Earth Day Run Number Five

We people just like to benchmark time and accomplishment. Birthdays and anniversaries demand cake, gifts, flowers, or all of the above.

Running events also mark their milestone years, and this past Saturday I ran the 15th annual Earth Day Half Marathon. It was a banner year for me too because this was my 5th consecutive running of the race. It’s the only race I’ve managed to keep up a “streak” at, probably because mid-April is a reliable time I can take off from the farm on a Saturday morning.

I thought it would be fun to chronicle my races and progress over the years of the Earth Day Run. It took some digging to find pictures from the first year, which was even before I started blogging, but I finally came up with them all. As you can tell from my apparel choices, April weather in Minnesota runs the gamut.

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2010 Earth Day Half Marathon – 2:12:00

Lisa20Mile2011 Earth Day 20 Mile – 3:23:36

EarthDay2012Earthday2012Earth Day Half Marathon 2012 – 1:54:38

{This year had several outfit changes because the weather couldn’t make up its mind!}

20140313-213002.jpg2013 Earth Day Half Marathon – 1:50:18

{Shortened to 12.975 miles due to snow}

I feel nostalgic as I look back at my past progress and see how I’ve improved. I certainly haven’t done better in every race I’ve run, but it’s cool to see at this particular event I’ve managed to go farther or faster each time.

It’s also a tall order to keep up with, as I imagine it will become harder to get faster as the years go by!

Maybe I should quit reminiscing and share a few of this year’s race details with you?

Another fellow Team Dairy runner named Lisa met up with me before the race for a photo opp and pre-race pep talk. We both knew it was windy, windy, but we were also excited for what the day would bring.
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I knew I wanted to break 1:50, but I also knew I wasn’t at 100%. I’ve been fighting some combo of a cold and allergies all spring, so I decided to keep my ears covered and my gloves on. The temperature was 40 at the start but quickly warming as the south wind blew. My troublesome right shin felt absolutely fine, and I was happy for that.

After the national anthem I tucked in a few runners behind the “1:50″ pace group sign, and we were off. After mile one, the pace already felt fast. Uh oh. 13.1 miles is certainly shorter than a marathon, but it’s a long way to go when you’re tired at mile one. Luckily marathon training let me pretend it wasn’t a long way. My brain still eventually wanted to rationalize why I could abandon my time goal.

“It’s windy and crappy out; you probably won’t hit your time goal anyway.”

“Maybe it would be smarter just to run this as a marathon pace run. It would be good prep and not take as much recovery.”

“What’s so special about a PR anyway? Nobody really cares whether you run 1:49, 1:55, or 3 hours…”

{While this is essentially true, as I get no fame or fortune from running, competing against yourself is the essence of being a runner. So of course I care. :-) }

I focused on blocking this chatter as I stayed on pace with each mile, and I told myself I could do it because I WAS doing it.

I kept leap frogging with a blonde woman about my age, and every few miles an older man would run next to her for a minute and tell her the splits and how great she was doing. It seemed unlikely she would have a coach, and eventually I realized it was her dad. I don’t know how he was getting from point to point around the course so quickly, but I smiled at their teamwork.

The relay splits off around mile 6, and it’s always a bit deflating to see the second leg runners easily gliding away from you on fresh wheels. I wasn’t ready to be done, but I felt slow. At this point I put in my earbuds and let the music do what it could.

I was still running 8:30′s, which was close to what I needed. I thought if I could just maintain until mile eleven, then I would have only two miles left to push as hard as I could.

Almost like clockwork, I saw the mile ten marker and my shin started to throb. It had felt perfect until that point, but now I knew it would probably bother until the end. It was never terrible, but it didn’t relent either.

It’s strange how late in a race I seem to have a lone gear until I can see the finish. I kept trying to run faster, but my pace stayed around 8:40. I finally passed mile twelve and found a little steam. It wasn’t quite enough. I could no longer see the “1:50″ sign bobbing ahead, and my quads were tight as I hit the final downhill.

I managed smiles for the spectators and thought about how great these people were to stand and cheer in the whipping wind. I got to mile 13 at over 1:49, and then I quit looking and just pumped my arms and legs.

That last .1 really can feel like forever. I crossed the line, took a bottle of water, caught my breath, and assessed. I hadn’t broken 1:50, and I hadn’t bested last year’s time either (1:50:18). Rats.

Once I got my chocolate milk and salty pretzels, the silver lining occurred to me. Last year I’d run a short course, and this year was back to normal.

On Saturday I ran 1:50:38 officially. I sat down to look at the paces, and I knew I could at least claim a legit PR. Last year’s pace had been 8:30/mile, and this year I ran 8:27/mile.

It’s not really about the math or the miles though. It’s about the confidence I gained from not bailing on my plan. I could have panicked when the early miles were rough, but instead I learned that all the miles may feel uncomfortable if I want to get faster. I was reminded of the kindness and support people give to each other on the course. I embraced the thrill of the finish even though I came up a little short.

I couldn’t write this post without talking about another finish, one which brought me to tears. The 118th Boston Marathon was run today. I watched the courage of Shalane Flanagan as she set a fast early pace, went on to run a huge personal record, but didn’t reach the podium or the win.

Meb Keflezighi, who seems to have overcome nearly everything in the book, went on to win the men’s race and become the first American champion in over 30 years. I remember watching him win in NYC five years ago, and I became a lifelong fan. Not many believed he could do it today. He’s too old and past his prime, the experts said. But he believed it. Having a USA victory this year – finally – was just more than I could handle. I cried along as Meb cried on the TV and my dogs looked at me in confusion. Then I high-tailed it back to the barn to inform JR that “Meb won!!” I share enough running chatter with him that he even knows who Meb is. :)

It was a great day for Boston, running, and people. To the 36,000 some who ran yesterday, I think you all helped create the strongest Boston ever. Congratulations to Stephanie, my H&F ladies, and all the other runners.

I’m grateful that the power and excitement of this race is happening right before my own marathon. I hope that with God’s help it will give me the courage to go after my goal until the end and the strength to achieve it.

Out-takes…

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Posted in Race Reports, Running | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

An Easter Spot

Easter weekend has been kind of a whirlwind. Saturday morning did dawn windy, and I headed to the Earth Day race to brave the weather and run.

After the race and a quick shower and snack, I was back at the farm to check on things. I’d finagled most of Saturday off because I was working Easter, so JR and I drove to my parent’s once we were satisfied all was in order at the dairy.

Lots of family and my small nephews and niece made for a happy afternoon. We saw extended family, played games, dyed Easter eggs, and dropped in on my best friend and her family who I haven’t seen in far too long.

Easter morning came early with a few farm tasks followed by 6:00 sunrise church (which was indeed held outside beneath a glorious sunrise). We even had three new baby calves throughout the rest of the morning. We enjoyed way too many edible delicacies with JR’s family at dinner, and I was glad to get moving again outside at the farm for evening chores.

At the moment I think I’m still in a partial sugar frenzy as I look back on the fun of the weekend. If you follow me on Instagram I know you’ve seen a lot of these, but this week’s “spot” is just going to be photos from the above mentioned activities. I’m skipping the running stuff because the race will get its own post soon. :)

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Training this week was sparse. I wanted to rest more than run to calm my cranky right shin and give my body a little break before the race. I still stretch, ice, and do some core work on off days. The easy week was probably a smart choice; more actual race details to come…

Marathon Training April 14 – 20

Monday – off
Tuesday – 3.1 miles easy in 28:41
Wednesday – off
Thursday – 3 miles in 26:59 with 1 mile @ 8:27, 2 x 400 @ 7:54, finish at marathon pace
Friday – off
Saturday – 14.3 miles including 13.1 mile race in ???
Sunday – off

Total – 20.4 miles

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Happy Easter!

Posted in Running, Spot of the Week, Family Fun | 2 Comments

Friday is Good

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“At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. Then, at that time Jesus called out with a loud voice ” Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” Which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”…
Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain in the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”

These words from the book of Mark always paint a turbulent picture of the final scene at the cross in my brain. I’ve never witnessed an earthquake or similar here in Minnesota, so I imagine a brooding summer storm. It’s thick clouds that turn dark and thunder that booms so loud it startles all the animals across the yard. Then comes drenching rain and wind.

Of course the good thing about Good Friday is that it’s not the end. Easter morning will bring life and love.

During this Holy Week it seems strange that I’m running a race on Saturday. It’s the Earth Day Half Marathon that’s become an April tradition for me, so I didn’t want to miss it.

I’ve finally decided I can honor God as well with my motion as I can with stillness.

We don’t have any new Easter blooms yet this year, so I’ll share some from a year past.

I wish you all a blessed Holy Week and Easter.

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Posted in Christian Reflections, This and That | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A “Favorites” Spot

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I love The Sound of Music.

It’s one of those rare movies I’ve watched more than a couple of times and never seem to get tired of. In the spirit of one of its songs, here’s a few of my favorite things from the past week (or so).

As you go through them, you’ve got to sing along to the tune. It’s required. :)

“Brown dogs and bulldogs and warm spring-time sunsets…

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…ice cream and seed trays and cute calves I’ve just met…

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…family and friends and a door bell that dings. These are a few of my favorite things.”

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{My parent’s; not taken in the last week. Though I was there Friday!}

It was a warm week for April in Minnesota, and much of our snow is melted away. My running went really well. Until it didn’t.

I had a little ache in my right shin early in the week, but I dismissed it without much thought. Sore is normal during the thick of marathon training, but Thursday morning it really hurt. I ran slow – extremely slow – and by the time I got home it was throbbing. I’ve been icing, stretching, and wearing compression sleeves daily since then.

I took Friday off, and Saturday I decided I would cut my run short if I felt the pain was altering my stride. I’d originally wanted to run 20 miles, but I settled for 14.5. I felt decent for the first 12 and rough for the rest, so at least I know I should be able to tough through the Earth Day half marathon next weekend. Actually, I’m sure it will be better for racing the half that I didn’t run a full 20.

And, I still have the confidence of the great 20 I ran two weeks ago.

In the meantime, I’ll keep assessing my leg day by day. This week will be easy anyway because of my Saturday race, and I’m hoping this turns out to be a small thing my nerves are blowing out of proportion.

If it’s more than that, I’ll deal with it as it comes. I’m still really excited for my first race in nearly 8 MONTHS.

I had a big week in spite of cutting Saturday short. If I counted Sunday – Saturday miles, I’d be at 47. I count Monday – Sunday though, and here are the details.

Marathon Training April 7-13

Monday – 6.2 miles in 60:00, easy with a few pickups, HR 147
Tuesday – off
Wednesday – 9.08 miles in 1:21:59 with 3 x 1.5 miles at 8:30 pace
Thursday – 6.13 miles in 62:24, very easy, HR 135
Friday – off
Saturday – 14.5 miles in 2:24:30, easy
Sunday – off

Total – 35.9 miles

Posted in Running, Spot of the Week | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Running for More

Seeing someone you love have their life transformed by a disease or disability can change everything.

Cancer, heart disease, HIV, paralysis…

I could list hundreds of conditions, and I know each would strike a chord in at least one reader’s heart. Cone-Rod Dystrophy is probably something you’ve never heard of. It didn’t mean anything to me until recently when my mom was finally diagnosed with it.

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Back in the day: Mom and me

Over the past few years, she’s undergone test after test as her vision blurred, colors faded, and she couldn’t even read a book anymore. This rare condition is causing the deterioration, and while she probably won’t lose her sight completely, there are no real treatments and little hope of improvement.

Resources like specialized glasses and magnifying tools are helping her get back a semblance of normal, but I know it’s hard. My kind and positive mother rarely lets on that’s it hard, but I know better. You don’t lose most of your sight without emotions of fear and frustration.

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Last Easter

I’m running the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon next month, as you know, and I’d been pondering something to dedicate the effort too. Training for the sake of the journey and the goal is definitely worth it, but I couldn’t shake the thought that this one needed something more.

I started researching charities that help the blind or do research on eye conditions. I found more organizations than I could have imagined, but a few really stood out to me. So I talked it over with my mom and narrowed it down to one.

Helen Keller International (HKI)

HKI works with the poor throughout Africa and Asia to combat preventable blindness, provide treatment, and help with good nutrition. They’re also reaching children here in America with free screenings and eyeglasses to help kids who’s families would otherwise struggle to afford them.

HKI has an excellent A+ charity rating, and as I read more about what they do it is fully evident they use resources wisely. They don’t have a formal charity running or athletic event program, but that doesn’t make me any less motivated to help support them.

For my own part, I’m making a donation in honor of my mom for this race.

For your part, I’m asking you to think about whether this cause is close to your heart, too?

Maybe you know someone who’s blind or struggling as they lose their sight, and you’d like to make a donation in their honor? Maybe you’d like to give a small gift just because? It’s easy to donate online, anonyymously if you like, or you can even mail in a donation.

{If you wish to make a donation in honor of my mom for this marathon, you can note Marathon for Mom under the section where it asks for “Tribute Information” or “How did you hear about HKI.” You can also list my mom’s name if you know her. They will track donations for me with this information.}

Helen Keller International – Online Donation

Helen Keller International – Mailing Address for Donation

Donate via PayPal by directing your gift to info@hki.org

I also need to say thanks to all of you for your encouragement and positive comments during my training these last few months. Sometimes it’s been hard to get out in the cold (or step onto the treadmill yet another morning), but having this community of support really blesses me. God knew what He was doing when He put it in my head to start a blog! I appreciate your comments via the blog, twitter, facebook, and email. Whether I know you in person or only online, I value you as a reader and friend. Thank you.

Posted in Family Fun, Running | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments