Surly Loppet 13.1k {Race Recap}

Trail running is intimidating to me. Sure I run on trails, but they are lovely paved or crushed limestone trails. They are not grassy, muddle, steep, single track hills. Nope. I’ve only run on such terrain once, last winter in the snow on the coldest morning of the fall. It was fun, but not something I thought I’d do often. I was right. It took me six months before I did it again.

Last weekend, with some of my friends and fellow Daisy Troop moms, I ran my first official trail race. We decided on a whim last spring that it would be fun to run the Surly Loppet. If it wasn’t, we’d still get beer at the end. There were three distance options: 5k, 13.1k, and a half marathon. I opted for the 13.1k figuring that a little over 8 miles would be doable. After all, I had no idea how my fall race schedule would shape up.

I won’t lie, I was a little nervous. One because I didn’t run on a trail even once before the race and two, because this is how the course description starts:

“The Trail Loppet is challenging. There are big hills. There are narrow trails with rocks and logs. There are many intersections.”

Eek. I just hoped I didn’t get lost. And those hills…which don’t look so bad here. Only a few of them really sucked.

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Like several places in the country, we were having unseasonably warm weather. Like 80-100 degrees plus intense humidity. Not ideal at all. Luckily with such a race, there was no time pressures or performance anxiety. I only had to go as hard and fast as I felt like it. There was also going to be ample shade which would give us some relief from direct sun on top of the oppressive heat and humidity.

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We got to Theodore Wirth Park with about 10 minutes until my race started. I quick hit the porta potty and ran across the parking lot to the starting line. It was really crowded at the start and we started right uphill. The first tenth of a mile was paved before we moved to some grass and onto dirt trails through the trees.

I won’t go mile by mile because I rarely knew where I was at mileage-wise and it’s kind of a blur. I was happily running, music free, enjoying the scenery and the challenge. There were several times that I was forced to walk because those in front of me were walking. On a single track, there was no room to pass. Frankly, the few walk breaks were welcome. There were usually up very steep, root and rock ridden hills. I only almost bit it three times. I recovered and was happy that I didn’t end up scraping my face because we had family pictures later that afternoon.

I chatted with a few runners here and there as we ran. While I considered wearing my CamelBak I’d decided I didn’t want anything extra on my body. It was just too hot. I wished I had carried my own. There were only two water stops and I was sweating so much that I needed every drop I could get.

When I finished, I decided I wanted to do it again! It was so much fun. It was hard and dirty, slow and steady. It kept me on my toes and I didn’t once look at my watch wondering how I was doing. I didn’t care. I was far out of my running comfort zone and soaking it all up.

I met my friends who had done the 5k, grabbed a beer and waited for our other friends to join us. We already decided that we are going to make this an annual race. Maybe next year I’ll do the half.

 

Fall Friends and Family Fest

Spending time with old friends and family do wonders for the soul. We’ve been lucky enough to host and visit a slew of friends and family in the past month. We reminisced, laughed at how ‘old’ we’ve gotten and had fun just hanging around in sweats having a cocktail or two.

Our first guests of the fall were our friends Ryan and Claire. They’ve been friends of ours for about a decade now (what?!) and currently live in Rhode Island. Huge Colorado State fans, we planned their trip for a visit two years ago when the 2016 CSU football team announced a game at Minnesota. Needless to say we’d been looking forward to it for some time.

While not all of the fun things I had planned came to fruition thanks to crummy weather and most of us coming down with bad colds, we had a great time! Here are a few highlights.

 


A few days after they left, we drove to Omaha to celebrate my Great Uncle Dan’s 75th birthday. It was a mini-family reunion of sorts. Unfortunately my dad and stepmom were out of the country and my Walker siblings away at school, but it was so much fun having almost the entire family together. It was fun introducing my kids to extended family and just celebrating as we used to on holidays when I was growing up.

Once back home, we only had to wait a few more days for my sorority sister Kirsten and her husband Brandon to arrive. Kirsten rocked the Medtronic Twin Cities 10 Miler! It was definitely fun to be a spectator for once. Ella and I also ran the Family Mile. She finished it in 12 minutes which I’m pretty sure is faster than I ran my first mile!

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We had better luck with babysitters and were out and about all weekend.

Ah, it was a like a breathe of fresh air being with them. I definitely ate and drank too much and ran too little, but I wouldn’t trade a moment of it.

Just this past weekend we also were treated to a visit from Josh’s parents. We enjoyed a nice dinner, took in a show at the Guthrie Theater and went on a train ride with the entire family. It was another great weekend.

Next weekend, it’s off to Indianapolis for the Monumental Half. I’ll have to write a little update on how training has shaped up. It’s been quite a ride these past several weeks. Can’t wait for more visitors, even if it isn’t until we thaw in the spring!

The End of My Streak [Race Recap}

Four years. For four years straight, I set a new personal record at every single race I did. Regardless of distance, I was on a roll. Sometimes they were small, sometimes they were big, but they were always a PR. Last night, that ended and I’m not going to lie, it stings a little bit. It’s not nearly as fun to write about but as I share my triumphs, I should also share my disappointments.

Last night was the annual Maple Grove Esprit de She. You might remember last year the course was significantly short. Well this year, they got rid of the 10k option and changed the course which was actually the right distance, if not ever so slightly long. While I loath 5ks, I’m not one to pass up a race minutes from my house that always ends with booze and great company from my amazing running group friends.

Just after 5 pm I drove over to the Town Green where the race was starting. Unlike in previous years, the course was not a loop. We were now finishing at the newly completed Central Park. We hung around for a while sweating before taking our group picture. Unfortunately, thanks to bag drop being at the finish line, we were missing more than a couple members.

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After the picture I tried to stay in the shade as long as I could. I was dehydrated and it was HOT and HUMID (it was nearly 80 degrees still). Blah. You’d think I’d be use to it by now, but no. Does anyone get use to humidity? I was silently cursing them for moving the race from late September to early August. Anyway, I made my way to the front of the corrals with some friends and sweated it out for 10ish minutes until the race started.

I crossed the starting line quickly, going out a bit fast as I chased after a ton of high school girls that were ahead of me. I knew it was going to bite me in the ass. I finished the first mile in 6:50. Bad decision. After that first mile I was looking for the water stop. It was about 1.5ish miles in. I stopped, drank one cup, poured one over my head and continued on. The second mile was 7:13. Already positive splitting.

Once I hit 2.5 miles, I’m pretty sure I stopped sweating. I don’t think I had enough fluid in my body to keep it going. I was overheating bad. I posed for a picture.

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When I thought I’d safely passed the photographer, this is what I was feeling.

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I was done. I just wanted it to be over. I looked at my watch and new that my chance to PR was gone. My third mile was 7:39…ouch. That is a HUGE positive split. The finish line was setup really poorly. We had two tight turns to make a U and had to run on uneven patchy grass.

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I tripped a little bit, but was just so damn happy to be done, I didn’t care. I honestly was so hot I thought I was going to vomit.

Official time: 22:41      Avg. Pace: 7:19 min/mile

I was 22nd overall of 1430 runners and 5th in my age group of 501.

I missed beating my 5k PR by 26 seconds.I was really bummed. I hadn’t really expected it. Yes it was hot and yes I was dehydrated and sore from Orangetheory the previous night, but I’ve gotten so much faster since November. I was kicking myself for the walk break I took to drink the water I needed so badly. Honestly, if I hadn’t walked then, my streak would probably be in tact.

It had to end sometime right? I’m trying not to be too hard on myself, it’s not like I totally crashed and burned, and no one PRs every single race forever. I’m trying to tell myself that one race that broke my streak, doesn’t mean I’ll never PR again. It’s silly to think that right?

After the race I got some free food (which by the way, has gotten worse every year) and even better, free booze while I hung out with the girls.

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Not a total failure of an evening. It evened cooled off nicely after the race. Maybe next year, if it’s in August again, they can start it an hour later.

 

An Ode to My BRF

Two years ago this past week I made my way to the Chalet at Elm Creek in the early morning light. I was nervous, would I gel with the group, would I find someone who runs my pace, would I be too slow or too fast? As I pulled into the parking lot I saw a gaggle of women in brightly colored outfits standing around chatting. I made my way to the group and introduced myself. With introductions out of the way, we set out for a few loops.

As the group started running, we naturally fell in step. Slowly you and I broke away from the others. We easily fell into conversation and I felt at ease. The next few Saturdays, we found ourselves running together again. I started looking forward to my long training runs more than I had in a very long time. With the same goal of going sub-4 at the Twin Cities Marathon in the fall, I had found my training partner.

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All summer, we ran for hours at a time. While we ran we talked about a little bit of everything, getting to know each other. We talked about everything from our favorite post-long run treats to family and how we thought our kids would likely never give up nursing (thank goodness they finally did right?!). We found things we had in common like weaknesses for ice cold Coke and Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs. We learned how to push each other without making one another miserable. That fall, not only did we both achieve our sub-4 goals, we smashed them.

Since that first summer two years ago, between us we’ve trained for five more marathons. Every season growing stronger and faster. We’ve talked through losing loved ones, family discord and way too much about my nasty stomach issues. We’ve laughed and definitely complained as we trained our asses off. These runs served as therapy and entertainment. Your perpetually sunny outlook on life was infectious.

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This spring as we trained for what we both hoped would be our first Boston qualifying marathon, we reflected many times on our previous training. We’d come so far. Training with you had pushed me to a place I never dreamed possible. I knew that we were on the brink of achieving something we never thought possible that first summer. I had a feeling as we got on the bus together that morning, we were both going to do it. We were both going to qualify. After I crossed the finish line, I hurried back to watch you. Watching you, my BRF, cross the finish line, arms in the air, brought tears to my eyes. I was so proud of you! Proud to be your training partner and your friend.

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On our runniversary, I needed to take a moment to thank you. Thanks for spending hours on end with me before anyone should be out of bed on a Saturday morning. Thank you for bitching with me all the way up that damn Fernbrook hill.  Thank you for pushing me, motivating me and inspiring me to do more. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for helping Minnesota feel like home. Thank you for just being you.

Our Weekend Away

We have never spent a night away from Anderson together. We once, two years ago, spent a single night away from Ella. We stayed in the same city and were away for less than 24 hours. Last year when Josh was asked to be a groomsman in a friend’s wedding out East, we decided it was time for our first trip without the kids. It’s expensive to fly the entire family anywhere, especially with Anderson turning two next month. Plus, we needed a weekend free from parenting.

I was so excited but nervous about leaving the kids. My mom was generous enough to offer to fly out to stay with them for us. We bought her ticket and lined up our plans for the wedding. I started prepping the kids a few weeks out about our trip. Ella was totally fine, which I knew she would be. I was nervous about Anderson. He’s still (I know STILL) nursing three times/day and I had no idea how he would do without me at bedtimes. I spent way too long writing my mom notes about any nuances I could think of. I made a fresh loaf of bread and grocery shopped to make sure they had plenty of food.

When the day actually came, we said goodbye to the kids before putting them down for their naps. Even on the way to the airport, I was slightly freaking out. Not that my mom wasn’t capable, but we’d just never left the state without them. By the time we’d checked in and ordered our first drink and antipasta platter, I was relaxed.

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We kept saying that it was so strange to not be making a dozen trips to the restroom, sitting in the play area and worrying about keeping kids entertained. To be honest, after a few drinks I had a buzz going. Our friends Ryan and Claire had just, basically that day, moved to Providence. They were amazing enough to pick us up at midnight. The next morning we were off for New Hampshire.

It took a bit longer than we expected, a little more than three hours of driving through the beautiful, lush trees.

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We arrived at the Bishop Farm B&B which was so cute and situated in the White Mountains. Absolutely gorgeous.

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It was almost like being in college again. Ryan and Claire were in the room across from ours. We ate together, drank too much together and walked from all the wedding festivities together. Claire and I even picked ticks off of each other after getting more than a dozen between us during our afternoon stroll.

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The wedding was something straight off of Pinterest. Jess looked beautiful and Paul was beaming as he watched his bride walk down the aisle. They had a bluegrass band and tasty food in the barn.

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The next morning we drove back to Rhode Island, making a stop for Josh to enjoy his first lobster roll and me to hug a lobster. Plus a quick stop in Boston for some treats from Mike’s Pastry. Sadly our quick trip was all but over after enjoying a really delicious Italian dinner.

I don’t know why we waited so long to take a weekend away. The kids did amazing with my mom. She had them out and about all over the Twin Cities. When we got home, they ran to us for big hugs and kisses. I thought Anderson would wean while we were gone, but nope, the first thing he did was take my hand and ask to go night night aka, give me milk.

We celebrated our return home with some s’mores after dinner and a well deserved glass of wine for Nana.