Saturday, March 28, 2015

2015 Racing Season: Freezin' for a Reason 10K, March 7, Garrison, IA

As I planned out my racing schedule for 2015, one conundrum I found was that the race I have started the season with each of the last two years had been changed again in the calendar and this time to the same day as the 17 miler I was signed up to run at Zumbro.  Since the plans were already made to race Zumbro, (which was my first choice anyway), I needed a race to start the season in order to check on how my fitness was and to get the first race of the season jitters out of my system. Enter the Freezin' for a Reason 10K.

The start line of the Freezin' for a Reason 10K, Garrison, IA
This race is sponsored by Pizza Hut with the purpose of raising funds for the World Hunger Program in order to help feed children who need a meal.  It starts and finishes in a small farm town called Garrison and is run on the Old Creamery Trail, a converted rail track line.  While originally about three dozen people had signed up for this race, only two dozen showed up to compete on race day. This race definitely had a small town, simple feel.  I love these races.

Before the start of the Freezin' for a Reason 10K.
I drove down that morning, my Runner's Tea ready, one bottle of the awesome Ginger Berry for beforehand and one bottle of the new recovery blend for the way home.  I was also able to get out my new BibRave Pro jersey and use it as a top layer over a heavier weight shirt for warmth.  It was a sunny day with the temps set to get into the high 30's, but with a stiff, cool wind that we would face on the second half of the race after the turnaround.

At registration, we had the choice of which type of personal pan pizza we wanted or chicken wings. I chose the wings, gathered my bib and pins, and got a nice long sleeve t-shirt as well. The RD was a nice guy in a crazy hat and pointed the way to the bathrooms in the newly built library.

We started the race right at 10am and headed east toward Vinton, IA.  Since the trail had a few inches of snowpack on it, I wanted to be able to see more clearly where my footplants would be, so after being stuck behind a couple of people, I put in a little surge to pass them.  (Uneven footplants caused me a slight injury to my right quad one year in New Hampshire after a snow covered 5K turkey trot.) That may or may not have been the best idea, as I probably took the initial mile or two out faster than I would have liked.

Sign near the start of the race on the Old Creamery Trail
The first couple of miles were very nice as the trail in this stretch slowly went up a slight grade through woods and over a stream. At one point, I saw what appeared to be something on the course up ahead of me.  As I got closer I thought it was a raccoon, probably dead, but always something to be wary about if still alive as it could have rabies---not unheard of in Iowa. As I got even closer, I realized it was a skunk, a dead one, or at least it appeared so. There was no real stench, so that was a relief at least!  I made sure to give it a wide berth just in case there was any sign of life.

As the course flattened and the trees thinned out, the course started to have less snow where the sun could get to it, but the melting was also causing the trail to be squishy and muddy in places.  It actually became smarter to find snow along the edges to run on as it was firmer.  Somewhere just before this, the first place runner, (wearing what most of us would consider clothes only to be worn at a track meet in the middle of May, plus a hat and gloves), passed me and I started the count to see where I was placed overall by the turnaround at halfway.

Heading east on the Old Creamery Trail towards Vinton.  I am the fourth from the left.  Lots of orange that day!
The turnaround was just 3.1 miles up from the start right in the middle of the trail, marked in bright spray paint with a pick-up behind it blocking us from going any further.  I turned around in 12th place.  I would have loved to have made the top 10, but I knew I was pushing myself and 11th seemed to continue to stay just enough in front of me that that might be hard, and 13th was inching closer. That runner did pass me around the aid station on the way back.  The wind wasn't too bad, but it could definitely be felt as we made our way back to town.  I kept up my pace as best as I could, and while I didn't get passed by anyone else, I also couldn't reel anyone in either.  The downhill came and I saw the skunk again on the trail.  It's belly looked like if you stepped on it, it would explode like a whoopie cushion someone left laying around the house for an unsuspecting victim, perhaps at Chrsitmas dinner.  (Yeah, we runners have weird thoughts going through our brains during races...)

I pushed hard in the final stretch and came home at a reasonable time considering the conditions in 13th/24 at 59:48.  (Freezin' for a Reason 10K 2015 Results.)  Though I do a lot of runs right around 10K during the year in training, I haven't raced a 10K in several years.  It seems like most things I have done in the last several years have all been 8K or less, or 15K and more.  This 10K was a great "B" race.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  This small town race raised $700 for World Hunger.  A job well done by the RD and his volunteers.

I hung around afterwards talking with a couple of the runners, eating wonderful chocolate brownies, and shooting the breeze about trails and races.  Even met a guy who will be running the 100 miler at Zumbro.  Having grabbed my food, eventually I made my way back to the car and headed home.

During the first half of the race, as we headed east through the tree lined trails.
Mile Splits:
1: 9:24.93
2: 9:43.47
3: 9:43.78
4: 9:48.95
5: 10:07.43
6: 9:33.64
Final .16: 1:25.97 (8:56/mi.)

Total: 6.16 miles in 59:48, average 9:43.  Snow pack and/or squishy, muddy trails.  Slight grade and flat on way out, flat and then slight grade down on the way back to the finish.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Product Review: Zensah, Ultra Compression Leg Sleeves

The Zensah Ultra Compression Leg Sleeves in Neon Yellow!

Disclaimer: I received a pair of Zensah Ultra Compression Leg Sleeves as part of being a BibRave Pro.  Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador) and check out to review, find, and write race reviews!

Three weeks ago I received a pair of Zensah Ultra Compression Leg Sleeves to review as part of being a BibRave Pro.  A day or two after I received the leg sleeves I was able to try them as a recovery aid post-race.  While the race was just a small 10K trail race, it was the first race of the season and run on snowpack, so my legs were actually quite tired afterwards.  In addition, we were going out that night to the symphony and it was also the same weekend we moved the clocks forward an hour. Talk about a perfect storm for making you exhausted when you have to speak twice the next morning!

Rockin' the Zensah Ultra Compressin Leg Sleeves after racing the Freezin' for a Reason 10K in Garrison, IA.

The first thing I noticed was that the leg sleeves are a little hard to put on being so tight.  That's not too much of a surprise though, as often the first time someone uses a new piece of compression wear, they have to learn how to slowly and carefully get the garment fitted right.  After I got them over my size 13 feet and onto my calves, I did not notice until later that I actually had them on backwards, as you will note from the above picture.  Realizing this, I fixed them and continued wearing them for several hours, including at the symphony, (under my jeans)!

Honestly, you do not even notice they are on your legs.  They are like wearing a second skin.  They fit snugly, but in no way caused restriction or pain.  My calves felt great, and I actually felt pretty good the next day, enough that I could easily handle my work schedule of speaking twice in the morning and then coming home to do things with the family in the afternoon.  I used the sleeves 2 more times in this way, each after my longest, hardest runs of the last couple of weeks.  They are definitely a great recovery aid.

Others however might be more prone to use them on a long run, and that would make great sense, and I'd expect that they would work very well, and similar to compression socks.  While I did not use them during one of my runs, especially as we are still coming out of winter right now, I did use them this morning during a workout routine in my basement.  Again, you hardly notice that they are on and they performed very well, keeping my calves strong, and actually warm too since it's pretty cold right now in my basement!  

Doing a stretch with my Zensah Ultra Compression Leg Sleeves this AM.

I mentioned on Twitter that I would be posting this review and if anyone had questions, to let me know.  One question that came up from a follower in California was "Are leg sleeves the same as arm sleeves?"  I replied that not typically as they are so different in shape.  However, I did do due diligence to just make sure I was correct by checking out the website.  I was correct, but I also found something that might be a dream come true: I kept thinking while I was using the sleeves on my calves, how awesome it would be to have these things for my thighs, especially after a hard, long trail run...BAM!  They do have them!!! Here's the link: Zensah Thigh Compression Sleeves!

Now, Zensah, can I get a pair of these to try out and review?  :)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Athlete Interview: Kim MacKenzie, Part 1

Should I run on this today?  Sidewalk in Halifax, NS
It is a bit of an understatement to say that training this winter for the upcoming Spring race season has been challenging.  Many of us have suffered through one successive snowstorm and/or bitter freeze after another.  The Midwest, New England and Eastern Canada have especially been hit hard and many of us have struggled with our running. This tends to hit us the hardest when we are looking to get in the traditional long runs which are needed in order for us to be ready for distances like the marathon. 

One friend of mine from Halifax, Nova Scotia that I have gotten to know over social media is Kim MacKenzie.  In this first of a two-part interview, we discuss this with her, along with her entry into running and her preparations as she takes on perhaps the most beloved marathon venue in the world at Boston.

Brad Zinnecker/Trail Running Faith: Kim, do you like to be called Kim, Kimmy, Kimberly, or just not late for dinner?

Or how about running on this sidewalk in Halifax? 
Kim MacKenzie:  Hi Brad! I can’t tell you how privileged I feel to be talking to you about Boston. I get called and answer to all the above but I guess in person I would introduce myself as “Kim,” and if you call me late for supper I likely already made other plans! 

Brad:  Good to know!  Kim, tell us about yourself and your entry into running.

Kim:  I have always been fit but have never really pushed myself physically.  I did not run when I was younger, except in sports like baseball or maybe to catch the bus...LOL!  I started running when my brother challenged me in 2012 to run a local 8K race as part of our town’s annual summer festival.  I had no running gear, no sneakers… NOTHING!  In fact I purposely didn’t wear runners as they made my feet look big, which they are!  (It’s hard to believe just 2.5 years later ALL that I have in my closet is running gear!  I love Saucony and Adidas wear!)  

Wow, I never cried so much in my life preparing for that race…who knew running was so hard!   I did my first few Spring runs in Uggs or rubber boots if you can believe it and then broke down and bought some sneakers from Walmart.  By late May I still couldn’t run 3 minutes without stopping and while I would like to blame my asthma, that would be a lie.  I did manage to complete the race and won my age group, but there were only like ten people in the race!  It didn’t matter, I was hooked and loved every minute of that day.

Kim at her first ever 8K where she won her age group!
I then started doing 5 & 10K's and enjoyed everyone in 2012!  The next year, 2013, I focused more on the half and triathlons before setting my sights on my first marathon that Fall.  Due to a foot injury and perhaps a lack of experience I did not meet my goal of getting a qualifying run for Boston in 2013.  I was bummed, but I learned to respect the marathon.  I decided that in 2014 I was getting a Boston qualifier and therefore there was no shifting focus.   It was a busy year training and competing, but in the end I got 2 Boston qualifying runs and completed my first Ironman Triathlon, (3.8k swim/ 180k bike/42.2k run). 

Brad:  Wow!  Kim, some people might be just a bit jealous to hear that you went from no running, to qualifying for Boston in about 2 years, +/-.  That's pretty awesome!  

Now, speaking of Boston, it's a little more than a month away and living way out in Halifax, the weather for training has been pretty rough, just as in the Boston area.  I know from talking with you on Twitter, it's been a bit overwhelming.  How are you handling it?

The finish of Kim's first Ironman in 2014.
Kim:  Well, to be truthful, I haven't felt so discouraged and unmotivated in a long while, especially in regards to something I was so passionate about previously.  To get up every morning and feel that cold, and I mean cold! Cold blowing down your neck, (you know what I mean Brad, you've dealt with it, the -20C to -30C windchill cold) is kinda difficult, but hey, it's winter and I live in Canada, it's to be expected and I am a cold weather runner.  But it was, (is), the running conditions of the roads, paths, and sidewalks that have me so bummed.  It is completely unsafe and downright silly at times to try and run them.  Yes, I know I could be doing the treadmill/indoor track, but when you've lost motivation, when you feel suffocated running on treadmills/tracks with dead air all around you, it's easy to pass them up, which I have most times.  I cannot do distance or speed in those situations, but instead just plod along.  I try not to be a slave to my schedule because of the need for flexibility.  Instead, I try and take just one day, one km at a time.  I still struggle daily with the frustration of not being able to get out and run though.

Brad:  Yeah, I hear you!  We don't have an indoor track in our small farm town and I don't care to run on the treadmill either.  Back to Boston, tell us more about your qualifiers.

Kim:  Like I said earlier, I was determined to succeed at getting a qualifier after my first marathon attempt in November, 2013.  I have never learned so much about myself as in that first marathon over the span of 4 hours and 4 minutes.  Grit, tenacity, perseverance, you name it…not to mention learning to respect the marathon and anyone who attempts to complete one. 

I had trained through an extremely cold winter that year as well and got my first qualifier in Fredericton, New Brunswick in May with a time of 3:50:05.  I had trained so hard that the event itself went very smooth.  I loved every second and it was by far the “easiest” run I had done to that date.  I didn’t push myself as I knew that I didn't have much experience and was still a novice and unsure of the risks I’d be taking if I altered my plan.  I stayed the course of my marathon pace consistently and raced a "safe" race ensuring a qualifying time.  I ran another marathon in the fall hoping to test and push my limits since I already had my Boston qualifier and "what did I have to lose."  I mean you don’t know your limits until you push beyond them right?!?  However at the end of the day, my mind won out and I ran another "safe" race and qualified again with a 3:50:06 on Prince Edward Island.  I guess you can’t say I’m not consistent! 

Kim after the PEI marathon with her daughter Tiffany.
Brad:  Isn't that a double negative Kim? :)  What's training looking like these days? What's your weekly mileage up to, your long run?  

Kim:  I have a training schedule which I used to be a slave too but I can say I’ve had to make serious adjustments over this winter.   I’ve missed many recovery and medium runs as it was just so unsafe outside.  I have tried to substitute with other forms of cross training, obviously not the same, but better than nothing I figure.   I’m not near as fit as I want to be or should be this far into the training season but I am working hard on accepting that this is where I am and I need to deal with it!  Mileage has been anywhere between 50-70km a week these last few weeks.  I am heading out for my 30km long run tomorrow morning, (Februaray 28).  I finally have sole spikes in my runners and will try them for the first time! Excited!!!

I did have a great tempo run yesterday morning at 5am doing repeats across our harbor bridge here in Halifax.  This was the only ice free place I could find to run.  It was WONDERFUL and helped me find some motivation, focus, and drive.

Brad:  Awesome!  Besides crazy winter weather, what other difficulties are you facing?  How are you handling them?

Kim:  Crazy weather aside, I have been dealing with a personal loss which saddens me and sometimes shifts my focus off Boston but I am managing...trying to regroup.  I find great support in family, friends and my on-line Twitter running them all!  I also think I am feeling a bit burnt out from last year’s training. I felt like I never stopped with training for the marathon/Ironman/marathon stretch.

Brad:  I am honoured to be part of that Twitter running group Kim!  What else motivates you, encourages you, and/or focuses you?

Kim:  My motivation comes from friends and family that believe in me.  If they only knew how far that goes in helping me!  I grow from their push and belief.  Call me crazy but I also watch motivational clips on YouTube ALL THE TIME, love them – that inspires me!  Finally I’m feeling a bit of a positive change after that great tempo run yesterday, just need a couple more good runs to keep it going! 

Brad:  Yes, YouTube clips of trail and ultra running definitely inspire me as well.  As you get closer to Boston, you must have thought about what may happen that day.  What are your goals for Boston? What's your perfect day goal, stinky day goal, and average day goal?

Kim:  Ohhhh, Boston’s goal!  Well, I have not told anyone these goals except Kenzie and Tracey, who are both dear friends.  For me to say them aloud frightens me a bit, not sure why…fear of failure to meet them I suppose.
  • Stinky Goal – longer than 4:30
  • Average Goal – 4 hours’ish
  • Perfect Goal – 3:50:04!
Keep in mind I have not been to Boston or the course so this may all be completely ridiculous as far as the goals…chat me up later and I’ll fill you in!  :)

Brad:  That's exactly what we are going to do in part 2, a post-race Boston Marathon interview!  But, before then, any more races before Boston?

Kim:  I was going to do the "Moose Race" here in Nova Scotia in March.  I was told this was a race that was originally held to prepare runners heading to Boston. Unfortunately, I will be away that weekend so I will miss it---so no more races before Boston.

Brad:  Anything else to add Kim before we close off part 1?

Kim:  The biggest thing about Boston is that I want to enjoy the experience.  I hear it is electric!  I don’t want to be so caught up and focused that I miss it.   I am extremely hard and critical on myself and have sometimes missed a moment that I should have been appreciating.  I want to enjoy the pre-race day events/fun and just be excited about finishing and not get to caught up on whether my time is perfect or not.

If I can go and finish the day being thankful to have had the opportunity to do something some can only dream of (that I have dreamed of), to laugh often, smile and tap hands along the course-then I will consider it a success.  Thank you so much Brad for taking the time to chat with me!

Kim excited as she races and hoping to be expressing the same joy at Boston in April!
Brad:  Thank you too Kim.  I'll certainly be praying and cheering for you that day!  Hope it's a great run and one you always remember with great joy!

Stay tuned in April, and we will have part 2 with Kim and find out how everything went for her in Boston.

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