Runners enjoy warm winter races


Last weekend, that smell?! *sniff, sniff* Did you catch a whiff? That hint of “spring” in the air?! Call me optimistic (or delusional), but I swear I detected the coming of tulips and robins on the wind.

Don’t get me wrong, I love all four seasons, but from a running perspective a little warm-up goes a long way! Especially given the double-header of events of last weekend.

Starting with Saturday’s 33rd running of the Frostbite Footrace along the hilly roadways of Scott County Park.

What used to be a five mile event was pared down to a 5k a few years ago. At the time, I was pretty bummed as it was just a handful of local events that were longer than a 5k. I’d asked race director Marianne Schroeder why the change and her reasons were simple: numbers.

Not only does it take fewer volunteers to coordinate a shorter race, but shorter distances open themselves up to more people willing to challenge themselves. I get it! Five miles sounds daunting, but a wee over three? Whether walking or running (or a little of both), 3.1 miles are doable!

And it was VERY doable last Saturday! The race started at 1 pm, perfect timing for temperatures to reach a gorgeous 42 degrees.

The Frostbite saw over 200 participants toe the start line including local runner Ashely Spain of DeWitt who smashed one of her 2015 goals—running a sub-25 minute 5k! Ashley and I messaged back and forth in the days prior to the race.

As a member of the Facebook group “DeWitt Running Club,” Ashley’s training paid off with a time of 24:46 to snag top honors in the women’s 30-34 age group! (Second place was more than a minute and a half behind her!) Taking the overall 65th spot from a field of 242, Ashley broke the tape on the heels of Quad Cities Cornbelt Running Club president Paul Schmidt (that’s some impressive company she’s keeping)!

Myself? I finished. Having run the Frostbite several times, it was a treat not to have to slog through slush, squint into blowing, snowy headwinds or lose feeling in my toes and fingers. It was a fun day of rTriple D 2015unning in which I high-fived some volunteers and chatted with many friends out enjoying Scott County Park’s hills. I am seldom a contender and was surprisingly pleased that my turtle-ish 31:48 placed me in the top half of my 40-44 age group.

While I tried to challenge myself, in the back of my mind, I knew I had to conserve a bit of energy for the following day’s half marathon along Dubuque’s Heritage Trail for my third visit to the Triple D Winter Race & Poker Run.

As described by race director Lance Andre, “The Triple D is a winter endurance trail event that traverses Dubuque County, Iowa, in the dead of winter by bike, ski or foot.”

Participants choose their poison with runners and cross-country skiers taking on the half marathon, marathon or 50k ultra marathon distances. Bikers have just one option: a plus-100k/67 mile spin.

It’s billed as a trail event, but the Heritage Trail is not an up and down, twisting-turning, tree roots and tripping tumble fest. The Heritage Trail is an old railroad bed i.e. FLAT (for me, its most attractive aspect).

The terrain is not the challenge and it certainly isn’t an event that most people “race” because of the weather, typically Dubuque’s average temperature is 24 degrees and most participants are merely seeking a finish.

In 2015 and 2014, however, the relatively warm temps have been a welcome reprieve from my first Triple D in 2013 when I ran the full marathon on a day so cold my braids froze like Pippy Longstocking and my Camelbak crunched with ice.

But the nightmare that was 2013 continues to fade, replaced by last year’s and this year’s comparatively balmish, sunny events that left many of us stripping off layers as we ticked off the miles.

I usually enjoy seeing a host of friends at the Triple D and this year was no different! There were buddies from the Quad Cities, my relay captain from Clinton, Paul Wiederholt, and fellow Skeff Race Board Member Bill Petsche of DeWitt.

Paul, ever the maniac, ran the marathon as a “recovery” run having raced a 50k ultra in Arizona the week before. I, my QC pals and Bill proved much saner by doing “just” the half marathon.

In the week prior, the emails were flying among friends about the trail conditions. As temperatures began to climb, many of us worried the trail would turn to soup. Those of us running the half were very lucky as the limestone surface remained firm until the last couple of miles.

But the bikers as well as the marathoners and ultra runners had a different story to tell. As the cloudless sky lead to the day’s high temperature of 40, the sun beat the trail into, as Paul would later describe, “an interesting mix of frozen, slushy, soupy (and) some parts more peanut butter-ish.”

Bill, I and the rest of the half’ers finished long before the trails deteriorated to that point, and while our calves and shoes were certainly mud-caked, nothing could compare to the Facebook photos of the bikers, who were encrusted in a tan casing of goop from front to back, head to toe. All of them, I must add, grinning hugely.

It looked so gross and fun that I may just have to consider the bike option next year! Kudos to everyone for getting their “grrrr” on last weekend! Keep up the good work!!!


Originally published 24 January 2015 in The Observer.

Vegas 26.2 proves too great a challenge


I’d traveled to Vegas to run the Las Vegas Rock & Roll Marathon. My husband couldn’t join me so Mom and Dad opted to go!

It’d been 25 years since they last visited Sin City. A lot has changed. We spent much of Saturday morning and afternoon walking the Strip. I booked us at The Mirage because not only did I think Mom and Dad would enjoy it, but the marathon finished there. Little did I know it was also seated at the north end of the Strip.

Strolling south we visited casinos in Harrah’s, the Flamingo, New York New York and the Monte Carlo. There were crystal chandeliers, hot pink leather seats and gorgeous silver Audis waiting to be won. Absent were the tuxedo’ed James Bond-types.

~vegas marathonThough the casinos were mostly the same, Mom and Dad both admitted disappointment with how lavish and outlandish the Strip had become. The old Vegas was gone, replaced with extravagant shops like Prada, Tom Ford and Guicci. It’s truly like a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah.

We had supper at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill inside Harrah’s. With hard-working waitresses in cowboy hats and chaps, Mom and I giggled watching tables of middle aged men drool over the in-your-face breasts and butts, ignoring their poor dates.

The rest of the evening and much of Sunday I hung out in my room while Mom and Dad roamed around. The anxiety I normally feel before a marathon was amped up even more because it was a night event. Start time: 4:30 p.m.

When I joined Mom and Dad for coffee and muffins Sunday morning and again for lunch, I kept telling them, “This wait is killing me!” As with many runners, I’m used to a morning routine of coffee, breakfast, race. This was a mind game of waiting. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t relax, couldn’t calm down. Despite it being my 12th marathon, it felt like my first.

Ever since my first in 2010 when I saw a runner wearing a tall Eiffel Tower cage, I knew I wanted to run in costume. Since then I’ve acquired all sorts of tutus and shirts and tights. For Vegas, I decided to go with a holiday theme: red tulle skirt, black capri tights, candy-cane striped socks, a Santa hat, elf collar and a green t-shirt that read “Santa’s coming? I know him!” from the movie Elf.

Some people think I do it for attention, but I dress up to give other people a laugh and this costume didn’t disappoint. While waiting for the race to start, a gaggle of Santas passed through my start corral so I shouted, “Santa! I know him!”

When the Santas turned around and greeted me, I turned to my race mates and screamed, “They know me!” That’s all it took for a few of us to start swapping Elf movie quotes. Still, we were in for a long wait and though the majority of runners were doing the half, even they were antsy to get going.

I was assigned Corral 28 based on an estimated finish of 4:40—a tad hopeful, but not impossible given my marathon PR is 4:32. But this was the first I’d run with a required finish time of five hours or less. That, alone, does a number on the psyche.

Though the race started at 4:30 p.m., it wasn’t until 5:10 that I go rolling and by the second mile I knew I was in trouble. Whether it was the long wait to start, the previous day’s walking or the evening timeframe, I could tell I was pushing too hard and getting nowhere. I felt like I was in quicksand.

As the course ran along the Strip, I took in the lights, but worried. I spotted my parents and Hi-5’ed Dad, not stopping to talk. Off and on, I ran with a Quad City friend who was doing the half.

Around the ninth mile, she veered toward her finish while the full course headed to Fremont Street, which was a delight! With a massive video screen canopying the pedestrian mall, crowds lined the race course and Hi-5’ed us as we went through. I noticed my face was having trouble smiling. My cheeks wouldn’t work!

And then it happened. Just before Mile 14, as I trailed runners taking the course’s left turn, several race officials walked onto the course and formed a human barricade. I’d missed the cutoff. Me and everyone behind me were denied further progress.

I heard one runner shout at the race officials, pleading he be allowed to continue. No dice. We’d run the first half too slow. They’d turned us around and sent us back to the finish.

This was on an out-and-back portion of the course so we blended in with other runners who’d already circled through the portion we hadn’t.

I felt a weird mix of angst and relief. Like a neon billboard, the thought that crowded out all others was: “This would be my first DNF (Did Not Finish).”

I couldn’t understand what I’d done wrong. My training was solid, the course was flat, the temperature was perfect and yet none of that matter. It was a race in which things just didn’t come together.

As the course took runners back through Fremont Street I tried to smile and wave. When I headed toward the finish, I palmed the many hands sticking out. I felt like a poser, but couldn’t find another way off the course. I headed down the finisher’s chute and over the finish line. Weird.

I spotted a half marathoner sitting along the edge, pulling out a cigarette. I nearly joined him. I felt gross, on the inside.

After my parents found me, their faces falling when I told them what happened, I went to my room and messaged friends of the failure. It wasn’t long for a Facebook comment to pop up from one of my dearest friends, Observer-alum Shelly Seifert, “Your children are watching how you deal with this.”

BOOM!

Does it get any more real than that?

There is way too much heartache in this world to let a little ol’ marathon get me down. Besides, I have no regrets! It was a great way to see the city and a fabulous experience with my parents!

For all the junk that chokes my Facebook newsfeed, recently a friend posted an article by runner Dane Rauschenberg, “Six Ways You Can Succeed in Running.” No. 6 on the list was “Remember How Lucky You Are.”

“. . . the main and best thing about running is that you get to do it. . . You are traversing the world, one foot at a time . . . there are thousands who wished they had it so easy. Don’t take it for granted.”

And I don’t intend to. Hopefully Thursday I ran my fifth Turkey Trot in Davenport. Tonight, my son Maclane and I will done costumes for Clinton’s Symphony of Lights 5k at Eagle Point Park. Tomorrow I plan to strap on a headlamp and join my Cornbelt buddies for a 6 a.m. long run along Bettendorf’s Duck Creek Bike Path.


Originally published 29 November 2014 in The Observer.

Dining on ‘tri’ humble pie—injury


Humble pie. It tastes a lot more yucky than crow, but over the last week I’ve been eating quite a bit of it.

That stuff I wrote last week about taking it easy now that summer’s here? Well . . . I didn’t want to mention it, but I did the Quad Cities Triathlon last weekend. And I broke.

As with last August’s Crossroad Triathlon, I panicked during the open water swim and ended up swimming the majority of it on my back. Miraculously, though it was 100 yards longer than the Crossroads, I finished a minute and a half faster last weekend!

Unfortunately that gain was quickly thwarted by my apparent lollygag from swim to bike. At last August’s Crossroads my first transition time was a mere 1:44, comparatively last weekend it was 4:31. And things just went downhill from there.

20140614_174023_AndroidI’ve been pretty distracted lately, likely due to tonight’s annual Paul Skeffington Memorial Race. I never thought I’d be a part of something so big! For me, the Skeff Race runs the gamut from star harriers to leisurely walkers and the many paces in between. I love that it’s been around for 27 years and I hope you all go out and enjoy it tonight, either by participating or cheering.

But back to my meltdown . . . with my primary focus being on pre-race details, any efforts to formulate a plan for the triathlon were useless. I’m terrible at multi-tasking so it’s no wonder my mind was everywhere but “in the moment.”

The result of being so scattered was that I attacked the 15-mile bike portion of the event with a vigor I can only imagine rabid dogs having, I was actually, literally, foaming at the mouth. I shifted my bike gears into the big ring and gave it all I had.

I’ve been riding a lot more this year than last year, but I’ve spent minimal time riding in the large gear ring. Bigger ring means harder pedaling BUT faster speed.

While the QC Tri bike course is pretty flat, there are a few significant hills. Couple that with increasing winds and it made for a hard 51 minute ride compared to last year’s Crossroad which I rode 90 seconds faster AND felt much better doing. I remember feeling a joy during last year’s ride. But last Saturday? I was merely trying to muscle my way through it and get it done.

I’m still trying to figure out exactly when it happened, but sometime after I rode up to the transition area and got off my bike, I bent over several times while changes shoes, snagging a drink of water, etc. and something “went.”

I was too scattered, breathless, shaky, and let’s not forget, foamy, for real pain to register. I blew it off as mere tightness and headed out for the 5k run. But once I began running, I noticed my left leg not working very well. Thinking I was just breathless, I walked a bit.

After about a half mile of running and walking, I realized I was dragging my left leg. That’s when it hit me, “Uh oh. I’m hurt.” I finished, but once I knew I was injured, I got mindful in a hurry! I was conscious of each footfall, aware of how my muscles were feeling with each stride. But it was “too little, too late.”

So now what? After I finished, I message my soft tissue therapist who since last fall has dramatically helped correct issues with my running. Monday he determined I’d compressed a nerve near the sit bones of my pelvis during the bike that caused the glute muscle on my left side to stop working, making the groin and hamstring compensate and ultimately fail.

So does that mean I pulled my groin? Strained my hamstring? Kind of. As he explained, the whole area simply got way too beat up and now needs a rest. I have twice-daily exercises that he assigned me and I’m to stay off the bike for at least week. And most importantly, work on strengthening my mind/body connection.

Wednesday was my first workout since the triathlon so I did a slow mile in the pool, but without thinking, when I climbed out of the pool and swung my left leg up onto the deck, I re-activated the “ouch.” I’m here to report, lack of mindfulness brings nothing but trouble!

Which brings me back to the humble pie and how awful it tastes. I screwed up. I should have taken it easy. Instead, I was a crazy person.

Please do not think I’m Wonder Woman or think that I think I’m Wonder Woman. I share my highlights and lowlights as evidence that ANYONE can do this, that we don’t have to be naturally-gifted athletes to reach awesome heights. Regular people, you and me, do this stuff! But we have to use our heads . . . and I haven’t been.

Should I have skipped last weekend’s triathlon? Heck no! But as I reflect on it, I remember at no time during the event did I really, truly enjoy myself . . . and if it’s not fun, why bother?

So to those who are heading out for tonight’s Skeff Race, HAVE FUN! Personally I think it’s a lot harder to injure ourselves with a smile on our faces and a giggle in our bellies. But if you choose to go all out, stay focused. Really think about what your body is doing and how it feels in each moment.

Don’t fret the finish! As you feel that mind/body connection, celebrate the awesome strength that lies inside you! And when you see that chute, revel in the joy of our cheers pulling you in and over that finish line!


Originally published 21 June 2014 in The Observer.