A Great Idea: parkrun

November 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Sometimes a simple idea is so obviously great, it makes you wonder why no one  thought of it before.  One of those ideas flickered across my Twitter feed today.

Enter parkrun.

parkrun is a British organization that organizes free, weekly, 5k runs.

I love this idea on a few different levels.

First, earlier this week, I whined about the whole process of getting into some races now-a-days.  You can almost hear me cuing-up my old, crotchety voice, “back in my day, you could just decide on a whim to show up at any race on race day and just sign right up”.   From what I skimmed, these are much smaller, informal races that discard the hype.

Second, from a training perspective, the best way to get into racing shape is to race.  I know I’m able to race much faster than I can train.  For whatever reason–the excitement, the competition, the feeling of being judged, I can just race faster than I can run.  Having a consistent, affordable, regular series of races/runs provides awesome workouts and measuring tool.  Reminds me of the awesome Salomon Autumn Trail Series that I’ve run the last three years.  The series consists of 4 races, two weeks apart, at a local park.  I’ve said it before but the Salomon Trail Series give me a chance to re-create a mini-Cross Country season.

Which leads me into the final, and perhaps most important, reason I love the idea–it gives runners an excuse to get together on a regular basis.  A few different events over the last three months have emphasized how much more personal an in-person bond can be, experiencing things together.   Getting together with friends, comparing notes, having a bit to eat, and going for a run together is a great benefit.

I’ve been toying with a similar, less grand version of this for a little while but maybe I should raise my goals although taking time to organize things takes a lot longer than I knew.

Would you participate, at least occasionally, in a weekly run/race?  For either training, psychological or social reasons?

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).

Done?!

June 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

Well, if all went well, I just finished (and hopefully remembered to Smile! at the camera).

Go!

June 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

And We’re Off!

Race Report: ALARC Legends 10k

June 11, 2011 § 1 Comment

Serendipity:  making fortunate discoveries by accident. (Dictionary.Com)

Considering that next weekend is Race Weekend, I probably should not have raced today.  Especially with my aging body already unhappy about spending Thursday and Friday “on vacation” at home abusing it with such methods like installing the ceiling and a window in our bedroom, and re-locating our washer & dryer. My runner’s body isn’t use to lifting plywood above my head, hauling carpeting or getting gently electrocuted–late Friday, my left hip and knee decided enough was enough and bit back and I was slightly hobbled.

But I had a free entry to the ALARC Legends 10k today so I figured I would give it a try–I’m a sucker for “Free”.

I am glad I did.

The race went extremely smooth for me.  Got there in time, weather was ideal–low 50s, found a wonderful, private warm-up area with my own port-a-potty, worked out my hip pain, and nailed my goal splits–I was hoping to run even 7:00 pace.  My actual splits were: 6:52, 6:57, 6:58, 6:58, 7:07, 7:00, (6:31 pace for last segment) for a total time of 42:44.  For the 6 miles, I only had a total deviation of 22 seconds from my target pace. I am very pleased with the race I ran, combined with a 7 mile tempo run at 7:30 pace last weekend, I’m confidant that I’ll run well next weekend.

But more important than how my race went, I found a gem of a race.

ALARC (American Lung Association Running Club) was started in 1981 by Bill Wenmark to help first-time marathoners train for a marathon. I had seen ALARC singlets at Grandma’s Marathon but never really knew what the origination was about. It appears that their mission has grown over the years and now serves a greater purpose of promoting fitness and friendships.

Course: Good.  The 10k course was a meandering route along the streets and bike trail of Deephaven. Deephaven is along the shores of Lake Minnetonka and, from appearances, lacks any straight streets. The couple chunks of bike trail were knee-friendly crushed limestone.  The residential streets we ran on lacked sidewalks but also had minimal traffic.  There was a small downhill at the start and a small climb at the end.  Otherwise, the course was flat.  Out of necessity the 10k course layout was confusing–but looking at maps before the race, I knew that I would be depending on a well-marked course to navigate.

Organization:  Excellent. There was a minor snafu in my registration–apparently my information got lost between the contest I won and the race directors but they ironed it out without too much effort. As I said already, the course could have been a nightmare to follow except it was well-marked and there was someone posted everywhere they were needed so I never once wondered which way to turn. The race results were posted very quickly and accurately.

I also have to note that the race had new directors this year and I spoke with Mark for a bit and he seemed like a nice guy.

SWAG: Excellent.   Start with a Headsweats Visor (anything but a T is awesome) AND a pair of FitSok and you’ve already got Top-Notch Swag. Throw in some SportBeans (from Scheels), a toiletry bag, and some coupons and you have Great Swag for a small race.  But add in a pancake breakfast, especially one after the health department shut down the kitchen, and you’ve got Totally Awesome Swag.

Headsweat.Com Visor

Intangibles: Off-The-Charts.  The “Legends” part of the name, ALARC Legends 10k come from the fact that ALARC uses this race to recognize local running legends.  As Bill Wenmark said (and hopefully I am accurately para-phrasing him here), there are ordinary people all around us that do extra-ordinary things and we could walk right pass them in the grocery store without ever knowing it.  The Legends program hopes to give some of these extra-ordinary people some of the recognition they deserve.

The first runner recognized this year is Carrie Tollefson, who I am learning, is basically a rock-star in the Minnesota running community.   Tollefson is an Olympian and 3-time national champion.  She was unable to attend but did deliver a video message.

But the second Legend left a greater impression.

Let me preface this by saying that before introducing the Legends, Mr. Wenmark  introduced the other Legends in attendance and also his father-in-law, who is a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The second Legend was Bob Powers earned the Navy Cross and two Purple Hearts in WW II during his service in Okinawa, Japan.  The White Bear Press wrote:

According to Powers’ Navy Cross citation: On May 20, 1945, the corporal assumed the duties of platoon sergeant after all other senior non-commissioned officers were killed. He “continually exposed himself to intense hostile fire to encourage his men” and fire on enemy forces. During the peak of fighting, Powers “courageously leaped from his foxhole and moved up and down the line, annihilating the enemy soldiers and reorganizing his own men.”

I honestly started to cry as Wenmark, who broke down himself at one point, read Bob’s citation.

And what did Bob have to say about that, “I was doing what I was suppose to do”.   Wenmark alsolisted the many volunteer efforts Bob has been involved with over the years.

Oh yeah, and Bob is an All-American Triathlete.

Overall:  The race itself was solid but given the Legends aspect, I think it is a race worth making an effort to take part in. The timing, at least this year, is a little iffy for those running Grandma’s–but if you felt uncomfortable doing a 10k the week before a marathon, you could always volunteer.

2011 Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon Race Report

May 1, 2011 § 2 Comments

Uff-da!

Today was not a pleasant day to run.  Temps in low 30s and more annoying, we had consistent, considerable winds.  We’ve had temps in the 60s at times this spring so dropping back down to the 30s was difficult.

The first word that came to mind at the end of the race today was “fatigue” but that’s mostly because the end of the race is the easiest to remember because of its proximity.  Yes, the winds and hills took their toll today but overall, I, as Norm encouraged me, “crushed it” today.

My official time was 1:39.56.6, a good 3+ seconds faster than my “A” goal.  And it was no gimme.

I got to the race an hour before the chilly 8:00 start time–early enough that I was able to walk right up and get my race bib.  Not a lot to note during my warm-up, I did an easy mile to get the blood pumping, hit the port-a-potties, my mp3 quit in the cold, and I debated what to wear.

One nice thing about the start was they  had the Minnesota Pacers  there with their signs which made it easier to know where in the pack to line up–find a pacer running about your expected time and jump in near them.

There were some announcements at the beginning and I can not say I actually paid attention so I may have missed something that caused me some confusion but about a minute after we started–about a tenth of a mile–we crossed the timing mats.  I figured they were just there to figure out what wave someone had run in and that the actual starting line had been where we lined up.  This race was small enough that even those at the back of the pack would have only taken a few seconds to get to the initial starting line.

The first mile went by in a near perfect 7:34 (7:38 was my “A” pace) and then, even though I felt like I was dogging a little, the second mile went flying by in 7:11.  When I saw that, I instantly backed off.

The next several miles were all between 7:30 and 7:41, so I was cruising.  I was ducking behind  others when I had a chance and it was busy enough that there almost always seemed to be someone to run with.  There were hills, water stops, and views of the lake.

The one thing that I noticed early on–and this contributed to my confusion on where the official start had been–but early on, definitely by the third mile, my Garmin would signal the end of a mile and then a little later I would see the mile marker.  I noticed others’ watches were flagging the miles at about the same point as mine.  The race directors had planned to certify the course the week before the race after the finish had been finalized so I wondered if the mile markers had been planned before the official course had been determined–I was hoping that the mile markers were off a bit but that the overall course would be spot on.

Really, the first nine miles went by great–I hit 9 at 1:08:04 (7:34 pace).  Mentally, I had calculated that I had a 50 second cushion and I could slack off to a 7:50 pace and still make my goal.  I thought at that point that I had it easy.

But that would have been too boring.

During the tenth mile I hit a rough patch.  My legs lost all their spunk and a spot on my right quad started to complain.  There wasn’t pain but it just didn’t feel like it wanted to work any more.  I knocked off the next three miles in 7:44, 7:46, and 7:53, knocking my cushion down to about 20 seconds with at least 1.1 to go.  I also didn’t know how my confusion about the starting line factored in.

During the eleventh mile, I had heard some cheer, “Way to go 1:40” and figured that that pace group was behind me.  My high school cross-country coach had taught us to never look to see who was behind you–just run as hard as you can.  I was running with a sense that I was losing my goal as it was creeping up from behind to pass me.

The 1:40 pacer did pass me during the twelfth mile and I recognized several of the runners near him as ones that had lined up near him at the start so it seems like they really did let him pace them.

But watching the pacer pull away from me was dis-heartening.  As was getting slowly but steadily passed from others (the results show I was in 183rd place at 8.5 miles but finished 228th so 45 people passed me in that 4.5ish miles).  I clung onto the fact that I had a cushion and that I could push the final mile.  When the final mile came, I decided I could push the final 0.1.  I tried and did sneak out a 7:23 pace over the final 0.21 miles for a watch time of 1:40:51.

So I had gone from a high of thinking I was going to meet my goal easily, to feeling like I was letting it get away, to being disappointed-if unsure-that I had missed it by almost a minute.  And now, I feel a bit revenged in that apparently the race didn’t start until the mats and that I did actually meet my goal.

But regardless, even if 1:40:51 was my real time, it was an amazing run.  The thing is, I really don’t have any runs in my recent training to say I was ready to run this fast for this long.  I have had 7 runs this year that I have run faster than 8:00/mile–only one was longer than 3 miles and it was only 5 miles.  I have to go back to October of 2010 when I ran a 10 miler at 7:56 to really get close to this run.  So other than Race-day Magic, I really had no business running like that.

Overall, the race itself was pretty good.  The starting line confusion is troubling–especially for a race that is 31 years old and had professional timers.  The finish, while not hilly was on a wet, grassy area that was getting chewed up and pretty slick by the time I finished.  Not good at the end of a 13-mile race.  They had the goodies area roped off and right pass the finish so it was a bit congested.  They had the red Gatorade which I cannot drink but water was available too.  I didn’t have a problem with the buses but others reportedly did–standing around in the cold would not have been fun.  So definitely some things they could improve upon.

The weather is out of their control, as are the deer, which may have run into a runner but I’m not sure about that.  The hills are there.

The swag was decent–a decent looking technical shirt and a medal.  I don’t really NEED a medal from every race I do but at least it is a bit different.  Since I make maps for a living, I do appreciate the fact that both the shirt and medal are maps of the course.

Overall, a good race, I ran pretty well–definitely gives me some confidence heading into Bjorklund in about 6 weeks that I might challenge my PR of 93:39.

UPDATE: Adam Kocinski (one of the race directors) confirmed on facebook that a runner did encounter a deer, writing “He was taken by ambulance to the hospital and suffered a concussion and torn ligaments in his ankle. In lots of pain still…a journey to recovery.”

Scary.

Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon Scouting Report

April 27, 2011 § 1 Comment

As I mentioned on Tuesday, I am running the Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon this weekend. During my long run a few days ago, I happened to run with someone else for a few miles.  When I mentioned to him that I was running Minnetonka, he mentioned that while there is some traffic control on the course, traffic is not completely closed.

“Oh, I didn’t know that, maybe I should do some research about the race,” I thought to myself.

Later, I fired up the Google Machine and did some pre-race scouting.

The race starts in Wayzata and loops to Excelsior–we rented an apartment in Excelsior for a year and a half so I have a general idea of the area.

Pulling up some past race reports, there was a general consensus–Julie (who included several photos), Beth, Kaeti,  Jen, Lindsay, SueBob and Todd all agreed that it was a scenic course with rolling hills.  In 2010, the organizers changed the course so that, as Todd wrote, it finished with “several quick turns and 2 short but steep hills in the last 1/4 mile.”

Kaeti wrote that the “finish line was located just past a fairly steep hill, which did not make me happy”.

A couple of posters also mentioned the wind (uncontrollable) and traffic as other hassles but no major complaints.

I thought of the area as basically flat so the rolling hills surprise me a bit but it cannot be as hilly as the Ron Daws 25k was. It is good to know about the hills at the finish.

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