Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Fun in Fargo

Uff da !! What is wrong with me? That's what I was wondering as I hit the wall at only 9 miles into the race. I had come into the race not expecting to run a real fast time. My plans were to run as much as I could with Margo and just have some fun and maybe run 3:50-3:55 which should be well within my ability right now.

The trip was long but rather uneventful. We flew into Minneapolis with a change in Chicago and there we rented a car. From Minn, we drove to ND, which took about 3:45. Once you leave the city it was very rural with some rolling hills and nothing but huge acres of farmland and woodlands along with many of the 10,000 lakes in the state. As we got closer to ND the hills became smaller and by the time we were about 30 miles away from the border it was table-top flat. We made a quick trip to the FargoDome to pick up our packets and then visited briefly with Wendy and Dan, friends of Margo's from the 50States and DC Club. Then we had a nice salmon dinner at the Timber Lodge. We both had the wild rice soup and it was delicious, almost like having dessert before the meal.

The race didn't start until 8am so we had no problem waking early enough to have plenty of time for the short drive back to the race start in the morning. As we lined up it was a beautiful morning in the upper 40's with only a slight breeze. That would change as the day wore on as there was a high wind advisory for the afternoon. Seems to be normal for all of the plains states.
We started off a bit too far back I think and spent a good amount of time weaving our way through the pack. Still hit the first mile in 9:10 and soon were able to settle in to a decent pace but still had to do some maneuvering around for a couple of more miles.

As we entered the downtown area, being the train lover I am, I quickly spotted the old Great Northern Railway Depot off to the side and snapped this shot.

Here is a link to a photo of how it looked in 1909

Most of the course so far was very flat of course. The only hills were very small and short and usually at underpasses for roads or RR tracks. I was feeling good and we were clicking off the miles at about 8:30 pace. shortly after 5miles I began to drop behind Margo a little bit and although I felt ok the pace seemed a little strong for me. It was still a little cool but the sun was warming up things quickly. By the time I hit 7 miles I dropped the pace even more and watched as she disappeared in the distance. I was now content to just make it an enjoyable training run at about 9 minute pace and be happy with about 4 hours.

So how did that go? Not too good. Uff Da ! A common term for the northern great plains area and the norwegians that settled in the area. I'll let you look it up here. By 9 miles I had hit the wall and was slowing down fast. I was having a hard time understanding how I could be having this meltdown so early in a run. By 11 miles I was toast and doing the ultra survivor shuffle. If I had not traveled so far I would have taken the short-cut back and dropped at 13 miles. I was really dreading those last15 miles. This was going to be a long slow deathmarch to the end. I passed by a bank and the sign said it was up to 65F and still warming. But the wind was picking up too. At least for now it was not too bad and was helping things to feel cooler.

I resigned myself to the fact that I was having a bad day and just tried to enjoy the race as much as possible. We crossed over the Red River of the North which forms the border of ND and Minn. I took a few pictures along there of the river. We then went onto the campus of Concordia College, on a sidewalk winding through and by the belltower. Just as I passed the tower the bells began to chime 11am. I immediately thought of Metallica's song "For Whom the Bell Tolls" Time marches on ! And then my right hamstring cramped on me big time. I hobbled along trying to stretch it out and a nice lady feeling sorry for me said Sir, are you going to be OK? Yes, thank you I'll be fine in a few minutes. So for the rest of the day I would run until I felt a twinge in the leg and then walk a minute or two. Why not? No hurry now.

Finally I was nearing the end and a good thing too. By now the wind was full force with gust over 40mph that would nearly blow you over. I was really happy to finally get this one over with. I've actually felt better at the end of a couple of my 100 milers than I felt the last half of this marathon.

They really do a great job with the races even if I didn't do a good job of running it. The organization is excellent and the community really supports the race. Many people had set up extra aid along the course in front of their homes and several business too. There were bands at many points as well as some individuals playing in their yards. Several accordion players and polka music along with more mainstream music. As I said before the course is very flat. My only complaint with the course would be the number of turns. Just looking at the map I counted 74 and I know there were several more along the greenways and sidewalks we ran on at times.

If you've never been to North Dakota then maybe this will be your excuse to check it out. Be sure and watch the movie too. Do they really talk that way? Well yes , some do. I overheard a couple of conversations between locals that included a yeah, you betcha in it. Very friendly folks too. We went through some very nice neighborhoods but even the older smaller working class neighborhoods were very neat and well kept.

So, even though my race was a big disappointment,I still had fun and was glad I had the chance to go and share the trip with my great friend Margherita.

Here are the rest of the photos

On to the next one.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Heading to Fargo with Margo

The Fargo Marathon wasn't even on my radar until earlier in the year when my good friend Margherita asked for somebody to go with her. She is doing the 50 States and DC and needed North Dakota and this looked like a good option. That's her in the picture before this years Umstead Trail Marathon.
I had been wanting to try and go to another marathon with her for a while now but our schedules never seemed to match. other than running at Umstead the past two years, the last time she was able to make a trip with me and the usual crowd was back in Nov. 2005 when she was helping to support me in my Boston Qualifying attempt at the Richmond Marathon. I failed but in the process she ran a PR. So after looking over my schedule I decided to skip a couple of ultra's this Spring and plan to go to Fargo. I've never been to North Dakota either so it should be a good trip. Look for a report when we get back.

Here is a link to the race website

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Garner " A Great Place to Be Running" 5k

What a difference 2 weeks can make. After the Skirtchaser 5K and my disappointing performance there I decided it was time for a little break from running. Actually I have been uncomfortable running for the past 7 months and my back to back marathons last November. Although I have had a few decent performances since then, overall I have not been too happy with the way things were going. Several massages over the Winter and some stretching seem to help but the pain and discomfort kept coming back. At least the plantar fasciitis has gone away but I needed some rest. So I took a week off completely and then the past week I only ran 3 days for a total of 21 miles.

I was raised in Garner from just after my 8th birthday and my parents still live there so I was happy to have a chance to run a race in my hometown. The last time was at The Warm Winds Welcome 10k back in the early-80s that went right in front of their house at the 4 mile mark. But as the day drew near for this one, I wasn't sure if I should even run due to another mystery pain that came up on my first run after the week off. What's up with that!?!?!
On Thursday,I ran 5 miles on the trails at Umstead and felt great and then I rested the next two days so I decided to go ahead and give it a try. The race would be starting early at 7am so I headed over toward Garner before the sunrise. I was very happy that the weather would be unseasonably cool. After having 88F two weeks ago, the low 50's would be perfect. I quickly checked in and then began to look for friends. Several members of the NCRC Racing team would be there as well as some of the usual suspects. Frank and Karla and Laura, Alan and Jerry and Brad all showed up. After a brief visit with them I headed out for a mile warm-up. I was very happy that the legs felt fine and actually had more zip in them than I can remember when. Hopefully this would be a good sign.
Soon it was time to line up so we headed out into the street. I stood next to Laura but told her I had no plans to try and stay with her today. My goal was to hopefully go back under 23 minutes again and would try for 22:30. The first half-mile was very flat and I quickly settled into a quick but comfortable pace. After the first turn we had a gradual downhill and I started looking for the mile marker. I was hoping with the pace that I would be at least 7 minutes so I was very happy to hit it in 6:45 and be feeling good.
The next mile I tried to just stay relaxed and hold the pace as well as I could. I assumed I'd slow down a little because we would be making up that little bit of downhill. Actually it was a mostly flat course and the slight elevation changes were hardly noticeable and I hit mile two in 6:55. I was still feeling good but the faster pace was not easy to hold. I know I lost concentration and slowed more than I should over the next half mile and then I felt a twinge in my hip. That snapped me back to attention and I focused on not hurting the hip again. Finally we made the turn back onto Aversboro road and the finish was within sight. I pushed strong and although I did slow that last mile, I was able to just dip under 22 minutes and stopped my watch in 21:58. Woohoo! I am very pleased to run that time especially considering the training I've been doing and the nagging injuries I've been dealing with lately.
Laura would end up winning the overall womens race and Karla would place third in her-age-group with a run 3 minutes faster than at Skirtchaser. ( note, the winner of the womens 45-49 age-group was Betty Geiger, the former Betty Springs. She was a world-class runner in the 80's and a favorite in the 1st women's Olympic Trials Marathon in 1984 that Joan Benoit won.)
Tim Meigs and Mark Newton, of the NCRC Team, both over 40 years old ran great races and finished 2nd and 3rd overall.
In spite of my nearly two minutes improvement over two weeks ago, I could only place 4th in the 50 and over age-group. Only 52 seconds separated the top 4.

Here are some more photos

Here are the results

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Skirtchaser 5k

Due to my decision to run in the Fargo Marathon in a couple of weeks I had to miss going to the Promise Land 50K, one of my favorite ultra's. Skipping PL was probably a good idea anyway because I have not been running too well since Umstead and I would probably have had a terrible performance the way the weather turned so hot over the weekend. However that did open up a spot on the weekend to have some fun and jump into a shorter race, the Skirtchaser 5k. I haven't raced a 5k in about a year and a half so I thought it would be fun to see what I could do. Karla was pretty excited about the event because she loves the skorts and thats all she runs in these days. Karla and Frank arranged to come back early from the OBX to run and I made arrangements to leave work at TAF for a couple of hours to make it in time for the 5pm start.
I walked out of the store at 4 and immediately was surprised at just how hot it had gotten outside. I heard the high reached 88F, certainly the hottest I've run in this year. It was exactly one mile to the race start from the store so I ran over for my warm-up. I was happy to see Margo and Maureen had made it as well as Karla and Frank. Lots of other friends from the NCRC were there to run and quite a few that weren't running were there just to join in the fun and cheer on some of us from the NCRC Racing Team.
The format of the race was for the ladies to start at 5 and then the men would chase after them 3 minutes later. Cash prizes were paid out to the top 3 regardless of gender. Their were no age-groups for this one.
With about 20 minutes to go I warmed up another mile and headed back to the starting area. I was feeling the heat just waiting for the start and found some shade to stand in until after the women started. To make it even tougher the start is two blocks straight up a steep hill. The rest of the course would be gently rolling. Fine for a longer race but very tough for running all out in a 5k.
I had no one in particular to chase especially since the one I would preferred to chase couldn't enter so I told Karla I'd use her as my motivation to run fast. I started off slowly up the hill so as not to get into oxygen debt right away and then after making it to the top I settled in to a hard relatively comfortable pace. I had hoped to average about 7:30 pace for the race but with the heat and hills I was satisfied and even a little surprised that I hit the first mile in 7:48. After making the next turn I could see Karla up ahead and focused on catching her. I finally pulled beside her before the 2 mile mark and gave her a pat on the back and a "Hey Beautiful ! " as I passed by.
I hit mile two in 7:44 so at least I was consistent. The last mile was predominately downhill and I was trying to push as hard as I could. Just before the final turn there was a short, block long hill and I felt I was slowing to near walking pace before finally making the top and turning onto the nice downhill finishing stretch. I actually had sped up a little that last 1.1 and averaged 7:30 for that section and finished in 23:50 chip time. A bit disappointing in way because it was the slowest 5K I've run in the 9 years since recovering from my soccer knee injury, but considering my training, recovery from Umstead and the conditions and course, it wasn't too bad I guess.
Margo and Maureen were already finished and were by the road cheering for me and the others It was Mo's first 5k and she did great. Margo ran the exact same time as I did in 23:50. We waited for Frank and Karla and some other friends and then went to join in the block party with a live band, drinks and pizza. But I couldn't hang around too long because I had to run back and close the store before 7.
Here are the official overall results. You have to subtract 3 minutes from the mens times and these are gun times, not chip times. Too bad there weren't any age groups or I would have won the 50+ group.

I only regret missing my ultra friends at PL and at Crowders Mt 50K. Hope everyone there had some big fun.