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:


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.


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?

Race Report: Waconia Winterfest 5k (2/5/11)

February 6, 2011 § 1 Comment

This was my first time running the Waconia Winterfest 5k and my first healthy race since September.

This long, snowy winter has been rough on my training paces.  While I ran more miles in January–101.25–than I have in at least 18 months, they were slow miles.   We’ve only had two days of above-freezing temperatures since December 1st so we have not had the normal melt-off of snow that we typically have.

Snow banks are high, side roads are covered, and any time we get an inch or two of snow, we end up with a thin, slippery layer of snow that slows me down by a minute to two per mile.

I’m not in racing condition.

I was not sure if I was going to run this race–It probably was  not the prudent thing to do.  But I checked the forecast at the beginning of the week and the forecast was for a warm day (32°) on Saturday so I figured I would probably race.  Which, to my mind at least, meant that I had act like I was going to race.

One of the reasons I wanted to specifically race this weekend is because of the upcoming Super Bowl.  I’m a Packer fan and I moved into enemy territory, Minnesota, in the last year and I just wanted to do something “bold” to show my loyalty.  Something like run this race in my Packer jersey.  Silly thing for a 40-year-old “man” to do but it was a real motivating factor for me.

The temperature was in the 20s by the time I arrived to register for the race so I was excited to have some decent weather.  While I was standing in the race-day registration line, I notice that the runners ahead of me were getting numbers in the high 250s–my guesstimate told me I had a good chance of getting 262 (the significiance being that those are the same digits as the marathon distance of 26.2 miles).  Again, a silly little thing but I felt like it was a good luck omen.

My warm-up with Packer sweatpants and Packer hat went by rather quietly.  But as soon as I made the switch into my race outfit–running tights and my number 80, Donald Driver, Packer jersey, I started to get comments.  Mostly good-natured.

“Aren’t you suppose to be in Dallas (the site of tomorrow’s Super Bowl)”.

“The Packers winning depends on you winning today”.  (I hope not)

“Good Luck, Donald”

I did my warm-up along the course route which mostly went through residential streets.   The warm temperatures the day before had caused some melting, which, trapped between big snowbanks on both side of the sidewalks, had re-frozen overnight causing significant ice.  So I stuck to running on the residential streets which barely had any traffic.

So I was rather surprised when, in the first quarter-mile, we were all guided onto the sidewalks.  It was rather narrow, icy and crowded.

I had paid close attention to the course map–it was basically a lollipop set-up.  The beginning and end were basically the same stretch with a loop in between.

I had gotten into my head that the loop was going to be run clock-wise.  I probably assumed that since we were starting off due north (we actually started off headed east on a segment not shown on the official map), that we would head due north at the beginning of the loop.

But, as you can probably guess from the fact I brought it up, we ended up running the loop counter-clockwise.  This turned out to be a good thing because while the streets were still icy at the beginning of the loop, the sidewalk was wider and was in better condition which made it easier to run while we were still somewhat packed together.

See the activity on RunSaturday

Type: Run – Race
Duration: 0:21:44
Distance: 3.12 mi

I actually really enjoyed the treacherous beginning–I’ve always considered myself a bit of a mudder, able to pick my way through bad footing relatively well.  So I found this first bit exciting.  Plus, grouped together on a bad surface, I was boxed in and did not go out way too fast.

My last race, a cross-country race in September was a 5.6 miler that I ran at 7:02 pace.  I had run a 5k in August in better conditions in 21:08.  I was hoping to run today in under 22:00 or about 7:05 pace.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I hit the first mile in 6:53.  By then, we had separation so I was cruising.  The second mile I did in 7:14 but that included the only uphill–albeit a mild little climb.  I did pass a few runners on that hill, the last runners I would pass.  I was also passed by one runner in this mile, also the last runner that would pass me.

I enjoyed a bit of downhill in mile 3, which I ran in 6:51.  I felt strong and even though the finishing stretch was in a parking lot with a thin glazing of ice, I ran the final 0.1 at a 6:41 pace for a finishing time of 21:38.

During the run, I did get one Packer-related cheer from a spectator but at the finish, I got a mixture of cheers and heckles from the couple dozen spectators.   As a classic ectomorph, I tend to disappear in social situations–blending into the scenery.  But wearing a Packer jersey in Minnesota could only be a cry for (negative) attention.  Minnesota Nice does not normally apply to Packer fans.

So I knew what I was getting into, even looking forward to it so I played it up with the crowd a bit–asking for more noise.  If I would thought of it, I should have imitated Driver’s “First Down” signal as I crossed the finish line.


Overall, I am pleased with my performance.  Obviously a bit slower than the 5k I ran back in August but considering the footing both today and the last couple months, not too bad.  Once we can re-claim the sidewalks and roads from the snow and get more quality miles in, I can work on getting faster.

I do think there are a couple benefits from the enforced slow runs we’ve had to do lately.  First, the easy miles help prevent over-training.  Second, with the poor footing, there is a certain amount of variability with each stride–working the legs muscles in a slightly different way, therefore providing a more balanced workout instead of the same repetitive foot-strike over and over and over again.

One nice thing about this race, instead of another T-shirt, they gave away nice black & gray winter hats.  So that was a nice bonus.

It will be interesting to see how the legs feel tomorrow morning.

December Totals

December 31, 2010 § Leave a comment

I survived December without completely collapsing–I ended up taking 10 days off from the 21st through the 30th.   I totaled 51.75 (51.84) miles. The sad part is I had a week off during that time but sometimes free time is the hardest time to get around to a run.

Due to weather, my pace has deteriorated horribly–an average of 8:45.  Snowbanks, ice, blizzards, hail all conspired to make running fast an infrequent event–only 2 miles faster than 7:30 and five miles between 7:30 and 7:59.  y long run was 8 miles in 1:10:04 at 8:46 pace.  I struggled through one run of 6.5 miles largely on a snow-covered bike trail at 10:22 pace.

Winter in Wisconsin, and now Minnesota, is mostly about doing your time and building strength.  I’m looking forward to a thaw.


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