Follow Us To Grandma’s

Grandma’s Marathon, that is.

You can follow our progress as we run.  None of this creepy stalker stuff.  Seriously, don’t do that.  It freaks me the hell out.

Any who … the advance of technology has infected Marathons but in a good way.  You can now track runners via text or e-mail as they progress through the race.  It sends out messages at miles 13.1, 20, and 26.2 so you won’t get spammed.  Grandma’s even has an interactive map (not sure how that works since it’s not live yet).  Just follow the link below to sign up for either:

2011 Runner Tracking

Matt – Bib #1058 – Goal: Sub 3:38 (previous PR – 3:38)

Steph – Bib #5713 – Goal: Sub 4:00 (previous PR – 4:43*)

Of course, if you live in Duluth or are nearby, don’t follow us via technology.  Get your butt out on the course.  Cheer us (and a few thousand others) on.  Give us some water.  Give us a ride in your car from miles 10 to 20.

Okay, I’ve been told that you can’t do that last part.  But the cheering does help.

* This PR is from an injury riddled race.  Steph spent 16.2 miles swinging her leg like a club in order to finish.  Efficient for gaining sympathy, not so much for running a marathon.

Today’s Filler Post

I contemplated writing up a nice long post today about the relay race before realizing how burnt out I still am from the weekend.  This isn’t too surprising.  On Saturday alone, I lost about 6 pounds.

I’ve been a runner long enough to know that most of that was fluids.  Judging by the soreness of muscles, I know that I’m still not fully hydrated and I’m in no shape to be creative or think about what lessons I’ve learned.

Instead, I’m going the cop-out route and providing a few race photos.  Enjoy!

Steph showing what she'd do at the finish.

Finishing Up on Day One
Marissa - Our Team Captain (we were the Tufted Mazurkas)
Steph on the first leg of Day 2

The Tufted Mazurkas (left to right): Amanda, Greta, Marissa, Me, Andrew (running the final leg), Scott, Dean, Nichole, Steph

(We made sure every team finished with their final runner.  In our case, it was Andrew.  I met him half a mile out and ran the rest of the way until we met the team just over that dike in the background.)

Behind the Scenes of a Relay Race

Luther's 150th

If you ask me how many races I’ve run in my life, I wouldn’t be able to give you a number.  I’ve been running most of my life, about 27 years (started at 10 and I turn 37 this month).  Between cross country and track and everything afterwards, the number has to be in the thousands.

If you ask many how many races I’ve RUN, I can give you a number – One.  The Luther College Sesquicentennial Relay Race.  The race takes place this weekend (June 4 & 5) and covers the distance between the college’s birthplace in Holmen, WI to its current home in Decorah, IA.

After having experienced this, I can safely say that I probably will never organize another race in my life and I will have the utmost appreciation for anyone who has organized a race of any size.

Here’s a glimpse into what goes into making a race like this:

Day One

Preparing the Route

From the start, the Relay Race was supposed to be 150km in length. After all, the college is turning 150 years old with a motto of Transformed by the Journey.  Holmen and Decorah are indeed 150km apart, so why not do a race?

Well, for starters, it’s impossible to run 150km between the two cities.  That route follows interstates, crosses major highways, and takes you on stretches of road that no sane runner would even consider for a Sunday morning jog, to say the least about race directors who have insurance to worry about.

So the route had to change.

Day Two

We opted to take our runners on a slight detour to follow the Root River Trail for a good 40+ miles (64+ kilometers) and through two states.  Of course, the Trail is a bike trail, not a car trail.  So this meant that the race directors had to get out onto it and bike the length over the course of several days to pick out the rightexchange points.  After that, we kept our runners on county highways and other sparsely traveled roads.  Every turn has to be inspected to make sure its not dangerous and there’s no chance (or a minimal chance) of a runner getting lost and turning what should be a 4 mile leg into 10.

Actual course distance?  178 km (110 miles).

Yes, it’s a longer route but its safe and quite scenic.

Picking a Date

We had our date all planned out – June 4th & 5th.  We figured this would work out pretty well.  It’s the start of the summer and before it’s gotten too hot.  School would be out (for the most part) and we could tap into the recently graduated alumni who still had that college spirit.  The date was picked in November of 2010, well in advance of the actual race date.  We were set.

Until Wisconsin decided to pick that same weekend to hold the State Track & Field Championships in La Crosse, a mere 15 miles away.  Every hotel room for 60 miles was booked.  Event equipment was no longer available.  This was one of those things we just couldn’t control.


Telling people about the race was easy.  Advertising started 10 months in advance and was publicized in a lot of locations.  We had a huge number of teams express interest, enough that we were actually starting to talk about putting a cap on the number of teams that could run.

Getting people to sign up?  That’s another story.  Long story short – of the 35+ teams that expressed interest, less than 10 signed up.  It was highly disappointing.

The reasons varied.  Some complained about the cost ($60 per person), which I personally don’t think is a valid issue.  Marathons generally cost $80+ and those are single day events with 1/3rd of the distance.  One person mentioned the price of gas.  Others talked about graduations or soccer tournaments or some big track meet.  Sometimes valid, sometimes not.  Either way, we didn’t get the numbers we were expecting.

Race Packets & Logistics

How best do you package information for a two day event?  Race bibs … where do you get race bibs from (RoadID, as it turns out).  And safety pins.  Has anyone ever purposely bought safety pins or do they just breed in drawers?

One for you and one for you ...

Who gets how many shirts?  Which team gets what sizes?  How many extras?  Are they going to be here in time?

Signs for the course?  Who was responsible for printing that? What do you mean we need permission to use the Sesquicentennial logo?  Okay, let’s get that.  Who puts them out on the course?

Course breakdown?  Did it get printed off?  And every team has one?  What about the race directors?  Do *we* all have a copy of the race course?  Not all of us have gone over every mile of the course.

What do you mean the company can’t make the medals in time?  Do we have an alternative?  Great.  Okay, the medal image has changed a bit but we’ll get them in time.  They’ll be here Thursday.

Emergency contact numbers?  Got it.  Stop watches?  We’ll need that too.  Let’s hit up Athletics.

The Rest of the Stuff

Mixed in there is putting together the website for the race.  There’s communicating with the Team Captains, answering questions, providing interviews for the press (!), and coordinating with other departments on campus.

At some point in all this mess, you sit back and take a look at everything that you’ve done and wonder what it is you’re missing.  That’s when you realize you’ve done just your part.

The other race directors have been working on the permits and coordinating with law enforcement over multiple counties and three states.  They’re dealing with catering.  Getting a pastor to do the blessing before the race (we are a Lutheran college after all).  Visiting Rushford to find out where people can camp and what there is to do that night.  Finding volunteers, where to put those people, and how to get them shirts.  Dealing with budget issues.

But at some point, all that has to end.  For us, that’s Saturday morning at 7:30am.

At that time, all that is left is to start the race and see what happens next.  I’ll let you know how it goes on Monday.

Run Into The Ground

This was a running weekend.

Saturday morning, we ran in the 2nd Annual Jim Boughton 5K Road Race down in Dubuque.  This is a fun event with alumni coming back from all over the country and I got to see some friends I don’t see too often.  Steph asked me to pace her in an effort to get a good time.

We finished in 23:45, besting her previous best (24:49) by a full 64 seconds and earning her 2nd place in her age group.   She was excited, to say the least.

We were also told we should have gotten an award for cutest couple.  Honest, we didn’t plan the matching outfits.  We packed separately.

Toward the Finish Line

And after the race, I went out an ran 19 miles on Heritage Trail.  Because I am awesome.  Or incredibly stupid. It’s easy to get those confused when it comes to marathon training.

Sunday was Steph’s long day but we were only able to get in 15 miles before thunder and lightning chased us home.  We got back in the house minutes before a pretty vicious downpour started.  Unfortunately, the storm cell was huge and we weren’t able to get back out before having to head home to Decorah.

But hey, we had a good weekend with my folks and tomorrow looks to be a good day.  Happy Memorial Day all (and make sure you remember what the day is really about – it’s not all BBQs and parades).

Still On Earth (Despite Efforts Otherwise)

This morning on my 13 mile run blackbird tried to take off with my scalp.

This is not the first time such a thing has happened.  Back in June 2009 something almost identical happened.

I have a sense that today was more sinister.  The bird had its claws tangled up in my hair and I could feel them scrapping against my skull. Sure, maybe I got too close to its nest or maybe I startled it but I think those are just avoiding the real reason.

I think the danged thing was trying to lift me up for the Rapture.

Sqwak! "Repent and be Saved!" Sqwak!

One Way To Run 20 Miles

This is where I spent my Saturday morning.

A creation so vile and evil ...

We had some pretty ugly weather up here today – rain, wind, and temps in the low 40s.  Saturday is usually my long run day and rather than subject my support crew (aka, Steph on a bike) to that miserable experience, I opted to run indoors.

On a treadmill.

For 20 miles.

I now have an overwhelming urge to destroy all treadmills.*

On the bright side, this is where I spent my Saturday afternoon.

Zzzzz ...

* All things considered, it was a good run.  I had Netflix playing on the iPad hooked up to the stereo and Steph made sure I had plenty of fluids and GU.  Strangely, I finished in 2:38:34 which is exactly one hour short of my personal best in a marathon.  If I kept up that pace, I’d have to cover just 6.2 miles in less than an hour to get a new record.  Good sign.

Harry and the Hughes

Steph went out for an 8 mile run this morning and came back with a dog – Harry.

This is Harry

He followed her for 4 miles and was extremely friendly.  His owners informed us that he loves bikers and runners and is practically an honorary member of the Luther Cross Country team.

I’m about ready to head out for a 17 mile run.  I’m aiming a bit higher than a dog – maybe a horse.

Trekking Up & Down (A Whole Lotta Ups & Downs)

The Birkie Trail Half Marathon.  This race takes place on the Birkie trail in Wisconsin which runs from Hayward to Telemark.  It’s home to an incredibly popular 55km cross country ski race (9,000+ participants), mountain biking, hiking, and running.

Steph found this race for us a few months back.  I’m not sure how, but I have a feeling she was browsing through the ‘Masochists Guide to Hell‘ catalog she gets in the mail.  Isn’t that usually how these things start?

We’ve both run half-marathons so doing a trail one seemed like a logical next step.  Prior to the race, we were looking at temperatures that we thought would be in the low 40s and rain.   On the plus side, the course wasn’t going to be dusty.  Race morning turned out to be perfect – 50s, little wind, clear skies.   Everything perfect.  All that was left was to deal with the course itself.

Yeah, about that … here is the course elevation from my Forerunner 405 :

Birkie Elevation - Click to enlarge (it's the only way to really see it)

Elevation Grade - Click to enlarge (for all the nitty gritty details)

That’s +1,967 feet up, -2,103 feet down.  4,070 feet of elevation change with a max incline of 45 degrees and decline around 30.  Anything within 2.5 degrees either way is considered flat and you’ll see that there are almost no places where that happens.

This course is hard.  Two days before we showed up, the area received 4+ inches of rain in a 24 hour period plus a smattering afterward which made the all grass route (not even a trace of gravel or beaten down dirt) slick and treacherous.

It’s also a hell of a lot of fun.

I was well prepared for this race and to be honest, the distance didn’t bother me. The hills, on the other hand, that’s another story. Whatever screwball injury I did this past week to my Achilles tendon made  it very difficult to push off with my left foot.  On flats and downhills, not a problem.  Uphill … well, that’s another story.  Usually that technique requires both feet.  The end result was that I slowed down dramatically on every uphill.  Kind of sucked.

I made up the time on the downhills.  This technique involved just letting go and not caring if I made it down on my feet or just fell and rolled.  Heck, if that happened, I’d get to the bottom without using nearly as much energy.  The ground was wet and soft enough that it wouldn’t hurt.  Too much.  I got a second wind in the last three miles and was able to really push it to the finish line.

I finished in 1:43:45, a full seven minutes under my goal of 1:50.  Overall, I ended up 33rd and 13th in my age group.   Steph came in at 2:01:39, 85th overall and 13th in her age group.  Pretty respectable, I’d say.

The only thing I can ding them on was the lack of water at the finish line.  We had to go up another hill (fer chrissakes people, enough with the hills!) and hunt it down.  But all in all, a really fun race with incredible scenery.  Yeah, I think we’ll probably do it again.  Though next time maybe I’ll wear some spikes or something.

But for now, I relax … and try not to climb up any hills.

Over the Hills and Through the Woods (Click to Enlarge)