Sunday, November 6, 2011

Run to unite 5k: race report

This race actually happened BEFORE the monster dash half marathon.  It was a really unique race for a number of reasons.  First off, the race was organized by a Macalester student (a Somali student who graduated from Minneapolis South High School) with support from American Refugee Committee (an organization I feel a special connection to thanks to my inspiring good friend who enacts her passion for refugee rights everyday at ARC). Appropriately, the race was a 5k run/walk to raise money for hunger relief in Somalia.  Local organizations and high schools were involved so I saw many a familiar face at the start line on the windy Sunday October morning.

Joan and I decided to run a couple warm up miles over to the University of Minnesota flats on east river parkway.  The course was gorgeous; it covered trails and floating walkways along the river road that I had never run on before.  Judging from the relatively small number of racers (350 as compared to the thousands I am used to), Joan and I thought we may have a chance to compete to be the first female finishers. 
Running around a 7 min pace, we cruised through the woods.  The race totally brought me back to xc races at Macalester.  I was pushing it hard and I was trying to keep up with Joan.  This was total deja vu.  My major moment of near collapse occurred when we hit the first floating walkway.  Initially, I didn't realize that the walkway was floating!  So, I thought that I was FAINTING!  The feeling on the walkway felt remarkably similar to when I passed out riding my bike a number of years ago.  Fortunately, Joan said something like, "I feel like we are in Disney World!  These walkways are crazy..."  I felt immediate relief!

At the turn around, we discovered we were in third/fourth place for the women runners, only to follow another woman about our age and a ten year old girl.  We thought she was our same arch nemesis whom we encountered at a relay race earlier in the summer, but later I discovered that she was the 5th grade sister of one of my Washburn runners!  Hurray!  A new recruit!  We decided to hold our positions and not let another lady pass us.  Sorry ladies.  We crossed the finish line as third and fourth.  I was exhausted and proud; Joan could've run another mile. 

Overall, we had such a great time and I was thrilled to participate in such a cool fundraiser.  The energy of the race organizers and all the volunteers made the race extremely special; a reminder that the Twin Cities is a true hub for positive work and change.
Local high school students playing Postal Service on marimbas (or marimba like instruments).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Monster Dash Half Marathon: Race Report

Go Big.  It was the perfect morning for a PR- dad was visiting, the weather was cool and sunny, and I felt energized and capable.  Dad remarked how relaxed I seemed in comparison to other early morning pre-race preparations he'd witnessed.  Running a handful of marathons does tend to put other races into perspective.  That said, I hadn't really built up this race in terms of any consistent training plan.  My fall workout schedule was basically a few short/easy runs, a fast run with my high school runners, and a long run on the weekends.  My weekly mileage was around 30 miles on average.  This isn't very much for me.  Yet, I ran the TC 10 mile a few weekends before the Monster Dash and my time was only a couple minutes slower than last year.  So, I knew I could PR if I was ready to accept a little pain at the end.  I also knew that it was my last chance before snowfall to hit a half marathon PR.  So...why not, right?

Miles 1-3
Mike cheering for me in front of our alma mater!
Easy, fast.  I had on my ipod shuffle and I was loving the tunes.  This was my first race listening to music; it definitely won't be my last.  Running west down Summit is like a reward after running up it during the Twin Cities marathon.  This photo is waving to Mike and Dad cheering at Macalester!!!!
My first split was in the vicinity of 8:40.  Then, my garmin turned off somehow.  I restarted it at the 3 mile mark in case I might want to check my pace later in the race. 

Two block shots please??!

Miles 3-6
The familiar part of River Road heading towards the Ford Plant.  I felt good.  My music died (wah).  I didn't check my Garmin for the rest of the race.  I knew I was running faster than my usual pace on long runs, so there was no point of freaking myself out (if my pace was slower than expected, I would feel bad...if it was faster, I might slow).  I decided to focus on my form, my breathing, and keep up my pace.  I saw Dad and Mike cheering on the parkway right after mile 6! 

Miles 7-9
Looking for me after mile 9.
I could feel my body getting a little bit worn down, but I tried to not let my mind go there.  I kept my pace and focused on not letting this particular heavy footed/heavy breathing woman get too far ahead of me.  She was breathing harder than me so I knew I should be running at least as fast as her.  Dad and Mike cheered me on a little after mile 9!!!!

Mile 10
Got my shot blocks!  Heavy footed lady right next to me.  hee.
It was a real crush to the soul when we passed the 10 mile finish line.  I tried not to look.  I also avoided looking at the pacers and their pace signs.  I tried this strategy after feeling really let down at the Madison Marathon when I fell behind my pacer.

Mile 11-11 1/2
Big uphill in the more unfamiliar part of river/shepard road.  Also there was horrible angsty singer at the top of the hill.  I made a mental note to write a thank you to Team Ortho for the great race minus the 11 1/2 mile band.  Oh my lord.  I wanted to run faster so I didn't have to listen to the depressing music.  I guess maybe that was their intent?
off to finish the race!

Mile 12 to finish.
Slowed down a bit after the big hill but then started to pass people as we headed into the last mile.  I didn't pass heavy breather, but I closed the gap and I wasn't far behind her at the finish line.  I saw Mike immediately after I crossed the finish.  The clock time was 1:51, so I knew I ran a personal record.  When we checked the results at home, I was totally ecstatic to see that I ran a 1:48!!!    I felt like I really hung in there at the end and gave it my all.  I was so excited that my dad was there to see me race! 

Finish line!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

YWCA Women's Triathlon 2011 race report

I now have a triathlon under my belt and I am ready for another! Tomorrow! (No need for concern, I don't actually have another triathlon tomorrow, but I would totally do one if I did.)

Here's how it went
(Skip ahead to the last paragraph if you don't want the nitty gritty details):

I woke up at 5am, hit snooze, and then rolled out of bed five minutes later. I had my race breakfast- coffee, oatmeal, banana. I prepped all my stuff Saturday night so I didn't really have much to worry about in the morning. I checked the weather- high of 80 but not until later in the afternoon. Perfect.

I drove myself to Lake Nokomis, biked over to the transition area, pumped my tires and set up my gear in my assigned transition spot. Luckily, my transition area was easy to identify and I was there early enough to get a prime location. My gear included a small towel to place my stuff on, running shoes, tri shorts (with gummies and a mini cliff in the pockets), tank top with number pinned on, sunglasses, running hat, and water bottle. I put my number on my bike and my helmet. I headed over to get marked up: my race number (#101), my age (27), and my wave (heat 3).

From Square Lake, YWCA tri, aug 12-14 2011

I had about an hour to toodle around so I walked around the transition area and noted all the entrances and exits for the different legs of the race. I also spied on the elites and checked out their gear and transition set up. They had some cool equipment that maybe one day I will splurge for (if I get more serious about training). I drank half a cup of coffee, used the bathroom a few times, and then dropped a bag of dry clothes off at the bag drop. Unknowingly, I made a good decision bringing a colorful hippie bag. Since everyone else used the same blue backpack that they gave us at packet pickup, the volunteers were able to find my "hippie" bag in record time!

As the fog lifted off of Lake Nokomis, we lined up in our waves (I was in wave 3, mostly 25-30 year-olds). Mike's mom, Carol yelled out my name and cheered! She made it to the start! Here is a view of my heat getting ready:

From Square Lake, YWCA tri, aug 12-14 2011

Swim leg:

Ready...Go! I ran a few strides into the water and then started swimming as soon as I could. The water was a delightful temperature: 76 degrees. Wet-suit legal but very few athletes had wetsuits (even the elites). I definitely did not need it in terms of temperature.

Without planning to, I ended up staying on the outside edges of the pack, making it easy to pass people. But, this strategy also added some distance (thus slowing down my time). The swim parameters were big and orange so my only vision issue was due to the sun was reflecting brightly off the water! And we off we go!

From Square Lake, YWCA tri, aug 12-14 2011

The swim was over fast and I definitely could've gone faster/longer. I tried to stay swimming in the water as long as possible. When I started to scrape the bottom, I put my feet down and ran out to the transition area.

From Square Lake, YWCA tri, aug 12-14 2011

Transition 1: Swim to Bike

I ran on the grass to get the sand off my feet. The transition area was pretty empty at first but I took longer than I would've liked as I put on my shorts, shoes, and tank top. The tank top in particular was a total hassle. I struggled to get it over my head and in the process, I lost a safety pin for my number. (The fact that I put my helmet on first was the likely culprit). Oh well, no big deal in the grand scheme of things. I walked/jogged my bike out of the transition area because I couldn't remember if it was legal to run with the bike. This probably caused me a little extra time too.


I hopped on my bike and took off! I was so glad that I used my friend's Claire's racing bike. This baby was fast and super comfortable thanks to Grand Performance Bike Shop. They put on new gears, breaks, chain, handlebar tape, and a new seat. I was rocking and socking.

I ate the cliff bar immediately and tried to drink some water. Now this is where I ran into TOTAL ERROR! I brought along the dorkiest water bottles possible!!!! One was just a plain gatorade bottle with a screw top (Stupid! As if I know how to ride this racing bike without hands!) and the other was this funky pop top bottle from the 1990's. I went with the pop top bottle and just slowed down and swiveled when attempting to chug water from it. Lots of time lost here. Why I didn't buy two simple bike water bottles is beyond me.

The course went by quickly. I kept on the lookout for folks in my age group. When a couple of 30-35 year olds crept up on my at the end of the race, I made a break for it and passed the pack before they could block me out at the transition area.

Transition 2: Bike to Run.

This was a mighty quick transition since I didn't have to change anything except take off my helmet. One woman actually forgot to do this and ran with hers. At least, I hope that was an accident.

From Square Lake, YWCA tri, aug 12-14 2011


The hardest part of the race was shifting from biking into running. My heart rate was up and I was breathing hard. My legs also felt like bricks, as I expected. I spent the first mile focusing on my slowing heart rate, controlling my breathing, and thinking about my form. I told myself "nice and easy" and "save it for the end." At the 1 mile mark, I drank a sip of water and poured the rest on my head. I wasn't really thirsty and I only had two miles left. Not worth the time.

After the water stop, I kicked it up a gear and started to pick up my pace but still hold back a little. Then, at the 2 mile mark, I started to really bring it up a notch in order to pass the women that had kept an edge on me throughout the rest of the race. The last quarter mile was a little of showdown between myself and two other younger triathletes. We all sprinted it in to the finish line...pushing each other down the chute.

From Square Lake, YWCA tri, aug 12-14 2011

I saw Mike, Carol, and Milt immediately as headed through the flags. They were so proud! I was glad the run was done, but I recovered quickly and immediately wanted to do the whole race again!

Here are my results/paces:

place overall: 55/958


swim: 9:00, 70th place in swim

average per 100 yds: 1:48

transition 1: 2:54

bike: 49:03, 140th place in bike

rate: 19.0

transition 2: 0:54

run: 23:16, 30th place

pace: 7:30

overall time: 1:25:06

Analyzing the results is pretty interesting because I can really tell my weak spots by comparing the different legs among the athletes. Clearly, my sore spot is the bike. I felt amazing on the bike...maybe I wasn't working hard enough! My run time surprised me (I didn't wear a watch so I didn't know my pace until afterwards); running feels very different after biking so I really didn't know what I was averaging.

Full results:

Anyway, I am totally thrilled with the results, and I think triathloning just may become my newest passion!

From Square Lake, YWCA tri, aug 12-14 2011

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bridges and brick workouts

Photo from twin cities business mag.

Yesterday night I took my new tricked up road bike (okay, road bike is used but it is now full of new tricks thanks to Grand Performance) on a 10 mile journey to Wirth Park for my trail running club. The bike ride was glorious as the heat has broken and my bum no longer hurts due to the awful men's bike seat.

Our trail workout was also a blast: 1.5 mile warm up, 9x1 minute hill repeats with abs and arm exercises between sets, and 1.5 mile cool down. I love hills. I am weird.

The bike ride home was equally delightful. My trail club coach was heading in the same direction so we biked together as she gave me tips for an upcoming triathlon (she is an ironwoman). After she broke off, I finished the ride and crossed the bike bride in the photo above. I really wanted to take a photo like this one as I was crossing the bridge but I was also dreaming about dinner at the time...But, nevertheless, the evening air was just magical and I fell in love with the Twin Cities all over again. It was about 8pm, the sun was low in the sky and there was a clear view of downtown from the top. This bike bridge must be designed by the same architect who did the freeway bridge in Milwaukee. Ah, a taste of home!

Friday, August 5, 2011

duly noted: bicycles and fresh bread

(via The Sartorialist)

The Twin Cites are apparently the top bicycling city(ies) in the United States. This label likely stems from our extensive bike trail network connecting the suburbs to urban centers, our hardcore winter riders, and our anarchist do-it-yourself-ers with bike powered pig roasts (no joke, witnessed it myself). Yet, there is something missing in our bike culture.

I feel like the nytimes article, "The Dutch Way: Bicycles and Fresh Bread," gets close to the heart of it.

Author, Russell Shorto writes, "The coexistence of different modes of travel is hard-wired into the (Dutch) culture. This in turns relates to lots of other things- such as bread. How? Cyclists can't carry six bags of groceries; bulk buying is almost nonexistent. Instead of shopping for a week, people stop at the market daily. So the need for processed loaves that will last for days is gone. A result: good bread."

Now this article continues with many good points about geography, urban planning, and social planning, but the connection between bicycles and good bread really strikes a chord with me. It's funny how something so seemingly obvious- when you bike, you must downsize your load- forces me to reflect on my choices and what I consider to be the "good life."

After living in Barcelona during college, I've since yearned for a daily baguette poking out of my knapsack. And for the cup of espresso ordered and drunk at the counter. And for the grocery bag on wheels that the old ladies tote through the city back to their flats.

Would I (could I) trade the comfort and ease of my car for my bike and other forms of transportation? And if I did, what might be some of the unexpected outcomes of this switch?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer Running

This summer's training runs have been more helter skelter than ever. I'm currently training for two triathlons in August- a women only sprint tri in Minneapolis and then a longer, Olympic distance tri in Maple Grove. So, I approached this summer with the attitude that I will run when I need to and focus on biking and swimming consistently.

This plan has sort of worked out. I've been running at least four days a week: two days of trail running workouts with my club and then two days of running with Washburn Cross Country Team as a new coach. This adds up to at least 20 miles of running. However, I have some beef with this schedule. Primarily, I don't get to run as much with Rachel or by my lonesome or with my other best running girlfriends. Thus, I've sneaked (snuck?) in some extra runs to accomplish this. Perhaps as a result (or due to the fact that I never recovered fully from the marathon), my left hip is creaky. I don't like it. It's not painful, it just takes me at least 45 minutes to warm up! I am hoping it is a just a little tendinitis and it will eventually work itself out.

In other news, I attended a race preview ride for the sprint tri at Nokomis Lake. Like I mentioned, it is all female triathlon. I was surprised at the race preview how competitive (okay, downright pushy) the other women were. Most of them were much older than me and more geared out. As soon as we started the ride, all of them scooted so they could be as close to the front of the line of bikes as possible. This seemed a little silly to me and I ended up just bringing in the rear, confident that tides would change come race day (meaning I will not come in last).

The course looks pretty simple with a couple sharp turns on the bike and a couple there and backs on the bike and the run routes. Both of the there and backs are short so I am not too worried about it. The swim course looks simple as well, just one u shaped loop. I think the biggest challenge for me will be the transition area circus. I've heard people put out balloons and bright towels to mark their area for easy finding. I will have to think of something fun to put up!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday Morning Swim

As a teacher, I have the luxury of ten empty weeks. Somehow, I manage to fill up seven of them pretty quickly with camping, coaching, traveling, paneling, and painting. Today, however, I spent Monday morning exactly the way I wish I could spend every Monday morning for the rest of my life. Dramatic? Yes. Sincere? Very.

I baked a batch of millet muffins and drank some coffee. I opened all the windows and let the cool morning air drift through our home. Then, Anna, one of my favorite tri/run buddies biked over and we headed to Lake Nokomis to try out some open water swimming before my sprint tri in a few weeks.

Despite the cloudy water and the ill spread buoys, I felt strong and fast. I really had nothing to measure my speed against, but I imagined coming out of the swim in first place (this will not happen but it was fun to imagine!). The sun was beaming down on the waves and I felt absolutely alive and grateful. Thank you parents for signing me up for swim team at age 6. Highly appreciated.

Now, for some lunch!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Gearing Up!

It's the morning before the Madison Marathon. Rachel woke me up early and we headed out for an easy 3 mile, a loosening the legs and stretching kind of run. I started "carbo loading" yesterday (including sharing a piece of peanut butter cup cake with Mike!) and I am trying to eat mostly carbs and supplement that with recovery drinks today (plus the coffee I am having now!).

Tomorrow, at this time, I will be 1 hour into the race! Unbelievable! Last night, I tallied the number of miles I have logged over the last 17 weeks in training for this marathon. Guesses?

Okay, I will tell you. Approximately 689 miles, an average of 40 miles a week for 17 weeks. I gotta say, no matter what happens tomorrow morning, I feel proud and ready to race. Looking back on my training, there are many memorable runs- many with amazing runner friends (and dogs!) and some with just me testing my limits, endurance, and spirit.

Tomorrow morning, I plan to wake up with a smile on my face, fresh legs, and an open heart. Somewhere I picked up this mantra and I will use it tomorrow: 1st 10 miles: brain, 2nd 10 miles: body, last 6 miles: heart. Those last 6 are the miles I look forward to the most!