Sunday, September 18, 2022

O' Brien 10.4 Trail Race Recap (Minnesota State Champion Trail race)

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 16; 9th Edition
114.5 miles raced in 2022 races
Race: O' Brien 10.4 Trail Race
Place: William O'Brien State Park
Miles from home: 45
Weather: 63 Degrees and 100% humidity

I haven’t had a race since June and haven’t had a race I’ve written about since I did my 6 half marathons in six days back in May. The fun relay I did in June had to be canceled at the end for a couple of legs because of weather conditions and it just didn’t feel like something I should write about as I don’t really have a full experience of all the relay legs.

I’ve been enjoying some really long training run weeks even while traveling all over the country recently and wasn’t really expecting to have any races on the docket. But a week ago I looked around me on Ultrasignup and saw that there was a Minnesota State championship for the trail 10 miler not too far away. As I have said many times, if there is a championship race that I can enter nearby me, even if I’m not prepared for it, I will likely do so. 

The race would be a challenge for me simply because it was going to be things

1.    I don’t do very often and

2.    I don’t do very well. 

Namely I don’t trail race often and I hate short punchy hills in trail races. I’m never able to get an actual speed going and it amazes me how bad I am at the uphill. But I had an off chance of winning this race outright based on who was registered and the “predictions” on the website. I thought that would be a nice little feather in the cap to add State Champion to my resume. Even after five straight weeks of 70+ miles and hardly a taper to speak about, I was convinced it was feasible. 

Race Morning:

The forecast called for the temperature to stay relatively cool in the mid 60s but rain throughout the region the days before left us with literally 100% humidity on race morning. I arrived a little earlier than I normally would simply because I wasn’t aware of the logistics of the area.  This meant I was also up earlier than I would have liked but a 9 a.m. but it allowed me to cheer on the people who started the 50 km race.  I did not envy them having to run in this humidity and that was before I even knew what the course was like.

Then I basically had to chill for an hour waiting for my race to start.  I meandered around, used the bathroom numerous times, and just trying to stay calm but focused. As we were lining up I was talking to a fellow runner and his wife (Chris and Sandy) who mentioned to me that a very fast runner was dropping down from the 50 km to the 10 mile distance. This threw a little wrench in my plans of hopefully not having to work too hard to win but that’s what is so difficult about winning races: You have to beat every single person who shows up.  It sounds like a no brainer but unlike personal bests or winning an age group, this involves beating EVERY person there.

As we stood in the starting corrals the Race Director was very kind enough to single me out and ask me to say a few things about myself. As it was still early morning for me and I was barely awake, and there’s a few things I enjoy less than saying “Hey I’m Dane Rauschenberg and this is why you might think what I have done is impressive but you also might not so I guess you can decide for yourself!” I instead got information out to everyone about Sherpa. That made me happy as it is clear people were very interested in learning more. A few seconds later we were lining up to start the race. 

First 5K:

There was a 5 km race going on at the same time as the 10 miler and as we shot out of the gate one of the guys who I knew was running the 5K took the lead. Shortly thereafter the runner who dropped from the 50 km usurped the lead at the front and began to assert himself. I figured if I had any chance to beat him I had to stay with him on the very first section of this race which included not only a little bit of asphalt running but a nice strong downhill. Nevertheless, as we entered the woods half a mile later, he was already a good 50 yards in front of me with no signs of slowing down.

At the 1 mile mark, the runner who was running the 5K passed me and I decided to do my best to try to keep him in my sight. About a half mile later another guy wearing a 5K bib passed me and thought they were going to have quite a little battle for first place. I was trying to decide if I had any chance to win this race and how hard I wanted to work if I was just going to end up in second place anyway. I figured I would simply see what happened in the next few miles until we started to hit the hills around mile four. Then I could make any further decisions.


As we got to the start of the race course and the 5K lead runner took his turn the second guy in front of me continued on the 10 mile course. It was now clear he was running my race, and had signed up the morning of so I have no idea of what he could so. A quick glance over my shoulder surprised me as a runner was sitting right in my back pocket. He appeared to be one of the runners that I thought that I might have to contend with today when looking at the registrants earlier. So here I sat in third place in danger of being in fourth place pretty soon and lots of re-evaluations of what I was going to do on this race day we’re going into my mind. 

The Hills:

Around 3 1/2 miles is where the hills really began to start and almost immediately the guy behind me began to put distance between us. I know the way to get better at things that you are not good at is to practice them but I race so infrequently in these conditions that the time spent doing so doesn’t seem to be well spent. But on a race course like this it really starts to get in your head that if you just simply out in a little more race-specific training you might be in a better position. Every downhill allowed me to pick up a little bit distance between us but they were far too many quick uphills that were making the distance grow. 

I missed a turn at 5 1/2 miles but ran about 10 yards out of the way before regrouping and getting right back on course. About a mile earlier I had noticed that there was a runner behind me that was a little bit closer than I thought anyone would be. I assumed he was the other runner that according to the pre-race predictions was going to be challenging for first.

By now, I had long ago been drenched in sweat but as the hills lengthened I could feel the effects of the humidity taking their toll. It wasn’t getting any cooler in spite of the tree cover and relatively decent cloud covering as well. As I came out of this loop where I had almost missed the turn, I saw the lead female runner almost do the same thing. A long straightaway opened up and I could not see the runner in front of me. I wondered if he had gotten off course and had to backtrack the way I had and somehow might be behind me. Unfortunately, as I climbed a long straight hill to mile 7 ½, I saw probably about two minutes of running in front of me. I really wanted to make an effort to catch him but his uphill running game was far stronger than mine. I was resigned to finishing fourth even if I was pretty unhappy about it. 

The Finish:

A nice deep downhill gave me some good feeling in my legs before two quick uphills stole that feeling right back. At about 8 1/2 miles there was a short half mile stretch that was nice and flat and I admit that I slowed down a little bit thinking that all was in the bag. However after a super steep uphill about half a mile later I turned around and saw that the runner behind me had closed the gap considerably. In fact, I found out later that in 9th and 10th miles he made up over 40 seconds on me. That’s pretty damn impressive. That said, as much as fourth place sucks I would be damned if I was going to cede it to someone in the last mile of this race.

I picked up the pace on a relatively flat section and put my head down.  I can occasionally make it hurt more than most and this was one of those times where I was doing just that. If he was going to take fourth place, he was going to have to take it; I wasn’t giving it to him. A surprise and precipitous downhill allowed me to turn on the jets and make the gap between us insurmountable. I might not be able to run up those very well but if anything I can do the downs.

With about a quarter of a mile left I could see the finish line ahead and simply glanced over my shoulder one time to make sure everyone was where they were supposed to be and finished in a time that was rather disappointing (1:19:19) but was all I had on this day. 

Fourth overall.

The race itself was very well run.  The turn I missed was mostly my fault as I was just zoned out.  There were plentiful aid stations for 10 mile loop. It was, as with all trail races, a bit lonely. I do miss the crowds of street racing and that was one reason why I got away from trail racing for a while. Most of the time, when you are near the front, it just feels like you are on a solo training run that you paid for.

All told, definitely not what I was hoping to get from this race both by the end result and to let me know how I was feeling. I haven’t had a “fast” race in ages and this didn’t tell me whether I have any left in me. But I do best in racing when I race often so I am likely going to be cutting back on the miles and ramping up the races.


First off I have the Boundary Waters Half-Marathon thisSaturday as part of the Ely Marathon weekend that my company, Sherpa is the title sponsor of.  The weather looks much more inviting up there even if the course will be challenging. Exciting for all the things which will come from this weekend!

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Running Every Single Street in Your Hometown

When it comes to the world of running, I remember saying in an article 15 years ago that there’s hardly anything new under the sun. Without a doubt, and obviously, nothing has gotten more fresh.  Sure, we can all try to find something that someone hasn’t done already but that is a rather fruitless search and really what is the point? What really only matters is if it is new to you specifically. Like 52 marathons in 52 weekends, for example.

That said, in the past few years in the running world during the pandemic when races were canceled a few things have popped up was finding ways to challenge one selves to scratch the itch of missing races. One way that became quite popular was running the "fastest known time" for something. Basically, finding a course of some length and note, seeing if anyone else has a documented time for it, and if not, documenting you r own while trying to run the fastest anyone has ever done. This, is obviously limited to the fleet of feet or at least the intrepid who found a trail no one else had run yet.

Another, way, more egalitarian, was made popular by ultrarunner Ricky Gates, and that was to run every single street in a certain area. Rickey ran every street in San Francisco in just 46 days in 2018 and when people couldn't race, many turned to this newish endeavor. 

When I lived in Salt Lake City for four years I was traveling quite frequently. When I wasn’t being a creature of habit I ran the vast majority of my miles around 1 1/2 mile loop in a park across the street from my home.  I know many other people enjoy exploring the trails and seeing that which is around them, and it’s not that I don’t, but I spend so much time when I am running thinking about other things or sometimes nothing at all, that the familiarity of that loop was a salve to my thoughts. That said, when I was moving to Portland Oregon I realized how few of the city streets right near my house I had never  stepped foot on. So in a small undocumented project, as I didn’t have any sort of GPS watch at the time, I simply decided to run the grid like streets of Salt Lake City in the few square miles around my home. 

Suffice it to say that I was pleased that I was able to do this in a small capacity before leaving Salt Lake. In Portland I explored a little bit more than I did in SLC but I had pretty much a four standard runs I ran all the time. When I moved to Austin I more or less stuck to one trail near my home with a deviation here and there.  The trail was paved,  marked with mile markers, and almost unimpeded by any type of vehicle traffic. It was hard to pass this up! 

When I moved to Minneapolis in February it only took me about a month to realize that I didn’t want to repeat what I wouldn’t necessarily call a mistake in Austin, but the lack of exploration.  Plus, I really wanted to really learn my city. That was when I decided that I was going to run every single street. 


That project is moving along rather smashingly even if the world has opened up somewhat again and my traveling has interrupted it quite a bit. I recently found myself in my hometown giving some aid to my mother who had a recent medical procedure. As I had about two or three similar runs that I ran all the time here I kind of fell into the same pattern.  After a few days however, I thought, it might be pretty darn easy to knock out every single street in this 5000 person two-square mile town. 

The reality was that it actually ended up being a little bit more difficult than I thought simply because of two major factors: one, there are a lot of long roads that lead out of the city that dead end and require backtracking. Two, I live in a valley and everywhere out of the city is up a big damn hill.  Fortunately, I had some of the streets already marked previously before starting this project so I knew that would help cut down the time needed to complete it. But six days and approximately 50 miles of running later I can say that I have completed the first ever city where I have run every single street. The fact that it was my hometown was a  nice little bonus. 

What did I learn? Well, I realize that without a doubt they were not only streets that I had never been on by foot, bike, or car but there were streets that I didn’t even know existed. I also learned some streets that were marked on one map were not marked on the other and some that no longer existed were still marked! There are probably a few places where a city street is now private property or have no trespassing. Maybe someday I’ll be able to find a way to knock those off.  Imagine me running through a factory shouting "Sorry, guys. This says it is Mechanic Street!"


I was disappointed, but not surprised at the number of Trump signs that I saw but I try not to let that color in my thoughts of the populace on the whole.  All told, it was surprising how many memories came flooding back of places and events and things that I hadn’t thought of in 30 years that likely never would have come to me if I had been simply driving down the street. I will not wax poetic or extol the virtues of traveling by foot as if you are reading this  I would be preaching to the choir,. However, I will definitely say something I learned long before I made any sort of name for myself in the running world, and that the absolute best way to see anything is by foot. 

Hands down.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Sherpa

 

I’ve been hinting at something big for myself for quite some time and yesterday I thanked many of you who wished me a happy birthday with information about an app that has been in creation, in one form or another, for over 8 years. Well, as I am nearing the finish line of testing and re-testing, and finally finding the perfect partner who echoes my love for running and safety, Heather Alvarado Rine, I am happy to announce...Sherpa.
 
 
 
What is Sherpa? Sherpa is the on-demand app safely connecting runners and athletes with personalized guides. Think of it as all the best parts of a ride-sharing app like Uber but put into the feet of runners and walkers.

Right now we are building our base of running guides, vetting everyone to make this app as safe as possible. We will be rolling it out in select cities soon, and then, worldwide. If you like the idea of getting paid to run, while helping others achieve their exercise needs, or you yourself can see how valuable it is to be able to run when you want, where you want, and at the speed you want, head on over to GoWithSherpa.com and sign up!




Tuesday, May 24, 2022

New England Challenge (6 Halfs in 6 Days in 6 States) Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 16; 3rd-8th Editions
97.9 miles raced in 2022 races
Race: New England Challenge
Place: Fairlee, VT; Portland, ME; Nashua, NH; Warwick, RI; Westfield, MA; Hartford, CT
Miles from home: 1201 to 1349
Weather: A fairly consistent mid 50-low 60s, humid, foggy/rainy all 6 days

At the end of 2019, I had experienced a surge in my running and traveling after a few years of lethargy. A win at the Perpetual Motion 6 Hour Race got my juices flowing for 2020 and I had an absolutely amazing slate of races planned. First would be a half-marathon race across the Millau Viaduct in France, followed 12 days later by an 80-mile race around Loch Ness, and then just one week later I would run a marathon in Liechtenstein. I planned on traveling Europe that whole time, coming home for a month or so and then going back to run the Berlin Wall 100 mile race. I was as stoked to be racing as I had been in a long time.

Then, you know, 2020 and the Republican response to it happened. (Let's not even remotely pretend it wouldn't have been nearly as deadly without F*ckwork Orange in charge.)

2019 has been a year for change for me as I ran over 3,000 miles for the year for the first time ever.  I have never been a high mileage guy, at least for the types of runs I do and speed I run them, compared to my peers. I didn't expect to run over 3,000 again but as I couldn't race, I trained more. I wouldn't necessarily say I trained better but I did train more. Two years of dealing with a pandemic, fortunately staying healthy physically but beat down mentally (and financially from losing basically all sources of income) left me spent.

I moved in Minneapolis in February and then jumped into a snowshoe race which lit a fire under me. I was stoked to be racing again. Unfortunately, it also beat the living hell out of my left ankle as I was under-dressed for the race. A week later I partially tore my calf muscle on the same leg. I was a bit of a mess. I took some time off and slowly began to try to get my mojo back.

As this recap is already turning into one of "Just get to the recipe, Karen!" things I hear about, I will spare you the odd internet browsings and weird statistics stuff that overcome me late at night while I am wide awake and the rest of the word slumbers. Suffice it to say I soon found myself signed up to run six half-marathons in six days in six different states in less than a month with a goal to win all six.

Winning a race is about half skill and about half luck. If you are a slower runner, the chances are very slim you will ever win a race outright. But even if you are a faster runner, all it takes is ONE other runner to be faster to keep you from winning. This seems obvious but it goes to show how fleeting and difficult the process of winning can be and why racing is such a VASTLY different type of activity than running.

So, to try to win all these races would be quite a challenge indeed, especially for someone like myself who is fast but not FAST fast. But unlike other "challenges" that circulate amongst on the internet, I like to choose ones that are actually difficult. As such, I found myself standing in Fairlee, Vermont a week ago, in the midst of pouring rain seconds from the start of the first half-marathon of six to be hopefully done 121.5 hours later.

(This is a very low-key series of events put on by an affable and capable enough small family. There are definitely things that I feel the races could benefit from a little spit polish here and there and for the most part I won't really mention anything where I feel it could improve. However, I am going to try to include information that most runners will benefit from with regards to logistics and courses and the like which should be, but are not, readily available for those wishing to complete and or all of these events.)

Maple Leaf Half-Marathon: Fairlee, Vermont (Each clickable link takes you to my Strava account for each race so you can see what the course and elevation profile is.)

Quick description: Rather hilly course with a road that could use some new pavement; Relative tree cover to protect you from elements. Main course is a roughly 5 mile loop that half-marathoners do twice. (You can basically double my descriptions for all races for marathoners.)


Standing at the starting line, I wondered how difficult this was all going to be. I had driven the race course the day before and there were some humdingers of hills to deal with. As I mentioned, about 30 seconds before the race started, the rain pour down upon us. As it was 91 degrees the day before, the high 50s and rain here wasn't a problem except for soggy shoes and potential chafing.

As with most of the races, we had to do a little out and back prior to doing the multiple loops. And on most occasions, when we could done and out and back in any direction, we always seemed to choose the portion which had the biggest hill. Some jokingly say that the hills are free; I say maybe don't make your races harder just for shits and giggles.

Within feet of the race starting a taller and more muscular fella than me took off like a shot. I thought "Great.  Day One Second One and I am already not going to win all the races." With a guy on either side of me keeping pace, I wasn't even sure I would place third. But when the lead runner, and subsequently the two guys beside me both turned around that the marathon turn around point, I suddenly found myself in sole possession of first place. By the time I turned around a bit further down the road, it was pretty clear that this race was mine to lose.

Soon the rain stopped and all I had to do was run out the course. The course seemed to be a bit long but I was nevertheless pleased with getting the first race, and the first win out of the way in a time of 1:36:15. I was also pleased that the marathon winner, in a time of 2:42, hadn't decided to run the half today either.

Pine Tree Half-Marathon: Portland, Maine

Quick description: An entirely flat 2.5 mile loop until you get to the quick rise to go up and over bridge, which is also the only paved part on a hard-packed stone trail.  Completely exposed to the elements, whatever they may be.


Day Two of this challenge was eventful if only because I was curious how it would go.  I had run two half-marathon races back-to-back before but had always know that the second race was my final one. Here I would only be 1/3 of the way finished when I was done with this race. With the flat course I expected a stellar time.

I took the pole position to start the race but soon thereafter heard footsteps behind me and right as we approached the turnaround the lead woman passed me. I passed her on the way back as we had a nice downhill but within a mile she had taken the lead again. For the next loop and change she would steadily grow her lead with me sometimes gaining some of it back. Suddenly, at 7.55 miles she just stopped and started walking the other direction. Only through social media was I able to see she felt she wasn't having a good day and decided to call it quits. Appears we were running at or close to her half-marathon pace so I am not sure why she stopped but I wished her well. Now, again, like the day before, I was running alone and I definitely slowed the last 5 miles. From an average pace of 7:05 for the first half of the race, I slowed to a 7:25 or so once I had the second win in the bag.

I did see one runner in front of me in the last half mile or so who was cooking along at a great pace. I figured she was out for a workout.  But right after I finished, she stopped and I saw she had a bib on.  I know for a fact that she had never been in front of me and when she showed up in the results just a few seconds behind my time of 1:35:27, I was a little confused. I am sure it will sort itself out.

Two races.Two wins.

Granite State Half-Marathon: Nashua, New Hampshire

Quick description: Slightly hilly first half of a two loop course with the back half being mostly flat with a out and back on the road before running under a canopy of trees on trail. Footing can be a little dicey depending on rain or whatnot.

Having had to fend of female competitors in the first two races (second place on day one, who didn't finish too far behind me was also a fierce competitor) I asked a rather spritely looking young lass what she hoped to run for the race. She said "anything under 1:45" which I felt was likely a bit of gamesmanship. When we did our out and back to start the race and two guys absolutely took off like rockets, it was clear I was not going to win today. Bollocks. Moreover, Ms. 1:45 gleefully stayed in my hip pocket for the first few miles and cheerfully said "You can be my pacer!"

About halfway through the first loop, she passed me and I was not sitting out of the podium in fourth place. However twice in quick successions I had to call out to her as she was about to run in the wrong direction and the second time I regained the lead. At the beginning of the second loop, the road we were on which was obviously being occupied by a timing mat and runners, soon became also occupied by a truck which decided it was going to block the turn around. I was none too pleased as I had to navigate a tight turn, a truck, other runners and still try to grab a glass of water. But this adrenaline boost was a welcome addition.

As the second loop went on, I put more distance between me and my fellow competitor shooting for third. Knowing the loop now and where to run to avoid the sloppy forest floor (it had rained hard the previous night) I was making great time.  By the time I was heading home to the finish, I knew I had at least salvaged a third place. When I was handed the second place plaque I assumed they had made a mistake. Unfortunately for him, one of the marathoners had made a mistake and had done the half marathon start, adding some extra mileage to his day.  The half-marathon winner ran in a time of 1:16 which I couldn't even compete with in a singular half-marathon day. So I didn't feel nearly as bad at having lost my winning streak. Don't get me wrong. I was still not happy but a 1:31:48 was not too shabby of a finishing time.

I was able to tell my young female chasepack that she had finished third right after she told me this was her first half-marathon. Pretty darn sweet day for her, all told!

Red Island State Half-Marathon: Warwick, Rhode Island

Quick description: Six loops or a winding and twisting bicycle path (95% paved) with quick little rises and falls that can be quite tiring on the back half of the loop. Mostly shaded by trees.

I was able to squeeze in a massage the night before this race hoping it would help spur me on to the victory stand again. However, right before the race I learned a new competitor had joined us and he was quite speedy. Within a few meters to start, I could tell that today was again not going to be a win for me. But at least this time I was neither going to be fighting to take third or have all that much of a chaser behind me either. It was a good thing because I was in a sour mood. As lovely as this course was it was the type that I just can't stand. And when you have to do something you don't like for six consecutive loops, it isn't fun. Especially when you know you have two more half-marathons to go AFTER this.


I won't say that I was going through the motions or that I wasn't focusing on racing but without a doubt I was a bit more grouchy about having to weave around fellow competitors who would walk or slow run 2-3 abreast without much concern about trail etiquette. If I had to pick a low time of the week it was definitely here. Getting out with a less than stellar time of 1:38:28 only made it worse. 

I was ready to move on to the next state.

Old Colony Half-Marathon: Westfield, Massachusetts

Quick description: Seven loops of an absolutely flat course in a mostly exposed park with some sidewalk running, some street running, and some stone path running.

As tired as I was, I could only imagine what those who were doing all six marathons felt like. A friend who had done double marathons previously but nothing of this nature unfortunately had to pull out of the previous days race and call the rest of her marathons off for this trip. She had sustained some sort of injury and wisely, even if it was extremely difficult, stopped running and stayed to cheer on her friend for the final two.

By now I learned that the speedster from the day before would be running the last two halfs as well. So right off the bat the wins were out the door and the window for getting a podium finish was narrowing. There were, however, two marathon runners who were running solid times and I was able to use them to help my pace even as first place disappeared into the distance.

It rained pretty steadily throughout and was cool, both which I welcomed. It was a bit of a mid game to keep my pace up and I was surprised I wasn't running faster on this completely flat course but it was also my fifth day in a row of racing. You take what you have each day and do what you can with it. For me it was my third straight second place in a time of 1:37:25. I was surprised it wasn't a bit faster but I think we had some bonus mileage on this course.

The Speedster, A.J., who I had heard had a PR of 1:11, was making his victories look easy as he lapped me with no problem with well over two loops to go for me.

Nutmeg Half-Marathon: Hartford, Connecticut

Quick description: Six loops of a golf course with a gradual 100 feet of loss over the first 2/3 of a loop and a less gradual two-stage climb on the back half. You can choose to run on the street or a trail for the first half.  Mostly exposed to the elements.

I had heard two days prior about the hills of this race and I will admit that they really got into my head.  They are indeed challenging but not too daunting. I had gotten another massage the night before this race as I was doing what I could to keep my body in check. I had been driving solo for approximately 500 miles between all the races but that was after I had already driven another 500 miles plus in the four days before as I toured Vermont. In addition, I was driving more than you would think because I was doing this ultradorky thing of trying to knock out counties in the United States I had never been to.  Fortunately I had a hybrid car that was giving me over 50 miles to the gallon. I figured I was out this way, I might as well kill two birds. I am happy to say that I closed out Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Once I visit the island counties which house of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts will be completed. Have I mentioned I am single?

I wished A.J. good luck on his victory and then fell into the rapidly-becoming-familiar position of watching him disappear into the distance. After two loops, I was surprised that an older gentleman was sticking pretty close behind me. The next loop he had halved that distance. By the fourth loop he was in my back pocket.

As we created the big hill, which was just about at the end of each loop, a car came zooming into the parking lot we were running in and, apparently trying to make his tee time with the Pope, the driver decided that if he hit me, that was collateral damage. Luckily I jumped out of his way just in time, which was an amazing display of dexterity here 5.75 half-marathons in. As the older chap behind me, Antonio, shook his head at the driver, I fell back for half a second to collect my wits. Antonio was now in second place as we hit the mat to begin the fifth loop. Adrenaline coursed through me and I soon passed Antonio again. on that previous loop I had actually felt a twinge in my calf muscle and slowed a good twenty seconds or so per mile. But here the pain was gone and I wanted second place. So I took off.

Antonio would tell me later that I had been running a perfect pace for him (I am so gad I could help all these people with my unplanned pacing efforts!) and he thought he might have a shot at taking me on the last lap but I zoomed away. In fact, my fastest two miles of the entire day were the last two. I closed it out in decent fashion taking 2nd place for the fourth straight day in a time of 1:38:25, my second slowest of the week.

I was very happy to be done.

My average time for these 6 half marathons was 1:36:18 with each day being my 95th, 89th, 69th, 104th, 99th, and 103rd fastest half-marathon times respectively (out of 113 lifetime halfs). I have often battled with doing this sort of racing where the times for the races are potentially admirable simply because of the number of races you run. I don't really like that whole "impressive because of the self-imposed barriers" mindset. But given where I was coming into this race, even taking out the driving and the pressure to not just show up but race hard each day, I am pretty pleased with how it all went. I am, a few days later, still quite knackered but shockingly unsore. I do not think there was much more I could have given each day than what I did and that, above everything else, leaves me pleased. If I won, placed on the podium, or finished tenth was all just a matter of who showed up. But *I* showed up every day. That's all we can ask from ourselves.

I have Gilbert's Syndrome with his a liver disorder that makes it markedly difficult to recover from strenuous activity. The time it takes to get refreshed from a hard race should take me more than the normal person. But for whatever reason, it doesn't.  My 52 marathons in 52 weekends, where I was setting seven new marathon PRs in the last ten races of the year is a testament to that. When I wrote my book Ignore The Impossible, it wasn't some catchy phrase mean to be hung on a doorway. It truly is how I choose to live my life. Don't bother yourself with what you should not be able to do. Don't worry if this doctor said you could never do this again or these friends told you to stop. Waste no time trying to prove anyone wrong.  Focus on you and the goals you want to achieve.

You will likely be surprised with the results and happier than everyone else in the end. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Campwannarun Half Marathon Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 16; 2nd Edition 
19.3 miles raced in 2022 races
Race: Campwannarun Half Marathon
Place: White Bear Lake, MN
Miles from home: 22
Weather: 62; Windy; somewhat rainy

When I ran the snowshoe race after being a Minneapolis resident for all of six days, I was invigorated to race again, after two years of lethargy, mostly brought on by the pandemic. Unfortunately, the damage I did to my ankle from both the frostbite and by repeatedly ramming it with a snowshoe set me back a more than a few days. A week later, just as I was feeling somewhat recovered, I partially tore my calf muscle on a run. Taking 12 days off (after 14 days off earlier this year following some dental surgery) left me extremely behind where I have been every other year for the past decade when April came around. With a potentially difficult challenge coming up in May, I knew I needed to find out as best as I possibly could where I was fitness-wise. I knew it wasn't going to be where I wanted to be by a long shot, but where I happened to be was at least knowledge I needed. 

I remembered seeing there was a half marathon not too far away from me back when I was looking at nearby races for the upcoming year. A relatively low-key event, the Camp Wannarun Half, was exactly what I was looking for. It wasn't as flat as I would like for a race but the ease with regards to packet pickup and getting to it and parking and everything else seemed like it would be a breeze (It was.) So on Wednesday, I pulled the trigger and signed up. In spite of being quite nervous, especially since I haven’t raced in a calendar year, I was eager to take on the 107th half marathon of my life. 

Morning of Race:

Sleeping in my own bed the night before race is a luxury that I have rarely been able to take advantage of in my 20-plus years of racing. I am often racing across the world, and as comfortable as any hotel could possibly be nothing, is as nice as sleeping in your own bed, using your own towels and eating your own food. This ease of planning is the only reason why I can see why some people enjoy running the same local races year after year.

I got up the morning of the race and the forecast which had called for mid 60s at race time as well as some potential thunderstorms and wind looked like it was correct .The temperature doesn’t seem that high but it was the warmest day of the year so far here in the Twin Cities. As it has already topped the high 90s in the last city I lived in (Austin), I wasn't exactly complaining. But, of course for the guy who hates heat, it was the hottest of the year.

Check in for the race was fairly simple and I found myself back to my car with about a half an hour to spare. I took a quick little nap, ran to the port-a-potty right before the race began and with three minutes to spare I was heading to the starting area. This might be close to the 500th race of my life but I still get butterflies when I toe the line. I caught the last 30 seconds of the race director's instructions, walked to the pavement, gave a quick look at the competition, and away we went!

First 5K:

I had seen from the previous results that if I have run something that I was capable of it would’ve been relatively easy for me to win. But I knew I wasn’t there right now and was hoping that there would be one fast guy or a girl who would take off at the start and relieve me of any sort of thinking along the lines of "Crap. Now the three of us are gonna be racing all day long for the win, aren’t we?" 
 

Luckily for me, not only did a guy shoot out of the block but so did a young lady right behind him. With another gentleman between us I found myself in fourth place with two other guys jockeying for the same position before even half of a mile had gone by. We would stay in these same places for the first two miles until another young lady passed all three of us and pulled a little bit ahead. Over the next mile or so, as we left Bald Eagle Lake and the lovely lake homes behind us, it became the four of us jockeying for position with no one seemingly giving much of an inch.

To Mile Six:

As the miles ticked by I was quite surprised to see that I was running right around a seven minute pace. My goal for this race was to run around 1:33 which was ten seconds slower than I was presently doing. We left the homes of the lake and began running along a frontage road with no much of a shoulder.  It definitely could use a repaving as well.

I put one of the male competitors behind me and was watching another battle with the woman in front of me. At this point, as I had passed and then passed by the guy ahead of me, I had no idea where were would all end up. A little further up the road, the third place guy was closing the gap on the second place woman, who had once held a sizable lead. First place was out of sight. Go on with your bad self.

We were now running next to another lake (Otter Lake) for about half of a mile until we steered closer to the highway and more or less lost sight of the lake.  Or more accurately, with faster cars approaching, there was less enjoying of the scenery and more watching grills of trucks.

Suddenly, right before the fifth mile, I found myself on the heels of the woman in front of me. I knew I shouldn't stop the surge I was having just because I wasn't exactly ready to pass her so I went by with gusto. As we continued down this long straightaway, I was trying to reel in the guy in front of me as well. With flecks of gray in his hair I assumed he might be in my age group and I didn’t want him to win the age group without a fight. (Ends up he was 38, so just a youngster.)

On to Mile 10:


Turning off the shabbily paved road we were on was a joy because not only were we treated to fresh pavement, but we no longer had to deal with the traffic on the frontage road. Most drivers were courteous and gave us a wide berth. Some did not. It is a bit unnerving when you are paying attention but only half-so because you are wondering if your body parts are going to keep working and how in shape you are.
 
Unfortunately, around the 8th mile we really began to experience hills I wasn't expecting. Meanwhile another runner had passed me and I was quite surprised giving how large he was. And by large I do not mean in any way demeaning rather he just was a muscular fella who seem to be moving at a great clip.
 
I more or less felt I was going to be in this position with regards to the other runners for probably the rest of the race. I wasn’t gaining on anyone and no one seem to be gaining on me from behind. Six place isn't too bad, I guess.

Fortunately, these back country roads we were on were far less busy than the frontage road. But with all the twists and turns, and I soon learned a lot more hills, it was getting harder to keep track of the runners in front of me. For the most part, I could only see Grey Flecks and Bigger Guy and as the hills began to take their toll, they got further in the distance.
 
So here I sat in sixth place with each sequential place in front of me being almost the exact same
distance between the runner in front of them. Ever once in a while the course would curve around the beautiful lake we were running next to (we had rejoined Bald Eagle Lake from the North) and I could see what was happening far ahead of me. It appeared that the young lady running second was beginning to falter somewhat. I wondered if third place guy would eventually over take her.  (He did, but the young lass of 18 had a stellar showing of 1:32:05). I love racing like this where even while I am a competitor, I am still watching what is going on around me like I am a spectator. 
 
There was maybe a baker's dozen of spectators and a few volunteers braving the elements (heavy wind all day and some downpours later) to hand out little bottles of water. I tried to thank them all for taking time out of their day to make my day fun. As usual, my sputtering along, combined with the Doppler effect, probably had my complimentary words sounding like "thxfORBEINOuthere".

At the 9th mile I grabbed what was my only drink of the day. While the weather was a little bit warmer than I would ideally want, the cloud cover kept things relatively cool. The bottle of water was surprisingly cold as well.  Man, there is nothing better than a cold drink when you are racing and not much worse than a warm one. Also, here is where the rain that had been smattering sporadically really began to pick up and in the distance they were more than a few thunderclaps.  That will help you pick up the pace!
 
As I finished the small bottle of water and turned my head to throw it into the trash, the guy in front of me , who I had begun to pick up some ground on, apparently turned on the throttle. He was now out of my sight.
 
To the Finish:

I simply wanted to get to mile 11 because we would be repeating the first two miles of the race and therefore there would be no more unknown. Unfortunately part of the "known" was that we had more than a few rolling hills left to conquer. Here and there I would see Grey Flecks was gaining on Big Guy.  Looked like he would probably beat him in the end.  I, on the other hand, was just falling further behind. (Grey Flecks DID eke out a four second victory over Big Guy.  Would have loved to witness that finish!)

As I pushed forward feeling pretty good about myself I suddenly heard footsteps behind. I was shocked to see someone I hadn’t seen all day coming up to pass me. As there were a multitude of races going on at the same time, al lending in the same place and starting later than us, I thought perhaps he was in one of the shorter distances. As he moved by with ease I didn’t feel like I had much of an answer for him either way. But soon after passing me, he sat down about 20 yards in front of me and went no further. With about a mile left, I suddenly had a feeling that maybe he WAS in my race and perhaps I should attempt to pass him.

Unfortunately, I had too little real estate left when I decided to make that move. I closed the gap considerably but he ended up beating me by three seconds. I was pushing hard but not all out.  There was zero reason to hurt myself by doing some last second gasp to move up one place, if that was even the case. After finishing, I turned to him with a congratulatory fistbump and asked if he was in the half marathon.  He said yes and I said "Crap.". I almost never let someone past me in the latter stages of a race and here if I had simply known he actually racing me,I don’t think I would’ve let him either.  


All told, however, with the course conditions and me being the most unprepared I have been for virtually any race, I finished fairly decently. My time of 1:35:34 was not exactly what I was hoping for but was far better than it might’ve been for a variety of other reasons. I ended up seventh place overall and the only man or woman in the top 15 finishers who is over 40 years old. Not too bad for an out-of-shape old man who is just trying to get back to where he was racing a few years ago before the pandemic wrecked everyone's lives. 

This marks the first time I have ever run a half-marathon in Minnesota. In spite of the less-than-stellar time (only my 89th fastest out of 107) it will be memorable for me. It's my 30th state to knock out a half marathon in with a whole slew of them coming up soon. More importantly, this race helped shake off the rust and show me that while my training miles rarely impress, when it comes to race day, I almost always have more in the tank than I think.

While a bit tired the rest of the day and into the next, I was more than shocked to not be sore at all. Perhaps I have a few good races left in my after all!