Sunday, October 26, 2014

6.9 Mile Polish Square Run - 20 Weeks

            In little, unincorporated Sugar Camp, there is the Polish Square Run/Walk that goes around the country block that is 6.9 miles in distance.  It is a non-timed, low-key event that’s started off by the firing of a shotgun.  There isn’t a distinct start line, there are a couple unmanned water stations, and most of the participants walk.  Some even pull wagons of beer with them.  Afterwards, there is a polish smorgasbord of food inside the bar.  The entry fee is cheap ($20), and it gets you a sweatshirt and food.  The money raised goes to a local charity, and the top 3 male and female winners get a polish sausage.  Did I forget to mention that one house along the route also set out a beer station and there were Shorty’s at the finish line?  Yes, this really does exist.
The baby belly at 21 weeks.
            Andy ran and won it last year (by a solid 5 minute margin of victory).  I had stayed inside with Baya, figuring I shouldn’t try and run hard again only a week post-marathon.  I probably could have handled it, but I didn’t’ want to push it.  This year, I assumed it would be too late in my pregnancy to run, though I was just waiting and hoping I could.  By 20 weeks last time around, I had developed pelvic pain that kept me running no further than 4 miles, and my paced had slowed.  Sure, I could have joined the walkers, but that’s not really my style, and well, despite being 20 weeks, I still wanted to be the Top Female Finisher (despite it meaning absolutely nothing but it being an issue of personal pride).
            Andy said that if I ran, he’d run it with me (at my slower pace).  We started off being led by a couple of others, then passed one, but still had 2 ahead of us for quite a length of time.  We got in a spat after a mile or so had passed.  Ideally, I thought I could still run faster than what I was (closer to a 7’ pace versus our current 7:30 pace), and we weren’t in first (he said he didn’t care if he didn’t win – but let’s face it, he doesn’t care about as much as I do).  After we passed the leaders he felt better.  (And why did I say I thought I could run faster?!)  I think that I like to believe that despite being pregnant, I can just keep going like normal.  Pregnancy is a slow thing, a long process, but at some point along the way, you are bound to slow down - you just don’t want to accept that it’s happening.
            We finished together as overall victors, the husband-wife duo.  Twenty weeks and still going (albeit a little slower now I guess).

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Race Director's Report

            October 11, 2014 marked the 1st Annual Three Eagle Half Marathon & 5K.  This was a dream that had started more than a year before.  Andy and I were renting in Three Lakes, and we would often run the trail, usually the “boring” part nearest Three Lakes.  Then I discovered that after 3 miles it turned back into the woods, then Andy found it too.  So we biked the trail to DQ as a family, and I ran its entirety many times in training for my marathon (with Andy and Baya biking beside me).  We talked about how it should have a race on it – it was near the perfect distance for a Half Marathon.
            I ran the Ashland Marathon and was disappointed by their trail – it had nothing on ours!  I got home and told Andy that we NEEDED to do a race on our trail.  I contacted the President of the Foundation of the Three Eagle Trail and got his full support, then gained committee members, and the rest is history in the form of months of planning and work to see the dream come alive last weekend.
            A race director has my absolute respect, especially one of a race that is well organized and run.  If it goes smoothly, it is because of an awesome director, committee and volunteers that made it happen.  It doesn’t happen on its own.  It’s the attention to detail, that if forgotten can make things disastrous.  Sponsors, porta potties, aid stations, marketing and publicity (design work all thanks to my hubby), supplies, volunteers, and communication is tops.  Don’t forget a single detail – pins for race bibs, cones, signs, medals, shirts, food, water, nothing. 
            Of course there were glitches.  After all, this was our first year!  We had a shortage of Finisher Medals, and some of the Half runners went off course near the end - my apologies for these things!  We worked to remedy them as best and as quickly as possible.  We were over 20 Finisher Medals short (5 weeks prior when we had to place our medal order, we had no idea that registration would grow THAT much!), but many who received an award medal (as well as some other generous finishers) turned their Finisher Medal back in to be given to someone else.  There were moments where I felt almost overwhelmed by people’s kindness and generosity.  As soon as I heard one person had gone off course, I immediately sent a volunteer down to the turn where some had missed the arrows and cones, to make sure that no one else would do the same.  I feel bad for those who went astray, but we worked as quickly as possible to resolve it.
            We also ran short of cookies, but we had lots of other food left, including quarts of chocolate milk after the finish line that the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board donated (we wanted to provide the best)!  The Three Lakes High School Fab Lab students made our Top Finisher awards.  Buses were provided by the Three Lakes Winery, all of our printing was done by Cole Publishing, we had to increase our shirt order, we provided Race Staff shirts, we set up crossing guard training, we painted pumpkins to count down the remaining miles of the course, and we coordinated with T & H Timing Company, and also with Advanced Therapeutics for post-race massages.  There are many moving parts in putting together a race of this size.
We were blessed with perfect weather.  Over 200 ran the entire trail for the Half Marathon that morning, and over 100 additional covered the last 3 miles for the 5K.  Over 350 had registered.  Minds blown.  We were asked multiple times, “And this is your FIRST year?! Wow.”  We credit Andy a lot for the professional website and social media work that he did.  We credit the people of our small town for their incredible support, and word-of-mouth about our “hidden gem” of a trail.  I credit my race committee for all their work in spreading the word.
We did have some negative feedback, but very little in comparison to the positive feedback, such as….
The race as a fun one to run, on a well-organized, enjoyable course.  I felt good!”
“I was happy to help. It was a great way to promote the Three Eagle Trail. Thank you for all your work to make the run super successful. It was a very well organized and promoted event.”
“Count me in for next year!”
“I loved the race!!!  Very nice course. Staff was friendly and helpful.  Eagle River restaurants had very good food, everyone in town, and on the race course where friendly!!!  Thank you for putting together a wonderful event!!!”
I ran 5 half marathons this year in the Midwest, and your course was the best one!”
“That course will be extremely hard to top. I loved it!!!!! The weather was perfect.”
“Great job! Course was beautiful! Can you order up the same weather next year?”
“It was a totally awesome day! I can't wait till next year!”
“The pumpkins were fun to see along the trail! It was a delightful day for a race.”
“My boyfriend and I did this half marathon as our first half marathon together. We both have been active in different events from Ironman to half Marathons to 5Ks. Out of all the events that we have done, we both agree that this was one of our favorite events and we will be running it next year.  The trail was absolutely beautiful and there was always something to look forward to. We both cannot say enough wonderful things about the run and how well it was put together for your first year.” 
The night before the race, I found out that one of our assigned aid stations fell through, but a local family agreed to fill-in and take it on at the last minute.  I was also able to be at the finish for most of the Half for giving out the medals, and after one lady finished, her friend hugged her with tears in her eyes and told her how proud she was of her.  It was the first Half for some, maybe a first 5K, but I hope that we gave everyone an incredible experience and they’ll want to return again next year – with all of their friends, and that we grow into a community of active living and healthy lifestyles.  Did I sleep the night before?  Hardly.  But for all the stress and anxiety, there were all of these beautiful moments.  Driving back from the start towards the finish line area, I saw over 100 5K’ers on the trail and it brought tears to my eyes.  It was beautiful.  It was worth it.
Although I did feel like Baya in this video for the full week after the event....

Monday, October 13, 2014

New Sponsorship!

          It is my honor and privilege to announce that Timber Land Chiropractic is my newest sponsor!  I’ve been impressed with how thorough the patients are treated at Timber Land Chiropractic - checking posture, alignment, range of motion, and even doing x-rays in order to get a full picture in understanding the structure of each one’s body.
            I first saw a chiropractor when I was about 6 years old.  My family had never used chiropractic services before, but when I was in a sledding accident, and it hurt to move, we gave it a try.  The first adjustments were painful, as my body was so out of line.  After he looked me over the first time, though, he could not only tell that I would get a lot of ear infections, but he could also tell me which side was worse.  Up until that point in my life, I had lived on antibiotics every winter for my ear infections.  My mom said she always knew when I had another one when I would fall down the steps again (as it affects balance).  After seeing the chiropractor, I never got another ear infection again.  I am definitely a firm believer in chiropractic care.
            Through observation and the use of the x-rays, Dr. Wendy could tell what areas were not balanced.  She could immediately tell I had injured my shoulder at one point (2 years ago in the bike accident), and that I had also sustained a neck injury (most likely from the pole vaulting mishap from about 5 years ago).  Working to realign my body over time, I should see results in my power output as I become more evenly balanced and can work more efficiently, and also hopefully avoid injury and uneven wear on the body.  About a week before my first adjustment, I had pain in my lower back on one side that suddenly came on while sprinting with my volleyball girls.  It was severe enough that I had to stop.  After that initial adjustment, I was able to sprint again without pain.  Due to now having a baby belly as well, I am finding I am getting tight in the lower back a lot more as my body is adapting to the shift in weight.  Dr. Wendy has been keeping me going though, while also minimizing discomfort.
            In addition, Dr. Wendy is also giving me more nutritional guidance so I can train and perform at my best.  She is licensed by the State of Wisconsin to provide Nutrition Counseling Services.  I record my diet, and we work to adjust it knowing that proper fueling plays a critical role in performance.  I look forward to the added benefits that result from regular chiropractic care and proper nutritional adjustments!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Things I Wish I Would Have Known... (Part 2 of 2)

1)    Injuries: Given enough time, something is bound to happen.  I’ve had my share of injuries.  In High School I sprained my wrist at volleyball practice.  In college, I sprained my ankle twice while pole vaulting, and that was also when I first had problems with a tight hamstring.  Shin splints used to be common back in the day when I wasn’t a regular runner too.  In college, I learned the importance of icing tender areas to keep them from getting worse.  Ice cups are great for the shins, as they massage and ice at the same time.  The foam roller is awesome for self-massage and loosening up tight muscles.  I discovered the power of the foam roller when training for my marathon – and I think that’s the only way I got through training without taking time off for any full-blown injuries.  Take care of things immediately and take time off early on if needed, so you can return to training sooner and keep the injury from becoming even more serious.
2)    Fitness.  There is general fitness and more sport-specific fitness.  I would run some in the off-seasons of college track (summers), but I never had any type of structured training, nor was I very regular about it.  I remember once being pleased that I ran 12 miles in one week one time.  Like I said, it’s all relative, and I didn’t know anything.  I didn’t know I would eventually run more than 45 miles in a week, or running more than 30/week for weeks on end would be normal.  I didn’t know the great benefits that cycling could bring to me in making me a stronger athlete.  I always had the mindset that I didn’t like running very much, and I was just never any good at it (and I guess that means I never would be?).  I wish I had done cross training during my summers, more running, cycling, swimming, or whatever!  It would have taken my overall fitness to another level and better prepared me to take my sport-specific fitness to another level as well.
3)    Off-Season Training.  In high school in my day, in my little hometown, my sports had one season.  Sure, I would attend a volleyball camp in the summer, but we didn’t have open gyms, clubs weren’t common, and so I focused on my sport during that season mainly.  I remember only one winter (I didn’t play basketball so winter was an off-season), where I stayed after school some days and either ran or lifted (we didn’t have treadmills, cross country, or any type of solid distance program, so it was outside on my own in the snow and ice).  Otherwise I would just go home after school.  I ran distance one year of high school – my sophomore year I ran the mile at most every meet.  My fastest mile was a 6:44.  I recently ran my first timed mile since those days (more than a decade later), and I did it in 5:59 with no competition around me.  This ties in with overall fitness as well of course.  My point is though that now I train year-round, even in my off-season, and it makes a drastic difference.  If I had been running year-round back then, I could have started making my gains in running much, much earlier.
4)    Pacing.  I had my first experience of good pacing when I was a senior in college when we had to run the timed 500m for testing during the pre-season.  Every year I used to be sick to my stomach thinking about running it, but this year I decided to not go out as hard as all of my crazy teammates.  I didn’t get nervous, and I kept calm.  I started off trailing but then caught up to and passed some people because they had hit a wall, and I hadn’t.  It felt great!  Pacing is really important in triathlons, as they are an endurance race (especially the longer you go).  Even pacing for an event will make the race a lot more fun, doable, and rewarding.  It’s always refreshing to have a little left in the tank for a great finish instead of falling apart and crawling in.

So there you go – some of the things I have learned over the years that I would love to go back and tell my former self.  But alas, you live and learn, and you get to keep getting better as you age instead!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Things I Wish I Would Have Known... (Part 1 of 2)

High School - Long Jump
Andy and I both coach high school athletes.  I am the head volleyball coach, and he is the head Track & Field coach (and I his sole assistant coach).  We had the high school athletic experience, but we also had the experience of college athletics.  Since then, I also have had the continued experience of post-collegiate competition.  These athletic experiences have taught us a lot.  When we look back at our high school sporting memories, we shake our heads a bit at ourselves.  Hindsight shows us just how clueless we were, and working with high school athletes today, we are continually reminded of this.  I think Andy and I both wish at times that we could take our level of experience and knowledge and be able to go back and apply it to our former teenage selves – and kick a lot of butt in the process.  While we can’t do that, we do strive to teach the student-athletes that we work with much of the knowledge we wish we could go back and teach ourselves.  Here I’d like to share some of our take-aways:
1)     What you think is hard, isn’t really all that hard.  It’s all relative.  If I had to do college workouts when I was in high school, I’d have started to learn what hard work really looks like when it comes to training.  It took me 3-5 college years to acclimate to the college level of training, but the rewards were phenomenal.  Somewhere amongst those college years, I actually became a real athlete.  Now a lot of my training is a lot longer in duration, but it can still be super intense.  I have learned to dig deep and suffer like I never have before.
2)     Lifting will turn you into a beast.  I mean this in a good way.  It can really transform the type of athlete you are and take you to a whole different level of athleticism.  The benefits of a good, consistent weight training program are immense and should not be overlooked.
3)     Sleep has ALWAYS been important to me. Even in college, when it was bedtime, I just went to bed.  I never pulled a single all-nighter.  However, some athletes do not understand just how important sleep is in the recovery process and getting the body ready for the next training session.  Having a kid, whether newborn or sick, makes one really realize how much of a difference sleep makes.  Make sleep a priority. 
4)     Nutrition.  While I know proper nutrition is important, I didn’t know how big of an effect proper fueling and refueling could have.  Proper fueling gets your body optimally primed to train and compete.  Proper refueling helps your body to not only fully reap the benefits of your workout, but it also aids your body in rebuilding and repairing so you can recover faster and be better prepared for the next training session.  I grew up on a dairy farm, but since we got our milk straight from the bulk tank, we didn’t ever buy chocolate milk or drink much of it (except at school where it was available).  Fortunately, I married young to a man whose second love is chocolate milk, and it has since been a staple in our house.  Chocolate milk is being marketed as a top-of-the-line recovery beverage because of its ideal ratio of carbohydrates to protein.  The carbs refuel your body, and protein repairs and rebuilds muscles.  On top of that, chocolate milk also provides calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium.  Some endurance athletes consume salt tablets or take magnesium supplements (to increase energy and endurance), but with chocolate milk, you get both.  Many athletes (including me still), tend to eat a lot of bananas for the potassium to help prevent fatigue and muscle cramping.  Calcium is also important to build and maintain strong, dense bones.  With chocolate milk, you get the benefits of all of these elements – in one place!  It doesn’t get any easier (or tastier!) than that.
Definitely High School... much to learn!