Thursday, October 29, 2015

Recipe: Delicious Hot Breakfast - Slow Cooker Apple Cinnamon Steel Cut Oats

Happy National Oatmeal day!

I bet you didn't know today was reserved just for oatmeal, did you?  I sure didn't.  But with cool fall weather here, and wanting to eat warm things more often, the timing seems about right.

In honor of the holiday, I thought I'd share a slow cooker recipe I found a few years ago that's both healthy and delicious.  Enjoy!


Slow Cooker Apple Cinnamon Steel Cut Oats



  • 2 apples, cored and diced into 1/2 or smaller pieces (or go for more - it's healthy anyway!!)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups almond milk
  • 1 and 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup uncooked steel cut oats
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (or similar sweetener, maple syrup for example)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Chia seeds, to taste (optional, ground flax seeds are also a nice addition)
  • Optional additions - raisins, walnuts, etc.


1. Coat inside of 3-1/2 quart or larger slow cooker with a non-stick substance (butter, coconut oil, non-stick spray, etc).  **FYI - I own a larger, oval crock pot, so I made a double of the above which filled my crock quite well.  I also mixed half regular oats and half steel cut to make for a more "traditional" looking oatmeal.

2. Add all ingredients to slow cooker. Stir, cover, and cook on low for approximately 7 hours.  Longer for a double batch.  Make sure you check the oats visually after 5-6 hours of cooking - slow cooker times can vary.

3. When oats are done cooking, spoon oatmeal into bowls, add extra toppings if desired (extra raisins, nuts, more apples, etc), and enjoy.

4. Store leftovers in refrigerator. Also freezes well.  To reheat single servings: Put 1-cup cooked oatmeal in microwave proof bowl. Add 1/3 cup almond milk. Microwave on high for 1 minute; stir. Continue cooking for another minute, or until hot.

Approximate Nutritional Info (per 3/4 cup serving): 149 calories, 3.6g fat, 27.3g carbs, 3.9g fiber, 4.9g protein; Weight Watchers PointsPlus: 4 pts

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

2015 Racing Recap

Upon writing my race recap that published last Thursday, I realized I was more than overdue for a 2015 race recap.  Plus, with winter coming, and it being highly unlikely that I'll sign up for anything more this season, the timing seems about right.

So ... that being said, how did my racing shake out for 2015?

2015 Races

Cumulative info:
     Races 55 - 71
     Bibs 53 - 68

Tri-U-Mah, No Bib Provided
Hot Chocolate 5K
Lake Minnetonka Half Relay
Cinco de Miler 5 miler
Run the Inferno 5K
Carlyle Sherstad 5K
Rainbow Run 5K
Freedom Five 5K
Gandy Fly-In 5K
Chase the Police Tri
Webster Education 5K
Lake Run 5K
Suds Run 5K
Women Run the Cities 10K
TC 10 mile
Patriot Power Run 5K
Mankato 10K

A few fun facts about this year's achievements.

(1) I ran more races this year than any year previous, coming in at 17 races and 16 bibs.  Uh-oh ... did I just set a new pointless goal for myself?  LOL ... with a baby on the way, I doubt it.

(2) I ran 6 races knowingly pregnant, and 1 more before I knew I was pregnant (I tested positive just a few days later).  That's a total of 35 miles raced while pregnant ... so far!

(3) I FINALLY had my first ever negative split (in Mankato)!  WHOOP!


And with that - so ends my 2015 race season.  I think.  Here's to more racing again next year!!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Mankato 10K 2015 (12y/o Groupies)

Mankato 10K (6.2 miles)
Average Pace 13:06/mile

For some reason, working up to this race, I thought this was going to be the 4th year that I'd participated in Mankato Marathon weekend.  I don't know why, but I kept thinking I had run the half twice and the 10K once previous to this race.  But, when I sat down to write this blog, I could only find records that I had ran the half in 2013 and the 10K in 2014.

After reconsidering, I realized that made sense, since I have only completed 5 half marathons in my career:  Monster 2012 (which happened pre-blog, so I have no recap for it), Lake Minnetonka 2013, Chicago 2013, Mankato 2013 and Monster 2013.  After those half races, in 2014 I upped the ante to the Little Rock Marathon, and then fell ill to the fate that was plantar's fasciitis. 

*Sigh* Could it be true that I haven't run a real distance race since early 2014?!  Ok, ok - technically I did the TC 10 mile at the beginning of the month, so I can't let that get me down too much.


Regardless of this being my 3rd or 4th year participating in Mankato, for 2015 I was back for a repeat.  With this being such a well organized race, and my gym offering a shuttle bus on race day, how could I decline?  (On a side note, our bus even made mention in the local paper - ha!)

So, at 5am on a cold Sunday morning, I found myself yet again in my gym's parking lot, contemplating why I was running ... again.  This debate held even more weight now that I'm over 3 months pregnant.  So I had a hard time answering myself when I asked ... why was I running this again?

Oh right, the medal. 

Enough said.


By about 6:45, our bus had pulled into the pre-race staging area / race day parking lot.  That gave me 45 minutes until the start for my race, the 10K, which was scheduled to start at 7:30.  The half and full marathoners were to start just after us, at 8am.

With time to kill, and not needing to use the bathroom (thank goodness, since a cold and dark porta-potty is definitely NOT fun), a fellow bus rider and I walked over to the gear exchange tent.  We had forgotten that the shirt sizing for this race was unisex, and had both registered for a shirt size too big.

Lucky for both of us, a size down was available for swapping.  And even luckier for me, for the first time ever, I actually preferred the color of the shirt for the distance I was registered to run (in both previous races, I had pined for the opposite distance's color way).

See what I mean?  Here's the 10K shirt - oooh, so pretty.

The half shirt this year, in comparison, was a neon green color.  I definitely drew the long straw this time (finally).

Since shirt exchange was a quick and easy process, we headed back to the bus to warm up for a few minutes and debate wardrobe choices.  For those running, it was fairly easy to justify ditching their warm up sweats once they hopped off the bus.  But for me, knowing my run/walk strategy, I was having a hard time ditching my sweatshirt.

And no, the fact that it had a unicorn on it had NOTHING to do with my inner debate. 


With about 15 minutes left until gun time, I made a game time decision to keep the sweatshirt.  Worst case scenario, I could always tie it around my waist as I ran (my belly isn't THAT big yet).  Plus, I remembered I was mighty grateful at TC to have had the extra warmth when I finally slowed down to walk, and that memory wasn't quick to be forgotten.  Sweatshirt in tow, several of us started meandering over to the starting area.

Before lining up in the corral, a cluster of us from the bus teamed up for a group photo.

And then, it was time.


Unlike in years past, the corral system for the 10K this year was a little helter-skelter.  Mostly, I think this was due to the fact that the Half and 10K start gates were right next to each other, and not well signed from a distance.  With literally minutes before gun time, many people originally clustered near the half gate, only to find they were in the wrong place.  Suddenly, just before the national anthem, mobs of people were desperately trying to shift over and line up in the right place.

This left me with some concerns as to how people were seeding for time (as I didn't want to be a slow poke holding back a speedster).  But ... what could I do about it now?

Amid the push of people, the announcer made some very garbled statements, and then someone came on to sing the national anthem.  I hate to say it, but the entire process was kind of a joke.  The mike kept cutting out, so everything was like "ah ... crackle ... and ... crackle ... right turn ... crackle ... "

To make matters worse, in addition to the cutting out issue, when the singer came on for the anthem, there was some sort of musical feedback behind her voice.  So not only was she cutting out left and right, but some weird pop song was playing in the background when her voice did come through. 

It really was too bad.  To have a live singer like that and not be able to appreciate it? Bummer.

But ... the race must go on.  And it did.

Bang!  Time to run.


Getting out of the starting gate was a bit of a chore.  The entire mob was essentially walking to the start mat before heading out, and it felt like we were in a group of cattle.  Thankfully, once we cleared the gate, the crowd shook loose a little and things started to move.

A great feature of this course, by the way, is the first portion of the race.  Although you start in kind of a boring parking lot and have to make several right hand turns to get out and go around the block, the nice thing is - there is TONS of room.  So despite the fact that the crowd choked up at the gate, and people may not have seeded the best pace wise, there was plenty of room in the first half mile plus to shake out and get around folks.  Without any elbow throwing or curse words (yes, TC, I'm looking at you).


That being said - my original plan was to run/walk in quarter mile intervals, but since the race had a slower start, there was plenty of room to shake out pace wise, and it was nice and cool, I ended up running a fair portion of the first mile.  Though, truthfully, part of my motivation to keep running may have been due to the fact that I knew those from my gym running the half race would be on the far side of the parking lot cheering and taking photos.  And I didn't want to slow to walk just as I came up on the group.

Pointless pride.  I haz it.

Sure enough, around the half mile mark or just over, I passed my friends.  They all cheered, I waved, and then I carried on.  From there, I made it a fair distance down the road until I finally decided to throw in the towel and take my first walk break.  I think that was around 0.65-0.75 miles.  Basically, I slowed to walk at just a bit before the course takes us off the main road and turns right into the local neighborhood development.

Which, by the way, was absolutely perfect for me to run through.  Tons of young families were out in their front yards spectating.  And every little girl under the age of 12 that saw me, once they realized my shirt had a unicorn on it, gave me a look that resembled something like this.


And yes, even a few boys, too.  At least the ones who were young enough that their "manly" side (that isn't supposed to like girly crap like unicorns) hadn't kicked in yet.  Heh.

After the turn into the neighborhood, on the even quarter mile, I decided I was going to hold myself accountable to run/walk intervals.  So, starting again at 1 mile even, I ran 0.25 miles, walked 0.25 miles - alternating back and forth.  Well ... at least as consistently as I was able to.  There were a couple times where water stops or whatever weren't quite timed to that interval, so I did some minor tweaking here or there. 

Don't get me wrong, holding myself back like this was not easy to do.  Especially when the speed walking granny in front of me kept passing me as soon as I finished my run intervals.  But, with baby on board, I had to hold myself more accountable to a maintainable pace.  And I knew a metered interval was the only thing that would keep me honest.  So quarter miles it was, speed walking Granny or not. 

Lucky for me, it seemed every walk interval ended right at the base of a climb.  Wahoo!  (Can you see my eyes rolling?)

By about mile 3, I found myself surprised that we were still running through the residential neighborhood.  What I remembered from the 10K course in 2014 was that around mile 3 or so, we cut out of the neighborhood and hung a right for a long downhill coast.  And secretly, I was looking forward to that change in scenery.  This year, that turn off didn't happen until well after mile 4.   Apparently, this was due to a minor course change for finish location in 2015.  Oh well, at the end of the day, it didn't bother me that much.  I just had one more mile of running with my fan group - the girls aged 12 and under demographic.  Hahaha.

Finally, though, we hit the downhill.  And I was ready.  Taking the stops off, I let my wheels spin all the way down.

With no resistance due to incline, the run felt great.  I wasn't even breathing heavy!!  Before I knew it, I had ticked off close to 3/4 of a mile at a healthy clip.  And ... as an added bonus, I finally left that speed walking Granny in my dust.  Heh.

You can tell I was having a good time, since mile 4 was my fastest split.  And ... what?!  Is this my first ever negative split race?!  I think it is!! Wahoo!!

Keeping my momentum going, just at the bottom of the hill as I was getting ready to slow and walk, I heard a "Hey Natalie!!"  Surprise!  One of the folks from the gym was there to cheer us on ... and snap a few photos.  Of course that meant I had to keep running.

Action shots.  I love them.  Especially when I look so bad ass in my InkNBurn pants.

Following an extended run interva1 down hill and past my friend, I started to realize I could kind of use a little more water.  Thankfully, just a quarter mile down the road at the base of the hill, there was another water stop.  There, I took my time walking and enjoying my water.

And then, with less than a mile left, I carried on.  To be honest, from there on out, I don't recall much, since I was just focused on finishing.  I wasn't particularly tired or anything.  I just wanted to get to the finish line and be done.  Oh ... and eat. 

Yes, pregnant women are hungry.  A lot.

In the last half mile, I do recall rounding a corner and thinking - "Good!  I should see a finish line now, since we're in the final stretch."  And then getting really angry because the route veered right and went up a pretty decent incline, which blocked my visual of the finish (since you couldn't see it from the bottom of the hill).  That pissed me off - who wants to run a hill in the last half mile of a race? 

Not wanting to use my last bit of run energy on the hill, I walked up the incline as quickly as I could.  And when I had the finish line in view, I just picked it up and ran straight to the finish, passing the cheer section from my gym and collection a fist bump or two as I went.

Glancing at my watch, I knew my goal of a sub 1:20 was possible, but might be a stretch.  Trying to keep a healthy pace (for me and baby), I hoped for the best and stomped on the mat.

Boom!  Another race in the books.


Once I cleared through the finish line, I collected my medal and then lined up for food.

This is where my only negative beef about Mankato came rolling right back into front of mind from 2013 and 2014. 

Despite being a well organized race, for some reason their process for distributing food is painfully slow.  There were - at most - 15 people in front of me, and yet it took me over 10 minutes to get to the beginning of table that held the post race snacks.  Being pregnant and wanting food N-O-W, it took every ounce of my self control not to yell out "JESUS CHRIST PEOPLE!  It's chips in a bag, and bananas, and granola bars.  THIS IS NOT A LIFE OR DEATH DECISION.  Stop contemplating every damn option on the table, grab a few things, AND GET OUT OF THE WAY FOR THE REST OF US!!!"

Thankfully, they handed me a bottle of water right at the finish line, so every time I felt the urge to yell I would fill my mouth with a swig instead.  That meant I finished my water in line, so after I got food, I walked over to the post race beverage station and grabbed another bottle of water and a chocolate milk.  (For some reason, this section had no line and you could walk right up to the table, grabbing what you wished for.  Why couldn't the food be the same way?!)

And lest you think pregnancy hormones made me all food crazy, several of my friends who came in after me and ran the half said that their wait was equally bad, if not longer.  One person even told me she said f-it after waiting in line 10 minutes and getting nowhere, walking away with nothing to eat after a 2 hour run.

Thankfully for her, and the rest of us in our group, we had our own post-race buffet waiting for us just a few blocks away.

Once there, we all socialized and celebrated our finishes.  And then, eventually, we loaded back onto the bus (not pictured) to ride back home.


So ... with Mankato on the books, where does this leave me?  Three months pregnant and no more races scheduled for 2015 ... am I done running until after "the big day"?

Well, before I answer that question, I want to point out that I am extremely pleased with my performance at this race.  If you look at my 10K performance at Mankato this year to last year, knowing that I'm currently 3 months pregnant and ran alone, I did pretty damn good:

2014: 1:15.13
2015: 1:21.21

Granted, I had plantars last year, so it's not exactly like I was in tip-top shape.  But even if you put that fact aside, compare this race to how I did at Women Run the Cities just a few weeks prior:

WRTC: 1:28.30

Looking at these results, I have to say - I'm pretty happy with the level of fitness I'm able to keep up with right now, and I'm obviously mastering how to manage my reduced capacity without bottoming out as hard as I did at WRTC.  This is encouraging to me as I continue to gain weight (and grow a tiny human inside of me).

That being said, I hope to be able to continue this level of activity for the next few months.  BUT ... winter is coming, and in Minnesota, that means snow.  And ice.  And the idea of a pregnant woman running in those conditions doesn't seem so wise.

So honestly speaking, this may very well be my last race of 2015.  And by the time 2016 races fire up, I might be large enough that I decline running them until after baby arrives.  (This does not apply to indoor options ... ahem, Tri U Mah, ahem).  Which means ... I just added bib #68 to my collection, and it may be awhile until we see another one join "the wall". 

But don't worry, this blog will still be here.  And some day, who knows ... maybe I'll be racing with a new partner in tow!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Current Workouts & Being Pregnant

You may have noticed that back in August I stopped doing posts like this:

August 10th - 16th
Monday - Rest
Tuesday - Lunch Run, Teach TBC PM
Wednesday - After Work Event (no workout)
Thursday - Lunch Run, Teach TBC PM
Friday - Walking Chicago (no workout)
Saturday - Treadmill Run
Sunday - Rest

August 17th - 23rd
Monday - Rest
Tuesday - Teach TBC
Wednesday - Swim
Thursday - Lunch Run, Teach TBC PM
Friday - Rest
Saturday - Treadmill Run
Sunday - Rest

August 24th-30th
Monday & Tuesday - Family in town, no workout (I know this is a lame excuse)
Wednesday - Swim
Thursday - Teach TBC
Friday - Run
Saturday - Spent day at farmer's market and night canning 50 pounds of tomatoes (on feet all day!!)
Sunday - Went to the State Fair

Posts like the above stopped because just after the above collection of dates, I started getting pregnancy fatigue and morning sickness.  And while I was hiding it somewhat well while I was teaching TBC classes, my overall workout routine was definitely suffering.  So, if I were to document my average week during that time frame, it would have looked like:

Average Workout Week - Early Pregnancy
Monday - Rest
Tuesday - Teach TBC (at 50% capacity)
Wednesday - Rest
Thursday - Teach TBC (at 50% capacity)
Friday - Rest
Saturday - Rest or half ass a run some race
Sunday - Rest

And actually, my true report may have even worse than this, since I had to call in a few emergency subs at TBC.  Because the gym floors had been re-sealed.  And the smell ... aside from making me ill, I doubted it was good for me to hang out in while pregnant.

Luckily for me, now I'm through the first trimester and starting to feel better.  This means I'm able to get back into somewhat of a more normal workout routine.  Obviously, it's still at a reduced capacity, but my schedule for now looks something like this:

Average Workout Week - Post Morning Sickness
Monday - Rest
Tuesday - Teach TBC (at 50-75% capacity)
Wednesday - Swim
Thursday - Teach TBC (at 50-75% capacity)
Friday - Rest
Saturday - Teach or participate in a race (at a reduced capacity for either)
Sunday - Rest
** I'm hoping to find some other things to do on my "rest" nights that are lower impact, such as cycle class or more swimming.  I just haven't integrated those quite yet, as I'm still figuring out what my body is OK with and trying not to overload myself.

A lot of people might read the above schedule and say - that's more than I do on an average week, and you're pregnant.  Are you sure that's safe?

My short answer to that is - yes, it is perfectly fine. 

My long answer to that is - I have had several discussions with my doctor and nurse at my OB.  They are fully aware of how active I was before pregnancy, and are in 100% support of me trying to maintain as much fitness as possible while I grow into my pregnancy.  The thought being that both myself and the baby benefit from me being active, and that the muscle tone I keep throughout will only serve to better assist me on the big day (but let's not think about labor and delivery too much right now, ok?)

Plus, I do want to add in here - it's not the 70's!!  Modern research has shown it's perfectly OK for pregnant women to remain active their entire pregnancy.  I mean, just look at track star Alysia Montano, who was still competing at 8 months pregnant.

This being said, there are some obvious changes happening in my body.  And I'd be a fool not to acknowledge that.  So trying to do all the workouts I once did, at the exact same intensity ... that would just be plain dumb.  So for now, my focus on working out is - what does my body say is OK to do, and what does it say ... eh, not so much to?  After listening to those inputs, I started modifying my routine. 

A few of my current modifications are - no long cardio sets (hence the 1/4 to 1/2 mile run intervals at a time), no deep lunges (as the muscles in the front of my hip and along my abdominal wall feel strained when I do so), and only modified abdominal work (for obvious reasons).  Of course, this is not the entire list of my changes, but they are the first ones that come to mind, and the ones I know bother me the most when I try to ... not modify.

And as for my racing, a lot of people wonder if my race recaps are a thing of the past while I grow a baby.  Well ... I have a response for that too:

So - here's to a healthy and active pregnancy!  And, maybe a few funny resulting race recaps, too.  :-)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Patriot Power Run 5K 2015 (Big & Little Skellys)

Patriot Power Run 5K (3.15 miles)
Average Pace 16:18/mile

In honor of my nephew, last weekend my husband and I hopped in Bubba (our airplane) and flew to Northern Minnesota. 

Well, sort of in my nephew's honor, I mean.

You see, every year since he's been in elementary, my nephew's school has hosted a 5K fundraiser.  But unfortunately, the race has always been on the same day as the Twin Cities Marathon.  And to make matters worse, the organizers each year have waited until the last second to open registration and have only offered registration via paper submission.  This, historically, has made it almost impossible for me to get my forms in before registration closes.

In case you think I'm exaggerating, here's an example of how last minute they are: this year the race was to be held October 10th.  Registration forms went home with students October 2nd, and had to be returned by October 6th.  (Or you could pay $5 more and just show up on race day, with no guaranteed shirt to take home after.)

Yeah.  Yikes. 

Literally NO time for my sister to mail me a registration form, let me fill it out and then mail it back. 

So, imagine my surprise this year when the race was moved to a Saturday - that wasn't on Twin Cities Marathon weekend.  And even more, my surprise that the race organizers offered an online registration option.

Win and win. 

So why not talk my husband into do the 5K with me for the trifecta?

Done!  Let's run this thing!

(How have I managed to talk my husband into doing two races this year?  I guess because I'm pregnant, he must be feeling guilty.  Whatever!  As long as he's doing a 5K with me, I'll take what I can get!)


Anyway, with a last second registration and a short ride in Bubba, around 8:30 on Saturday morning I found myself milling around the Brainerd airport waiting for a ride.  Not long after our landing, my sister was there to pick us up. 

After a short drive from Brainerd to the race locale, with a short pit stop at home to grab the niece and nephew, the five of us found ourselves at race check-in.  There we were handed our bib numbers and this year's race t.  (Which I was a little bummed about, because with my growing belly I had registered for a size up, and I was hoping to get the same kind of shirt as last year so I could wear it through the winter as casual clothing - last year's shirt was a long sleeved cotton T while this year's was a performance poly.  Oh well.)

As a side note, it's a good thing we didn't arrive at race check-in a second later.  We were literally the last ones to get there, and the race directors instructed everyone to begin lining up while we were still pinning on our bibs.

Once our bibs were on, we followed all the other races as they moseyed from the park pavilion and play area over to the trail where the start line was marked.  There, the race director made a few general announcements - you know, the usual stuff like: the course layout, the water stop located roughly at the half way point, and some information about next year's race.  Which, good news there, they are hoping to be more timely in announcing their race date in 2016.  (Boy, I sure do hope that's the case, because the current system simply just doesn't work for anyone who doesn't have a child enrolled at this school.  People need to have at least a couple month's notice to make sure they have the day free, and so that they can get registered.)

With the last few announcements made, all the racers sort of sandwiched onto the trail, which is called the Paul Bunyan trail in case you've never heard of it.  And then, without too much more to be said - we were off!


Though my sister and I are seasoned runners, being that we had an 8 year old runner and a 3 year old in a stroller with us, we started at a very conservative pace.  Which of course, is what I had promised my husband, and why he agreed to participate in the race.  Yet despite our handicaps, we managed to keep a respectable pace for the first half of a mile, coming in around an 11 or so minute mile.

I think it helped that my nephew was determined to win an age placement medal, so he wanted to try to run as far as he could.  LOL!

Of course, though, eventually he needed a walk break (as did I, given my morning sickness, which is getting better but still not totally kept at bay).  So from the half mile mark until around maybe the 1.5 mile mark, we did random run/walk intervals.

Unfortunately, though, after the 1.5 mile mark, the wheels kind of came off.

I'm not exactly sure what happened, but my nephew just ran out of steam.  Part of it may have been due to his insistence that he not take off his hooded sweatshirt, despite running in 60-70 degree weather.  Part of it may have been that we were at the back of the pack and he knew we weren't going to win.  But whatever it was, whenever one of us mentioned another run interval, he was having none of it. 

Well.  At least the course was nice and level.  That at helped our pace a little, right?  Heh.

Despite our slow pace, we seemed to manage pretty OK on course.  That is until around the 2 or maybe 2.25 mile mark, when it became apparent that this race could use a little more human support on course.  As it stood, the race was marked with blue arrows spray painted on the road, and teeny-tiny little American flags stuck in the grass.  And I mean tiny.  Like ... well, like this:

On a straight out and back course, such little markers would be a non issue.  But when you have a curved section where you have to cut off the main drag to pick up some extra mileage ...

Yeah, it's an issue.

Good thing my husband was with us, since it was his eagle eye that caught the flag.  The rest of us totally missed it and were going to blindly follow the heard in front of us who had continued on, missing the flag themselves.

Just call us lemmings.

Anyway, though most people didn't follow the correct path, we took the turn and continued on.  And not long after, the finish line was in our sites and we were done! 

BOOM!  Time for a celebration photo.

Like my sister and my InkNBurn?  Oh yeah, baby!  (Baby in my belly, that is.)

At the finish line, there was a bounty of bottled water, granola bars and bananas.  We all gladly munched away while age grade medals were awarded.

Sadly, my nephew did not place.  But, thanks to a small participant field in her age grade, my sister took one home.  WHOOP!  As such, we decided that called for a celebration, so we walked to the local sports bar and ordered lunch.  Mine was a hot turkey sandwich:

What?!  The baby made me do it.  ;-)


And that's the story of how race bib #67 joined my collection.  Which also happens to be my 6th race (of sorts) since the baby has been on board.  I sure hope they enjoy running with me, because we've got at least one more race on schedule for 2015 ... next weekend, to be exact!

So, here's to another race soon!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

More News to Come ...

I have some things brewing here that are keeping me distracted from this blog.  So - sorry, but ... no major post today.

Not to worry, though.  I do have two races yet this year.  And, one of them is on this coming Saturday, so you will see that recap next week.

In the meantime - enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

TC 10 Mile 2015 (Dancing Yetis)

TC (Twin Cities) 10 Mile
2:32:01 PR! *
Average Pace 15:13/mile **

*A distance first is always a PR - LOL!
**This varies quite a bit from my GPS watch, which recorded a 15:02/mile. 
I'm not sure what to think about that, I've never had such a variance before.

Welp!  Despite the fact that this race was a real stinker pace wise, for the first time this year I'm claiming a PR.  Granted, it's not a PR to take huge pride in.  But given I won't see many of those for the near future ... I'll take it!  So, here's to running a distance for the first time.  Hoorah!

Anyway, PR aside, the days leading up to this race were a roller coaster for me.  For those of you who don't know, the TC 10 mile is incredibly popular and entry is awarded via a lotto system.  For three years I have entered said lotto.  FINALLY, in 2015, I got in, and I was thrilled.

Then, despite my best efforts at first, about a month before this race my training went to pot.  And to make matters even worse, the week of the race protesters made statements that they were going to shut down the race

Trying not to worry too much about what was to come, on Friday my friend and I went to packet pickup over our lunch hour, which was pretty fun though somewhat crowded (at least we came away with tons of free snacks). Then, trying to treat everything like business as usual, Saturday evening I worked on my pre race ritual of rounding up all my race gear and hoped for the best.


Since the 10 mile gun time was scheduled for 7am, and I had carpools to catch that started at 5:15 (with a few pickups along the way), I had set my race morning alarm for 4am.  I figured that would give me enough time to eat a bit of breakfast, let my stomach settle, and get dressed before I had to go.

Of course, the above schedule was all in theory.  Reality was that I jumped awake at 2:30 on race morning thinking I had over slept, and then never managed to get back to sleep afterwards.  So by the time the 4am alarm went off, I was none too happy.

With no other option at that point, I just rolled out of bed and prepared for the day.  I ate a bowl of cereal with almond milk, had a small serving of cottage cheese, and starting drinking water.

After a while of dawdling around the house and letting my breakfast settle, I eventually dressed and headed out to make my first few carpool pickups.  A few ladies in my gym's run club live fairly close to me, so I picked them up and drove them out to my friend's house in Eden Prairie.  Once there, I parked my car, and her husband drove us down town to drop us at the race start.

Due to the lack of traffic on the roads ANYWHERE in Minnesota at 5am on a Sunday, we were surprised to be running a bit ahead of our anticipated arrival to the race start.  The plan was to arrive about 6:30, but actually ended up there just after 6:00, which proved to be quite a nice surprise: when we arrived that meant ... no porta-potty lines!  Taking advantage of the opportunity, a few of our group ran over to the wall (seriously, there were TONS of toilets available) and returned in no time.  After taking care of that business, we wandered around for a bit, and then eventually headed to gear check.

Gear check for this race is quite the well oiled machine, and good thing given the literally tens of thousands of participants.  I wish I had taken a picture, but simply put: they line up UPS trucks literally down an entire block, and you look for the truck that starts with the first two digits of your bib number.  IE - my bib was 30472, so I needed to look for truck number 30 (for bib numbers 30,000-30,999).  When I did find my truck, instead of using my gear bag, I ended up in a huge debate - it was much colder than I had anticipated, and I wasn't sure I really wanted to drop my jacket and gloves.  Finally, making a game time decision, I opted to risk being annoyed by my jacket rather than freeze pre-gun, and I kept all my gear.

With that decision made, it was about time to line up for the race, so we headed to the corrals.  Corrals were laid out fairly uniquely, definitely in a way I had never seen at a race before.  The lay out ended up being kind of cool, as the X shape allowed us to see each wave depart as they were released.

 I was in corral 4 with two of our group, so we anxiously watched each corral depart.  And then ... it was time.  Corral 4 was called forward towards the start line, the announcer counted down and ... we were off!


Knowing this was going to be a hard and long race, I tried not to think about too much in the first few miles and just started nice and slow.  I do remember thinking that the course was too much like many of the Minneapolis races I've run in the past, in that we ran down towards the stone arch bridge and around that general area of downtown.  I tried really hard not to be disappointed by this, but it was a little hard not to be, as I had really high hopes that this course was going to be beautiful and new to me.  Oh well, not a big deal.

The typical noob runner behavior of course reared its ugly head during this segment of the race, and I got cut off several times by people zig-zagging in front of me.  I was trying not to be annoyed by it, but it is a bit frustrating when people do this (especially when you end up passing them not even half a mile later when they've burnt out, as they fired out of the gate too fast).  Several times I even took full on elbows, which really annoyed me; I was fairly certain they were intentional.  To that I say: hey runners, here's a tip - if you want to be in a faster corral, get yourself qualified ... or don't self seed at the back of the pack and then be surprised when you have to wade through a heard for the first 2 miles!! 

OK, rant over.

Some time around mile one or two, we passed through a pedestrian tunnel that really proved to be a HUGE funnel for the race.  There was a considerable log jam both on entry and exit of the tunnel, and again much pushing and shoving ensued.  Knowing I was going to eventually need a walk break anyway, I chose to just let the people around me swear and push, while I leisurely strolled along the far edge.  Interestingly, I got out of the tunnel just about as quickly as the pushers, using considerably less energy in the process.  Heh.

After the tunnel, we crossed a bridge over the river and headed towards the University campus.  At this point, the race started to shake out some, perhaps due to the first of several decent hills.  Ready for another walk break, I chose this portion of the race to walk the uphills and run the downhills.  I just love running down hill, by the way.  It makes me feel like my feet are spinning out of control like the road runner or something.  Beep Beep.

Aside from the people pushing each other and hills, now that I look back on it, the first four miles of the course weren't particularly memorable for me.  I do recall catching some odd smelling sniffs here and there ... possibly due to stagnant river or sewer water.  But other than that, it was pretty much your standard downtown running environment.  Oh, with the first water stop at around mile 3ish and then about every mile or so thereafter.

To make matters even less interesting, the first 4ish miles of the 10 mile course are much different from the Marathon course:

As a result, there weren't many (if any) spectators, which was kind of a bummer for me (since I like to people watch).  However on the plus side, the race courses do eventually merge.  So, once we hit the point where we were running the same course as the marathoners, things got much more interesting from a ... things to look at perspective. 

The first thing I recall seeing after the merge was the giant inflatable "wall", which was at mile 20 for the marathoners (just before mile 4 for us).  I know that wasn't really set up for us to enjoy, but I did get a kick out of it none the less, since I pretty much felt like I hit the wall at that point as well.  With my lack of training, running 4 miles right now is a lot, so my body was already starting to really feel fatigued.

The down side to seeing the wall was - I still had 6 miles left to go, which was over half of my distance.  I tried not to think about that too much, and instead focused on the yetis that were dancing just a quarter of a mile down the road.

Yes, I said yetis.  As in plural.  Somewhere around what was mile 4 or 4.25 for us, two grown what I am guessing to be men were dressed in full on, white fur yeti costumes with blue rubber faces.  They had a "chaperone" of sorts with them: a grown woman in regular street clothes wearing a white furry ski cap with ear flaps that had a yeti face on it as well.  The three of them were dancing to non-existent music.  Before 8am.  In the middle of the city.

Makes my unicorn costume and twinkie distribution of previous years seem almost normal.  LOL!

Not long after the yetis, I passed several VERY NICE mansions houses along the river, and was stunned to learn that apparently for these people, marathon spectating is a huge drinking occasion.  Several houses had set up spectator areas in their front lawns to host groups of no smaller than 20-50 people plus. One house in particular had filled their yard with a giant bounce house and one of those huge white, outdoor tents that you typically set up for a wedding.  That in itself is quite remarkable, but it isn't even the most ridiculous thing ... because inside the tent was a 3 table long buffet set up for what I believe was to be a bloody mary bar.  Said table included 5 or 6 giant bottles of Belvedere vodka, a bunch of what I assumed was tomato juice bottles, and the entire rest of the tent was filled with tables and chairs to host a party.

Yes, I'm talking bottles like this:

I couldn't help it.  As I ran past, my jaw dropped and I shook my head in disbelief.  What a sight!

Eventually, the course fed from the road along the river onto Summit.  It was here that I saw my favorite sign of the race: a young boy, who was small enough I doubt he could even read his sign, stood holding a giant piece of tag board and cheering with his mother.  The sign simply said: GO WEIRDO.

Seemed appropriate enough for me.  Ha!

Not long after that sign, around the six mile mark, I pretty much hit my limit.  Though I had been trying to maintain run/walk intervals up to that point, I had hit one hill to many, and I threw in the towel.  Rather than try to keep pushing to run, since my knees were starting to talk to me, I decided to just walk at as fast a clip as I could maintain.

Somewhere during that time, I would guess between miles six and eight, I began to discover that there are a couple flaws in running a major race near to the old neighborhood where you grew up.  First of all, you will run past the junior high you attended so long ago, you hardly remember what it looks like inside (Ramsey Jr.).  Second of all, you will likely pass spectators on course who are wearing lettermen jackets from the high school you attended ... with graduation years on the arm that are 20 years your junior.

I couldn't help but laugh when I actually saw a young girl with a 2019 graduation year on her arm.  Since I graduated from the same high school in 1999, I blurted out "I graduated 20 years ahead of you from the same school - go Highland!!" and then snickered.  I'm sure she thought I was just some weirdo old lady, but whatever.  It gave me something else to think about for at least half a mile.

By mile eight I was trying to think positive, being that I knew some of my gym friends would be there to cheer, but too late - I had already began the death march.  Everything on me was hurting.  Everything.  My knees, my back, my hips ...

I also had some fears about needing to pee and not knowing if I could wait until the finish line.  And I really, really knew that though I wanted to - I simply could not trust that fart.

My friends at mile eight did their best to pep me up, but I was hurting so bad I just waved them off and kept going.  Now my goal was clear - only two miles left.  Just focus and do this thing.

Between mile eight and nine, things were pretty much a blur.  Finally when I hit nine, I could tell myself - just one more mile.

I was so miserable at that point that I just wanted to be done.  So despite the feeling that I had nothing left in me, I started picking up run intervals again.  They were slow.  They were short.  But they got me here:

At which point I knew, I had less than half a mile left.  And it was mostly downhill.  So I picked up and ran as best I could, the rest of the way to the finish.  Where, I might add, I was beat by the first marathon wheeler.  Who had 16 miles on me, and I started close to an hour ahead of him.  Check out the video evidence.

After clearing the finish line, I hobbled down a bit to a group of folks awarding finishers medals, and one of these hefty bad boys was slung around my neck:

After that, I continued down the chute to find myself being offered bottles of water, chocolate milk and an assortment of fruit and other snacks.  Once I filled my hands with all that I could carry (and cared to eat), I followed the signs to the next stop - finisher's shirt pickup.  There I turned in the coupon on my bib for this:

By this time, I was kind of in a post race haze.  Though I met my friends, I totally spaced out and missed the fact that there was a post race beer garden and a coupon on my bib for one free beer.  Truth be told, I think the real reason I missed that was that I was mostly concerned about getting more food ... as our post race party plan included a short, free trip on the light rail to the Victoria stop (racers rode free on race day by showing their bib), and then a short walk to CafĂ© Latte for the likes of this:

Once we ingested all the calories we burned on course via cake, my husband picked the four of us up and we headed home.  During the ride, of course, we hashed out performance specs ... all of my friends were much better than mine, of course.  But regardless, here are mine, just because.

And of course, before we could call it a day, one last group photo to mark the occasion.

TC 10 mile, official finishers!!


And that's the story of how race bib #66 joined my collection.  Here's to another race soon... which despite my misery this week, is already scheduled for this coming Saturday.  Thankfully it's just a 5K this time!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Runners Must Persevere

The Marathon.  Twenty six point two miles. 

A spectacle of human accomplishment.  A feat that is accessible enough that anyone can train for and attempt, yet difficult enough that few ever do.

An event that brings people together of all backgrounds, all income levels, all nationalities.  A sport that is often dominated by the minority of the world.

A day where runners, despite their personal goals, will not hesitate to throw those goals out the window to support another runner.  Sometimes even to their own, major personal detriment. 

During the 2010 Zheng-Kai marathon Jacqueline Nyetipei Kiplimo
from Kenya saw a Chinese elite disable athlete struggling to drink water. 
 She ran with him from the 10km to the 38km mark aiding him through all the water stations.
This slowed her time — she came in 2nd in the race — not only costing
her the win but also the $10,000 cash prize.

An event where, just two years ago in Boston, terrorists showed up and set off bombs.  The result of which included three deaths and close to 300 injuries - some so grave that emergency amputation was required.  Yet despite those losses, some of those very people who were injured turned around and repeated the marathon yet again.

This weekend is the Twin Cities Marathon.  And unfortunately, despite all of the above triumphs, a local group has chosen this event as their platform to protest.  Their goal is to shut down all runners.  To prevent all of the above from being completed.

While I am not running the Marathon, I am competing in the 10 mile.  And regardless of my distance category, for the life of me I just cannot understand why anyone would choose to interrupt an event that encapsulates all of the above.

But knowing the running community, I also question if these protesters will even stand a chance.  Because we're talking about people who will run in sub zero temperatures, people who push themselves to true physical failure and actually have to crawl to the finish, people who will literally shit themselves and still keep going.  I just can't see people like this letting a few folks standing in the street stop them.

So this weekend, I say - go for it, runners.  You've pushed this hard.  Don't let a little set back keep you from finishing.  Just push a little harder ... and you'll get there.  To the finish you deserve.