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Posts Tagged ‘Heartland Road Runners’

I’m not sure there are words to say about the bombing in Boston that haven’t been said, but I know the entire active community shares the feelings of sadness, rage and resilience that an event like this inspires. I suppose the best thing to do is… run.

Tomorrow morning, 4/17/2013, the Heartland Road Runners Club will be running at Starbucks at 5:30 am.  Most of us will do about 3 miles, but walkers and people who want to run over or under 3 miles are welcome.  We’ll all be remembering victims and honoring survivors of Boston by wearing the bib you see below.  I hope lots of you can join in for this tribute.

HRRWC will be running 4/16 at 5:30 am; for Boston.

HRRWC will be running 4/17 at 5:30 am; for Boston.

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Doug, Glenn and I show off our medals after Run the Bluegrass

Doug, Glenn and I show off our medals after Run the Bluegrass

When I signed up for the Run the Bluegrass half marathon in Lexington, Kentucky, I had many lofty expectations that probably seem silly.  I pictured rolling green pastures, enormous old estates, chickens in the yard, babbling streams, horses running the fields, and miles and miles of white fence framing it all in the perfect picture of the South.

As it turns out- I was spot on.

Pre-race Sponsor Pics! It's Nuun Hydration and VFuel! Love it! Click here to enter my contest to win both!

Pre-race Sponsor Pics! It’s Nuun Hydration and VFuel! Love it! Click here to enter my contest to win both!

I came to this race by way of another race selling out really fast. I had originally intended to run the Quivering Quads half marathon through Cuivre River State Park, but when it was full in a day, I did what any red-blooded American would do: whined about it on Facebook.  A high school friend who once lived in Lexington posted a link to what was billed as “One of the prettiest half marathons in America,” and I was sold.  I quickly talked my training partner Doug into the race, and not long after that- primarily by reminding him that Kentucky was the heart of bourbon country- I had convinced our friend Glenn from the running club to join us too.

Training for this race didn’t always go smoothly.  The first few months of this year, our hometown was blanketed by over a foot of snow not once, but three separate times. It seemed like our choices for times to run revolved around which was worse: freezing temperatures or freezing rain. But we slogged through long runs and hoped for spring to relieve the need to run bundled up like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

Night before the race drinks in the hotel lobby. My first ever bourbon. When in Kentucky...

Night before the race drinks in the hotel lobby. My first ever bourbon. When in Kentucky…

Due to a death in the family and an unexpected trip to Chicago, I arrived in Lexington late Friday night, after 10 hours in my car, having missed the expo.  My friends Doug and Glenn were already there, and I was barely in the door before Glenn had his expo prize out to show me: a bottle of Knob Creek Bourbon that was specially-selected for this race which he had gotten signed by Runner’s World’s Hal Higdon.  The guys had also each purchased an etched Run the Bluegrass rocks glass, and Doug had kindly picked one up for me too.  Happy to finally be out of my car, we all went to the lobby to have a nightcap and then were off to bed at a pretty decent hour.

We woke up at 6 am for the 9 am race.   We stayed at the race hotel, the Hyatt Downtown, so we were pretty close to the race start.  We grabbed breakfast at the hotel lobby. I had hot cereal and some fruit, which is evidently my pre-race ritual now.  Then we were off to the race.

Beautiful drive to the race.

Beautiful drive to the race.

The drive there is worth mentioning actually.  There was a low fog hanging over the low spots of the farms along the way, and temperatures just around freezing had frozen the fog in spots and added a gorgeous sparkle to the landscape. The sun was working hard to burn the fog away and the scene was another perfect picture of the South.

We arrived at Keenland Thoroughbred Race Track over an hour before the race.  Walking up to the spired main building I could see the finish line off to my right.  Perhaps the little detail of pre-race that made me the happiest is that the racetrack had plenty of inside bathrooms.  There is nothing in this world better than knowing you don’t have to go to the port-a-potty before a race.  I popped a lemon-lime Nuun Hydration tablet in my water bottle (what, you didn’t think I was going to mention my sponsor!?  CLICK HERE to see my brand new Ambassador Page!!) and then it was time to go.

I'm betting on the right horse to win!  These ladies did the whole race in costume. Awesome.

I’m betting on the right horse to win! These ladies did the whole race in costume. Awesome.

We made our way down to race start about quarter to nine, and maybe it’s just the speed of the South, but no one seemed in much hurry to get to the start.  We found our spot in our corral among the other 4000+ runners and chatted with the people around us.  Mainly, I talked to a guy named Andy, who was funny and kind and kept my mind off of the 13.1 hilly miles in front of us.  The race started just a little late and by the time we hit the start line, the temperature outside was absolutely perfect.

Go ahead. Count the hills. But it will only make you cry. (chart from Taz Running.com)

Go ahead. Count the hills. But it will only make you cry. (chart from Taz Running.com)

Now, dear readers, I’ve been thinking for 5 days what to tell you about the race.  You see, I don’t want to scare you off because you should definitely do this race.  I’m not going to lie to you though, it’s hilly.  Real hilly.  And if I do this race again next year, I shall never, ever skip one of Brian Pahlmann’s hill repeat training sessions down at the river. Ever.

I noticed the first long hill we climbed had a name: Songbird Hill.  It was a good name, since I could hear some meadowlarks off in the field. The next hill was also graced with a sign at the top dubbing it Rose Hill.  And at the top of the next hill there was another sign and another name and I remembered what someone in the bike club once told me, “It’s only a real hill if it’s got a name.”  Well looking from the crest of the hill we were on across the rolling landscape in front of us, I thought, “Gosh, there are going to be a lot of names.”

Kim and Laura and myself at around mile 8...we stopped for a picture!!

Kim and Laura and myself at around mile 8…we stopped for a picture!!

In spite of the fact that we were woefully underprepared for a course like this, both Doug and I were surprised to see the first several miles melting away.  The course was very well-marked and large flags called out each mile.  Intermittently along the course there were bands playing a wide variety of music (Seriously: there was some screamo at one corner and a bluegrass band at the next.  WIDE variety…) but mostly the course was a quiet country road with little to hear aside from footfalls.

Another post race pic!

Another post race pic!

Near the bluegrass band was one of those scenes I’d clearly imagined before the race- a yard full of chickens and one proud Tom turkey out strutting his stuff, wearing his feathers tall like royal regalia.  Not far up the road was the first close-to-the-fence horse, a big black and white draft horse who stood by the fence waiting for the next runner who would come over and give him a scratch on the cheek.  He was very sweet and made me smile.  That sort of thing really helps me get my mind off the primary problem: the hills.  My god, the hills.

We were struggling mightily up one hill that Doug named, “The Widow Maker,” when (now don’t miss the irony here) a little old man came by us and said, “You know what a little old man once told me about hills?  It’s just ground!”

Somewhere just past the halfway point, I called out, “Well there’s no turning back now; it’s further to turn around!” which drew a laugh from a couple of girls in the vicinity.  The girls were named Kim and Laura and we ran with them on and off for the rest of the race.  Kim is also a blogger and writes one called This Healthy Endeavor.  It’s got recipes and race reports and more. You should go check it out. Half way is also the point I chose to eat a second V-Fuel Endurance Gel. The VFuel really helped me get through this tough race and didn’t give me any tummy problems at all.  That’s why I love it.  (Click here to see my contest to win Nuun and VFuel!!!!!)

My race goodies! Yeah, I splurged for the bottle of bourbon.

My race goodies! Yeah, I splurged for the bottle of bourbon.

Probably the most beautiful moment of the race for me was at mile 8.  We crested *another* hill and at the top there were 3 sets of mares and foals running wide arcs around their fenced pasture.   It was breathtaking to watch, and even though I was getting pretty exhausted, their enthusiasm for running returned the spring to my step and the smile to my face.

I’m not going to get too much into the end of the race… it was hilly, I was undertrained, and I did a lot of walking.   That’s okay though. Doug stuck right by my side and we did the thing together.  Then, just past a little marching band stationed at the last corner (WIDE variety of music…) the finish line came into sight.  We ran out the last “point-one” as quick as we could and were presented with what is probably my favorite half-marathon medal to date.

Sorry this blog got so long folks! Thanks for sticking with me! Run the Bluegrass was a terrific race.  I posted a personal worst time- but I also feel like I worked really hard for it and was super proud anyway.  I couldn’t have done it without my training partner Doug, who helped me through the long, bleak winter training and shared in the fun in Lexington.  Glenn finished in front of us, but he was great to have around and was fun the entire trip.

Doug, Glenn, Race Director Eric and I after the race (and after a Kentucky Ale!)

Doug, Glenn, Race Director Eric and I after the race (and after a Kentucky Ale!)

Special thanks go to the race director Eric Marr and his team for making every part of the race beautiful.  From the specially chosen barrels of Knob Creek Bourbon, to the ribbons based on the silks of the famous thoroughbred filly Genuine Risk, this was a race with an eye for the details that make an experience special.

Also, a big shout-out to Andy, Kim, Laura, Amanda Jones and her friends, and Lisa- new friends from the race.  I absolutely loved the size of this race. It made it easy to meet people, share a Kentucky Ale, and lament the hills like we’d been running together forever.  Lisa if you’re reading this: I’ll see you this weekend in Allerton. I can’t believe we were both silly enough to sign up for the same two half marathons on back-to-back weekends.

Doug at the Town Branch distillery tour.

Doug at the Town Branch distillery tour.

If you make it down for this race next year (and you totally should) make sure you take a little time to explore Lexington. It’s an awesome town with lots to do.  We toured the Town Branch Bourbon Distillery after the race and also got a taste of downtown at a really great creole joint called Bourbon and Toulouse for dinner.  Then we treated ourselves to pie by the famous Missy’s Pies at Ramsey’s Restaurant for desert.  I had coconut cream.  Wow.

Just remember: If you sign up for this race next year… don’t skimp on the hill training.  🙂

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Before the 11-11-11 Veteran's Day Run with Doug Seeber, Michelle Bickhaus, Justin Sievert, Glenn Swick, Denise Poland, Jeff Spencer, Dave Poland, Jeremy Grootens, Dee Friye and Ali Berti.

Sunday, I laced up my shoes and left my house for a run, and somewhere around the door of Second String Music Store on 8th street, the odometer on my running career topped 100 miles.  100 miles ago Sunday, I met the Heartland Road Runners Club at Kelly’s Restaurant. 100 miles ago Sunday, I huffed and puffed through a nearly-three mile run.  100 miles ago Sunday, Doug Seeber said to me, “You’re going to look back on this run in a few months and think about how easy 3 miles has gotten.”  I didn’t reply 100 miles ago Sunday. I would have… but 100 miles ago Sunday, I couldn’t catch my breath.

Sunday was not only the marker of 100 miles run, but was also the herald of a new tone to the reason I’m running.  What before was a just-for-fun endeavor has now shifted to a goal-driven enterprise.   I’m already registered for my first half-marathon in Little Rock, Arkansas on March 3rd, and my second half-marathon is likely to be close behind.  Events like the Chicago Marathon next fall seem far off enough that “possible” starts to sound like “probable” and registration fees are less expensive if you sign up early, so “probable” starts to sound like “yeah, let’s do it.”

The shift to goal-focused running has come with a rigorous education on how to be a runner.  My good friend Jared has become my long distance coach (ha! Long distance coach… that works on several levels…’cause he’s far away and he ultra-marathons and he’s teachin me to run far…) and he’s helped me to craft a 6-day a week plan that will keep me on the path to not just finish a half-marathon, but also to enjoy it.  Race day is going to be a lot less stressful when I know I’ve put ample training to get me to the finish line.  I’m beginning to see that the race is not the work, it’s the reward.

It was also 100 miles ago Sunday that I met my comically mismatched training partner, Ali.  It’s kind of like I play on a pick-up basketball team at the Y, but I train with Michael Jordan on the side.  While running on treadmills with her this week, I actually finally confirmed that she’s able to run three steps for every one I can get in.  Her far-superior running skills don’t get in the way of her being a terrific training buddy though, and whether we’re cross-training at CycleLates or grabbing a beer after Roadrunners After Dark, I’m glad to have a female runner to look up to and a friend with positive energy to train with.

It’s nice to think of how much I’ve grown since 100 miles ago Sunday, but looking ahead to 100 miles from Sunday, where will I be?  Well, The Plan has me hitting that mark on Friday, January 20th.  The Sunday after I cross my second century mark will be my first 10 mile run ever. Double-digit miles.  I’m not that worried though. The people that I’m training with are some of the most energetic, warm, talented people I’ve ever met, and they (I can’t believe I’m saying this…) make running fun.   I hope I can help them to reach their goals as much as they continue to help me to reach mine.

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The Inaugural Veteran's Day Run was held 11/11/11 at the Quincy Soldiers and Sailors Home.

The Inaugural Veteran’s Day Run was held last Friday, 11/11/11, at the Quincy Soldiers and Sailors Home.  The event was part of a larger national event that was organized to raise money for various military support groups including the Wounded Warrior Project.   In a sign-up period of only 3 weeks, the Quincy chapter of the Veteran’s Day 11K run or 1 Mile walk had registered about 50 runners and a dozen walkers.

For me, the event was going to be a big challenge.  I’d never entered a run that was more than 5K, and my recent training runs have only been around 3-4 miles.  The 6.8 mile course would be a new personal distance record- if I could complete it.

The runners all gathered at the shelter house of the Soldiers and Sailors Home at about 7 am.  A dozen dedicated volunteers, organized largely by Dave Ulrich of the organization “Fishing for Freedom” and Army SSG Aarron Patrick, helped to register all the participants and hand out race bibs.

Michelle Bickhaus, Jeremy Grootens, Ali Berti, Laura Sievert, Justin Sievert, and Jeff Spencer after the race.

Pre-race, I found myself in the corner of the building trying to stay warm and chatting with the three Koren War Veterans that had volunteered to present our flag during the opening of the event.  Miss Quincy, Rachel Shriver, was also on-hand to help run the ceremonies.

Close to start time, the runners and walkers gathered by the flag-adorned fountain and the Koren War Vets brought out the flag.  Veterans of all wars were recognized, the Pledge of Allegiance was recited, and then, rather than have someone sing the National Anthem, the entire group sang it together.  I hope the group singing of the Star Spangled Banner is a tradition that sticks with this event, because the feeling of our voices raised to our country standing among friends and veterans in a crisp autumn morning was extraordinarily moving.

The runners huddled in a group around the starting line.  I was standing near a group of friends from the Heartland Road Runners Club who I knew were ready to rock this race.  I was nervous about the distance, but since it was 32 degrees outside, I was definitely ready to get moving when SSG Patrick pulled the trigger on the starting gun.

The group all started the course together and someone hollered a call and answer run chant of, “I don’t know but I’ve been told, the Veteran’s Run is mighty cold.”  I was running pretty easy at the beginning, and it was nice to have my muscles start to warm up as we headed out on the course.

The run was designed such that the first section circled the perimeter of the military cemetery at the top of a hill on the campus of the home.  I was in the back of the pack when we got to this point in the run, and it brought a tear to my eye to see the white tomb stones under clear blue skies and the watchful eye of a row of flags.  The circle of runners was silent except for footfalls, and they became an honor guard to remember the heroes that were buried there.

The run then took us back to the main part of the Veteran’s Home campus and around the Quincy Deer Park. The five-acre fenced park at the center of the Veteran’s Home facility houses deer, goats, peafowl, and other animals.  The timing was perfect for me because I was really starting to get winded, and watching the clearly bewildered deer watch us run around their fence was pretty funny.  It took my mind off the burn and helped me to keep going.

I spent the rest of lap one of the two-lap course soaking up the scenery.  There were veterans sitting on the stoops of buildings or in the windows of their rooms watching us pass, and I tried to wave to all of them.  We passed the Eternal Flame Monument, the assorted tanks and military vehicles that are all over the facility, and the All-Wars Museum.

I was actually feeling pretty good by the beginning of the second lap.  I navigated the uneven ground and just kept trucking.  I’d see my friends that were ahead of me each time the course doubled back on itself, and we’d high-five or yell something encouraging to one another.  I sort of zoned-out and kept right on going through the course.  I passed the pen with the miniature horses and the emu, and I thought that I couldn’t be so close to the finish line.  I assumed I’d be dying when I got into that 6th mile, since it was beyond anything I’ve run before.  Sure enough though, I was already there and there was less than a mile to go.

Veterans of the Korean War presented the flags at the beginning of the event.

I can tell you, I’m going to have a hard time putting the end of the race in words.  Most of my friends had long since finished the course and were standing about a half mile from the end of the course.  As I rounded the corner, my husband, then my friend Jeremy, then a whole group of runners from theHeartland Road Runners hopped back on the course and ran the last half mile with me.  My super-speedy friend Jeff kept right in step with my pace (which was probably pretty darned slow for him) and Ali and Michelle shouted out encouragement and congratulations on my finish- which they knew was a personal distance record for me.  It was so neat and encouraging to have them all join in, that I practically floated the last 200 yards.

I ended the race with a time of 1 hour and 11 minutes (and 18 seconds).   That’s right.  I did an 11K on 11/11/11 in 1:11.  Best.  Finish. Time.  Ever.

I sincerely hope that the Veteran’s Day Run becomes a new Quincy tradition.  It’s only going to get bigger and better, and I’m proud to have taken part in the first one.  It was a great way for us all to remember our  men and women in uniform on a holiday we too often take for granted.

For my part, finishing this personal long distance has given me a lot of confidence in my ability to learn to become a better runner. The support of friends in the Heartland Road Runners and Walkers Club has meant a lot to me, and in fact, has given me the motivation I needed to go ahead and sign up for my first half-marathon.  I’d encourage any readers to come check out the club.  They’re such an inclusive group and will help you develop from “can’t run a mile” all the way to your personal goal for running and fitness.

And don’t forget that the annual Turkey Run and Jingle Bell Run are coming up.  I’ll be there- and I’ll be finishing- with a little help from my friends!

*To find out more about the Heartland Road Runners and Walkers, visit http://hrrwc.com/

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