Monthly Archives: May 2014

Chicago 2006 vs Calgary 2014

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All of you reading my blog know I have my big race this Sunday in Calgary. It’s the Calgary Full Marathon, all 26.2 glorious miles of it, and my goal is a sub 3:35:00—a Boston qualifying time for my division.

Flashback now to October 2006, when I ran my third full marathon. It was my first marathon other than the now-extinct May-time running of the Madison Marathon. During those previous races, I had ran a 4:27:38 and a 4:48:03. My goal this particular race was to break four hours.

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It’s funny to now look back at this race and see how my goals and ability has evolved. It also makes me feel hella old, because it’s now been 7.5 years since that race! I was still fairly inexperienced when it came to long distance road races, but I had caught the bug.

My good friend Matt and I drove down from our college town of La Crosse, Wisconsin, to Chicago on the day before the race. The expo in Chicago was unlike anything we had ever experienced. It was insane and a sensory overload.

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The lead up to the race was equally as amazing. Close to 40,000 runners that year if I remember correctly. This was also back in the time when they didn’t have a corral system to start. I just positioned myself in the masses and after the gun went off, it took me about ten minutes to get to the timing mat.

The weather was overcast, a bit chilly, and rainy. I think I was wearing a long sleeved cotton shirt, which now I realize is a huge rookie mistake. Come on—I was a poor college kid. Why would I pay lots of money for a fancy tech shirt?!? Along with that, why would I pay lots of money for a decent watch? (Photo to follow)

The support from the friends, family members and volunteers throughout the boroughs of Chicago was amazing. I got in such a running trance that the race felt effortless. Before I knew it, I was approaching the finish. After a final push, I crossed, with my official time as 3:59:25. I broke my four hours! (even with a crappy $5 Wal-Mart watch too!)

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Matt finished his race in 3:00:17. A ridiculous time! He was upset he didn’t break 3 hours, but he qualified for that elusive race held every April in the springtime—-The Boston Marathon. He went out there the following year and experienced every runner’s dream.

This Sunday, I hope to cross the finish in Calgary with the same combined end result as what Matt and it had in Fall 2006—a new personal best, and a Boston Qualifying time.

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Woody’s RV World Red Deer Half Marathon 2014-Race Recap

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My previous post was about my preparation for the Woody’s RV World Red Deer Half Marathon. Today, I am going to recap the race and let you know if my goal came to be!

This is the fourth year I have ran the Red Deer Half Marathon. I ran in 2010, 2012, 2013, and now this year. It is convenient in that my in laws live in Red Deer, but it is also a great race! The volunteers are fantastic, and swag is pretty great (with one complaint) and the course is gorgeous.

Pick up was no issue at all, as usual. Stopped to get my goods on Friday night, so I had plenty of time to then relax on Saturday I forgot BodyGlide and HoneyStinger Chews, which then caused me to go back to the expo and purchase these. (I didn’t know where any other running store was in town so this was easiest!). Had some pasta with the family Saturday night, threw back a beer that evening (per usual pre race plan) and went to bed early. 6:00 am alarm came fast!

I did my pre-race ritual of eating oatmeal and drinking coffee. I taped myself up, put on some Voltaren 10% on my knee, and headed outside for a warmup. I wanted to get more than 13.1 miles in today, so I planned on doing a 1 mile warmup before the race. I ended up doing about 1.5 miles, but thankfully I did this as I determined I was dressed too warm. Sure, it was raining, but I was already warm with a short sleeve Lululemon shirt on, so I quickly put on a tank, got on a garbage bag to protect myself from the rain, and walked to the start line.

I cut it pretty close this year, arriving at the start line at probably 7:53. It is nearly a mile from my in-laws house and I was power walking it. I got positioned in the corral, Oh Canada was sang, and away we went! You can notice how confused I am at that very moment by looking at the photo found on the front page of the Red Deer Advocate. Nice.

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So my goal this race was to pace it like I will when running in Calgary on June 1st for my full; an 8:00 minute per mile pace. I knew my first mile was going to be a crapshoot, and I actually ended up going too slow! I ran mile 1 in 8:14! I set my Nike plus GPS watch to Average Pace so I could watch it work the way back down to 8:00. Miles 2-5 clocked in at 7:58, 8:01, 7:55, and 7:47, respectively.

The course is gorgeous, and follows the trail system on the Red Deer River. I have ran these trails many times, even though I don’t live in Red Deer, as they are convenient to my in-laws place. Familiarity does help a ton when you are shooting for a specific time in a race, as I knew when certain hills or hazards were coming. As I approached one tricky hill on the south side of the Red Deer river, I started talking with a lady around my age about her pace. Her name was Christy—she was doing the full and was going for 3:30! She was running the same pace as me, but obviously I was only doing the half. For the rest of the course, until she kept going to finish her full, we stuck near each other. Using each other as pace buddies was helpful! I had slowed a bit on that hill, hitting an 8:25 for mile 6, but then got back on track with help from Christy. We ran miles 7-12 in 7:51, 7:56, 8:15, 7:52, 7:53, and 8:02.

I had to run the last mile alone, as the full course forked to the left. I headed behind Lindsay Thurber High School, up Michener Hill, and coasted down to the finish line. This last “mile” took me about 7:00. I put mile in quotes because throughout the race I did not have to weave through traffic much, I hugged the curves, and I ran the tangents. My little legs need any advantage possible. I crossed the finish line comfortable with a time of 1:43.09…and I felt great!

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I was met at the finish line with my finisher’s medal, water, a banana, and one of those space blankets. My only petty complaint about this race is the medal, as this is now the third year in a row the medal has had the same design on the front face, with the backside date being the only thing that changed. After receiving those goodies, I was greeted by my father-in-law and my beagle Snoopy. Snoopy was not thrilled as the rain was now really coming down. I had to get a finisher’s photo with him, because I realized earlier last week that I had a photo with my silly beagle every year at this race! Apparently it is a tradition!

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I had met my “goal” for this race-I completed the half marathon at the same pace I plan on doing my full marathon. And most importantly, I felt like I could keep on going. It is now Tuesday evening and I am not sore one bit! I took yesterday off, but ran a comfortable 6 miles this evening, and I don’t even have knee pain! I am more ready than ever before to attempt to earn the coveted Boston Qualifying time. Less than two weeks….!

A shoutout to Christy, who did meet her goal, finishing the Red Deer Full Marathon in 3:29:00! Boston Qualifier!

Thoughts Before Woody’s RV World 1/2 Marathon…Not Going for a PR, but….

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Tomorrow is the 16th annual Red Deer Marathon; Woody’s RV World 1/2 and Full Marathon. I have done this race three times before (2010, 2012, 2013) and ran times of 1:54:19, 1:56:06, and 1:47:22, respectively. My race last year smashed my half marathon PR, and I have now broken that a few more times, working down to a 1:38:40.

This year, I am not going for a personal record. I am not going for placing in my age group. I am treating this run as a practice for the Calgary Full Marathon, which is in two short weeks. This is the race that stands between me and Boston.

My goal in Calgary is to run an 8:00 min/mi, which would put me at a 3:30:00 full marathon. In order to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I need to be under a 3:35:00. But, as you know from my post earlier this year, just under your maximum qualifying time doesn’t cut it. My Beef with Boston

By shooting for the 3:30, I am giving myself some qualifying cushion, so to speak. So tomorrow, I am attempting to run even splits, something I used to have a huge struggle with. I am still not perfect when it comes to my splits, but I have gotten them a lot more consistent. I am aiming for a time tomorrow of 1:45:00.

If I can tackle my race tomorrow with consistent splits and finish at 1:45, my mission will be accomplished. I will feel more confident going into Calgary and attempting my BQ. But, in two weeks, a lot can change that I have no control over. Weather is the big thing—there could very well be snow on June 1st in Calgary, but there could also be a heat advisory. While that course is also relatively flat with no major changes in elevation, the starting elevation is close to 3,428 feet above sea level. Now that my body has adjusted to “Rocky Mountain Levels” I am a lot better than I once was when I first moved from Milwaukee, but I still get nervous about racing a full marathon in Calgary. Proof is in past experience—-I ran the Calgary Full Marathon in 2009 with an astounding time of 5:03:37a personal worst.

I have ran this course and these trails in Red Deer before, so the familiarity is on my side. The whole course is relatively flat, with one bitch of an incline right at the end. This then turns into a rolling hill down to the finish line, so there is a reward. The elevation in Red Deer is 2,805 feet above sea level, which is very comparable to my home base of Lethbridge (2,990 feet). The climate is more humid here in Red Deer, but nothing compared to my hometown of Milwaukee, so race day temps are nothing crazy.

For now, I am going to enjoy this gorgeous May afternoon and go on a 2 mile shakeout run along the river, to keep those joints moving. I’ll head out to our in-laws cabin later to spend time with my nieces, have supper wit the family, then come back to relax. That 6:00 am alarm will be coming soon!

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Click here for more information on the Red Deer Marathon

I already went and picked up my race packet yesterday, and while there I was happy to run into the folks from Racepro.ca. Randy and company facilitate all the Runners Soul events back in Lethbridge, and when I checked in for my bib he overheard my name and commented “…I know that name! It’s nice to see a familiar face!” Right back at you Randy!

Spartan Race Montana 2014—We Loved it so Much, We Came Back Again!

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Last year, Dan and I participated in our first ever Spartan Race in Kalispell, Montana. That recap can be found here: Spartan Montana Sprint 2013

After that race, I participated in four more Spartan Races—2 more Sprint distances, 1 Super, and 1 Beast, thus earning my membership in the Trifecta Tribe. I had a great time doing all the races that I knew I had to do some again this year! Naturally, Dan and I signed up for the Montana Spartan Sprint again!

We headed down to Kalispell, MT, the night before so we could get to packet pickup. Pickup was running from 5-8 PM outside of Sportsman Ski Haus. We arrived at 5:10 PM and the line was out of control. Last year, Dan and I maybe waited ten minutes tops. I am not sure why the line took so long to move, but we waited a solid 1 hour and 20 minutes. There were some people who waited even longer. If the weather had been bad, or if we hadn’t been able to take the beer we purchased out of the beer garden back to our friends standing in line (and vice versa) this would have been completely unbearable. This is my only complaint of the otherwise awesome weekend. I truly hope the organizers of the race do something about this next year, because obviously more people utilized race pickup the night before than last year.

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I did win a parking pass for us (and a sweet long sleeve burnout-tee!) at the pickup pre-party! The pass came in handy the next morning, as we could drive straight to the race site and park our car on property, versus taking the shuttle. We had a 10:45 heat time, and our friends Matt & Kelly would be racing along with us in this heat. It would be their first ever Spartan Race experience!
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The course, while in the same location as last year, started and ended in a different spot, and also went in what I would consider to be reverse direction as the year prior. This was awesome as someone who had done the race the year prior. Another cool thing about this event was it had been deemed a “Founder’s Race”, as Joe De Sena and other founders of the company personally helped construct it. They would also be participating in a Founder’s Heat later in the day!

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There were many traditional Spartan Race obstacles, such as the Over, Under, Through….Cargo Net…Sand Bag Carry…Spear Throw…Barbed Wire Crawl….Rope Climb. But that last one was with a twist! I was all set to attempt this rope climb, but the climbing rope was swung from another rope between trees like a hammock. This caused a bouncing movement when climbing the rope as other climbers also climbed. I did not like this! Dan with his arborist skills made it up no problem. I, on the other hand, had to do burpees.

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The terrain is crazy on this course, just like last year. Such steep climbs up the sides of mountains, to then only descend down slippery falls full of mud. It was also very wet and humid, in my opinion, but this just has to do with the surroundings. My glutes burned pretty much immediately upon climbing the first hill. This was expected though!

After the spear throw, Kelly and I told the boys to go ahead, as there was just the sandbag, 8-foot wall, and fire jump left. I finished in 1 hour 46 minutes. I even did two terrible cartwheels over the finish line mat! I am hoping that they caught it on camera, so when pictures are posted I will let you know! Being a bling junkie, I was excited to get the medal and see how it looked this year. The Spartan Race medals at split into 1/3 this year, and if you do one of distance they piece together as a giant medal. This race also included a special black medallion for the Founder’s Race, which is very cool!

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We collected our bags, went and got an after photo, and proceeded to hose ourselves down. I didn’t even care that the water was ice cold, it just felt good to get semi-clean! After changing into crappy sweats, we collected our finisher shirts. I was pleasantly surprised with them, as last year they were just a standard cotton black shirt. Not comfortable or breathable at all. This year they are a heather grey, very light, and just plain awesome!

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Other than the race itself being awesome, the after-experience at this particular Spartan Race is incredible. Just like last year, they had food trucks on site and beer flowing from local breweries. We stayed for over 3 hours after finishing and just enjoyed the food, beer, weather, and other racers finishing! It was a blast! I had been worried about the weather all week, as chance of rain was at about 80% for the whole weekend! but the afternoon photos speak for themselves! as we really got to enjoy the best Montana had to offer! When there is so much going on at the race site, beautiful May afternoon and all, why would we want to leave?!?! This is what makes the whole Spartan Race Weekend special—you don’t just go and run a race and are finished…you take it all in all weekend long! If you take advantage of all the things Spartan Race pulls together to make the whole weekend tie in, then you will have an amazing time. AROO! AROO! AROO!

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Speed Workout—My First Attempt at “Yasso 800s”

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I am now into the one month countdown to the Calgary Full Marathon. I knew for a while I wanted to do this race, but it wasn’t until after my marathon during the Dopey Challenge that I realized I could maybe have a legitimate shot at getting a Boston Qualifying time. That has now become my focus, and things have been going well…for the most part. The races I have done this spring have gone phenomenal-new half marathon PR (1:38:40) and placed 2nd overall for women in the 10 Mile Road Race (1:14:49). But I have been having some bothersome knee pain. Yes, I am taking care of it and trying to figure out the issue (other than the obvious overuse) but I also know I can’t stop running altogether in order for it to heal completely. I have Calgary. And I have a goal!

After taking six days off of running while in Quebec City during Spring Break, I knew I needed to start tackling some tough workouts. Not just distance, but speed. Oh, the dreaded speed workout. I think back to when I was in Track & Field in High School and how much I loathed speed workouts. I use to run the 800 meter and 1600 meter back then, which is a tiny fraction of what I run now! But see, in high school, I think I got in a rut because I was never “that great” and was always a middle of the pack varsity runner. I helped the team in small ways, but my 2:38-800 meter time was never good enough to place high or advance far in our tough Southeast Conference, and even tougher WIAA Division 1.

Back to track workouts…I avoid them. I make excuses. I don’t have access to our outdoor community track, as it is used for the university or high school sports. You can’t just go jump that fence and use the track as you please. High schools in the area don’t have their own asphalt tracks like they do back in Wisconsin, so there goes that. My only option in town is the red shale track next to the curling club in downtown Lethbridge.
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So that is where I went last Wednesday.

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I decided I needed to switch my interval workout a bit. Usually, when I have a “speed” day, I just mess around with doing Fartleks. That way, I can just be going through neighborhoods minding my own business and surge for short distances whenever I feel like it. Over the past few months, I have been reading about Yasso 800s. It is a speed workout designed by Bart Yasso of Runners World Magazine. You can read about it here in this article:
Yasso 800s

The general premise is that you take what your goal full marathon time is (I need to be under 3:35:00 to make the qualifying time for Boston) and translate that time from hours and minutes, into minutes and seconds. So if I want to aim for a 3:30:00 full marathon, I am going to be running 800 meter repeats in 3 minutes and 30 seconds.

For my first attempt at Yasso 800s, I decided to do an 800 meter warmup, 6×800 meter runs at a 3:30 pace, and then an 800 meter cool down. Wednesday was our first HOT day of the year, as my car thermometer read 79 degrees at 3:30 pm. I was a little nervous how this warm weather would affect me during this workout, but I came armed with a bottle of water and was ready to go.

The reason I wanted to do an 800 meter warmup was so I could figure out where I needed to place myself in order to have a true 800 meter distance around the track. There are not any lanes drawn in on this old school track, so I did my first two laps hugging the curve in my made up Lane 1. It was under the 800 meters (0.5 mile) so I adjusted myself from there on out to be positioned in the middle imaginary lane.

I was nervous for my first 800. I really didn’t know how the pace would feel. I finished my first one in 3:32; just a tad off. Instead of jogging in between each 800, (I had wanted my total distance that afternoon to total 4 miles) I took a 2:30-3:30 minute break where I jogged over to get some water, did some stretches, and got set for the next one. I ran my second 800 pretty much spot on in 3:29! A highlight at the end of my second 800 was witnessing a homeless man peeing by a shed next to the track; oh downtown Lethbridge, you never cease to amaze me.

The third and fourth 800s were 3:30 and 3:22, respectively. Damn, I was feeling good! I was worried when I clocked in that 3:22; had I pushed too hard with two more repeats to go? I was downing water like no bodies business and by this point I was sweating more than normal. This is what I needed though—something new to get my body going.

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The last two 800s were completed in 3:28 and 3:22. I was so happy with those last two times, and was wanting to almost pat my own back with that final lap! I had done my first Yasso 800 workout and it felt fantastic! After my 800 meter cool down, I got artsy in the shale (see below). Later that week, i revamped my training calendar a bit, and have set three more days of intervals. I will be doing the Yasso 800 workout during each, with my next one having 8x800s and the second having 10x800s. I’ll taper down to only 4x800s the week and a half before my big race. All in all, while I was nervously dreading speed workouts, I am now feeling really positive as I head towards the Calgary Full Marathon on June 1st!

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