Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Polar Dash 15 mile 2015 Race Review

I welcomed the New Year with a 15 mile run for Polar DashRace. I registered on a whim. I was not sure how our New Year’s Eve would be; what time I would go to bed; things like that. But the regular facebook updates were too tempting and I gave in, like it was a sale. After that I planned a relaxed NYEve and went to bed at regular time.

Packet pickup was different. They had scheduled it at 4 different weekends in 4 different SPA stores. Because I registered last minute, I went to the one in St Paul on 31st Dec. That rush alone is good reminder for future, to register early. Bib, chip, Fleece jacket & woolen Penguin hat – good quality. I also checked out route to start point at Shriner Hospital and a car-park location since the road around it would be closed next day for the event.

Predicted temp for the day of race was around 15F. But it was 20F on average for the duration of the race. I wore:
1.       Columbia puff jacket to shield the wind, full-sleeve technical shirt, half sleeve technical shirt and racer sports bra.
2.       Good thing I skipped a fleece shirt below the wind-jacket. It would have been needed for temps around 10F & below. After a few miles did not miss it at all.
3.       My head was covered in Skimask & neck gaiter. Ski mask – it turned out too warm for me after an hour. And kept my stiff from moving turning my head around. Next time, I will use my cap, headband and neck-gaiter.
4.       I did not need sun-glasses because it was cloudy, not sunny and not windy.
5.       My hands were covered in thin woolen gloves and thick mittens. After a few miles when it grew warmer, I could discard the gloves and keep the mittens alone, which I took off & put on when needed. Next time I will wear it till starting point and pack it in my check-in bag.
6.       Lower half was protected by C9 compression pants and track pants.
7.       Shoes were usual running shoes with thick soles and tread patterns which prevented any slipping. I did not use Yak-track because the roads were clear and there was no ice.

I was in the same clothes while I walked from my car parking spot to the Start area, which was almost a mile walk. The snow and my anxiety froze my toes on the way. Thankfully they had a warming area with fire. It was a blessing to defrost my toes and other extremities. Warming area was in the Shriner car park, along with bag check and other stalls. Along with bag check were changing tents. It is crucial to get out of the sweat-drench clothes immediately after the run in these winter conditions.

Start point was Shriner hospital and the 15 mile race was 2 loops of E River Parkway.
Volunteers at every point were superb. Inspite of the dreaded winter, there were numerous volunteers at every water stops, medical stops, turnarounds and milestone, cheering the runner at every stop. Many rode the snow bikes carrying medical help. 

There were frequent water-stops with water & powerade. Since it was an average of 20F that day, water only froze a tad bit. I am always too anxious, so I fill-up at every water stop. This usually slows me down, with the extra water sloshing inside. But I refuse to learn and I would rather over-drink then be dry. I need to work on this area; try & learn how far I can run without water.

The race course planning was meticulously done. Same route was used by 10K runners and 5K runners, but at different hours. Finish point had usual supply of food and hot chocolate.

Only aspect the organizers seem to be lacking, is in their internet communications:
1.       Website does not mention their race time-limits
2.       Website did not share the PDF of the course map. It’s just a tiny image which does not show the route clearly. Google map link shows the start point location. And the course-map link goes to a page which either needs a login or technical expertise to decode.
3.       Photo-upload and race results uploads where done immediately on the day of the race. But it was partial. After that the organizers have not done the remaining updates. I can see other runners asking the same question on facebook, but even after a week I am yet to see any response

There is this interesting thing, that happens to me every single race. In the last 1-2 mile of every race, when I am just dying to get it done and even crawl if needed, some or more senior ladies creep-up and steadily overtake me. As much I admire these badass ladies, I can only but suffer from benign-envy at that very moment. I try to increase my speed, then slip into walk mode cause that’s how the situation at end mile is. Meanwhile they continue at their steady pace, have conversations. Hubby calls it the hare-tortoise situation.

When I rolled to the finish point, the 5K race had just started and the clock showed 3:07:15. It’s nothing to be proud of. But it’s my first long run for the spring marathon training. So I am happy to get it out of my way. Plus it was on the New Year’s morning, in Minnesota winter. So well ,  now I have earned Bragging rights !

Monday, January 5, 2015

My Running Report for 2014

I ran a total of 677 miles in the year 2014. I did start with more dedication in the first half of the year. I stuck to minimum 4 runs per week. The miles per run were less at that time. My run:walk ratio was also leaning a lot on walk. There was some lag in the Summer months, because that's when rest-of-the-life happens.

It is better now, at the end of the year. But I do walk and sometime I lapse into some mind-mode and walk more; only to have something jerk me awake and I start running again. Earlier it were my body limitations - breathing, pains, snot-breaks etc. Now I need to clear my mind limitations.
What got me started running was all the glamor that is Marathon. For years I had watched runners run around Lake Calhoun every summer. I loved the way SRK ran in most of the pictures; with the slow-mo and rousing music - what's not to love. Only thing left was to get started.

I was already biking for 2 summers. Bike is something I enjoyed a lot because of the speed and the toy, which is the bike. So that had built my stamina much better than when I was leading a workout-free life. So I took the leap in Dec-2013 and started with a loop of 1.5 miles lake. Boy was that tough. Here is how some of my early runs went:
11/30 Sat - 3.2 miles - 2 rounds around Centenial - 32F (0C)
11/28 Thurs - 1.5 miles - 1 round around Centenial - 323F (-5C)
11/27 Sat - 3 miles - 2 rounds around Centenial - 43F (6C)
With 4-5 runs per week, I was able to complete 5k (3mile) run/walks. Registering for Races added to the thrill. With 1 race every month, it showed me where I stood in comparison with others and most importantly with myself from previous race.

I was reading a lot as well. There are numerous running magazines that a big help. They share training plans for different capacities and they are a great resources to get started. They also answer many niggling questions that can only comeup with actual field experience.  I have shared most of the articles in a "How to get started with Running - 101" post.

The other useful tool was Facebook app. Most of the runner bloggers post their daily updates on Facebook. Their runs, gears, challenges, Q&A, their past experience, some motivational or fun posters. Each runner is a different personality; I found something that I could connect with and some whom I aspired to become like. Each of their updates helped me learn new things about the sport and get inspired, when I did not feel so . Facebook has the feature of ‘interest lists’. I bunched runners, running magazines, fitness magazines in different interest groups. Just flipping through the runner interest group, helped give me reason to get ready and go out. Refer my post "How to get started with Running - 101" for step-by-step tutorial on this. You can do similar on your favorite app like Instagram, Twitter etc. Nowadays writers are on all social media.

When I ran with someone who did, that’s what opened my eyes to the level of detail that is running  and that too in winter. What was a challenge for me, others did it for warm-up. Running with experienced runner showed me what else was possible.

Along the way I improved my running gear. Now I have a suitcase full of tech shirts, compression pants, sports bras, and winter gear like neck gaiter, ski-mask, caps, head-bands, gloves, mittens, compression socks; handkerchiefs. I must have spent loads of time shopping running gear then party dresses. But these are an investment. They help improve running form and also get you excited to do the drudgery. Same applies to other forms of workouts - get great yoga gear or swim-gear & toys and it will make that workout interesting.

It’s not all hahahehe. There have been up’s & down’s. When you try it for the first time, it seems almost impossible. I questioned the whole sport when the weighing scale stuck at the same number inspite of running regularly for 3-4 months. I have been riddled with self-doubt, on when can I complete x distance in y time. Where was the improvement ? Would there be any or I am going to be stuck in the same speed all my life ? Now I have made my peace, that the speed improvement is going to be as slow & gradual as the grass growing. I may notice the difference only in my race results across time. I also accept that I can lapse back to slower speed, if I lag behind in my training.

All these race experience have been so enriching, I should document them for my own future refrences. I can't bank on my memory to tell me how the exact weather conditions were ? What I wore in such a morning ? What the organisers excelled in ? What they lacked, if that did affect the race experience ? It will benefit anyone else interested in participating in these races for the first time. Plus they were too much fun for me to not revisit them, in photos & text :) I will start blogging my backlog of all races I enjoyed in 2014.

Temp Name Date Distance 2014 Time
10F Securian Winter Run 25-Jan-2014 5K 48:19 min
-4F TCM Valentine 8-Feb-2014 5K 44 min
53F Get in the Gear 26-Apr-2014 10k 1:14 hour
55F + Rain Lola Half Marathon 7-Jun-2014 Half-Mara 2:50:35 hour
82F Minnesota Half Marathon 2-Aug-2014 Half-Mara 2:49:05 hour
79F Minneapolis Duathlon 24-Aug-2014 5K run - 14.5-mile bike - 5K run
64F Women Run The Cities 28-Sep-2014 10Mile 2:09 hour
58F-65F Monster Dash 25-Oct-2014 Half-Mara 2:38:41 hour