It's a very slow process - two steps forward, one step back - but I'm inching in the right direction. - Rob Reiner

September 30, 2013

UMKC Regalia Run 5K - Go Roos!

This weekend was my 5th consecutive weekend of racing.  It really wasn't intentional, but sometimes it just works out that way I guess.  I will have one weekend "off" and then the Chicago Marathon!  A 5K doesn't really fit well into a marathon training plan, especially during taper, but I couldn't resist this one.
Me doing a very bad baby kangaroo impression

The University of Missouri Kansas City (better known as UMKC) is where I completed my graduate degree (MBA).  And while I guess I couldn't technically call it my Alma Mater, (which is Morehead State), it is my graduate school Alma Mater, so it still holds a special place.  When I saw that the UMKC Alumni Association was putting on an inaugural UMKC Regalia Run 5K as part of Founders Week, well I felt compelled to do it to support my school.  Plus, I thought it would be really cool to have a running shirt from my school. 

Shirt and finisher's tassel

The UMKC Mascot is the Kangaroo (Go Roos!), which is a rather unusual school mascot.  Only one other school has a Kangaroo mascot.  The original image of Kasey the Kangaroo was actually penned by the very famous Kansas City native Walt Disney, which is super cool!

My marathon  training plan called for 12 miles this weekend, which just seemed like too few.  So, I had decided I would run 14 on Saturday and then the 5K Sunday.  Mother Nature had other plans for me on Saturday however.  We were expecting rain and storms late Saturday morning, so I got up early and started my run at 6am.  I thought I would beat the storms (as they weren't supposed to start until about 11 am), but right at mile 12 as I was heading toward my house the skies opened up and the storms started.  I ran about the last .25 mile of my run in light rain, but I knew much worse was coming.  So I decided to call it a day.  12 miles was the original plan anyway.  I guess someone decided I needed to stick with that plan.  My 12 miler was great though! 

I guess you could call this the "during race" dance
On Sunday morning, the storms had moved through and brought with them much cooler temperatures.  It was right about 50 degrees, sunny and no wind.  Pretty perfect day for a 5K!  Since I have a major race in two weeks, I didn't want to do anything stupid on Sunday.  I had decided I would try to run a strong race - I didn't want to run/walk the 5K or anything, but that I wouldn't try to kill myself and set a PR or anything.

There would have been no chance of a PR on this course anyway.  This is probably the hilliest 5K I've ever done.  I knew it would be because it was around the campus, and I knew how hilly campus was.  I thought I would be happy with about an 11-11:30 minute pace effort. 

The race starts on a nice little downhill....problem's an out and back course, so you know that means you will be finishing on a nice little uphill.  The first 3/4 of a mile is downhill, with just one small uphill.  It was easy to run this fairly fast, but I tried to pace myself.  My first mile was a 10:09 pace.  I was happy with that, it wasn't nearly as fast as my PR and it was downhill, which meant I wasn't killing it.  The pace felt relatively easy.  But then comes the climb.  For pretty much the entire next mile you are climbing uphill.  It does flatten out for a bit, but it's tough.  You then get a little nice downhill break, only to finish on that 3/4 mile climb to the finish.  Miles 2 and 3 were 10:45 and 10:52.  I crossed the finish line in 31:58, which was a 10:17 pace, but honestly the race was just a little short of a 5K.  My Garmin said 3.02 miles, so my Garmin pace was a 10:35 which was a little more accurate.

Elevation Chart - very hilly 5K
The race was handing out tassels at the finish line. I have to say this was my first race tassel.  I was a little disappointed that it didn't have the race logo or anything.  I honestly think they were just some left over graduation tassels.  Oh well.
Me with my finisher tassel

I ended up being 6th in my age group out of 16 - which is a really high placement for me.  I was also 98 out of 199 overall, which is just about average....which is really all I ever want to be :)  The race is small with just around 200 runners.  This race was great though and actually let me know how far I've come as a runner.  This time last year, that time would have been pretty close to my PR.  Don't get me wrong, I was pushing myself, but it was certainly not a PR effort, and on a hilly course like this, and having ran 12 miles the day before.  It felt great to have a time like!  Even a year ago, I know I would have had to stop and walk up those hills.  Yes, my pace slowed considerably on the hills, but it never even crossed my mind to stop and walk.  OK, that's a lie, it crossed my mind - it would have been magical to stop, but there was just no need.

Jim had come with me to the race to get in a few recovery miles.  He ran beside me for a little while and took some pictures which was nice.  It was really just another great weekend of running.

I'm officially in taper mode now and Chicago is just a mere 13 days away!  I'm seriously getting excited!!

September 24, 2013

Fox Valley Fall Final 20 Miler - A Perfect "Warm up"

Shortly after we registered for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, I began looking for races.....any races, that I could use as part of my long training runs.  With a few clicks of the mouse I found the Fox Valley Marathon.  They had a half marathon, full marathon, and wait for it.....a 20 mile run!
Jim & I hanging with the Foxes
They actually call it the "perfect dress rehearsal for your fall marathon".  The timing couldn't have been more perfect.  Looking at my schedule I noticed that gee my training schedule called for  exactly 20 miles that weekend.  I called Jim and begged  asked him if he would like to make the 8 hour drive to St Charles, Illinois for this race so I wouldn't have to do another lonely 20 mile run and he gladly obliged.

Leading up to this race I had done several long runs: 18 once, and 20 twice.  However, all of my runs center around my house.  I will stop by the house 2 to 3 times on a long run to refill water bottles, go to the restroom, and when it was super hot - change clothes.  While I was certainly still getting the miles in, I was getting little "mini breaks" by stopping by the house, so I was excited to get in 20 solid miles in a race format.  Plus bonus - supported run, medal and t-shirt!

Race weekend arrived and the forecast called for PERFECTION.  After months and months of running in the sweltering heat and humidity and long runs ending with temps in the 90s, race morning weather was supposed to be in the mid 40s at the start and mid 60s at the finish with no wind and beautiful sunny skies.  The forecast held true, and we had just about the most perfect weather you could ask for on race day.  While it did get a tad warm toward the end, you couldn't complain at all.  Sure, would it be great for mid 50s the entire race?....yes, but it was still beautiful!

Jim and I were up early and headed to the race.  I decided on capris and a t-shirt with arm warmers.  It was chilly at about 42 or 43 degrees in the morning.  We hadn't seen temps that low since late Spring.  I had brought a throw away long sleeve shirt, so I put that on.  I was perfectly comfortable and even though I had also brought some throw away gloves I didn't need them.  We got to the race early because we both wanted to get in some warm up miles (I was hoping to get in a total of 22 miles for the day).  But of course, with the several porta potty stops prior to the race I didn't have time to do much of a warm-up but I did manage to run 1 mile before the race started.
Sun coming up over the local businesses along the Fox River

Some Ducks and Flowers by the Fox River
The race is a decent size with about 3500 runners in all events - but it runs along a very narrow trail along the river, so to ease congestions they start about 100 runners every few seconds.  The race started at 7:00 am, but by the time I started it was already 7:20.  I wish I had known it would take so long and I might have went ahead and ran that extra mile...oh well.

The race/training run finally started and I felt terrific!  It was so nice and cool and it was just beautiful.  St Charles is a quaint little city full of charm.  It was easy to get caught up in everything and I found myself easily flying through my first mile at around an 11:30 pace.  While this isn't super fast or anything, all of my previous long runs I've averaged around a 13:20 to 13:30 pace.  I knew I was going to have to rein it in, or it was going to make for a long day later.  I hit mile 2, and again I was around an 11:30.  That's when I knew I had to slow down.  This wasn't a half marathon, this was 20 miles, if I didn't slow down now I'd be hurting at the end. 
One of the many bridges and views of the Fox River
I did slow down and managed to ease into about a 12:30 per mile pace.  Running just felt easy.  Before I knew it I was already at mile 10 and still feeling strong.  I kept wondering when it was going to start getting hard, but I knew it would come.  Other than the first few miles, almost the entire race is run along a well paved trail along the Fox River.  It really was gorgeous.  It was shaded almost the entire way.  There were beautiful homes along the river, you ran by a fabulous Japanese Garden, and you ran through another quaint little town named Batavia, IL which was once the windmill manufacturing capital of the world.  I thought the scenery was just beautiful.  Crowd support along the course was somewhat sparse, but when you did have spectators they were terrific.  I thought the volunteers were awesome and all the water stops were well stocked and supported.
Some of the windmill art in Batavia

My only issue with the race at all was that the course kind of weaved in and out multiple times and you were also with different sets of racers at different times.  While it was well marked and there were generally people there to guide you, I found myself constantly second guessing and wondering if I was on the right route.  They had colored arrows that matched your bib color along the course as well - blue for the marathon, orange for the 20, and green for the half.  At one point I looked down and only saw one blue arrow...crap had I done something wrong?  This was at about mile 7.5.  I saw marathoners coming, but no one had an orange bib (keep in mind there were only 330 twenty milers compared to 1500 or so marathoners).  I asked someone if I had missed the turn and he said Yes, he thought I had...crap.  I started running backwards when I saw a few more orange bibs heading my way.  I asked, "are we going the right way" and pointed at the blue arrow, but they said we were on the right path so I kept going.  Thank goodness!
More beauty along the trail
There were a couple more times that I just didn't have a 100% confidence I was going the right way, but I never got lost.  In order to get in the different distances, I know they had to do some of the weird route changes, but it was easy to get confused.  However, other than one location, anytime there was a route split they had volunteers there to point the way.  It was really just me worrying about it more than anything. 
Another beautiful River view
Anyway, I continued running and still felt great.  I was averaging around a 12:30 or so pace, when finally around mile 16, I started feeling like I was losing a little steam.  I slowed down my pace for a couple of miles.  Miles 16 and 17 were my two slowest of the race with paces in the 13s (my normal for a run of this distance).  But when I reached 18, I was feeling refreshed and picked up the pace again with those last 3 miles in the 12s and actually mile 20 was a 12:02 pace - my 5th fastest mile of the race.

I rounded the final corner and could hear the crowds cheering.  Just as I was making the turn to the final stretch, a man on the sidelines just started screaming "Go Michael, Go Michael"!  It was pretty cool.  I don't know if he was doing that for everyone (probably) but for just a second I felt special and it gave me that final push to the end.

Japanese Garden along the trail
I crossed the finish line in 4:08:09 a 12:24 pace.  I had put in 21 miles for the day, and my pace was over a minute per mile faster than my last 20 mile run.  I would be lying if I said I wasn't tired at the end, I was.  I couldn't have kept that pace for 5 more miles, but I sure could have finished 5 more miles that day.  This race was a HUGE confidence builder.  After the race I felt ready for Chicago, really ready.

I know I ran this a little too fast....I mean while it was a "race" it was meant to be a training run.  The weather was cooler and it was also much, much flatter than the runs I usually do.  I'm a little more sore afterwards than I'd like to be, but it was such a perfect day it was hard to slow down the pace when it just felt so good.  I just hope I didn't do anything stupid that would impact my "real' race day here in a few weeks. 

After I crossed the finish line I found Jim and found out that he had won the Masters Division of the 20 miler!  It had been a GREAT day for both of us!  
Jim & I post race

After the race we showered, ate some lunch and headed home for the long, miserable car ride.  I have to say it was truly the worst ride ever.  After such a wonderful day it really put a damper on things.  Nothing is worse than running 21 miles, and then hopping in a car for 8+ hours.  We had been up since around 4 am...and got home around midnight.  It was rough.  When we finally crawled in bed, I could hardly straighten my legs out they were so tight.  We had stopped to stretch often on the way home, but it was still far from ideal recovery.

Oh well, we had fun and it was totally worth it!

Have you ever done a 20 Mile Run Before?  Or done a race as a training run, that you maybe ran a little too fast?  Or jumped in the car for an 8 hour drive after a long run?

September 16, 2013

Plaza 10K - A New PR!

Plaza 10K Start

Way back in April I signed up for the Plaza 10K.  I was at the Rock the Parkway expo and they had a booth.  You could register for really cheap and be entered in a giveaway for a $100 Plaza Gift card, so it seemed like the thing to do.

Fast forward a few months and I might not have made the same decision.  This ended up being my 3rd consecutive race weekend (which will end up being 5 weekends when it's all said and done).  I had just done a 20 mile training run (half marathon + 7 miles) the Sunday before so this was supposed to be a "recovery" week.  My training plan called for 12 miles.  Knowing I had the 10K on Sunday, I decided to do 8 miles on Saturday and then the 10K Sun.  I probably could have done the 12 miles Saturday, but I wanted to leave a little something in the tank for the race and I figured 8 miles, plus 6 hard miles over the course of two days would sort of be the equivalent of 12.

Sun coming up over Brush Creek
Anyway, as you know I have been doing the run/walk method for my marathon training.  My ratio is run 4 minutes, walk 1 minute.  This works well to get me through those long runs, but I think it also makes me a little bit of a "lazy" runner.  When I go out to do my shorter runs during the week I try not to run/walk, but find myself needing the breaks because my body is used to them.  My times lately have been terrible, but I try not to get discouraged and realize that I am training for a marathon right now, not a shorter distance race.

So, to say I wasn't PR ready is an understatement.  I knew my legs would be a bit tired from the 8 miles the day before, and I really had not planned to try to PR.  But I had decided that I wanted to run the race pretty hard.  Like I said above, I've been doing a lot of slow running, and I hadn't been pushing myself much, so I figured this was a good way to get in some miles and a "speed" workout at the same time.  I needed to push myself a little.  My goal was to finish around an 11:30 or so pace.

Race morning arrived and we had cooler weather - thank goodness.  My previous long run had temps in the upper 80s.  Race morning was not hot, but wasn't exactly cool either.  It was 71 at race start with humidity around 70%, but considering what we'd been dealing with for the last several weeks it was a welcome break.
Me & Sporting KC mascot

We got to the race and I was surprised by the number of people.  This is really just a 10K race, but they do also have a 2 mile run and a kids race.  There were over 3,000 people in the 10K - 418 finishers in my age group alone!  The race course really is beautiful as it runs around the gorgeous Kansas City Plaza and other well known spots.  It's also...mostly....flat, though it has one major hill that caused me some issues.

After spending 25 minutes in the porta potty line, it was literally time to race.  I ran from the porta potty straight to the start line.  Within just a few minutes we were off.  The first 4 miles of this race are mostly flat to downhill and I immediately found myself running at a pretty good pace.  Mile one went by very quickly and I looked down to see a 10:25 pace.  Hmmm....could I hold that?  I decided then I would try.  I knew right after mile 4 would come the long hill, so I would try to hold around a 10:30 pace for those first few miles.  My PR was a 10:41 (on my Garmin...a 10:50 official) so I knew I'd probably need to be around 10:30ish to PR.  I hadn't planned on PRing, but maybe I could.

Steady climb from mile 4 to 5, not my strong suit
I was really pushing it those next three miles, but was very consistent with a 10:29, 10:30, 10:29 pace for miles 2, 3 and 4.  And then right about mile four starts a gradual one mile climb (just under 100 feet of elevation climb).  It really isn't that big of a climb, but I'm not s strong hill climber and so it felt like it went on forever.  I just kept telling myself to take it easy and then I would finish strong at mile 6.  I finally finish mile 5 at a 10:59 pace - 30 seconds slower than my previous 4 miles.  And after that I was pretty spent....there was no real strong finish - I was hoping to be back in the 10:30s again, but I finished off mile 6 with a 10:53 - a little faster, but not as fast as it should have been.  I pushed it a little for the last .25, but I didn't have much left.  I ended up finishing with an official time of, 1:06:14 - a pace of 10:39, and a 1 minute and 11 second PR!

Pretty consistent pace until the hill

I found Jim and guess what - he had a 1 minute and 11 second PR too!  What a coincidence!  We both had PRs so it was a great day!  I think I have a much faster 10K time in me if I'm not training for a marathon, but time will tell I suppose.  I would love to do this race again next year and see how I do.
Me & Jim post race, both celebrating new PRs.

Stained Glass medal...pretty cool
There aren't very many 10K races around KC, and this one is definitely the premier 10K in Kansas City.  I would highly recommend it to anyone who lives in the area.  You got a great medal that would rival most marathon medals and an awesome gender specific vintage style technical tee.  Post race was pretty average, with a few bagels and some yogurt, but overall it was a great race and a great day.
Medal & Shirt


Up next:  Fox Valley 20 Mile race.  This will be my last really long run before Chicago and will hopefully give me a good idea of what I can do come race day.

Did anyone else PR this weekend???  Or at least just have some cooler weather? 

September 10, 2013

A 20 Mile Half Marathon - Broadway Bridge Race Report

As part of my Chicago Marathon training (which is a mere 5 weeks away), I had a 22 mile run scheduled this weekend.  I normally do my long runs on Saturday so I have Sunday to recover.  Both Saturday and Sunday were expected to be at or near 100 degrees here in KC so I knew I had to get up early to get my run in; which meant getting up at 4am and out the door no later than 5am for a long, long run.  When you are slow like me a 20+ mile run is going to be in the neighborhood of four and a half hours.  

Anyway, Jim and I were going to the Royals game Friday night, so I knew getting up early Saturday morning would be tough, so I decided to move my run to Sunday.  I won't lie, with the heat I was seriously dreading this run.  It would be by myself, it would be long, and it would be hot.  But, as luck would have it....well maybe luck, there was a half marathon in downtown KC on Sunday.  I thought, if I could get up early enough, I could get in around 5 to 7 miles before the race and then finish up my run with the half marathon.  I knew I'd be shy a few miles of my original goal of 22, but in the heat....I would be happy with anything between 18 to 20 miles.  Yes, there would be a small break between the miles, but I would live with that too.

The Broadway can already tell how intense the sun was at 7:30 am

So, on a whim I decided to sign up for the Broadway Bridge Half Marathon the next day.  This is a race I had never done before, and knew nothing about.  Of course same day registration was a bit steep and Jim commented that it was an "expensive long run", but at the end of the day I would (hopefully) at least get a shirt and a medal and I would also have people and aid stations set up for me...something I would not get on a 20 mile run in my neighborhood.  I did end up with both a shirt and medal though they weren't guaranteed..the race was sold out.

So, on Sunday morning, I got up at 3:40 am.  I got a few things around and then went for a 5 mile run in my neighborhood.  I came straight in the door and got in the car and Jim drove me to the lovely City Market area in Kansas City (about 30 minutes away).  I quickly found registration and got registered and then began running again.  The plan was to run until the race started.  I ended up with almost 2 miles before the race start - which was great.  I knew I'd get in right at 20 miles for the day - perfect. 

Really weird picture for some reason

When I started the race I was already dripping with sweat.  I had ran about 2 miles at a 13 minute pace, but it was already 81 degrees and over 80% humidity (at 7am).  I was in for a long 13 miles.  I tried to snap a picture of my sweaty self which didn't turn out, so these guys behind me offered to take one.  I don't know why, but it came out really weird.  I think I look like a bobble head.  I don't know if it was the angle or what, but my head looks huge and my shoulders and torso look oddly small.  Oh well.

This is a "runners" half marathon, as walkers are not encouraged.  You have to maintain a 14 minute pace, which I thought I could do, but knew I'd be at the back of the pack.  I've been averaging about a 13:30 pace on my long runs.  I'm hoping with cooler weather I'm going to do a little better than this, but we shall see.  I'll be pretty disappointed if my 2nd marathon is slower than my first (it was a 13:32 pace).  Anyway, within the first mile, it became clear to me there wouldn't be too many runners around me, which was disappointing as that was part of the reason for doing the race.  The first five miles of the race weren't bad.  You go across the "Broadway Bridge" which has a little incline, and then run around the Charles Wheeler Downtown airport which is pretty flat, but there was little to no shade and I was feeling the heat really bear down.

Heading back across the Broadway Bridge and into downtown

I managed to average about a 12:30 pace for those first 5 miles, which was probably too fast.  It was hard to look at this as cumulative miles and not "just a half marathon".  But really, by mile 5, I was already at mile 12.  After you come back across the Broadway Bridget, you head into downtown Kansas City, and they routed you through some serious hills.  It was mean. Really....didn't they know the mileage I had already put in?  It was hot, hot, and I mean hot, and it was hills, hills, and then more hills.  By mile 11 (18) I was pretty much toast.  All I could think about was just being done.  It was getting hotter by the minute and there was almost no shade at all.

The hills were never ending those last 7 miles.  Almost 700 feet of elevation gain for the race, and almost all of it at the end.
I had learned my lesson the prior weekend at Women Rock Minnesota to bring my own water.  And luckily I did.  I refilled my fuel belt at every water stop, and was almost always out by the time I got to the next water stop.  I don't think I could have made it with just water stops.  And this is one of my biggest BEEFS with races.  When it's hot.......increase your ice!!!!  There was no ice at a single stop, and all of the water and Gatorade was luke warm to hot.  Nothing is more refreshing when it's 90 degrees than a nice hot cup of water.  Ok, sorry had to go off on that rant.  It seems to happen more often than not.

After the hills, and more hills the last mile was mostly downhill...with of course a little hill just for fun.  I finally crossed the finish line in 2:57, my worst half marathon time ever...but I had to remind myself it truly wasn't a half marathon - it was a 20 mile run.  The pace for my half was 13:25, and my overall pace for the 20 miles was 13:16, so honestly not bad for such a hot day (for me).  I'm not sure what the exact temperature was when I finished, but it was right around the 90 degree mark.  Too hot to be running.
The plus side of the race is you did get to see lots of great KC sites.

Sprint Center and downtown

Cool Downtown shot

Liberty Memorial (WW I Memorial & Museum)
I found Jim after the race and walked around a little bit to get my heart rate down, but I was ready to go home.  But first, all I really wanted was a GIANT soda.  I found one and it was the most amazing thing I had ever had.  So cold, with lots of ice and carbonation.  It was truly magical.

Have you ever done a race as part of a long run before?  This was my first time.  Did you feel like it was hard to remember the race was really not a race? 

Anyone else out there training for a fall marathon or half marathon and have this late heat wave to deal with?  I'm sooooo ready for fall!

September 05, 2013

Women Rock Minnesota - Race and Vacation

If you want to know how to have a fantastic girls weekend, but a crappy race...well then you are in on.  If you want to know how to PR a half marathon....go find another blog.
Michelle, Meredith and I (all together again)

Several months ago I begged, pleaded and begged some more to get together a group of girls for a girls weekend and race.  You would think this would be a simple task, but getting people to commit to something a few months in advance is tough.

Finally, my good friends Michelle and Meredith agreed to do the Women Rock Minnesota Half Marathon with me in lovely St. Paul, Minnesota.  Michelle and Meredith were also my two Disney marathon pals - where we all finished our very first marathons.  So it was fun to reunite.

Women Rock Minnesota has several awesome things going for it:
  • An all women's race
  • An awesome finishers jacket
  • A ruby and diamond finishers pendant
  • A wine glass filled with champagne (or sprite) awaiting you at the finish line
  • Oh yea, and hot shirtless men handing out your pendants at the end of the race...but I wasn't interested in that.  I'm married to my own hottie :)

Jacket - pretty sweet
In addition to the great race swag, the Minneapolis/St Paul area has so much to offer:
  • The Mall of America (need I say more)
  • The Minnesota Twins and Vikings
  • Terrific Restaurants and Bars
  • Beautiful scenery and just an overall lively atmosphere
  • And all just a 6.5 hour drive from Kansas City
Michelle back the car up at least a half mile on the highway so we could get this picture

We left late Wednesday night and drove to Des Moines, Ia.  We didn't get to the hotel until 11 pm and of course we stayed up chatting until after midnight.  I knew already I was going to be in for a long, but fun weekend.  Of course what would three runners do but set the alarms for 4:45 am so we could get up and get in a few miles in the am.  Well...we did set the alarms, but when they went off we were just way to tired to actually do it.  We reset alarms for 6am and then got up and around....we were still dragging, that's for sure.

We had to get up early because, as chance would have it, our beloved Kansas City Royals were playing the Minnesota Twins in a day game at noon.  So off we headed to the baseball game.  Traffic was a bear and we ended up a little late to the game.  We got there in the 2nd inning and the Royals were already up 2 to 0.  Little did we know that would be the most action in the game.  The Royals ended up scoring one more run in the 2nd inning and won the game 3 to 1.  Minnesota is North and gets tons and tons of snow.  I was totally expecting the weather to be cooler than in was in KC, but no luck.  The sun was high in the sky without a cloud in sight.  The temperature was well over 95 in the shade with humidity over 80%.  To say it was hot, is an understatement.  It was easily above 100 degree "feels like" temp.  When we arrived, a girl behind us said "welcome ladies, it's nice and cool out here" - we looked at her and she absolutely looked like she was melting - like the Wicked Witch melting.  Our seats were directly in the sun, not an ounce of shade anywhere.  Within 10 minutes we were all sweating buckets.  The game was fun, and by the last inning we managed to find some seats in the helped but the damage was done.

When we 1st go down

Within a few minutes....all hair up

Anyone sensing a pattern sleep, keeps getting better.

After the game we headed to a local Pub to cool off and wait for Michelle's friend who lives in the area.  Finally around 5 or 6 we checked into our hotels and showered.  Ahhh....that shower never felt so good.  I think we all had about 6 pounds of wet sweaty clothes on.  Michelle went to dinner with her friend and Meredith and I headed into a cute little area full of restaurants in St Paul.  It was walking distance from our hotel (just under a mile) so we walked.  In the distance you could see this beautiful old church, as well as the Capitol building.  It was really cool.  After a hot day all I could think about was eating something cold.  So we both got the most awesome spinach salads.  It might sound blah but it was amazing.  So fresh and perfect.  Then we topped it off with dessert - of course - some kind of chocolate mousse tower and raspberry cheesecake.  Oh, best stuff EVER!!!  We finally got back to our room around 9 and waited up for Michelle.  Again, more talking and chatting and going to bed late...again.  I'm not used to staying up late - I am in bed most nights by 9:30.

The cool night

And in the day

Again....seeing the pattern....eating, eating, and eating, and walking and walking and not sleeping.

The next morning we did what anyone who has a race the next day would do.  We went shopping.  And not just any shopping.  I'm talking Mall of America Shopping (the 2nd largest mall in the United States and the most visited with over 40 million visitors annual).  It's four stories of shopping heaven.  We walked and shopped for over 6 hours and didn't make a dent in the stores.  We would have loved to have stayed longer, but we had to get to the expo to pick up packets and then make 6:15 dinner reservations.  Our feet and legs were so dead.

Did someone say shopping?

So, a super quick stop by the hotel to change and freshen up and then back out the door for the expo and more walking.  We drove the few blocks to the expo, but walked to dinner.   The expo was smaller than I expected.  The race has over 7500 women in the half marathon, 10K, and 5K and they said there were 90 vendors, but it seemed like to me there were only a handful of booths.....maybe we missed part of the expo?? 

When I registered for this race - several months ago I pre-purchased a Women Rock Tank Top.  When I got to the expo, I was told they "sold out" of tank tops.  I had to go stand in a ridiculously long "gear exchange" line to get my money back.  This was seriously frustrating.  How can you sell out of something I purchased months ago?  Wouldn't you just order exactly what was purchased?  Or if you had only purchased a certain amount - why would I be allowed to order one?  And why couldn't you just give me a credit - why did I have to stand in line FOREVER.  So Michelle and Meredith got to enjoy the expo while I stood in line.  I was not happy about this part at all.  Oh well, like I said, there wasn't much at the expo anyway.

We walked to dinner and had some awesome Italian at Louis Restaurant.  A family restaurant in St Paul for 102 years.  There specialty was Italian sausage, I was not brave enough to get something spicy like that before a race, but Meredith threw caution to the wind and ordered it.  I stuck with spaghetti and meatballs, which were delicious.  Meredith said the sausage was great...I didn't even try it.
Pre-race meal at Louis

We finally crawled in bed around 11 or so and set our alarms for 5 am.  I was completely exhausted.  This race was definitely going to be "for fun".  That was ok, that's what we were here for. 

5 am came way to early, but we were up and getting ready for race day.  It was a balmy 75 degrees and humid.  I knew it was going to be hot, so I had brought my hydration belt with me so I could have water whenever I wanted it.  Race morning came and once I put on my hydration belt, my belt for my phone and my bib# I felt like I just had too much stuff on.  I decided to leave the hydration belt and just get water at the water stops (mistake).

I probably shouldn't show this..but in the pre-race dance tradition....our best Miley Cyrus impression

Much better

Our hotel was just under a mile away from the finish line festival, gear check, etc so we walked.  It was just under a mile to "gear check".  We dropped off Michelle's bag and then walked another 3 or 4 blocks to the shuttle (start and end are at different points).  We waited just a couple of minutes for the shuttle and then were off for what seemed like a 15 or 20 minute trip.  We finally got off the bus and all of us needed to pee.  We were told the start was another half mile.  It was already 7:15 and we were freaking out a little bit.  We had left our hotel at 6:15 thinking that would give us plenty of time.  We found porta pottys and were finally in line for the race about 7:28.  There wasn't much time to spare for the 7:30 start time...well it ends up there was.  The race started about 10 or 15 minutes late.  They said you had to be on the last shuttle at 7:15 - but there was no way the people on that shuttle would have made it to the start at 7:30.  The race was kind of a logistical mess I thought - and really what's the point of having a gear bag if it's back at the finish line and not with you.  They should definitely have the gear drop at the start line.  It would eliminate an extra stop in the morning and would be better for people who wanted to have jackets or whatever with them.

Finally the race started.  I have been training for my marathon with a 4 minute run/1 minute walk, but for this race I thought I'd do 10 minutes run and 1 minute walk.  I started running and could immediately tell my legs were dead.  I was just so tired, but I was running ok.  I started just behind the 2:30 pace group, hoping my end time would be somewhere between 2:30 and 2:35.  Within the first mile I couldn't keep up with them - even though I was averaging an 11:18 pace (a 2:30 is an 11:26 pace).  I lost them early and never saw them again.  It was hot, and I was sweating within the first mile.  About mile two you finally see a water stop coming up....but what it's blocked off by a line of people and a sign saying - it's for the turnaround.  Not reason it couldn't have been a water stop on the way out and back.  In the heat, this was really, really dumb.  Finally at almost mile 3 you get to your first water stop.  I was kicking myself for not wearing my hydration belt.  The water stops were few and far between.  What makes it worse is they sent out an e-mail a couple of days before the race and said due to the heat they were adding water and going to have cold sponges on route.  There were no sponges.  One girl around mile eleven even said to me "where are those sponges they promised".  Anyway, I did pretty well until about mile 10.  I had maintained my 10 minute run/1 minute walk and was averaging an 11:25 pace overall.  But then I had to go to the bathroom.  I stopped for a porta potty break right around mile 10.  It was so HOT in there I couldn't wait to get out.  We had been lucky to have shade for about the first 8 miles of the course, but this stretch was full sun.  When I exited the porta potty the wheels just feel off.  I suddenly felt exhausted, extremely overheated and the next leg of the race seemed to go uphill forever.  My pace over the last 3 miles averaged between 13 and 14 minutes.  When I finally got near the finish line I didn't have a sudden burst of energy...I just wanted to be done.  I finally crossed the finish line in 2:37:56.  Not so great, but oh well.

Some "hot" shirtless man handed me my necklace and I went to find Michelle and Meredith.  I had intended to get a picture with man and pendant, but was just too tired to pull out my phone.  We got to the finish line festival and had one group pic taken together with shirtless men and then found our respective glasses of champagne and sprite.  Before long we were packing it up and heading straight home to KC.

Cheers to a great weekend!

It was a long and exhausting weekend but it was so much fun.  The race has terrific swag, but in my opinion still has some bugs to work out.  That said I would recommend it.  I think the weather would typically be nice for a race in Minnesota this time of year.  The course was pretty blah with not much to see, but you did have nice shade for the first 8 miles. 

Have you ever done an all Women's Race?  Or have you ever received jewelry instead of a finishers medal?  Have you ever totally blown off a race because you were having too much fun on the trip?