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.

GrowingGreen

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

somegaveall

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.

BirdtownSwag

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.

BirdtownTback

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!

BirdtownMedal

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.

WillowHat

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!

WillowGarmin

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.

HopandBarrel

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

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Shake Your Shamrock

On St. Patrick’s Day, I ran the Shake Your Shamrock 7k. The race organizer, Midwest Events, also offers a 5k option.

I absolutely love themed races, because I love any excuse for a costume. Of course, this meant that I dug out my green shirt and headband, and my shamrock compression socks. The temperature was warm for March in Minnesota, sitting around 45* at race time, so no layers for me! I was plenty warm in a t-shirt and capris.

shamrockfull

There were two options for packet pickup; one on Friday night at the offices of Midwest Events and one the morning of the race. I chose the Friday night pickup so that I could sleep in a bit longer on Saturday morning.

Logistics were very easy for this race. The race starts and ends at Kelly’s Korner bar in Centerville, and the course runs through the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Park Preserve. Parking was available in the lot next to Kelly’s, across the street at the school, and along the side roads. Both distances start within about a block of Kelly’s, so the walk from parking to the start was a short one.

The race started exactly on time, and the course is rolling and pretty. The 7k course starts by meandering through LaMotte Park and Chomonix Golf Course, before heading through the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Park Preserve. The 5k course is an out and back along Main Street/County Road 14. The only unfortunate thing about both courses (they overlap for the last 1.5 miles or so), is the uphill finish.

shamrockhead

Immediately upon crossing the finish line, there were snacks and bottled water available. Each runner age 21+ also received a green beer on the patio at Kelly’s. The award ceremony was also located inside Kelly’s Korner.

Shake Your Shamrock is a fun race that I would definitely do again. If you’re in the area, add this one to your must-run list!

shakeshamrockswag

Race shirt and pint glass

 

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Frozen Feet Trail Races

Way back on February 11th, I ran my very first winter trail race. Frozen Feet offers two days of racing – Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon – as well as three distance choices. The distances offered are 5k, 10k, and Half Marathon.

Since this was my first winter trail run, and I had no idea what to expect, I opted for the 5k distance on Sunday afternoon. Winter conditions can vary greatly in Minnesota, so that was also a factor.

The temperature on the day of the race was in the low 20s, and there wasn’t much of a breeze during the run. I wore fleece-lined running tights and a long-sleeve quarter zip running shirt and was more than warm enough; though, I do tend to get quite warm while running. I also chose trail shoes and didn’t have any problems with traction.

As with most trail races, this was a smaller event. Parking was on the road going into the mountain bike trailhead area. There was a large warming tent, about four porta-potties available, and snacks and beverages. Runners were able to hang out in the warming tent right up until a few minutes prior to the start of the race.

When we started, runners were clumped pretty tightly together, considering the course is a single track mountain bike trail in the warmer months. However, once we got to a few hills, the field spread out a bit, and slower runners stepped aside for faster runners to pass. The course was rolling hills, and had a good flow.

This race felt difficult only because I hadn’t been running over the winter months. Also, I forgot that my watch was set for intervals, so it kept vibrating and I didn’t know why. Once I figured out what was going on, I was mostly able to ignore it.

At the finish line, we were handed a leather key chain in lieu of a medal. Shirts were not given for this race, but I believe they were available for purchase. I personally like the option of cheap registration and being able to purchase shirts separately; I have entirely too many race shirts, many of which I never even wear.

The awards ceremony was held in the warming tent after the race, but I didn’t stay for that. Instead, my friends and I headed over to Omni Brewing for a post-race beverage.

Overall, this was a very nice race that I would consider doing again in the future.

frozenfeet

My race bib and key chain

 

 

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2018 Goals

As I mentioned in my previous post, 2018 will look very different from 2017, at least in terms of my running. Therefore, my running goals are as follow:

  1. Run 350 miles this year
  2. PR the Half Marathon distance, hopefully at the Gary Bjorklund Half
  3. PR the 10k distance
  4. Run a few trail races
  5. Run at least 13 races this year – doing so will put me at 100 races completed

My general fitness goal is to exercise, in some form, at least 250 days of the year.

Other goals include:

  1. Read 100 books between printed and audio books
  2. Increase my savings account
  3. Pay down my student loan debt
  4. Spend more weekends hiking, snowshoeing, biking, etc.
  5. Eat healthier by reducing processed foods and increasing fruits and veggies

What are your goals for 2018?

 

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