Race Day: Saturday, June 20, 2015 – 7:45am

Another Grandma’s weekend is in the books. This is where it all started and Grandma’s and the Gary Bjorkland Half Marathon hold a special place in my heart and my legs. This year, during my second road marathon, I shaved 9 minutes off of my time last year for 2:48. I trained for faster, I can run a road marathon faster, but a huge PR is a huge PR no matter what way you look at it, and I am happy with the results!

A few months ago, I wanted to prioritize my race schedule to get a better perspective on things. That’s the type-A triathlete shining through, I guess! Ironman Madison is first priority, of course, then Chisago half-iron, then Grandma’s, then Buffalo, then scattered smaller races and anything else I can jump into. With two triathlons in front of Grandma’s, I think I maybe skewed my training program a little more bike heavy than run heavy. In the months leading up to Grandma’s, I think I slowly tapered off of running compared to the volume I was putting in in March and April and did a little more biking and swimming. Also, I feel like I edged back from “frinjury” (my hybrid word for being on the fringe of injury), and wanted to feel healthy on the run over being that much more fit. Compared to my training partner Nick, either he got faster or I plateaued off a little bit. Trail racing in early May, anyways, I was a bit closer to him than the early June races. Plateau? Who knows. But looking at the logs, my long runs were spotty and weekly volume was slightly down. Also, I put an emphasis on early season tris… Grandma’s was the third weekend of racing in a row. Did that have any negative effect on my energy levels for a marathon? Hard to say.

I tried a different training plan after reading an article on the internet. Renato Canova trains his elite athletes by having them run real long and fast – “specific endurance”. I thought that this may be a fun, albeit perhaps a little risky, method of training, so I adopted a training program. Based off of last year’s training, I figured if I could do my daily hour jog, plus two hour long run every week, plus speed work in the form of NMTC Wednesday trail race series, then doing four “Canova workouts” would put me on track for a massive PR. Doing some estimation, I figured that I could run a 2:43 if I nailed four Canova workouts, spaced around a month apart, in increasing distances, all at 6:15 pace (race pace for a 2:43). In February, 12 miles at 6:15 pace. In March, 15 miles at 6:15 pace. In April, 18 miles, and in May, I’d do 21 miles at goal pace. Each workout went pretty well. Besides the very first 12 miler, which was right on pace and pretty much perfect, each Canova workout had some minor flubs (off pace slightly, had to poop, dropped out a half mile, bumped the 21 down to 20 miles). However, I recovered from each workout pretty well and felt good about my effort. I felt confident that each Canova workout was setting me up perfectly for a 2:43.

Grandma’s weekend is always hectic. Duluth Running Co. is always super busy, and in the past, it’s all hands on deck at the marathon expo, which we staff from 5-9pm plus all day setup on Thursday, then around 9am-10pm on Friday. Standing all day on the concrete floor is not the best pre-race ritual. It’s always very draining and stressful! This year, though, we put more into the store, and I was at the shop. The hours weren’t much different, but it was a little more laid back and I didn’t feel as drained by the end.

On race morning, I woke up and did the ritual. Mountain Dew, a little foam rolling, a bit of cereal and got everything together. The weather was looking dicey. Thunderstorms, swirling winds, and the occasional downpour was forecasted. It was cloudy as Kyle, Stacie, Nick and I left for the University of Minnesota-Duluth to take the bus out to Two Harbors.

We were joking around on the bus and everybody was ready to race. When we arrived, it was raining. I had a garbage bag on my body and a plastic bag on my head. After dropping my drop bag off, we all stood in line for the bathrooms for a long time. It got very nerve-wracking when with 5 minutes until race time, we were still in line. With about 2 minutes until 7:45, I got my chance and did my business as hastily as possible. Then, I hopped a snow fence and ran in the ditch to get near the front. I started the race in between the 3:15 and 3:05 pace groups… not ideal, but Nick preaches to go slow the first two miles. I wanted to hit 6:15 every single mile.

Weaving through people, I hit my first mile at 6:51. Ok, time to crank it up, I thought. Luckily, while making my way through the crowds, I hit miles 2 and 3 at 6:15 on the nose for each one. Just hold that pace and I’ll be in the cut! Clicking off miles, I was pretty much on track at the 10k mark. My pace was around 6:18 on average, so I went under goal pace for a few and almost equalized the slow first mile. Also, I was feeling good and fresh and had good form. I remember thinking that it was good that I got that 10k done first, and now it’s just 20 more miles to go.

I think it was mile 9 that was a little slow. I don’t know why, but I came in a bit behind after clicking off some great miles up the shore. Onto mile 10, I felt a fart coming on and knew that I could definitely poop. My worst fear, as I had some pooping issues on a lot of long runs and a few of my Canova workouts even. Maybe that’s a diet thing… Either way, I saw a toilet ahead and decided that I could probably poop fast at this point and that if it was empty, I’d go for it. It was, and I did. It was a quick poop, but resulted in a second slower mile in a row. I think I set my poop PR, too, with a sub 60 second dumper.

At mile 10, I calculated that I needed to be at 1:02:30 or so. My watch read 1:04:04 as I split it. I can make it up, though, I thought. All it takes is a few 6:10 minute miles and I’ll be back on track… plenty of real estate. Going into the half, I was over two minutes off.

After the half mark, I got into a nice groove and started to really micromanage the race. Once I get into Lakeside past Brighton Beach, that’s when the race really gets good, I thought. I was clicking off some good fast miles and next thing I know I can see the merger onto London Road. At this point, perhaps mile 18 or 19, I was feeling a little bit sore. Things were starting to crop up, but I felt strong regardless. I know my calves were getting yoked, but my feet were feeling OK and my big muscles like hamstrings a quads were firing off just fine. After I passed Lester River, I started feeling pretty run down. The mental game was kicking in despite a lot more screaming fans. I had to really focus on getting to mile 20, because I knew Angela and a few friends were there watching. After passing 57th Avenue, there was no mile marker. It must be 47th Avenue, I thought. So I was counting the blocks as they went by. 10 blocks later, and I heard a cheering squad and saw the 20th mile marker. It was a huge boost seeing them, but I didn’t know what to do, so I flashed a quick smile and kept running.

IMG_2294Photo credit: Angela Gilbertson

IMG_2295 Photo credit: Angela Gilbertson

Lakeside, and specifically running past Lakeshore old folks home and Glensheen, has historically been where I start really feeling bad and falling apart. Lakeshore went by with no problems, and then it’s a long straightaway where you can see Lemondrop hill looming in the distance. I was starting to get really tight at this point. Running was becoming labored and I could feel my form deteriorate. Glensheen went by with no problem, but I could feel my pace slip a bit as people passed me. I went slow up Lemondrop, but recovered somewhat quickly and knew that it was all downhill to the finish. Time to wrap it up!

Duluth Running Co. is the best boost because there is always a booming crowd cheering my actual name. That helps. Running down London Road, my mental state was not good. I wasn’t pushing at all and my pace was slipping for sure. I could feel it, too, but didn’t feel like pushing. I scooted up the avenue to Superior Street and ran towards Duluth Running Co. with nice form. You get that hair-stands-on-the-back-of-your-neck feel with the screams and the yells, and that helped for sure. Bring it home, bring it home. My legs hurt. My left one was seizing up, I thought the IT band would flare up, it didn’t really, but I could feel everything being strained to the max.

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My right side felt OK, but definitely hurt! I was taking Powerade at every station because I thought I’d cramp up. At Fitgers, mile 24 I believe, I took a little too much Powerade and it sloshed down my throat into my stomach. I could feel it jostling around with my three gels and I got the feeling of throwing up. If I burped, I’d yak. I slowed my pace to avoid embarrassingly throwing up on Superior Street. All of Superior Street was pure pain. I wasn’t even running that hard, but just felt like if I pushed it, I’d probably yak. The feeling subsided at mile 25 as we turned onto 5th Avenue West. I burped and it felt good. So I jetted around some people and ran hard down the avenue and over the bridge.

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Just bring it home… I looked at my watch and was feeling pretty good about the time, but I never realize how long it takes from the Aquarium. The wind seemed howling right when you turn by the Bay, but it wasn’t bad. I tried to push it and keep my stride nice and strong, but I definitely wasn’t running too fast.

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I brought it home on the home stretch… thought I heard my name a few times but kept my eyes focused on the finish line.

IMG_2291Photo credit: Halie Higgins

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Right when I finished, I did my celebration thing and did a few weird jog strides and kept walking. 2:48:15 was the final chip time.

One year of training yielded a marathon time nine minutes faster, which is awesome. I was less than 5 minutes off of my goal time… around 11 second per mile. The race went pretty much as good as it could have. I don’t think I left much out on the course. A few seconds per mile here and there and maybe I’d be walking down Superior Street. Hard to know. All I’m thinking about now is what sort of a training block should I construct to have the fastest half-ironman time I possibly can. I’ll do Grandma’s Marathon once again next year if I can help it. I think I can run under 2:40.

Results

Watch splits:

1- 6:51
2- 6:15
3- 6:15
4- 6:17
5- 6:09
6- 6:11
7- 6:39
8- 5:52
9- 6:37
10- 6:52
11- 6:20
12- 6:11
13-
14- 12:53
15- 6:08
16- 6:16
17- 6:20
18- 6:30
19- 5:59
20- 6:22
21- 6:31
22- 6:28
23- 6:39
24- 6:39
25- 6:48
26- 8:02

Race Stats:

Place: 167/6075
Time: 2:48:15
Pace: 6:26

 

Shoes: Saucony Kinvara 5 size 11.5

Food: Honey Stinger Strawberry Kiwi (Mile 7), Gu Roctane Blueberry Pom (Mile 14 or 15), Hammer Gel Tropical (Mile 22 or 23??)

Race Day: Sunday, June 14, 2015 – 7am

Lead up to the Capitol City Sprint was pretty basic. I had a strong run week with a lot of intensity, which was good, but I am feeling it now. Especially with Grandma’s Marathon in five days, the plan is to take it really easy in order to feel as fresh as possible on race day. Either way, despite not a lot of volume, it was good to get some relatively hard running in this last week as a little mental boost for Grandma’s.

I put a little less weight on performing at Capitol City just because it was a sprint race and Buffalo was more of a “where am I at” triathlon tester. I already knew kind of where I was at going into Capitol City, and frankly, Grandmas is more on my mind at this point. So the setup and prep was a little less hectic… I wasn’t as stressed out with having all my gear and just generally less stressed.

On race day, I realized that this was a deep field. According to Minnesota Tri News, I knew it was going to be deep, but it hit me on Sunday morning when I saw a few fast runners setting up in transition. Nothing is scarier than a strong runner. I felt really strong and good to go on race morning. I set up transition and went for a little jog. Then, I warmed up on the bike with a time-restricted spin out on the course. It sure was bumpy! Finally, I got into my wetsuit because I wanted to make a point to get a solid swim warmup in, especially because the swim was so short. The water was the perfect temperature and I got a nice swim warmup in. I was ready to go! Little did I know how frantic the swim would ultimately be.

The distances were 500 meters on the swim, 13.3 miles on the bike, then 3.1 miles on the run. I think the run was a little short, however. So, literally a sprint. I was expecting to push a 5k effort for an hour straight. I had little to no race strategy, just crank it out as hard as possible. A small inkling in my mind said to save a little on the bike, but I decided that it was sprint and to go for it all. Also, I had done two run-off-the-bike workouts that week and felt like my muscle memory was coming around and I could hold a decent clip for the 5k. On that Tuesday, Nick and I ran a 5:40 mile (then two easy miles) off of a hard 15 mile ride. That gave me some confidence for sure.

After a quick pre-race meeting, we gathered towards the beach.

IMG_2269Photo credit: Julie Ward

I grouped with a bunch of other Helix-wearing swimmers… the elite pack no doubt. The pre race nerves… and everyone feels it. I was about think about jockeying for position up front and then 6! 5! 4! and the countdown started. Totally caught off guard, I threw my goggles quickly with perfect time to click the start of my watch. And we were off…

A line of guys were in front of me. I thought about dolphin diving to get out in front but there were too many people. I simply waded in the water as people in front of me swam at the same speed forward. Well, I suppose I should dive in, I thought. I dove forward into a sea of flailing bodies. It was congested. People were slapping at my feet, I was hitting people’s hands, I was entangled with someone next to me, break free and hit the person on the other side. How uncontrolled… I tried to look ahead and just swim with the pack like a mindless ocean flounder or something. I was running into people all the way to the first buoy. After that first turn, it seemed to thin out a little bit, so I tried to get into a strong groove. The second buoy was much less hectic, and I wanted to bring it home strong. I focused on engaging my pecs and back muscles.

After a seemingly crummy swim, I exited right behind Brian Sames, a solid bike-runner. This is where I expect to be, I thought to myself.

IMG_2277Photo credit: Halie Higgins

In transition, the wetsuit dismount seemed sloppy and slow. I popped two Shot Bloks into my mouth and took off. The bike mount went well and I started cranking. Brian and a few other guys were taking off, and I’ve been really liking the feeling of roping people in on the bike. I passed Brian and aimed for a dude in orange. Pushing hard, I was coming up on him but definitely didn’t have a super strong surge to pass. Finally, I torched a match or two and passed him. No need, I just wanted to be in front… I later met the guy, Bennett Isabella, who is a solid triathlete, winning a few races already this year, and hot on the du scene. I knew he had raced and Olympic triathlon at Liberty the day before, however, so figured his legs were a bit yoked. A few seconds later, he passed me back. No, I thought, this is a sprint and I need to go all in on the bike or else.

IMG_2268Photo credit: Julie Ward

And that’s how the rest of the bike played out. I passed Bennett and neared the turnaround. I saw a big pack of guys a minute or so up, and Matt Payne was already way up there.

IMG_2276Photo credit: Halie Higgins

I eventually passed Josh Blankenheim (deja vu), but could see him behind me the rest of the way. On the last home stretch, I know I made up time on this big bike pack up front, and came into T2 essentially on the tail end of the group. I thought that a speedy transition would put me in a good position for the run.

IMG_2273Photo credit: Halie Higgins

I threw my bike down and switched to the run really fast. I could see three guys in front of me, and I passed two of them within a minute. I recognized Kevin O’Connor ahead of me, and he was running strong. I wondered if I was going to be able to reel him in, but I knew that he raced Liberty Olympic the day before as well, and hoped his legs were yoked, too! With added motivation to run fast, I could tell I was making time on Kevin. Eventually, I made the pass, but he stayed close. With a mile to go, I looked over my shoulder and saw two guys. It better not be Josh, I nervously pondered, but I knew it was. Who else would it be? Is there anyone else running me down? Can I hold these guys off? I was tired, but tried to pick up the leg speed. I was running with a long loping stride and tried to pick up the cadence, but it was too tiring. So I opted for the loping giraffe stride.

Sure enough, Josh came up right on my left shoulder. I said it – “Deja vu” – and when he put a body length in front of me, I responded. He was breathing really heavily, and I tried to control my breathing in hopes that it would be a mental discouragement. We ran side by side for a minute or two, then he made another body length break. I let it go. One body length became 10 feet with the blink of an eye, and Josh ran me down for a second week in a row, but this time within sight of the finish line. It wasn’t a sprint finish by any means, he had it in the bag. I got a dose of reality when I heard footsteps and saw people behind me. Hold on for third, I thought, and I picked it up for the finish line.

IMG_2267Photo credit: Julie Ward

IMG_2271Photo credit: Julie Ward

Josh finish four seconds in front of me, yet his run was over 20 seconds faster than mine. Matt Payne came in two minutes faster than Josh, and behind me was a large pack of dudes. 8 people behind me finished within about two minutes of me. That’s a sprint race for you, I guess!

Of course, I congratulated Josh and we joked about the extreme similarities to how Buffalo played out. The race for second and third literally couldn’t have been more similar. Regardless of the crushing overtaking with a half mile or so to go, I was super pleased with third place and didn’t really expect to finish ahead of some of these other guys. And, the race itself was spectacular! The bike course was awesome, run was nice and challenging, and there were some delicious post race morsels.

I realized that racing on the weekends, with taking it easy the day before and race day as well as travel and stuff, I don’t have nearly the same weekly volume, because I can get some nice long workouts in instead of all of the auxiliary race-related time spent. My next triathlon on deck is Chisago Lakes long course. I hope to get some quality long workouts in before then. But of course, only after Grandma’s Marathon!

Results

Race Stats:

Place: 3/110
Time: 57:15
Swim: 8:00
Pace: 1:27
T1: 0:54
Bike: 31:09
Speed: 25.6
T2: 0:25
Run: 16:46
Pace: 5:23

Shoes: Mizuno Hitogami size 11
Bike: Specialized Transition
Wheels: Profile Design 78 back, Mavic training wheel front
Food: Two Shot Bloks, water on the bike

Race Day: Sunday, June 7, 2015 – 9am

You never know what is going to happen on the first triathlon of the year. Preparing for a tri is so stressful. Compared to a running race, there is so much more equipment to pack and so many more opportunities for mistakes during the race. That pre-race stress, however, makes the feeling of executing the perfect race just that much better. I executed a nearly perfect race in Buffalo.

After Gear West, I wanted to start swimming more, and got into the North Shore Swim Club MWF swims. Instead of doing 1,500 sloppy meters by myself, I started doing 3.5-5k of quality pool swimming and was feeling good. Week to week, I don’t think I’ve every swim Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, though, and it was easy to skip! On Tuesday of race week, we did a cold open water swim at Pike Lake near Duluth, and it was cold. Really cold. We did maybe 6oo meters of swimming… about 5 minutes out and back. The way back wasn’t terrible, but my face hurt bad right away. Needless to say, it wasn’t really a quality swim workout. So I was a little iffy with my swim fitness, despite the expectation that the big pool yardage (even though only one or two days a week) will pay off.

I had a killer chunk of biking since Gear West, where I was already super pleased where I was at with my duathlon bike split. Also, I bought race wheels and some fast tires. I’ve caught a lot of flak for racing with Gatorskin tires, which are apparently very slow! I was super excited to let it rip on the bike, and I knew it would be hard to limit my effort level.

I’d been feeling a little beat up on the run. Quality running was spotty and I wasn’t pleased with the volume and consistency of my running leading up to Buffalo. I left my dog Diamond at my parent’s house after Gear West. Is that a coincidence that my running wasn’t on point? I think not! On the other hand, there were a few workouts that I did in preparation for Grandma’s Marathon that were major confidence boosters and fast. Fast for a marathon… I think that my half ironman run pace should be pretty close to my marathon pace. 10k off the bike is a different story, and I wanted to run pretty fast off the bike.

There were a lot of Duluthians racing Buffalo and a lot of friendly faces in transition. That makes it fun! I wanted to contend for the win, which would net $300 and chip away a chunk on my credit card from those new race wheels, but Buffalo is historically really competitive and a few fast dudes signed up last minute. There were a lot of other mulitsport races in the Twin Cities that weekend, though, and that spreads out the speedy dudes a bit instead of being condensed into the one weekend race. Time wise, I predicted a 24 minute swim, one hour bike, and 36 minute 10k, plus a minute a piece for the transition. That would put me at 2:02 on the nose. I learned that the bike was bit short and the transitions were pretty long, so it would equalize and I’d do a bit less on the bike and bit more in T1 and T2.

Race morning was pretty ideal, but a bit warm. The roads were dry and the wind was a little blustery off the lake riding the first mile of the bike course to warm up. After setting up transition, I did a little ride, then popped my running shoes on and tried to loosen everything up. The body was feeling good and I was ready to rip. With a half hour to go, I slid into my wetsuit and started to warm up in the water. My stroke felt OK and I was excited that the water temperature was really nice. The reported temperature of 68 was balmy!

I registered in the elite category and we had the first wave.

Buffalo TriPhoto credit: Dave Nygaard

We lined up on the beach to start the 1.5k swim and when the crowd countdown got to one and then “GO!”, we sprinted into the water.

Buffalo Tri-2Photo credit: Dave Nygaard

I tried to do a few dolphin dives to start and then get into my stroke. I was breathing on my left side only and trying to jockey for a position up front. I tried to sight ahead and thought I saw a guy jetting HARD out front. I figured that it must be Dylan, a collegiate swimmer from Bozeman, MT, who was pegged by Jerry at Minnesota Tri News to win it all. I liked that the buoys were on the left and I continued to breath on one side only in order to drop my racing heart rate and get into a fast but comfortable pace.

The rest of the swim was uneventful. There were people around me the whole time, which was relieving to know I was falling far behind or going off course too bad. I knew there were some fast swimmers in the elite wave, and if I could stay with a few of them I’d be in mint condition. After turning the last buoy for the straight-line home, I got lost in the glare of the morning sun. I poked by head high out of the water a few times and would get run into from behind. Someone was right on my heels for sure. Me and a group of swimmers took it home and I exited the swim with three or four other guys. I hit someone in the back trying to a dolphin dive out of the water, and probably looked like an idiot! I felt like one putting on the clothesline… oops.

Buffalo Tri-5Photo credit: Dave Nygaard

On the beach, I ripped by arms out of the wetsuit. I noticed that Nick was right there with me. I was surprised he had such a good swim, but glad! This was shaping up to be a good race. I peeped my watch and saw 24 and change. Right on the money.

Buffalo Tri-6Photo credit: Dave Nygaard

IMG_2255Photo credit: Julie Ward

I may have taken an illegal shortcut in the transition by taking the bee line through the sprint bike racks, which saved me approximately 1 second. I should have listened to the race meeting instead of running! I had a faster transition than Nick because I didn’t see him until the bike turnaround, but was clipping in at the same time as Brooks Grossinger. I got going a bit faster than him and he never passed me.

Buffalo Tri-8Photo credit: Dave Nygaard

Onto the bike, it was time to crank. My legs felt like sausages. It’s surprising how you don’t feel very fresh starting the bike after just swimming, even though that’s probably not quite the same muscle groups. After two miles, I passed an elite woman. A few miles later, I reeled in another guy, who I found out later to be Josh Blankenheim, a fellow Duluthian. I was riding good, but felt like I was burning matches. There were windy spots and some rolling hills, and I definitely pushed to the point where my legs were burning on more than a few occasions. I stood up on a few hills. On an out-and-back stretch, I saw Dylan, who was approximately six minutes ahead of me. That wraps up his win! Not far after that, I surprisingly reeled in Jake Cooley. I felt fast zooming past the sprint course athletes on the last five miles, and took it home hard. Jake was pretty close behind me and we entered transition pretty much together.

Buffalo Tri-14Photo credit: Dave Nygaard

IMG_2258Photo credit: Julie Ward

I was anxious starting the make-or-break run. At this point, it was me and Dylan. He was at least six minutes up. Fat chance that he’s running slower than 7 minutes per mile! I tried to take it out hard and wanted to stick 5:45 pace. When I hit the first mile, I hit the split on my watch and it was under 6 minutes. Perfect. Running off the bike is a bizarre sensation. I can’t get the same spring in my step and my stride feels labored. I tried to focus on my form and fluid motions. I remember thinking about an excerpt I read from Craig Alexander the day before, who said that the best Ironman runners had a very robotic form. So I tried to be robotic. 30 seconds later, it was too tiring and I resorted to running like an prison escapee.

At around mile 1.5, the 1ok course continued and the sprinters turned around. I almost toasted a woman while trying to grab a water. I took Gatorade and poured water on my face. I don’t think anyone was close behind me at this point, but I knew they were coming. There’s no way that Nick isn’t charging hard, and I wasn’t feeling very fast. At mile two, I split the time and saw a slow mile. It was perhaps 6:20 or 6:30, and way off pace for a 36 minute 10k. Could I crank down and go sub-sixes? Do I conserve my energy until the turnaround? How much gas is left in the tank??

After the sprint turnaround, it was a lonely road out to the turnaround at around mile 3. I started hearing footsteps and before I knew it, I was passed. I recognized the race kit from the guy I passed earlier on the bike, who I ultimately found out to be Josh. Ouch, what a crushing blow. I figured that I could maybe stick with him, but decided to race my own race. If I have what it takes, I’ll catch back up. I’d rather get 3rd place than push too hard now, wither and die for 6th place. Nick and Brooks out-ran me on both 5ks at Gear West, and I know they are right behind Josh.

Dylan came cruising past me once I neared the turnaround, and I didn’t even bother to calculate his margin. He was way too far up. Josh was putting time on me for sure, and I was deathly terrified to turn around and see who was behind me. I did it anyways, and there was a decent gap. I saw Larry Hosch next, who had a faster split than me on the run last time we raced at Green Lake Tri in 2013. He was coming for me and the $100 3rd place price purse. Maybe a minute back, Nick was just cruising. He looked like a Olympic 5k’er making the last lap on the track. Super powerful looking… how scary. Brooks was back there, too. The goal was to hold them all off. I cranked it down.

Every other split I took had a six in it. Not good… Once I could see the sprint turnaround, I had lost Josh already. He was too far up. At this point, I was giving it all I had. I started to get into the mental zone that I figured would push me past my preconceived limits. This is where the anger comes into play. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the anger. I told myself that this is all I do and if I didn’t get 3rd place I’d be a nobody and my life would be for nothing. This probably isn’t the most positive mindset to have, but it seemed to work OK. I know I was making a really ugly face and my form was painfully sloppy. There was an uphill grind for the last mile until we turned onto the finishing chute, and I was weaving throughout the sprint athletes. I couldn’t run a second per mile faster, and I was at a dismal six minute per mile pace. I tried to get the anger. Looking behind me, all I saw was a swarm of runners. I couldn’t tell if anyone was charging up on my rear, so I kept it up. They could be right behind me, I thought!

Turning the last corner, I slipped around some sprint athletes and bombed down the bike path into the finish line.

Buffalo Tri-17Photo credit: Dave Nygaard

IMG_2257Photo credit: Julie Ward

I remembered to stop my watch and it read just a tad under 2:01. The grinding 10k was enough to hold on for 3rd place and $100! I saw my overtaker Josh at the finish line and we chatted for a second. A minute back, Nick ran in for 4th place.

Buffalo Tri-37Photo credit: Dave Nygaard

Buffalo Tri was a super fun race. The Duluth contingent killed it, with Elaine Nelson winning the women’s race, three of the top four overall and the three fastest run splits from Duluth. Everyone was in good spirits.

IMG_2252Photo credit: Tiffany Kari

I feel like my race at Buffalo was perfectly executed. My run isn’t as fast as I thought, but the big bike split strategy actually paid off. I think that more brick workouts could tie together the new bike speed and improved run, where as I felt a little bit of a disconnect there during Buffalo.

I recovered fast and I’m feeling good for a few more races in June: Capitol City Sprint triathlon and Grandma’s Marathon.

Results

Race Stats:

Place: 3/267
Time: 2:00:47
Swim: 24:48
Swim pace: 1:31 per 100yd
T1: 1:22
Bike: 56:11
Bike speed: 24.7mph
T2: 0:40
Run: 37:48
Run pace: 6:05

 

Shoes: Saucony Kinvara 5 size 11.5
Bike: Specialized Transition
Wheels: Profile Design 78 clincher back, Roval ~40 clincher back (thanks Paul!)
Food: Cherry Cola Honey Stingers and Salted Watermelon Gu (on the bike)

 

Race Day: Sunday, May 17, 2015 – 8am

This is the first mulitsport race of the season, and it would validate whether or not the training is paying off how I expect it to. Having never done a duathlon before, I was curious how run-bike-run format would treat my legs.

It is hard to replicate a race atmosphere in training, and you can’t know how much harder you’ll push in a race versus alone in training. Leading up to the race, it was a steady build of consistent volume on the bike, and a somewhat steady high-volume run program from week to week. Since February, I’d been doing a lot of running, sometimes up to 12 hours a week, and the bike was more and more since that same time, peaking at almost 10 hours the week before Gear West. All of that volume really gave me some confidence go faster. Also, high volume training makes one so strong. Not in the typical sense (I don’t think I could bench press the bar), but strong enough to dig a big hole, be able to recover and still go fast. For instance, a few times in training, I’d feel so beat down, but then go for a long bike ride and just be dead, and THEN go for a run after. The next day we’d do a two-hour jog first thing in the morning, and 15 miles in the books like that. Boom, easy. That type of strong. Not a lot of sessions have been really that high of intensity, but the consistent volume pays dividends, that is for sure. Key word consistent… I haven’t had an exercise week less than 10 combined hours swim, bike, run since February.

That is why I was so desperate to go out hard on the bike at Gear West and see how I could hold on for the second run. I had been testing my vastly improved run speed on a few different occasions, but didn’t know where my bike speed was at. I expected to go a little faster, but I really knew that the bike and run volume would help me not die. I’ve had at least a few races where I push a little, tiny bit too hard on the bike or the run or both, and in turn, my pace on the run is majorly compromised. I think that with high volume training, that “flux room” to push a little, tiny bit too hard is widened significantly, and the amount that I will inevitably slow down on the run is significantly less.

I had a few goals going into Gear West. I wanted to crack top 5. That is a tough goal, however, because you never know who will show and what sort of shape they’re in (especially with the early season races). My second goal was 1:17. My training partners Nick and Ryan and I had a beer bet. Whoever guesses closest to their actual time gets free beer. My guess was 1:17 – 17 minute run, 40 minute bike, 18 minute run, and two 1 minute transitions.

I had been nursing a little knee injury that cropped up a week and half ago, but it was feeling good on race morning and I had been running on it still without too much trouble. Race morning was wet. Real wet. We racked up our bikes, dinked around a bit, and then a sudden downpour that would have been categorized as a flash flood in certain geographies screamed through. I scurried inside to simply wait it out until the start gun at 8am. A few minutes later, Nick and I warmed up a bit, and the rain had luckily subsided. The bike was ready to go and I was feeling good jogging around. Most of all, the adrenaline was pumping hard through by blood vessels. I was ready to race.

IMG_2152Photo credit: Jim Ward

We lined up and I looked around at the dudes at the start. I recognized some, and thought that top five would be a long shot and the rest of the top 10 is a crapshoot how people will place. “GO!” through the megaphone meant that we should start running now.

gw1Photo credit: Dave Nygaard

A few guys took off FAST. Nick and Brian Sames were behind me for some reason, but pulled out ahead pretty quickly. A pack of 8 dudes started to pull away pretty quick. I didn’t feel like I needed to hang, so I sat in my spot.

gw2Photo credit: Dave Nygaard

The run course was twisty and turny, grassy and soggy and wet, and really slippery. My race flats were probably not the best shoe option, but they were fast enough on the gravel and road portions that it made up for the slipping and sliding. The front pack with Nick and Patrick Parish leading was pretty far up, and I was running with eventual second place Matt Payne and some other guys. I was definitely breathing pretty heavy but I felt like I made up some time on the technical trail parts. Matt pulled away at the T1 chute and I left transition with him and Dan Hedgecock.

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IMG_2159Photo credits: Jim Ward

Getting on the bike was quick and flawless. Perfect. I cracked a big ol’ smile once I started pedaling. I remember thinking that this is it! Payne pulled away pretty damn quick and was accelerating into the downhill turns, whereas I was in my horns with my fingers on the brakes. The rain made me very timid and I didn’t want to slip out going 16mph. (Let alone 25mph!)

After five minutes, I got my bearings under me and felt more in control of my bicycle. I could see some guys ahead of me, which was motivating. A quick glance over my shoulder and there was nobody to be seen. Weird, I thought, that Dan hasn’t zoomed past me. I passed Nick while crushing it up the first big uphill. There’s one match I just burnt, I thought. After that, I didn’t have any contact with other athletes for the remaining 14 miles.

gw3Photo credit: Dave Nygaard

That ride was a power ride. I was crushing it up the hills, staying in aero position and spinning a high cadence on the uphill stretches, and generating some very powerful full circles on the flats. I tried to stay as aero as possible. I slowed down a lot to eat a gel, but it was worth it, I think. I burned a lot of matches on that ride, which was exactly what I should have done, in retrospect. Cranking up a hill to the point where the quads burn and the legs are in pain made me think whether that was a match I just burnt and if I’d pay for it on the run. I could see someone farther ahead the whole time, which helped me to bike faster–a constant goal or something to look towards. I ultimately realized it was Brian Sames up there.

gw4Photo credit: Dave Nygaard

Coming off the bike, I was right where I wanted to be for my time, and could have been in 5th place according to my premonitions. I slipped my running shoes on and was surprised by the jelly legs feeling. It was almost funny, like laugh out loud funny.

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I tried to get a good cadence right off the bat, but it felt like I was running on wooden stilts. It was then when I saw Brian running away from me. He’s a stud runner and I knew that I wouldn’t pass him. Were there any other slow runners ahead that I could reel in? Probably not, I needed to fend off the fast runners like Dan and Nick. That became my motivator–don’t get caught!

gw7Photo credit: Dave Nygaard

After 5 minutes, my legs felt back to normal and I just tried to hold a sustainable but uncomfortably fast pace. I was pretty much by my own self, so it was a little harder to pace and race without another runner nearby. I nervously tried to catch a glance behind me at any given chance. 10 minutes in, I knew the finishing order was set. I wasn’t catching Brian or anyone else, and I was safe unless I broke both of my legs in the slippery mud and had to crawl home. Now it was about the time goal.

I slipped up the big hill on the run and my quads felt like beef jerky, but ran hard the last half mile to the finishing chute. I glanced at my watch, 1:16:57 or so. Perfect. I hauled ass in and realized that I was in 5th place with a time of 1:17:13. Perfect!

gw8Photo credit: Dave Nygaard

What a great first race of the season, good for fifth place overall and second in my age group. This certainly validated my training efforts, and I am excited to refine my training even more. The big volume base gives me plenty of options for refinement and it is all paying off now. The Gear West Duathlon was meticulously produced by Final Stretch Events, despite probably the worst weather possible. (During the race and after, the wind was wreaking havoc on the arches and fencing and awnings and everything). Next up is a solid training block leading up to Buffalo Olympic, Capitol City sprint, then funneling right into Grandma’s Marathon.

gw9Photo credit: Dave Nygaard

Results

Race Stats:

Place: 5/110
Time: 1:17:13
Run: 17:15
Pace: 6:10
T1: 0:31
Bike: 41:17
Speed: 23.5
T2: 0:23
Run: 17:49
Pace: 6:23

Shoes: Mizuno Hitogami size 11
Bike: Specialized Transition
Food: One Salted Carmel Gu on the bike

Race Day: Saturday, April 11, 2015 – 9am

Time to blast the cobwebs off. I had some really nervous and exciting energy around the Fitger’s 5k. Historically, this has been a race where I can see where I’m at in the early season. Also, historically I start training big in March and so, and I’ve been fit through the winter and spring for once. I knew there were 5 or 10 guys who have beat me in the past, or we’ve raced together, or have said they’re going for a similar time as me. I knew it was going to be a fun race regardless if I get a good time or blow up or whatever. Going into Fitger’s 5k, I was just excited to get out there and let it all out.

I was feeling very fit, albeit a bit knocked around and on the fringe of injury (fringury) with some high volume training in the spring, but haven’t been doing hardly any speed work. All zone 2. Or even zone 1. I did a 4×1 mile workout on the trailsĀ  Thursday before Fitger’s, and that felt really good. It was fast, but hurt the lungs and legs. However, I recovered quickly and knew I had at least a little feel with pacing. I was gunning for a sub-17 minute 5k. My record is 17:08 on a perhaps sketchy course. Fitger’s isn’t the easiest course, though, so that would be a challenge.

On Saturday morning, I ran down early as a warmup, then helped the timing company set up the finish and start line mats. This impinged on my warmup a bit, but seemed to work out perfectly and I had 10 minutes to do some stride outs. There sure were a lot of guys on the start line that I had raced in the past, and I been beat by all of them consistently in the past year. I wanted to lead the pack and win. Not win the race, but beat everyone I was actually racing. Obviously, the 15 flat guys off the front aren’t being touched by me… except in the first 100 yards anyways. My secondary goal was to get under 17:00. 16:59 would be just perfect.

The race started and was congested. With perhaps 15 guys in front of me, I tried to jockey for position. David knew my fake race plan of starting really, really fast, and I noticed he was right next to me 100 yards in. I muttered “there goes my race plan” and thought it was really funny.

Nearing the first turn, a half mile in, things started to pan out. The leaders really started pulling away and the group spread a bit. I was in a group with all they guys I had my eye on… perfect. Eric, Dillon, David, Rob, Adam, and a few others. Also, there were a few guys in front of our pack that were starting to fall back… probably shouldn’t have been there in the first place! I’ve been there, too, and Fitger’s has a really fast first mile.

Over the bridge into Canal Park, I put down the hammer for a little surge. There was real estate ahead and felt like getting in a better position.

fitgers3Pic credit: Gregg Robertson

Looking at race pictures, I didn’t realize that everyone was right on my tail. I could feel them but never looked back.

fitgers1Pic credit: Dave Hyopponnen

Mile 1 was 5:20. Fast, but felt good and not super ridiculous. Some years, my first mile is ridiculous. The second mile is pancake flat with a few turns. I wanted to play smart here. I wanted to stay in front, but maybe recoup my energy stores a little bit. I knew there were some people right on my tail because I could hear them.

Before the Railroad Street turnaround, I was gaining on some tall dude I didn’t recognize him. I took a quick stutter step turn at the 180 degree turnaround and tried to ratchet it down with the tailwind. I passed the tall kid before mile 2. Mile 2 was around 5:30. I needed to stick this pace if I want a sub 17. No more slowing down. Right then, Rob surges past me. I couldn’t let him go. Not today. I stayed right on his back and even peeked around my shoulder. Adam was right there too, but the other guys were dropping back. We kept pushing, and I felt good, under the bridge and the looper up over the bridge and back home. I could feel our little pack slow a bit on the bridge because it was a little uphill. This is my chance, I thought, and I made a surge. Rob pushed me forward and said “Go!”. So go I did…

When we turn back onto Superior Street, you can see the finish arch and it is about 6 blocks on a false flat, slight uphill grind. It was here that I make or break the race. Do I crumble, or do I leave it all out there? Do I have the mental stamina to be a contender? I thought to myself to run angry. I thought of some things that made me angry, and I made an angry face and gritted my teeth. Then I thought how this is all I do and my life would be for nothing if I falter. I can’t falter. I really picked it up, or at least felt like I was picking it up! I could hear people yelling my name from the sidelines, but didn’t even bother to look. I did peek at my watch to see a 15:50 or something.

fitgers2Pic credit: Gregg Robertson

With the last stretch into the Pickwick parking lot, I almost smoked a lady crossing the street. I would have bashed her if she didn’t stop herself! I saw the clock and sprinted in with everything I had left. My watch stopped at the line with a 16:49. I actually yelled and gave Erik a high five. Erik has an awesome race, shaving 50 seconds off his record.

Two out of two goals crushed. The endorphins flowed freely. Now, I am so excited to be in the mix with the big dogs on the Wednesday NMTC trail races. Also, this fast effort made me excited for Grandma’s Marathon, as long as I can hold the volume. Not to mention tri season. Tri season is going to be something else…

Results

Race Stats:

Shoes: Mizuno Hitogami size 11
Time: 16:49
Pace: 5:25
Place: 8/1680

Race Day: Saturday, February 28, 2015 – 10am

Driving to Eau Claire, WI, I felt a different mood than most higher priority races. I didn’t feel nervous, I didn’t have a specific goal, and I wasn’t scared of complete failure. This was to be a fun race. And a fun race it was!

After qualifying at Boulder Lake, Nick, Kyle and I all tossed around the idea of what to do for Snowshoe Nationals. We all qualified but didn’t read the bold, underlined and all caps print that says you need to be a USSSA (the governing body of snowshoe running in the U.S.) member before the qualifying race, and neither one of us were current members. So, we were questioning whether we’d be able to race at all. Regardless, the initial plan was to race the 10k on Saturday, which is the true national championship, then race the half marathon national championships on Sunday after staying the night in Eau Claire.

When race day approached, we sorted out the membership stuff and knew we could all race. Kyle decided not to join, and Nick and I decided not to sink the whole weekend and a lot more cash and to just go down for the 10k only.

We woke up early on Saturday, around 6am, to make the 2.5 hour drive into the heart of Wisconsin. The temperatures were very cold, but slated to warm up as we drove.

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With coffee and Mountain Dew, we both were getting pretty jacked up for the race, but no nerves. Usually for a big race, I am nervous and tense, but it didn’t feel like a “big” race, even though it’s a national championship! What other sports can I qualify for an event of this caliber? Probably not many…

We arrived with perfect timing to get registered and set up and go for a nice warmup jog. The temps were really prime and the sun was shining in abundance. There wasn’t much snow, however, for better or worse.

Eventually, we lined up for the race start. There were a few guys I recognized from the Boulder Lake race and I could tell some guys were going to go hard. It’s a national championship after all… The start line was very wide but there was a 90-degree left turn about 50 or 100 yards right off the bat. I lined up far right with the intention to swing wide and get in front of some guys. “Go!” came from the speakers and we were off in a flapping flurry. The lack of snow made visibility a bit easier, and the race was underway.

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The start stayed wide for a while, so jockeying so hard for a good position wasn’t completely necessary. I stayed on Nick’s tail for a bit while we entered the park trails. A short, steep valley separated the group a bit, and then the places became a little more solidified once we got onto some singletrack trail. There were definitely a few guys in front of me, but I was in a good position and feeling good. My breath was out of control, but I felt good. I could tell the lead guys were really pushing hard to break away and Nick was still much closer to me. He’s going to have to really crank it up if he wants to content, I thought to myself.

At 1 or 2k into the race, the race positions really seemed to start sorting out. The lead group of 3 guys was completely out of view, and Nick was on the back of a second group of guys who were definitely pulling away from me. I could hear people right behind me, so I tried to keep pushing but wanted to get my breathing under control. Perhaps 3k in, I was decidedly passed by a dude in all black… very formidable. Looking behind me brought some mental relief because there was nobody right on me. So when my overtaker started putting some time on me, I was racing all alone by myself. Story of my life…

The meat of the race was relatively uneventful. The course was sweet–a mixture of groomed ski trails and technical singletrack mountain bike trail. Some sections of the singletrack were completely snowless, however, which was a little weird to run on with snowshoes. It was definitely easy running, and I think a powdery course would have slowed everybody significantly. My breathing came to and I felt totally in control by 5k. I was pretty much in between my overtaker and another kid a few hundred feet back. I can hold this spot, I thought to myself.

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To my delight, the guy in black overtook another racer and I noticed that this guy was fading hard. I started reeling a guy in a green vest, which felt good. On a section of singletrack, I made a strong surge to get right on this guy’s back. Once we popped out onto the ski trail, it was my turn to make a decisive pass! Unfortunately, green vest guy was decisively passed over and over during the race. One more spot up and I was still rolling along. I wondered what place I was in and I wondered if the kid behind me was gaining on me. The switchbacks were deceptive, and it looked like he was on my neck until we’d turn onto the straightaways and he’s way back there. If I ever felt like he was gaining on me, I’d summon some quick-access fuel and surge ahead.

I saw the 9k marker and put on the afterburners to ensure that I would not get passed in an embarrassing last-minute fashion. I could see buildings out through the last singletrack section and felt like a power-beast blasting past a photographer.

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Once out in the open, I could see the guy in all black turning towards the finish line. Flat and packed down, yet windy, I let ‘er rip. A quick glance over my shoulder and I knew I locked in my place. I could see Nick and those who finished before me at the finish line and sprinted in towards them.

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I felt super happy to have executed a great race. What a confidence booster… Nick reckoned I came in 12th or so and I was so amped up to look at the results and read that I was 10th overall and 3rd in the 25-29 age group. Nick had a fantastic race by reeling in a lot of guys right up to the last kilometer, which netted him 5th place and a spot on the U.S.A. National Snowshoe Team, which represents the United States in all international snowshoe events. THAT is cool.

We bummed around Eau Claire for a few hours and stayed for awards. Overall, a wonderful event–well produced, good competition, and awesome course. I am extremely satisfied with my race and left it all out there. I don’t think I could have raced a second faster and to beat out some other really talented runners and snowshoers is good for the ol’ ego.

Results

Race Stats:

Shoes: Nike Zoom Kiger, size 11
Snowshoes: Dion Model 121 Racing Snowshoes
Time: 41:13
Pace: 4:07/km (6:38/mile)
Place: 10/117

Race Day: Sunday, January 18, 2015 — 11:06am

This race was number three of the weekend. Historically, I’ve noticed that snowshoe running is very physically taxing and I had never raced before. After 15k of hard racing the day before at the Freeze Yer Gizzard Blizzard Run, I was a little curious to see how this race was going to go. To qualify for the Snowshoe National Championships, one needs to complete a qualifying race, and the Boulder Lake Snowshoe Stomp is a qualifier.

Nick, Kyle and I were geared up and ready to go by 9:30 or so and I drove to Boulder Lake, which is a sweet recreation area about 30 minutes due north from Duluth. We checked in and grabbed our bibs. The conditions were shaping up to be really nice, despite the temperatures fluctuating around the freezing point of water. That, perhaps, made the snow a bit soft, but we dressed light and that helped. In fact, Nick wore shorts! (They were more like half-tights, but either way, his knees down were exposed). I wore these compression-type tights, which I thought would be protection from the flying snow, yet cool enough where my legs wouldn’t get sweaty.

We did a few practice laps, and my legs felt surprisingly fresh and springy, which gave me a major boost of confidence. At this point, there is no point to hold back. God knows it’s not my overly tired legs that will result in a slow beer mile…

After ten minutes of warmups, we tried to stride out a little bit, and it felt good. Nick has had some issues with falling and tripping on his snowshoes, especially early in the season, so he especially was curious to see how a high turnover at a fast speed was going to fare. Taking a big fall in the heat of the race could be morale-buster for sure. Luckily, we arrived back at the chalet, huffing and puffing from the short but intense effort, without falling at all! I felt ice chunking up on the back of my thighs and calves where the snow flings up and leaned over to flick it off, but realized that my tights were just really wet and my legs cold. It looked like the snow was sticking to my tights, then melting–warmed by the heat of my legs. Could this be an issue? I pondered…

After a quick stop to the chalet to warm up, our race was about to start. We watched the skiers start, then six minutes later, we lined up the opposite way, aimed into the woods. The start line was really wide, then there was a 50 yard dash to a big funnel. What a disaster it would be to get caught behind a slower group, just flinging snow into my face while I’m unable to pass!

Boom! The race started suddenly and I forgot to set my watch. I sprinted ahead, the adrenaline of the race start propelling me forward, and I fiddled to get my watch started. As the funnel drew closer, I managed to merge in right behind Nick. We entered onto a section of ski trails, perhaps 10 feet wide and not really groomed. There were sections of really soft snow and the sand-like consistency made for tough running. I was right behind Nick, another guy was right behind me, and Kelly and Eric were up front pretty far. Looking at past results for Snowshoe National Team, Kelly and Eric usually represent pretty well. Eric has been National Champion a few times and Kelly is always way up there, too.

We approached the first big hill and I said to Nick, “This hill separates the pretenders from the contenders!” Turns out, I was the pretender! Nick responded by telling me that we have 35 or 40 minutes of racing ahead of us and not to burn myself out. We train together pretty much every day, and he’s not cocky to tell me that I can’t hang with him and to drop back for my own good! I looked at my watch, 4:50 or so, and realized that sprinting up hills is not in my best interest, especially with 15k of running in my legs! Almost immediately after the hill, I fell back and tried to get into a sustainable pace. A few minutes later, the guy on my shoulder probably got sick of snow being flung onto his face and passed me with ease. One miniscule turn in the trail and I never saw him again.

Perhaps halfway through the first lap of two, the ski trail bumped onto some sweet singletrack. This was right through the woods, and with the low snow conditions, every root, rock and log created a contoured path. One could never predict how dramatically a footfall would twist and stretch one’s ankle, and I definitely had a few painful ankle-twisters. Snowshoe running is not for the weak-of-ankle, that’s for sure! Either way, the singletrack section was super fun and I really appreciated the beautiful section of woods. It seemed like easier running, but perhaps it was just the technical nature of the singletrack versus the tame ski trail. As well, the woods section required concentration to make sure we were on the right trail. There were plenty of trail intersections, and it was extremely helpful to follow the four other tracks that were ahead of me, even though I followed them onto the wrong path a few times! At least I was confident it was the wrong direction as the prints stopped abruptly. I could only image Eric’s anxiety with picking the correct path.

The singletrack dropped us right onto Boulder Lake itself, and I could see Tony at the water stop signalling the second loop. My watch was right about 30 minutes. I made it my goal to finish in under an hour, but a negative split was a tall order! At least I knew the course the second time around. At this vantage point, I could see that there was nobody even close to me in either direction. Looks like I’m running by myself.

The second loop was just torn up. Each step was so soft and there were sections of really powdery holes, essentially, right in the trail. I was happy to get to the singletrack, which was torn up, but bound to be slow regardless. This way, I knew the course and zinged through it. Once I got to the lake again, I pushed it hard to the finish and got in a few minutes before my hour goal, good for fifth place.

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Contrary to my solo timed run, Nick caught up to Kelly and duked it out the whole second lap for a sprint finish.

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Although it’s kind of nice not to go into the hurt box too bad, I wish I would have been able to keep up with the fourth place dude at least!

As Nick and I warmed up in the chalet, we had a perfect view of Kyle coming through. Upon finishing, he collapsed to his knees, then rolled over onto his back. He left it ALL on the course! Or perhaps he was saving it for the impending beer mile… (That is called foreshadowing).

Results

Race Stats:

Shoes: Nike Zoom Kiger, size 11
Snowshoes: Dion Model 121 Racing Snowshoes
Time: 58:10.2
Pace: 5:20/km (9:22/mile)
Place: 5/33

Photo credits: David Hyopponen

Race Day: Saturday, January 17, 2015 — 9am

This weekend was shaping up to be a pretty good test of endurance. The lineup was Freeze Yer Gizzard 5k, then the 10k an hour later, a 10k snowshoe race the next day, and capping it off with a Beer Mile. Four races in two days, and this was coming off of a terrible night’s sleep in the woods on Thursday. The Freeze Yer Gizzard Run is in International Falls, MN, and is known for brutally cold racing conditions. The 5k and 10k are spaced about an hour apart and a lot of racers do the double.

I felt very frantic on Friday. When, Nick, Diamond and I got back into civilization after a quick overnight adventure in the woods, I hurriedly splayed my camping gear around the house to dry, threw some clothes and running gear into a backpack and set off to work. The plan was to leave for International Falls directly from the Running Co., and so I was anxious that in my rushed state I didn’t forget any crucial items.

Nick, Kyle and I set out directly from Duluth Running Co. just as planned, stopped at Jimmy Johns and picked Stacie up. Nick was clearly not excited about International Falls all day, mostly from the exhaustion of working all day after a crappy night of sleep on frozen ground. I was feeling very similarly, but I knew that if I backed out that I would regret it. On our way out of town, Nick realized that we were actually on our way out of town, and finally pulled the plug. Kyle dropped Nick off at a isolated gas station in Twig, MN, and Nick’s girlfriend Bridget picked him up. So we left Nick in the cold and continued on to the hotel.

As Kyle drove, we figured we would get to our hotel room at 9pm or so. It was pretty dark driving on Highway 53 straight north, and I was very, very thankful for Kyle volunteering to drive my tired ass.

Once we got to the hotel, we met up with a few other fellow Duluthians who were racing and sharing the same hotel with us. Tina, Nate, Joslynn, Allison and few other running buddies were drinking some beers in the room, and we joined in for a bit. Kyle and I practiced for the Beer Mile a bit, and all I can say is that he was looking like a VERY formidable opponent. His chugging skills were on point, very fast and he didn’t seem completely shaken afterwards like I was. When I finally got the last sip down, one dough boy finger-press to my stomach would have made me hurl. Meanwhile, Kyle is high stepping in the hallway. How is that for foreshadowing…

After a markedly better sleep, despite sharing a bed with lanky Kyle, we woke up around 7:30am and were ready to race. A quick stop at continental breakfast and we were on the way to the Rainy Lakes Community College, the site of the race.

All three of us registered for both races, even Stacie, who had raced a hard marathon in Orlando, FL not one week prior. I made a game-time decision to race in shorts. I think this was more for show anyways… the temperatures were a balmy 30 degrees or so. Perhaps a little less. After a few warm ups outside, I confirmed that my choice was comfortable, but I still didn’t want to just stand there.

Toeing the line to the 5k, I sized up the competition. I thought I had a good shot at winning, and my plan was to really race the 5k hard and just get a nice 10k effort in. I thought I was fit to run a sub-17 5k and wanted to really try to push it. However, I could tell that the conditions were not conducive for fast running.

I got a few weird looks as the race was about to begin. And BANG! The race started with a literal gunshot. I sprinted off the front to get a good line in front of the kids and others.

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The driveway out of the start and in to the finish was pretty bad condition, but when we got the main road, it was solid, albeit sloppy and wet. Upon the first turn, I had the lead by thirty seconds or so. I tried to really push it. When I felt I was in a comfortable pace, I surged ahead. I came through the first mile at 5:30, right on pace for my sub 16. The rest of the course was decent, and my mile two, I knew I had it in the bag unless there was a ringer back there just waiting to pull a 4:30 last mile. Unlikely…

My second mile split was 11:30. A little slower, but I just wanted to hold on at this point. I had a few thoughts of slowing down and saving my reserves for the 10k. NO! Keep pushing, I thought. My breathing was labored as I made the last turn and saw the police cars signaling the driveway to the finish. I looked around my shoulder, and with nobody in sight, I made the sprint finish. My watch time said 18:40. Very slow for a grippy course, but a win is a win! The second place competitor was quite a ways behind me, bolstering my confidence on a snowy and slick race course.

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I wanted to wait around a bit for my friends, and after a few came in, I rushed inside. I was scared to sit down too much, but it sure felt good. I raced hard and was a little leery of going back outside. I didn’t change at all, despite socks that may have been a little damp. I didn’t get sweaty at all, luckily, so kept all my gear on just how it was. A little re-hydration and I was back out on the start line.

I saw a guy I had timed a few times, Kyle Smith, who was warming up in shorts and a singlet, no gloves and no hat. His shorts were shorter than mine. I knew he was really fast AND his shorts were shorter than mine. Especially with a pretty hard 5k in my legs, I knew I wouldn’t win. Kyle also informed me of his very fast St. Scholastica XC teammate Chris who was in the race. Kyle said he had to take it easy, however, and was going out for a nice tempo pace.

The 10k started, and I was immediately behind a pack of guys, unlike the 5k start where I led out of the gate. Of course, Smith was going for the win and he surged ahead very quickly. I focused on quick leg turnover once we got out into the main road, and I was in fifth place. Smith was way out front, Chris was right on his tail, and another guy in white was between the fourth place guy and me. I made a quick move to overtake this guy and sat in fourth place. I kept the legs churning and dropped him. Now, I thought, if I can slowly chip away on this guy in white, I’d be real happy. He was still between Smith and Chris, who were way up front.

On the contrary, the guy in white kept getting farther and farther out of sight, until he took a turn way up ahead, never to be seen again. When I got to the turn, I looked around to corner to see the tiny fifth place dude way back. Just me all by my lonesome. I settled into a nice rhythm. Around two miles in, I thought about how the 5k in my legs is killing me. I tried to relax a bit and get into a half-marathon-esque pace–a pace where I can endure running a long time, yet on the fringe of being uncomfortable. That was the perfect mindset, and I the miles ticked by as I ran through scenic International Falls. The course went through the city, and the different shops and storefronts kept me mentally stimulated.

Next thing I know, I was on the familiar main road to the college with the blinking cop cars in the distance. I looked at my watch–35:00 or so. I thought I could go under 37. I tried to get a last little push on the sloppy but grippy road. When I turned onto the driveway to the finish, 100 yards to go, my watch was 36:45 or so. Close! Push it! I cringed a little bit when I saw the race clock tick to 37:00, then 37:01, then 37:02. My watch said 37:08. Still a PR! Although an hour would have been a PR because that was my first open 10k.

I changed into sweatpants and we all waited for awards. Our group took home some serious hardware. Another Duluthian, Molly, won the 5k and 10k, so the awards were a jolly occasion.

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We went back to the hotel for a little potluck, then drove home in some slick snow straight back on Highway 53 to Duluth. Kyle is the man for driving us. Stacie and I sleeping the way back probably made for a boring drive for him!

5k Results

10k Results

Race Stats:

Shoes: Brooks PureFlow3

5k time: 18:37
Pace: 6:00
Place: 1/172

10k time: 37:04
Pace: 5:58
Place: 4/94

Photo credits: International Falls Journal and Joslynn Lee.

Race Day: January 3, 2015 – 7am

“This is fun to me.”

After Wild Duluth 50k, I was pretty amped up on long running races and the whole ultramarathon scene. Tony, General Manager at Duluth Running Co., planted the seed in my mind after talking about this Tuscobia race in the middle of winter. The Tuscobia Winter Ultra takes in Park Falls, Wisconsin on the Tuscobia State Trail, which is a 75-mile snowmobile/multi-use trail. There are three distances: 35, 75, or 150 miles; and three modes of transportation that athletes can choose from: ski, bike, or on foot. The entire race is billed as “self-supported,” meaning no aid stations. If you have a leak in your water container, tough luck. If you forget to carry food, you’ll be hungry.

The more I did research, the more I became really excited to register. It would be fun to really embrace winter and get an idea what the whole winter racing thing is all about. The Arrowhead 135 is the big one, and Tuscobia would the perfect precursor to someday putting Arrowhead on my race resume. I registered for the 35-mile foot race in October.

Training didn’t really change from Wild Duluth. I kept my mileage up by trying to run daily and throw in a few 2, 3 and 4 hour runs in the mix. I had a pretty big setback in training while in Mexico over Christmas with the fam. I was nervous that my training would suffer in the crucial training time frame 2-3 weeks out, during which I would ideally have a really big mileage week and then taper off. In Mexico, I definitely didn’t put in big mileage with the exception of one 1:40 run, but the big setback was a separated AC joint in my shoulder after a bodysurfing accident. The AC joint is comprised of the clavicle, scapula (shoulder blade), and a ligament that holds it all together. I tore that ligament and will have a lifelong physical deformity where my clavicle is unattached and sticks up on the top of my shoulder.

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It was pretty painful while we were still in Mexico and traveling, and my running definitely suffered in the days after the ocean wave bashed me. That was just bad decision making on my part… I questioned whether I would be able to race, but the only thing I could do was to run as much as I could without pain and let it ride. Luckily, after a week, it felt much better and I was running pretty much pain-free, although putting on a shirt or backpack was terribly uncomfortable, which could be a major factor in an unsupported race where I need to carry supplies with me and in the winter where layering is key.

Race week brought nerves. I could only think of the different combinations of food, water, and clothes that I needed to carry. What if it’s below zero at the start? What if my food freezes? How much water will be enough? I split a lodge with Tony about 30 minutes out from the race HQ. His race (150 mile bike… crazy!!) started 25 hours before mine, so he was there on Thursday night and I drove down on Friday. The lodge was sweet, Tony left beer in the fridge and it was the perfect venue to calm down, visualize and prepare for the race the next morning.

My alarm went off at 4:10am and I was up and at ’em. I ate some Frosted Flakes and started sipping my pre-race good luck beverage, Mt. Dew. I loaded up my vehicle and made sure my pack was stocked up and ready to go, which it definitely was from the night before when I meticulously double checked the gear.

I arrived at the HQ at about 5am and checked in. I got lucky number 286 and boarded the bus that shipped us 35 miles out to the start in a small town called Ojibwe, WI. The bus ride was not fun. I had to pee, I was cold but my back felt sweaty and I desperately wanted to get running.

About an hour later, we got to the start. Everyone huddled into a brick shelter and the race director Helen went over some last minute details. Finally, we were herded to the start line where all of the 35-mile runners, bikers and skiers started together. The bikers went up front, I was right behind and the rest of the runners and skiers were towards the back. I was trying to scope down any potential competitors, but it’s impossible! In a long running race, anyone can win. In fact, the 150 run winner was a 51 year old woman. The overall winner. Of the 150-mile foot race.

The race started with a little loop-de-loop on spur trails from the Ojibwe parking lot start line to the Tuscobia State trail and back, which accounted for maybe a half mile or mile. The Tuscobia felt like concrete compared to the snowy spurs. I passed bikers, which immediately re-passed me on the hard packed Tuscobia, then passed them again in the powder, and then finally back on the Tuscobia the second time, they passed me for good. Chris, the other race director, was stationed at the turn-in point. The second time I saw him about 15 minutes into the race, I asked if I was the first runner out and he confirmed that I was. Perfect start!

I got into a pretty fast pace immediately. I felt like I was pushing hard, but I was jacked up being in first place and felt like I should establish a buffer on the other runners who may have been caught up in the traffic jam on the spur section. In the blink of an eye, 48 minutes had ticked on my watch. I saw the first non-35-mile athlete way up ahead and they were walking their bike. I hoped it wasn’t Tony, who I had been religiously tracking on the internet all night and morning, but heard “Mike!!!” and knew it was him. I stopped and we high-fived. I asked why he was walking and if it was a mechanical issue. He said he was just tired, and I looked in his eyes and realized that he looked TIRED. His eyes were red and I could only image the mental toil of walking a 40-pound bike after not sleeping for at least 26 hours. I continued on running without spending too much time and felt a little bad leaving T-Dawg in the dust.

The first of two checkpoints in the 35-mile race was at about 6 miles in. I got there in a bit under an hour. The volunteer seemed surprised and cheered me on, and I definitely felt like I was zooming past him.

An hour and a little bit into the race and I realized I should probably keep up with the calories I was expending. Around 1:40 in, I finished off my first package of Honey Stinger Chews (Cherry Cola with caffeine), and took down a double caffeine gel. Perhaps it was the caffeine buzz or a nice stretch of hard snow, but I was really cooking along. I felt like I could really push it here, I was breathing hard and going fast. I finally hit some slower snow and my pace dropped to a nice steady, comfortable effort. I was walking and eating, looked behind me and thought I saw another runner gaining on me and running strong. I quit walking and got into a solid zone. I started running scared, which definitely helped.

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The next two and a half hours went by without incident. In fact, I don’t really remember anything from this section. Just some steady running, a few snowmobilers, passing some bikers, getting passed by some bikers, eating and drinking, and a little bit of talking to myself. Every now and again, I’d look behind me and see nothing. The trail was so straight and flat that you could seemingly see for miles.

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I hit the second checkpoint, 25 miles in, at about 4 hours. I was walking more and more by this point, but could still keep a steady running pace for a while. It was this point that I remember that I started to feel pretty bad. My legs were sore, my feet hurt, my shoulders hurt (but not my bum shoulder, luckily!), and the snow was feeling more and more soft and powdery. Every step, I’d lose grip and the lack of traction became very frustrating.

I thought that the last home stretch of 10 miles would be easy to mentally manage, but then realized that 10 miles is a long way. At this pace, it would take me at least 1:30. That is no home stretch! This is when my mantra was really coming into play. I would say “This is fun to me,” and laugh and laugh. I kept thinking that life is too easy and doing something hard is good. There is pleasure in the pain. There is happiness in the un-fun. The struggle was an exciting challenge. This race is how I get my kicks and a great leisure-time activity. Life is way too easy.

I started seeing less and less bikers and more and more long-course people on foot. These people looked rough. Nobody was having fun. At that point, I’m sure, it was a major mental struggle to press on. I realized that 35 miles is child’s play. My race was nothing like the 75 or 150 mile races. Not even close to the same thing. Yet, I was still struggling. I felt a slight tinge in my left knee which gave me more and more pain the more I ran. I was walking a lot. I would run very, very slowly with my feet dragging on the snowy ground, then have a spurt of energy and start running, and then nearly collapse in pain and exhaustion, reduced to a walk once again. This was the program for the last 8 miles or so of the race. Miles were going slowly and the last hour seemed to go by as quickly as the first four. As mid-day broke, there were more and more snowmobiles chewing up the nice hard sections of trails. I would get frustrated and swear. I was sick of snow, sick of cold, sick of the stupid Tuscobia State Trail, sick of eating sugary exercise food and candy, and really sick of running!

Then, I saw a blue water tower and knew I was close. However, I could still see so far down the trail and I knew I wasn’t really that close. A couple more cycles of slow run, fast run, walk, and it was very relieving to see a sign that said “Tuscobia State Trail” and the end of the trail. Finally, no more damn snowmobile trail. A sign led me onto a road, which snaked about a half mile to the finish in Park Falls. I hadn’t seen another 35 mile runner since the first 50 feet of the race, and when I got to the finish tent in first place, I let out a guttural roar, laid down and closed my eyes.

After a beer and pizza, I realized Tony wasn’t going to come in for a few hours yet. I drove home with a cool first place award, $30 gift card and jar of syrup. I was certainly happy to be done, I felt accomplished and definitely satisfied with the win.

I made a few mistakes. One was with training. I definitely would have benefited with a few 6 hour runs and even more 4 hour runs. It was about 3 months in between Wild Duluth and Tuscobia, and I should have done two 6 hour runs and two 4 hour runs, instead of one 3 hour and one 4 hour. Easier said than done, I guess! My second mistake was not bringing more caffeine. Boy, what a boost! I definitely could have used that sort of boost five hours in.

Either way, I had fun. There were ups and downs, and I am really glad it is over, but definitely fun. Tuscobia is an awesome race, very well produced, and I was relatively satisfied with my performance and execution. Above all, I was happy to get a winter ultra in my belt and some experience to help build up to a “real” winter ultra.

Results

Race Stats:

Shoes: Nike Terra Kiger, size 11
Pack: North Face Torrent 4l (Plus 2l Camelback bladder)
Time: 5:59 (Watch said 5:58:59)
Pace: 10:15
Place: 1/21 (24 started)

Race Day: October 18, 2014 — 8am

Wild Duluth is the perfect 50k course. Saturday was the perfect day and I had a perfect race. I registered for the Wild Duluth 50k many months ago and knew I wanted to race it well. Therefore, I trained very specifically and with a high priority for this long trail race.

I’ve been pretty fit and fast all summer, and once September started, I really started to focus on Wild Duluth. It helps so much to have a big base of running fitness, because I think it worked really well to do a month and half of such specific training. I probably could have focused on a road 5k and done really well with that… have that base of fitness leaves the door open without having to work up mileage.

My plan was to run a long four-hour run each weekend leading up to WD. That left me with around 5 long runs, which would be great. The only question was whether my body could all the sudden handle big sessions on the weekends. I’d keep running consistently throughout the week and never skip a day, perhaps with some longer trail runs during the week as well.

I ended up doing three 4+ hour runs, two of which were two-hour out-and-back runs, both on really rugged Superior Hiking Trail terrain like I would be racing on (one of which on the actual course). On both of those runs, however, I averaged over 10 minutes per mile and ended up walking a lot. It’s kind of hard to push through that urge to walk or just stop when it’s a training run. I just thought that time on the feet is the best training as not to injure myself or get burnt out. The final long run was in Hartley, which is much less rugged and much less elevation change. I ran the Hartley trails the whole time, about 1:40 total, then ran to a Wednesday night trail race for another hour, raced the 6k course, and ran home for another hour. I ended up clocking 4:15 and felt really good with 10 days left until race day. I managed to stay healthy and really consistent with training, which is always a good feeling when you toe the line.

So with training focused on simply racing well, racing fast, and being able to feel strong through the entire 31 miles, I began to prospect on how I would stack up against the field. I thought I could do around 5 hours. Based on the pace that I was hitting in training and past results, that seemed attainable. With keeping an eye on the registrant list, I started to think I could win the whole thing! On race week, I decided I would race for the win regardless of time. Either way, I thought 4:40 would get the win, which is just about 9 minute per mile pace. My race plan was to try and hit 9 minute pace going through each aid station, but race for the win.

I didn’t sleep much on Friday night and was really anxious. I rode the bus to the start line and shared a seat with seasoned ultrarunner Rick Bothwell, who I knew from timing the Moose Run in Moose Lake. He had some really good advice. He told me that whenever you have negative thoughts in your mind, it means that you are low on calories and you have to eat. Simple! Rick’s general demeanor on the bus ride definitely calmed me down.

I tried to pick out my competition at the start line. I figured that two guys had a shot to win and it was going to be a footrace. The other guys were Donny Sazama and Ryan Braun, both of which had run the race in the past and put up respectable results ~5 hours. I had never met either, but knew Donny was a local guy and ended up putting the face to the name before the race started. I heard through the grapevine that Donny likes to start out really hot and sure enough, when the gun went off at 8:02am, he was off like a rocket.

The first five miles was on winding singletrack mountain bike trails with a ton of switchbacks. This was great, because I could see Donny way ahead of me and also two other guys behind me. I was in the middle, and nobody else was really in sight. I really tried to just hold and easy, easy pace here. I knew that if I went too hard the first hour, the other 3+ hours would be really tough. We turned onto an old ATV trail or vehicle path and I lost sight of everybody. There were all sorts of weird trail intersections here so I had to focus on the flagging. All of the sudden, I see Donny running towards me! He swore and said he got turned around, then popped in front of me. We chatted for a bit and realized we knew each other from the running circuit. Then, his shoe came untied (I feel your pain, brother!), and his lead was obliterated. So it looks like I’m in the lead! We turned down into the powerlines, which is a really steep trail section near Jay Cooke State Park that is renowned for being all but unrunnable. I had never been here, and it wasn’t that bad…

I got through the first aid station way, way faster than my pre-planned 9 minute pace said. 47 minutes was my goal, and I think I was in the high 30’s at that point. Oh man! Talk about a buffer… I ditched my long sleeve and turned onto the Superior Hiking Trail. SHT all the way back. That gave me a major mental boost, because I felt really confident following the blue blazes of the SHT, I was in first moving fast and felt really strong.

The next section was through rolling hills over a few creeks and overlooking Jay Cooke State Park to the southwest. The sun was starting to get higher in the sky and it was a very enjoyable section of the race. Donny was behind me most of the time, which helped me maintain a strong pace. When we got to the next aid station, I filled up my water bottle and took a mini Twix bar. Through the second aid station, we run a half mile on the paved Munger Trail, then climb straight up to Ely’s Peak, which is probably the most rugged single climb of the race. I thought that if I could run up Ely’s, I’d surely lose Donny for good. Also that would be a huge buffer to work with at about halfway into the race.

I really jammed up Ely’s, which worked good, because although I was pretty winded, I was at the top really quickly. Hiking up, for instance, I’m still sucking wind but it takes a long time to get to the top! I started seeing a 100k-ers going the opposite way to the 50k start line, which was a nice boost. I knew this section of trail really well, too, so I could anticipate the terrain well.

Getting to the Magney Snively aid station was great. I was over Ely’s and about halfway done, and way ahead of schedule. I was right where I wanted to be, first place, and feeling really good. I saw my dad and training partner Diamond the dog, which was nice as well. I filled up water, ate a slice of PB and J and kept right on going.

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Going down to Spirit Mountain was nice. This section was mostly downhill and a really cool area. Once I got to the base of Spirit, I started to feel fatigued for pretty much the first time of the day. Of course, once you’re at the base of Spirit, you have to run back up… I zinged through the Spirit aid station because it was only two miles from the Magney aid station that I loaded up at. I knew the next aid station, Highland Getchell, would be tough to get to. I didn’t know this part super well, but knew there were some uphill grinds. Then again, after Highland Getchell, it was familiar trail and relatively easy running. That’s what was going through my mind, and I ate as much as I felt comfortable with! The negative thoughts were comin’ in.

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The climb to the Highland Getchell aid station was brutal. It is just one long, two mile grind to get to the aid station. Dad and Diamond were there, and that was nice. I was almost empty of water, so I loaded up and was on my way. At this point, I was pretty much dead on my 9 minute mile pace, which means I slowed down quite a bit in that last section. I knew I could run the next bit pretty well, though, and then it’s a three mile downhill to the finish.

From Highland Getchell to Piedmont, the last aid station, I was in auto pilot. I was running strong, but I could feel the pain setting in for sure. I started seeing half marathoners, which was kind of nice on the mental state, and I felt fast passing them. I thought getting to Piedmont was going to be the best part of the race. Home free, all downhill, and it is the “DRC” aid station, meaning that a lot of the racing team and staff would be there. In reality, it was the worst part of the race! I was dead. I filled up water, shoved some pretzels and M&M’s in my mouth and tried to get out of there as fast as possible. I was hurting. It was a little road run uphill to Enger Tower and then all downhill. I was just dying trying to get to Enger. I just wanted to get done at this point, and was so scared of getting caught. I though in my mind that if I got caught in the last three miles, I’d cry!

Enger Tower was sweet. There was a lot of people and a lot of half-marathoners, and I felt really fast and strong just zinging by them. Once you get past the Enger Tower park area, it’s back into the woods and literally all downhill. I still felt strong and nimble on the downhills, so I pounded it home. You eventually pop out near I-35, run across the freeway and a short road run to the finish line. Once I got to the pavement, I opened up. I could feel my hamstrings wanting to seize up and cramp, so I tried to keep a nice form. I tried to look back and definitely didn’t see anyone. Home free baby!

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The finish line was awesome. I cruised on in, did an awesome shotgun blast to the heavens celebration and yelped a few times. Then a bunch of friends and family ran over, which was awesome. Pure ecstasy! All the hard training paid off for the perfect race. It was a wonderfully organized event and I tip my hat to the Wild Duluth race directors and volunteers for an awesome event!

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Results

Race Stats:
Shoes: Nike Terra Kiger
Time: 4:34:25
Pace: 8:49
Place: 1/140

Race Day: October 11, 2014 – 8:30am

I jumped in the Whistlestop Half Marathon after much, much deliberation. My priority race is the Wild Duluth 50k, which is only a week after Whistlestop, so the risk of injury or slow recovery is pretty high. Not to mention, it was $90 to register late. I wanted to register because I knew I was more fit going into the race than I had ever been in my life and I could shave a lot of time off of my half marathon PR. Also, a lot of familiar faces were racing and it happened to fit into my busy weekend timing schedule. The tipping point was when a girl came into Duluth Running Co. asking if there was a board or something to post her Whistlestop half marathon race transfer. I guess she had a last minute obligation and the Ashland Chamber wouldn’t refund or transfer to next year, only transfer to someone else. I heard her story and offered her $50 for the transfer. I had to pay an additional $10 to Ashland Chamber, but whatever, athletes got a pretty nice race jacket.

My last big workouts before Wild Duluth took a precedence over any sort of taper, and I did a long run just over 4 hours on Wednesday. I took Thursday off and did a nice easy run on Friday. I drove to Ashland early on Saturday morning and definitely still felt a little worn down from the Wednesday run. My plan was to hit 5:45 minutes per mile through the whole race. Realistically, as long as I have a strong race, I’d be content. Of course, if I felt really bad, I’d ease back as not to put myself way back with recovery.

The weather was perfect for running, and after a little, yet very tight and stiff, warm up run, the gun went off. I didn’t look at my watch and just wanted to feel out the first mile. Jerry said we were running 5:20 pace, so he eased back a bit. The first mile was 6:17 or so. Sure, it was easy and felt good, but I knew I could crank it up. Jerry’s watch need a configuration!

Just as I started the second mile with aspirations to hit under 6 minutes, I noticed my shoe was untied. Bummer! I tied it as quickly as possible and double knotted it (again…). The second mile was still over 6 minutes. I was still feeling good, but really wanted to crank it down more. At this point, we were on the gravel trail. It took a little bit to get locked in on this sort of surface, but I found a good pace and let it rip. Each mile was closer to my goal pace, and I seemed to lock in at around a 5:53 pace. This was fine by me! There was no need to risk blowing up. I clicked off miles consistently, and next thing I know there was 2 miles left. After putting in so many long hours on the trail, an hour just flies by!

I managed to reel in another guy, which gave me just enough mental boost to finish strong. That last mile was the only one that felt overly strenuous. I felt my form deteriorate and I was breathing hard, but running really hard.

I didn’t know what place I was in, but knew that I had a big PR. My watch said 1:17, which is smoking compared to my previous record of 1:21. I watched a few friends come through, ate a ton of snacks and showered, then headed to Spooner, Wisconsin for an evening timing gig. I was super pleased with a PR, 5th place overall, age group winner and a solid, strong race overall. Above all, though, I was happy that I felt really good the rest of the day and the next day. I knew I would be able to recover quickly for Wild Duluth in 7 short days.

Results

Race Stats:
Shoes: Brooks Pureflow 3
Time: 1:17:36
Pace: 5:56
Place: 5/1,521

Race Day: August 10, 2014

After two sweet races in a row, I was so ready to keep it going at the Green Lake Tri. This one is a perennial classic for me, and I love the flat and fast course, so I was amped. Ryan, Nick and I booked a hotel and went down to Willmar for the night.

As opposed to the previous two weekends, the weather at Green Lake was terrible. I really don’t like racing triathlons in the rain, and it was really rainy and cold. That should make for a fast run, anyways. I was really excited to let it rip on the fast course. I was also borrowing a pair of race wheels from my buddy Bill, so I figured I could have a super fast bike split and follow it with a steaming run in the rain.

I was confident that I would be able to take Nick down again, despite the longer run. I figured with a little more flux room in the swim and bike, I’d have enough to hold him off. Another guy on the start list, who was pegged to win by Minnesota Tri News, was a guy who calls himself Casey Miller. He was a fast bike-runner but I had him on the swim. My plan was to get out of the water with a big margin, hold everyone off on the bike and have a steady, fast run for the win.

In the warm water, I started off the same way as Brewhouse one week earlier–push it early and establish a good position in the front. Another guy really crushed the swim and I couldn’t catch him. I swam neck and neck with another guy who I didn’t see after T1, but he was swerving everywhere!

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When I got onto the bike course, I tried to let it rip. I didn’t see anyone in front of me or behind me, so it was kind of lonely out there by myself. At the turnaround, I saw Tim Bode, the fast swimmer, hammering. I’ve raced him here before and knew I could catch him on the run if I shrink his lead on the bike a bit. Once I started the return route, I saw Casey pretty close behind me, and Nick pretty close to him. This was going to be a good race!

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I got off the bike and zinged through the transition zone. The announcer, Jerry MacNeil, mentioned that that sort of fast transition meant that I was going for the win. Correct! I knew I would catch Tim, it was just a matter of how long it would take Casey to get me, how long we could run together, and who had the grit to finish it out in first place. As I was exiting transition, I knew Casey was in. I started off fast and tried to lock into a pace early. I felt good running. Casey caught up to me near the short course turnaround in between miles 1 and 2. I stuck on his shoulder and we ran side by side for a half mile or so. I got a little cocky and wanted to make a move, so I kicked it up. He matched me stride for stride. Then I eased back into my pace and he kept going. That crushed me mentally. What a weak move!

At the turnaround, I knew Casey had the win. He put too much time on me just in that mile, he looked strong, and I started to feel really bad physically as well as mentally. I saw Nick after I turned around and he was pretty close. He had passed Tim as well and looked speedy. A mile later, I looked around to see how much he had gained on me, and he was right on my shoulder! I didn’t even hear him coming and he passed me in a picosecond. I told him Casey was 5 minutes or so ahead and he zoomed off, leaving me in his dust. That was tough mentally, as well, because I knew that I had third place no matter what. I could probably walk a little bit and still get the third spot. My pace slowed and I dragged myself across the finish.

Nick reeled Casey in for an amazing first place finish. As mentally tough this race was for me, especially after two big races in a row, it was a huge mental boost for Nick and I was really happy. I know Casey was kind of pissed getting reeled in, but it sounds like he faded a bit, too.

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It was still a fun race, I won my age group, and I love the production of the Green Lake Tri.

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Results

Race Stats:
Wetsuit: Blueseventy Helix (From, like, 2007)
Bike: Specialized Transition AL with HED3 wheelset
Shoes: Brooks Pureflow 3
Time: 1:53:50
Swim: 19:09
Pace: 1:27
Bike: 54:03
Rate: 24.4
Run: 39:16 (For comparison, Nick had a 32:00 run split. Freak status)
Pace: 6:33
Place: 3/48


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