Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why Fall Rocks! (And why I already miss it...)

Fall has to be the best time of year. Crisp weather, honeycrisp apples... Ok, ok, I'm a broken record on all that.

But now the nice part of fall is over. It's cold, dreary, cold, dark early, cold, brown, and cold. The leaves are gone or ugly and apples are beginning to be in short supply. With snow in the forecast for Sunday, it's time to clang the gong for fall.

However, this past weekend I had the most fantastic wrapup to my fall. I hit 3 parks (state, regional and county), and spent pretty much the whole weekend enjoying the fall colors in the 50 and 60 degree weather. Can't ask for much more!

Saturday I ran the Nerstrand Big Woods Race near Faribault. It's a half marathon and the course is on very hilly trails. It was a lot of fun and the course was beautiful with the leaves covering the ground (which made running somewhat treacherous). I headed down with Mike and Chris. Mike placed 2nd overall, Chris placed 2nd in his age group (9th overall) and I placed 4th overall. MDRA is becoming quite the force! For his efforts, Mike won free meat. Who could ask for more than that? I ran the half in 1:23:40ish, about 1.5 minutes behind the winner. It's weird running a race almost completely by yourself. But this is the kind of race where I enjoy doing that, where the terrain changes and it's scenic.

The photo below shows Mike and Chris at the start of the race, which is at a little church with a spooky cemetery. (Misty Mike earns his name).

Later Saturday I raked some leaves. OK, a lot of leaves. 12 bags! I like raking, but I HATE bagging. Especially by yourself. I need to get a big vacuum cleaner or something.

Then on Sunday, after a nice run with the guys through Lebanon Hills in Eagan, I went for a nice hike with some friends at Hyland Hills. As often as I've run, biked and skied there, I had never just hiked! We walked all around looking at the prairies and the leaves. My friends had never been there before so it was neat to see the look on their faces when they saw this hidden jewel of a park for the first time!

I love fall...I miss fall...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Apple Season is in full swing!

Ah, fall is here again! And with it, comes apples. Lots and lots of apples! I've blogged about my love of apples and fall in general previously, but it bears repeating. Fall rocks. Crisp days, and Honeycrisp apples. The photo below says it all. I bought 1/2 peck of Honeycrisp and 1/2 peck of Macoun apples at an orchard yesterday, a couple Firesides at the Midtown Global Market today, and was treated to a bag of Regents in my CSA (farmshare). Good thing I like apples, because I've got some work to do to polish those off!

An interesting thing I just learned, the Honeycrisp is a cross between a Honeygold (which I knew) and a Macoun (which I didn't know)! I had never even heard of a Macoun until yesterday. Turns out I owe a lot to that Macoun apple. And as far as I can tell, 3 of the 4 apple varieties I bought were all developed here at the U of M! Can't get much more local than that!

The other thing you can tell from this photo is that I own too many knives. All the better for cutting up apples for some delicious apple crisp!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Good Luck Chicago-Bound

To all my Chicago Marathon-running friends: Kirk, Anne, Marty, Deb, Mark, Rob, C-Fletch (?) and everyone else:


Make sure you look like this at the finish so people think you've given it your all:

(Photo used with permission from

You all are going to have an incredible day! Make Chicago your kind of town!

And good luck to those (Drew, Jim) running Whistlestop this weekend too!

Monday, October 6, 2008

2:53:02 and a little extra motivation

This is a race report I am looking forward to write!

A lot of people have made statements about how it was a great day or a crappy day with all that rain and cold temps. I'd say it was a good day. Not ideal, but much much better than we've had at Grandmas and TCM in recent years. So I'll take it! We had about 40 PRs in my marathon training group (MDRA), and I'd attribute most of that to the fact these runners had PRs just waiting for a good day.

I had pretty much the best overall race of my life! Prior to this, the best race where I ran to the best of my abilities was Chicago 2005 when I shocked myself and went under 3 hours for the first time. The best race in terms of support of friends and family was TCM in 2006, but I had a bad running day.

I pulled it all together and removed my doubts about the Twin Cities Marathon. I've never run TCM well until yesterday. I'll just give a little race recap here:

I got to the Dome around 6am to wait for all my fellow MDRA runners. It was great to see them and have the chance to wish them well. After a cool 5 minute warmup with Nick, we were ready to roll. We headed for Corrale 1 and waited for the gun (note: my only TCM complaint was that the entry into corrale 1 was too narrow, it took way to long to get in. There should be an alternate entrance from the plaza.)

I decided that I would go out with a local runner whose goal was similar to mine. I paced off him and that was a mistake. Since he is such a great racer I assumed that he would run a smart race. He might have, but he didn't run MY race. So lesson learned, run your own race. After a 19:35 5K, I knew that I had to step back 20 seconds a mile. I did so and settled into a long string of 6:30s.

The race was going very well (even though at this point I'm getting passed by a lot of runners who DID NOT go out too fast), but then at mile 12 the sky opened up. Until that point the rain was nice; after that the rain was torrential. I was stuck on the bridge over Nokomis, easily the most exposed part of the race. That was momentarily demoralizing as I feared that might last hours. 15 minutes later the rain stopped. 15 minutes after that my shoes stopped slogging and I was no worse off! Time to keep pounding the pavement. I had crossed the half at 1:24, but I knew that I would positive split based on my fast first 5K. I knew that 2:50 was still in sight, but that would be a stretch even keeping my pace consistent.

At 21 I was still feeling great, but I was quickly and immediately struck by the need to stop for a particular reason. Unfortunately I lost 90 seconds to that stop. But I jumped back on the course and was back to some pretty consistent miles and felt great (actually, felt better!)

About 23 the wheels started to become wobbly, really wobbly. My brain started shutting down and all those doubts crept back in. But I knew I had some people waiting for me at 24, and an even larger contingent at 25, and finally an even bigger group at 26. So I struggled for a couple miles, but still kept things at 7:00 pace or slightly better. When I saw that Cathedral and raced down the hill, I felt so great! I knew I had accomplished 2 goals: PR (by over 5 minutes) and I went under 2:55. That last 1.5 miles I was a little emotional. I was in a great deal of pain, but I knew that I was going to do it. And seeing my friends, family and fiance along that stretch just made it even more emotional.

After reloading on food in the corporate tent, I walked out to be greeted by my fiance (seriously, that word sounds too pretentious. I'd rather say wife-to-be.) We (slowly walked up the hill to watch the rest of the race. I got to see a lot of good friends finish, and finish well. I am SOOO happy and proud of my friends who finished their first marathons. Seeing them was even more emotional for me than my own accomplishment.

That night our running club had a celebration. It truly was an emotional one. Everyone seemed so happy, and some of the PRs that people dropped were just mind-boggling. Even those that didn't PR had good days and good runs, and were happy as well! Everyone should feel so proud for finishing and gutting out the rain. Running 26.2 is not easy (for most of us), no matter the conditions. Major props to everyone who made this accomplishment yesterday! And good luck to everyone racing later this fall at Chicago, Whistlestop or whatever marathon may come!

I'm an engineer and therefore a numbers guy. Here are some numbers for those who want to see them:

1 6:11
2 6:26
3 6:08
4 6:44
5 6:21
6 6:27
7 6:30
8 6:25
9 6:30
10 6:30
11 6:26
12 6:38
13 6:26
14 6:31
15 6:31
16 6:49
17 6:28
18 6:32
19 6:28
20 6:29
21 7:44 (6:14 without the 90 second break)
22 6:49
23 6:49
24 6:45
25 7:00
26 6:59
26.2 1:25
Final Time - 2:53:02!!!!


A lot of friends have told me that they were impressed with my race and that I inspired them. That is so touching. But first, I have to say that those friends who braved the cold and cheered me in multiple spots provided me with a lot of inspiration. Knowing that the MDRA group would be at Mile 25 made me run that mile when my legs said stop. And once I was up that hill at 25, I just HAD to keep on going to the finish!

But there's someone else that gave me some inspiration on Sunday. A coworker's brother was recently diagnosed with cancer and is battling bravely. I don't know him aside from his name, but I know his story, and I know how he is holding his head up through all the chemo and pain and hospital stays. I cannot even begin to imagine what he is going through. So when I saw that runners could wear a sticker to show their support of someone with cancer, I knew I had to "Run for" Chris. I put the sticker on and ran. I thought about him and prayed for him early in the race, but I forgot about the sticker for a good chunk in the middle. Around 21-22 I was starting to hurt and I heard someone say, "Go Chris Go!" They were looking at the sticker. I got a little choked up (like I'm getting as I type this). I remembered Chris and thought about how laughable it was that I was even thinking about my own momentary discomfort. I said a few more prayers for Chris and charged up Summit Avenue. I finished the race, and my "battle" was done for the day. Finishing the cancer battle is not exactly a luxury Chris has yet, but I pray he will beat it soon. Thanks, Chris, for providing me with extra motivation yesterday.

PHOTOS: (some people who inspired me by cheering or running THEIR first marathon)

Family and soon to be family provided phenomenal cheering and support!

Sorry ladies, we're both taken. Wait, you don't care? Well, fine then. :)

2 of my best friends, and 2 first-time marathon finishers! You guys rock!

Who needs more inspiration than this? Post-race grub!