Waseca Sprint Triathlon Race Report

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I raced this venue last year and had so much fun that I put it on the list of races I'd like to keep on the calendar. Steve's and my plans for the weekend fell through, so less than a week before the race, we both signed up!

We got Henry jazzed up the night before. We told him that we'd be getting him up early and that he could sleep in the car on the way to the fun race. We told him that Grandma Monica, Grandma Connie, Papa Dale, and Annie would be there and that he could bring a cow bell. When I pulled the little guy out of his crib on race morning, he first asked for Minions (we were watching Despicable Me clips on YouTube on vacation the previous week to avoid waking up the cousins). When I told him we weren't going to watch Minions he said, "Car ride!" He passed out cold for the entire drive down.

We got to the race site shortly before 6:30. Steve took the first load of stuff to transition while I changed the dude out of his jammies. Then we grabbed the rest of our stuff and headed to the race site 2 blocks away.

We found Grandma Connie who took over feeding Henry breakfast while Steve and I set up our transition areas. We found the rest of our cheering squad down by the lake, and I shimmied into my wetsuit during the pre-race meeting. It was a CHILLY morning! We had to put Henry in two sweatshirts, and I was coursing myself for forgetting mittens for him. In July. Welcome to our stinky summer.

In contrast to my half marathon, this race was at the end of a 9 day vacation from work. I didn't have a sense for how I'd feel during the race, but being overworked certainly wasn't going to be an excuse for this race!

That's me starting the 3rd sprint swim wave!

The Swim: My wave went off last. Since it was only a quarter mile swim, I lined up on the inside right at the start. It's no secret that the swim isn't my favorite part of a tri, so I LOVE how quickly it flies by in the sprint distance! I tried to draft where I could, sighted well, and was out of the water and up to transition in 8:26. This was nearly 2 minutes faster than last year, so I suspect there was some difference in the markers between the 2 years.

Waving at my little dude after coming out of the water

T1: I told myself during the swim that I wasn't going to put on long sleeves after all. I have lost so many places in races this year on account of wardrobe changes, and I knew that despite the chilly temps, the strength of the sun would keep me plenty warm. I struggled a bit to get my shoes on, and I was out in 1:31 - 15 seconds slower than last year, but my position in transition wasn't as good.

The Bike: I can't say enough about my QR CD0.1. I just feel fast on it. It was on the bike that I realized my racing brain had in fact shown up. I can't really describe the feeling I have when I'm really into a race except what I call being "out for blood." Something comes alive in me that want nothing more than to hammer and pass people. This really only happens for me in short races. I have to figure how to build it up for longer races, too. One of the advantages I've been seeing with so many trainer rides this year is very little down time on my pedals. One of my weaknesses on the bike used to be the number of breaks I'd take where I wasn't pedaling at all, and I truly didn't know how to fix it. It seems I have found my answer. After I navigated the turns at the beginning of the race and got onto more open road, I started to see my average MPH come up. I was a little worried that I had a hidden tailwind somewhere, but at the turn around, I was relieved to find very little headwind. I passed by so many bikers, including a lot of teenagers. It was great to see so many young people racing! Eventually, I got all the way up to 19 MPH, a huge number for me, especially on a consistently rolling course. After making our way into town and dismounting, my Joule read 18.8 for my speed (but it also had a distance of more like 14.3 or 14.4 miles, not the 14 that the results used). Officially, my average was 18.5 - the fastest split I've ever posted in a race.

Running into T2 after a great bike!

T2: In and out in 1:18 - 10 seconds slower than last year. I really need to practice transitions again.

The Run: I had done a 15 mile run 2 days prior to the race, and though my legs were heavy coming off of the bike, I was optimistic that they'd be fine for the 4.4 mile run. Steve had reminded me at the beginning of the race that it's more like 4.2 miles, so I was prepared to kick earlier. The breeze felt amazing coming off of the lake. A few of the guys I passed on the bike were now blowing by me on the run. I hit the first mile in 8:06 - right about where I'd hoped it would be. I hit the 2nd mile in 8:07. I was slowly gaining on and passing a few people out there, but for the most part, I was in a pretty deserted section. I really do prefer out and back runs in a race so I can cheer on the people I'm meeting. I think I do better mentally then. My inner drill Sergent was kicking in, and I was pushing. When I hit mile 3 in 8:21, my drill Sergent went into overtime. I needed to find another gear. At around mile 3.5, a woman in my age group flew past me. I tried to stick with her for a bit, but she soon left me in her dust. The push got me down to a 7:52, though! 

By now, I was in full-on kick mode. I waved to my family as I sprinted past them and felt strong as I crossed the finish line with a total run time of 34:26 (1.57 for the last 0.27 miles according to Steve's Garmin). I cut over a minute off of last year's run time! My total race time was 1:31:02 - 3.5 MINUTES faster than last year. Even with a potentially shorter swim, I showed some huge improvements in my numbers! My time was good for 2nd or 3rd out of 11 in my AG (they changed my place from 3rd to 2nd at some point and I can't figure out why).  I was 42/131 total and 6/65 for women.

Final Thoughts:

* Henry had a blast cheering at the race, and he had so much fun hanging out with his grandparents and Annie!

* I know I sound like a broken record, but Final Stretch puts on top-notch races. They feel grass roots - encouraging people of all abilities to come out. From superstars like Gear West owner Kevin O'Connor to teenagers attempting their first tri. They are always well organized with great volunteers and tasty food at the finish.

* We talked to Mark, the race director, after the race and told him how much we love this venue. I'm excited to see it continue to grow. The parking is easy, the park near the water is very family friendly, and the drive is an easy one from any direction.

* Interval training has definitely been helping my triathlon runs, but I really struggle to push myself enough during my intervals. I may be enlisting Steve's help to pace me soon. It's absurd that I can easily run paces in a race that I struggle to keep on 800s and 1200s.

* Steve and I used to come home from races and take a nap. Henry's birth eliminated post-race naps for us, but since Grandma Monica took him home with her for 2 days after the race, we slept for 1.5 glorious hours on Sunday afternoon. Thanks, Mom!  ... and thanks to the rest of our cheering section for keeping Henry occupied and cheering us on!

* The size small finishers' shirts were a little "loud." At first, I thought it was horrible, but it's cut really well and has quickly grown on me. If nothing else, it'll be a great running at night shirt.

Red, White, and Boom! Half Marathon Abbreviated Race Report

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This is a race that I would rather forget, but I should make a few notes about it. My running buddy Laura and I decided a couple of days before the July 4th race to sign up for it. We are in the thick of training for our next marathon (I'll be doing TCM for the 14th time, and she'll be doing Portland on the same day). Our long run for the week was only 13 miles, so we figured it could be fun to do it as part of a race. I have been feeling really good on some of our long runs lately, and the numbers during the first half of our marathon in early June suggested that sub-2 would be completely doable, so that was our hopeful goal.

I ran this race in its inception year in 2010. I remember it being a hot, sticky day with a drenching rain. Thankfully, this years temps were looking much better, and there was no rain in sight. (Last year they shortened it to something around a 6 mile due to dangerously hot record temps.) I started the race optimistic, but I had just come off of a 9 out of 10 day stretch of 10+ hour days at work, and looking back, I was spent before I even got to the starting line. The race starts in the St. Anthony Main area of Minneapolis, takes you up through Northeast and then back across the Stone Arch Bridge. Laura and I smiled because much of the course was a repeat of what we had run during the marathon a month before except in reverse. People were in fun, patriotic costumes and in great moods knowing there were barbecues on the horizon!

Laura and I breezed through the start and survived the cobblestone. That stretch of road is a little treacherous, and I was glad to see that they changed the course so that we didn't have to finish on it this year. The first couple of miles went fine as we made our way up to Northeast. There were people out on their lawns cheering. Laura and I were moving at a quick but maintainable pace. By mile 3, though, I was already feeling it. I was just generally a little crampy, especially in my abs, and mentally, I didn't feel strong. We hit halfway point in 1:00:04, and I knew it would be a bit of a struggle to pull out a sub 2 hour race.

One thing I had forgotten about the race is how HILLY it is. Soon after the halfway point, we started the REALLY big hills, and out times went out the window. The hills were rather unrelenting well into mile 7, but they did eventually let up. At that point, I was feeling so sick to my stomach that I essentially stopped eating and drinking, and even the smell of the Powerade at the aid stations made me want to hurl. I was not in a good place. Laura always teasingly calls me Miss Congeniality at races, but she took over thanking volunteers and high-fiving the kids. I was spent. As we neared mile 12, I started looking for Steve and Henry. I knew there was a possibility that they would come out to cheer. Laura was obviously feeling better than me, and I told her to go on ahead without me. She passed my boys just before I did, and when I saw Henry, I just had to give him a hug.

Though seeing my boys lifted my spirits, I had nothing left. I am ashamed to say that at mile 12.5, I walked across part of the bridge. My abs were cramped. My entire back was one giant cramp. I haven't felt that awful in a long time, and every time I have, it's been in extreme heat. I crossed the finish line in 2:03:47 - nearly a minute behind Laura. Yuck. 

I shouldn't be too down on my performance. I finished in the top half runners and in the top quarter of women, but it's always defeating to feel that mentally weak and that horrible physically during a race. After the race, I was just. so. hot. I grabbed my post race snacks and just laid down on the grass for a few minutes waiting to cool off. I remembered from 2010 that they have Bomb Pops at the finish line of this race. Between that and the chocolate milk that they were handing out, I was in heaven.

So what happened out there? Well, aside from the obvious fact that I simply imploded, I think the 2 biggest problems were the fact that physically and mentally, I was exhausted from a taxing work schedule and the fact that I had likely overheated. The temps were in the low 80s, but it was sticky, and in retrospect, all of the symptoms I was having point to heat exhaustion/heat stroke. Several racers were sent to the hospital for body temps of 107 degrees, and though I doubt I got anywhere close to that, I definitely overdid it.

Would I do this race again? Absolutely, but under 2 conditions: I don't go for a PR, and I aim to have fun. The heat coupled with the hills make this a non PR course for me. The 2 times I've done this race, I've had a time goal in mind. It's a beautiful race and a great excuse to get out there and earn your 4th of July picnic food. It starts early (6:30), so you are home in time to make it to the local barbecue. The race is well-organized, and parking wasn't really a problem.  Popsicles and cold chocolate milk are hands-down the best post race food, and this race has both. The course is beautiful, and the race is spectator friendly. Plus, the medals were so fun that Henry wore mine around the house for 2 days straight.

Trinona Olympic Distance Triathlon Race Report

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I haven't done an Olympic distance triathlon since 2009. I did  a couple of halfs in 2010, but I was pregnant then postpartum in 2011 and definitely in survival mode last year, where I got to try a few sprint races. The last 6 months or so have been the first time where I feel like things are finally settling into our new normal as parents. This probably coincides with Henry finally consistently sleeping through the night - I have time to get in a workout after he's in bed, and sometimes while he's awake if Steve is feeling generous. My speed (if you can call it that, but on my spectrum it's speed), is coming back, and my body almost feels back to normal. When Steve and I got the chance to head down to Winona for Steve to do the bike time trial the night before and for me to do their Olympic tri, we jumped on it. Conveniently, Grandma Connie was itching to take Henry for a few days. This was going to be a vacation.

The race was June 9 - one week after the Minneapolis Marathon. I knew that it was a little crazy to do these two races so close together, but I have felt pretty strong in training this spring and figured my goal would be to be able to bike on tired legs. After a full spring of marathon training, a 10K is doable, even though I knew I'd be tired. I followed the FIRST marathon training program for Minneapolis almost to a T. I love that program. It focuses on quality over quantity and covers a long run, a tempo run, and intervals over 3 days of running each week. The rest of the week is cross training, which I have mostly spent biking. I've been trying to get 1-2 rides on my trainer in at night when Henry's in bed and at least one long ride outside each week, usually on the weekends. Alas, swimming has taken its usual back seat in training, and I've only been getting to the pool once or twice a month. I know I need to be swimming more, but it's tougher to squeeze in with the rest of life, and the benefit tends to be only a minute or two off of my time.

Steve and I headed down to the race late Saturday Morning. We had sent Henry home with Grandma on Thursday, and the ability to pack uninterrupted and with confidence that I wasn't missing a half dozen things was fabulous. We checked in to our hotel and headed straight to the race expo where we spotted tons of local race buddies. It was fun to catch up with them all! Oh, and we also met up with Amblyn, my sister's partner in crime when she was volunteering in KY for 2 years. The swim temps were expected to be pretty chilly, and I had an extra wetsuit to lend her. We gave her a few pointers for rocking her first tri, and she did. Way to go, Amblyn!

The Trinona TT bike race offers a brief warm up then a ride straight up Garvin Heights, a hill that's over a mile long with 10% average grade. We would be racing up that hill during the oly the next day. Steve was signed up to do the TT, and it made me feel both better and worse to be able to drive up and down the hill a few times to cheer him and the other bikers on. Some folks only did the TT, but many of the racers were signed up for the triathlon the next day, too! It's only 3 miles long, so I can imagine it wouldn't take too much out of your race legs. I would totally consider doing both, though I admittedly stink at hills. It was fun to spectate, and the food (beer, wine, pizza, fruit) and swag at the finish line were top notch. I think Steve had fun, and we joked that by the time we got back to the hotel, it was past Henry's bedtime.

Our hotel (The Plaza) was really close to the race start, so we were at the start in no time. Fitting in with the rest of our spring/summer, it was cold (around 55 degrees) and raining. We found Amblyn right away in transition. She was ready to conquer her first triathlon!

Amblyn's first triathlon!

Transition was filling up quick, and our rack was really full, but I didn't realize until just before transition closed that I had racked in the wrong spot. There wasn't enough time to move my stuff. Sorry ladies for crowding you out! Transition closed at 7, but my wave didn't start until 8:42, so there was a lot of time standing around in my wetsuit trying to stay warm. It helped that we got to catch up with a few more tri buddies in the process! I was in wave 16 of 17, and eventally it was go time!

Heading into the water!

The Swim: I was a little worried about the water temp. It was in the low 60s and my first OWS of the year, but after standing around in 50 degree air temps and rain, the water felt great. My swim wasn't fast, but I sighted pretty well. I was out of the water in 35:12.

Out of the water. Why do I always forget
to Bodyglide my underarms? Holy chafing!

Trying to squeeze into my bike jersey while wet

T1: I was wet and my fingers were cold. I couldn't get my shoes or long sleeves on. It was so frustrating. In retrospect, I probably would have been fine with just arm warmers. I didn't know if I'd be warm enough wet in sub 60 degree weather on the bike. Total time: 3:02

Just out of T1

The Bike: I had worried about "the hill" all week. I have been out on plenty of rides and crammed all of the hills I could find in St. Paul into most of them. I had to remind myself that I survived the hills in Chattanooga just fine and that the rest of the course was mostly just rollers. Still, that epic hill that the race is known for brings a lot of people to their knees. Thankfully, it's around 10 miles in - plenty of time to warm up and plenty of time to regroup. Also thankfully, it had stopped raining, making the climb and subsequent decent less scary. I was holding a good average until the start of the hill, but that quickly went down the drain. I am happy to say that if it weren't for my lower back, I could have done the whole thing seated. My legs felt fine, but I had to stand every once in a while to take the pressure off of my lower back. It felt like it was going to snap! I made it up the hill in 10:47 (they check your chip time at the beginning and top of the hills). Thankfully, we had a tail wind once we got to the top. There was a nasty cross wind up there at times, too, but for the most part, we were spared the head wind that they had last year. I rode my brakes all the way down the big descent. I heard that many of the pros get upwards of 55 MPH down that thing, but I couldn't handle much more than 30 or 35 MPH. I was jockeying back and forth with several guys on the bike, but I saw so few women out there. I came into T2 in 1:31:25 - a 16.3 MPH average. I know I can get that number up, but this really isn't the course to do it.

Finishing up a hilly ride

T2: I stripped off my sleeves, loaded up with Gu, and was back out in 1:53.

Starting the 10K

The Run: This was going to be the real test to see how well my legs had recovered from the marathon the week before. I knew the endurance training I did for the marathon would prepare me to run on tired legs, but I didn't know how tired my legs would be from the hilly ride and the previous weekend's race. Unlike the bike, the run was pancake flat and followed the lake. When I hit the first mile at around 8:20 feeling pushed but OK, I started betting that I'd be good to go. Mile 2 came in 8:00. I laughed to myself thinking that my running partner Laura would be amused and disgusted by all of my "Miss Congeniality" comments. The run was an out and back, so I spent the whole thing cheering on the other runners - Nice legs! Great pace! Looking good! Way to go! Finish strong! I'm sure anyone around me was thoroughly annoyed, but I just do so much better when I can take some of the focus off of me in a race and get outside of my own head. That's not to say that I'm not paying attention to the way I feel, my pace, my form, etc. I'm regularly checking on those things, but if I just tell my legs to GO and get my head out of the way, I do so much better physically and mentally. I hit my watch late after the 3 mile turn around spot, and it came up as an 8:37. I was picking tons of people off and was gaining confidence that I could hold pace. Mile 4 then came in 7:44, and it took me a good 3 minutes to figure out what the average would have been for those 2 miles. Pharmacists don't do mental math. Mile 5 may have been a bit short, but I hit it in 7:37. My internal drill Sargent was in full force by then, and I was really trying to push it those last 2 miles. Run till you puke was our motto in cross country in high school, and it kept going through my head. I hit mile 6 in 8:07. I was really kicking for the last section, or so I thought. When I passed a very motivating volunteer shouting, "KICK IT IN! THIS IS WHAT YOU TRAINED FOR! YOU'VE GOT THIS! FIND ANOTHER GEAR," I did manage to find one last gear and really started pushing. There were 2 guys in front of me, and the one on the left obviously did not want to get out kicked by a girl. He found another gear, too, and kept checking over his shoulder. I'm glad I could push you, buddy! I hit the last 0.2 miles in 1:55, so either the run was closer to 6.3 or the other mile markers were off because if anything, that pace was significantly faster than the rest of my race. Run time was 50:33 for an overall time of 3:02:03 - my 2nd fastest Oly.

Booking to the finish! 

My finish medal, my trusty QR CD.01, and a smile

 Final thoughts:

1. This race pulls in most of the elite locals, and for good reason. The bike is epic, the race is well-organized, the swim is in a good-sized lake (warms up easily for early June), and the run is flat and shaded. There were a TON of people doing the sprint (which doesn't include the huge climb). I would definitely say the sprint is beginner friendly. Also, between the bike TT, the kids tri, and the sprint and Olympic distance races, it can be a family friendly weekend event.

2. The finishing medals have a typo and say "battle for the buff." Awesome

3. My Oly PR is 2:56:04, and while I'm not sure that I can hit that this summer with my current training, I'd love to go sub-3.

4. My 10K was a PR for me both in stand alone races and triathlons.

5. I've got the racing bug. My next official race on the books isn't till Twin Cities Marathon, but there will be more before that. I can't not race.

I Owe You a Lot of Race Reports

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So, we certainly have some catching up to do. Last time I checked in, I had done a number on my ankle and was calling it quits for a while to let that bugger recover. Well, suffice it to say that the ankle has mostly recovered (though it still hurts a bit kicking in the pool now over 6 months later). Also suffice it to say that working full time, chasing around a toddler, and marathon training have not meant lots of extra time to sit down and blog, though 6 months in between posts is obnoxious. We're stuck in the house right now since Henry has contracted hand, foot, and mouth disease just in time for us to miss our vacation, and I thought blogging may help to ease my feelings of going stir crazy.

I ended up running on my ankle once or twice before doing the Fast Before the Feast 10K on Thanksgiving Day. I've done 5Ks on Thanksgiving in the past - The Turkey Trot sponsored by Lifetime and the Giving Thanks 5K sponsored by Charities Challenge. Though I really like to be able to get out and celebrate my health with my family, I don't love 5Ks, especially crowded ones (I don't think I'll do the Turkey Trot with 7000 of my closest friends again soon). On Thanksgiving, I want to earn my turkey, so when the opportunity came up for Steve and me to run the Fast Before the Feast 10K, we jumped on it. The distance was great - far enough to feel like we got in a good workout, short enough to make it to Aunt Lisa's house for lunch, and a perfect distance to push myself and suffer a little bit. Plus they were collecting donations for the food shelf and managed to amass over 6 TONS of food! Having only run once since the ankle sprain, I had no idea where my pace would be, especially since I'd never run a non-pregnant 10K. I settled into a comfortably fast pace, though, and managed to average 8:15s for the race for a total time of 51:14. This was good enough for 6/25 women and 34/178 overall. Of course I made a friend out there. Steve and I always joke that I can't do a race without making a friend, and this time it was Rachel who just happens to read Steve's blog. Thanks for the push, Rachel! If you ever get a chance to do a race put on by Tri Fitness WBL, do it. Jason puts on fun, well-organized events.

I really took it easy in November and December, but by January, I had decided that it was time to sign up for the Minneapolis Marathon. I had been eyeing it for the past few years, but it had never worked out with my work schedule. this year it didn't fall on my weekend to work, so I signed up! After running Grandma's a few years ago, I swore off spring marathons, but I decided to give this one a try. It wouldn't involve a ton of travel, I now know that they plow River Road trails after snowstorms, and I somehow managed to convince my coworker Laura to sign up, too (she ran Twin Cities with me last fall).

April brought with it our annual Evotri training camp, and as was expected, it was hilarious, exhausting, humbling, and confidence building. The hills down in Chattanooga are nothing like I can find around here The folks at Quintana Roo and Hub Endurance were so welcoming, and just like last year, our personal chauffeur on the bike could have kicked our butts but instead hung back to chat with us, push us up their versions of rollers (they were big hills by my standards), and teach us about their local race scene. I was SPENT by the end of it, but my endurance was so much better than last year (credit the marathon training?) that I was still up for a run after our long ride.

In May, I kicked off multisport season with the Cinco Du Mayo Duathlon. My rides in Tennessee had given me confidence that I would be fine on the long course, so that's what I signed up for (plus then I could just replace my 15 mile long run for the week with the race).  The long course was a 5K, a 20 mile ride, and another 5K run. This spring has been and continues to be miserable for us weather-wise, and May 4th was no exception. It was cold and raining hard on our drive out to Stillwater, but miraculously, it stopped just before the race start. The temp was around 35 degrees at the start - perfect running weather for me but a little chilly on the bike. I knew my transitions wouldn't be stellar. For the first run, I took out at a maintainable fast pace for me and was surprised to look down and see that I was running just over 8 min miles for the first 10K. This time, I made a friend in Coleen on the first run. By the time she and I hit T1, we were really pushing each other and running stride for stride. Total time for the first run was  24:25. T1 took me forever, mostly because I had to take off my socks (I bike sockless), add an extra shirt, gloves, and pants over my bike shorts. Plus, everything was hard to get into because it was all wet! The bike course out there was HILLY, and for some reason, my top 4 gears decided not to show up. Biking without my granny gear on hills does not make me happy or fast. My bike was making all sorts of scary noises, and I said a prayer each time I shifted. I finished the 20 mile bike in 1:10:15. I joked that I had more wardrobe changes in this race than an Oscar host, but I'm a hot bodied runner and never would have survived my second 5K in all of those clothes. I easily lost 2 places in my long transitions - T2 was 2:00. Colleen and I had leap frogged throughout the bike, but because of my long T2, I was chasing her down on the run. She had a bit more left in her tank, though. I finished the second run in 24:58 which gave me a 2:04:13 overall - 6th out of 38 women. We were so lucky.The rain held off during the race, and Henry had fun at my sister Steph's house with Jon and his cousin Evie. This event was also put on by Tri Fitness WBL. Many of the volunteers wore sombreros, and they served tacos at the finish line. It was a blast!

A month later, on June 2, Laura and I headed to the start of the Minneapolis Marathon together. We parked in downtown and took the shuttle from The Depot to the start in Theo Wirth Park. Given Team Ortho's somewhat rocky history of busing people, we got there with plenty of time to spare, and I think we avoided the rush. Unfortunately, that meant that we were SUPER early to the start line - about an hour.  I had feared that the fact that I'd been training in unseasonably cold weather all spring meant that race day would be 85 degrees as it has been in years past. Fortunately for us, the day aligned with the rest of our spring and was a bit on the cool side - around 50 degrees at the start with temps eventually warming into the high 60s. This meant some chattering teeth while waiting around at the start line (I didn't bring a drop bag, and our house was out of my favorite pre-race trick - big black garbage bags). They lined the marathoners and half marathoners up together, and at 6:30, the start horn sounded. I figured we'd run right around 10 minute miles as that's what we'd been doing in training, but we actually started out a little faster than that. Not "oh crap, we're toast because we're not pacing ourselves properly" fast, just "our legs are fresh and it's great weather" fast. Laura and I talked with each other and with the other runners throughout the course. It really was beautiful. It started in Theo Wirth, headed north and east, and then pulled us in over the Stone Arch Bridge, past the Mill City Ruins, and down along the river. I did get a little sick of hearing, "You're almost there!" at around mile 12. We had realized by then that most of the runners (around 2500 of them) were doing the half, and only around 700 brave souls were doing the full marathon.

After we passed the turnoff where the half marathoners finished the last 1-2 blocks, River Road became pretty sparse. I am so used to the number of runners and spectators at Twin Cities Marathon that I'm just plain spoiled. If I hadn't brought a friend to run with, there's a good chance I would have been lonely out there. We did manage to make a third friend - Kate was from Omaha and had come up to do her first marathon. Congrats, Kate! The last 13 miles were an out and back, which I actually liked. I enjoyed seeing the other runners who were headed into their finishes and being able to cheer them on as we met them.

We continued along River Road, through Minnehaha Park, and nearly to Fort Snelling before turning around. The fact that Laura and I have mostly been running on River Road and the scarcity of spectators left us both wondering if we were on just another training run where we were running on the road instead of the trails! A definite positive was that Steve and Henry, who came down to cheer near the Lake Street Bridge, got to see us twice - at around mile 15 and mile 23.5, and I didn't have to worry when Henry screamed, "Mama!!!" and came running to hug me on the course. There weren't enough people for him to get in the way. That big hug left a smile on my face for miles. We finished together in 4:24:48, a time that included 2 bathroom stops, for an average of 10:07. I need to look them all up and write them down, but I think that's a very average marathon for me. Laura would comment later that she was voting me Miss Congeniality of the marathon because I was always thanking or encouraging someone out there, but that's the way I've learned to get out of my own head and ignore the pain.

Some final thoughts on this marathon:

1. This was number 15 for me! I'm heading into territory I never thought I'd be in when I was training for my first marathon.

2. Overall, this was a well-organized fun race. Packet pickup Saturday could have been smoother, but in general, the info was timely, the bus option to the start worked really well, they had Cliff Shots on the course, water stops were appropriately stocked, and the volunteers were knowledgeable. The one beef I had is that sometimes they'd put the water first at the aid stations and sometimes they'd put the electrolyte drink first. It should have been consistent. Or I should have been paying better attention...

3. This was a really pretty course. We had beautiful weather (including a great breeze), lots of options for shade while running, and the start was early enough to account for rising temps. We didn't pass The Lakes, but we did get to see several of the highlights of Minneapolis.

4. Would I recommend this race? Absolutely. Would I recommend it as someone's first marathon? I'm not sure. It would definitely be easier for a cheering section to show up on multiple places on the course, and it would be easier for said cheering section to spot their runner out there, but it didn't have the hype or magic of Twin Cities Marathon. There were no huge block parties, bands, and big speaker setups, but this race is only in its 5th year. You can't really compare 700 runners to 11,000 runners on a course. Minneapolis was still fun. It was just smaller and more low-key. I would recommend bringing or finding a friend out there to run with. I would definitely do this one over Grandma's again. There's just something nice about being able to sleep in your own bed the night before a race, parking in your parking spot for work, and knowing the course really well. The course was prettier and better shaded. I ran Grandma's on a hot year, and it felt like hot asphalt and no shade for 23 miles. There's a HUGE party at the finish at Grandma's, and it's on a Saturday night, but by the time I had finished that year, I was just ready for a nap. They did offer free beer at the end for finishers.

5. This is very girly of me, but the finisher shirts for Minneapolis were AWESOME - super cute, fit well, and very comfortable. The pictures didn't do them justice. I've been wearing mine every time it's clean, and sometimes when it isn't.

6. I am still loving the FIRST marathon training program. It has fit so well into my tri training, and I'll have more to say about that with my next race report - Trinona. I promise it won't take me 6 months. :)

Season Ender

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So there has been a whole lotta crickets coming from this neck of the woods. On my last report, I had just finished my 13th TCM and was SO looking forward to conquering my second ever 50K trail race on Oct 27. I was registered. I was confident. I FELT it during TCM - my training was good, and I could definitely run another few miles.  When I did the 50K in 2009, I finished marathon training and then hit the trails to get my trail ankles, legs, and pacing. Since there is only a couple of weeks between the two, I can get away with not doing any really long runs and just focusing on a few decent trail runs (12-17 miles or so). Adding in a few bike rides to keep up my endurance and a few more mid-distance runs, I knew I would be good to go. Since I was already signed up, I really should have been doing a bit more trail running during marathon training, but most of my mid-week marathon runs were in the dark. I was so happy to get back to trails. It requires so much more balance and focus, but trail running reminds me that I am out there because I love running. That's it. Plus, fall in MN is beautiful.

This beautiful trail run reminded me that I just plain love running
Running along the Mississippi not far from my house

Ten days before Surf the Murph, I had a comp day for working the weekend, so I headed down to the park to do a loop on the trail. I was planning on a 17 miler - one full loop. I had plenty of food, my water bottle, and the new Mumford and Sons album downloaded onto my phone. It's really rocky and rooty, and as usual, I was super paranoid that I would roll an ankle, but despite a couple of close calls, I was doing fine. Five miles in, I stopped to peek at one of the park signs. When I side-stepped to start back up, I let my guard down and stepped into a huge rut (I would estimate that it was around 10 inches deep). I heard two giant pops in my left ankle and fell to the ground in pain.  I knew it was bad. Since I was out in the middle of a park reserve, I'd have to make it back myself. Thankfully, there is a road that traverses the park, and I was able to meet up with that in order to make it back to my car. The ankle hurt like heck and swelled up to insane proportions to complement the myriad of colors it had become, but I was hoping for a miracle and prayed that 10 days would offer enough time to heal. It wasn't. Race week, I realized I wouldn't be ready to run long distances on it, much less on trails. I decided on my first DNS.

Over 4 weeks later, my ankle is still a bit swollen. I tried to run on it two weeks ago and felt heavy and slow. Today, I ran 6 miles with my coworker Laura. I have definitely lost a lot of fitness, and though it was taped, it still felt achy. I have sprained my ankles in the past, but it was so long ago that I can't seem to remember what it felt like when I started up again. I imagine some stiffness is pretty normal and I just need to keep working at it and make sure I'm not making it worse. Incidentally, YouTube is lifesaver when it comes to "how-to" videos like ankle taping, though the guy in the video didn't tell me how to deal with two excited cats while I was laying out the tape.

I know it will just take time to heal, and I'm glad it happened at the time of the year when I would normally be winding down anyway. In the meantime, I found myself going stir crazy and not sleeping well. I needed to get moving again. After the swelling had subsided enough for my cankle to fit into my bike shoes, I starting spending a lot of time with my QR and my Cyclops Fluid 2. I haven't been doing anything too crazy, just plenty of time in the saddle. Normally the time drags on, even with a good Spinnervals or TV show, but I found a new way to pass the time. My iPad fits perfectly into my aerobars, and I just discovered that the St. Paul Public Library has an extensive E Book collection. I am LOVING this arrangement and have managed two rides greater than 2.5 hours in the last 2 weeks. There will be plenty of time for more technical trainer riding in the upcoming winter months, but just keeping my heart rate up and burning off some excess stress while this thing heals up is good enough for me right now.

We are going to do a 10K as a family on Thanksgiving, and Steve and I are having our first date night in 18 months this week. Our sitter graciously offered to keep H for his first over night visit. Lots to be thankful for!

Henry saying goodbye to his pumpkin. He had to give it a hug first!

Lucky Thirteen!

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Sunday was the running of the 31st Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon. It also happened to be my 32nd birthday and the 13th year in a row that I've shown up at the start line of this race. As I mentioned in my last post, I was excited to be able to run this race with my coworkers Laura and Tzivia.

My coworker Jared asked me the Friday before the race if I was nervous or if this was "old hat" by now. I answered honestly that the distance doesn't really scare me anymore. At this point in my life, I'm not going for marathon PRs. My goal out there was going to be to have fun, and I was hoping to see Laura to her first marathon finish.

After some tasty pasta on Saturday night, our alarm went off at 6 AM on Sunday. One of the things I love about doing a close race is that my race morning alarm clock was actually set later than my normal work week alarm. Steve, my brother Matt, his girlfriend Angela (who was running her FIRST marathon), my cousin Ben, my Aunt Nancy, and Steve's parents all caravanned to the start. We stopped to snap a pic of the racers before heading our separate ways:

Angela, me, and Ben trying to stay warm!
Tzivia, Laura, and I had planned to meet at a specific gate at the Metrodome. It was one that Tzivia's friends were also meeting at. Unfortunately, it also happened to be THE MAIN GATE THAT 11,999 OTHER MARATHONERS WERE ENTERING AND EXITING. It was a terrible place to meet, and after 25 minutes of searching for Tzivia and/or Laura, I realized that there was a good chance I wouldn't find either of them. I made my way out to the starting line. A little bit of dread started to set in. I realized that the race I was planning to run with a couple of really fun girls was maybe going to be a solo race. I really don't mind running alone, especially since I have a gift for making race friends, but that wasn't what I'd been mentally preparing for. At the back of my corral, I spotted Tzivia! She told me that she had been with Laura but Laura had gone back to look for me one more time. The corral was filling up fast, and Tzivia decided that she needed to get in line. "I can't be behind the 5 hour runners," she said. "You don't want to see how big of a mess I'll be if I have to start back there."

I waited. I waited some more. Dread was setting deeper and deeper in the pit of my stomach, and then I spotted Laura! I was so relieved that I nearly cried. This was going to be a great race after all. Laura and I got in line. We positioned ourselves off to the side. I had been so busy looking for my ladies that I never got to make one last trip to the porta potties, and I hoped this wouldn't come back to haunt me (it didn't).

Laura and me just after the start

We were pretty excited to get started!
 The start of the race FLEW by. I pointed out some of my favorite traditions - whooping under a tunnel in downtown, running by the Basilica while its bells were ringing for all of the runners, and seeing the lakes. We laughed and shared fun signs were reading, we talked, and we ran. Literally before I knew it, we were closing on mile 6, then mile 8. I was feeling good. The weather was still chilly at just over 30 degrees, but I was glad I'd decided on shorts, mittens, an ear band, a sleeveless top, and my Evotri bike jersey. We saw Laura's husband Jared at mile 11. He was biking bits of the course, and we'd see him countless more times before we crossed the finish line. I knew to look for my family at mile 15. When I saw them, my jaw dropped. My mom was there with the rest of our cheering section! She was able to take a few hours off of work to come watch the race.  What a fun surprise!

My mom holding up some extra Gu. Let it be known that
Mint Chocolate Gu is nectar of the Gods

She gave me a big birthday hug, I shot a smile to the rest of my family, and we were off again. I was so excited to see them all that I forgot that I was going to leave my mittens with them!

Mile 16 is always the hardest mile for me at a marathon. The pain has started to set in at that point, and 10 miles to go seems like an awfully long way.  This year was no exception. The crowd was AMAZING out there, just like it is every year. People have huge speaker systems to blast fun music, bands come out to play, families make fun signs to come and cheer, and neighbors have fun block parties. I tried to focus on all of the fun and a little less on any pain that was creeping up on me. I was wearing my SI brace, and though my sacrum was starting to ache, I found that tightening the brace every once in a while brought it back to manageable.

Soon we were at mile 20. "Only a 10K left!" I chirped to Laura. She smiled and agreed that we were going to do this. We weren't talking much any more. We were just focusing on the hills coming up, soaking in the sunshine, and pushing forward.

By the time we hit Summit Avenue, I was feeling good. Laura was starting to suggest that I go on ahead, but I didn't want to hear it. We were going to finish this together. We spotted a few supportive coworkers who had come out to cheer along with other friends as we made our way toward the Capitol. Though our time started slipping, I was thankful that my training was good. That 22 miler a couple of weeks ago made a HUGE difference in my physical and mental endurance. I focused on keeping my stride smooth and even. My legs were starting to ache, so I told myself to put them on autopilot and focus outside myself. I offered Laura encouragement, high-fived the little kids, and thanked the spectators for coming out.  I laughed at the signs and one guy's T-shirt that said, "Free kittens at the finish." The race was flying by, and I was soaking it in.

I looked for my family at mile 25.5. Henry and my sister Annie had joined them:

Henry sporting his new "old man" sweater

I was still smiling like a lunatic after all of those miles!
We crested the hill and ran down to the finish line. It's always such a beautiful sight with a huge American flag waving over our heads and the Capitol in the background. We crossed the finish line, high-fived, and hugged. We finished in 4:23:52 - a pretty average time for me, and one that I'm proud of since I felt great and have been trying so hard to find balance between work, being a wife and mom, and endurance sport.

I made my way back up the hill to find my family - medal around my neck, chocolate milk in hand, and a smile on my face. Running a beautiful marathon in your city is a great way to celebrate a birthday. The icing on my cake? Getting a giant birthday hug from this guy:

My splits, in case anyone is interested, were not fast, but here they are:
Mile 1: 10:01
Mile 2: 9:41
Mile 3: 10:09
Mile 4: 9:35
Mile 5: 9:36
Mile 6: 10:02
Mile 7: 10:13 (hit the split late)
Mile 8: 8:54
Mile 9 and 10: 19:30
Mile 11: 9:31
Mile 12: 9:38
Mile 13: 9:44
Mile 14: 10:21 (hit the split late)
Mile 15:  9:19
Mile 16: 10:11
Mile 17: 9:51
Mile 18: 10:14
Mile 19 and 20: 20:36
Mile 21: 10:18
Mile 22: 11:16
Mile 23: 11:11
Mile 24: 10:43
Mile 25: 10:22
Mile 26: 10:34
Mile 0.2: 2:05

Final Thoughts:

You couldn't have wiped the smile off my face at this race. It was just a great day to run.

Good thing Tzivia ditched us. On her very minimal training this year, she PR'd by several minutes even after stopping to talk to her family for a while. I think she finished in 3:50 something.

Angela ROCKED her first marathon. So proud of you, Angela!

I just love this race. I honestly don't know that I could have this much fun during another marathon. Yes, I'll likely do more more away from home in my future, but there' something so special about seeing familiar faces, running on your regular routes, sleeping in your own bed, and being able to have your family there with you. It makes me proud every year that people are coming from all over the world to see my beautiful city and the amazing people who live here.

Yes, my time leaves room for improvement - a minute/mile faster and I'll be back to my marathon PR, but considering I shaved 3 minutes/mile or so off of my 16 weeks postpartum time from last year, I'd say we're making progress.

Having a 16 month old to chase around at home does not leave time for being sore. He needs to be carried up and down the steps whether your legs protest or now. This "active recovery" meant that by day 2 post-race, I wasn't sore at all.

I should probably slow down on the post-marathon Swedish Fish, chocolate, and apple crisp. I still have a 50K in 3 weeks, and getting up and down those hills isn't going to be the least bit fun with an extra 10 pounds on my behind.

In 6 more years, I'll be able to say I've been doing this race half my life. I certainly hope to keep the streak up at least that long!

Race Week!

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Wow. I haven't written a "Race Week" post for so long. When I do, I try to keep them at the beginning of the week so I can plan and reflect.  Well, the days of planning and reflecting for races have gone the way of my pre-pregnancy boobs. On Sunday, I will toe the line at my 13th Twin Cities Marathon. It will be on my 32nd birthday. I've followed my training plan as best as I can while working more than full time and trying to be a good mama. I've put in my long runs, including a 22 miler two weeks ago, and I've been trying to get to the chiropractor whenever I feel my sacrum has shifted out of place. I've done some of my long runs well before dawn and well after dusk so that I could fit my training in with the rest of life. Thank God I live in a relatively safe area that allows for running after Henry's bedtime. I don't know when I would have fit the training in otherwise!

People kept asking me at work today whether I'm nervous. I can honestly say I haven't been. I was a little nervous early this week when our house got hit by a GI bug. Poor Henry was terribly sick on Tuesday, and though I had horrible nausea and couldn't eat, I think I lucked out and avoided most of that nastiness. I work right near the start line, so I have been seeing signs and barricades appear this week. It's fun and exciting to watch it all take shape. My usual strategy of not thinking too much about the race tends to serve me well, so that's what I've been trying to do. The weather looks to be PERFECT with a low of 40, a high of 57, some clouds, and no chance of rain. My coworkers Laura, Tzivia, and I decided to start out together. They are SO much fun, and it's Laura's first marathon. It's going to be a blast. By now, I know when to expect the pain. Given the fact that I haven't been putting in 50+ mile weeks, I know it will come, but I'm looking forward to spending a beautiful day with 2 cities I love, my family, and thousands of amazing spectators. I am excited to celebrate my health and the strong body God has given me. This won't be my fastest marathon. It won't be my slowest, but it may just be the most fun I've had over 26.2 miles.