Monday, September 24, 2012

Well geez... where have YOU been?

Every time I sit down to write a post, my brain freezes up.  I don't know what to write.  I haven't written a blog entry in almost a year.  Perhaps I should start close to where I left off...

After our trip to Savannah, where Mark and I both earned PRs at the Rock 'N' Roll Savannah Half-Marathon, I got extremely addicted to Angry Birds.  Good thing we had finished writing all our thank you cards (for our wedding gifts) by that point!  Reading blogs and writing entries definitely fell by the wayside... sorry about that!

Two days before Thanksgiving, I was diagnosed with a stress fracture in my right foot.  Post-Savannah, I tried out a couple new pairs of running shoes, hoping to find something lighter than my Saucony Omni 9s.  Unfortunately, both pairs I wore contributed to the dull, but growing ache in the middle of my right foot.  The podiatrist I had seen diagnosed a stress fracture in my second metatarsal, and just like that, I couldn't run.  I missed out on the Turkey Day 5K for the first time since I started running it in 2005 and missed having the opportunity to run with my husband.

I was frustrated that I couldn't run when I wanted to so much.  Reading running blogs was even more difficult because it reminded me of how much I was missing.  So, I decided to give up blogging entirely while I was healing.  I needed to focus my mind on other things.

While my foot healed, I took a swimming class from late November into early February.  The class was offered through a local school district's continuing education program, and focused on stroke development and efficiency.  Although it would have been nice to take a class that focused on triathlon swimming training, I liked the variety and the structure of the workouts, which focused on the four main swimming strokes (butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle).  I would often swim around 4000 yards per class, and this, coupled with gentle yoga and the strength training that I was able to do, helped keep me in shape during the holidays.

I also started making jewelry again, learning new techniques and bulking up my inventory for future sales.  My hard work paid off in May, where I sold a lot of my jewelry at an art/music night at The Beat Coffeehouse and at Art-A-Whirl.  I currently sell my jewelry at The Buzz Coffee Shop in Burnsville and The Old Creamery Quilt Shop in Randall.

Tree of Life necklace

Swirl ring

After eleven weeks off from running (with three unexpected weeks in "the boot"), I finally started up again in February.  The only running shoes I could wear at this point were an old pair of Saucony Guide 3s that were in my closet, but they helped me get back into running shape.  In March, I ran the 100% Irish for a Day 5K and the Get Lucky 7K.  Being able to run and complete races felt incredible!  I had an opportunity to run the Madison 10K while I was volunteering at the Madison Marathon Expo for Team Ortho, and that nighttime race was a fun experience.

Slowly I built up my mileage and completed my goal spring/early summer race, the Garry Bjorklund Half-Marathon.  My training didn't go like I wanted it to (I had to take time off after the Madison 10K due to plantar fasciitis), but I enjoyed the race experience and still finished under two hours.

Mark and I both ran the race :)

I experienced some knee pain whenever I ran eight miles or more in my Guide 3s, so I went to a local running store to pick out a new pair of shoes.  I totally thought I would be getting the Guide 5s, but after the employee checked the wear patterns of my shoes and watched me walk and squat, she told me "Why are you wearing stability shoes?  You should be wearing neutral shoes."  I didn't believe her, so I got a second opinion (an employee at a different running store), and he said the same thing.  I bought a pair of Saucony Ride 5s and haven't gone back to stability shoes.  Those shoes have carried me through several races (a 12-miler, four half-marathons within a month's time, and a 20-miler) this summer and will carry me through October 7, where I plan to run my very first marathon.

I can't guarantee that I'll be a regular blogger again, but I do hope to write some pre-marathon thoughts, a marathon race recap, and final thoughts over the next few weeks.  Maybe I'll finally get around to posting that recap of the RNR Savannah Half-Marathon (it really was a great race), too!

I hope you all are doing well and have been running healthy and strong.  What have you been up to the last several months?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Race Report: Medtronic TC 10 Mile

A few of you have asked me when I'm going to post wedding pictures.  Mark and I are still waiting to receive the disk of photos from our photographer, and also hoping she will post a few teaser photos on Facebook (she hasn't done that yet, but she's a busy mom of two along with being a wedding photographer, so I need to cut her some slack).  Hopefully I will have a wedding-related post next week.

In the meantime, I've got a race report for you!  Mark and I ran the Medtronic TC 10 Mile on October 2.  This race is held the same day as the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, but it starts earlier than the marathon.  The course starts just outside the Metrodome in Minneapolis, then runs along West River Parkway until crossing the Franklin Avenue bridge to St. Paul.  The last 6-7 miles of the course, along St. Paul's grand and historic Summit Avenue, follow the final miles of the marathon course.

I ran this race for the first time in 2008, having only one month to train because of a knee injury earlier in the summer.  I persevered with a slow and steady pace that year and finished in 1:37:52.

By the time I neared the finish, the clouds opened and poured rain.

So excited to be finished!
Mark ran the TC 10 last year and enjoyed perfect weather conditions.

This was Mark's best race of the year.
We entered the race lottery this summer.  Mark was picked, but I wasn't.  However, I decided to purchase a charity entry.  I paid an extra $100 to run the race, and that money went to the YMCA and Bolder Options.  I don't mind paying extra for a race as long as the money goes towards a good cause (or several).

On race morning this year, Mark and I were up super early (like about 4:30 a.m.) to get ready.  We parked our car at the Fort Snelling light rail station and took LRT up to the Metrodome stop.  Once we got off the train, we were near the start.  We stood in line for the porta-potties, and after doing our business, found our respective corrals.  I was in Corral 2 this year, just like in 2008, but Mark was in the last corral (#5).  He didn't mind... he would go on to enjoy picking off people as he reached the later miles of the race.

I ran into Keith, the CFO of the company I work for, in my corral and we hugged.  He ran the marathon last year, and was looking forward to running along Summit Avenue with lots of energy in the tank instead of feeling completely dead from running 20 miles before that.  We wished each other good luck.  He was hoping for a 1:40.

Corral 1 started at 7:09, after the USATF 10-Mile Championship waves started.  My corral started just a few minutes later.  I chatted with some nearby runners for a few minutes before we crossed the start line.

My main goal was to enjoy the race.  I was coming off of injury the last time I ran it, so I was excited to run the race this year healthy and strong.  With our wedding occurring the third weekend in September, and a honeymoon following (I did run a little on our honeymoon, but not as much as usual), I wasn't sure what my race pace would be.  I figured I would easily beat my 2008 TC 10 Mile time, but in my mind, I decided to shoot for 1:25 and see what would happen.

The first mile was spent settling into my pace.  We passed by the Guthrie Theater (always a treat for me) and then turned onto West River Parkway to run along the Mississippi River.  Passing under the newer I-35W bridge, I was reminded of that fateful day in 2007 when the old I-35W bridge collapsed into the river.  Most Minnesotans (well, mostly those in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area) remember precisely what they were doing when they found out about the bridge collapse, kind of like 9/11.

Mile 1 - 8:16

We runners hit a nice downhill stretch as we continued along the river.  I coasted along, enjoying the cool morning.  Several male runners headed into the bushes to relieve themselves.  Too bad women don't have it that easy!

Mile 2 - 8:02

I ditched my gloves shortly after the mile 2 mark, as my hands were nice and toasty.  I felt perfectly comfortable with what I was wearing: an old race t-shirt, my InkNBurn sleeves, lululemon crops with shorts on over the top.  I had a long-sleeved throwaway shirt on, too, and I threw that away before crossing the Franklin Avenue bridge.

Once we got to the bridge, the number of spectators exponentially increased.  I loved hearing their cheers and cowbells.  I saw Kim, a Team Ortho staffer, cheering on the runners and gave her a high five.

Once crossing the bridge, we were in St. Paul.

Mile 3 - 8:45 (I had walked through a water stop)

Remember this wall from the ALARC Legends 10K?

"The Wall" was located just before mile 4 on the 10-mile course, but mile 20 of the marathon course.  I wonder if having a visualization of "the wall" helped or hindered the marathoners.

I was still enjoying the weather, the course, the spectators and the run.  I felt great.

Mile 4 - 8:25

We passed by Shriners Hospital and the Team Ortho cheer zone.  I high-fived the TO staffers and volunteers I knew that were cheering on the runners.

I enjoyed reading the spectators' signs.  "Worst Parade Ever" was one of my favorites.

Mile 5 - 8:37

We headed up a small hill to Summit Avenue.  More spectators lined the course.  Several of the trees had leaves that were turning color, and the sun shining on them made the hues more vibrant.  I was having a blast running along Summit.  I continued to feel great, even though I was working hard, and thrived off of the energy of the crowd and the beautiful fall day.

Mile 6 - 8:46

I took a strawberry Clif Shot Blok around mile 6.  I usually take some form of gel or chew earlier in the race.  With the hit or miss luck I've had with Gu, I decided to go back to an old Clif standard.  My stomach felt just fine.

There are several old mansions along Summit, and I enjoyed running past them, admiring their architecture as much as I could without running into another runner.

Mile 7 - 8:29

I kept my eyes peeled for Rachel and Matt, who were going to be cheering on a few friends of theirs that were running the marathon, but I didn't see them.  I figured they were probably still sleeping, or they had gone to an earlier spectator point along the marathon course to cheer on their friends.

I noticed that my pace had slowed some.  Summit has a few slight rolling hills, with overall a very gradual incline as it heads into downtown St. Paul.  I wondered what it was like to run this part of the race as a marathoner.  I plan to find out next year, but instead of making this my first marathon, I am seriously considering Grandma's Marathon in Duluth.

Mile 8 - 8:25

I still felt great, loving the crowds, scenery and weather.  I was having my best race of the year.

I thought about picking up the pace a little bit, but I held back because I wanted to see how I felt at mile 9.

Mile 9 - 8:30

I had enough in the tank to put the hammer down for the final mile.  I knew I didn't have that much farther to go, and I was excited to push the pace.  Once I passed the Cathedral of St. Paul, the course was literally downhill from there.  I checked The Red Dragon and saw that I was way off PR pace, but figured I might be able to finish under 1:25.

I saw a gigantic American flag flying above the final approach and the finish line in the distance.  I thought about my first time running this course, and how this time was so different.  I coasted downhill towards the finish, speeding up, with a smile on my face.  Hearing the cheering crowds made my smile grow even wider.

What a beautiful day!

I stayed all smiles as I crossed the finish line.  This race went so much better than I ever expected.

I'm just to the right of the lady in the bright pink.

Finishing strong!
Mile 10 - 7:39 (told you that downhill helped!)

Here are my results:
Official finish time: 1:24:02
Average pace: 8:25/mile
Overall place: 1857/7549
Gender place: 661/4632
Division place: 174/1036 (22-29 age group)

After finishing, I received my finisher medal and a mylar blanket, then made my way through the food area.  This race had an awesome food spread, but my favorite thing were the cups of chicken (or veggie for vegetarians and vegans) broth.  Nothing like a hot liquid to warm you up after running in cool fall weather!

After getting my photo taken, I headed towards the tables full of finisher shirts.  When I saw the bright green color, I was immediately disappointed.  The color is so bright that I will only wear that shirt at night (nighttime Ragnar Relay leg, anyone?).  The design of the shirt is otherwise nice, and I was able to get the size shirt that I wanted (XS because they only had unisex sizes), but I wish that Twin Cities in Motion had chosen a different color for the finisher shirts.  Neon colors should NEVER be allowed!

I picked up my bag from bag check, then proceeded to join the other spectators in watching the 10-milers finish.  I was on the lookout for my handsome hubby.

Finally, I saw him.

Mark finished in 1:57:00. What an easy finish time to remember!

I kept track of him from the spectator side as he made his way through the finish chute.

Heading towards the food.  Look at the smile on his face!  The way to a man's heart is through his stomach, you know. ;-)

In line for the broth
Finally, I was able to give him a smooch and take his picture.

I waited for him to get his bag, then he left the secured finisher area and joined me.  We walked over to some of the vendor tents and decided to get our medals engraved with our finish times.  This was my first race as a married woman, and I was so excited to have a medal engraved with my new last name!

Before we boarded the shuttle buses that would take us back to the Metrodome, we ran into our friend Steph.  We hadn't seen her since Christmas.  She spent a long time in Thailand helping out refugees along the Thai-Burma border, but is back in the States and will be moving to California next year to continue serving the poorest of the poor.  It was so good to see her again!

Taking a photo with Steph

Group shot!
Even though I didn't get a PR, I had one of my best races this year.  I beat my 2008 finish time by over 13 minutes!  Everything about the day was perfect (except for the finisher shirt, but it will serve a purpose!), and it was so wonderful to run into an old friend and chat with her.

The newlyweds
What has been your favorite race this year and why?

Do you know of any bloggers doing the Rock 'N' Roll Savannah Marathon or Half-Marathon?  Mark and I are checking to see if there will be a blogger meetup.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Home Sweet Home

In the midst of planning our wedding, Mark and I purchased a condo.  We were lucky to find a place that was move-in ready, close to where I work, and a steal of a deal ($30,000).  We closed on August 12.

We got the key to our condo just before our closing appointment.  Happy day indeed!
We both took the 12th off from work for the closing appointment and so we could start moving our stuff in.  Well, technically, it was my stuff because I moved into the condo first.  My parents and Mark's parents came the following day to move the big stuff (bed, dressers, desk, coffee tables, etc.)

Our kitchen is galley-style and small.  But there are plenty of cabinets!

I like the green paint on the walls.

Ron, Dad and Bette take a break.  Behind those mirrored doors are more shelves.
Mark moved his stuff over gradually, finishing up just days before our wedding.  I wouldn't recommend moving only a month before your wedding, but luckily for us, everything worked out fine and went smoothly.

Here are more pictures of our condo...

The bathroom is one of our favorite rooms in the condo.

Our decor matches very well.

The guest bedroom was previously a nursery.  We turned it into the guest/craft/running room.

Besides having the running bibs on the wall, I have other random posters and photos.

These closet doors look really nice, but are a pain to open and close.

Master bedroom.  Yes, we need more stuff on the walls!

I purchased this a long time ago, and am glad it's finally getting used!

We have a few items on one of the bedroom walls.

We got this china hutch off of Craigslist.  The previous owner even delivered it!

The previous owners converted a closet into an office.  We made it the "Cloffbrary" (closet-office-library).

Our books, DVDs, CDs, games, and other assorted items are in the cloffbrary.

See... those mirrored doors do hide shelves.  Our condo has awesome storage!
We love our condo... it's the right amount of space for us at this point, and we live just a short walk away from one of my favorite aunts. :)  Mark and I are so glad to have a place that is completely ours.

If you are or have ever been a homeowner (or condo-owner), describe what your first home was like.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Race Report: City of Lakes 25K

Last year, Mark (at the time he was future hubs, now he's my hubby... yay!) ran the City of Lakes 25K on a whim.  There was a workplace competition going on, and he wanted to challenge himself, so he ran this race.  I played personal race photographer for him.

Stretching out before the 2010 race

Strong stride


His expression belies the pain he's feeling
While he was running, I mentally kicked myself for not doing the race too.  My goal half (Portland Half-Marathon) was a month away, and I didn't want to risk injury, so I played it safe.  But I vowed that in 2011, I would challenge myself and run the 25K (15.5 miles).

I delayed registering for this year's race because I was worried about injury.  However, my knees had been feeling great all summer, and even with all the wedding prep and work stress and the fact that my long runs the two weekends prior were only 10 miles each, I was determined not to let anything prevent me from running the race.  I signed up for it four days beforehand.  This would be the longest distance I'd ever covered at one time, and I hoped that it would give me much-needed confidence for marathon training next year.

I had a costume planned for months for this race: I dressed as a bride-to-be.  I wore the veil from my bachelorette party, a cheap tiara I picked up at a race expo last year, a bride-to-be sash from Joann Fabrics, a white tank emblazoned with "Running to the Altar" on the front and "6 Days 'Til the Wedding" on the back, and my trusty Saucony Omni 9s (a newer pair) and Mizuno running shorts.  Because the race was held on 9/11, I wrote those numbers on the back of my white tank as a tribute to those who lost their lives 10 years ago.

Being goofy before the race

Tough strength-training workouts earlier in the week made my glutes sore.  Here's hoping a little massage helps! :)
This year, Mark played my personal race photographer.  We arrived to the start area about 7:15-ish and I got in line to wait for the porta-potties.  I didn't see anyone else in costume, so I felt like I was breaking some unspoken rule.  Oh well... if you can't have fun with running, why do it at all?!

While in line for the porta-potties, I chatted with Juli and Lisa from Team Ortho (and the MN Running Wild club) and Bri, a friend of Mark's from high school.  All of them were using this race as a tune-up for the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon on Oct. 2.

Lining up at the start.  Juli is in front of me wearing the white visor, and Lisa is to her left.
At 8:00 a.m. sharp, the race started.  My goal was to finish the race, so an easy pace was in order.  I knew it would also warm up considerably in the morning.  I do not run well in the heat, so a slow pace was necessary.

During the first mile, Chris, a Van 1 member of my Ragnar Relay team passed by me and chatted with me before speeding ahead.  It was so nice to see and talk with him, even though it was for a short period of time.  He had a great race.

Mile 1 - 8:53

Throughout the race, spectators and racers alike noticed my costume and congratulated me.  Some asked if I had just gotten married, others asked if I was a runaway bride.  Hearing their well-wishes and cheers definitely kept a smile on my face that morning.

Mile 2 - 8:54

The course started at one end of Lake Harriet and made 2+ loops of that lake and 2 loops of Lake Calhoun.  These are some of my favorite running grounds, so it was nice to run on a familiar course.

A side stitch developed.  Oh no, not already! I thought.  Fortunately after a short walk, it went away.  Back to running!

Mile 3 - 8:48

These first few miles were just buzzing by.  The pace was easy and I felt like I could keep running for a long time.  I kept my brain occupied by listening to my tunes on my iPod and scoping out spectators.  I liked seeing people's reactions and hearing their comments when they saw my costume.

Mile 4 - 9:01

Mark situated himself between the two lakes so he could see me as I headed out to make my loops around Lake Calhoun and when I returned to make my loops around Lake Harriet.  He enjoyed photographing other race participants and the beautiful early fall day.

There was a beautiful sunrise the morning of the race

Hey, we know these people.  Jilena and Dain also used this race as one of their final long runs before TCM.

This speedster would go on to win the race.

Another small pack of uber-fast runners, including Willie (in the pink Run N Fun tank), a local elite we know
Mile 5 - 8:42

I had just finished my first loop of Lake Calhoun and stopped at the water stop between the two lakes.  I was still feeling good.  I took a Gu, reveled in the well-wishes from the water stop volunteers, and continued running.  I also knew I'd be seeing Mark soon. :)

Heading towards Lake Harriet from William Berry Parkway

Still have a smile on my face
Mile 6 - 9:16

Fortunately, I had no costume malfunctions.  The veil stayed put and its blowing in the breeze actually helped me feel a little cooler as the temps warmed up.  I also pinned my sash to my shirt to keep it from moving around too much.

A fellow runner asked me if it was more difficult planning a wedding or running 15+ miles.  Wedding planning, of course! :)

Mile 7 - 9:19

The weather was warming up.  Most of Lake Harriet Parkway was shaded, so that helped me stay cool.  I wondered how much my pace would suffer as the mercury rose.

As I approached the parkway between the two lakes, I saw Mark once again. :)

Still lookin' good!

Mile 8 - 8:55

Just before the water stop between the two lakes, Juli passed me.  She looked strong.  Lisa hadn't passed me yet and I wondered if she would.

I approached the water stop between the two lakes, and a couple volunteers shouted, "Hey, it's the bride again!"  The volunteers at the Lake Calhoun water stop would say the same thing as I made my second trip around the lake.

Mile 9 - 9:16

I was beginning to fatigue, mostly due to the heat.  I had slowly consumed the Gu, but it still wasn't sitting well in my stomach.  I had eaten that same kind of gel (tri-berry flavored) the week before during my long run and I felt fine.  Running 17 miles total at Ragnar provided OK training for this race, but I was hoping to get a 12 or 13-miler in two weeks before the race, not just a 10-miler.  No wonder why I was slowing down by mile 10!

Mile 10 - 9:35

At this point in the race, I was also beginning to walk more, lingering longer at the water stops.  I tried to keep my focus on a consistent pace.

Mile 11 - 9:55

I thought about doing run/walk intervals and decided to try a couple out.  Run for 4 minutes, walk for 1, repeat.  It seemed to work for a little while, but the heat was really getting to me.

Mile 12 - 10:04

I passed the water stop between the two lakes for the last time and saw a Running Room employee from the Burnsville location that has helped me purchase shoes in the past.  He recognized me.

I walked up the small hill on the parkway between the two lakes.  It was right after that water stop.  Once I neared the top, I started running again.

Hunkering down for the final miles

I mustered up a small smile for Mark.  I told him, "I'm so tired!"

Heading for my final loop around Lake Harriet
Lisa passed me right around the mile 13 mark.

Mile 13 - 10:20
Half-Marathon Split - 2:03:50

I tried catching up with Lisa and I succeeded, but then I needed to walk, so then she got ahead of me.  I kept her in my sights, but I never caught up with her again.  I didn't have the willpower left to try to reach her.

Mile 14 - 10:11

I alternated between running and walking.  I was so looking forward to being done running.  Hearing cheers from the few spectators helped, but I really just wanted to be finished.

Just before mile 15, I was walking and a runner that had already finished said "You're almost done.  Start running again."  I told him that I would once I passed the mile 15 marker and I did.  That got a cheer from him!

Mile 15 - 10:26

Just a half-mile left to go, I told myself.  I vowed that I wouldn't walk at all during this final half-mile.  Just keep a steady pace, Richelle!

Soon I was nearing the finish chute, and the enormity of what I was about to accomplish as a runner started sinking in.  I was going to finish my longest race ever.  I smiled, but also started tearing up.  I felt the same way I did after finishing my very first half-marathon back in 2007.

The homestretch

Getting passed in the homestretch
I pulled my sash out of the way so anyone at the finish could read the "Running to the Altar" phrase I wrote on my white tank with fabric markers.  This bride-to-be was running to the finish, and her future husband was waiting for her with a big smile on his face!

The ink from the fabric marker was running onto my bib number.  Oh well.

The determination, fatigue and elation are all there, along with the ink the pink sash left behind on my white tank. ;)
I finally crossed the timing mat.  The announcer said my name and congratulated me, both for finishing and for my upcoming marriage.

Last .5 miles - 9:58 pace

Here are the results:

Official finish time: 2:28:09
Average pace: 9:34/mile
Overall place: 435/623
Gender place: 137/240
Division place: 36/62 (20-29 age group)

I felt so tired and sore after the race.  I also had a hard time eating the post race food, but I forced myself to eat the chocolate chip cookie because it was delicious and it was from Great Harvest Bread Company.  Once I had the chance to "walk it out" and drink water and sit down for a little while, I felt better.

Mark told me often how proud he was of me. :)

In the finish area, I also collect my race swag: a finisher's stein.  Because this year was the 30th running of the City of Lakes 25K, race organizers also gave runners a finisher's medal.  Sweet!  Running 25 kilometers totally deserves a finisher's medal. :)

As Mark and I walked back to the car, we passed several members of MN Running Wild, who were tailgating post-race.  We were each offered a bottle of beer, which we happily downed, and had a great time chatting with the other runners about the race.  I'm technically a member of the group (I joined on Facebook), and should receive my MNRW running singlet in the mail soon.  Can't wait!

Even though the heat got to me the last few miles of the race and I slowed down, I still felt like I ran a smart race.  I kept the pace as consistent as I could and didn't start out too fast.  I completed my longest distance ever, and now I've got my eye on an even longer and tougher distance.  I liked running the City of Lakes 25K, and thought this was the perfect race to do for my last race as a single woman.

My bib number, medal and stein

Question for my readers: What unique distances have you covered in your racing career? (you don't see many 25Ks here in the US)