Saturday, June 19, 2010

St. Croix Valley Runners

I ran with the St. Croix Valley Runners for 5 miles this morning.  They meet close to my house and now that I am running 8-9 minute miles I thought it was time.  They had a good turnout, about 10, and broke into three different groups.  I went with the slowest and was glad, I couldn't run much faster and still talk.  Usually they have more runners, but this weekend is Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, MN.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Gateway Trail from Stillwater, MN

The more I run the Gateway Trail the more I like it.  Today I ran while my kids biked, we did 4 miles.  They love it and I don't have to worry about cars.  They are learning trail manners and now consistently stay to the side, and today started to say "passing".  The downside is they are getting faster than I am, so I'm not sure how much longer I can keep up with them.

They are taking a nap now.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Gopher to Badger on Aug 14

I signed up for the Gopher to Badger Half Marathon on Aug 14.  The cost goes up July 1, so I figured I might as well register, plus you get a medal and shirt.  The Minnesota Pacers will have all kinds of pacers so I'm sure to find something (1:45 or 1:50).  The race follows some of the Stillwater Marathon course, only in the opposite direction and that means mostly downhill. 

Feeling Like a Runner

My birthday is coming up and my wife got me a Road ID.  She thought it would be a good idea to wear it on my backpacking trip along the Superior Hiking Trail (post here), so I got an early present.  I couldn't help but look at it as I hiked thinking that I must be a real runner now.  I have the shoes, shirts, shorts, gels, a race, and now the Road ID.  But it gets better. 

Since the weather is heating up I needed a way to carry water on runs.  I don't want to take a gel on every run, but need something to keep me going.  I did some blog searches to see what others are saying and settled on a Fuel Belt (the Helium 2-bottle belt).  I bought it from Great Race Nutrition* for $34 ($42 from the Fuel Belt website).  And free shipping since I bought some Hammer Gels and Recoverite. 
     * Overall Great Race has good prices and free shipping offers.

I have to say the Helium Fuel Belt works.  I ran 5 miles and it was a little odd at first, but I quickly got used to having it on.  I took sips every few miles, but the big bonus was my 4 yr old sons (on bikes) could also get a drink.  I never felt like I needed a gel, and the boys were much faster at miles 3, 4, and 5 than usual. 

Superior Hiking Trail

Instead of running this past weekend I went for a hike along the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT).  This was my first backpacking adventure in Minnesota.  It was far better than I thought.  Usually I backpack in California at Yosemite National Park, but this is not something I can do over a weekend.  So I found myself in the car at 5:30am on Saturday.   A great way to start the weekend with a beautiful sunrise and clear roads on the way to Duluth.

The trail is easily accessible from many spots along the highway.  So I had no problem finding a suitable route.  The day was overcast and cool, perfect for a long walk.  If you plan to do this, or any hike along the SHT, I recommend you get the Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail

I started from Silver Bay heading east.  Numerous campsites exist and the hiking is fairly easy, with only a few areas on rocks or with steep sections.  The views were non-existent on my hike out due to low clouds, but the vegetation was interesting and the trail never boring.  I camped at Kennedy Camp West, 13.4 miles from the car. 

The trail is very well marked, making it easy to follow.  I barely needed the map, but recommend you always take one.  Along the way I passed the Bean and Bear Lake loop trails.  Very popular day hikes with a side trail to Bear Lake.  It looked like Bear Lake would be great to swim in, but I didn't take the trail to the lake to explore.  I will however consider taking my kids here when they get older.  The trail passes into Tettegouche State Park and  Baptism High Falls, crossing the Baptism River on a suspension bridge.  The bridge uses one cable to keep it up, very cool looking. 

The next day was clear with great views.  I enjoyed the leisure walk back to the car and felt great.  Some pictures from Sunday.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Stillwater Marathon; My First Ever 13.1 race

The Stillwater Half Marathon was a big deal for me.  This was my first big race ever, and the longest.  Since I started running in Dec. 09 I thought 13.1 miles seemed doable.  So 4 days before the event I followed a strict meal plan (and managed to loose weight) and got up early on race day.  My race day breakfast was Special K with 1 kiwi and 1/2 a banana.  Shortly after that a peanut butter and jelly sandwich; followed by brushing my teeth, sticking on band-aids, applying Lanacane for chafing, and I was out the door.

Runners are not supposed to park in downtown Stillwater, so buses are provided from the High School to the starting area.  Getting a buss was no problem as they had 5 picking up people when I arrived.  As I came around the corner to get on a bus, the first person I saw was a friend from the gym.  Bill was running the 12K.  We sat and chatted on the bus and at the staging area.  It was good to have someone to pass the time with.  45 min before the race I had a PowerBar Triple Threat (30g Carbs and 10g Protein) and Accelerade.  I wanted something solid before the race, and knew if I was nervous the PowerBar would still go down easy, but talking with Bill kept the butterfly's away.

The pre-race staging area was great.  A long line of porta-potties was center stage, but behind them was the St. Croix River.  While waiting for the start I found a bench to relax on while watching the river flow by.  It was very calming.  After some light stretching I headed for the start.

I met Matthew Greeley, the 2 hour pacer for the half marathon.  He was a nice guy who had at least 5 people to pace.  After the crowd parted for a few last minute buses the starting ceremonies began.  At 7:04 the race started.  Race Map here.

Never having experienced thousands of people running together on a two lane road I thought the worst.  However, everyone was moving orderly and I had no problems.  The first aid station was near 2 miles and we lined up for a drink.  It was going to be a hot day and the pacers were telling everyone to drink.  I had water and a PowerBar Gel with electrolytes.  I went with an electrolyte gel because I wasn't sure if I'd like the sports drink and I didn't want to spill the sports drink on me and be all sticky for the race.  I had no problem getting water, taking one to drink and another to 1/2 drink, 1/2 pour down my back.  My first real aid station a total success!!

I forgot to mention when I was getting the gel out of my shorts I dropped it.  Everyone behind me jumped out of the way and I quickly retrieved it.  Sorry about that.

Miles 2, 3, and 4 went by easy and people chatted.  It was a pretty section but I wasn't looking or talking much.  I concentrated on relaxing and keeping a quick cadence.  We had some rolling hills that felt really good as my form feels much better on a slight incline.  I started to pull away from the pacer but pulled back for fear of going out to fast.  At the 4.5 mile aid station I took another PowerBar Gel and water.  No accidents this time, feeling good.

At this point I thought to myself:
a - I've been eating really good for 4 days
b - I've tapered for this race
c - This is a race and racing is fun
d - I have yet to fully utilize all my ChiRunning knowledge

So I checked my form and leaned a bit (from the ankles).  My speed increased but my perceived energy output stayed the same.  I made sure my hips were rotating and slowly I pulled away from the pace group. 
Mile 6  8:47 
Mile 7  8:22
Mile 8  8:25
Mile 9  8:04

I was feeling really good going into the aid station at mile 9.5.  I had overcome the hottest part of the race and now the shady streets of Stillwater awaited.  As I neared the aid station I noticed another pacer up ahead.  They would slow at the aid station and if I pushed it on the coming hills I could catch them.  What a challenge!!  So with renewed purpose I entered the aid station, walking like I did at the others.  I had one cup to drink, one to 1/2 drink and 1/2 on back (I think this kept me cool as the heat never bothered me) and what the heck, lets take one more as I run out.  That last one was a disaster. 

I was running as I tried to swallow and it went down wrong, I choked and coughed.  I burped and felt sick.  It took about two miles for the effects to wear off.  I was so out of it I missed the 10 mile marker, but still managed to keep miles 10 and 11 under 9 minutes (17:53 total). 

Crowd support was great with people yelling "Go Thompson!!" and I realize they see my name on the bib.  Then I hear go Mark and turn to see some of my wife's friends.  It gave me just the boost I needed to crest the last hill and coast to the finish.  I had my finishers medal put on by the mother of Jon Francis (whom the race is named after).   A bagel, banana, pretzels, Propel and I am done!

The raced ended at Pioneer Park.  A great spot with a view of the river and downtown Stillwater.  A cool breeze kept things nice and the wide open space let people stretch and cool down with friends and family (complete with a playground for the kids). 

Final time 1:53:38