far as I know is not true, but it sounds plausible.  The best thing about conspiracy theories is they take random events and give you somebody to blame for them.   Not being selected in the race lottery goes from bad luck to a plot by evil race organizers that charge a lot for the “handling” portion of shipping and handling.  I mean come on why would I pay you to ship my packet?  What conspiracy theories do not do, is get you into your race.

So it was back to the drawing board, I need a Half Marathon for June.  My wife and friends (not named here to protect them from the rath of the Gary Bjorkland race directors that now know I am onto them) need a reason to get out-of-town for the weekend and a race to train for.  Enter The Sour Grapes half Marathon in Brainerd, MN.  Here is an excerpt from their website:

“The Sour Grapes half & half run first started in 2001.  A group of runners were unable to secure a spot in the Grandma’s Marathon for that year.  As a result, they decided to organize a run that would be fun, challenging and a means to enjoy the company of other enthusiastic runners; hence, the birth of Sour Grapes half & half.”

Hey that sounds perfect!  Did I mention each finisher gets “a unique finisher token” and it costs $45 less than Bjorkland?  Where do I sign up?

Right here actually: http://www.sourgrapesrun.com/

So it is almost spring, which means rain melting snow, slippery roads and sidewalks covered in puddles.  I love it.  The extra daylight plus temps around or above freezing make running seem easier.  Plus other runners and bicyclist out and about in my neighborhood, which always help keep me going.  I got in 6 miles yesterday morning ahead of the rain that fell for most of the day.  Even before the rain I ended up running down the middle of some side streets to avoid the icy, very cold puddles that were taking over the sides of the street.

I spent most of the run trying to decide if I should upgrade to the new Brooks Trance 12, I love buying running stuff – that should be its own blog soon, I determined I could muddle through the rainy season with the Trance 11’s I already have (dear wife, look at the sacrifices I make for our family. Your welcome).  I also thought through what I want to accomplish at the Get Lucky Half Marathon next week.  I had been looking at slowly building up to the Grandma’s Half Marathon in June but as outlined above that isn’t happening, seriously I am totally over not getting picked.  I did not come to a conclusion before my six miles were up and I was confronted with a one year old that wanted to hang out with me at home.  Fortunately, I have two more runs this week to decide if I am trying to push my pace or keep building toward a fast run in the coming months.  Hopefully there will be some dry pavement this week, I would hate to ruin my shoes 🙂


Sometimes in winter

About 10 minutes before we pulled into the parking lot Matt casually mentioned he was hoping the path didn’t have too much snow on it.  We were out in Independence, MN to run a nice 6.2 mile loop, and assuming things went well we were going to get two laps in.  We did one, kind of on the path.

After a couple of weeks of our schedules not matching up I was finally able to take Matt up on his offer to get in a Sunday run.  I was a little nervous, Matt is way faster than I and I never run with other people.  This was probably the third or fourth time I have specifically run with a person or group in the almost two years I have been running.  I think that is one of the best things about running, you need your running gear and time – that’s it.  No trying to coordinate schedules, no needing a specific place to play; just shoes, shorts, shirt and go.

The path didn’t look promising, at least the path to get to the path, it was covered in 6-8 inches of snow with a couple sets of tracks from others that had walked it.  This was not fluffy white, freshly fallen snow.  This was snow that has melted and refroze everyday the past week.  So you get a thin layer of ice and clumpy uneven snow underneath.  The kind of snow that crunches when you walk, terrible – terrible noise, and tests your knees and ankles stability.  This is what you get in March in Minnesota, Uh oh.

The good news, it looked like the loop had been “groomed”.  Much like a ski hill gets groomed to take out the bumps and even things out the cross-country ski trail and the loop trail looked like they had work done, so Matt and I decided to give it a go.  For the first 3ish miles it was much the same, tread lightly stay on top of the ice layer give those stabilizer muscles a workout and enjoy the wintery scene.  Then suddenly the groomed trail stopped, and we were back to 6 – 8 inches on uneven snow described above.  For reasons that you won’t get if you don’t run, we decided to keep going anyway.

For a good half mile we slogged single file through the snow, our pace slowed but we keep it moving, again no idea why we thought this was reasonable or how neither of us ended up with a sprained ankle or knee.  But we made it to a point where the path intersected the cross-country skiing trail again and since it was groomed we decided that would be preferrable.  I will say the experience gave me a new appreciation for those that do trail running.  The uneven footing and constant changing of the elevation was both exhausting and made the time go by incredibly fast.  We put in one full loop and agreed it was time to take our run to the streets.  After running though the snow running on the asphalt felt really odd, or maybe it was just all the muscles in my legs that I take for granted revolting against me.  Either way I was able to get four more miles out of them, and even walk to the park and back with my daughter this afternoon.

Ten miles for the day, a chance to catch up with a friend (plus get some running tips) and a new appreciation for people who can run where there isn’t a smooth road made for a good Sunday.  Looking back I am still not sure why we decided to run the trail, but I am glad we did, maybe there is something to this running with others thing.