Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Monster Dash - 2014 - Race Recap

Monster Dash was not in my list of planned races. I had not even planned so much ahead in the first half of the year. I had registered for Half-Mara at Minneapolis Marathon. And I did show-up at the start line. But the organizers cancelled it. It caused lot of controversy. Lot of disappointment, as it was supposed to be the first Half Marathon Race of my life. No refund of registration fee also hurt. I spent the next few days monitoring the growing comments on their Facebook page. There I learnt about the Lola Half coming up next weekend and quickly went for it. Eventually the organizers came back with some relief offer - $20 to register among their other races of this year. That's how I picked Monster Dash.

Eventually I learnt this was a costumed race, timed right with Halloween. I am not much of a risk taker. I don't think I have even worn a costume for a costume party. So I did not plan to wear any costume. If anyone asked, I planned to say, I was dressed as a runner. Haha.  After finishing the race, I did feel the pinch of missed opportunity, like I often do. But I definitely wanted to see other costumes.

Race morning was the usual rush. Starting point was at the Cathedral at St Paul. The traffic had backed-up on 35E, much before the Exit 106B. It was obvious everyone was going for the race, but there was nothing else to do. The start time was getting close and there was no other option but to get out and start running. I had that luxury as my hubby was driving me. I feel for runners who had driven on their own and obviously could not abandon the car. Some folks in the cars ahead clapped for me as I ran away uphill. Later, I added an extra mile in my training log :)

The sight at the starting point was overwhelming. Huge huge crowd. And majority of them in costumes. I had dragged my family for this race cause I wanted them to see the costumed runners. Eventually I learnt that I was the one who had most fun. They were bored, hungry and cold being in one area. I meanwhile got to see mind-blowing variety of costumes. One in Nun costume and a paper tacked on back saying "Habitual Runner". I figured the pun after an hour maybe. Couples as Hot-dog and Ketchup. Princesses and Superheroes. I so wish I had carried my iPod for pictures, but I did not have any pocket or pouch for it.

Finally the race started. But it was so so crowded, I must have taken 15 minutes to actually start. The route was very picturesque. First along the Summit Avenue, then along the Mississippi River and then on my ever favorite Shepard Road ending at Upper Landing Park in St. Paul. The direction towards end is great - St Paul downtown is constantly looming ahead and the end never seems near. At no point in the race, was I lonely. That's a rarity, because I am always in the back-burner and trudging along alone. This race was that crowded.

I finished the race at 2:38:41 which is my PR :) Maybe the crowds worked for me and pushed me when I could have walked if I was alone. This race was right at the peak of Fall and the temps were pleasant 58F-65F.

Volunteers and water-stops were perfect. Since this was offered in-lieu of Minneapolis Marathon cancellation, I got no additional gear. The medal was exciting enough.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

How to get started with Running - 101

I started running in this year and here is all that I learnt in 2014.

  1. There is lot of material on running on the internet. And a great place to start is
  2. And here is the great glossary for the running catchwords:

  3. Training plans:

  4. Once you start running, it makes sense to fix a goal and train for it. Every running site provides it own training plan and guidance, for free or fee. Here is one I used. It has a variety from Couch to 5K to 10K to Half and then Marathan.
  5. Hal Higdon - Marathon Training Guide - Novice 2
  6. In general all training plans suggest workout for 4-5 days a week, with other days being rest days. And if you want to up your level, target a weekly increase by 10%. So the guideline is always your own capacity.
  7. Many runners and running websites have created Facebook pages. They are great to follow for daily dose of Motivation, Inspiration and Information. Just create a Running interest page on facebook and add them. It won't clutter your regular newsfeed. On a mobile device, I find this a very powerful tool.


  9. If you plan to run 2-3 times in a  month, then not-stretching is not an issue. But if you want to run the day-after as well, its better you stretch before and after every run. Otherwise the shin pain, maybe hip pain won't let you go again. And that is discouraging. Stretching videos I would recommend:


  10. Practically every training plan accounts for rest days. And those are the days to cross-train. Chose your favorite. Here is a list to help you with that:

  11. Run gear:

  12. Once running catches up, nothing can stop from spurlging on the running gear.
  13. Fit: Its better to have comfort fit shirts & pants. That good old image of loose cotton t-shirts and slack pants are best left out. All those loose clothing will flop over our head in case of yoga and provide added resistance incase of running. No use. 
  14. And cotton is a sin, go for wick-dry stuff. See next section for details. I haven't run in summer yet, but I plan to use wick-dry, 1 layer with shortest possible sleeve.
  15. Yoga mat - awesome for stretching or doing shavaasan (i.e. legit way to nap; just don't snore). Links: Flipkart, Amazon
  16. Sport bra for ladies. Stock up on those and get the right match. Guys use bandaid I think, if they need really really long run. I won't write the details, please google.
  17. Rash cream - for chaffing that will happen after you try anything new (new speed or distance or new clothes or shoes)
  18. Chapstick or lip-balm 
  19. Hankerchief or Kleenex - for the snot
  20. Phone, ipod, water bottle - depending on your needs.
  21. Shoes - this shouldn't be the last in the list, but .... Get running shoe which fit correctly, maybe with a gap in the front. Try out a run in the store. And it needs replacement every 300-400 miles in general.

  22. Winter running gear:

  23. This video is the best resource I could find about the right clothing for cold weather running or snow running:
  24. 22 Genius Running Hacks For When It’s Cold AF Outside
  25. Here is the list for running in sub 30F weather:
    • Tech shirts - Layering tech shirts is very useful. In sub-30F, 2-3 shirts and in sub-10F, 3-4 shirts will be needed. What is different about tech shirts, is that they are made of synthetic material and designed to wick the sweat away from your skin. If the cloth touching you skin is wet, pretty soon it will freeze up and frostbite that area of your body. On those lines, cotton is sin in cold weather running. Because cotton absorbs the moisture and keeps it there. So always look for "wick dry". (Target Tech t-shirts)
    • Wind-sheeter jacket - to stop wind from entering inside and cooling your core.
    • Compression tights - those pants are a blessing to run outside in temps below 60F
    • Neck gaiter - protects neck from cold wind. Also from breathing in that freezing air.
    • Cap
    • Chapstick or lipbalm

    Summer Running tips:

  26. I totally love the outdoor runs in spring & fall; even winter. Its summer that I am scared of. The increased heat can tire us easily. Cloth choice should be using current temp + 10F as guideline. Water & electrolyte replacement is important. So is the time of day and location of run.
  27. Both the below articles are very useful giving details to all these choices. Do read through them before start the summer runs.

  28. Running in Rain:

  29. 10 Tips for Running in the Rain - How to Dress for Wet Weather Runs

  30. Race info:

  31. Race is such a moral-booster to participate in a race. Numerous website maintain the schedule location-wise. Find one for your location:

  32. Race day gear should be as per the weather of the race day. Be prepared for all variations (like heat & rain on the same morning), coz it can be very unpredictable.
  33. Likewise, ensure your cheering squad is dressed for the day. They may have to wait out in the open, exposed to all elements. So they should not forget their umbrellas, wind-jackets, caps and more.

  34. Nutrition:

  35. General rule is to have some nutrition if the run is last more than 1 hour. And then every 30-40 minutes. This will help sustain the run and not hit a wall, which pretty much makes us give-up on the long run. 
  36. If you run in loops, then leave the food/nutrition with water at your rest stop. If its a no-repeat trail, numerous belts & backpaks are available to carry nutrition with you.
  37. Nutrition choices are enormous. It can be locally available fruits (banana, figs, dates) and processed options (clif bars, Gu, beans, gels, electrolyte/gaterade/powerade).
  38. The glucose-dense food will quickly nourish after the stores exhausted after 1 hr run. They gives the jump needed to go the extra mile.
  39. Long Distance Nutrition Planning

  40. Breathing & Posture:

  41. Breathing: Inhale thru nose & exhale via mouth. Beginner tendency is to breathe from mouth. In the long run, it dries up the mouth & throat. So practice to inhale via nose & exhale via mouth.
  42. Breathing: The recommended way to breathe is from diaphragm, and not just inflating chest. So the trick, is to tummy-out when inhale and tummy-in when exhale. This needs practice in 3 steps - in daily life, while practice runs and then graduating to when hard runs. 
  43. Breathe Like A Pro
  44. The Simple Technique That Will Help You Run Longer
  45. Running form - in simple terms
  46. And then there are whole lot of instructions about body posture. Numerous bloggers & run magazine write about them regularly. Here is a helpful pictorial:

  47. Other tips:

  48. While running watch the horizon. Not on the ground or sky. Helps keep the focus. In winter, snow or black ice made me watch the ground a lot and as much I loved the crunch of snow, in spring I realize it's so much freeing now to look away from ground.
  49. Mucous generation increases. So carry tissue or hankie to clear nose when needed.

  50. More Links:

  51. Stepping Up The Pace: 19 Ways To Shave Down Your Race Time
  52. Hal Koerner's Ultrarunning Commandments
  53. The Hardest Parts About Being A New Runner

  55. Mandatory Buzzfeed lists:

  56. 19 Insanely Clever Hacks And Tricks To Improve Your Run
  57. 21 Secrets Runners Won’t Tell You
  58. 25 Things Non-Runners Don’t Get About Runners
  59. 75 Thoughts Every Runner Has While Out For A Run
  60. The 71 Stages Of Running A Half Marathon With Little To No Training
  61. Watching People Have To Walk Down Stairs After Running A Marathon Is Surprisingly Hilarious
  62. 22 Unexpected Things That Happen When You Run Your First Half Marathon
  63. All The Worst Things That Happen Running
  64. 26.2 Observations That Every First Time Marathon Runner Makes
  65. 24 Clever Tips To Get In Shape That Lazy People Will Appreciate