Sunday, July 9, 2017


Benchmarking

    Two years ago, my friend Brynn invited Erik and I to do a 4 mile road running race in her neighborhood (Saint Anthony Park) on the 4th of July. Geographically isolated from every other neighborhood in Saint Paul, the Saint Anthony Park neighborhood resembles a small town which becomes particularly evident during its 4th of July celebration. After the race there is a parade down Como Avenue complete with throwing candy which is so small town classic. As for the race itself (called the Langford Races because they start and end at Langford Park), registration is available the morning of, it costs a whopping 50 cents, there is no swag (well, you can pay extra for a t-shirt), and there are no prizes. And there is chip timing! So for someone whose last blog post showcased too much racing paraphernalia, this was a perfect race.

When we did this race two years ago, Erik and I were just beginning to ramp up our running for Twin Cities Marathon. We ran the 3 miles to the race start and I had all good intentions of running with Brynn and chatting the whole way at a slightly faster than comfortable running pace. Then we were going to run the “long” way home to get in at least 12 miles on the day. In essence, I had no intention of “racing.” At the start, I saw Allie Rykken who legitimately lives in that neighborhood (not that you can’t race if you don’t live in the neighborhood, but it is kind of like a local affair and even though it is only 2 neighborhoods away from mine, it is on the OTHER SIDE of the train tracks:) 

So Allie, Brynn, and I all started running together. The course is 2 x 2 miles through the neighborhood. We were able to maintain a conversation but it was a bit short as we were all a little winded, especially after running up the hill on Como. By the time we started our second lap, Allie and I had dropped Brynn (oops). We weren’t talking as much now and by mile 3, when we started our second climb up Como, it was clear we were racing. As skiers, we know how to work hills, and Allie and I passed a few people on that uphill. As we started the descent to the finish, Allie pulled ahead of me and I could never run fast enough to catch her. My time was 30:24 and I was pretty stoked to be able to run sub-8 minute miles. 

This year, as I thought about a “short” race to run, several 5 K’s came to mind, but in the end, I really wanted to do the 4th of July race in Saint Anthony Park again. There were numerous reasons for this...I can run there and back, the aforementioned cost, lack of paraphernalia, a “hilly” course which I think works to my advantage, and since I wasn’t really “racing” 2 years ago, I was fairly certain I could crush my previous time. 

In anticipation of this race, I did running speed workouts every week. I also did a couple tempo runs and was satisfied to be able to do 2 x 15 minutes w/ 5 minutes rest at 7:30 pace. Then a couple weeks before the race we took a trip to Banff and while I didn’t do any running, I did do a lot of hiking. For me, racing should never trump vacations. It was a good mental break from my usual daily routines (and can provide this blog post with some pictures!)…

We climbed a mountain and saw lots of glaciers…

Looking at Victoria Glacier (and Mount Victoria) from the summit of Fairview Mountain above Lake Louise. Photo: Erik

We played in the snow…

Hiking through some snow on the trail to Eiffel Lake from the Moraine Lake Trailhead. Photo: Erik

And climbed on some rocks!
A giant boulder on the aptly named Rockpile Trail at the mouth of Moraine Lake. Photo: Erik

Then it was back to Minnesota for a week to fine-tune some training for the 4 mile race. And then it was July 4th and the race was here! Craig and his girlfriend, Eva, decided to join us, too. While Craig’s girlfriend biked, we averaged 8:30 miles on the way to the race, which provided a sufficient warm-up for me.

I lined up with Brynn and although I was a bit farther back than I thought I should be, this would also help keep me from going out too fast. The gun went off and I was surprised to see Brynn next to met after 50 meters, but then she dropped back and Allie zoomed by me. There was no talking this time- our pace was way too fast. I ran around a few people and then settled into a fast but comfortable pace. I could see Allie and another girl I know, Anna, ahead of me, but let them stay there. My first half mile was 7:16 pace, which is pretty fast for me. I passed Anna and several others the first time up the Como hill. I was feeling good. By the start of the second lap my breathing was more labored but could tell I was gaining on Allie and a group of girls. By now I was breathing hard and trying to focus on my running form and actually breathing a bit deeper to calm myself down.

I passed Allie as we turned onto Como for the last long uphill. Now the sufferfest was beginning. I thought, “I am never doing this race again!” I just kept running fast and breathing hard and telling myself this was temporary. By the time I got to the downhill, Craig and Erik were both cheering for me. I did attempt some kind of sprint to the finish, but was pleased with the time reading on the clock. My last half mile was 6:56 pace, so I’ll take that. When I finished it took me about a minute to catch my breath and a couple more before I could start cheering!

Craig, who ran a lot faster than me, said we had to run slow on the way back home which I thought was funny because Craig’s “slow” pace is like my marathon pace. We actually ended up running over 10 minutes per mile on the way home while Eva coasted on her bike and informed us she was very hungry.

My time was 29:14, a solid 1:10 minutes faster than 2 years ago which breaks down to 7:19 average per mile this year compared to 7:36 average 2 years ago. I think this shows some good improvement but also think I’d have to train a lot more to get much faster. It was also interesting to see that they had a “record” board up with the fastest times for each age. It turns out I hold the record for 30 year olds. This is quite an anomaly because every other record around age 30 is 5 minutes or so faster but somehow no fast women have ever ran this race when they were exactly 30! I didn’t have my phone on me, otherwise I could have taken a picture of my running record:) 

I doubt I’ll be targeting this race next year (mentally I find it’s much better to only do a few races and not repeat them so often) but the secret is out if you are looking for a no bling, inexpensive 4 mile running race on the 4th of July- consider the Langford Races!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Race Bibs, Swag and Awards: What to do with Race Paraphernalia
   
Now a month into training for the 2017-2018 ski season, it’s important to remember what we’re training for...all that stuff we get at races! If you’re suffering from lack of motivation to train (I know I am after the meager snow last winter) here’s some great ways to show off your racing keepsakes and practical things to do with it that will get you out the door on your rollerskis so you can get more of it next winter!

I dedicate this post to my bro, Leif, who always likes lots of pictures and few words:)

First up, what Erik has so affectionately dubbed my shit shelf (he started calling it this when he built it for me). Now, I prefer to call this my self-actualization shelf for a number of reasons. In addition to all those medals, bibs, trophies, and bells, it also includes three other things. OK, the first two don’t really have much to do with racing and include my panda collection (my impetus to canoe 400 miles to the National Zoo) and probably my best piece of artwork ever made (on the top shelf, my mom says it’s supposed to be a cat but it does look a bit like an owl; note, my artwork reached a peak in kindergarten and has not improved since then). Finally, it includes that rain-drop shaped trophy. Now, I pretty much think this thing is the best because how often does anyone do a ski race when it’s 45 degrees and rainy, win, and get a rain-drop as a trophy??? 



Now I’m sure I got this trophy shelf idea from somewhere and so was pretty stoked to see that Nate’s dad, Jim, has a similar shelf at his cabin. Note, I did not copy this shelf, just one of those tokens of wisdom that we aren’t as unique as we think and everyone has similar ideas.

Photo: Nate

Poor Andy Brown, he should commission Erik to build him a shit shelf as he is currently displaying his stash on the floor. He says there would be more swag but he’s using his Seeley Hills Classic plates as his main dining set.  

Photo: Andy

Nate and Nichole have some race paraphernalia arranged in their new workout room in their new house which is a pretty good way to stay inspired.

Photo: Nate

 Ever wonder what happens to those wreaths the winners get at the Mora Vasaloppet? Well, wonder no more because here’s Mary Beth to the rescue:

 
Photo: Mary Beth
I hope Dave and Josie have built themselves a very strong house to support all this bling! Peter Northug is sooo jealous. 

Photo: Josie

But it turns out if you have 5 athletically gifted kids, I-beams are probably in order.

The boy’s room:

Photo: Bonnie
            The other boy’s room:
 
 
Photo: Bonnie

But Emma whoops them all. And this girl is only 16. I didn't know this was possible.


Photo: Bonnie

As a girl obsessed with ROY G BIV (my dinnerware is Fiesta after all) I’m pretty envious of Emma’s ribbon display on purple walls. I don’t think my husband would go for this in our bedroom but maybe I could paint one of our walls in the basement purple and arrange our paltry-in-comparison ribbon stash according to ROY G BIV.

Also note the mountain bike awards, the cassette medal in the foreground and the hammer on the other side of the mirror! Photo: Bonnie

There’s lots and lots of ways to showcase bibs.

    After five years of citizen racing in the Midwest, I created this presentation of my bibs above our bed in our house in New York. I was amazed at how symmetrical they could be. I’ve been too lazy to exhibit my bibs anywhere in my new house other than a couple on my shelf above.




Angie shows multiple genres of bibs in this curtain rod:


Photo: Angie

Dave and Josie could open a store with the bibs in their wax room.


Photo: Josie
Bonnie has so many they don’t fit in her overflowing box anymore (Erik and I are admittedly in the same boat). Photo: Bonnie


I put a few of my pins on my backpack...makes me feel cool but TSA doesn’t like it so much when I fly.

Photo: Erik

Then there is my bro who is perhaps the most photogenic citizen cross country skier ever.

Here he is in a family photo wearing a shirt from the Lotvola Cup that he is actually on (the red skier on the far right). Note I’m also wearing a race shirt in this picture.


At Watkins Glen State Park in New York (a cool place to go if you are ever in the Finger Lakes Region). Photo: Erik

Then he made the cover of Silent Sports and so amidst all our racing relics surrounding our dining room fireplace, down on the bottom is Leif on the cover of Silent Sports.


Photo: Craig

But if that’s not enough (he’s also made the cover of a book but that’s another story), he’s got a huge photo of himself in the Bemidji Applebees!

Photo: Erik

And so why not take a photo of a photo and decorate our living room (with other racing stuff like the newspaper clipping from my first Minnesota Finlandia win).



The cutest award ever goes to the Wieskopf-Albrecht family from a bike race!

Photo: Bonnie

Now onto the horses. They are everywhere. We saw them on Andy Brown’s floor above and on Mary Beth’s mantle.

    Oh the horses are everywhere. Angie has some, too!

   
Lots of awards and racing mementos on this shelf. Is that Angie on Minnesota Sports? Retro! Photo: Angie
    And if Nate or Nichole win any more they will need a bigger shelf!

Photo: Nate
     
    They even dominate my french-themed living room (silly horses, they are swedish, not french)

    

      
          And the stairs!


OK, this is really just a joke, turns out we have enough horses in our house to place one on each stair

    We left Dave and Josie and Karl’s horses’ out because they are currently being used for the design of their new barn. 



But alas, is there actually anything useful to do with this stuff???

Enter the earring holder...




And the t-shirt quilt (could also make a quilt from bibs, or a ski bag from bibs; I think I’ve seen that)...


Gotta love a few of the relics including the shirt from the now defunct Adventure Duluth Race Erik did in 2006.

And the tote bag...

Photo: Angie

And the lunch bag (or simple tote bag for those who aren’t as skilled at sewing)...

Photo: Alex
And the Halloween costumes...


One year we went as Michael Phelps and a cow- both inspired by racing paraphernalia. That's a Noquemenon cow bell. Photo: Priscilla

    I’ve previously blogged about my Marit Bjorgen costume and it’s pretty easy to be a lumberjack if you’ve gotten first and second place in the Minnesota Finlandia!

And the under-bed-drawer pull...



And the keychain...


Photo: Angie

And as previously mentioned, some people actually use the dishes, glasses, beater jars, etc they get from races.


Setting up for dinner! Photo: Erik

And all the prizes from the Minnesota Finlandia are incredibly useful. Just in case anyone reading this blog has not yet seen (or starred in) my Promo video (shame on you) check it out.

And for gosh darn sake, put those "horsees" to work!



Yes, this is Molly, an American Girl® doll on American Girl® skis.
The outfit is an original by Susan Ronnander:) Photo: Erik

Thanks to everyone who contributed photos! If you have additional ones you’d like me to post, send them my way and I can create an encore.