Bucket List Race

I am spoiled that the Midwest offers so many great races throughout the year. Even narrowing it down to Minnesota, there are a bunch of awesome races. Twin Cities Marathon is constantly on top for best urban marathons, Get In Gear is an iconic race that has been around for 40+ years, and Bemidji and Mankato both put on great races. For me though, one marathon has been on my bucket list for a while.

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Running around the lakes in MPLS

Grandmas Marathon in Duluth, MN is an iconic race that runs down the shore of Lake Superior from Two Harbors into Canal Park in Duluth. The race went from 150 participants back in 1977 to over 18,000 participants in the three races that they have every June. Here are the five reasons why this race has been on my list for so long.

  1. The Community: I was recruited to University of Minnesota Duluth for Track and Field and even though my time there was short, I could understand how much the city of Duluth loves this race. Marathon Weekend is like Christmas and 4th of July for Duluth. Every store, every restaurant, everyone supports and loves this race
  2. The Course: The race starts in Two Harbors and follows the scenic route of HWY 61. Running along the shore the entire time, the race has plenty of things to see while you run. An awesome part of the course is to be able to see Canal Park many times as you are running but that also kind of sucks. I have never run a point to point course so I am excited.
  3. Big Time Race: This race has all the feel of a small-town marathon but it comes with a big-time race atmosphere. Every single hotel is sold out (make sure to get your accommodations early), the Canal Park area is completely blocked off with stands and tents, and the course has plenty of entertainment that will allow you to keep your spirits up.
  4. Perfect PR Race: The total race elevation drops throughout the race so I am excited to have a decline. I am also used to hill runs so this should give me a little bit of an advantage. The weather is typically cooler but sunny. Even though I don’t believe that MN weather can be predictable, I will cross my fingers.
  5. BibRave Running: Ever since I started running for BibRave, I wanted the opportunity for Grandma’s Marathon to come up. I knew that they were a partner in the past and I was hoping that they would partner up again this year. Once they did, I was pumped that I had the opportunity to sign up.
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Soaking wet after a 13 mile run

The race is less than a month away and I am feeling very confident and very excited to run. This is the first year where I am doing two marathons in the first half of the year so I am nervous to see how that affects me but I am feeling optimistic that the miles that I have been running are going to pay off in a big way.

What is your Bucket List Race? Comment below!

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Need a PR Race? Run Illinois Marathon!

Disclaimer: I received an entry into the Illinois Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

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I had the privilege of running the Illinois Marathon on April 22nd. This was an important race for me for two reasons. One, I have never run a Spring race and training in the winter in Minnesota is one hell of a challenge. Two, this was my redemption race. With a disappointing finish in my marathon in November, I was eager to make this race count. I accomplished what I set out to do and that is to PR the Illinois Marathon! Training is the typical reason why you PR, but it is all about the race in the end. There is a reason why some of the fastest marathon times are done on a super flat fast course in Berlin. I owe a lot to Illinois Marathon and here is why.

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Pre-Race Weekend: Everything prior to the race weekend was done by the book. I was receiving valuable information regarding the race, partners, medals, lodging and occasional runners humor. Right as I signed up, I looked through the entire site and could find easy and helpful links for getting my lodging sorted out, figuring out race details, and learning the course. The team behind the marathon did an awesome job with their Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts to keep them updated and answer any questions that anyone asked. Week before the race I received a digital packet that had absolutely everything you can think of in there.

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Race Weekend Events: The first thing I did when I got into Champaign, IL is go to the expo. There were a billion volunteers there. Well not a billion, but they were everywhere. They had lines on the floor directing you where you needed to go and the volunteers had awesome foam fingers that pointed in the direction where the expo was. Everyone I talked to was fell informed and had an answer to all my questions. I was running the I-Challenge so I had to pick up two bib, get two string bags, and get two shirts. It was painless. Afterwards, I walked around the expo, bought some last-minute things and took a picture with Abe Lincoln. Once again, everything was well laid out and easy to navigate.

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Race One: On Friday night, I ran the night time 5K. It was my nice warmup to the marathon which was happening the next morning. The course went through the University of Illinois and finished by running into their football stadium. Once again, there were a ton of volunteers there and everyone was super helpful.

 

Race Two: On Saturday morning, I ran the Illinois Marathon. The morning started out great. There was plenty of space to warm up. Volunteers were giving out coffee and bagels, every runners dream. There were plenty of portable bathrooms, and there was a truck that took your gear to the finish line. At the starting line, I found the pacer that I wanted to run with and at the gun we were out for the run. This course is EXTREMELY flat! It is a very fast course to run. It was easy to stay with the pace group, but there was a bit of congestion when we came into the park area in the first 13.1 miles. The race really opened up after the half way point when we dropped off the half marathoners. Along the entire route there were awesome volunteers, drink and food stations, aid stations, and bathrooms. It was an awesome run through the University of Illinois and the surrounding areas and it was pretty freaking awesome running out of the tunnel of the stadium and seeing yourself on the big screen.

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After The Race: After the race I was given an awesome medal, a water, a blanket and shook hands with one of the race directors. I got a sweet picture and was off to the stadium concourse where I got all the food I can ever want. Bananas, chips, pasta, pizza, granola, fruit, water, and sports drink. It was a great way to hold down the extreme hunger that I had after my race. Once you exit the stadium you are greeted with a block party. There is a band, tons of food and most importantly BEER. Every runner got a nice cold one from a local brewery.

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Final Thoughts: This is a race that I will be back to run. Every marathoner’s dream when it comes to the quality of the race and the speed of the course. This has to be one of the fastest courses in the Midwest, maybe right behind Chicago. If you are looking for a Spring race where you know the race director and their team of volunteers is going to kill it and you are going to be able to run straight and flat, the Illinois Marathon is for you.

 

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IL Marathon: The Redemption Story

When I signed up for the Illinois Marathon, I knew that it was going to be a redemption race and that I was going to be putting a lot of pressure on myself to succeed. After running a career worst 5:06:52 at the Madison Marathon in November of 2016, I was determined to shatter that and hopefully break a PR. I am very excited to say that I crushed my PR and ran an amazing Illinois Marathon on April 22nd. Breaking my PR by over 20 minutes felt awesome and running a 4:16:23 (Garmin time) 4:17:32 (Course time) was a great feel of relief and excitement. Here is what I did not kill my PR and have a great race.

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Step One: Training is the key to a successful marathon. Not a revelation, I know that. This was my 7th marathon and out of 7 marathons this was the only one where my training was above 80% successful. I measure success by the number of scheduled workouts that I completed. I have always taken training as an inconvenient chore that I did not want to do. This time was different. Everything from the training season to the type of training was changed. Mentally, I was ready and wanting to train hard. Physically, I followed the routine and avoided disruptive activity. Training plan was new and different. Shorter so that I wouldn’t get burnt out, but more intense causing my workouts to be more difficult. I also focused on the time I was running per day or week rather than the number of miles. This allowed me to continue to be interested in my training, avoiding injury, and ultimately feeling ready and great during the race. From a cardio stand point, I had some gas left in the tank, from leg feel/strength I was ready to be done. I hope that the 20% that was left on the table will allow for an even better performance.

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Step Two: Nutrition is one of those tricky necessities that typically take the back of the priority list. I chose and worked hard on keeping that towards the front of my list. I reduced a lot of unhealthy habits and increased monitoring what I ate and drank so that it would positively impact my training. Healthy foods, smaller portions, smarter snacking and reduction of alcohol intake all played a role in a more successful marathon.

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Step Three: Mental preparedness was a crucial factor in my training and racing. Very often, I would image different scenarios during the run. What would I do if I felt dehydrated, what to do if I have an injury, how do I substitute a workout if my muscles are hurting? I thought about these things before the race which ultimately helped during. I remember during mile 9-14 my knee was not feeling the best. I could assess whether I thought it was pain that was injury driven or if it was a temporary pain. I decided it was temporary and it paid off.

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Step Four: Knowing your course and race is extremely important. I used BibRave.com to read about reviews of the race and what others have thought about the course. Also, the Illinois Marathon had an amazing website, app and expo. I could get a ton of information from their website and app before the race. They communication was also on point. I got emails updating me on all things race weekend. Going into the race, I felt like I have already been on the course and knew where the turns were, the aid station locations and even when I needed to get on my toes for the “hills” (I run in Minnesota so the hills that the course had do not qualify as hills).

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Step Five: Running smart will ultimately get you where you want to get to. Running smart means you run what you’ve trained for. Your pace stays at what you planned for. You eat, drink, carry and wear what you have already planned for. I did exactly that. I knew where I wanted to be with time. I knew what pace I needed to reach that time. I knew that this was a fast course and that I would want to take off but I didn’t. I stayed true to what I wanted to accomplish. And damn am I proud of that. For once in my running career I felt like I did exactly everything the way that I wanted to do it.

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It is unreal how something can come together if you follow what you have planned for yourself. I planned my training to run between 4:10:00 and 4:20:00, I planned to run at a weight of 195, I planned to lose the headphones and extra gear, and I planned to run a smart race. When I was able to accomplish all of those, I succeeded in accomplishing a huge PR and getting the redemption race that I wanted.

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Grandmas Marathon, you are on the clock. I am coming for you!

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Illinois Marathon Prep: Mental & Gear

I am finally in my taper week! This marathon training cycle was new to me on a few levels. This was the first time I was training for a marathon during the winter months. I tried a new training program that focused on running time rather than miles. Finally, I did a shorter 12 week program for Illinois Marathon. Now it is all about stretching, healing and mentally preparing. With one week before Illinois Marathon, all I am thinking about is my mental strength and what I want to bring with me to the marathon.

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I am very excited to go out and run this iconic race and prove to myself that my last marathon was a fluke, not a reality. Although, my lack of training and injury were the main cause of my terrible performance in November, another big factor was that I was not mentally prepared. This time around I am putting a lot of focus towards mental prep. While stretching, I am walking through the pre-race routine. When do I want to warm up, what kind of food do I want to eat, and what kind of stretching do I need to do. I have a few short runs that I am doing, and during the run I am mentally walking through the first 3 miles of the marathon. Making sure I do not start off too fast, avoiding the crowed, and making sure that I am following the tangent of the course. This type of mental prep helps me envision the race before I run the course. I looked over the course multiple times so now I can kind of walk myself down the course and remember where the important turns, hills and aid stations are. I believe that mental prep is just as important as physical, and I crank it up during the week before the marathon.

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Equipment and gear can help you achieve a PR or slow you down during the race. I usually make the final decision of what I wear and what I bring with during the marathon the night before, but here is a list of everything that is up for grabs for me during a race:

This is my race gear that I always bring with and decide what I actually use. To be honest, I love to run with as little amount of stuff as possible. Sometimes you just need the headphones or a belt to carry your stuff. Rather be prepared than screwed.

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I am ready for my redemption race and I am excited that it is the Illinois Marathon. I am pumped to meet up with some other BibRave Pros, run the warm-up 5K race on Friday night, and put it all out there for the Saturday Illinois Marathon. Let’s get it done!

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Dropping Out of a Running Race

Back in November of 2016, I had one of my worst races I have ever run. I was running the Madison Marathon under trained and injured. Within a few miles, I went from feeling fine to not even able to jog. At mile 20 I had to decide whether I was going to continue with the pain and do some sort of jog/walk through the last six miles or drop out of the race. Mentally drained, I wanted to drop out so bad but ended up hobbling through the finish. Even though I finished a marathon, I was feeling an extreme sense of defeat and failure.

I knew that I was a better runner than that, and I wanted to prove that to myself. In late November, I got the opportunity to register for the Illinois Marathon, which is coming up on April 22nd. I did a month of rehab to get my injuries taken care of and I signed up for the Twin Cities 10 Mile Hot Dash race that happened on March 18th. It perfectly fell into my training schedule for Illinois Marathon and it was going to provide a nice gauge of how well my training was going. I even got one of my buddies to sign up so that we could run together.

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When I was beginning my training, I was very determined to power through the elements of winter in Minnesota. I was excited for the Illinois Marathon for a lot of reasons one of them being my “redemption” race. I needed something to put the Madison Marathon performance behind me. Also, I have never done a Spring race. Sometimes you need the extra push to get through the winter hibernation in the Midwest. I was very excited for the race from all angles.

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My training has been going well throughout the winter and It was getting close to my 10-mile Hot Dash race. I was feeling confident and I was excited to run the race with my friend Paul. We talked and encouraged each other all winter long. The week of the race started. I have been going on runs more than 10 miles already for me training so I wasn’t worried about the distance but I did have some nervous thoughts just because it was going to be my bench mark for Illinois Marathon. The week was going well and then Wednesday evening came.

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On Wednesday, March 15th, I came home after work, went on a quick recovery run and went to meet my buddy for Happy Hour drinks. Felt fine through the process until later that evening I got hit by a metaphorical train that had “Stomach Flu” written all over it. For the next 48 hours all I did was constantly get sick. There was no food or water intake without immediate feeling of sickness. It wasn’t until the day of my race that I was able to actually eat some food without seeing it twice. I had no other choice but to drop out of the race.

This marked the first time of me dropping out of a race. It was a crappy feeling for so many reasons but the main ones being that this was going to be my gauge for Illinois Marathon, I asked a friend to run the race with me and was planning on running it together, and this was the first race since my failed attempt at Madison Marathon. IT SUCKED! Hating the fact that I was dropping out on a friend, I went and supported him through the race and Paul did an awesome job.

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The training road to a marathon is never a straight shot. There are always twists and turns that slow you down, situations that try to break you, runs that are mentally draining, and obstacles that tend to look higher than they are. The truth is, it is never easy and it is impossible to predict how your training will go or what the outcome of a race will be. The drive and the desire for the athlete to compete and to succeed, no matter what the level of success is, is what drives us to take the road of training. Even with my set backs in training for the Illinois Marathon, I am so focused and extremely excited to run the race on April 22nd. My 2017 race schedule started out pretty crappy but the next race is always what I have my eye on. I am so pumped to make the trip down to Champagne, IL to run this historical marathon.

How do you stay mentally tough throughout your training?

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