The Big Decision

It all started when my mom, sister, and I took a trip to Duluth, MN for my sister’s birthday in August. My sister had never spent time in Duluth, so she wanted to see the sights she had been hearing so much about. We stayed in a Canal Park hotel room overlooking Lake Superior, walked at Gooseberry Falls, toured Glensheen Mansion, walked the sandy beach on Park Point, ate pie at Betty’s Pies, visited Split Rock Lighthouse, and shopped in Canal Park. It was a fabulous time.

 

While meandering Canal Park, I couldn’t help but point out the medallion in the sidewalk that marked the Grandma’s Marathon finish line. I started talking about the marathon and running in general. My mom asked me if I would ever run a marathon; she knew I had intentions of doing one several years ago but bailed ones the training runs hit 15 miles. Mentally, I was having a tough time with running at that point and just couldn’t do it. I had switched my registration to a shorter distance, but ended up missing that due to an ankle injury the night before the race.

 

I told my mom that I wasn’t sure whether I’d ever do one. I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I felt like I needed to do one to know if I could finish that distance. On the other hand, I wasn’t sure I wanted to put the time and effort into training for it.

 

Then, my mom asked, “If someday you were unable to run a marathon, would you regret not trying?” At that moment, my response was “good question.” Our conversation quickly turned to other topics, but I couldn’t get her comment out of my head. Would I regret it?

 

At the time of our trip, I was in the process of training for both Ragnar Trail Northwoods and the TC 10 Mile. I was building my mileage up to a place it hadn’t been for a few years. Running was feeling good, my speeds and distance were increasing, and I was having fun with it again.

 

All through the next week, I pondered my mom’s question and decided that yes, I would regret never trying. I told myself that I would wait until after I finished the TC 10 Mile on October 9th to make a decision. Registration for Grandma’s Marathon opened October 1st.

 

On October 1st, the only thing I could think about was Grandma’s Marathon. I kept stalking their website, reading everything I possibly could about the race. I researched beginner marathon training plans.  I kept bouncing the decision around in my brain, telling myself both pros and cons. I talked incessantly about it to my husband and running friends.

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The following day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I made the big decision. I registered for Grandma’s Marathon 2017!

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Image borrowed from the Grandma’s Marathon website

I’m excited and scared for this adventure. Training started the week of Thanksgiving and has been going well so far. I am using the Galloway Method, because it worked well for me as I was building distance and speed this summer. Thankfully, I have a great group of women who I will be training with; without that support, I would not have decided to go for it.

 

Also, I couldn’t even attempt this feat without the support of my awesome husband. He knows I’m crazy and loves me anyway. He listens to me complain about sore muscles and get excited about new shoes, reminds me to drink more water and to foam roll, and will be there marathon weekend to support me, cheer for me, be my chauffeur, and possibly pick me up off the course. Now that’s love!

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2016 Races – A Quick Recap

I had every intention of doing a recap of every race I ran in 2016, but time just slipped away from me. Here we are in January and my 2016 race season is complete, so I’ll pick up where I left off and do a quick run-down with a few thoughts about the races I ran.

Fete des Lacs 8k

I used this race as a supported training run in preparation for Ragnar Trail Northwoods and TC 10 Mile. This was a very small race, with only 36 runners in the 8k and 66 participants in the 5k. My five family members made up 4.9% of racers!

Because I was utilizing the Galloway Method (run/walk method) to train for the TC 10 Mile, I decided to approach this race using 4:1 intervals; meaning I ran four minutes, walked one minute, and repeat. It feels a bit silly to take my first walk break four minutes into the race, but it really did make a difference in how I felt afterward. I didn’t feel like I had to take a long nap, which is huge!

I was hoping to finish in 1:05:00, but ended up coming in at 59:25!

Shawn Silvera Memorial 5k

This was a memorable race this year mostly because of the rain. The morning started off cool and soggy. Parking for the race was in a grass field next to the YMCA and it was muddy when I arrived; I knew to park strategically so that my little car wouldn’t get stuck as it got softer and wetter. I was able to park, grab my packet and throw it back in the car, and take a quick photo with some Moms on the Run friends. Soon, we were off and as we ran, it started to rain harder and harder until it was absolutely POURING! But, it was really fun!

My finishing time was 34:41, which I felt was pretty good considering I used my 4:1 intervals and was drenched. I’d do this one again in a heartbeat, even with the rain.

Moms on the Run 10k

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My finish line photo

This race is the season-end race for the Moms on the Run spring/summer program. While they offer both a 5k and a 10k, I chose the 10k as a supported training run for TC 10 Mile. Again, I stuck to my 4:1 intervals. The course was pretty, being in Lake Elmo Park Reserve, and the weather was perfect for running; cool and foggy.

I was hoping to finish in 1:15:00, but ended up coming in at 1:13:57!

Ragnar Trail Northwoods

Ragnar Trail Northwoods was a bit outside of my comfort zone, being a trail relay race that involved camping. I have a LOT to say about this inaugural event, so I’ll be doing a separate post on this race. I will say, though, that I LOVED it and have every intention to return in 2017. Stayed tuned!

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Coming in from Loop #1, where I rolled my ankle.

The Darkest Night of Your Life 4k

This was a night race (starting at 9:00 pm) that I ran with Kiddo. The course went through an unlit golf course. As a fundraiser for homeless youth, they chose not to have lighting on the course so that participants could experience the darkness as the homeless do. However, I chose to wear a headlamp because I refused to risk injury before the TC 10 Mile.

Kiddo and I ran this hilly, dark course in 24:59, which is my fastest race pace yet.

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Post-race selfie with the Kiddo

TC 10 Mile

Yes, the race that I spent all summer training for. The TC 10 Mile is the FIRST race that I completely followed a training plan for. Because this is such a popular race, names are drawn via a lottery and I chose to put my name in because I had continually heard how beautiful the course was.

The race really went off without a hitch for me and the time seemed to go by quickly. I stuck to 4:1 intervals, which I had done in training, and never felt like I was going to die; a feat in itself because this course has some hills.

While I didn’t break my own time goal, I did finish in 2:01:47. To be honest, I’m not sure I would run this one again, only because it’s a large race that is a bit of a hassle to get to and get home from. Thankfully, my beloved hubby drove me there, cheered me on the course, and drove me home.

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Pre-Race selfie in front of US Bank Stadium

Anoka Grey Ghost 5k

My favorite Halloween themed race! The course is the same as the parade route, so it’s lined with spectators the first 1.5 miles, then scattered with spectators the rest of the way. The costumes are amazing and the atmosphere is fantastic. I love this race.

Finishing time was 33:35

Hale to the Bird 5k

Hale to the Bird is our Thanksgiving morning race of choice. While it has grown from 200 participants to over 500 in the past few years, we still love the small town feel of this one, even having done it four years now.

Kiddo ran the entire race on his own – the first one he has ever done so for – and even won a raffle prize of a live 6′ Christmas tree!

My finishing time was 33:40

Jingle Bear 5k

The finale to my family’s racing year was the Jingle Bear 5k. This one is another smallish race (around 600 participants), with a Christmas theme. I went into this one with the intention of trying for a PR, so I started out FAST and did not go with intervals.

While I had my fastest 5k of 2016, I didn’t have enough in the tank for a PR that day. Either way, I’m super happy with how my running year went and my finishing time was 33:17.

Overall, it was a great year of racing!

What was your favorite race of 2016?

 

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Esprit de She 5k

The Esprit de She 5k is one of my favorite races. I am a “Founding Finisher,” meaning I ran it the first year it was offered at the Maple Grove, Minnesota location.

This race has always been run on a Thursday evening, which was no different this year. However, the location of the start/finish did change this year, though only by a few blocks. I felt like logistics worked well, once I figured out where everything was. Signage directing runners to packet pickup was lacking, and the volunteer I asked didn’t know where it was. Thankfully, other runners were able to direct me.

Packet pickup was a bit chaotic, as it was in a small area with numbers descending left to right. After getting my bib and shirt, I had to jump in another line to pick up the cycling skirt I received for early registration. The plus side of packet pickup being in the building was the presence of real restrooms.

After getting my gear, I walked it back to my car a few blocks away, then went back to wander around the vendor tents situated around the park green. Vendors offered food samples, a warm-up Zumba session, and post-race yoga.

The race was released in wave, as it was last year. If I remember correctly, the first wave was released a few minutes past the posted start time. This year, the course was different, meaning that it veered onto a narrow running path sooner than the old course, so runners weren’t as spread out yet.

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That’s me in the blue tank.

I’ll admit that due to the crowded course, I went out faster than I meant to. I get a bit claustrophobic in tight crowds of people, so I tend to run faster, dodging around people until I find an open spot to run with space around me. Overall, though, the course was a nice one other than the crowding earlier on.

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Hair flying as I pass through the tight part of the course.

Going into the finish line, there was a tight 90* turn, which slowed a lot of people down exactly where you don’t want runners slowing in front of you. Had I had more energy in the tank for my usual sprint to the finish, this would have been rather annoying.

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You can see the 90* turn into the finish in the background.

Medals, water, and Aspire sports drinks were handed out at the finish line. The medals were large, but I feel unnecessary for a 5k. After collecting our finish line goodies, we jumped into the food line. The first two years, this race offered amazing turkey burgers from a local restaurant afterward; it’s what made my friends and I sign up for the third year. For year #3, we got kale salads afterward, which was a HUGE disappointment. Salad is the LAST thing I want when I get done running. This year was a slight improvement, with wraps being offered. We also had a choice of cantaloupe or carrots.

After my friends and I sat on the grass to eat our wraps, we jumped into the alcohol line. Registration includes two glasses of wine or champagne. However, after standing in line for more than 10 minutes without moving an inch, we ditched the race party and headed to a local restaurant (the same that has the amazing turkey burgers) for a beer.

My finishing time for the race was 35:33.

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I look more exhausted than I felt.

I’ll definitely run this race again next year because I love evening races and the positives have always outweighed the negatives. However, I hope they organize packet pickup so that it’s less chaotic and figure out a better way to managed the lines for post-race spirits. Also, the cycling skirts were a horrible fit/cut that was not accurately portrayed on their sizing chart; I will never wear this item and will be giving it away. The race tanks were awesome, though, as they have been every year.

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Warrior Dash Minnesota 2016

This year’s Warrior Dash Minnesota was held on Saturday, July 23rd, at Caribou Gun Club in Le Sueur. Prior to registering for this year’s race, I took a peek at the elevation maps and saw it would be flat in comparison to the previous location, Afton Alps. Yes!

Also different about this year’s race was the minimum participant age, which lowered from 14 to 12. Back when we signed up for our very first Warrior Dash, the kiddo told us we had to do it every year until he was old enough to do it with us; that meant we’d have to do every one until 2018. Yikes! Thankfully, the lowered age meant this year would end my obligation to the kiddo. Whew!

The morning of July 23rd started off with thunderstorms. I obsessively checked both the weather and the Warrior Dash Facebook page to make sure that the race hadn’t been canceled or our wave delayed. It happened that our wave was on time, even though several of the early morning waves had indeed been delayed due to lightning.

Thanks to the storms, the course was a muddy mess; by far the muddiest Warrior Dash we’ve had in Minnesota to date. In my opinion, the extra mud increased the fun!

As usual, some obstacles presented a challenge, but none were overly difficult. Someone new to running and/or obstacle races, such as our kiddo, could definitely finish this race.

Shocktop Unfiltered

As predicted, the course was MUCH flatter than Afton Alps, with only one medium-sized hill, which was slick with mud. The biggest complaint I heard with the course was the wait for obstacles, which was up to 20 minutes at times. However, I think this is due to the organizers having to double up on the number of people released per wave to catch up the morning waves that were delayed. I won’t blame the race organizers on this one; I’ll blame the storms!

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After the race, there was a rinse station with actual shower heads, which was a VERY nice change from the snow machines blowing water at hurricane speeds. Also, I felt like it was much easier to find people in race village before and after the event – I’m not sure whether this had to do with fewer participants or better layout, but it was nice.

Thumbs up: Flatter course, level of obstacle difficulty, extra mud, bag check easy to navigate (though muddy), easy to find people in race village, parking, lower minimum participant age.

Thumbs down: Packet pickup lines were long, slow, and unorganized. Only one beer flavor option (Shocktop Original); in the past they’ve had multiple Shocktop flavors.

Warrior Roast

Overall, I LOVED the course this year. I had an absolute blast, despite going into it with a relief that it was going to be my last one (LIAR!). This year, we had a larger group of friends with us, which made waiting at the obstacles not only bearable but enjoyable.

When I found out this week that the venue for Warrior Dash Minnesota 2017 will again be Caribou Gun Club, I got excited. I’ll be back for #7! Our kiddo said he wants to do it again next year, and my mom wants to train for it!

Have you ever participated in Warrior Dash or another mud/obstacle run? If so, tell me about it!

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City of Trails

On June 11th, my family participated in the City of Trails 5k in St. Croix Falls, WI. The race also offered 10k and Half Marathon trail options.

This was a small race, starting from one of the schools, which mean they had indoor restrooms prior to the race. Registration was simple and the volunteers were friendly. The shirts were tech shirts, with separate men’s and women’s sizing. Impressively, the women’s shirts fit perfectly and not overly fitted like a lot of women’s running gear.

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A race shirt I actually wear!

The course was a combination of paved bike trail, sidewalks, and open residential roads. There were a few decent hills thrown in, but that meant we also had some beautiful downhill sections, too. Unfortunately, the course was long, so the we pushed it toward what should have been the finish, only to find out we had to go around another corner and up another incline to actually reach the finish.

When we finally reached the finish line, there wasn’t any water or refreshments immediately available. We had to climb a substantial hill to the overlook above us. Even then, we couldn’t spot the water and food right away, but were able to use a water fountain. Once we found the refreshments, there were oranges, bananas, bagels with cream cheese, and water available. Shade was available under a large party tent, along with a band for entertainment.

Along with the course being long, there was only one water stop, which occurred before the 1 mile mark. Normally, one water stop is sufficient for a 5k, but this was a hot, humid day that really should have had an additional one added later in the race. Had I known there weren’t more stops, I would have carried my own water with; lesson learned for next time!

Since this was a point-to-point course, there was a shuttle to take runners back to the start line. One could walk, but it was over a mile that was literally straight uphill. It was nice not having to make the walk, especially for those who ran the longer distances.

Overall, it was a great event, even with my above complaints. I wouldn’t hesitate to do this race again. The course was nice, race was well-organized, people were friendly, it was close to home for us, and it had a small-town feel.

Next time, though, I would have cash on me when I run. This race coincides with the town festival, so there are many food and beverage concession stands near the finish; sadly, I couldn’t partake because my money was in my car at the start line!

 

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Moms on the Run

As I mentioned a few days ago, I joined the organization Moms on the Run (MOTR), back in September. I had heard about the organization from people at several races and finally decided to look into it. Upon learning they had a group near me, I decided to sign up for the 9 week fall program and see what it was all about. I knew I needed some sort of class for motivation and accountability, so this seemed like it might fit the bill.

While the name Moms of the Run might suggest that one has to be a mom to join, that isn’t the case. Any woman can join and because the formal consists of running intervals, any fitness level is welcome, too.

The fall session format started with a brief warm-up, 20 minutes of run/walk intervals, 20 minutes of strength training, and a cool-down. Equipment needed are simply running shoes, a yoga mat (if desired), and a pair of hand weights (again, if desired).

What struck me first about the group was how friendly, encouraging and welcoming everyone was, regardless of size, fitness level, or speed. As someone coming off almost a year without running because of any injury and excuses, it was important to me that I could ease back into the fitness game.

I fell in love and looked forward to running again. Then, on the days I didn’t look forward to running, I looked forward to seeing the other ladies. It usually only took a few minutes in the company of my classmates before I was motivated to work hard and give it my all. And, if I missed a class, people noticed and asked how I was or where I was; this was exactly what I needed to get back on the running wagon.

After fall session, I registered for the winter strength and boot camp classes, then jumped right into the 18 week spring session. I’m still in love with the program and because of it, I’m seeing faster running times that I’ve seen since April 2014, when I injured my ankle.

With just a few weeks to go before our year-end race and banquet, I’m looking ahead to the fall session and continuing to exercise with my new running friends. How could I pass up a group that focuses on friendship, fitness, and fun?

Perhaps the best part is that the first class is free to try and any woman can join in on the year-end race! Give it a try this week, or jump in on the fall session, starting soon. Check out their website to find a location near you; maybe I’ll even see you at class!

(I did not receive any compensation of any kind for this post. I’m just enthusiastic about this organization!)

 

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Run Jump or Fly 5k

The second race of our family 5k challenge was the Run Jump or Fly 5k. This race benefited Special Olympics Minnesota and was held on Saturday, May 14th.

I chose this race for a few reasons, including that it was in the northern metro, it supported Special Olympics (an organization very near and dear to my heart), and it was a small race.

In fact, this race was so small that there were probably fewer than 50 participants, which meant that because we arrived really early, we were able to park in the tiny parking lot directly next to the picnic shelter from which the race started.

For a tiny race, the organizers did a fabulous job. They had a chip & salsa bar, hot chocolate, and Caribou Coffee available prior to the race. There four porta-potties next to the picnic shelter, a costume contest, a speech by a Special Olympics athlete prior to the start, and a professional photographer. The swag bag included a very soft, comfortable cotton t-shirt.

The course was a loop around East Palmer Lake Park in Brooklyn Park, and was marked well, though it did end up being shy of 3.1 miles. However, the kiddo and I ran the extra distance to get that exact 3.1 on my GPS watch!

At the finish line, there was a large selection of granola and protein bars, bananas, yogurt, water, and sports drinks. Of course, we were also welcome to dig into what was left of the chips & salsa bar and the hot beverages.

I really hope that the organizers are able to promote this race to get a larger draw next year. I’d love to see more support for this race and Special Olympics. It was such a fun, family friendly event! We’re planning to do this one again next year.

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Me coming into the finish line, with a finishing time of 36:27

 

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