Run for the Apples 5 Mile

run for the apples banner

Borrowed from the race organizer’s website.

I’ve had the Run for the Apples 5 Mile on my radar for several years, having previously registered for it twice, but being unable to participate. I decided to add it back to the calendar this year; it’s fairly close to home, partially off-road, and is fairly inexpensive. I love fall running, so I thought this would be a perfect fall race.

Well, I thought it would be a perfect fall race until I woke up that morning to lightning and rain. The temp was in the low 50’s, but the wind and rain made it feel much colder. Thankfully, the lightning quit by the time I arrived at the apple orchard an hour before start time. Also, I was glad there were areas to huddle under shelter before and after the race, to stay out of the rain and wind.

The race started on time, with the course winding around the parking lot, along a street, then onto the orchard property. It wound through the orchard, around the fields, onto another street, then finished on the orchard grounds again. It was hilly, with one hill being quite long and steep; I did not expect that! But, the view at the top of the hill was gorgeous, overlooking a lake surrounded by fall colors.

As you can imagine with a rainstorm before race time, the course was very wet and muddy. I was glad I’d chosen to wear trail shoes, because the grip definitely helped on the slippery mud. I was also glad I’d packed an extra outfit, including socks and shoes.

The race finished on a slippery, muddy downhill, which I loved. I splashed through the mud and across the finish line, where water, apple cider, apples, and cookies were waiting. My finishing time was 1:00:49, which used to be my road 5k pace! I was very happy with my time, especially considering the weather, that it was partially on trails, and that it was hilly. To top it all off, I won 2nd place in the Athena division (women over 165 pounds)!

Overall, it was a nice race that I’d consider doing again, but preferably with better weather. It’s a well-organized, smaller race. Carrie Tollefson was even there, both running the race, then cheering on runners along the course.

Do you have a favorite fall race?

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TC 10 Mile – 2017

When registration opened for this race, I was very much on the fence about whether I wanted to run this race again. I ran it last year and while I didn’t dislike it, I didn’t really like it, either. My overall feeling was “meh.” But, running friends persuaded me to get in on the lottery, and I figured I could always transfer my entry to someone else if I got in and still didn’t want to do it.

Of course, our team was selected to run the race. I teetered between running the race, thanks to a fear of missing out, and not running the race. I knew several people who hadn’t gotten in and would have happily purchased my bib. It was a tough decision, but ultimately wanting to spend the day with my running friends won out and I decided to do the race.

I went to the expo and packet pickup on Friday of race weekend, arriving just after 4:00 pm. I spent about an hour wandering around, but was a bit disappointed with the expo; it was missing booths I had visited last year (Caribou Coffee, Ragnar Relay) and was looking forward to visiting again.

Once I was done wandering, I headed over to the Moms on the Run booth, where I volunteered until the expo closed just after 8:00 pm. For the first few hours, a coach from another MOTR location was volunteering with me, so we had a nice time chatting between visitors. I also had a nice time chatting with the race director of the Earth Day Run in St. Cloud. If you’re looking for a nice race in April, check this one out!

TCExpoBooth

In the MOTR booth at the Expo. Please excuse my crazy hair.

Fast forward to Sunday, the day of the race. I had told myself that if it was storming when I woke up, I would head back to bed and skip the race. Well, it was only misting a tad, so I got ready and headed to our carpool location. By the time I was 15 miles away from home, it started pouring and the wind was whipping. Had it not been for the friends I was running this with, I would have turned around and headed home!

The weather remained windy with intermittent rain while we drove to Minneapolis and waited for our corral to move to the start line. We arrived at US Bank Stadium about an hour prior to race time, to make sure we had time to eat our pre-race breakfast, use the porta-potties, and drop our sweats. Right as our corral started moving toward the start line, there was another big gust of wind and a brief moment of rain. The moment passed quickly, though, and it didn’t rain again until after I had finished the race and had my sweats on.

I had decided before the race that I would follow the 3:00 minute, 30 second intervals I had followed for the marathon. My starting pace was very easy and I settled in, knowing the first few miles of the course would be crowded anyway. As is expected, runners spread out more once we hit the first hill of the course; after this point, I really didn’t have to do much zig-zagging through people, which was nice.

Before I knew it, I was approaching mile 5. The time really flew up until that point, but this was when the hills started getting bigger. The next two miles would be an uphill climb. I surprised myself, though, by not needing to take any extra walk breaks. I powered through my intervals without losing much time off my pace. The stretch the 6 mile marker to the 7 mile marker felt long, but I was in the zone. I was forcing myself not to look at my watch, but to run by feel instead. I wanted a course PR, preferably something around 1:55:00, but I also wasn’t willing to be miserable the entire time. Also, I knew there were a lot of Girls on the Run and Moms on the Run cheering squads along the course, so I wanted to make sure I spotted all of them.

TCCourse

This was somewhere around mile 7. Photo cred to fellow MOTR lady, Sue.

After the 7 mile marker, it felt like the time passed quickly again. It doesn’t hurt that this is where the course levels out, then starts dropping toward the finish. I felt like my pace was picking up, but again, I refused to look at my watch. The crowds were getting thicker, so the energy in the atmosphere was increasing.

Once I hit 9 miles, I allowed myself to look at my watch and confirmed that I was on track to PR the course, and likely even hit my 1:55:00 goal. I started running harder on the run portion of my intervals and walked faster during the breaks. With only a half mile left to go, I kicked it up another notch and was done taking walk breaks. The downhill run under the huge American flag, and then to the finish, was glorious. When I had the finish line in sight, I sped up as much as I could and sprinted across the finish line. My finishing time was 1:53:45 – a course PR!

TC10Finish

At the finish line!

I then collected my post-race goodies (chocolate milk, salted nut rolls, water, and salty chips) and met up with my friends. When everyone was accounted for and had a chance to snack, we grabbed our sweats and headed for the coffee line, then the beer garden. Many of us had to stop and ring the PR bell along the way!

PRBell

Ringing the PR bell – I took 8 minutes off last year’s TC 10 Mile time!

The remainder of the day was spent going to lunch, taking a much-needed and appreciated shower, and registering for the Gary Bjorklund Half Marathon while watching football.

Ultimately, I was glad I ran this race again and had a better experience. I was tired, sore, and crabby when I finished last year. (Sorry, Nate!) This year, I felt really good and even had fun. I don’t have an interest in doing this race again, only because I’ve done it twice now and the logistics are a pain. But, I would definitely consider being involved by volunteering in some capacity.

This is was my last distance race of the year, as I plan to stick to distances 10k and under for the remainder of 2017. I’m looking forward to a break from distance, before starting training for the Gary Bjorklund Half in February.

 

What races are left on your calendar for the year?

Do you have a favorite fall race?

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Ragnar Trail Northwoods 2017

I spent the past weekend in Wausau, WI for Ragnar Trail Northwoods 2017. This was the second year for team What the Hill!?, which made planning and packing much easier. I wasn’t nervous about any part of the adventure this year.

Entry Line

          The line to the entrance.    All photos credited to my teammates

The weekend started on Thursday, when we headed out of the Twin Cities toward Wausau. We arrived in line for the gear drop-off at 5:00 and the line was already much longer than it was the previous year at the same time. Apparently, everyone wanted to get there early this year! But, a friendly team ahead of us in line offered us jello shots made of Fireball and fresh, organic cider from an apple orchard; obviously, we couldn’t pass this up!

Shots

Fireball and Cider jello shots!

Once we reached the entrance, we were given ten minutes to throw our gear out of the vehicle and send our driver to the off-site parking location. There were four of us in our vehicle, so it didn’t take long to get everything out and moved to our campsite. This year, we chose approximately the same spot as last year, since we liked it so well.

Just as we got all of our stuff to the campsite, our second vehicle containing three more teammates arrived. We sent one teammate down with a wagon to help move gear, while the remaining two started setting up camp. Again, once we had all the gear to the site, the third vehicle and last teammate arrived; we were able to send someone to help her move gear while everyone else continued setting up camp. Good timing by all. After the tents were set up, we visited a bit, explored Race Village, watched the safety video, and checked in for the weekend.

Campsite

Our home for the weekend.

On Friday morning, I was able to score a vanilla latte from the coffee food truck, thanks to a teammate who was already in line and willing to take my order. I was very glad things happened this way, since the free coffee was not available that early AND they had a broken burner, so it took a lot longer to get coffee than expected. This is my ONLY complaint about the entire weekend.

Our team had a 9:30 am start, so once we sent our first runner off, I started getting ready to run since I was runner #3. As with any Ragnar, there is a lot of downtime. However, we spent less time waiting for our runners in Race Village this year; since we knew what to expect, our time projections were much more accurate. As I probably mentioned in last year’s post, I prefer trail Ragnar to the road events because you get time to rest, relax, stretch, and visit with people between legs.

My first run was the Red Loop, which is a very technical, eight mile loop. My run started just before noon, so it was already hot and humid (temps were in the high 80’s all weekend, with humidity over 60%). This year, I actually enjoyed this loop that I loathed last year. Though, everything is easier when you aren’t working with a bum ankle. While I still had to walk through the most technical portions (hello, boulder fields!), I felt strong and confident throughout, and beat last year’s time on this loop by 15 minutes.

RedLoopFinish

Finishing the Red Loop!

Next up for me was the Yellow Loop, which I started just before 10:00 pm. This is the loop that I fell on last year and twisted my ankle, but I now knew better than to take my eyes off the trail while my feet were still moving. It felt like I was flying through this 5 mile loop, which is full of roots and moguls. I LOVED every second of it! Ragnar night runs are awesome. And, again, I was faster than last year. The adrenaline was pumping when I finished and it took quite a while before I was settled down enough to take a snooze. I ended up staying up a few extra hours, visiting with teammates and enjoying a beer and wood-fired pepperoni pizza at 1:00 am. Of course, this meant I got less sleep than last year, but it was completely worth it.

The Green Loop was my last run, which was Saturday morning around 10:00 am. It was already getting hot and humid, but at least this was only 3.3 miles. This loop has roots and rocks, though not as technical as the other two loops. I think the challenge in this one is that it’s narrow enough that you’re getting brushed by plants and leaves in many spots, and it has a lot of tight turns. Also, at the time of day that I was running, there wasn’t any shade and the breeze didn’t get through. All things considered, this is my least favorite loop, which I realize is strange to say given that it’s the shortest.

TeamFinish

Team What the Hill!?

I had SO much fun this year. While I had a great time last year, too, it was much easier and enjoyable not having a rolled ankle that I had to baby throughout. I loved every second of the trails this year, even the hardest portions. I cannot wait to do it again next year.

ShirtMedal

Check out that spork finisher medal! I love the shirt design this year, too.

Knowing what to expect when it came to the camping and the trails, we were able to pare down the amount of gear we brought, which was nice. All of our preparations and training served us well because we didn’t have any injuries on the team, we had all of the gear we needed without bringing too much, and we had more than enough food options to keep everyone happy. Even with the heat, this year ran smoothly. Team What the Hill!? is looking forward to being back at Ragnar Trail Northwoods next year. Though, we are hoping for cooler fall weather!

 

Have you run a Ragnar Trail?

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Themes

Throughout our lives, we encounter themes. It’s my belief that these themes are one of God’s ways of nudging us and asking us to pay attention to what he has in store for our lives. These themes may change by the season of life we’re in, or they may remain steady.

Lately, the big theme in my life is about reconnecting to those things that I loved as a kid. In the past month, I’ve read a book and listened to two audio books that discuss this very thing; our church is also currently doing a sermon series that touches on this. I think this is a nudge that I should pay attention to.

The thing that comes forefront to my mind when I think about what I loved as a kid? Writing. I was always writing when I was young, and to some extent continue to do so. As a kid, I kept journals, though not always consistently. I wrote poems, one of which was published in my high school literary magazine. I wrote short stories, song lyrics, and letters. I took unnecessary notes in class, just to put pen to paper. My friends and I even wrote stories together, in which we wrote a few pages, then passed it along to the next person to add a few pages, and so forth. We had SO much fun writing for each other and reading one another’s work. Whenever I stumble upon these writings in my storage boxes, I can’t help but smile and fondly remember those friends.

What I’ve found from my recent pondering is that I find my hand itching to take pen to paper and write. I realized that I still harbor a dream of being a published writer, whether that means a magazine article, a novel, or something else.

Image result for writing

Source: Woman writing. Pixabay, Public Domain

Yet, I haven’t made the time to put pen to paper, which makes me question why I haven’t. One reason is that I don’t know what to write. I suppose I could start by journaling again, hoping for inspiration. Another reason is lack of time, or at least the perceived lack of time. I have a tendency to pack my schedule so full that a creative endeavor is the last thing I want to do at the end of a busy day. I know that I need to lighten my schedule to allow more time for creativity, spontaneity, and leisure, but have a difficult time doing this in practice; this is always an area that needs improvement.

While blogging is a form of writing, I do this from my keyboard. However, there is something magical about putting a pen to paper and physically writing. It’s hard to explain, particularly to those who have never felt that magic. But, it’s a magic that I’m longing for and will be returning to very soon, in some format.

Related image

 

For those of you who write, where do you find your inspiration?

What themes are you seeing in your life at the moment?

What did you love doing as a kid that you’d like to return to?

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Moms on the Run Recap

The last week of August ended the Moms on the Run (MOTR) 2017 Spring/Summer season. The final week of the 18 week season always includes a practice 5k, a banquet, and the season-end 5k/10k.

This season was a little different from last year for a few different reasons. First, the location I was at had the learn to run option and a V02 max option; the V02 max option consisted of speed work to basically increase how much oxygen the body can utilize during exercise. You can read a bit more about V02 max here.  The other major reason this season was different for me was the fact that I was marathon training for the first half of the season. Due to the marathon training, I bounced between the V02 max and learn to run group to vary my intensity. I found that I was more sore after the speed work than I’d been from running in a LONG time; therefore, varying the intensity helped me ease that soreness and stay healthy.

As a result of the combination of those long, slow miles from marathon training and the speed work, I found my short distance speeds increased. As I mentioned in my City of Trails post, I PR’d my 5k, effectively crushing a PR that had stood since my very first year of running (2011). Since then, I’ve been able to hit sub-11:00 paces pretty consistently at the 5k, which is fast for me. Also, I’m better able to determine my pace based on feel; it’s become a fun game to guess my pace, and then confirm with my watch. I find that I’m more accurate than I was prior to this year. Lastly, I can feel a huge difference in my leg muscle mass, even though it isn’t very visible other than in my calves. All around, I’m really happy with my accomplishments from this season.

The accomplishments from the season are the reason for the banquet; it gives us an opportunity to ditch the running clothes and celebrate our accomplishments together. It’s pretty special when a group of 400+ women get together to celebrate themselves and each other. The keynote speaker was Olympic runner Carrie Tollefson. It was a fun night.

I wore a dark teal dress that I instantly feel in love with the second I spotted it at the store. I felt glamorous and comfortable in it. It never hurts when you receive several compliments, including ones from women you’ve never met before!

Banquet Selfie

Pre-banquet selfie

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The dress!

MOTRBanquet group pic

My MOTR ladies!

 

The season finished out with the 5k/10k at Lake Elmo Park Reserve, which is the same location from last year. I arrived early to help with some setup items, and ended up helping staff the merchandise table. As a MOTR Ambassador, part of my commitment is volunteering at events; as you probably already know from reading previous posts, I LOVE volunteering, so this is an easy one for me.

Last year I ran the 10k, but chose to run the 5k this year. I’ve put in a lot of miles and wanted to be able to take it easy and have more time to cheer others on and chat with friends, along with volunteering, so it was an easy choice for me.

The night before the race, I *may* have stayed up too late while drinking wine with Nate. Therefore, I didn’t have big expectations for the race. But, I lined up in the 11:30-12:00 pace corral and told myself to just enjoy the scenery and get the distance done.

Once I started running, it felt hard. I looked once at my watch a few minute in and realized it hadn’t started when I hit the button, so I chose not to look at my watch again. I rarely run with music, so I again went without it and just reflected on my running journey instead. It still amazes me when I think about what I’ve accomplished and the memories and friends I’ve gained from this craziness! I also chatted with, gave high fives to, and encouraged other runners along the course.

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The first turn of the course. Photo credit to my friend Lynn.

The time felt like it passed quickly. As I neared the finish line, the course was sprinkled with MOTR coaches and participants, who were shouting out encouragement, giving high fives and cheering. I picked up the speed and sprinted across the line. Because my watch hadn’t started, I really didn’t know my time, though one of my friends told me I was under 35 minutes. Not bad, I thought, considering I hadn’t slept much and had fueled with wine.

Finish by Em

Crossing the finish line! Thanks to Emily Marie Photography for not only taking pictures, but offering them to runners for FREE! 

I was shocked when I got home and saw the posted results. My finishing time was 33:30, a 10:47 pace! While it wasn’t a PR, it was MUCH better than I expected for that particular day. Clearly, my training was effective this year.

After cheering on friends still finishing, and some of the little ones in the kids races, I headed back to the merchandise table to help out and buy the shirt I’d had my eye on. As the day wrapped up, I helped pack up shirts and then headed home, where I spent the remainder of the day relaxing.

It was a fantastic weekend, a successful season, and has been an awesome running year so far. With just over three months left of this year, I have already more than doubled my previous highest annual running mileage, run my first marathon, and PR’d my 5k.

Next up is my second Ragnar Trail Northwoods and I can’t wait to spend the weekend with another group of my awesome running friends.

What has been the highlight of your year?

If you’re a runner, tell me about your favorite race from this year!

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Mendota Bottoms Trail 5k

On Saturday, August 19th, I ran the Mendota Bottoms Trail 5k. While they also offer a 10 mile option, I chose to stick with the 5k. The race location was Fort Snelling State Park.

The 5k started at 8:15 am, so I arrived just after 7:30 to pick up my packet (race bib, timing chip, light-weight hoodie), have time to take said packet back to my car, and use the restroom before running. I even had time for socializing with friends before the race began.

Women

The race swag hoodie (pic from the race website)

The race started just a few minutes late. The lollipop course looped Pike Island and the finish line was the same spot as the start line. Footing was mostly hard-pack dirt, with some patches of grass and sand. The trail is wide and flat, which makes it a great race for those new to trail running or those seeking a PR.

I started the morning with an upset stomach because I may have had some wine the night before. Thankfully, this subsided before running, but I figured it would be slow going. At one point, some runners ahead of me stopped just before a mud puddle, to figure out how to pick their way across it. I went around them and somehow my speed increased after that. I kept myself from looking at my watch because I didn’t want to focus on pace, so while I felt like I was working hard, I had no idea whether that feeling translated into running fast.

Once I knew I was about a half mile from the finish, I pushed myself to increase my pace and leave it all on the course. According to my watch, the 5k distance was actually 3.74 miles, which I was fine with since the race organizers had informed us ahead of time. My finishing time was 40:48 for a sub-11:00 pace, which is an off-road pace PR for me. I’ll take it!

The official results for the race are a bit skewed because they’re calculating based on a 3.1 mile course, rather than the 3.74 miles, so I was glad I had my watch.

Post-race refreshments included bottled water, muesli, strawberries, and pretzels. The awards ceremony was held at Lucky’s 13, a local restaurant, where we were also given a free beer.

Overall, it was a really nice race morning and I would consider doing this race again. The logistics were easy, volunteers were friendly, the location was pretty, and I love the hoodie. I would definitely recommend this one to runners who are looking to try running off-road for the first time because it is not a technical course.

MendotaBottoms

Coming into the finish!

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Wicked Wine Run

On Saturday, August 12th, I ran the Wicked Wine Run 5k. The race started at 5:30 pm at St. Croix Vineyards in Stillwater, MN.

Runners had to pay either $10 for general parking at the Washington County Fairgrounds, or $20 VIP parking at St. Croix Vineyards. I chose general parking, which I paid for at packet pickup. From the fairgrounds, runners then took a shuttle to St. Croix Vineyards, about three miles away. Even though I had paid for my parking early, I still had to wait in the same line as the other cars, so the process was rather slow. I was glad to have arrived when I did because the line for parking only got longer!

Once at the vineyard, the location was small enough to easily find friends. Bag check went smoothly and the restroom lines went quickly; there seemed to be enough porta-potties for the number of runners.

The race itself started in three different waves, based on pace, with the fastest runners going first. I placed myself in the second wave, which was for those in the 10:00-12:00 minute per mile pace. The race started promptly, with approximately five minutes between waves.

WWR3

Winding through the vineyard with a determined look on my face

The course itself was a combination of grass and dirt, as one could expect from a vineyard. We started out by winding through the apple trees, then through the grape vines, around the pumpkin field, and back across the lawn of the vineyard. While I knew that it would be an unpaved course from reading the emails and knowing what a vineyard typically looks like, many runners apparently did not know that it would be unpaved and therefore complained about it.

WWR5

Headed toward the finish

I expected a crowded course and a slow pace. While the course was narrow and crowded, runners did a nice job of staying to the side so faster runners could easily pass. I ended up running a faster pace than I expected. At the finish, we got to choose a class of white or red wine, and the adorable glass was ours to keep. My finishing time was 35:47.

WWR Finish

Finished with vino in-hand!

At 7:00 pm, the 1k wine tasting walk started. Again, participants were released in waves. There were four stations, each of which had a single offering. Again, we got to keep the adorable wine glass at the end, meaning that those of us who did both the 5k and the 1k had two glasses to take home.

The wines I tried were: Seyval (white wine at 5k finish), Delaware (1st station of 1k), Frontenac Gris (2nd station of 1k), Frontenac Rose (3rd station of 1k), and Frontenac (4th station of 1k). All of the wines were fantastic and I ended up purchasing a bottle of the Delaware to take home. Since I’m in the area frequently, I’ll likely be stopping in for more of their wine in the future.

There were four food trucks at the venue to purchase food from. I had the Tot Nachos from Tot Boss and it was delicious. They had a long line most of the night (30-40 minute wait), but since I didn’t get dinner until after the 1k, my wait was only 20 minutes and worth it. There was also a fried rice truck, a pizza truck, and one that had Mediterranean cuisine.

The festivities also included a decent band and a few vendors, but really it was about having fun and drinking wine! I was fortunate enough to have several of my running ladies there to chat and laugh with.  It was a nice evening and the weather was perfect! I would do this one again, but wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who is looking for a PR or wants to stay on pavement.

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