Thursday, August 22, 2013

Fifteen's 5k for Drea

Non-runners often question why I devote so much time and energy to competitive running, and usually I mumble about my passion for running and the sense of accomplishment that comes with improving upon past performances.  BUT when I was asked to run Fifteen's 5k, the answer to why I would compete was simple:  Drea Bear Clawson!
                                                            Baby Drea
Recently a dear friend of mine had a beautiful baby girl, Drea, who was born with Cystic Fibrosis.  Turns out Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Glen Perkins has a personal connection to CF and hosts an annual 5k from which the proceeds are donated to the CF Foundation (check out the foundation here:  So when asked to run to help Drea's cause, the obvious answer was, "yes, please!"

The race was very low-key, no official clock even, but it was a great celebration of the advances the CF Foundation is making, and a golden opportunity to raise even more awareness and money for the cause.  Many people were running for loved ones affected by the condition, and there was an atmosphere of fun and hope unlike any other race I've been involved with.

As an added bonus because the race was put on by a Twins player, we got to finish inside Target Field.  Super cool!  Twins players were also handing out the finishers' medals on the plaza after, but I went for a cool-down run and missed that!  Dang it!
Runners entered Target Field via a tunnel that opened up at the left field wall, ran down third base line, and crossed home plate to finish!  Sweeeeeeet!

As for the race itself, it was fine.  I think I finished in about 16:30ish and was 2nd place overall.  Wasn't thrilled with my performance, but this race was more about the cause than the race itself.  Plus, I can't be too bummed.  I ran well enough to be the women's winner which scored me a prize of 4 passes to be on the field for an upcoming batting practice session before a Twins game!  Woot woot!  That will be awesome!
Post-race snuggles from my biggest fan of the day - Drea!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

MDRA 15k

The Minnesota Distance Running Association 15k State Championship race was this past weekend, and because it is a part of the MDRA racing series, like a few of the other races I've done this summer, it drew a good crowd of local, speedy teams and runners. 

This year the race was held in/around Crosby Farms in St. Paul. The course started with a small loop that was a little more than one mile, then did a large loop, before concluding with a final little loop at the end.  There were a couple of decent climbs, mostly early on around miles 2-3; there were some sneaky gradual, extended inclines; there were a few killer steep little charges toward the finish; and there were a lot of twists and turns, some pretty sharp, scattered throughout.  The weather was decent:  cloud cover which was great, but extremely humid.

I don't know if was the humidity or the high mileage I've been doing lately, but when I showed up for the race, I was DRAGGING.  I met up with the MN RED crew and went out for a warm-up jog.  Even at our 9:00/mile warm-up pace, my body was begging to stop and just walk already.  Gulp.

Not only that, but prior to the race, another racer/avid follower of local running spotted me and mentioned that it should be a highly competitive race for the women because there was an athlete from Team USA in the field:  Meghan (Armstrong) Peyton.  Double gulp.  I like competition, I thrive on it actually, but this morning was not feeling like a zippy day for racing.  Also to be honest, shame on me, but I didn't know who Meghan was, so I just nodded my head and smiled when she was brought up as one of the front-runners for the "W."  Turns out (I Googled her after the race), she has an extremely impressive resume!   

But despite a lethargic body and some talented competition, my brain kicked into competition mode and I focused on:  1) trusting my training, and b) myself/my race, because I can't control what others do.

Race time!  I started on the line right behind Meghan, and decided that I was just going to sit in her pocket and see what unfolded.  I didn't know how my body was going to respond today, and I find it much easier to run relaxed when I let someone else do the work early on (sorry, Meghan).  So for the first 4.5-5ish miles, Meghan was firmly in control of the race (and TCTC's Stephanie Price was in the mix too).  We were clipping through the miles steady and strong, and it was looking like it was going to be a battle to the finish.  But right around mile 5, I started to make a slow move to put a little distance between the two of us (at this point, it was just Meghan and I leading the women's field).  Meghan came right along with my first couple of surges, but then eventually a small gap started to form.  It didn't happen quickly, and I didn't ever doubt that if I faltered, she was going to be right there to hunt me down, so I kept driving through the second half of the race. 
Toward the finish, hence the tight and aggressive arm swing...using the arms to drive the legs!

For a moment, I was running alone, but just ahead was a small group of dudes so I set out to reel them in.  I caught up to them and hoped we could work together to finish the race strong.  Eventually the pack started to scatter, but I was still able to cut down pace on the last few miles, for the most part, and ended up finishing first for the women, and I believe setting a new state record for my age - 52:15 (5:36/mile pace).  Meghan finished a strong second at 53:02.  My time was a bit of a drop in pace from my half in Duluth, but it was a good exercise mentally and physically for learning how to "turn it on" even when it doesn't feel like all cylinders are firing.
                                                            Post-race Mug Shot

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Come On Ride That Train...That Training Train! Woot-Woot!

Recently I realized I have only been posting after races, and since I haven’t raced in a while, I haven’t posted in a while.  But then I thought to myself, “Self, even though you’re not racing, maybe it would be cool to get your blog on.  You could talk about training because that’s what you’re doing and one or two people might find the subject interesting.”

So, here we go.  No race re-cap, just some of my own musings on training/running in general. 

1.  First stop:  motivation station (because we're on the training train...)!  
I think the biggest struggle most people have with training/running is finding the motivation to lace up each day and just do it.  When your bed is warm and snuggly, and it would be so much easier to continue snoozing, why do you get up and run?  Or conversely, it’s the end of a hectic day, you’re exhausted, hungry, and tired, what makes you peel off the business socks and get down to the real business of the day:  your run?  For me, this usually isn’t a problem.  I’m passionate about running, so whether I'm training for something or not, I look forward to my run each day.  If you’re not a weirdo like me and don’t find joy in running, it’s important to find your own source of motivation.  Maybe it requires signing up for a goal race so you have something to work towards, or enlisting the help of a running buddy/team that will keep you accountable to showing up for runs, or maybe you just need to mix yourself a kick-butt iPod playlist.  I can’t tell you exactly what will work for you when it comes to motivation, to each his own, but I can tell you that without something driving you to get out the door each day, it will be tough, if not impossible, to stay on the training train!
My current motivation = iPhone screensaver photo of Shalane Flanagan. Don't discount the effectiveness of visual aids.  Photos, notes around the house, etc. can really make a difference.

2.  One size does NOT fit all.
When it comes to an actual training plan, I can tell you that I’m currently logging about 100 miles per week.  I can also tell you that I run twice per day most days.  And I can tell you that I hit the track once per week.  So if you want to have performances similar to mine does that mean you should be doing what I’m doing?  Absolutely NOT!  Every runner is different.  We have different bodies, we're at different levels of fitness, we're at different phases of training, we have different goals, we have different lives/ see where I'm going with this?  So when it comes to training, don’t compare yourself to other runners by the miles, paces, or any other measure, find the training plan that works for YOU! 

3. Listen to your body...kind of.
Let me clarify something here, in the beginning of a training program, or in the midst of a rigorous workout, your body will likely tell you to stop.  In fact, if you’re training correctly, there will be workouts where your legs and lungs will be burning and your mind is screaming at you to just quit FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!  It’s at this point when you need to make a decision:  do you listen to the screaming and back off/give up, or do you push through?  Pushing through is what is going to make you a higher-performing runner.  And as you run more, you’ll learn to distinguish this discomfort (good) from pain (bad).  Unlike discomfort, if your body is telling you it’s in pain, stop running!  Getting injured and being out for weeks will not help your training efforts; backing off for one or two days to ensure your health will (help your efforts).  Learn to listen to your body, at the right times, and your training efforts will be much more fruitful!
                             These two ladies went into the "uncomfortable" zone.

4.  Even MC Hammer takes a break every now and then.
I used to be of the mindset that I was going to hammer out my runs moderately hard for moderate distances every single day.  There would be slight variations to this plan, but for the most part, if I was hammering out 10-13 miles per day at 6:00/mile pace, I thought I would be in decent shape to race well.  Turns out I raced fine, but I wasn’t seeing much by way of improvements.  And not only that, but training wasn’t very challenging because my body learned the routine and my hammer time started to become the norm.  I was no longer pushing my limits mentally or physically.  So:  how to prevent this with your training?  You need to balance legit hammer time (that’s 2 MC Hammer references in one…boom!) with non-hammer time.  It’s so simple to say, but so much more difficult to do.  It means there need to be days when you run shorter distances at super fast (that’s a technical running term) paces where you feel like you’re absolutely blowing yourself up.  The flip side to this will be days when you force yourself to cruise along at paces slower than molasses to let your body actively recover from the aforementioned blow-up session.  You won’t be able to get the most out of your hard sessions if you aren’t fully taking advantage of your easy sessions.  As someone wise once told me, “you have to run slower to get faster.”  The balance of high-intensity and low-intensity is what’s going to get you to your best outcome.  
                                         Who doesn't love The Hammer?

 5.  A yoda, you may need to find (Star Wars people, did I do that yoda-speak correctly?).
Sometimes you won’t know what to do in order to best train when it comes to running because you've never run a step in your life.  Or maybe you're a runner who has set a new, lofty goal, and you wisely realize that doing the same old thing is not going to get you to where you want to go.  Don’t discount enlisting some outside help in order to train smarter.  I had been doing all right on my own (personal opinion) when it came to running for the past few years, but when I decided that I wanted to take things to the next level, I sought out a coach.  I wanted someone who knew even more about running than me, and who could provide an objective perspective when it came to my training and racing.  Enter Coach Ron (  I won’t say it came easily to give up control and trust someone else with my passion, but he has become my go-to resource for everything related to training:  mileage, paces, resting, lifting, nutrition, etc.  And with his help, I’ve been able to accomplish some pretty cool things this summer.
It hasn't been an easy road, because I am a major pain in the butt, but good ol' Coach Ron has stuck with me.  Here we are at this summer's USA Track & Field Half Marathon Championships.

So there's a handful of my thoughts on training.  Most of them are probably things most runners have heard before, but it never hurts to get a reminder every once in a while.  Now stop wasting time reading things on the Interweb and get training!