After running the Lake City Half Marathon in Minnesota on June 26 followed immediately the next weekend by the Peachtree Road Race on July 3, my body told me I needed to take a little break from running. I had been not only running but training hard for the last few months and I had some of the highest mileage months I’ve had since I was training for a marathon many years ago. I didn’t have any injuries or even aches or pains but I just felt like I needed a break.
This time around when I was training for the half marathon in Minnesota I was much smarter and was sure I made time for stretching and foam rolling after every run, in addition to monthly deep-tissue massages, and making getting quality sleep every night a top priority for recovery. Still, I know my body and I know when it’s time to take a break from running. I was ready and to sweeten the deal, Mother Nature decided to crank up the heat and humidity even more where I live, so I wasn’t complaining.
Other than when the pandemic started and everything started shutting down, a typical year for me these last few years would have me start training in January for a half marathon in April. Then I would take two weeks off from running completely to recover and just take walks or hike if I was traveling the week after the race. I would jump right into training again for another half marathon in June or July, followed by two weeks off again. Typically I would get to take a little bit of time off training in August until I needed to start training for my fall half marathon, usually in October or November. Finally, after my third and last race of the year I would take my mandatory two weeks off then just run for fun on days when the weather wasn’t so bad in December.
In 2020 even though I didn’t run a single race, I started out training for races, thinking they would still happen (“surely this Coronavirus will be gone in a few months,” I naively thought). I trained for what I thought was going to be a half marathon in New Mexico in April, then I trained for what I thought was going to be a half marathon in Minnesota in June. After the second failed attempt at racing for the year, I finally gave up and settled into my own running plan for the rest of the year.
When some people complained about gaining the COVID-15 pounds and other people were taking up running and cycling for the first time, I considered myself fortunate to be able to get outside in the fresh air and run and stay healthy. I know not everyone had this luxury and I didn’t take it for granted. With the extra time on my hands from not being able to go into work, I funneled that time into running more, stretching and foam rolling, and doing more core work.
I felt like I had laid the strongest foundation for my half marathon training plan I had ever laid down for any half marathon ever when I started training for the race in Minnesota. It had also been 20 months between races, with the Hot Cider Hustle Half Marathon, Omaha, Nebraska- 47th state in October 2019 as my last race before the Lake City race this past June. My body was ready to race. That carried over to the Peachtree Road Race the following weekend where I felt like the miles flew by as I happily ran down the streets in Atlanta.
After all of that, though, as I said, it was time for a break. I’m not one of those people who gets anxious when I can’t run. I know my body needs a break from hard running every now and then and I can appreciate that time off. It doesn’t mean I’m just sitting around watching Netflix and eating popcorn (although that does sometimes happen). I’m still going on some walks, stretching, foam rolling, and doing some yoga.
It won’t be long until I’ll need to start training for my next half marathon but until then I’m going to just rest and enjoy the extra time on my hands. What about you- do you train in cycles for races and take time off in-between? How do you feel about time off from running- do you enjoy it or does not running drive you crazy?
My vacation and first visit to Minnesota was supposed to happen in June of 2020 after running a half marathon for state number 49 of my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Thanks to COVID, my remaining three half marathons in Iowa, Minnesota, and New Mexico got all changed and moved around. Instead of running a half marathon in St. Paul in June last year, I ended up running a half marathon this past June about an hour from Minneapolis and St. Paul in a small town called Lake City (you can read all about that here: Circle of Life Half Marathon, Lake City, Minnesota- 48th state).
Because the race was an hour from the twin cities, I decided to just spend the day that I flew into MSP in that area then drive and stay in Lake City until right after the race then drive to Duluth to do some hiking there (which deserves a post of its own). I knew that a travel blogger who also has a podcast with her husband live in the Minneapolis area so I contacted her to see if we could meet up and she said they were available for lunch the day I would be flying in. Her website is The Travel Architect (https://thetravelarchitect.wordpress.com/).
She recommended a spot for lunch called Red Cow that had some delicious burgers and the four of us had a lovely lunch with plenty of travel talk and some science talk since her husband is a science teacher and my daughter just finished taking chemistry. It was great to finally meet in person after following her blog and their podcast for so long. They were both exactly as I expected, which is to say they were both fun and engaging and it was a nice way to start out my trip to the land of 10,000 lakes.
The original plan after lunch was for my daughter and me to go standup paddleboarding at Bde Maka Ska Park but when we got to the lake it felt too windy for that so we decided to just walk around the lake instead. It was a beautiful sunny day albeit breezy and there were some people on the water in small sailboats and kayaks but I noticed no one was braving the wind on a SUP.
After a quick break for ice cream at Bebe Zito Ice Cream (known for their unique flavors), we went to Como Park in St. Paul and it was even bigger than I expected. There is an area with kiddie rides and carnival games, both a mini golf and regular golf course, a lake, and Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. After getting tickets online (free but you still had to arrange in advance as they weren’t allowing walk-ins) for the Zoo and Conservatory, we spent the next hour or so wandering around the grounds. The gardens were some of the best I’ve seen and I especially enjoyed the Japanese Garden area.
By now it was starting to get into the early evening hours and I knew I had at least an hour drive ahead of me to get to Lake City for the next phase of our Minnesota vacation so that ended our time in Minneapolis and St. Paul. It was brief, hence the minute reference in my title but it was most definitely enjoyable.
Have you been to Minneapolis or St. Paul? If so, what did you do and what did you think? Have you ever had a meetup with someone you follow online?
When I saw that in-person races were going to happen for 2021, I began to register for half marathons in my remaining three states from my quest to run a half in all 50 states. On a whim and in the spirit of being more spontaneous, as part of my Running Resolutions for 2021, I decided to enter the lottery for the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, Georgia. Much to my surprise and delight, not only did I get in the race but my teenage daughter also got in.
The Peachtree Road Race first began in 1970 and has grown to the largest 10k in the world. It was cancelled for the first time ever in 2020 because of COVID-19. The Atlanta Track Club helps put on the race and they decided to divide the race into two days for 2021, with half of the runners on July 3 and the other half including elite runners on July 4. When the lottery was open for applicants, I could choose which day I wanted to run as my first choice and which day was my second choice. Thinking I might have a better chance of getting in if I chose July 3, that was my plan, and apparently it worked.
I received what seemed like a dozen emails with race logistics such as how to get to the expo, course maps, links to the MARTA light rail system, COVID-19 information, and more. Going into the race, I felt extremely prepared and comfortable thanks to all of the information I had in advance. Although I had been to Atlanta a few times before, I still would have felt prepared going into the race because of the excellent communication from the race staff.
The Expo was held June 26 and 27 and July 1 and 2 at the Georgia World Congress Center Exhibit Hall C2 in Atlanta starting in the morning and going to the afternoon each day. You had to register for a time slot in advance online. Since I was driving in from North Carolina on July 2, I chose the 2-3 pm time that day and decided to take the MARTA from my hotel. This all turned out to be wise decisions because I ran into traffic getting into Atlanta and by the time I got to the Expo, it was 2:45. I could have driven to the Expo but parking was $20 or $17 if you paid in advance through the race website and I knew traffic in that part of Atlanta would be a nightmare, especially on a holiday weekend. For those of you that may be interested, the closest MARTA stop to Hall C of the GWCC is Vine City, not the Dome-GWCC-Philips Arena-CNN Station, as one might think.
When I arrived at the Expo, I first picked up my race bib as well as my daughter’s race bib, then someone checked both of our vaccination cards and put a sticker of an orange on both of our bibs (signifying we were vaccinated, which came into play on race day), and finally I walked around to see what else was being offered. There were shirts from previous Peachtree Road Races being sold for $5 as well as shirts for the 2021 race at a higher price, Mizuno was selling shoes, the airline Delta was there (they were a sponsor), representatives from the Atlanta Track Club were there, there was a stand set up to sell reloadable Breeze cards for the MARTA and answer questions about that, and there were people walking around answering questions about the race in general. I was surprised there wasn’t a single sample being given out, but I believe that was because of COVID.
Runners were asked to submit proof of a recent 5k or 10k in order to be placed in an earlier wave and coinciding earlier start time. Since I hadn’t run an official 5k or 10k in nearly 20 years, I submitted a time from a virtual 5k from Strava that I ran last summer and a time for my daughter from a cross country race she ran last fall. Much to my surprise, both were accepted and she was put in Wave B, while I was put in Wave C (as you probably surmise, it started with Wave A and ran through the alphabet, going to I on July 3 and L on July 4). That meant she had a start time of 6:30 and mine was 6:40. Perfect.
We decided to head to the MARTA station near our hotel at 6:00, which gave us plenty of time to get to the Lenox station, even with a transfer from the red line to the gold line. The weather at 6:30 was fantastic especially given it was in a city sometimes affectionately called “Hotlanta,” with temperatures in the low to mid 60’s and relatively low humidity. When we got close to the start corrals, there was a barrier set up with volunteers checking for the sticker of an orange on bibs. Since we had them on ours, we were allowed to go straight to the start waves but unvaccinated people had to go the other direction to get screened, which I believe meant temperature checks and the usual COVID-related questions.
Each wave was separated by 10 minutes to help with social distancing and we were told to spread out within our wave. The race course was along Peachtree Road, starting at Phipps Plaza and going to Piedmont Park. All roads were closed to traffic for the race, a feat I can’t imagine in a city of that size.
There were five water stations and several places on the course where there was music of some sort. A priest from a local church was throwing holy water on runners who wanted it at one point and I saw a couple of places where people were giving out water or other things like cut-up watermelon and handing it out to runners. Because of COVID, the water at the water stations was in single-use plastic bottles, meaning you had to unscrew the top to open it, something I didn’t really want to do so I skipped water on the course.
There is a hill that’s nicknamed “Cardiac Hill,” and I was aware of it going into the race but I wasn’t aware there would also be a couple of other hills on the course. Normally hills aren’t my strong spot but I was able to power through every hill in this race, which I was proud of, especially when I saw so many other runners walking up the hills. Maybe my hilly half marathon in Minnesota the week before helped.
I should also say I felt really good going into this race, even though it was only my second 10k ever with my first 10k in 2002 and a finish time of 56:49. For this race, my split times were 8:36, 8:02, 7:42, 8:41 (uphill), 8:39 (uphill), 8:14 (partial hill), and my final 0.2 was at 7:40 so I had a good kick left in me at the end. My final time was 52:27 (an average 8:27 pace), which put me at 3441 out of 24,228 overall, 771 out of 11,417 females, and 67 out of 1240 in my age group. I couldn’t have been happier.
My daughter had been struggling with a niggling Achilles problem she’s had for a couple of years so she had to slow down a bit during the race and I actually passed her towards the end, which made it easier to get together at the finish. There were a couple of family meeting places set up at the finish that we had agreed to meet at had I not caught up with her on the course. We received cotton/polyester blend t-shirts that were bundled up with a Clif Nut Butter Bar and a Publix Apple Fruit Squeeze inside. There was also water, Gatorade, and Coca Cola products. You had the option of purchasing a medal in advance, which I chose not to do but had a bit of FOMO when I saw someone with one.
The one thing I really wished they had at the finish was chairs and I heard other runners saying the same thing. There was plenty of grass since we were at a park but it was all wet with dew so we found an asphalt path and sat there until we felt like heading out for the long walk to the MARTA station (there was one close by but because of the race finish, it was closed so we had to walk what felt like 20 minutes but I didn’t time it so I can’t be sure to get to the next-closest station). Before we left though, we stopped by the medical station to get some ice for my daughter, which a volunteer taped to her calf and that helped relieve some of the pain.
Would I recommend this race? Absolutely, without hesitation. I loved the race and loved to be a part of the largest 10k in the world. It was well-organized from pre-race to post-race, had amazing volunteers everywhere, and had a fun vibe. When I was running this race, I had so much fun the miles flew by. It felt good to run fast and to run with a crowd again and I realized how much I had missed in-person racing.
Even though I had just run the Circle of Life Half Marathon, Lake City, Minnesota- 48th state literally one week before this race, the one in Minnesota couldn’t have been more different from this race. That race had less than 100 people running the half marathon, while this one had over 24,000 runners spread over two days (I believe there were around 11,000 on July 3 when I ran it). I ran the vast majority of the race in Minnesota by myself, with farmland for scenery and the occasional aid station with a few volunteers handing out water. The Peachtree was full of people everywhere going through a big city, although the crowd thinned out pretty quickly after the first mile so I had plenty of room to run, hundreds of volunteers, multiple aid stations, music on the course, and a definite party vibe. This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the half marathon but it was nothing like this race.
This is part of a series of posts from my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states. Minnesota was my 48th state.
Never would I have thought I would be running a half marathon in tiny little Lake City, Minnesota, but my life has often taken unexpected twists and turns so really I shouldn’t be too surprised. I was supposed to run the Tiki Run in St. Paul, Minnesota for my Minnesota race in 2020 but of course that was cancelled because of the pandemic. In fact, the race director’s response time to messages and emails last year was so poor (he never responded) that I decided even if the race was held this year I would not run it.
When I saw things start to open back up including in-person races in the spring of this year and I was fully vaccinated, I started looking for half marathons in Minnesota and Iowa to run. I knew my race registration from the half marathon in New Mexico would roll into the November 2021 race so I didn’t have to bother finding a race for that state. Iowa was easy, with the race director for the Des Moines Marathon and Half Marathon basically stating the race would be held in-person come hell or high water, so I immediately signed up for that, leaving Minnesota.
My search for a half marathon in Minnesota was further complicated by the fact that my teenage daughter wanted to run it with me but didn’t want to miss school for it. That meant I needed to find an in-person half marathon in Minnesota between mid-June and the end of July (we already had a trip planned in August just before she goes back to school). That didn’t leave many options, and given the fact that the pandemic still wasn’t 100% over and some races were at limited capacity or going the virtual route, that left barely any races. To further limit my choices, I knew how hot it gets in Minnesota in July, so I had my fingers crossed I could find a race in the last two weeks of June.
As luck would have it, I found the Circle of Life Half Marathon in Lake City, about an hour from Minneapolis. Knowing absolutely nothing about the race course, the town or surrounding area, or really anything other than the race director assured me it would be an in-person race, I signed up myself and my daughter and began making travel plans.
I found a good flight deal using travel credits I had from cancelled flights in 2020 and flew into St. Paul/Minneapolis a few days before the race, giving me plenty of wiggle room before the race, should anything happen with the flights (everything went smoothly). We checked out the National Eagle Center in nearby Wabasha, https://www.nationaleaglecenter.org/, walked around the very few shops in the towns of Wabasha and Lake City, and just took it easy until the race Saturday morning.
It turns out Lake City is the birthplace of water skiing, and there is a huge festival every June that includes concerts, an arts and crafts fair, a water ski show, a car show, a parade, and more. Most of the events began on Friday evening and ran through the weekend but I had planned on checking out immediately after the race on Saturday so we missed all of that. Oh well. We were there for a half marathon anyway, right. On to that.
Packet pickup was quick and easy at the same place as the race start/finish: Underwood Park in Lake City. I picked up a cotton t-shirt, bib with a chip embedded in it, and a plastic bag with a granola bar, water bottle, some coupons, a local booklet, and some other odds and ends, most of which went in the trash or recycling.
I always like to drive the race course the evening before a race and this one was no exception, only this time I was a bit early. I happened to see someone putting up small signs by the road near packet pickup and noticed he was putting up mile markers. Great! I thought! But it wasn’t so great because he was going pretty slowly, driving to each mile, getting out of his truck, grabbing the mile marker sign and hammering it into the ground, sometimes also adding direction arrows as well. I quickly felt like a stalker, which I pretty much was. I tried to follow behind him with some distance but a few times I would catch up sooner than I thought I would and not have anywhere to “hide” the car so I would just sit off the side of the road until he moved on. My daughter had a good time laughing at the situation and we made a sort of game out of it. Who knows if the guy saw me and if he did what on earth did he think about a woman and her teenage daughter following behind him for 13’ish miles.
It was good and bad that I saw the course before the race start. The good was I knew fully what I was in for, the bad was I knew fully what I was in for. Part of the course was on a gravel road, which I detest running on, and even worse, some of it went uphill. There’s not much worse than running uphill on a gravel road. Further, there was a steep hill near the finish, which I’ve always felt is cruel and unusual punishment by a race director.
Even though the weather forecast had called for a downpour around 7 am, which was race start time, by the time I checked that morning, it had gotten downgraded to showers starting around 9 or 10 am. It was overcast and around 73 degrees, but no humidity, which my North Carolina self is used to, so it didn’t feel bad at all. We all lined up at the start and promptly were on our way.
My first mile was faster than I knew I should be going but I thought I would go by feel and most likely slow down on the gravel and hills, so I went with it (8:38). I still felt good for the next few miles (8:56, 8:48, 8:34) but then around mile 5.5 the paved road ended and was a gravel road. We had run by some homes in the first couple of miles but quickly were out in the country with not much other than farm land to distract us.
I felt like I couldn’t get my footing on the gravel and at times felt like I was almost running in place. Still, I was surprised I didn’t slow down too much (9:13, 9:08, 9:13). By the time we got back on paved roads, my quads were so tired from working so much harder on the gravel road, I knew I’d have to push mentally to keep anywhere near a 9-minute mile. We got a break and actually got to run down a short hill and I gained a tiny bit of time (8:54).
I struggled through the next mile (9:29) and I started to feel beat up, only to get another break with another short down hill (9:02). For the last 3.1 miles, I kept repeating to myself over and over, it’s only a 5k, I can run a 5k in my sleep, it’s only 2 more miles, it’s only 1.5 miles, it’s only a mile, I can crawl a mile. Those miles were tough ( 9:32, 9:48, 9:31) and were only made tougher with a steep hill we had to run up around mile 12. I was genuinely elated when I could finally see the finish line in sight.
My Garmin and Strava clocked me at 13.13 miles in 1:59:58, but the official time according to my chip was 2:00:00. There was bottled water, Gatorade, oranges, bananas, and huge cookies at the finish, along with medals for finishers, all 18 women and 25 men who ran it, by far the smallest half marathon I’ve ever run. I heard someone say at packet pickup how more people were running it this year than normally. There were no age group awards, no big party afterwards, everyone just got in their cars and went on their way after they cooled down and chatted with their friends. I was just happy to cross Minnesota off my list. It was definitely one of the hardest half marathons I’ve run, but the people I talked to before and after the race were also some of the nicest and friendliest people I’ve met at a race.