Letting Go

A few months ago, one of my colleagues invited me to join her for a 5K race, the Night Nation run. I said yes immediately without much looking into it; all I needed to know was it was within walking distance of my house, and I was sold on it.

I looked at the race information a bit more closely after signing up, and discovered that the race was not timed, they had various fun stations set up along the course, and they seemed to be actively encouraging people to take their time. This is kind of my nightmare set-up.

I’m not fast, so I recognize that some people will look at my times out of context and think I must be goofing around on the course anyway, but of course I’m not. I’m showing up to races to do my best. Of course I want to enjoy myself and show sportwomanship at all times, but beyond that, I’m there to suffer a little. I mean yeah, maybe if I was faster, or once I’ve reached my peak and I’ve started to level off on my performance, then I can show up in jorts or goof off at aid stations or take pictures on the way, but I’m not there yet. It already takes me a longer-than-average amount of time to finish races – I’m not interested in adding to that time with distractions.

With its accommodating and welcoming philosophy, this race forced me out of my comfort zone. I did my best to go with the flow and enjoy the race for what it was.

My friend Samantha decided to do this race with me (actually, when she refused to let me pay her for shoveling the sidewalk at my house when a big snowstorm hit in the interim between closing on our house and moving, I offered to pay for a race entry so we could spend time together and I could ease my guilty conscience over not compensating her for the burdensome task of shoveling the sidewalks of our corner lot), and met me at my house so we could walk down and avoid the parking fiasco. It’s a bit over a mile walk, and it was still sunny and hot, and I was still a bit tired from my afternoon run. I figured since I wasn’t going for a PR at this race, a 10 mile trail run (easy trails) wouldn’t be a problem. It wasn’t, although I finished running at 6 and we started walking to the race at 7:40.

We realized it was going to be a bit of a letdown because it wouldn’t be that dark, so we didn’t even bother to wear the light-up glasses we got with our “premium” registration. We got bags to put our stuff in, as well, and it turned out we had to carry them during the race, so that was irritating. Sam chose to wear hers and just endure the bouncing, and I chose to carry it in one hand.

Since the race is untimed, they release people in waves about 2 minutes apart. Since the race had a lot of participants and was partially run on the bike paths of the Mississippi River Trail, it made sense to do limit the number of people pouring onto the trail, although it turned out not to matter.

Because it seemed like every single participant was walking. Or stopping. Or wandering aimlessly. Seemingly unaware of their surroundings. This happens to some extent at all races, but it was much more prevalent here. Sam and I spent most of the race weaving and dodging through the crowds; the race never opened up and gave us a chance to set our own pace. In a way, this was good, because we stayed together the whole race, but it was so frustrating. At the first station along the way (a DJ), we ended up at a standstill as people bunched up to take selfies, or dance, or whatever. At other times, we were stuck running through grass on the side of the trail to try to get around people.

There were parts I enjoyed. People were dressed up in amazing outfits – tutus, butterfly wings, light-up shoes, glow paint in intricate patterns on faces and bodies. I liked the DJ music along the way. And I liked spending time with my good friend. But this confirmed to me these races are not for me. Maybe I’m too uptight about running, or maybe if I want to go to a dance party, I’ll go to a club, and leave the races for when I want to run.

I finished in approximately 44:20 (of course I wore my watch! I am getting credit for these miles!), which is about 15 minutes slower than my last 5K. I knew going in that this race would be slower, but I didn’t think it would be such a drastic difference. It doesn’t matter that much – the time is what it is and I’m not ashamed of it. This race was a learning experience for me, and I can say that I went in with an open mind, enjoyed the atmosphere (though I didn’t truly take in all that the race had to offer, as I didn’t stay to dance at one of the DJ stages and I didn’t wait in line for a selfie at one of the selfie stations), and made the best of it.

And now I don’t have to run one of these ever again!

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Race Report: Fans 24 Hour Race 2018

Official Results:
Distance: 42.3 mi
Placing:
Overall (24 Hrs): 67/78
Gender: 21/25

Watch Results:
Time: 13:41:27
Pace: 18:25
Distance: 44.58
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 100 mi
B: 90 mi
C: 75 mi

Food:
What I ate the night before: pizza
What I ate on race morning: bagel with cream cheese, bagel with hazelnut spread
What I carried with me: n/a

Gear:
What I wore: to start – t-shirt, shorts, trucker hat, vest
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker

Discussion: Two disappointing results in two years! Not a good sign.

I slept really poorly the day of the race, which was frustrating. I hadn’t slept well in the days leading up to the event, so I was starting with a sleep deficit. That ended up not being a factor, but it could have been. I felt grumpy and wished I could just go back to sleep and not run.

My dad picked me up and we loaded up the car quickly. I only had one tub of stuff, plus a cooler with some pop, and a chair to sit in. He had the tent (a different tent than last year, he has an abundance of tents) and his own chair already in the truck. We got their early enough that we had a spot on the path itself, which was a huge benefit over last year. He had a great people-watching spot, and I had easy access to my stuff.

The weather was cool enough that I put on a sweatshirt while I relaxed before the start. I liked setting up camp early and having time to finish my food and chill out – even if that meant I had to get up earlier. It didn’t really matter since I barely slept – half an hour wasn’t going to make or break me.

The race started at 8, and I ended up running and chatting alongside someone I’d recently met. It was a little faster than I would have liked, and after a little bit he did break off and run at his own pace, while I settled into mine. My plan was to run 10 minutes, walk 2 minutes, for as long as that was sustainable. I think it worked really well for me while I was able to run, but of course I can’t say what might have happened once I really started to get fatigued.

After my first lap, my dad left to go to work, and I was on my own for awhile. This worked really well for me. I got food and water at the aid stations and only stopped at my tent if I needed something (electrolyte tablets, gels, bug spray, sunscreen). Since it was threatening rain, I had to keep everything in my tent, which was annoying. I ended up tossing my sunscreen and Body Glide into my chair and not caring if it got wet.

It started to rain somewhere around 10 or 11. I knew it was coming, and I didn’t really mind. I didn’t want it to rain before the start, because I didn’t want to sit around getting wet or have to set up the tent on wet ground. I didn’t want thunderstorms to force the race directors to suspend the race. Neither of those things happened so it didn’t really matter. I didn’t have any chafing issues and it was warm enough that I didn’t get chilled. It was WAY better than heat and sun. I felt like everything was going well for the first few hours.

At around 4 hours elapsed (right after my first weigh-in), I stopped to fix my feet. One ankle was chafing where my shoe met my ankle. My sock was too low, and my ankle was dirty, so I had to stop and slap some moleskin on it. That fixed the problem, and at the same time, I worked on my other foot. I have a callus on that foot from some really old blister (possibly stemming from last year’s FANS race), and a blister was developing under that callus. I slapped some moleskin on it as well, but what I should have done is popped the blister. That was stupid. I thought the moleskin would be enough to protect it, but it was protruding too much. It seemed like a good enough fix at the time, so I continued, and was still able to run.

Since things were going really well, and I was finding my run 10/walk 2 strategy wasn’t working very well (I was always hitting the aid stations/my tent right in the middle of the run cycle), so I thought I’d try running to each aid station, then walking 2 or 3 minutes or so after the aid station/my tent. I did one lap of that and found it more fatiguing than I’d like, so I went back to the run 10/walk 2, and that was much more comfortable. I was having a decent time of running my own race, staying out of my head, and just letting the day happen however it would. I was pretty excited that I was still running many laps into the race, which hadn’t happened in 2017. I came through the 6 hour runners on their short laps and cheered them on.

My dad came back at around 2:00, and I was still running at that point, which was awesome. I was slowing down and my feet were starting to hurt, but I wanted to hit the 27.4 mark (12 laps) and get the unofficial marathon PR before I stopped to do anything. I came through 27.4 mi (12 laps) in 7:17:42, which is faster than my marathon PR; interpolating, that makes my unofficial marathon PR 6:58:32. So at least I made my first goal for the summer! I kept moving after that, wanted to hit the 50K mark (lap 14, 31.6 mi) before I stopped for a break. I wanted to get an unofficial 50K PR too, but since I was really slowing down, that wasn’t going to happen, and I also forgot to hit the lap button at that point. I think I came through somewhere under 8:40, which means that I finished 50K at around the same pace I did Chippewa Moraine. I was in good shape, time-wise, but I was slowing a lot, and both feet were really starting to hurt.

I took a longer break to deal with my feet – I lanced my blister several times but could not seem to fully pop it, no matter what I did. I finally decided to just cover it up with moleskin to protect it, and let the natural pressure from walking push the rest of the fluid out. I finally got up and started walking. The blister hurt, but so did my other foot. I had not realized how much I’d been compensating for the pain in my right foot. I thought if I walked it off, it would feel better, but it didn’t really.

I weighed in again and continued to walk. The blister pain actually did start to subside, and I was right – the pressure from my foot did make the swelling go down for awhile. The pain on the outer edge of my left foot was what kept me from running. It was especially bad during the gravel sections – it was impossible to keep from stepping on rocks and that seemed to exacerbate the pain, even though it was on the side of my foot, not the bottom. I just kept going, figuring that it would either go away or I’d just get used to it, and I kind of did.

I asked my dad about the weather, and he told me after about 4:30, it should be clear, so I got out my portable charger to charge my GPS watch, which was down to 10% battery. I clipped that on and wore it for the next 3 laps. Since I wasn’t running, it wasn’t a big deal to charge it while on the move. I tucked the charger itself into the pocket of my vest so my hands were free (other than my water bottle), and checked periodically to make sure the charging clamp didn’t dislodge. I got it charged up to about 60% and then put it back. My feet were still killing me and I was trying to decide what to do. I was thinking I should get to 100K and then stop for awhile, then I started re-assessing and decided I’d get to 50 miles and then stop. I walked through while the 12 hour runners were doing their final short loops and was able to cheer everyone on. The trails were a lot more empty at that point, except for a couple other people hustling through one final loop. One guy was running with his pacer and ended up dropping her as he took off to try to get that last loop in before the 12 hour mark – he had a little over a mile to go and plenty of time, but he wanted to make sure he made it.

I came through after the 12 hour race had ended, and decided to do one more loop before changing my clothes and shoes for the night. Mostly I wanted to use the porta-potty with my shorts on rather than with running tights – I didn’t want to wrestle with my tights in that confined space! I was still walking, and pretty much everyone was passing me, but I was still moving at least! It was getting toward dusk during that lap, and I carried my headlamp with me just in case, but it turned out to be fine. There were lanterns out on the course which looked really cool.

I sat down in my chair after lap #19 (42.3 mi) and took off my shoes. My blister had bubbled back up again, so I lanced it a couple more times. I went into the tent and changed into tights, a new t-shirt, and a hoodie, since it was getting kinda chilly. I brought out some fresh socks and then worked on my feet for a little while. It was getting dark out and I wanted to finish dealing with my feet before the light was gone. I finally put my shoes on, which was a difficult task because I was trying to avoid dislodging my moleskin. I lounged in the chair with my feet up for awhile, contemplating what I was going to do. I didn’t have a lot of hope left that I’d be able to start running. The pain in my left foot was not getting any better, and in fact was worsening. So I had 11 hours of hobbling ahead of me — or I could strike my tent and go home to my cats. I thought about it for awhile, and realized I wasn’t enjoying the effort. This was twice that I’d done this race and had it not work out. I also realized that I had been changed and sitting around for probably half an hour (I don’t really know), so I would be behind on my nutrition at a time when I really needed to be sure I was on top of it. Maybe quitting wasn’t a bad idea.

I said to my husband “I don’t want to do this anymore, let’s go.” He said ok, without any judgment, and I got up to take down the tent. My left foot hurt to the point where I couldn’t really stand on it, and that sealed it – but I made the decision to quit before I knew that. It turns out it was a good decision, because a day later, I’m still gimping around. I don’t know what the deal is – it doesn’t hurt at all when I’m not moving, there’s no bruising or swelling, but it hurts to walk. I am in big trouble if it doesn’t get better by Wednesday, because I am making a site visit in North Dakota and I have to be able to walk then. I’m hoping some stretching and massage, plus some rest, will be enough to make it feel better.

I don’t think the 24 hour event is for me, although I really enjoy the race! I guess maybe the 12 hour race would be a better option and would require much less from a logistical standpoint. I was questioning whether or not I actually ever want to do a long race, like a 50 miler or longer. I’m not sure if I’m cut out for that distance – I don’t seem to do that well with adversity, although I’m getting better. I lasted a lot longer this time and worked through a lot of issues before I ultimately gave in to the foot pain. I didn’t have any stomach problems, and today I feel pretty good. I was on my feet for 13 hours and traversed 42 miles, and I don’t feel much soreness in my hips or legs. If I’d dealt with that callus from the start (covered it up, or gotten a pedicure and just gotten rid of it), I probably would have been able to keep moving a lot longer.

I don’t feel the same level of regret I did last year, since I at least got in a mileage PR. I think the level of foot pain I’m still dealing with also makes me feel more justified – continuing could have done more lasting damage, or made it more likely I wouldn’t be able to do my job. I also had a great time – the atmosphere is so welcoming, and the other runners, volunteers, and spectators are so supportive. After a bit of time to think about it, I’m now really looking forward to doing the 12 hour event next year and creating some new challenges for myself. And… provided my foot gets better soon, I’m probably going to sign up for a fall 50 mile race, just to see what that’s like.

Race Report: Superior 25K 2018

Official Results:
Time: 3:49:45 (16 minute improvement over last year, 62 minute improvement over 2016)
Pace: 14:48
Placing:
Overall: 217/297
Gender: 98/164
AG (F 1-39): 54/83

Watch Results:
Time: 3:49:53
Pace: 15:48
Distance: 14.54 mi (somehow the exact same GPS distance as last year!)
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 3:59:59

Food:
What I ate the night before: salmon BLT with fries, bagel and cream cheese
What I ate on race morning: bagel with cream cheese
What I carried with me: 2 gel packets (I ate 2 and grabbed 2 at the AS), water. I ate 2 cookies, 2 cups of Coke, and a cup of ginger ale at the AS.

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt, shorts, ball cap, buff,
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker, hydration pack

Discussion: Oh man, I really love this race! Of course I’m glowing because I finally got under 4 hours, but I always find myself more fulfilled and happy after a Rocksteady Running event.

This year has been a lot different as I no longer live in Duluth. The drive is now 4 hours instead of 1.5, which sucks. I feel so far away from home right now (and my cats!) There’s a lot of construction between St. Paul and Duluth, too, but we left early enough to avoid traffic since I was signed up to volunteer. I thought I had to be there at 3:00, so I was ridiculously early for the actual check-in (it began at 4), but there was plenty to do. I was tasked with selling merchandise again this year, which is fun. I like talking to other runners and I always like the other people who I’m working alongside. It is so great to see those people out on the trail, or volunteering the next day, when I need a pick-me-up during a race. Every friend I’ve made as a runner has been from volunteering, and every time I volunteer, I make new friends.

After my shift was over, I was pretty drained from all the talking and from being on my feet, and also very hungry. We had dinner at the lodge restaurant and then watched a movie (Munich, which is boring and long) before lights out. I actually slept, sort of! I woke up early, though, so I probably only got about 4 hours of sleep. That’s way better than normal. I still don’t understand why I woke up at 5:45 but whatever. I laid in bed til 7 regardless.

Usually I do a lot of prep work the night before a race: lay out all my stuff, stock my hydration pack, etc. This time, I did basically nothing. That was kind of dumb as I did waste some time finding stuff and prepping. I also didn’t make a checklist of race day to-dos, which resulted in me nearly forgetting to put on my bib. Whoops. I “made” my bagel and cream cheese, walked over to the race headquarters for the mandatory race day check-in, and decided it was warm enough to skip my arm warmers. It wasn’t even raining! Miraculous. It was fairly humid, though, and without a breeze, the air was very… present. I went back to the hotel room to finish getting ready, and finally made it out the door just after 7:45. Not bad for an 8 AM start! This is literally the greatest race for that reason specifically.

I didn’t bother to warm up, because I obviously didn’t have the time, but I hadn’t planned on it. I don’t think it’s as necessary for me in long runs like this, although the beginning of this race is fast since it’s on the road.

I’ve run this race two other times, plus I’ve done a few training runs on the same trails, and I’ve run the marathon which includes the same trail (in only one direction).  I really reaped the benefits of that this year. I knew when to take it easy (the switchbacks on Mystery), I ran quickly but in control down the back of Mystery Mountain, I ate a gel between Mystery and Moose Mountain, and I knew after I got down the back of Moose Mountain that I wasn’t that far from the turnaround, and there were plenty of runnable sections. I also knew when I was finally at the last downhill into the aid station and turned on the jets to ensure I got there under 2 hours. I made it to the one and only aid station at the Oberg trailhead in 1:57:56, which includes the time in the aid station, so I was on track for under 4 hours if I didn’t lose too much time on the way back.

I ate 2 cookies while walking uphill out of the aid station, and then started running once I hit the downhills. Once I got in the vicinity of Moose Mountain again, I started walking to conserve energy. I knew it would be painful on my legs and my lungs, so I walked some easier sections to save myself some of that pain. It paid off, because while Moose Mountain sucked, I was still able to go up in one sustained push – no stopping to catch my breath or try to put out the fire in my legs. It’s better to just get it over with. I remind myself that 100 milers have to do this with like 98 miles on their legs. I surely can do it with 10 or 11. It helps.

The top of Moose Mountain seemed longer this year than it has in years past, but I also was able to run most of it. I only needed a little bit of recovery after the climb before I was able to run again. Maybe not that fast, but I was still running! And it was kind of cold up there, with a lot more wind than I’ve ever experienced up there. I started wishing for my arm warmers, as the only things cold were my hands (which were also puffy, ugh) and forearms. I walked the few uphills I came across, but it seemed like that descent was never going to come. I had no idea how many miles were left in the race at this point, and I was worried I was getting farther and farther away from my sub-4 goal. I hate going down that side of Moose Mountain a lot more, because it’s steeper with more big drops down that are hard on my knees. Maybe it’s not a big step down for a normal sized person, but I’m short, and my legs are short.

I got to the bottom and ran for a bit, until I got to the last footbridge before Mystery Mountain. Once again, I wanted to save myself some pain and started walking before I ran out of runnable terrain. I ate a gel and starting singing “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” to pass the time. To give readers a sense of time, I made it to 49 bottles before I got to the top. But it worked! It kept me going. My hope was that if I got to the top of Mystery Mountain with half an hour or more remaining, I’d make it under 4 hours, because I think it’s around 2 miles from there to the finish, and it’s almost entirely downhill. I took off once I reached the top, and was running technical downhills better and faster than I ever have before. Somehow, I was flying, as if I hadn’t run 13.5 miles already. I just wanted to get to the river, because then I knew that I’d be on the road imminently, and could speed up more. I heard the Poplar River and knew it was close, and I plowed through the remaining mud as best I could. I crossed the bridge grinning, and then I walked the one final evil uphill that I swear was not there when we started.

I’m not really sure how fast I ended up going since my GPS was so off, but my watch says I ran the last full mile (mile 14) in 12:16 and the last 0.54 miles in 9:03. Uh, that is faster than my 5K PR. Granted, it is all downhill, but still, wut. Whatever my actual pace was, it felt very fast and yet I didn’t worry for even a second that I had dropped the hammer too soon. I actually caught one of my friends on the final descent toward Caribou Highlands, after we’d left the ski hill – so within the last 0.25 miles of the race! What a jerk move on my part, haha. There was a huge crowd of people at the finish line cheering for me, both friends and strangers, and the race announcer called me “our good friend Donna” which always makes me feel like I belong. I was so thrilled so have made it under 4 hours, by a LOT, and really pleased with pretty much everything about my race prep and execution.

I cleaned off my shoes, strode off to take a shower (I had hardly any stiffness in my legs, and NO chafing, not even from my sports bra), and then went back to have my post-run chili. I considered returning to volunteer for awhile longer, but I was feeling a bit tired at that point and didn’t have warm enough clothes for standing around. Plus my husband was back in the room, hoping we could do some exploring. One of these days I’m going to be one of those badazzes who finishes a race and hops right into volunteering.

Race Report: Be the Match 5K 2018

Official Results:
Time: 29:00
Pace: 9:21
Placing:
Overall: 75/211 (this is a walk/run so take that with a grain of salt)
F30-39: 7/37

Watch Results:
Time: 28:30
Pace: 8:51
Distance: 3.22 mi
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 29:20
B: 29:42
C: 29:59

Food:
What I ate the night before: pizza
What I ate on race day: bagel and cream cheese
What I carried with me: nothing

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt, shorts
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker

Discussion: Yay! A PR! After I sandbagged like crazy in my race goals post. Not really, I just had a lot of self-doubt and very little evidence to suggest any improvement in my speed. I’m an engineer. I like evidence. Anyway I’m also annoyed because they listed the final result as my gun time, rather than chip time. What is the point of having an elaborate timing setup if you’re only going to have gun times? Yesterday they had an even slower time on there, for some odd reason. The timing company has some issues!

I’m super excited, regardless. I finally ran a decent 5K! I don’t mean time-wise, I mean execution-wise. I am pretty happy about everything, from pre-race (I had enough to eat and drink) to the finish. The race started off as it usually does, with all kinds of people in my way, but I stayed within myself instead of getting frustrated and trying to weave and dodge. Once things opened up a little more, I sped up as I always to, to try to “make up” for the slow start, and then I was able to hang on. I’d check my watch every once in awhile, expecting to see a slower pace – I often think I’m running faster than I am. But this time, nope, I was still holding steady in the low 9s/high 8s. When I felt tempted to back off the pace, I didn’t. At least, not until the final mile. At that point I did let myself get a little lazy – a few times, I thought “well, you’re in good shape for a PR, even if you back off a little!” which was kind of stupid, but I didn’t let it last long. I looked at my watch results and even then, I don’t think I slowed that much for that long, so that was good. I had enough at the end to really push toward the finish, maybe too much left, but I’ve still got a lot of work to do.

I find the 5K harder than 50K. That might seem a little backward, but the margin for error is so slim in the 5K. Maybe if I pushed harder in 50K races, I’d think differently, but at the same time, how hard can I sustainably run for 8 hours? It’s a balance. In the 5K, it’s over so quickly that there’s no excuse for giving less than a hard effort – but the slower I am, the longer I have to give that hard effort. I admit that part of the reason I don’t train specifically for middle-distance races like 5Ks and 10Ks is because it feels sort of stupid and futile to train specifically for a race I’m so pathetically slow at, compared to the general public. (Yes, whatever, comparison is the thief of joy and everything, blah blah. I’m human.) Maybe someday I’ll give it a shot again, but maybe I’ll just do 5Ks for kicks and leave all my long-term goals for the longer races.

Race Report: Chippewa Moraine 50K 2018

Official Results:
Time: 8:32:22
Pace: 16:28
Placing:
Overall: 172/195
Gender: 67/81
AG (F 30-39): 26/29

Watch Results:
Time: 8:39:09 (I forgot to stop my watch!)
Pace: 15:21/mi
Distance: 33.81 mi (Massive GPS discrepancy for most of the race)
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 7:50
B: 8:10
C: 8:25

Food:
What I ate the night before: soup and sandwich from Erbert and Gerbert’s
What I ate on race morning: bagel and cream cheese
What I carried with me: 5 Gu packets

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt, shorts, ball cap, buff, arm warmers (I didn’t wear the buff or the arm warmers the whole time)
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker

Discussion: I’m just glad I got to the starting line! Earlier this week, I had some mild cold symptoms, and while they were improving on Thursday, on Friday they started to get a bit worse. I had until midnight on Thursday to cancel my hotel room, and since I felt pretty good on Thursday, I went ahead with my plans.

Friday, I left work a bit early, and went home to finish packing. I’m trying to work on my obsessive tendencies to overpack, and I think I did… okay. I guess. I didn’t bring any food besides bagels, cream cheese, and vanilla Coke. I really like bagels and cream cheese. I probably should have also brought some peanut butter or something with a little bit of nutritional variation. I’m pretty limited in what I like to eat in the early morning. I like a lot of breakfast foods (bacon, pancakes, waffles, sausage patties, etc), but I can’t always tolerate them on very little sleep. Also I need something easy to assemble so that I don’t have to get up too early.

I brought a set of clothes for the drive home along with my race stuff. I didn’t look at the forecast closely enough, otherwise I’d have possibly brought some slightly warmer gear just in case. It still felt like a lot of stuff, although the only things I brought that I didn’t use were my pants (I drove home in my race shorts), a towel, and a book on the history of grunge.

I didn’t buy much for this race, just the bagels, vanilla Coke (I only drink that when racing or after long runs, otherwise it’s vanilla Coke Zero or mineral water for carbonated beverages), sunscreen (large size and mini size, new for the season), and various lubricants (Trail Toes and Body Glide). A lot of previous races, I’ve bought a ton of junk food or new gear or other stuff that I worried I might need.

I also didn’t pack much in my hydration pack, relative to what I used to do. I filled the bladder with water and I was going to bring a small bottle of water to mix with electrolyte tabs, but I opened my electrolyte tab tube and discovered moisture had gotten in there and the tabs looked funky. I brought the bottle anyway and ended up getting it filled with Coke at the aid stations. I also brought 5 gels (I think 5? I should count what I have left), some leftover wintergreen Life Savers and Jolly Ranchers that have been in my pack since Fall Back Blast (there were also some COOKIES in my pack that I forgot to take out, so I am disgusting), my cell phone (in a plastic bag), a mini spray sunscreen, lip balm, a mini tube of Vaniply, and my pace chart for my various goals. That seems like a lot, but in the past I have brought all kinds of other stuff with me and had my pack stuffed to the gills. I’m learning what is essential and what’s just there to keep me from worrying.

I drove 2 hours to packet pickup, which is in the Obey Interpretive Center, so there’s taxidermied animals and other weird stuff around. I like it! I picked up my bib and timing chip, a reusable one attached to a strap that secures around the ankle. It was like a monitoring bracelet for someone under house arrest. I talked to a few friends I know from previous volunteering assignments. Let me reiterate that volunteering is the best possible way to meet people and make friends in the running community! After taking a panoramic photo of the view from the race start, I drove the half hour to my hotel.

I was tired and feeling kind of crappy, with a bit of a cough and a stuffy head. I was getting worried I was going to wake up feeling even worse. I picked up dinner and then lounged in my hotel room for awhile before going to bed EARLY. Well, early for me, I went to bed at about 10 PM. I was tired, but the second I turned the light off and curled up for sleep, my brain went into PANIC MODE. I spent several hours trying to relax, but I think I only got maybe 2 hours of real sleep. Sometimes I wonder if I am actually sleeping off and on while freaking out, but it doesn’t really matter. I got enough sleep – as long as my brain shuts off for a couple hours, that’s what I need to re-set.

I got up, got dressed, packed up all my stuff, and drove to the race start. I meant to arrive at 7, but ended up setting my alarm for later and I arrived at 7:30. That was plenty of time. I sat in my car for a little bit, finishing my breakfast, applying sunscreen, putting the last few things in my pack, etc. It was about 32F so I didn’t want to stand out there too long, although it wasn’t windy so I felt pretty comfortable for the 10 or 15 minutes I had to wait outside. I met up with some friends at the start, and then we lined up and the race started.

Start to AS 1: 3.3 mi, 0:47:37, 14:26 section pace
The start of the race went fine for me. I lined up near my friend Lynette, and when the race started, I went at my own pace and let people go ahead of me as they chose. We all tramped down the giant hill of death, then across a grassy section with some snow/frosted ground. The course crosses over the driveway to the interpretive center, so I got to pass my car and think about how I could just jump back in it and go home. I didn’t. At this point I was still trying to evaluate how I felt. I thought I felt fine, but I also thought I felt fine to start Wild Duluth last fall, and then nearly blacked out on the course. There were a couple early hills and I felt fine on them, so I decided that I was probably not overdoing it, and was instead looking for excuses.

During the second mile, the course goes behind the interpretive center, so there’s always a small group of folks cheering. It’s also another chance to turn back, haha. I had a pretty crappy attitude for a lot of the first half of the race. I spent a lot of the time wondering about why I was doing it, and hating every step of the way. For no reason! The race was going fine. I guess it just felt like it was going to take forever, and I was wondering what the point of it was. I went right through the first aid station as I didn’t really need anything.

AS 1 – 2: 6.15 mi, 1:36:42, 15:43 section pace

This section is probably the best section of the race, although for some reason both out and back, I ran it much more slowly than I thought I did. The elevation is not that bad. One day I will be able to run the hills, I hope, because a lot of them are gradual enough to be runable for stronger runners. I need to work on my leg strength and conditioning, I guess, because for now it’s more efficient for me to hike them than to run them. There are a lot of glacial lakes in this section, and many of them were still frozen or partially frozen. The cool air wafting off the lakes kept my hands a little colder than I’d have liked, but I knew it would feel great coming back in the afternoon. It already felt like I’d been running all day and it was like 9:30 am. From time to time I was running with other people, but it was mostly quiet. I had a gel around the 5 mile mark, and remembered to drink some water. Since I wasn’t warm, I wasn’t doing a fantastic job of hydrating early on.

I stopped at this aid station to get some Coke and cookies, and then headed out. I checked my pace chart and realized I’d lost a little time – I was ahead of the pace I wanted to be on (3:55 to the turnaround) at the first aid station, and now I had lost a minute or so. It was hard to tell because the race started at 8:02 and my pace chart had planned for an 8:00 start. I need to adjust my planning – I just now updated the display on my watch to show elapsed time instead of just time of day.

It also turned out that the confusing/vague “cutoff” at this section was just a suggestion: if people knew they weren’t on pace to make the cutoff, they could turn around here. No one was enforcing it. I should have known, but of course I worry about these things. Maybe I should just get faster.

AS 2 – turnaround: 6.1 mi, 1:36:1615:47 section pace

This section really sucks a lot. I walked to start off with, so I could finish shoving the cookies in my mouth. I ate two of them and then put the other two in my pack. I have a problem with clenching my teeth, so I wear a mouthguard at night and another more discreet one during the day. I can’t eat with it in, so I had to take it out and hold it while I ate my cookies. That was kind of annoying, but since I don’t have terrible jaw aches anymore, the mouthguard stays and I work around it.

Right after the aid station, there’s a big section of mud. I walked through most of it, because there’s absolutely no point in trashing my legs to run through energy-sapping mud. I made a mental note that the mud was right after the aid station, so I’d know I was close when I hit the mud on the way back. Around this time, I started seeing the frontrunners, and knew for the next 5 or so miles, I’d be seeing folks fly by in the opposite direction. Lucky people!

There are a lot of hills in this section. Something happened with the GPS signal on my watch and a lot of the altitude data is lost during this section, but it’s got almost all the bigger climbs. The middle section is all rollers, this one is much more steep. I took my time and told myself that I’d make it, I still had time, my goal allowed for a 5 minute buffer, they wouldn’t cut me off if I was one minute over or something. I thought I was closer to the aid station than I actually was, so I picked up the pace probably a mile or 3/4 mile away, only to realize I still had a whole section to go before I even got to the lake we had to go halfway around.

I ended up getting to the aid station before the cutoff, spent a few minutes there getting cookies and pop, reapplied sunscreen and Vaniply, and then left right at the 4 hour mark.

Turnaround – AS 2: 6.1 mi, 1:37:36, 16:00 section pace

I was ecstatic during this section. I walked for a bit while eating my cookies, and then ran when I could. I got passed a little bit out of the aid station by one guy, and that was the last person who passed me the whole race. Hooray! I guess. I was so happy to have made the cutoff, and I felt great, so I thought hey, maybe I can be on pace for a PR! I don’t remember much from this section, other than I passed a couple of dudes. I made it to the aid station and left somehow still on pace for an 8:10 finish. I had a couple of cookies and some pop there before heading out.

AS 2 – finish: 9.45 mi, 2:54:11, 18:26 section pace

I forgot to hit my watch after leaving the final aid station, which is unfortunate because I can’t tell at what point the race fell apart. I mean, it never really “fell apart,” but somewhere in the 4.45 miles between the aid station and the 5 mile marker, I slowed considerably, even though I thought I was moving well. This section has lots of flats or gentle slopes to cruise along, but I guess I was either running way more slowly than I thought, or slowing down significantly on the hills. I ate a gel at some point during this section, probably with about 6 miles to go, not quite sure. That 5 mile marker took forever to appear. I remember this happening last year as well. I’d think it must be getting close, and it wasn’t. I would think more time had passed and more miles had passed than what was actually going on. And once I did get to the 5 mile mark, I realized that even a PR was slipping away from my grasp, as was my C goal of 8:25. I did keep pushing, and decided I was going to skip the aid station entirely, forget about reapplying sunscreen or Vaniply, and just push on to the end. I zipped through the aid station, passing a couple people who were stopped there.

Two women fell in behind me, and they were listening to music. It was not great. I’d been running for the whole day and enjoying the quiet for the most part, and they were listening to external music, which is explicitly against the rules. They were talking to each other about how someone had said they were “having a party in the woods,” which was nice since someone else hadn’t been so nice about it. I replied (even though I was not in the conversation) that it was against the rules, and that was why someone had said something. They both seemed surprised. This is something that really bugs me – not reading the rules of the race. It was on the event page as well as in the email sent out by the race director. I tried to just ignore the Paul Simon and push on, but one of the women started whistling and singing and I stepped to the side and told them I’d prefer if they passed. I think I said something like “I run trails because it’s quiet!” Which I do. I wasn’t super nice about it but I certainly could have been meaner. They offered to turn it off and I said “no, just use that as motivation to push to the finish, then we all win!” but they didn’t seem to appreciate that. Whatever. I am a Rule Follower and I’m unable to suppress those tendencies after 28 miles of running. They seemed surprised that none of the volunteers had said anything, but volunteers are not race officials, they don’t have a lot of authority.

The last section of the race really sucked for me. I just kept slowing and slowing. Probably because I was bonking. I finally sucked it up and had a gel with a little under two miles to go, because I realized that it was still going to take me half an hour to finish at the rate I was going, and I was hungry. I needed some gas in the tank for that final hill. It was a lot muddier than it had been earlier in the day, and the big hill that goes behind the interpretive center was very muddy. The climb was exhausting, but I just kept plodding away. I tried to run whenever I could and just focused on getting to the finish. I knew I would finish, I just needed to keep putting one foot in front of the other. It just sucked so much. Once I finally got onto the grassy section, I started to perk up, and then when I crossed the driveway, I started to think about how I was going to attack the huge hill. The section around the base of the hill was way longer than I remembered (everything was at this point), and it was muddier than it had been earlier, but I just pressed on as best as I could. I reached the base of the hill and dug in.

I could see the music women ahead of me as well as the guy who had passed me out of the aid station. Since I hadn’t had sight of him in hours, I was surprised to see him on the hill. It wasn’t going well for him, and he got passed by the other two. I thought I might also pass him and felt like a huge jerk about it. The hill… wasn’t as bad as it was the first time around. It is extremely difficult to climb a steep hill, even a short one, that late in the race, but hey – if we wanted easy, we’d run road races, right? I powered up as best I could, without stopping, and then somehow had the legs to run through the finishers’ chute just after the 8:32 mark (apparently 22 seconds after – I thought the clock had just turned over right before I went through the chute, oh well).

Post race, I talked to a few friends for a little bit, then went down to my car (that’s where I realized my watch was still running), moved it up to a closer parking spot, and changed out of my t-shirt, socks, and shoes into a tank top, sweatshirt, and flip-flops. I went back to talk with my friends and watch a few more finishers before they decided to go back to Chippewa Falls and I decided to drive home. I made a bagel and cream cheese for the drive, since none of the food at the end seemed more appetizing than that (there was soup but I didn’t feel like soup). I thought I’d be cold but I wasn’t, so I just left my shorts on instead of changing into pants.

Overall, even though I didn’t have the time I wanted, I still had a great race. I didn’t have any super low points, I had a huge improvement over last year, I had no nausea or other physical issues, and I had a good time! That’s really all that matters. I’ll chase that PR another day!

Race Report: Jingle Bell Run 5K 2017

Official Results:
Time: 31:41 (2:20 slower than my 2016 race)
Pace: 10:12
Placing:
Overall: 62/148

Watch Results:
Time: 31:47
Pace: 9:53
Distance: 3.21 mi
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 29:59

Food:
What I ate the night before: Qdoba burrito bowl
What I ate on race day: nothing (I had the burrito bowl at like 10 PM so I wasn’t hungry)
What I carried with me: Nothing

Gear:
What I wore: hoodie, t-shirt, arm warmers, tights, buff (as headband)
Gadgets: GPS watch

Discussion: This race is confirmation that I need a break. It was even slower than last week! I do have some suspicions that the course was a bit long. Well, either the course was long, or the course last year was short. Either way, the turnaround was at the top of the first hill into Leif Erickson park, rather than at the base of the hill as it was last year. I really hope this course was long because otherwise my PR is invalid. Who cares, it’s not a world record. I’ll stick with it.

I didn’t run the day before the race (well, except for like 0.3 mi on a treadmill at my local running store – I bought a new pair of road shoes yesterday and tested them out with a quick run on the treadmill), but I had gone through a streak of running 10 days in a row. It wasn’t hard running, but I normally do not go that long without a rest day. I doubt it made a huge difference, although my hips were a bit sore by Wednesday or Thursday.

This morning I woke up and really didn’t want to get out of bed. I did manage to arrive in Canal Park in time to run just over a mile to warm up. The warm-up felt slow and my stride didn’t feel effortless. So, bad sign.

After I finished my warm-up, I met up with friends inside the Sports Garden. This is one of the nice perks of the event – an indoor place to gather beforehand. It was already like 32 F so I had decided to forgo gloves (last week my hands got really warm about 2 miles in), and I actually felt a little TOO warm even with only lighter layers on, after just a warm-up.

We were busy taking a picture when the race started – we thought we had more time, but as we were trying to move up in the starting line, we realized the race had already begun. I ended up being walkers again for the first 0.08 (by my watch) miles. Oh well.

I thought I was doing a pretty good job of running hard, but not too hard. This was my first time on this section of the Lakewalk since it was heavily damaged during a storm in October. It’s sad to see there’s still so much work to be done to restore parts of it. The path did have some rocks (and broken glass!) on it in spots, although I can’t say it affected my race trying to avoid the detritus. I just sucked.

I really thought I gave a more even, more sustained effort, but I guess I didn’t. I am tired, but last year I set my PR even though I had a cold (a cold that ended up knocking me for a loop the next couple of days, causing me to have to go home sick from an all-week work training in Edina). I’m frustrated that I’ve backslid so much on my speed, but it’s a learning experience. If I want to race middle distance races, I either have to do some occasional speedwork, or adopt a different attitude toward races.

I’m taking 2 weeks off from running now, starting tomorrow. Hooray!

Race Report: Gobble Gallop 2017

Official Results:
Time: 31:29 (1:02 faster than my 2015 race)
Pace: 10:08
Placing:
Overall: 962/1937
Sex: 509/1214
Age Group (F35-39): 54/146

Watch Results:
Time: 31:33
Pace: 10:04
Distance: 3.13 mi
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 28:59
B: 29:20

Food:
What I ate the night before: Qdoba burrito bowl
What I ate on race day: Triscuits (I didn’t plan ahead for food)
What I carried with me: Nothing

Gear:
What I wore: hoodie, long sleeved tech shirt, tights, buff (as headband), gloves
Gadgets: GPS watch

Discussion: LOLOLOL. I stink at 5Ks.

I arrived early enough to warm up for about a mile. I didn’t get a good sense of how my legs felt because I had to be cautious in my warm-up. It snowed just a little bit overnight and some spots on the sidewalk and roads seemed slippery. When I finished my warm-up (just over a mile, so a real one!), I ran into my friend, her daughter, and her parents, which was the highlight of the race, I have to say.

A lot of what happened in this race can be attributed to where I lined up. It is really a challenge to gauge where I should line up for 5Ks when there aren’t pace groups. It usually involves a lot of sizing people up. I want to stay out of the way of faster runners, but not get into the groups. When I ran the race in 2015, everyone had to go through the blow-up archway in order to go over the timing mat. They did not do that this year, and I have to say, the other way was better. While it took forever to get through the arch, it was significantly less congested once we got through. This year, they moved the arch out of the way and extended the timing mats. This meant that people got through the start faster, but it was so congested.

I respect that people have different ideas about the purpose of a Thanksgiving 5K. Some people want to win, some people want to wear crazy costumes (one person ran the entire Tough Turkey mile wearing an Angry Birds head), some people want to run with family and friends, some people are running their first race. However, people need to have some situational awareness regardless of their goals. I lined up too far to the back and ended up behind people who were walking from the start, people who brought their dogs (not allowed), people who started with strollers (there was a designated stroller wave, but I guess this person was too good to follow the rules), people who were walking with young children, people who were in a group and running 5 abreast, people who were texting/otherwise on their phones, people having conversations, etc. And it didn’t let up until I was probably halfway through the race. I wasted a lot of mental energy getting frustrated by that, and decided I’d rather act like a big baby and “quit” (I was still running, but not pushing it hard) than try to make up time in the second half once the congestion let up.

This was one of the most crowded 5Ks I’ve ever run, and I think if I run it in the future, I’m going to have to line up a lot closer to the start than I am comfortable with. Of course, if I’m not going to run hard and put in an effort the whole race, there’s probably no point to lining up closer to the start, but that’s not supposed to happen every race.

I’m doing the Jingle Bell Run next weekend and I’m hoping that will be a better experience. I will certainly try to prepare better for the race. After that, I plan to take a full two weeks off from running before beginning training for a big spring ultra, so it’ll be my last “hurrah” for the season.