Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Running’

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.  🙂

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

This is what spring looks like to me!

This is what spring looks like to me!

Hey there, Adventurers!

Can you feel it?  Spring is in the air and it’s time to ramp up the activity level!   I’m just so excited I can’t hardly take it!

Personally, I’m gearing up for TWO half marathons in the next 3 weeks.   I’m going to Run The Bluegrass in Lexington, Kentucky on Easter weekend and then the Allerton Trails Half Marathon on April 6th in Monticello, IL (near Decatur, IL).  If you’re looking for some last minute running plans, you can still get in on either of these events.  The Allerton event is especially nice because, even at this late date, sign up is only $40 for the half marathon or $30 for the 10K.

CLICK ME!! :)

CLICK ME!! 🙂

How am I going to get through 2 half marathons on back-to-back weekends, you ask?  With help from my Adventure Foot Sponsors, of course!  You have probably heard the news by now that I’m an ambassador for Nuun Hydration, but I’m also adding a second sponsor to the blog roll this week!  I’m pleased to bring you the very best energy gel on the market:  V-Fuel Endurance Gel!

CLICK ME, TOO! :)

CLICK ME, TOO! 🙂

V-Fuel is a Colorado based company, and they’re flipping the script on regular old Gu and have created a true endurance fuel that tastes good and keeps my tummy feeling good too (regular users of Gu will catch my meaning).  I’m going to write a full product review on both Nuun and V-Fuel in the near future- so stay tuned.  Even better: I’m planning a CONTEST for April where you could win product or gear from my sponsors! Woo hoo!

Heartland Road Runners Club is in full swing right now, but there’s still plenty of time to start running for Spring.   Come check out “Road Runners After Dark” if you want a taste of how lovely running with the club can be.  RRAD meets at a restaurant every Tuesday night for a fun, social run.  No runner left behind, we promise!  For the month of March, we will be meeting at Kelly’s Restaurant in Quincy.  Running starts promptly at 6:15.

I simply do not get tired of this photo of Jackie Joyner Kersee  handing me a medal at Bridge The Gap.

I simply do not get tired of this photo of Jackie Joyner Kersee handing me a medal at Bridge The Gap.

And as long as you’re running, you should plan on signing up for Quincy’s biggest running event, Bridge the Gap to Health Race!  This race, now in its 13th year, supports the MedAssist program.  MedAssist helps low income patients afford prescription medications.  The race will once again be marshaled by Olympic Gold Medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee.  If you’ve never been handed a medal by an Olympian, now is your chance!  There are a ton of options for this race including a walking or running half marathon, walking or running 10K and a running 5K.  There will also be a 5K Leisure Walk which starts an hour after the other races start.

Best day ever?!! Greg Davis of Madison Davis Bicycles and I pose by my brand new Trek Madone!

Best day ever?!! Greg Davis of Madison Davis Bicycles and I pose by my brand new Trek Madone!

And, saving perhaps the best for last: It’s BIKE SEASON!  I’m so darned excited about starting to really rack up the miles on my bike, I can’t even contain myself.  If you’re new to cycling, I suggest you try out the Quincy Bike Club’s Thursday night group.  This group will start meeting on April 4th.  The park which it meets at is TBD- I’ll keep you posted.   Once again this year I’ll be leading “Wednesday Night B Group.”  B-Group for 2013 will B a medium to medium/fast paced ride and I’m going to work in some training exercises  for all of us.  Maybe one week we’ll work out on some hill repeats. Maybe one week  we’ll do some flat sprints.  I don’t know. We’re going to be better cyclists for our work on Wednesday B Group!   Wednesday A and B group (A Group= really fast and experienced riders) will both leave from Madison Park Shelter House at 6 pm.  The first B group will meet April 3.  I will bring Easter candy as a bribe.

OH! And don’t forget to attend the Grand Opening celebration at Madison Davis Bicycles.  It’s April 11th at 6 pm.  The new shop is absolutely gorgeous and Greg is planning some great sales to kick it off.  You won’t want to miss it.

And Adventure Foot Readers- don’t miss this great spring sale from my blog sponsor, Nuun Hydration! $18 for a 4 pack of Nuun plus a water bottle (most of the 4 packs are normally $24 without a water bottle, so yeah. Stock up now.). It’s a great deal!

Click here for an awesome sale on Nuun!

Click here for an awesome sale on Nuun!

Read Full Post »

Hey, Adventure Foot Readers! I’m happy to be sharing another race report from my running partner and frequent guest blogger for Adventure Foot, Doug Burdic! Doug and I were supposed to run the Route 66 Half Marathon in Tulsa, OK together in November, but thanks to me catching a near-pneumonia-level respiratory infection, Doug had to fly solo for Tulsa.  I’m very proud of him taking on this tough course, for setting a new Personal Record and improving his time from our Illinois Half Marathon.  Doug and I are already looking at the calendar to plan our next half marathon together.  I promise I’ll drink my orange juice and try not to get sick before the next one.    

Oklahoma

Where the (Head)wind Comes Sweepin Down the Plains…

by Doug Burdic

IT’S LABOR DAY – Got a race to run sometime.  When’s November?  That soon, huh?  Best get cracking then.

FRIDAY BEFORE THE RACE AT THE OFFICE – Nervous wreck.

SATURDAY – Awoke at 5:30, jumped in the car and headed for the Route 66 Half Marathon in Tulsa.  Nice day for a drive.  Having never been through southwestern Missouri, I was surprised at the hills and valleys that the Ice Age glaciers were kind enough to provide, and noticed that Jefferson City is the most physically demanding city I’ve ever been through.  I actually had my hands at 10 and 2 for a minute.

Oklahoma looks exactly as you would expect Oklahoma to look:  just like any scene in Twister.  Lots of billboards for casinos.  And oddly, lots of signs begging me not to drive into smoke, which seems like a good idea no matter what state you’re in.

Having successfully not driven into smoke, I came in to Tulsa, the whole of which was under heavy construction.  Having blown my turn for the hotel (thanks for ripping the exit signs down, Tulsa 😦 ), I audibled to the packet pickup and the pretentiously named Health, Fitness and Sustainability Expo in the city’s Convention Center.

Big room.  Quite a few vendors, though I didn’t see any booths for any other marathons as I had elsewhere.  By the time I’d gotten there, most of the places were picked pretty clean and the crowd was thin.  Pickup was a breeze.

Doug snapped this picture with his super-cool half marathon finisher's medal right before he drove home!

Doug snapped this picture with his super-cool half marathon finisher’s medal right before he drove home!

Then to the hotel, conveniently located miles from anywhere, abutting the Tulsa International Airport.  The room was very nice and the place was quiet, save the odd plane taking off.  I grabbed some pasta for dinner at the hotel restaurant and retired early, hoping to sleep.

SUNDAY – I had set the alarm for 5:30 but woke up at 3:30.  Thought some fast thoughts, fired down some breakfast and headed back into the city to find a place to park and the starting line.

The weather was pitch-perfect.  About 45 degrees at the start, and mostly cloudy.  I waited 20 minutes in line for a bathroom, then herded myself into the proper corral to get ready for the start.

The race began pretty smoothly.  I felt strong.  Adrenaline had taken hold, as usual.  The first half-mile or so was downhill, and the next six were NOT.  Nevertheless, I’d kept up a pretty good pace, but that would come with consequences as I’d worn myself down too much.  Around the sixth mile, I was torn asunder.  My quads were actually on fire.  But I needed to continue, and apparently I needed to learn a valuable lesson about pacing oneself.  So onward I went.

One of Doug and my favorite runs from 2012- The Frozen Buns Run in St. Louis, MO

One of Doug and my favorite runs from 2012- The Frozen Buns Run in St. Louis, MO

A few words about the course:  very nice, really.  Ran through some nice neighborhoods with families in their front yards cheering us on.  Best sign:  “Go Random Stranger!”  Water and Gatorade stops were plentiful.  As I noted earlier, the course was uphill to start, but came back down quickly and finished flat, on the banks of the Arkansas River.  The only problem I had with that was the length of the finishing leg.  You know when you run on Bonansinga Drive in Quincy, and you run and run and run and never seem to get any closer to the end?  That was a problem here, as I’d no idea if my legs would continue to function properly.  However, the city had made a nice scenic park and the whole thing was pretty neat.  Nature.

I stumbled across the finish line in 2 hours, 45 minutes and change.  A personal best, with a caveat:  I’ve only done one other half marathon.  They had plenty for us to eat and drink, which was sorely needed.  All the volunteers were helpful, everything was great.  The whole race was a really positive experience, and I felt like I’d accomplished something.

Then I walked a block to the car, changed my socks and shoes and drove 450 miles straight home.  Which was stupid.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Tim 115 pounds lighter running the Bridge the Gap Half Marathon.

As I’ve been preparing myself for my first 5K at Bridge the Gap this Saturday, I’ve found myself in need of something to boost my motivation. Let me tell you — I found exactly what I needed.  I’m honored that Tim Cassidy has agreed to share his truly inspirational story with me, and with you, the readers of my blog.  Enjoy this guest blog by Tim Cassidy:

___________________________________

By Tim Cassidy:

Before starting my current career, I grew up working on a ranch and working for the U.S. Forest Service cutting down trees.  So, I was very physically active whether that was wrestling steers, stacking hay, cutting trees, stacking logs, or whatever it may be.  I graduated college and started a career where I sat at a desk.  I went from being able to eat whatever I wanted and keeping somewhat under control, to leading a more sedentary lifestyle.  I won’t kid you: I was never a small guy, but I was a lot more in shape.  So, after three years of sitting at a desk I quickly went to being over 300 lbs.  The company moved me twice so health wasn’t on the top of my list.  I was offered a third position move to Des Moines, IA I decided I had gotten to a point that something needed to be done.  I started hurting all over on joints, pain in my chest, and just plan out unhealthy.

In April 2008, I started to do something about it.  My starting weight was 312 pounds. I didn’t have much of a plan.  Luckily for me, I had a coworker that worked out every morning, so I tag along to get started.  It wasn’t pretty at the beginning; in fact it was plan out ugly and embarrassing.   My first time on a tread mill, I’d covered not even a quarter of a mile, and I was breathing so hard that I sounded like a grizzly bear stuck in a barbed wire fence.

I made dietary changes.  I stopped drinking all soda and stuck with coffee in the mornings and water the rest of the time, and, except for an occasional alcoholic beverage, that was it.  I quite eating all candy, deserts, snack food, and all other sweets.  I only went out to eat if it was a business function, holiday, or family event (this was probably the hardest part for me because Des Moines has Taco Johns and it is my favorite restaurant ever, and I hadn’t lived around one for 6 years).  I had a small breakfast in the morning, yogurt at 9 am, small lunch of protein/vegetables, an apple at 3pm, and a small dinner.  It took time to get my body used to not over-stuffing at each meal.  I got used to getting up a 4:30 a.m. for my workout, and eating healthy the first year.  I went from 312 pounds from April 2008 to 250 pounds by May 2009 when I ran my first Bridge the Gap to Health.  I ran the 5K with a goal to finish in under 30 minutes.  I finished in 30 minutes and 31 seconds.  My time was a little heart breaking, but motivating.

After finishing the race I decided I would run the half marathon the next year. I don’t really know what I was thinking at that moment, because that is over 13 miles.  My training became more intense.  I ran five days a week, four short runs and one long run.  I gradually worked the distances up as the year went on.  I ran into a few setbacks with an ankle roll, pulled muscle, and dieting issues.  I actually got to a point of exhaustion because I wasn’t taking enough calories for all exercising I was doing.  I learned a lot about taking in the right carbs, sugars, potassium, protein to be a runner, and that became an important part of training for my half marathon.

Three months prior to race I cut all liquids besides water out and stuck to a strict diet.  The day of the race I weighed in at 194 pounds.  That was a total loss of 118 pounds by race day.  My goal going into the race was to finish in 10 minute miles.  After working through the crowd at the beginning and battling my nerves, I finally settled into my pace at about mile three.  The temperature of 37 degrees was in my favor, because I did all of my training outside, even through the winter. From mile 3 to mile 10, it was normal running for me.  I covered the ground quick and easy and had no issues.  At mile 10 the pain started kicking it, starting with the ankle I rolled, pain with every step worsen as the time went on.  The last mile, my pulled muscle from early in the year starting tightening and it made it a struggle to focus.

All of that pain went away as I saw the finish line a half-mile away though.  Finishing the race wasn’t just a relief, it was also extremely emotional.  My 2-year goal of hard work and dedication came to an end and had paid off.  I finished the race ahead of my goal of 10 minute miles. My official time showed an average of 8 minute and 19 second miles.

Training for Bridge the Gap and losing the weight has made an amazing difference in life. I now have the energy to do whatever. It’s great being able to play with my nephews and nieces without breathing heavy.  I can work on the farm and keep up with everyone else.  I feel better all-around.  The confidence factor has come slower though.  A lot of people are amazed how I look, and comment on me looking so much better.  It has taken me almost a year later for me to see that same thing.  I watched myself as a big guy my whole life and it came off slowly over 2 years, so the change was gradual for me.

My advice to people who would like to be more active and get healthy is this: Anyone can do it, it takes time, dedication, hard work, and a mindset of success.

Original Post May 13, 2011

Read Full Post »

The sign at the bottom read, “Hill? You Can’t Handle This Hill!”

Too shocked to have the sense to conserve my precious oxygen, I turned to the runner next to me and gasped, “Is this hill seriously trash talking us?!” I should have saved my breath because I needed every bit of O2 I could gather for the climb up Lover’s Leap in the middle section of the Hannibal Cannibal 5k Run.

The 16th annual Hannibal Cannibal was held this past Saturday morning in downtown Hannibal, Mo. More than 1,700 runners from 26 states braved temperatures that had already climbed into the mid-80s by 7 a.m. to participate in 5k or 10k courses. Each course began in downtown, headed up the highway and over the overpass, took a turn and then climbed the infamous 600-foot bluff known as Lover’s Leap.

This was only my second 5k run ever, but I was feeling pretty confident at the starting line. I gathered with the other slower runners near the back of the pack, and, when the cannon went off, the runners surged forward and formed a great river several blocks long and four lanes wide. My iPod playlist was cued up to a Deadweather song, and I felt like I was making good time as I crossed the highway overpass.

That’s about when the Hannibal Cannibal’s tag line, “It’ll eat you up,” began to make sense. Highway 79 from the overpass turns into a long, low hill. I’m going to say it’s about a 30-degree grade (though I’m just holding up my fingers to estimate, so I could be way off). The thing just goes on and on. I kept running, and it kept climbing. It was super hot, and I was kicking myself for leaving my sweatband sitting on my kitchen table back in Quincy. The course doubles back on itself, so the faster runners were all coming down the hill I was still trying to climb. I was jealous of those folks who had already made the turn.

When that hill finally did let up, I was treated to a glass of lukewarm water, and then started making my way back down the hill. The relief was only temporary though, because I was approaching Lover’s leap.

The “You Can’t Handle this Hill” sign was only the beginning of the Cannibal’s biggest weapon’s assault on me. The sign’s barb had me fired up, and I charged with renewed energy. Talk trash to me, will you, Hill? I’ll show you!

But it just kept coming! The grade increased to what seemed like 90 degrees, and the next sign teased, “Feel the burn?” I did feel the burn, but I wasn’t about to walk.

The Hill, unperturbed with my continued insolence, informed me, “Even your car can’t make it up this hill.” I’ll admit, the thought of my Camry and its very capable air conditioner caused me a great deal of mental anguish, but I was determined to keep going.

My calf muscles had worked themselves into a ball by the time the Hill hurled its next dagger, “Free Oxygen Ahead.” This one was a significant blow, because I’d completely forgotten what it was like to breathe.  I had to walk past the next warning, “Yes, there is a Cannibal at the top.” I resigned myself to my imminent demise and thought, “At least if the waiting Cannibal devours me, I won’t have to run all the way back downtown.”

MaryAnn Cornwell and Laura before the race.

Suddenly I was there at the top. Some saintly volunteer had a water sprayer and I reveled in the cool mist as I jogged past. I grabbed a glass of water and then saw the Cannibal himself! He was gnawing on a bone that I assume was a human femur (or possibly a turkey-leg, but we’ll go with femur.) He was distracted! It was time to make a run for it!I dashed past the distracted barbarian and didn’t even look over my shoulder to see if I was being pursued! It wasn’t long before I was turning the corner back toward the finish line. I’d made it! It was hard, and it was hot, but I was very proud. I clocked a time of 39 minutes and change. That was slower than my Bridge the Gap time, but I’ll tell you this, I’m not a bit disappointed. Running the Hannibal Cannibal was every bit of the challenge that they bill it to be, and I’m excited to have survived in one piece.

To view race results and to see lots more photos, visithttp://hannibalcannibal.com

Also, congratulations to all the runners who participated in this race, especially my friends MaryAnn, Amy, Melissa, and Jeff. Well done, everyone!

Read Full Post »

Angie Frese, left, completes the 5K with her hands held high. Laura Sievert and her husband Justin at the finish line.

It was probably the combination of the cannon blast that started the race, the QHS Marching Band’s drumline beating a cadence, the bagpiper playing along the side of the route, and the cold, steady rain falling from the gray sky, but as I charged up the Hampshire Street Hill with a battalion of nearly 3000 other runners of the Bridge the Gap to Health Race, I felt as if we were going to war.

Completing my first 5K at Bridge the Gap was a challenge that I’d set for myself six short weeks ago. For many runners, 5K (3.2 miles) isn’t very far, but for me, it would be a mental test as much as a physical one.  I never liked to run, and the many years of not liking to run had cemented themselves into a mental barrier that told me that I couldn’t run.  So that was my battle: knock down the “Great Wall of Can’t.”

I wouldn’t say that I got off to an amazing start. Once the dreamy feeling of charging the hill was past me, I turned the corner and promptly stuck my left shoe in a deep puddle of water. Fantastic. Then, not 100 yards onto the Memorial Bridge, a faster runner tripped someone who, in turn, tripped me, and I sort of bounced into the side barrier in an ungainly manner. I was embarrassed, red-faced, wet-socked, and already winded. Quitting didn’t seem far behind.

I credit the British Invasion with saving my run.

Just as I was asking myself why I’d come out in this awful weather to do something I didn’t enjoy, my iPod brought up the song, “I Can See for Miles,” by The Who. The song made me look up and I realized that I could see for miles and miles and miles, and it was really cool to be where I was. I was running across the Mighty Mississippi River, and I wasn’t the only one in this group who thought it was tough. Things that are worth doing are always tough. The wind was whipping and the rain was falling, but I could finish this. I just knew it.

The Who and then Queen carried me across the first bridge in no time. (The Queen song, if you’re curious, was “Bicycle Race.” A friend thought it would be ironic if I put songs on my playlist about driving or biking.  I also included “Drive My Car” by the Beatles.) The wind really picked up when I turned the corner in West Quincy.  I was slowing down considerably on the Bayview Bridge, so I picked points out in front of myself that I knew I could make it to, and broke the run into pieces.  If I had to walk, I only walked to the next lamppost, then I ran to the next.  The course volunteers clapped as we ran past, and their support really made me smile and put a spring in my step.

Sievert and Freese pose before the race with Olympian Jackie Joyner Kersee.

It wasn’t long before I was back on Illinois soil headed down the hill to Bonasinga Drive with the finish line in sight. The song “Sweet Inspiration” by the Derek Trucks Band, propelled me toward the end of the race.  I was smiling ear-to-ear and raising a fist in the air as I crossed the line. Jackie Joyner Kersee, eight-time Olympic Medalist and Sports Illustrated’s Greatest Female Athlete of the Century, placed a medal around my neck, and I jumped up and down, giddy with the thrill of crossing the line. My husband, who also ran the race, was waiting at the line and we shared a victory hug.  My friends Angie and Sara crossed the finish not far behind me, and the atmosphere was just electric.

My finishing time was 37:44. The time put me a little more than half-way down the list of finishers, but I wasn’t really trying to beat anyone or anything except my own expectations. My friend Jeremy talks about “a runner’s high.”  It’s when you forget about how hard it was to get to the finish line, and just enjoy the feeling of accomplishment.  I don’t think I’ve turned into a great lover of running from this experience, but I did feel wonderful about accomplishing something I didn’t know I could do, and I got a small taste of that runner’s high. I’d encourage everyone to give Bridge the Gap or another run a try.  It was something I’ll certainly never forget.  I’m already looking forward to next year, where I’ll be charging along with my fellow warriors past the ruins of the Great Wall of Can’t.

Original Post May 17, 2011

Here’s the post that proceeded this one- when I decided to run for the first time.

Deep Breath… Ok, I’ll Do It.

People who know me know I love to be active. I don’t blink twice when someone suggests we go hike 10 miles, bike all over town, or climb an active volcano.  But running? Running is a different story.  I’ve never been quick, and I’ve never found my “groove” enough to keep a good pace up over long distances.  However, in the spirit of setting goals and achieving something I can be proud of, I’ve decided to run the 5k in this year’s Bridge the Gap to Health Race on May 14th.  Once I made the decision, I put out the word, and quickly a half dozen friends and my husband were on board too.

And we’ve all got good reason to be excited! The event itself is beautiful. The courses cross both bridges over the mighty Mississippi, and it’s not every day you have the chance to take a jog with a view like that.  It’s a great opportunity to get in shape, achieve a goal, and help people all at once.

Bridge the Gap to Health is now in its 11th year in Quincy.  The event consists of 5K (3.1 miles), 10K (6.2 miles), and half marathon (13.1 miles) certified courses, a 5K walk (with competitive or leisure categories) and a walking half marathon. The event draws over 2,500 participants, making it one of the premiere runs in Illinois.

The best part of Bridge the Gap is how much it helps our community.  All of the registration fees and proceeds from the event benefit the Quincy Catholic Charities MedAssist Program.  According to their website, MedAssist has helped over 3000 patients obtain around 30,000 prescription medications at a value of over $8 million in the last eleven years.   That money all stays local and helps Quincy area families (regardless of their religion).

If you’re not ready to commit to the run but still would like to experience the event, there are ample opportunities to volunteer. The race requires course guides, people to distribute water to runners, safety volunteers and much more.  If you’re interested in volunteering for the race, email btg@quincymedgroup.com for more information.So here’s my challenge to you, Quincy. Get out and run (or walk) with me.  We’ve got a month and a half to get ready, and the pride we’ll have from completing a challenge, helping needy folks get assistance to afford their prescription medication, and from our healthier hearts is immeasurable. I know we can do this!

To register for the Bridge The Gap to Health Race or for more information, visit http://www.bridgethegaptohealth.com They’re also on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BridgeTheGapToHealth All donations to the QCC MedAssist program are tax-deductible.  Visit the Quincy Medical Group website to find sponsor information, past winners, training tips, photos and much more: http://www.quincymedgroup.com/bridgethegap/index.html

Read Full Post »