Sunday, August 28, 2011

Race Report: Twins Territory TC 4K

Future hubs and I ran the Twins Territory TC 4K on Sunday, August 7.  Most people wouldn't register for such a short race, but Twin Cities in Motion puts out all the stops for this event.  Your entry fee includes a ticket for a Twins game the weekend of the race (if you sign up after the cutoff date, however, you don't get a ticket and instead just pay for the race).  You get a plain cotton race tee, but the finisher medal makes up for it!  Plus, there's a delicious post-race food spread.  The proceeds from this race benefit the Twins Community Fund.

Mark and I registered for the race after the cut-off date for purchasing the race entry fee with ticket since we already had tickets for the Twins vs. White Sox game that Sunday.  We were excited for the race and for the day, especially because our game tickets were in the swanky Champions Club.

Future hubs and I arrived at the start area about 45 minutes before the race.  I was decked out in a Twins t-shirt and the sparkly red running skirt I wore for the Red, White & Boom TC Half Marathon.

We chatted with Luther and his friend for a while and also saw other Team Ortho people, like Kim and her son Atticus, and Mike S.

Luther, a friend of his, me and Mark

Mark plays with Atticus

Kim and Atticus
I usually don't bring my camera with me when I'm running, but since this was a fun run, I decided to bring it.  This race also provided the rare opportunity for me to run with future hubs.  We hardly ever run together since our natural paces are different, but every once in a while, we run together.

Runners gather near the start
The weather was surprisingly cooler than it had been for the whole summer, which all the runners and I appreciated.  We've been getting very sick of the hot, sticky weather!

At 7:00 a.m., the race started.  TC, the Twins mascot, was at the start line cheering on the runners.

The small start line

TC peeks his head out over the crowd
Mark and I found an easy pace right away.  I enjoyed the slower pace and running next to my handsome fiance.

The iconic blue Guthrie Theater is just ahead of us

Passing by the Mill City Museum... always a fun place to tour

Every kilometer was marked by a "base"... how clever!

Mark ran the race in his Vibrams... you can see his right foot in this photo

Heading towards the North Loop neighborhood

Target Field is just off to the left

Just one kilometer to go!

Nearing the finish at Target Field
Future hubs' goal this year was to run the entire race without slowing down to walk.  I checked in with him often to see how he was doing, and he never wavered.  He ran such a great race, and I'm glad I was there with him every step of the way.

Target Field

Mascot TC high-fives participants just before they cross the finish line
Mark and I finished hand-in-hand with smiles on our faces. :)

Other Twin Cities in Motion mascots (Harry the hare and Shelly the tortoise) greet runners at the finish

Runners head towards the post-race food spread and receive their finisher medals
I forgot to stop my Garmin right after the race, so I'm not exactly sure what our real finish time was.  Mark said he thought we finished the race in 24 minutes.  That sounds about right.

Future hubs and I get our photo taken in the glove

Other runners got their photos snapped with Target Field in the background

I love the statues around the plaza

One kind runner even gave Sid Hartman (the "voice" of Twins baseball for many years) a medal
The swag: t-shirt, bib number, awesome medal, and some of the post-race snacks
Mark and I had a great time at the race this year and plan on doing it again next year.  We also had a great time at the Twins game.  We were so spoiled sitting in the Champions Club... I'm glad my boss is so generous (we got those tickets for free!). :)

After a valet parked Mark's Ford Taurus, we walked into a private entrance featuring a swanky club with fireplaces

Champions Club ticket holders enjoyed a buffet meal with free house beer or wine.  Yum!

Mark and I in our cushioned seats

We were *this close* to the action!

We took advantage of the soft serve ice cream later on in the game...

... along with all the toppings!

A beautiful day for a baseball game!

Twins dugout

I got my photo taken with TC!

Yeah... we had great seats!

What a fun day!  The Twins lost, but we had a great time.  We loved being completely spoiled for the afternoon, and it was a nice break from wedding preparations and packing for the move into the new condo.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Race Report: Ragnar Relay - Great River (Part 3)

For Part 1, click HERE.
For Part 2, click HERE.

I felt so much better after taking a shower at Stillwater Junior High School.  I tried to get a little sleep in the van after that, but to no avail.  At least I was able to "rest my eyes" in a way.

Around 8:00 a.m. Saturday, we headed towards Exchange 30, located at Tartan Park outside Lake Elmo, MN.  Volunteers at the park were serving a pancake breakfast, but I knew that I'd be running soon, so I didn't eat anything.  I had eaten something (half a bagel with peanut butter and some fruit) before taking a shower.

So true!

This awesome volunteer played the bagpipes for us at Tartan Park
About 10 minutes before 9:00, Jack got a call from team captain Mark stating that Gregg only had about 10 minutes left of his last leg.  They gained another half-hour of time due to the cool weather, so our team at this point was an hour ahead of our original projected finish time.  I headed to the exchange chute and waited for him to show up.

Cheering Gregg on

The handoff
The morning was nice and cool and I found a nice pace right away, but the sun was shining and I knew it would warm up quickly.  At 6.5 miles (The Red Dragon actually measured a longer distance), it was my longest leg of the relay.

Mile 1 - 8:22

I thought I kept hearing gunshots.  Turns out, I was running along the southern outskirts of the Oakdale Gun Club.  I hope Ragnar staff change the course next year because that was scary!

The sun burned the clouds away and the temperature was getting warmer.

Mile 2 - 8:41

I encountered a hill between miles 2 and 3.  It wasn't nearly as steep as the one during my first leg, but I was so mentally and physically drained by this point in the relay, due to no sleep and having run twice already, that I walked more than I wanted to.

Mile 3 - 10:00

After that hill, I just couldn't keep up the pace that I wanted.  I took more walk breaks than I usually do.  I also regretted my decision to fill my Nathan sprint hand-held with Gatorade instead of water.  It wasn't sitting well in my stomach.

By now, the course was more familiar to me, as I had finally reached the portion of it that was the same as last year.  An additional 3.2 miles were added on to this leg of the relay.

Mile 4 - 9:02

I saw more vans and teams along the course and they cheered me on as I ran by.  This encouragement really helped because I was feeling disappointed that I wasn't running faster.

Mile 5 - 9:52

There were no photos taken of me during this leg of the relay, which I was thankful for.  I was tired, I felt like I wasn't running well, and I'm sure my running form was suffering too due to the fatigue.

Mile 6 - 10:11

The next exchange point couldn't come soon enough for me.  I tried to kick it into a higher gear for this last part and it seemed to work.

Last .67 miles (according to The Red Dragon) - 8:21 pace

Whew!  I was finally done running.  17 miles over the course of three legs!  Completing this distance will, I believe, give me some confidence as I train for my first marathon next year.

On to the rest of the team!  Everyone in my van seemed to handle the increasing heat better than I did.

Jim, who ran a total of 20 miles, is still looking strong

Dain gives Jim a water refill

Jim hands off to Jack at the exchange
At this same exchange, I ran into Shannon from Running Injury Free.  She's an awesome Minnesota blogger I met at the Get Lucky 7K packet pickup earlier this year.  We only had time for a quick chat before she was off and running.

Shannon, on the left, receives the slap-bracelet baton from her teammate
Now for more photos!

Each teammate sat in the "Sweaty Throne" after they finished their respective legs.  Why get ALL the van seats sweaty?

Jack looks strong as he makes his way down Shepard Road in St. Paul

Jack hands off to Mark B.

Seriously, there were so many fun costumes at Ragnar this year!

Ragnar participants cheered for "normal" people out for their Saturday runs and bike rides.  More cowbell, baby!

Shannon and I finally got our picture taken at one of the exchanges.  Congrats to you and your team, girl!

Mark B. books it towards the exchange chute

Another runner got in the way, but the handoff took place
We almost missed Jilena at Exchange 35!  We drove along the course and stopped at where we thought was at least two miles into her route.  We waited and waited and didn't see her.  Finally, we looked at the time and realized that at the pace she ran, she would finish her leg in five minutes.  She would have had to wait to run until we showed up!  We sped to Exchange 35, and Jilena was only a half-mile away!  We dropped Dain off, then the rest of us parked the van.  Whew, that was close!  Sorry, Jilena!

Jilena kicks it to the exchange

A volunteer got in my way of viewing the handoff to Dain
At this point, I could not contain my excitement!  Our team was almost done running Ragnar!

We headed to East River Flats, close to the University of Minnesota campus, to wait for Dain.  Race village was a sight to behold.

The "promised land" - as Jim dubbed it - contained the orange finish arch, beer garden, vendor and merch tents, and lots of people!
We joined the other teams near the finish line who were waiting for their final runner.  Van 1 would not be joining us for the finish, as everyone wanted to go home and crash.  I was a little disappointed that we couldn't finish together, but this happened last year too, so I knew what to expect.  Ragnar participants usually bond the most with the people in their van anyway.

Team "Wonder Women" heads toward the finish

Shannon's team (We Like to Move It Move It) prepares to finish Ragnar
Finally, we saw the Salty Nuts team shirt that Dain was wearing.

Dain sprints towards the finish.  We had to tell him to slow down so our tired legs could run with him.
About 1:35 p.m. on Saturday, Van 2 of the Salty Nuts crossed the Ragnar Relay finish line.  We did it!  What an accomplishment!

Mark B. shows off his Ragnar finisher medal

Jilena at the finish arch

Van 2 photo - what a good-looking crew!  Our smiles hide how tired we actually are!
We headed toward the pizza tent to pick up our free pizzas (we got two pizzas because Van 1 decided not to get their free pizza), and then to the beer garden to redeem our free beer tickets, sit down, and enjoy our post-race food and reflect on our journey.

Mmm... Toppers pizza and Finnegans beer!  Yummy!

Pizza and beer ALWAYS taste the best after finishing a Ragnar Relay!
I stopped by the merchandise tent to buy a shirt for future hubs, and then we headed back to St. Paul to unload the van, say goodbye, and head home.  I brought Mark and Jim home, then went back to my new condo and slept for 12 hours straight!  So worth it!

Here are our results:

Official finish time: 28:32:18
Average pace: 8:47/mile
Overall place: 109/280
Division place: 25/46 (Open Men Regular)

We finished an hour-and-a-half faster than last year.

The swag: medal, bib number (which took a beating during the relay), and shirt
Considering the major snafus that occurred just before the race (having to find not one but two substitutes), I am so proud of our team!  Yes, future hubs was missed this year, but we couldn't have asked for better substitutes than Mark B. and Jim.  We gelled well as a team, and their presence was much appreciated.  I hope they consider returning to the Salty Nuts next year.  You know that I'll be back next year! :)