City of Trails 5k

This weekend, my family ran the City of Trails 5k as our June family race. We ran this race last year and enjoyed it. This year, the race was even better!

The City of Trails races, located in St. Croix Falls, WI, offer  5k, 10k, and half marathon options. The 10k and half marathon are run on a combination of paved bicycle path and the Ice Age Trail. The 5k is run on paved bicycle path and residential sidewalks and roads. My family chose to run the 5k. I’d love to do the 10k sometime, but refuse to run off-road until after the marathon, to decrease the chances of injury.

This year, the course had more downhills and more paved bicycle trail than last year, because construction in the area has been completed. It was a beautiful course that I enjoyed more than last year and I hope they keep this one for future events.

The morning started out warm, in the 70’s, and very windy. I wasn’t feeling like I could pull a fast pace, so I started toward the back of the pack and started slowly. I figured it would be one of those days to just enjoy the scenery and get the miles in. However, as I neared the end of the first mile, my legs started to loosen up and I was feeling better. I glanced down at my watch and saw that my pace was sitting around 10:54, without feeling too hard.

As I reached the end of mile two, I felt really good and felt like I just might have a PR in me. I started pushing even harder, until I was breathing like a freight train. A glance at my pace showed a 9:30 pace on the final downhill drop toward the river and the finish line.

From last year, I knew that this course tends to be a tad long, so I stopped my watch when it hit 3.1 miles. I wanted to know what my actual 5k time was, and since the race was chip timed, I knew I’d still get an official time for the course.

I kept pushing even harder when I hit the last quarter-mile stretch, building momentum for the final little uphill at the finish line. My watch showed a 5k PR of 31:45! Later, when I checked my official results for the race, it showed 32:12. The course was 3.2 miles, so just a tad over this time; it was almost a 1/4 mile long last year.

Unlike last year, there was water and food at the finish line. Last year, everything was located in the race tent at the top of the hill, with no signage or volunteers to tell us where to go. I appreciated having water immediately at the finish line.

The only complaint I have about this race is that the only water stop on the 5k course is at approximately 0.65 miles. It is a water stop that is shared by the 5k and 10k, but faces the 10k trail, so many of the 5k runners didn’t realize it was available to them. Unfortunately, it is also too early in the race; it would be better if they had one closer to the halfway point.

As friends and I were discussing the water stops on the course, we were standing in front of the timing tent; the woman from the timing company wrote down our suggestions. She told us that they wanted feedback about the race in order to make it better, which I appreciate.

I should also mention that the course is a point-to-point course. Because the course drops downhill toward the river, the walk back to the start and parking is all uphill; thankfully, they offer a shuttle to return runners to their vehicles. For this reason, I recommend that runners carry cash for the food concessions and an ID for beer!

City of Trails remains one of my favorite races. The course is beautiful, the race has a small-town feel, the shirt is a nice tech material, volunteers and other participants are friendly, and there are food concessions at the end of the race in addition to the food provided by race organizers. The race is part of Wannigan Days, the town festival, which is why there are food vendors at the finish. I plan on being back next year!

What are your favorite races?

 

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Girls on the Run – Spring 5k

Back in August, I became a coach for Girls on the Run Twin Cities. I instantly fell in love with all things Girls on the Run (GOTR) related. While participants train for a 5k, they learn important life lessons such as conflict resolution, making and maintaining friendships, confidence, and healthy choices. Because of my own marathon training and other commitments, I wasn’t able to coach during this spring session. However, I signed up as a member of Team Adelaide, which is a support team that helps train coaches, give support to teams, visits GOTR sites, and helps with events. I had a blast being able to visit a few different teams and stay in touch with the GOTR staff and coaches.

The spring season-end 5k was on Saturday, June 3rd. I started my day by helping out at the coach check-in table, where coaches received all of the goodies needed for their team – race bibs, safety pins, face paint crayons, and Dream Team passports. They also receive a portable team sign so that the girls can find them in the crowd.

WHAT IS THE DREAM TEAM?

Our Spring 2017 race will once again include a Dream Team hall of inspirational leaders from the community who have unique careers. Girls will have the opportunity to meet local women in occupations that are uncommon for their gender. Past participants included: professional athlete, fire captain, fighter pilot and more! Girls will receive a passport to get stamped at each stop as they see how other women boldly pursue their dreams.

The above is from the Girls on the Run website. The girls receive Dream Team passports, in which they collect stamps from each Dream Team member; once a girl has all of the stamps, she gets entered for a special prize. Girls are encouraged to ask questions of these amazing women.

Once all teams had picked up their goodies, my role turned to Sparkle Runner. A Sparkle Runner is a woman who is at least 18 years old and has submitted a background check; she then runs the 5k, encouraging girls as she goes. Some Sparkle Runners are assigned to a specific team to help motivate the girls and others are in “the pool,” meaning they motivate anyone along the course. I was in the pool, so I ran at my own speed, chatting and shouting encouragement along the way. I took it easy with my pace so that I could soak it up and enjoy more of it.

Once I finished the 5k, I walked back along the course to jump in with girls who looked like they needed some extra motivation and encouragement. I did this a few times and had a blast doing it. At the fall 5k I was a coach, so I spent most of the time popping onto different parts of the course to grab pictures; being a Sparkle Runner gave me another viewpoint of what the day entails and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

After most runners were in, I spent some time visiting with friends who were kind enough to run as Sparkle Runners. Just as we were making lunch plans and thinking about leaving, it was announced that the very last runner was making her way toward the final stretch. The announcement that followed was, “if you can hear this, please drop everything you are doing and make your way to the finish line to cheer on our final runner.” Suddenly, activity ceased and people were swarming toward the finish line, clapping and cheering. We all lined the course, watching as one last adorable runner made her way to the finish line. There were lots of happy tears, high fives, shouts of encouragement, and clapping hands. It was a BEAUTIFUL moment that perfectly summed up what Girls on the Run is all about; inclusion, teamwork, fun, encouragement, and forward motion. What a wonderful finale to a fantastic day!

Unfortunately, I was too busy soaking up every moment to take pictures. Next time!

I hope to return to coaching in the fall, but even if that isn’t the case, I will definitely continue to be involved in Girls on the Run. To learn more about this amazing program, please visit their website.

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Wear Blue: Run to Remember

Yesterday, my family and I participated in the Wear Blue: Run to Remember event in Blaine, MN. From their website:

wear blue: run to remember’s Memorial Day of Remembrance is our signature national event.  Partnering with local non-profits, we invite runners and walkers across the nation to join our mission by pledging to commit the miles that they run or walk in honor of each service member killed in the Global War on Terror. By the close of Memorial Day, runners and walkers across the nation will have shared in a national effort to honor every member of the American military who laid down his or her life for this country.

Prior to the event, participants can log into the Wear Blue website to pledge their miles. Participants can run in honor of a service member of their choosing, or they can choose to have one assigned. I ran in honor of Army 1st Lt. Joshua C. Hurley, who died on November 1, 2003 from a roadside bombing in Iraq. You can read more about him here.

Runners and walkers who did not pledge their miles on the Wear Blue website were given a local (Minnesota) service member to honor. Each participant wore a race bib with their service member’s name on it.

A short program started the morning, in which each participant shared the name of the service member they were running or walking for, a non-denominational prayer, and the national anthem. Along the course, there were flags with a fallen Minnesota service member’s name chalked on the path. The event was not timed, because the focus was on honoring those who sacrificed for our freedoms. It was a beautiful way to remember what Memorial Day is truly about. Because this wasn’t a race, I’m going to skip the details about my run. I will encourage you, though, to participate in a Wear Blue: Run to Remember event next Memorial Day.

While we can never thank our military and their families enough for their sacrifices, we can remember those sacrifices and let them know they are appreciated.

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Miles and Margaritas

My marathon training plan called for 23 miles this past weekend, which was scheduled for Saturday morning. Unfortunately, the weather has been rainy almost every day over the past week, so it was decided that we would run on Friday night instead.

I’ll be honest and admit that I was not looking forward to running on Friday night after work. We would be starting at 5:00 pm, meaning we wouldn’t be done running until sometime between 9:00 pm and 10:00 pm. Having not done this type of distance at any time other than a weekend morning, there was the question about how I’d be affected by food throughout the day, and energy levels. But, it was that, run in the rain the entire time, or risk having to run by myself.

On Thursday night, I packed up everything I would need for a Friday night run, including my reflective vest and headlamp. I had my gels ready, along with empty water bottles that I would fill at work before meeting my training group. I had everything I needed, but was still nervous about committing to such a long run on a Friday night.

I arrived at our meeting spot a few minutes before 5:00 and we were able to get started right away. Three ladies started an hour earlier, getting in just under four miles. They met us back at the parking lot, to do the bulk of the miles together. We started with an out-and-back that was just under 7 miles each way. Our group split up at the half way point, because of differing paces.

After that, we refilled our water in the parking lot and headed back out for a 4 mile loop. Unfortunately, my training partner and I went out a bit fast and could feel it as we headed out for our four mile loop. It was decided that we would go to 20 miles instead of 23, which saved us about a half hour in complete darkness.

Once we returned to the parking lot again, we did some stretching, though I did very minimal. We decided to head to a local restaurant for a margarita to celebrate the start of our taper. Truth be told, I also had a burrito, but the margarita was the important part.

margarita

Cheers to the taper!

When I got home, I showered and went straight to bed. I knew the morning would be difficult since I didn’t stretch properly, but I was TIRED! Running that far after a full day of work is extra exhausting.

As predicted, I hobbled around like a zombie for much of Saturday morning, but it was worth it for the pleasure of sleeping in both days of the weekend. I feel like I caught up on some much-needed sleep. After a bit of stretching and foam rolling, though, I felt pretty good. I had just a little bit of residual stiffness, which was gone by Sunday afternoon.

Even though I didn’t go all the way to 23 miles, I’m feeling very confident. Friday’s 20 mile run was 15 minutes faster than my previous 20 mile run and I felt good throughout. I’m going to enjoy this taper period and focus on keeping myself properly hydrated between now and the marathon in four short weeks.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. I cannot believe how good I have felt throughout this entire training cycle. I have had very little soreness and only one of my short runs was miserable; but only because it was the first day of running in heat and humidity. I’ve enjoyed the company of my training partners and would never have attempted, let alone completed this, without them. I can’t wait to celebrate with them after we’ve all crossed the finish line!

 

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Run Like a Mother 5k

On Saturday, I ran the Run Like a Mother 5k at Phalen Regional Park. This race is considered the season kick-off race for Moms on the Run, though it is open to anyone to participate.

For this race, there was no early packet pickup, so I arrived early to make sure I could find parking and get my packet back to my car well before the race. I ended up arriving much earlier than needed; packet pickup only took a few seconds and parking wasn’t a problem at all. This race had just under 300 participants, so there weren’t any logistical problems. I had more than enough time to chat with friends, use the restroom, participate in the group photos, etc.

The race was scheduled to start at 9:00, and started just a few minutes late. The large group photo took a little longer than expected, so the kid’s race started a few minutes late, followed by the 5k. It was a gorgeous morning, though, so it didn’t seem like anyone minded.

The course consisted of a single loop around Lake Phalen. I grew up going to this park with my grandparents, but can’t recall going there as an adult, so I had forgotten that the area is hilly. There were two larger hills on the course, with several other small rollers. The view of the lake was gorgeous, which definitely didn’t hurt!

I wasn’t pushing for time, so I just enjoyed the views and the weather. It really was an uneventful race in that it felt like it went by quickly, I never felt like I was pushing very hard, and I got to see so many of my running friends from Moms on the Run.

My finishing time was 33:53. At the finish line, medals and carnations were given out. Post-race water, chips, and salted nut rolls were available in the picnic pavilion.

I would consider doing this race again, but only if I wasn’t intending to try for a PR because the course was a bit crowded for the first 1/3 of the race. I heard a few runners were disappointed that bananas weren’t offered post-race, but I personally did not hear any other complaints.

Thanks to Moms on the Run and Anderson Race Management for a beautiful race!

 

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Shoes, Fuel, and Gear

The marathon training process is all about experimentation, preparation, and planning. From choosing a training plan, planning running routes, and experimenting with fueling, it can be difficult to keep track of everything. For myself, I found it important to keep track of what I’ve tried and how it worked for me.

Shoes are one of the most important pieces of the marathon equation. I wanted to make sure I had a pair of shoes that would be comfortable throughout training and race day, but weren’t worn out from too many miles. In February, I purchased a new pair of shoes, intending for them to be my marathon pair. To make sure I was wearing the right pair, I got refitted at a running store, even though my last three pairs had been Brooks Glycerin. Again, it was determined that Glycerin was the right shoe for me, but in a half-size bigger to accommodate foot swelling during distance running. I’ve been very happy with this choice and will be wearing these for my 23 mile training run next weekend and the race itself. I have found, however, that the bigger shoes cannot be worn for speed work because my foot slides around too much and creates a blister in the arch. So, the larger shoes are distance only and my smaller shoes are for speed.

Glycerin14

My marathon shoe, the Brooks Glycerin 14. 

Next, it was important that I figure out my fueling. There are a ton of options on the market, so it really is about personal preference and what works for each individual. The amount of fuel intake while running is also very different per person, so it’s vitally important to experiment with this during training runs.

I knew from my previous use of SportBeans that I’m not a big fan of chewing food while running, so I wasn’t going to be trying Shot Bloks or dates. I decided to start trying different energy gels. I tried many different flavors and brands – Gu, Powergel, Hammer, Honey Stinger, and Gu Roctane – but settled on Accel Gel. I found that I prefer a thinner consistency that I could drink, rather than chew or have to rely on availability of water to get down. Of everything I’ve tried, Accel Gels have the thinnest consistency with flavors I enjoy. I ordered a case of Strawberry Kiwi and a case of Citrus Orange to finish out my training cycle and the marathon.

In order to keep track of all of my fueling trials, I used a Google docs spreadsheet to track the brand, flavor, thoughts about the gel, and whether I’d use it again. As I narrowed down my favorites, I ranked the top few so that there wasn’t any guesswork as I got closer to marathon day. Nerdy, perhaps, but crucial in remembering what worked best for me.

For hydration, I carry a Nathan QuickDraw handheld water bottle. I like the zippered pouch that I can carry gels in, or store empty gels in until I reach the next trash can. I can generally get by with just the water in this bottle for approximately 12 miles before needing to refill and since we’ve been doing loops that return to our cars and/or a water fountain during training, it’s worked great. During the race, I plan on carrying my bottle with me for use between water stations so that I will never be out of water.

0-1001-nathan-quickdraw-plus-sparkling-cosmo

The Nathan QuickDraw water bottle.

For carrying my gels, phone, and keys, I use a Fitletic  Ultimate II running belt. This belt has a large zippered pouch, five elastic loops for carrying gels, a small velcro pouch, elastic bib loops and a key clip. It also has the option to purchase add-on water bottles, should I ever feel the need to. I appreciate that this belt offers options to use the same belt with or without hydration bottles.

For training runs, I typically put a gel in each elastic loop, my phone and keys in the zippered pouch, Chapstick and sticks of gum in the velcro pouch, and clip my iPod and/or Gymboss interval timer to the thin part of the belt. Everything is easily accessible, yet stays put. As long as I sit the pouch just beneath my hip bones, everything stays in place. I bought this belt at the Twin Cities Marathon Expo and absolutely love it.

PURPLE-RUNNING-BELT-N04-07-1

Fitletic Ultimate II Running belt

The other two pieces of gear I wear for all of my runs are my Fitbit Charge HR and my Soleus Fit 1.0 GPS watch. While I’d like one device that counts steps, has a wrist-based heart rate monitor, uses GPS, and counts calorie burn, I haven’t upgraded yet. I wear one device on each wrist.

For clothing, I’ve decided will wear Danskin capris from Walmart, and a Moms on the Run t-shirt or tank top. Final clothing decisions will be weather-based, but I have an idea of what I’ll wear for all potential weather conditions.

Lastly, I’ll also be using my EventClips to attach my race bib to the front of my shirt. I’m a big fan of these because they don’t create holes and runs in race gear. After removal, they leave a small bump in the cloth that disappears when the garment is washed. Note that these come from the UK, so they generally take a week to arrive after ordering.

Eventclips

Here’s just one example of fun EventClip options.

I think that sums up what I’m planning to wear for my marathon. If you have questions, feel free to comment below!

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20 Miles and a Few Coronas

Bonus points if you sang the title to the tune of “18 Wheels and a Dozen Roses.”

On Saturday, I met up with one of my running partners for the big 20 mile training run. Neither of us had ever run this far before, so it was a tad intimidating. Mentally, I had a lot of importance on this run.

We met at 7:30 at our usual training spot and started off the morning with our four mile loop. We stopped once to help a fellow runner with directions through the park; he was also training for Grandma’s and was already nine miles into his run. Then, we stopped again at a restroom because I needed a pit stop. Sometimes it takes a few miles to get into the rhythm of the run.

Once we returned to the parking lot, we headed out for a long out-and-back of approximately seven miles each way. This stretch was even less eventful.

When we made it back to the parking lot, we were definitely slowing down. It’s difficult mentally to get back to your starting point, only to head out yet again. We used the restrooms, refilled our water bottles, and headed out for a two-mile out-and-back.

Our last segment was definitely the slowest, with additional walk breaks and some little rolling hills that we didn’t have on the first two segments. Our muscles were tired and we were looking forward to stretching and having a snack.

The total mileage for the day was somewhere between 20 and 20.6 miles, since our GPS devices were reading a little differently; so, we kept going until both devices showed a distance of 20 miles or more. We finished up with a walk around the parking lot.

Upon returning to our cars, the first order of business was to get our running shoes off and our sandals on. Then, we headed over to a grassy area with our snacks and electrolytes, to stretch out. We also managed to get someone to take our picture to commemorate surviving our first 20 mile run, complete with smiles.

Surprisingly, it was a good run. Neither one of us had any pain, just general muscle soreness and fatigue. There weren’t any tears. Mentally, we’re both in a really good place regarding the marathon and are confident that we WILL finish this race.

I know I use the word “surprisingly” a lot when talking about this marathon journey, but I honestly went into it expecting misery. Training with my Moms on the Run ladies has been awesome and I wouldn’t be able to do this without them and my other running friends. When I use #LoveMyTeam in my tweets, I’m not kidding. I absolutely love this team of ladies!

The rest of my day was pretty normal for a Saturday. I was able to go to church and shopping with my husband, and relax with a few Coronas while watching Parks & Rec. No nap needed! Well, unless you count my long nap on Sunday afternoon.

Corona

Truth.

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