TCM - Loony Challenge Year 2

Goals for year 2: I had no idea what to expect this year.  It's been a solid year of heart rate training.  But as soon as I got to racing season I was all "how do I set goals for this?!?"  Should my goals be based on pace?  Heart rate?  A mix of both?  I knew I badly wanted to go sub-2hrs in the 10 mile, but I had no idea if that was realistic or not.  I had no idea what I wanted for the 10K and the 5K.

Packet Pickup: Olive volunteered in packet pick up and reported there were some issues.  TCM mails out some pretty sweet Runner Guides well ahead of the race.  Among other things, it shows my bib number for the 10 Mile race.  Since I am a genius, I left it at home.  When I got to Packet Pickup I had to go to the "find my number" table, showed my ID and told the helpful volunteer I'd registered for Loony Challenge.  She printed off two slips for me, one with my Saturday events number and one with my Sunday events number.  I went to the two different tables and collected my things.  Olive was at Saturday events packet pick up and reports that most Loony runners only knew their 10 Mile bib number from having their guide mailed to them.  I reviewed and nothing I was sent ahead of time had my bib number for Saturday events.  I guess forgetting to write down my bib numbers saved me time in the end.
Goal: Find Olive.  Thank all the volunteers I saw.
Outcome: Done
Bonus Goal: Get a new race belt.
Outcome: Also done.  I wore it for all three races and I was tremendously happy with it.

This year,  I found myself wishing I'd written down what I wore last year.  I was having a hard time with the logistics. 
Outfit - Day 1:
Skora PhaseX (blue - yes, I have more than one pair of these shoes); Injinji Socks; Saucony Running Tights (full length, not lined), Short sleeve technical shirt and long sleeve technical shirt.  New race belt.  Sunglasses for part of the race.  Temps around 40* for the start of the 10K, slightly warmer for the 5K but I was still freezing my tail off.

TC 10K: I went easy up the first hill and about 500 people passed me in the first quarter mile. I passed many of them back later so it was all good.  I had a very hard time at the beginning of this race.  It was partly nerves and partly standing in the corral and not being able to warm up properly, and partly literally being cold.  My shoes are very thin and my socks were thin, and my feet felt like ice cubes for a solid mile.
Goal: Be back in time for the 5K
Outcome: Done
Bonus Goal: Run under a 12:00/mile pace
Outcome: 11:19/mile, that really shocked me

TC 5K: I'd warmed up after the 10K, but I got really cold again, waiting for the 5K to start.  Olive did not run this year with me and that made me sad. I started off heading back up this stupid hill again, happy that I got turn around much sooner in this race than the first one.  This race was packed with kids.  No matter how high up I seed myself, they're always there.  I think TCM needs to have the kind of corrals that were in the Flying Pig's 5K last year because that worked really well.  The end of this race was really tough.  I kept running and feeling like, I cannot kick.  What is the deal?!?  And then I checked my run data and saw how fast my final mile was, and felt much better about myself.
Goal: Finish
Outcome: Done
Bonus Goal: Another sub 12:00/mile pace would be nice
Outcome: 11:19/mile.  Weird right?

Day 2 Outfit:
Skora Phase X shoes; Smart Wool Running socks with high cuffs; Fleece lined tights; Smart wool long sleeve shirt; "Liz shirt" over top.  On Summit Ave I ran with a guy who'd been racing for years, and when people were all "go Liz" he's like "I'm going to do that to my shirt next year".   Temps around 40* for the start.

TCM 10 Mile: I was really looking forward to another crack at this course, hopefully routed correctly this time.  I found myself back in Corral 4 again.  I wonder what it takes to move to Corral 3. The day before, the strategy that worked was for me to feel my body going hard and strong.  Hard, but not hurting. Since I was surprised and pleased by the outcomes of both the 10K and the 5K I decided it was quite a sound strategy and went with it. 
Early on I was quite frustrated.  There is a huge bottle neck in this course where the runners go through a narrow tunnel.  It happens just before Mile 1 so the runners are still fairly bunched up.  This year, the bottle neck was so bad I had to walk and got almost completely stopped.  WTF?!?  This was not an issue last year.
My goal for the hills in the middle miles of the course was to challenge myself but also to stay within myself.  These were comparatively slower miles, but I was pleased when I saw how things worked out.
On Summit Ave I met this dude who was a race walker straight up walking an 11:30 mile, or so he told me.  I made it my mission in life to stay with him, since he'd walk me right into my own goal of going sub-2hrs.  We talked and it made that part of the course go really quickly. He also kept me challenged and focused on the up hills in that section.  He dropped me in the last mile on the flats but I almost totally caught him back on the down hill.
Goal: Sub 2 hrs
Outcome: 1:55:52, 11:36/mile pace.

The Finisher Area: beyond insane.  (There was a significant stretch of spectating area between the Cathedral and the finish line that was reserved this year for a protest.  Typically it is filled with spectators and runners who've already finished.)  Olive had race credentials so she came in there to meet me after I grabbed my medal and food.  Bag check was super fast but finisher t shirts had lines that stretched back to bag check.  Olive stood in line for my shirt while I changed.  I was going to try to connect with another friend who was race walking, but things were so cramped in there we just made a run for it. 

Marathon: On the way home, Olive and I decided we wanted to cheer for the marathon runners.  We found our way to about mile 14 on the course.  We'd only been there a few minutes when the 5:00:00 pace group came by.  We made sure we stayed for the 5:30:00 pace group.  These are my people.  And then we stayed after.  I was really surprised how many people were behind the 5:30:00 pacer at mile 14.  About three people looked good and strong and like they knew what they were doing.  Everyone else looked like they were suffering.  Hard.  Olive and I went for Donuts and watched a bit.  Finally Olive was like "I don't want to watch anymore." 

Loony Challenge: I'm glad I did it a second year.  I don't know if I'll do it again next year because of the timing of another race I want to try. If I don't do it again next year, I'm going to volunteer with Olive so I get Race Official Credentials and Clothing.  No joke.
Goal: Go faster than last year
Outcome: Mission completely accomplished

Suggestions for next year:
  • Corrals for the 5K and the 10K - look at how Flying Pig does them because it actually works
  • Two bag check bags, one for Saturday and one for Sunday - mine always rips the first day
  • Last year, Loony Challenge and Summit Challenge people had back tags. Not this year.  Any chance of bringing them back?

What I liked:
  • The Volunteers: No race is complete without volunteers.  Thank you! 
  • The Expo: I thought it was really good this year. 
  • Get the 10K and 5K medals after both races are done.  Thank you!  Flying Pig didn't do it that way this year and it severely annoyed me.
  • One bib for 10K and 5K.  Again, thank you for simplifying the logistics of my race life.
  • Corporate Team Challenge: My employer participates in the 10K, 5K and Marathon corporate team challenge.  That means on Saturday we got a special tent with a special changing area and our own potties.  The tent was heated.


Trail Monday: WIlliam O'Brien 10 Mile Trail Race

It's race day, the reason I made sure I ran on trails at least once a week with pretty good regularity all summer. William O'Brien 10 Mile Race and 10 miles is a very sensible trail race distance.

Trail: We ran parts of the lower park and the camp ground by Lake Alice, and parts of the upper park which was mostly prairie and some woods.  The course was very well marked.  We had aid stations at mile 3, and then at the loop by miles 5.5 and 6.5.  I was happy for the water and Gatorade because I didn't carry any of my own. 

Hills: The hills are for real.  To recap, Pike Island has 144 feet of gain, all at the end up that big hill.  Baker has 178 feet of gain, and I whine about it a lot. Elm Creek actually has the most gain at 211 feet. For reference the Flying Pig Half Marathon clocks in at 696 feet of gain.  This trail had a whopping 709 feet of elevation gain.   Lesson for next time: I need to run more hills. 

Ease of Running: Absolute pleasure.  The only single track is up and down that ginormous hill at miles 1 and 3.  The rest of it is a mix of cinder trail and wide grass track.  I was so happy the grass was mown and fairly beat down by the time I got to it.

Nature: I did not see many animals.  I'm going to guess the 200 runners in the woods scared them off. My parents said they saw some butterflies.  I did see lots of flowers.  The course is straight up gorgeous.

Will I come back: FrontRunner put on a great race, and the course was great.  I would run this trail race again in a minute, if I keep up with the trial running next year.  My training plans for next year are definitely the wild card.

About the race: My parents were in town for the race and told me to only run trail races from now on.  Another friend joined us today, and they three were together spectating. While I was running, they had a visitors center to walk in, and they checked out some of the trails themselves.  At the end of the race there were leftover shirts and my parents scored them as out of town spectators.  Park entry, parking and packet pick up were all super easy.  The course was very well marked.  The volunteers were awesome (shock!).  I met some people who seemed to be running about my pace and wound up sticking with them.  I knew I would be slower than them on the up hills something to practice for next year.  I was really surprised how much faster I was than them on the down hills.  Something I should keep practicing for next time, because it earns me time on the courses. I was both crazy hungry and not wanting any food by the time the race was over. 

Special thanks to my crew: Mom, Dad, and Lucinda!


Trail Monday: Trail Sunday

Today was the final trail run before my only trail race of the year.  The most important thing this run did was help me make a decision about which shoes to wear on race day. It's not the ones I wore today.

Trail: Ft Snelling's Pike Island.  I've run here several times before this summer.  The loop around the island is roughly 3 miles, so it's the shortest of all the trails I've found acceptable.  The Anoka Preserve is technically shorter, but I'm divorcing that trail.

Hills: The island itself is fairly flat.  The run on the mainland from where I park my bike to the island is another story. This is the hill I use to identify my "max heart rate" for heart rate training.  174BPM may be a new record for me.  Is that good or bad?

Ease of Running: There was more gravel on the island than there has been in the past, and that's what hurts me in my itty-bitty minimal trail shoes.  It's clear gravel was added to some parts of the trail that had been flooded for a while, probably as a way to improve drainage. And it was those moments it was clear to me I needed different shoes for the race.  Shoe choice aside, this path is an absolute pleasure.  It's wide and clear and most runners don't even bother with trail shoes on it because it's so well done.

Nature: I saw road kill on the bike path.  I can't imagine being the biker who managed to run over a squirrel.  How does that happen? 

Will I come back: Likely.  I've liked this path for several reasons.  It's by far the closest to my house and the only trail that doesn't require me to drive to it.  I also like the excuse to add biking to the workouts.  The trail is short enough that I can easily do it, even when I cut back miles for the post-race season.


Bonus Trail Friday: Baker Park Reserve Part II

I found myself badly wanting to break in my new trail shoes.  I'd tested them on the rather tame Lake Minnetonka LRT Trail but I badly wanted to know how they'd be on grass and rougher trails.  I knew I'd be around Baker Park Reserve at the end of the day, and it seemed like I could make a 6 mile run work in my schedule this week, so I jumped on the chance.   I'd been here once before and was looking forward to the rematch.

Trail: I ran the horse trail around Lake Katrina, though I don't think I saw that lake once.  The horse trails are largely grass.  Long long grass.

Hills: These hills do not stop.  That hill at mile 4 is hard, but I 'ran' up most of up.  That hill at Mile 5 is awful and I walked.  Bombing down the other side was an absolute blast though.   I found myself thinking that the rolling hills on the Baker paved trail would actually be good training for the Flying Pig

Ease of Running: Awful.  And then wonderful for moments, before it goes back to awful.  The first time I was here, I knew nothing about trail running and just thought "running in grass is hard".  Then I ran at Elm Creek and thought "this grass is way shorter than Baker, and that makes things much easier".  Today I just thought, "this grass is too long, this is no fun".  The grass is crazy long and the footing is jacked in some places.  I know the course is groomed for horses and it's probably a great trail for that.  But running it is slow and hard.  The parts of the course that run through the woods are a pleasure and I lived for them.

Animals: This was not a big animal day.  I saw butterflies and dragonflies and not much else.

Will I come back: I find myself torn. I like Baker, and the location is sometimes convenient for post-work runs. But it's not so fun running on the horse trails.  I think if I do come back, I will check out the paved trails and see if I'm any happier there.


Trail Monday: Lake Minnetonka LRT Trail

I had many many needs today.  They included a long run, breaking in new shoes, not getting the new shoes muddy, and avoiding horse trails as much as possible.  I'd been thinking about the Lake Minnetonka LRT Trail for a while, and it met all my conditions.  I've run this trail twice before, slightly different parts.  Once last summer and one other time last winter when my phone died.  It was winter and it was cold. 

Trail: Lake Minnetonka LRT Trail.  Similar to River Bluffs, this is a crushed limestone trail.  The surface is interesting enough to call it a trail, but tends to drain well and be utterly non-technical.  I started in Excelsior, and ran a 5 mile out, 5 mile back route.  I picked this particular spot on the trial because I thought it would offer the best views of the lake.  I was so right.

Hills: No lie.  I felt like I was running up hill all of the time.  You know those days when flat ground looks like it's up hill?  Turns out there may have been some truth to my feelings, given the elevation profile, but probably nowhere near how I felt.

Ease of Running: Absolute pleasure.  Have I mentioned the crushed limestone?  The trail was actually packed today, and the hardest part of running when when the trail got narrow, and there were bikers and runners and walkers.  Oh my.

Animals: I saw birds of prey, ducks in the ponds and dogs on leashes.  There were way too many people out to expect to see a deer.

Will I come back: I think so, but sporadically.  This trail is crazy scenic with all of the bays on Lake Minnetonka.  This trail is also crazy far away, and on not the funnest route in the world to traverse, so I pick my moments sparingly on this course.


Trail Wednesday: Sadness

It's been a little while since I've had a Trail Monday.  Step back weeks, storms, and a road trip were getting in my way.  I'm having a low mileage week this week, but still needed to get in some trail work, so I headed to a trail I hadn't run on in quite some time.

Trail: Anoka Nature Preserve, where I've run before and loved, but it's quite a short trail really.

Hills: There are some rollers here, rolling down to the river bank and up away from it, but nothing terribly steep nor painful.

Ease of Running: Nightmare. This is where my sadness came.  I've been here before and the trails were grassy in the "farm" areas, and sandy to dirt in the wooded and shaded areas.   They were heaven and utterly runnable.  At least in my memory and old pictures. 
I don't know what happened in the last year.  Because now, in real life, they are big fat gravel roads.  The kind of big fat gravel rocks that hurt your feet to step on.  The loop I did was 2 miles and that was absolutely all I was going to do.

Animals: Do high school students count as animals?

Will I come back: Sadly, no.  I'm so over that gravel pit it's not funny.


Trail Monday: Minnesota River Bluffs Trail

Today, I had the odd combination of needing to do both my trail run and my long run.  I considered various options.  It seemed highly unlikely that I'd run around the Pike Island loop three times.  It'd rained last night so both Baker and Elm Creek seemed unlikely candidates.  I had strongly considered the Lake Minnetonka LRT Trail but there is way too much construction between me and the trail head to make that viable. I settled on an old favorite, The Minnesota River Bluffs Trail

Trail: It's a dirt trail, but long enough to get in a full 10 miles.  It's paved right at the beginning and then again near the bridge up/over 62.  The rest is beautiful packed crushed limestone.  I've been on the trail several times, and am getting more and more familiar with it.  My favorite parts are around the lakes which are always quite scenic.

Hills: The only real hill of note is the one leading up to the overpass over 62.  I walked up on the out and the back, mostly in honor of keeping my heart rate low but also as an excuse to eat and take a drink.  Yes, miracle of miracles, I packed food and water today.

Ease of Running: I almost feel bad calling this a "trail run" because it's not nearly as dramatic nor technical as where I typically go.  It's a crushed limestone trail on what I assume to be an old railroad bed.  This trail has the distinction of being my first foray into running on a non-paved surface.

Animals: There were some birds, no deer.  There was a dead frog.  When I see frog road kill on the bike bath, I tend to blame the frog and not the biker.  This path is actually unusual for the number of people I see when I'm on it.  There were a few runners and loads of bikers.

Will I come back? I've missed this trail and it was nice to be on it again.  This is actually a great trail for winter running because it's so nicely cleared.  The horse trails turn into snow mobile trails and I assume they are off limits to hikers.  Logistically it's a bit different now for me to come here.  I used to come some days after work but my territory has changed slightly so I don't get down to Hopkins anymore.  In addition, all of the roads between me and this trail head seem to be closed, bridges out, under construction, etc.  It took me a while but I was able to work out a back roads way of coming and going, so the fall and winter running here is looking positive.