Race Report: Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon

June 21, 2011 § 1 Comment

Somewhat appropriately, I’ve struggled a bit to describe how this race went for me–perhaps it’s best that I foreshadow with two visuals:

Prelude.

This was my goal race for this spring, I have been training for it since I found out I made the lottery in late February.  My training had gone well and I was confident going in that I could challenge my course record and maybe even my personal record.

I ran a 10k the week before and that improved my confidence.

The logistics of the half marathon, which is run with Grandma’s Marathon, are a bit difficult.  I grew up about 45 minutes from Duluth so I drove up on Friday and stayed at my parents’ house.  The race, which starts at 6:30, is a point-to-point course that requires you catch a bus from the finish line (or one of other points).  In the past, I think I have caught the bus in Superior, which is 10 minutes or so closer for me but, more significantly, allows me to avoid the traffic in the finish area.

The result was that I got up at 4:00, drove for an hour, rode a bus, and arrived at the starting area a little after 6:00.  And, just to clarify, I’m talking AM, Ante Meridian, as in Very Early in the Morning.

The weather was near perfect–about 50, a light rain, a tailwind.  So I was hyped.  I had worn sweats but decided to ditch them right away so I could squirm through the crowd to get to my approximate pace area.

Act One.

The race start unceremoniously–there wasn’t a gun or cannon or anything other than the announcer sending us off.  I fell into my rhythm pretty quickly–I enjoy larger races where you get to do some weaving at the beginning.  The first few miles seemed to go easy enough, I tried to focus on breathing easy and running the tangents.  I was clicking off the miles, I was a few seconds ahead of my dream pace at 6 miles and ended up going through the 10k mark within a few seconds of my finishing time from the week before.

The most exciting thing was counting the number of fellow runners (about 5 during this stretch) who warned me about my left shoelace that had come untied during the first mile.

Splits, Miles 1-6: 6:54, 6:53, 7:02, 6:57, 7:11, 6:52.

Total, first 6.9 miles: 48:27, 7:01 pace.

Act Two.

Clunk!

Around 6.5 miles, my right calf started to tighten.  Then it cramped. Then I felt–something.  I hesitate to name it because that would imply I knew what it was.  It was two sharp pains, one right after the other.  The first dead center in my calf, the other slightly higher.

My race was over.

I slowed down, although my Garmin indicated it wasn’t as much as I thought at the time–about 40 seconds per mile.

I eventually came to a port-a-potty, and feeling the need to use that too, I hopped in & out relatively quickly.  I hung out and tried to stretch–spent about a minute there.  The calf still was very tight but I headed out, wondering if I was about to get my first DNF ever.

Going at the slower pace, I did find time to take a different perspective.  I took long looks at the waves on Lake Superior–i could hear them crash against the rocks in some places.  And while the first part of the race had only a few pockets of spectators, this portion had more clusters.  Since I was no longer racing, I paid attention to the spectators’ faces.  I’ve never looked at the spectators so much. It was a bit surreal–I’m hobbling along, thinking my race is basically over and seeing all those faces and realizing they had no idea what I was going through.

Splits, miles 7-9:  8:46, 8:15, 7:48,

Total 2.1 miles, 18:11, 8:38 pace.

Act Three.

As I was enjoying what had turned into a training run for me, I made the mistake of hearing a group of college guys ask, “Got a bit of Captain in you?”

Since I wasn’t racing, I decided I might as well.  I U-turned and hydrated with half a pint of Rum. And washed it down with half a can of Coors Light.

Not smart.  Under no circumstances would I recommend slamming rum & beer during a race. But then again, I wasn’t racing anymore.

As I burped my way through the next half mile, something odd happened.  I stopped paying attention to my calf and started running at a faster clip.  The first split caught me by surprise, when I saw the second, I rushed to do some  arunmathtic and realized while I wasn’t going to PR, I  had not lost that much time overall.  I even started to think I could set a course PR.

That didn’t work out, I was not able to speed up enough and the curves in the thirteenth mile were difficult on my tender legs but I did finish nicely and ended up running about two and a half minutes faster then the half I had run in May.

Miles 10-13.1: 7:08, 7:24, 7:18, 7:55 (7:29)

Total 4.1 miles, 30:44 (7:29 pace).

Final: 13.1 miles, 1:37:25 (7:27 pace).

The End.

I gathered my post-race goodies–a technical shirt, medal, and some grub.  I did stand in line for 20 minutes for a massage and started to get really cold–while the weather had been fine while running, standing in the wind, even wearing my sweats that I had put one, got to be cold.  I figured the massage would help my calf and it did, a bit, but not as much as I hoped.

And then I had to figure out what had happened.  Somehow the ups & downs of the run were difficult to comprehend, especially the way I was able to struggle through the last 4+ miles.  It would have make sense if I had cramped up and struggled to the finish but I’m a bit perplexed at how I was able to recover a bit.  I’ve had rough patches before but this seemed like a significant injury that was going to wreck this race.

Not Quite the End.

Three days after the race, I am still sore–especially both calves, especially the right one.  Other areas–hips, quads–are also sore.  I had the same problem with my right calf last summer and it took two weeks to work through it.  I did two miles yesterday and will try for three tomorrow but I had planned to basically take the rest of June easy anyhow.

I am a mixture of satisfied and disappointed–I know I have a better race in me but am happy with the way I fought through this race. The thing is, I have the opportunity to run another 13.1 on July 4th.   So IF my body heals, I do have a chance to redeem myself if I choose–and I undoubtedly will choose to  if my body & family allow it.

Lessons (Hopefully) Learned:

  • While the weather was great for running, given the fact that I had no chance to do my regular mile+ gentle warm-up, I should have gone out slower–even 15-20 second per mile–to give my legs a chance to warm up.  I think I could have prevented my calf problem with an adequate warm-up.
  • Racing the week before my big race, even if it was a free race, was probably a mistake and left me vulnerable.
  • Like Yogi Berra said about baseball, running is “90% mental and the other half is physical”. I think the fact that I didn’t dwell on my calf and re-focused on enjoying the unique training run I was having allowed me to rebound a bit.
  • Taking the time to poop, stretch, and hydrate really didn’t take as much time as it seemed like at the time.
  • I should be taking a more pro-active approach to stretching and strengthening exercises.
  • Sometimes doing the unorthodox–having a drink during a race–might not help, but might not hurt either (although I don’t plan on making this my standard race place).

Things I Think: Post-Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon

May 3, 2011 § 3 Comments

Well, other than being wiped out later in the day I don’t seem to have done any permanent damage.  I have the normal aches and realized I got dehydrated–didn’t have to make any trips Monday morning after drinking a liter of water on my way into work.  Yikes!  That normally that leads to 3 or 4 trips.

I did take the Monday off from running to give my various body parts–Achilles, quads, and left thumb some time to heal.

To, borrow from CNN-Sports Illustrated Writer, Peter King, here are some things I think I think after running the Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon.

     1) Reading others’ stories about the same race is a lot of fun.  Gives you a different perspective.   So far, I’ve read:

  • Julie’s Race Report–she almost didn’t bring any cold-weather gear.  Yowzer!
  • Chemo-man’s Report–Someone I noticed in the crowd.  I need to read more of his story.
  • Mark also didn’t like the way the starting mats were positioned and ran with the 1:40 pace group and he passed me somewhere between 8.5 and the finish.
  • Alyssa ran a great race in nasty conditions to come within 1 minute of her PR.
  • A Vegan Runner and her fiance both run PRs!
  • Jen and Willa rejoiced in victory.
  • Tenacious (didn’t find her official handle) had a Pyrrhic Victory.
  • The winner, Seth Brickley, and I have something in common–our shoes come untied during races except he takes the time to stop & tie them.
  • minnetonkafelix’s photos–Some great pictures of the race, a talented photographer with some good photos of the Lake Minnetonka area.
  • Official photos of the race.  I didn’t see myself in the 400+ pictures but recognized a lot of other runners.

2)  This winter needs to end.

3)  Whatever fruit punch trauma I suffered in my childhood made a deep and permanent scar on my taste buds & stomach.  Red Gatorade, Yuck!

4)  I am getting older and slower but maybe not as fast I thought I was.

5)  Cross-training and stretching are good ideas.

6)  Despite sometimes recognizing good ideas, I can completely pretend like they don’t exist.

7)  Opposable thumbs are a nice feature–they make things like tying your shoes, pinning a bib, opening a Gu, and grabbing a cup of water a lot easier.  Thanks, Ugg and Eev for evolving them for us.

8)  A cold, blustery wind has a way of  distracting me from hills.

9)  Runners might be crazy.

10)  Our supporters and spectators might be crazier–standing around in that cold for a few hours to get a quick glimpse of their loved ones does not sound like fun.

11)  Happiness is a pair of warm sweatpants.

12)  I probably could use a more closely fitted running jacket.

13)  Sometimes my mp3 player is smarter than I am.

.1)  I wonder if the person who figures out the proper formula for the number of port-a-potties required for a race will earn a Nobel Prize for physics, medicine, economics, peace, or all of the above?

Drinking and Peeing

December 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

I have been thinking about hydration lately.

I like to drink, can drink large amount, but I usually do not drink enough.

Like most runners, I know the importance of staying well-hydrated both during a run and through-out the day but unless the temperatures are high or I’m going for a ten-miler or longer, I normally make only a slight effort to compensate for the water lost through sweating.

Thinking it would help me lose a few pounds, I have been making a conscientious effort the last couple months to drink more water each day.  During my morning commute, I drink a 40oz bottle of water (refillable metal bottle filled with filtered tap water).  I have failed to do this only a few times.

During the weekend, however, without the supporting structure provided by my commute, my hydration efforts have been haphazard.

While I have no evidence–either empirical or anecdotal–that my hydration efforts have had any affect on either my weight goals or running performance, they have highlighted times when I am dehydrated.  On a typical workday, I will need to make a few trips in the first hour as the water flows through me to prevent an embarrassing puddle under my desk.  However, often on Mondays following my Sunday long run, I end up making a single trip–my body is absorbing most of those 40 ounces.

So even if my workday efforts have no other hydration benefit, they have alerted me to the fact that I don’t drink enough on the weekends (something seldom heard from someone who grew up in Wisconsin).

As is often the case, however, I’ve found some unintended and unexpected benefits from my work-morning hydration.

I am a computer programmer–I sit at a computer all day, often intently focused on my code.  So the occasional forced break is good.  I have also made a point of doing some mild stretching during the process.   I also have been doing 3 set of 15 or toe raisers on the stairs per trip–hopefully they will help relieve the chronic Achilles problems I have had in both legs.

On a tangentially-related side note, I am paying extra attention to how sweaty my clothes are after running.  The layers–3 on top lately–trap some of the sweat and help reveal how much sweating actually occurs during winter runs.  This helps remind me that I should replenish my fluids.

Weigh In 9/23/2010

September 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

I have tried to lose weight for too long. Mostly, I hover around 160–I would like to get down to 155ish. Actually, I’m more interested in losing bulk around my midsection than weight but weight serves as a good proxy even though a mirror can quickly tell me what I need to know.

So I plan on starting to regularly post my weight/percent body fat/body fat weight/percent body hydration. Yesterday, I weighed in (on my $20 Taylor scale from Menards) at:

161.8 lbs, 20.1% BF (32.5 lb), and 54.6%.

My weight-management strategy is four-fold:

1) Drink a good amount (32oz) of water in the morning as I commute to work hoping to fill my belly with 0 calories and prevent any pseudo-weight loss in the form of dehydration.
2) I let myself be hungry at times.
3) Portion control–instead of eating until I’m stuffed, eat just until I’m not hungry.
4) Eat a lot of healthy filler–basically fruit and vegetables. The good stuff that I do not need to be concerned about eating.

I’m hoping for a sensible, 1 pound per month reduction. That would mean next spring I would have a little less to haul around when I run.

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