Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Twin Cities Marathon

Race: Twin Cities Marathon
Date: 6 Oct 2013
Location: Minneapolis - St Paul, MN
Distance: 26.2 Miles
Time: 4:15:34
Female: 1581/3931
30-34F Age Group: 290/721
Marathon # 17
Garmin Links: Twin Cities Marathon

One of my favorite hobbies is photography and I realized that I have pictures from almost everything Mark and I did while in Minnesota for the Twin Cities Marathon.  The pictures seem to tell a better story than my writing, so for the Twin Cities Marathon blog, I'm going to let the photos do the talking. 
Yay!  Another vacation to Minnesota for a marathon.  This is my 3rd marathon in MN and Mark's 2nd.

Obligatory dorky picture at the expo in St. Paul on Friday.  Mark said he didn't realize what I was asking him to pose for when I said do something silly.  I think its funny :)

Twin Cities Expo in St. Paul.  Caribou Coffee was a sponsor and gave us all the coffee we could handle!!  I wish more marathons had free coffee.

Sushi happy hour near the expo, too good to be true :)  Anyone that knows Mark knows he could not pass this up.

Pre-race beer at Great Waters.  These wonderful people gave runners $2.50 beers all weekend.

Beer list at Great Waters Brewery.  My favorite was the Blackwatch Oat Stout served from a Cask.

Breakfast the day before the marathon.  Thanks to this yummy food, I was able to top off my caloric needs for the next few days!!

Yummy!  Even Gordon Ramsey would approve.  Too bad this is not his restaurant.

On the walk back to the hotel, we passed the Mary Tyler Moore stature.  This is the street corner in Minneapolis that MTM tossed her hat in the air to "You're going to make it after all".  MTM was one of my favorite shows as a kid.

One of my favorite things about downtown Minneapolis are the skywalks that connect 70 blocks.  This must be AWESOME in winter, you can spend the entire day inside, away from the cold.
After recovering from our delicious breakfast, Mark and I went for a short run.  We found the starting area near the Vikings stadium.  On race morning, we were able to go inside to use the bathroom and stay warm.  For the first time in my life, I saw lines for the women's bathroom that were shorter than the men's line.  I knew I liked this marathon for a reason!!
After leaving the stadium, we jogged to the Mississippi River.  After growing up near the mouth of the Mississippi, it was nice to see the start.  It is calm and clean, a strong contrast to what I grew up seeing.  In the distance, you can see the only "rapids" along the Mississippi, if you can't see it, don't worry, Mark and I ran right past it and didn't notice.

Race number

My new Hokas!  So far I love them!

Mark and I are ready to run!  I'm always excited at the start and this race was no different.  My endurance is still strong from all the Ironman training, but my speed has suffered.  I wasn't expecting to run fast, I was only expecting to have fun.  The weather was perfect and the course was very scenic.  The race starts near downtown Minneapolis at the Vikings stadium and heads toward a few lakes outside of town.  The entire route had wonderful crowd support, I can't remember any portion without cheering spectators.  The course was also flat and the autumn leaves provided a scenic backdrop.  The only difficult part of the course was negotiate the crowds of runners.  The streets were narrow and I often found myself bumping into other runners.  It was also a bit difficult to stay with Mark at times.

We made it!  Mark and I managed to finish together.

A well earned beer!

Our hotel was in an old bank.  The vault is now a conference room.

Aren't we cute :)

The course was so pretty we decided to drive the first half again.  This was my favorite view from the race.  Downtown Minneapolis is in the background.

The finishers medals are perfect for fall.

Mickey's is a tasty little dinner near the state capital in St. Paul.  Mark and I treated ourselves to a greasy breakfast the day after the marathon.  The pancakes were AWESOME!!

No trip to Minneapolis is complete without a trip to the Mall of America.  I didn't get much shopping done, but Mark and I did spend hours on the rides.  I felt like a kid again.

Finally we stopped at the Happy Gnome on the way back to the airport.  We had one more beer and a snack before saying goodbye to Twin Cities.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Vineman 140.6 Full Iron Triathlon

Race: Vineman 140.6 Full Iron Triathlon
Date: 27 July 2013
Location: Windsor, CA
Distance: 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run
Time: 14:00:25
     Swim: 1:22:34; Bike: 7:53:26; Run: 4:22:45
Female: 82/172
30-34F Age Group: 14/35
Full Iron Tri # 1 and Marathon # 16
Garmin Links: 

I'm an IRONMAN!!

Three years ago when I entered my first sprint triathlon, all I hoped for was to just not fall off my bike, and to this day I still have that same thought every time I reach the bike portion of the race.  I have been a runner and swimmer for years, but only started riding a bike a few years ago while nursing a running injury.  When I told people I registered for an iron distance triathlon, they thought I was crazy, but to me I can't understand why anyone wouldn't want to do an Ironman.  I've been watching the recaps of Kona since I was a child, dreaming of one day finishing 140.6 miles.  I signed up for Vineman in Windsor, CA for the challenge and the excitement of doing something new. So, maybe that does make me a bit crazy.  I'm still amazed that I swam, biked and ran 140.6 miles and survived.  Despite one point during the race when I really wanted to leave my bike at the aid station and run back, amazingly in the end I loved it.

Vineman was the biggest race I've entered and for the first time, I was genuinely nervous.  I mapped out a plan that included swimming three days a week (between 2300-4500 yards per session), biking three days a week (including a long ride of 70-90 miles on the weekend) and running six days a week (~45 miles a week).  I also included strength training two days a week.  At my peak, I trained 18 hours a week.     

After months of training, the big day finally arrived.  It was a cool 53 F when I walked to the start and the water temperature was a perfect 71 F.  I racked my bike and headed to the start.  When the gun went off, I quickly settled in to a comfortable pace.  The group spread out and I was able to find space to swim without getting kicked too many times.  The course was two loops out and back in a dammed portion of the Russian River.  The water was shallow enough to stand at a few places.  As I made the first turn, I began to relax and enjoy the swim.  I finished in 1:22:45, about 20 minutes faster than I anticipated and felt great.  I changed into my bike shorts (I wasn't about to ride 112 miles in tri shorts), ate a cliff bar and grabbed my bike.  I left the transition area in 9:52, a bit slow, but I was racing to finish, not win.  

The swim went very well, but now I was about start my weakest leg of the race, the bike.  I was nervous about making the cut off times.  The first 10 miles were mostly downhill, and as expected, other bikers flew past me.  It was overcast and in the mid 50's, so I was a bit cold.  As the miles passed, the course became hillier and the roads were in bad shape.  Then, after about an hour and a half, my left shoulder began to hurt.  I still had six and a half hours left, so I tried to ignore it and enjoy the beautiful scenery.  I also kept track of how far ahead of the cutoff I was; turns out, I was far enough ahead that I could relax.  By the time I reached Chalk Hill Road, I was dreading the hills.  I must have been going about 5 mph near the top, and was so thankful when I could finally coast down the backside into town.  I finished the first loop!  I decided it was time to eat a Powerbar for "lunch," which eventually upset my stomach and my shoulder was starting to hurt even worse.  This was the lowest point of the entire race for me.  I downed two Advil and pushed forward.  The next loop seemed to drag on, plus the traffic picked up, so I had to manage the cars as well.  I decided to stop at the aid station at mile 75.  I was ready for the ride to be over, but stopping gave me a second wind.  From this point on, I blocked out everything and just rode.  I made another stop at mile 95, just before Chalk Hill Road to refuel.  The second time up Chalk Hill was worse than the first, but I made it!  I was only 12 miles from the finish!!  I kept reminding myself of my reward for riding 112 miles was running a marathon!  Okay, perhaps I am very crazy! I finished the bike course in 7:53:23; a bit slower than I hoped, but far ahead of the cut-off so I was happy.

After making my way through the second transition (11:48) it was finally time to start running.  I had seven hours before the course closed and I was feeling good.  The first few miles were by far the hardest.  My lower back was cramping from the ride and my legs were still adjusting to being back on the pavement.  The run course was a 3x out and back loop.  There were a few small rolling hills that I picked as my walking points.  The more I ran, the better I felt.  I was picking up my pace and just enjoying the race.  My first loop was the slowest and by mile 17, I was still feeling good.  At this point I realized I was almost an hour ahead of my expected finish time.  I felt all my previous marathon experiences really helped me run strong.  I saw several runners struggling and was very glad I had a strong running base, so I was able to enjoy the marathon portion.  This was one of the most exciting marathons I have run, having finished it in 4:22:45 and my overall time was 14:00:25.    
My first 140.6 was a great experience and I can't wait to do another one.  I have my eye on a few next fall.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Grandma's Marathon

Race: Grandma's Marathon
Date: 22 June 2013
Location: Duluth, MN
Distance: 26.2
Time: 3:47:37
Female: 465/2343
19-34F Age Group: 254/1163
Marathon # 15
Garmin Link:Grandma's Marathon

I love this race!  The course is scenic with nice, small rolling hills, cool temperatures and great crowd support.  I have never run a race with so much enthusiasm from the community both before and after the race. Best of all, I have also set a PR both times I have run this race.  Overall, the course, fans and friends made this a race worth running again!
I made the trip with Mark and a group of runners from Oklahoma City.  Mark and I arrived in Duluth Thursday before the race.  We had a long day of travel (including missing our flight thanks to me) and a foggy drive from Minneapolis.  We never actually had a good view of the lake thanks to the weather conditions.  It was also much colder than Oklahoma City, and I'm a cold weather wimp, so I needed a jacket the entire trip.  The low temperatures did however make for perfect race conditions.  Saturday morning we woke up early to catch a train to the start in Two Rivers.  This is the only race I know of that shuttles runners to the start via rail.  It was much more relaxing than a school bus, plus we had access to a bathroom.  The day started out overcast and chilly with a 10 mph wind out of the north (tailwind all the way!!).  Because I'm whip, I was bundled up and steeling body heat from Mark.  The start was crowded and we had a hard time finding our friends.  The gun went off and out of nowhere, our pace buddy finally appears.  Actually, we could hear him running up behind us, he was wearing a poncho that swished.  Grandma's is point to point running along Lake Superior along the highway.  The first half of the race is tree-lined with intermittent views of the lake.  There are also several small, quaint towns along the way that spectators gather at to cheer on the runners.  The race traces through rural Minnesota toward Duluth.  The start is always the hardest for me, I have a tendency to start out too fast, so I was constantly reminder myself to slow down.  My strategy was to run slow for the first 5 miles, then increase my pace by 10 seconds per mile every 5 miles after that.  At mile 20, I was going to give it everything I had left in the tank.  I stuck to this plan for the most part.  It wasn't until about mile 21 that I started to feel tired and started reminding myself to run, not walk.  At this point, the course enters the city.  I love this part of the race because the local residents line the streets cheering us on.  People are playing music, serving beer (no, I was not tempted this time) and screeming.  There are so many people cheering on runners the last 2 miles, I felt like an elite runner leading the pack (in reality I was somewhere in the middle of the pack, struggling to keep my pace).  The race finishes downtown near Grandma's Bar and Saloon.  Once I crossed the finish line, I was so cold!!!  Did I mention I'm a wimp????  I retrieved my gear bag, wrapped my self in a blanket and proceeded to the party boat.  Yes, a friend's family has a boat with heat, food and adult beverages :)  It was the perfect place to warm up and relive the race.      

Of course, no race is complete without a trip to a brewery.  Thankfully there are a few near the finish.  After a few brews and food, I was ready for bed :)



Thursday, July 11, 2013

Colorado Marathon

Race: Colorado Marathon
Date: 5 May 2013
Location: Fort Collins, Colorado
Distance: 26.2
Time: 3:58:18
Female: 157/591
30-34F Age Group: 26/98
Marathon # 14
Garmin Link: Colorado Marathon
What a great race!  If you are looking for a challenging, beautiful course, I would recommend the Colorado Marathon.  The race starts at about 6200' in elevation 26.2 miles outside of Fort Collins and drops to 5000' at the finish.  I originally signed up for this race thinking a downhill course was perfect for a PR, but quickly realized it was more difficult than running a flat course.  Needless to say, I did not PR.
The start was cold and dark.  The buses dropped us off at the start area about a hour before the start.  I huddled under a blanket in the 34 F temps until the sun came up.  When the race finally started, I was happy to start moving, I really don't like the cold.  The first 17 miles were all down hill on a two lane road with large camber.  I had trouble controlling my speed at the start, I was trying to balance speed with saving my quads from the downhill.  After the first two miles, I gave up trying to pace and went with what felt natural.  By mile 10, my quads were hurting and all I could think was I have seven more miles before the course flattens out.  At least the scenery distracted me from the pain in my quads and I was able to enjoy running in a beautiful place. 

By mile 17, I was feeling okay and was optimistic about a strong finish, but at mile 19 my body decided it was time for a pit stop.....and again at mile 24......  Until now, I was on record pace.  From this point on, I struggled and my pace slowed.  I can't blame the pit stops for not running my fastest time, I started to feel very tired about mile 23.  I could tell I needed a few more miles under my belt to finish strong.  I spent the previous months recovering from the flu, ruptured ear drum and flare up of Ulcerative Colitis.  I reached mile 26 and saw Mark at the finish.  He ran the half marathon and was there to cheer me across the line.  Overall, I am happy with my run and would love to repeat this race.  Partly because of the course and partly because Fort Collins is a great town.  Mark and I had the chance to tour several local breweries, drive through the Rocky Mountains and visit Denver.