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.


Slow down you’re moving too fast…

When you have a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old you don’t expect to get to sleep in……. ever.  Something is going to happen by 7:00 am to get you out of bed, and this is the best case scenario.  It is also the reason Saturday morning cartoon were invented.  So, I did not bother to set the alarm for my morning Half Marathon today. There simply wasn’t a need, except today of course!

Through some incredible aligning of the stars I slept until 7:40 am, which was awesome.  Unfortunately, I slept until 7:40 am when I needed to leave the house at 8:00 am to get to the start of the “Half Fast” Half Marathon with enough time to do the normal pre-race things.  You know, stand in line for a bathroom/port-a-potty, warm up and get all your running gear situated (this takes way more time than it should, especially for a cold weather run).  I didn’t get out the door until about 8:15 and realized immediately I had to get gas, crap.  I was not going to make it to the start on time.

So, I drove fast, did a lot of lane changing, and said mean things about responsible drivers that dared cross my path.  I knew it was going to be tight, I knew I was not going to have time to do my pre-race things, I knew that “I am totally late for my Half Marathon officer” was not getting me out of a speeding ticket if I got pulled over.  At 8:57 am I pulled into the parking lot, three minutes to race time.  A brisk walk across the parking lot while putting on layers of cold weather gear and untangling headphones counted as my warm up.  I made it to the start line in time for the race countdown, but not for the bathroom break that I needed.

A quick tangent here, I run slow.  The worry about the bathroom break is not so much about winning my age group, or hitting my goal time as it is about not placing last in my age group, or hell last overall.  I checked the race times this evening and there were only 148 finishers.  When I run a half marathon in MN, in February, and only 148 people show up there is a strong chance I could be the slowest person (I was not, even with TWO bathroom breaks on the course I came in 121st, thanks for asking).  Point being, I know I am slow I just want to know I am not the slowest person there that day.  I need to potty before the race (yes I have a three-year old we call it “potty”) because I am not making that time up on the course.

The run itself was on an open course that twisted and turned its way through Vadnais Heights, MN (open course = cars on the road with you wondering why the F all these people are running down the side of the road).  The race director sent out a list of all the places you turn to help people prep, there were 23 turns listed and 2 turn arounds.  Some how I managed to stay on the course, not have any close encounters with cars and enjoy the run (win!).  It was cold but sunny (temp at the start was about 6 degrees but it was 20 by the time I finished so I was feeling good) the volunteers were cheerful and the route kept me on my toes.  All in all I would definitely recommend the Half Fast Half Marathon if you are looking for a cold weather run in MN (they also had a half of a half and a 5k).  I would sugguest setting your alarm to get there on time though.

To check if my wife actually reads these I will let you in on a secret (shh, don’t tell her).  When I went to the Grocery store this afternoon I bought myself a doughnut as a treat for completing my February Half Marathon.  I ate it on the way home and did not get one for her ( no she did not run today).  Is this a big deal?  Maybe not.  Will I get an exasperated look if/when she finds out?  Absolutely.  Doughnuts are serious business around here (Raspberry Bismark if you were wondering).

Two down, ten to go.

That was a good run break….

They cancelled the half-marathon I was supposed to run today.  Well, first they shortened it to 10 miles, then they cancelled it.  So they cancelled the 10 mile run that was a half marathon that I was going to run today; totally the right call too.  Freezing rain, snow, sleet and awful road conditions are not your friend when running or driving 80ish miles to get to your run.

This is the first organized run I have been a part of that got cancelled.  I know the wording always says “We reserve the right to cancel this run and keep your cash…” but I never really paid attention to that until now.  In this case the run was “Lace Up Against Brest Cancer” in Rochester, MN.  And in this case I have no complaints that the organization and charity are keeping my entry fee (another reason to run events with a good charity or cause behind them, if you need more than “hey this is a good cause here, runner”).

On my quest to run an organized half marathon every month this year, February was looking bad.  In Minnesota finding winter runs is hard, and I don’t have much of a travel budget.  Needless to say (why do people say “needless to say” and then say something afterwards? clearly you needed to say it or you just wouldn’t, right?) I was bummed.  I got my January half in, I am signed up for halfs (do you use the plural “halves” in this situation? I say no) in March and April already but the February slot was empty.  Google search and fortunately for the low – low price of $35, I was able to find a Half Marathon next week.  The “Half Fast” half marathon in Vadnais Heights, MN.  Belive it or not Half Marathons in MN, in February don’t fill up! So I am back in the saddle (looking sunny with a high of 18 – low of 3, thanks for asking).

Today the weather and the cancelled run meant treadmill time, five miles of treadmill time -booooooo.  Boooooooo!  When people tell me they hate running I always ask if they run outside or on the treadmill.  If they say “treadmill at the gym” I usually agree with them.  “Yeah, I really don’t enjoy running on the treadmill at the gym either.  Try running outside, you may just dislike running instead of hating it then .”  I don’t think I have converted any non-runners to runners with this tactic but I will keep trying.

I ran for 5 treadmill miles, I wondered why the woman next to me kept getting off her treadmill and coming back 2 minutes later, I ate 3 free Tootsie rolls when I was done.  See, treadmill runs are boring.  Since I have not written anything for a long time I will ease back into it, don’t want to go out to strong and pull a hammy.

Time keeps on slipping

When I have time to write blogs, I usually have limited material.  When I have material for my blogs, I have no time.  Like this past week.  After being stuck in the Denver airport things got crazy.  I did get home safely and so did my bags!  Thanks for asking!

We ran the dash, we ran the MONSTER dash last Saturday (Halloween theme).  I completed my first run in a kilt, which was fantastic.  Somebody should market running kilts, I would be all over them.  It was the first run in over 8 years that I ran with my wife Jenn.  It was nice to run with her, not sure she felt the same as she turned up the tunes to drown out my whining about my colds hands around mile 5 :).

I sweated out hurricane Sandy waiting to fly from Boston to Iceland, I made it on Tuesday, and now have been enjoying Iceland Airwaves music festival with my friends Jeff, Holly and Noberto.  It has been A-mazing.  We have seen 10ish great bands and taken in the scene.

At some point I will write something reasonable to try to sum up, today I am just checking in.  We have sustained winds of 35 mph outside with hurricane force gust reaching up to 75+ mph today so we have been inside a little more (hence this post).  That will not stop us from hitting the streets tonight for the shows!  FM Belfast is the headliner we want to see.

Top 3 Running Songs Iceland addition:

1) In Line – Fm Belfast

2) The Event – ReRoBot

3) Arabian Horse – GusGus

If you have any reason at all to visit Reykjavic, take it.  Great city with great people, good food and a distinct vibe.

Who ran it better? #Mankato Marathon

Runner 1 has been running for about 3 years.  He has completed 3 marathons and last ran a “race” in July completing a 5 miler.  Runner 1 is running his first half-marathon.

Runner 2 has been running for about a year and a half.  He has completed 2 marathons and last ran a “race” two weeks ago completing a full Marathon.  Runner 2 is running his second half-marathon.

The runners are exactly the same age (same birthday even) and have the same stated goal “break two hours”.  Runner 1 is a few inches taller and has a PR about 2 minutes faster for the full Marathon and about 15 seconds for a 5k.  So when they toe the line for the Mankato Half-Marathon who finishes first?

I am Runner 2 and although I wasn’t really racing anybody, I was racing Runner 1.  My goal to “break two hours” is really to beat 1:58:59, set a personal record and if that was fast enough to beat Runner 1 that was gravy.  I was purposely vague in talking with Runner 1 about my goal and knew the “break two hours” goal added a little fluff.  Runner 1 is my friend Darik, we have a non-competitive/competitive relationship in everything.  I know he tries to beat my times, my fantasy football team and really to win any other sport or contest that may be going on.  He knows I am trying to do the same, but we still talk strategy, go to lunch weekly and root for each other to do well.  To sum up, I wanted Darik to hit his goal of two hours but to finish behind me.

On race morning I stood in the slow-moving line for the port-a-poty (a sure sign of race day!) hustled over to the bag drop and then got to the start line with just a few minutes to spare before gun time.  I spent probably two minutes looking for Darik but did not see him.  I guessed he might be running with the 1:55:00 pace group and tried to move my way toward them.  I ended up 10 yards or so behind them when the race started.  I trailed the group for a while but still could not pick out Darik so I decided to run my own race, and try to set a PR.

It was a chilly and really windy morning.  I had not dressed well for the wind and by mile 2 couldn’t feel my hands.  I noticed a lot of the other runners were tearing up from the constant wind and was glad I had at least worn my sunglasses (look for the positives! It helps).  I followed my own rules and thanked the volunteers at the first water stop and gave some kids a high-five that looked half-frozen standing on the side of the road.  I ran a good pace, keeping good splits, and the run flew by.  At mile seven was feeling alright.  Not good enough to try to chase down the 1:55 pace group, who I could just barely see now, but good enough that I decided I would not take a walk break at the next water stop as planned.  I am not one to give race advice, but I will offer this: You don’t decide at the water stop if it is time to walk, you make that determination a mile out.  If given the choice I will always stop in the moment. A mile out I will asses what is going on and make an actual decision.  In this case “let’s keep running legs!  We got this!” was the decision.

Right after the water stop I did not walk through Darik showed up.  I had misjudged where he started and thought I was behind him.  So seeing him catch up to me was a little surprising.  He saw me going up a sneaky long hill on the course (it isn’t that steep but you think it ends about three times before it actually does) and had caught up over the next mile and a half.  He had assumed I was running with the 2:00 pace group and started closer to them, so we were at the same spot on the course but he was 20 seconds (I guessed) ahead of me.

So now what?  Do I try to run ahead and beat him by more than 20 seconds?  Should I hang out and accept that I am going to lose?  Do I sweep the leg and hope nobody notices?  I decided to walk through the next water stop and Darik slowed to let me catch up.  That sealed the deal, there was no reason to try to run past him and win by over 20 seconds.  First, I don’t think I could have and second that sounded like an awful time.  Instead we pushed each other to the finish.  We talked sparingly but really just acted as pacers for each other.  When I felt I wanted to slow down I just fell half step behind and concentrated on keeping up.  After the race Darik admitted he did the same.  When he felt like slowing down he kept moving to make sure to keep up with me.  There was no verbal communication about this during the race but neither of us wanted to back down from the pace the other was setting.  It was both a miserable and great way to run the final miles of the half marathon.

With about a quarter of a mile to go I announced I was going to open it up and try to end with some speed.  I was on pace to finish right around 1:55:00 and wanted to give it one last push.  Darik’s wife later reported he looked like he was really straining at the end, while I did not look quite as distressed, the extra strain netted a 2 second gun time victory.  My watch’s unofficial time was 1:55:01 which was well under my prior PR.  Collecting my race goodies I wondered what my official time would be.  I was certain Darik had beaten me but by how much?  Plus we still had a Jake’s large pizza on the agenda for after the race (we both finished our large – once again Darik was visibly straining a lot more at the end).

Later that afternoon the official times came in, Runner 1 – 1:54:21 and Runner 2 1:54:57.  I had started 34 seconds ahead and finished 2 seconds behind.  In the process I set a new personal best by over 4 minutes and finished the race faster than I thought I could.  I was both extremely happy with how my day had gone and disappointed.  Long term that was probably the best outcome, I was better than I thought I could be on that particular day but not quite good enough.  It gives me positive momentum into training for my next race but still leaves a moving target to set my sights on.  That is what I tell myself at least, because on October 21st Runner 1, ran it better.