Chocoholic Frolic 10k

The Chocoholic Frolic 5k/10k was held at Harriet Island in St. Paul on Saturday, November 3rd. This race is popular because of the chocolate treats given both at the water stop, and at the finish. Plus, they offer a finisher medal and 1/4 zip shirt for all race finishers.

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Finisher 1/4 zip shirt. Image borrowed from the Chocoholic Frolic website.

I had not run a timed 10k road race since 2016, which feels unbelievable, considering all of the races and miles I’ve run in the past few years. Even though I’m not someone who loves chocolate, I decided to sign up because it had been a while since I’ve run an official 10k, and because several friends were registered and I have a fear of missing out.

Prior to the race, packet pickup was offered on two consecutive Fridays; the first in Minneapolis and the second in St. Paul. Both days only offered hours of 10am-5pm, which is impossible for many to get to, if they work full time day hours. Add in the fact that many do not work directly in Minneapolis or St. Paul, and I felt the times weren’t convenient for very many. Thankfully, Nate was able to stop by the St. Paul location the night before the race, so my friends and I didn’t have to be at the race site quite so early!

Packet pickup was also offered race morning, but would have been inconvenient, considering there was not a bag drop for this bag. This means that runners would have had to park blocks away, get their packets, walk back to their cars, then walk back to the race start. Also, considering this is a mid-sized November race in Minnesota, I feel a bag drop should have been offered. We have the potential for SO many layers this time of year!

Next, the bathroom situation was less than adequate for the number of runners. The pavilion at Harriet Island was open, and has indoor restrooms; however, considering most of the runners were female, lines were long until the 5k started. Other than the eight or so stalls indoors, there were only TWO porta-potties outside the pavilion, which also had a very long line. There were not any porta-potties on the race course.

The course was an out-and-back for the 10k. There were some views of the river, and trees lined the course. For runners who don’t spend much time in this area, it was a nice course. I heard a few runners comment how pretty it was. I have run the course before for other races, so it wasn’t anything new, but I don’t have any complaints about it.

At the finish line, finishers were given a chocolate bar, and a medal. There were also volunteers on hand to take unofficial pictures, in addition to those taken by the race photographers. Post-race, runners had the option to purchase the professional pictures, or share them to social media without purchasing them.

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The medal

Inside the pavilion, there were plates assembled, which held pretzels, Oreo cookies, animal crackers, a banana, and a cup of chocolate (fairly certain it was Hershey’s syrup). There were also some Nut Thins available. I wasn’t necessarily impressed with the chocolate offering, but I can’t complain about the other goodies on the plate.

Overall, I don’t feel the need to do this race again. The price (I paid $25) was excellent, swag was good, and course was nice. However, the limited packet pickup hours, lack of bag drop, and inadequate restrooms make this race less appealing.

My finishing time was 1:13:20, which is a 10k PR by 39 seconds.

Official finisher photo

 

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At the Sock hop – Anoka Gray Ghost 5k

Halloween is almost upon us, and that means that the weekend was full of Halloween-themed races. I chose to run one of my favorites, the Anoka Gray Ghost 5k, in the Halloween Capital of the World.

For the second year in a row, I ran this with some of my Moms on the Run friends. Last year’s theme was 80’s fitness.
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This year, we chose Sock hop. Six of us ran together, in a variety of sock hop outfits. We even had 50’s music coming from a speaker on my friend’s back. There were high-fives to the kids along the parade route, spontaneous stops for dancing, and lots of fun.

Sock Hop

Post race, we hit one of the local restaurants for lunch. Then, it was off to see Dave Ramsey speak at church! It was a fun day.

Did you run a Halloween-themed race? 

Tell me about your Halloween costume for this year!

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2018 Goals Update

It’s been a crazy, busy summer and time just slipped away!

In checking in with my 2018 goals, here’s where they stand as of today:

  1. Run 350 miles – I’m at 218 miles, so this is still in reach, just need to get to it!
  2. PR the Half Marathon Distance, preferably at the Gary Bjorklund Half (aka Grandma’s Half) – Completed. I hit a PR by 11 minutes!! Woot woot!

GmasPR

  1. PR the 10k Distance – I ran a few trail 10k races, but no road 10k races this summer. I have a 10k next week, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to hit my goal. Stay tuned!
  2. Run a few trail races – Completed. I ran 5 trail races this year. This will be a goal for 2019 again.
  3. Run a minimum of 13 races this year – Completed. So far, I’ve run 21 this year, with another five on the schedule!
  4. Read and/or listen to 100 books – I’m currently at 76, so this is still within reach. 
  5. Increase savings & pay down student loan debt – I have NOT done well in this area this year.
  6. Do more hiking, biking, and snowshoeing – This has also not happened, but will continue to be a goal for this year and next.

Other noteworthy items:

I completed my first Triathlon! The FreedomFest Tri is a small, beginner-friendly, un-timed Tri in Pine City, MN. The entire thing went better than expected and I fully intend to do this one again next year.

This year’s Ragnar Trail Northwoods was the coldest yet, with high winds for half of it. We went from tornado warnings on Thursday night, blustery winds on Friday, frost on Friday night, and mild, sunny weather on Saturday. Sleeping in a tent in 33* weather and not nearly enough warm layers was brutal, and I have never been so cold in my life! But, we survived and the running was great.

Another new experience this year was the Door County Fall 5o, but I’ll share more about that soon.

The next race on the agenda is the Anoka Gray Ghost 5k tomorrow. It’s one of my favorites!

80sfitnessHere’s a throwback to last year’s 80’s fitness costume.

Are you running any Halloween-themed races this year? If so, will you be in costume?

 

 

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Growing Green Trail Races

On Saturday, I ran the Growing Green Half-of-a-Half Marathon at Treasured Haven Farm in Rush City, MN. They also offered a half marathon option on Saturday. On Sunday, they offered 3, 6, and 12 hour challenges.

Friends of mine ran the race last year and said they enjoyed it, so I decided to give it a try. Plus, it was nice and close to home. Logistics couldn’t have been easier for this race. I pulled into the driveway at Treasured Haven, drove up near the start line, and parked on the grass. Packet pickup, which was just a race bib, was just a few feet from where I parked. There were two porta-potties available, but since there were only 43 participants between the two distances, there was never much of a line and it moved quickly.

Just a few minutes before race time, runners were gathered for announcements about the course, and then we were on our way. Most of the course was on mowed grass that made up the perimeter of the crop fields. A very small portion of the course was hard-pack dirt in wooded areas on the farm property. I absolutely loved the portions in the woods; between the more technical footing, elevation changes, and cooler shade, I was happy there. I very much dislike running on grass; I find it to be very difficult and boring. There were three water stops on the course, each consisting of a large cooler of cold water and a stack of paper cups. It was easy to refill a handheld water bottle at these stops.

Because of the amount of miles on mowed grass, and the heat and humidity, I had a very slow time for this race. I let myself get discouraged somewhere between miles 4 and 5, and walked most of the course after that point. I finished at the back of the pack. While I wish I’d had it in me to do better, it just wasn’t there on Saturday morning, and that’s okay. For the past year, I’ve been hitting PRs in both distance and race times, so it’s okay to have a “bad” race once in a while.

I enjoyed being on the farm, and the fact that it was a very small race. I didn’t even mind being mostly alone on the course after the first few miles. The farm family, who organized the race themselves, were friendly and welcoming to all.

Post-race snacks included trail mix, granola bars, cold water, and frozen fruit. The frozen fruit was by far my favorite choice of the day, and I’m ranking it right behind the lemon gelato and chocolate milk I’ve had at other races.

Finishers also received a wooden medallion and a vegetable or herb plant of our choice. I chose a bell pepper plant because I was told they’re hard to kill, which is exactly what I need in a plant.

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This race was small, well-organized, and everyone was friendly. I loved the atmosphere at this race and while I wouldn’t do it again in the heat, I would sign up for their fall races.

My finishing time was 1:34:07.

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As with my last race, I fueled with Generation UCAN Drink Mix (lemonade flavor this time, which I did not care for) and Generation UCAN Hydrate in Berry. So far, I’m liking the UCAN Drink Mix, but prefer Nuun over the UCAN Hydrate for electrolytes.

After the race, I enjoyed Leinie’s Summer Shandy and a burger, on a patio overlooking a lake, with friends and family. It was a lovely kick-off to the Memorial Day weekend.

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We Will Remember

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Today, we remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

This morning, I joined my husband and friends at a Wear Blue: Run to Remember event. We ran 3.1 miles in honor of Minnesota’s fallen soldiers. Upon arrival, each participant chose a soldier to honor with their run. I chose Army Spc. Carlos E. Wilcox IV, from Cottage Grove, MN. He made the ultimate sacrifice on July 16, 2009 while serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

If you ever have an opportunity to participate in a Wear Blue: Run to Remember event, I encourage you to do so. It’s easy to forget what Memorial Day is really about, as trips to the lake, grilling, and relaxing with friends and family tends to take the forefront.

However, for the families of our fallen soldiers, it is a reminder of those they can no longer hold close. Please take a few moments today to remember those who gave all to protect us, and their families, who lost so much.

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Birdtown Half Marathon

The Birdtown Half Marathon was held on Saturday, May 19th. Along with the half marathon, they offer 8k and 4k distances, and a Little Birdie Fun Run for kids.

Saturday morning started overcast and cool, with the temperature around 57*F at race time. Parking was located across the street from Lakeview Terrace Park, the location of both the start and finish lines for the race.

Packet pick-up was held the prior night, at Lions Gym in Robbinsdale. A good friend of mine offered to grab my packet, so I am unable to comment on ease of packet pick-up. The race swag consisted of a drawstring bag, race bib, and a soft cotton t-shirt.

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The swag

When I arrived on race morning, I got my packet from my friend, then headed to the staging area for the race. The total number of runners for the Birdtown races is approximately 600, so this was a fairly small race. Lines for the porta-potties were short and bag drop was a breeze. Even though my car was just across the street, I utilized bag drop because I was able to wear my long-sleeve shirt up until just a few minutes prior to the race start.

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The back of the shirt

The half marathon started exactly on time, which I always appreciate. The course was a mix of city, residential, and park roads and paths. All turns were well-marked, with a police or volunteer presence at all major intersections. Many neighborhood residents were in their yards cheering, holding signs, or ringing cowbells.

During the first several miles of the course, I chatted with the 2:45 pacer, which made the miles cruise by faster. We even found out we’ve chatted online before! We separated once we got to the biggest hill on the course, but never got too far apart. I knew I wanted to finish somewhere around the 2:45 mark, if possible, so I tried to keep her in my sight.

I felt like I was cruising along for the first 9 miles. I felt good, and was pushing the pace harder than I probably should have. Just after the 9 mile marker, my right hip started to tighten up, so my pace dropped off a bit. Unfortunately, I had to walk a lot in the last two miles, so my time wasn’t as good as it could have been. But, that’s the nature of running; always so many variables to account for in each and every run.

Thankfully, the race finished on a downhill, so I was able to push into a sprint at the end. My finishing time was 2:44:35, which is a PR by almost a minute!

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Close-up of the medal

Post-race goodies included lemon gelato, muffins, Propel, and beer from Fulton and Dangerous Man. The gelato tops my list of favorite post-race snacks, right along with chocolate milk. I opted out of the muffins and beer; they just didn’t sound like they would hit the spot for me on this particular morning.

Overall, I liked this race. The course is challenging, but I liked the variety in scenery. The volunteers were awesome, and I loved the community support. I would recommend this race, and will likely run one of their races again next year.

BirdtownGarmin

I’d like to mention that I did something different with my fueling for this race. In the past year, I’ve been using Accel gels for long runs. However, Generation UCAN is a sponsor of Moms on the Run this year, and I received a sample of their UCAN Drink Mix. I drank the UCAN before the race, which is supposed to be sufficient fueling for up to three hours of activity. This means, I didn’t have to carry any gels. While my hip got tight, I never felt like I was lacking energy. I will be experimenting with UCAN more in my long runs, but so far, I like it. I also used the UCAN Hydrate to replenish electrolytes.

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The Willow 10 Mile

On Saturday, May 5th, I ran The Willow 10 Mile trail race at Willow River State Park in Hudson, WI. This year was the inaugural year. Along with the 10 mile distance, a 20 mile option was also offered; the 20 mile was two loops of the 10 mile course.

Logistics for this race were about as simple as they come, other than having to wait in line at the park entrance to obtain the daily parking pass. Cost for non-residents was $13, or $10 for Wisconsin residents. For anyone considering this race in the future, I highly recommend bringing cash, because it helps the line move faster!

After following a winding road to the Nature Center within the park, I arrived at the large parking lot, which had plenty of room. Due to the number of race participants being limited to 300 between both distances, the parking lot never filled up completely.

When I arrived, I picked up my packet, which consisted of a trucker-style baseball cap and a race bib. Restrooms were plentiful, with indoor, flush-toilet, restrooms attached to the picnic pavilion and a line of porta-potties near the parking lot. The picnic pavilion housed several picnic tables, and there was a playground for any children in attendance.

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Picture borrowed from The Willow website.

After some short announcements, the 10 mile race started a few minutes early. The 20 mile race started before the 10 mile, and I believe they started on time, as well.

The course was beautiful, well-marked, and hilly. Yes, I realize hilly is a relative term, but it contained the largest hills I’ve ever done in a race. I once thought Ragnar Great River was hilly, but this course had Great River beat (at least in terms of runner position #7). Every time I thought I had conquered the last uphill portion, another one was in front of me, with each one being steeper. It was brutal and at one point, I wondered who signed me up for this….then I remembered, it was me, and I’d paid to do it. At least the downhill portions following those inclines were fun!

The best part of the course, though, was the waterfall. I have never stopped to take pictures during a race before, but I just couldn’t pass it up!

WillowRiver

As I mentioned above, the course was well-marked. I only questioned myself once, but another runner was able to clarify I was going the right way. There were two water and aide stations, but I was carrying everything I needed for the race and didn’t stop at either of them. Volunteer support was awesome for this race, with approximately 50 of them on the course! They were very encouraging and supportive; the absolute best kind of race volunteers.

What really struck me about this race was how friendly everyone was. The lead 20-milers, who were lapping me when I reached mile 7, were giving me encouraging words and cheering me on. As they whizzed by me, they were chatty. While runners as a community are awesome, there just seems to be something extra special about the trail running community. Out there, it becomes even less about pace and even more about camaraderie and taking on what nature has to throw at us.

As tough as this race was, with its monster hills, I really enjoyed it. In typical runner-brain fashion, I didn’t love it once I hit the last few miles. When I finished, I was sure I’d never consider doing this race again. By the time I got to breakfast an hour later, I was considering doing the race again. When breakfast was over, I decided I really liked this race and would do it again someday.

Now, a few weeks removed, I’ve decided this race was fun! It was hard, and took me a week to feel fully recovered, but it was beautiful. The Willow is a race for those who enjoy a challenge, beautiful scenery, and a low-key, friendly race environment. I highly recommend this one!

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My official finishing time was 2:23:31, which was much faster than what I was hoping for, considering  the hills and the fact that this was my longest trail run ever.

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Celebratory beer flight at Hop & Barrel in Hudson, WI.

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