Advice for the "Loony Challenge" Race Weekend

>> Thursday, September 18, 2014

I was curious the best way to approach a multiple-race-weekend (like the "Loony Challenge" coming up in just over 2 weeks - a 10K and 5K on Sat, and a 10 Mile on Sun). So I talked to 3 different people. I asked them 6 questions about their experience and got some good info! Here's a intro to these 3 folks:

First I talked to Tim. We've known each other for a few years - we see each other at local races now-and-then. He finished in the top 20% or so last year at the inaugural "Loony Challenge," so I was curious what he had to say about it all.

Tim and I with a bunch of lady-friends as seen in my 2008 Chisago Lakes Triathlon race report.

Tim (more recently) on the run.

Next I talked to Coach Liz. I know she's done big race weekends like this. She's done the "Dopey Challenge" in Florida which consists of a 5K, 10K, half marathon, and FULL marathon all in the same weekend! That's almost 50 miles of racing! I was curious about her recovery secrets.

Liz during her big race weekend.

This was at a point when Liz stopped during one of her races for a pic!

Finally, I actually got a hold of the winner of last year's inaugural "Loony Challenge" here in the Twin Cities. His name is Thomas Datwyler, and he finished the 10K in 38:17, the 5K in 18:38, and the 10 Mile in 1:02:21 for a Loony total of 1:59:16 (over 4 minutes faster than the next finisher). When I signed up for the Loony many months ago, I figured around 2 hours would be a good day, but that was before my April ankle injury that I'm still just getting over.

Thomas racing.

At Boston (on the left).

So I asked Liz how she got through her nearly 50-mile race weekend. She told me she ran the 5K easy, and then used a run/walk strategy for the 10K, 13.1, and 26.6:

My interval for the 10K was run 5 minutes, power walk 1 minute. I still finished in under an hour. For the half and full marathon I did a run 5 minutes, power walk 5 minutes interval. I’m not going to lie, it was mentally tough to do that and take those 5 minute walking breaks very early in the race as everyone is running by. By the middle miles of the race I was with a consistent group of people and had caught up to some who blew out of the gate fast and had to slow down. In the last miles of the races, I was leaving people behind and never seeing them again when my 5 min run segment came up.

She said her pace in the half and full were 32 to 45 minutes off her PR pace - I though that was actually pretty good, considering! She said she wasn't out there to "race," but just to "survive the mileage."

Tim had some decent training, but ended up running fewer miles than he had hoped in the 2 months leading up to the TC Loony last year. He actually hoped to set PRs in all distances, noting that he doesn't really run 5Ks. Going into race day, his plan was this:

I knew that the strength I had been working on was helping but also, as said above, that my miles were down. So I just decided to try to match all my best times.

It didn’t work.

He ended up running the 10K 0:05 slower/mile than his PR pace, his 5K nearly 0:45 slower/mile than his PR pace (his big disappointment of the weekend), and the 10 Mile use 0:04 slower/mile than his half marathon PR pace. Again, that all doesn't look too bad to me. Tim said that even though his miles were lower than he had hoped going into the races, he thinks having a proper focus really helped him get through the weekend.

Thomas (the winner of the "Loony Challenge" last year) backed off slightly in the 10K and 5K, knowing that the 10 Mile would be the hardest race of the weekend. Additionally, he figured:

...I could make up more time/ground on the other racers during the 10 mile than the 10k and 5k combined. So the plan was to make the 10 miler my "A" race and the 10k/5k my "B" races. I left out my kick for both the 10k and 5k, even though it's a fast finish coming down the hill! I tried to conserve as much energy, run as efficient as possible and keep my thoughts positive during the 10k and 5k.

Thomas is a pretty speedy guy: his 10K PR is 35:04, and his 5K PR is 16:41. During the "Loony" weekend, his 10K was 38:17, and his 5K was 18:38 (both just a few seconds shy of what he was hoping to run). He felt great in the opening miles of the 10 Mile and decided to shoot for sub-1:02, but came up just 21 seconds over his goal time.

Thomas running.

To keep loose between the races, everyone kept moving. Thomas stretched, jogged over a mile, and walked around (making sure not to sit down). Liz recounted her big weekend at the Dopey Challenge saying:

At first, fatigue was a big issue as well as muscles that felt heavy and dead on the second or third day. Making sure I did proper fueling, foam rolling, and recovery was important.

Liz went on to say "as soon as each race finished, I jammed a banana in my mouth and started walking back to my hotel or towards the bus to take me back to my resort. No sitting around!"

Tim didn't do anything between the 2 closest races (the 10K and 5K), and he recalls:

... This was my biggest mistake that I made. I didn’t think it would be a problem as long as I walked and stood around. I honestly thought it wasn’t enough time for my legs to “cool down”. [Note from Steve: the 10K is at 7:30 and the 5K is at 9:00, so it's a QUICK turn-around.] Then I started the 5k and knew I was toast. My legs just had nothing in them. The first mile of my 5k was a paltry 8:37. Part of this was poor placement at the start but my 2nd mile was only 8:21. It wasn’t until my 3rd mile when I ran a 7:47 mile that I felt like if I just had a little more distance I could make up a little for the first 2 miles. But alas, what can I say? I strongly suggest a foam roller with you and loosen up those calves and keep the hamstrings warmed up.

As far as training goes, I think all 3 of them mentioned getting in lots of miles. When I first reached out to these 3 runners a few weeks ago, it was only about a month before the Loony Challenge, so I wasn't about to drastically alter any of my training. But I was curious what they found worked, didn't work, or what they'd do differently next time. Tim had some specific training thoughts for getting used to running on tired legs:

I would practice running hard after taking an hour off from running hard. Not too much, mind you, but enough to get the body to adapt. I think an example for me would be a 2 mile warm up, then 2 miles at 10k pace, take an hour break then run hard for just 1 mile.

I still think that running Friday night, then Saturday morning then Saturday afternoon is a good plan. The key is to not injure yourself here, I think doing this for a few weekends at shorter distances and then taking turns which run to run at race pace is good enough. An example would be 4 miles Friday night easy, then Saturday am, warm up 1 or 1-1/2 miles then run race pace for 2 miles, then Saturday evening easy again for 3-4 miles. Again, alternate each weekend which run will be the hard run.

And if I remember correctly, Twin Cities in Motion (the race organizers for the TC 10 Mile, Marathon, and the 5K and 10K) posted an article a few months ago about doing some double-run weekends to help with training. I think they mentioned doing a tempo run on Saturday, and then doing a long run on Sunday a few times to get used to the tired legs feeling.

Liz was happy with how she ran the races, noting that should could have probably done better if she incorporated more speed work into her training (I got the gist that she was training mainly to get through the MILES of that crazy long weekend).

Liz with ALLLLL of her race medals after her weekend of a 5K, 10K, Half Marathon,
and full Marathon. Liz is just a little bit insane (and I mean that as a compliment of course).

Finally, I asked about race expectations and what to expect when doing multiple races over a weekend. Here were some of their final thoughts:

Thomas said that he was ready for the 10 Mile to hurt. He told me that "I really wasn't looking forward to racing 10 miles on legs that felt like lead. Fortunately, I felt much better than I thought I was going to feel during the 10 mile and I was able to push my body without my legs feeling like garbage." His race plan of taking it easier during the 10K and 5K and keeping loose between those races seemed to work!

Tim had a good point about making sure to have the right focus for the weekend - keeping the emphasis on the WEEKEND of races and not just 1 race.

Liz warned me that she could "see how a very competitive runner could become disappointed by their performance if they were trying to win the whole thing or to get close to their PR times. [She might be talking about me right there.] Stage races like this are not the place to try to get a PR unless you are doing the stage race again the next year and trying to lower your time. You have to change your expectations a bit." That's not what Tim did, but Tim kept the right focus after his plan wasn't panning out.

Here's some final closing advice from last year's winner, Thomas: "Stress less, enjoy it more, and take it all in!" Thomas doesn't know me, but this is good advice for an "over-thinker" like me. Thanks Thomas, Liz, and Tim!

Check out Coach Liz's blog here and Tim's blog here.

p.s. Make sure to stop back because I have some good stuff planned next week: I'm doing a duathlon this weekend (so there will be a race report), I have an entry to giveaway for a 5K/10K in St. Paul that takes place next month, and I rode part of the "new" TC 10 Mile course yesterday morning and took some photos. Spoiler alert: it's hillier than the same parts of the old course. Dang. I'll be posting more on all of this shortly. (And in a week or 2, I'll post what *I* was able to take away from these interviews above and what my weekend race plan will be for the Loony Challenge.)

p.p.s. And come back tomorrow for a few "Friday Funny" posts!

p.p.p.s. On my ride yesterday morning, my 8-year-old Speedplay pedals decided to call it quits:

Gotta get these replaced before this weekend's duathlon!


Having Fun = Fitness

>> Wednesday, September 17, 2014

People sometimes ask why I wear bright shorts when racing. I always say "because you've gotta have fun!" Training, racing, and life isn't as bad when you have fun.

Speaking of bright shorts and racing, I think I'm doing a duathlon this weekend. It's a longer duathlon (for our area), but it would be good endurance training for the TC Loony weekend. Right now, there's a 50% chance of thunderstorms. Yay. Fun.

I hope to have a few interviews ready to be posted tomorrow about how to race/approach a weekend like the "TC Loony Challenge" (10K and 5K on Saturday Oct 4, and a 10 Mile on Sunday Oct 5). Check back for some interesting stuff!


Week of SOLID Running Workouts!

>> Monday, September 15, 2014

I need to rest for a few days - I've had some great workouts leading up to the TC 10 Mile (and the "Looney Challenge") in just under 3 weeks. But now my hip/sacrum is pretty achy. I've had 5 runs in a row that were every-other-day from last Saturday though this Sunday. The last 4 workouts have followed a week of workouts from Coach Jen from 4 years ago as I was training for my sub-60 TC 10 Mile.

• Sat, Sept 6: 1-mile intervals. (I posted a little about this workout HERE.) I ran on the road around my house, and ran an average of 5:49.

• Mon, Sept 8: 10+ miles done as a 2 mile warm-up, 5 miles descending, 3 mile cool-down. (Also posted a bit about this workout HERE.) I descended my middle 5 miles in 6:36, 6:19, 6:16, 6:20, and 6:00 (31:31 for those hard 5 miles).

• Wed, Sept 10: 7+ mile tempo done as a 2 mile warm-up, 4 miles descending FAST, and a 1+ mile cool-down. I've learned I have more speed left in my legs than I thought. My final mile was TOO fast because I'm saving too much in the middle. My 4 fast miles were 6:18, 6:16, 6:13, and 5:45. Yeah, saved a little too much for that final mile. Dang.

• Thurs, Sept 11: 3x500 in the pool. I had time for a QUICK swim between my class and a meeting at the college where I teach. Quickly cranked out 500s in 7:54, 7:53, and 7:54.

• Fri, Sept 12: easy, easy, easy 7 miler. Got in some stretching too.

• Sat, Sept 13: bike ride with 3x5 mile intervals. It was CHILLY on Saturday morning! I Instagrammed this:

"From this morning: dressing for a 45 degree ride is never sexy."

And then that afternoon, I got in some relaxed walking as we celebrated my brother-in-law Matt's bachelor party. We had 9 guys hitting the links for some shitty golf as seen in 2 more Instagrammed photos:

"Dear Goodrich Golf Course: we treated this as a suggestion. Hope that's alright. Thanx."

"Beautiful day to be out with the bachelor party boy."

(Oh, and here's a video of my youngest brother-in-law taking his first shot of the day. He's a majestic creature. Majestic like a drunk bear in heat.)

• Sun, Sept 14: 11+ miles done as a 2.5 mile warm-up, 5 miles at 10-mile race pace, then cool down for the rest of the miles. My mile hard miles were 6:13, 6:21, 6:11, 6:11, and 6:03. (30:59 for those hard 5 miles.) My first half-mile was my fastest (I went out TOO hard) - it was my only half-mile split of sub-3:00. I knew I couldn't hold on to that, so I slowed up a bit and then tried to hold on and keep it consistent.

Pointless nerdy math: Like I said at the start of this post, the last 4 runs were the same runs during a week of training with Coach Jen from 4 years ago. One of those runs was an easy run. So looking at the 3 hard runs, I was 0:11 slower/mile in the 10 miler, 0:17 slower/mile in the tempo, and 0:18 slower/mile in the 11 miler. I'd LOVE to run a 1:03:something this year at the TC 10 Mile (that's my "best case scenario"), which is 6:18 to 6:24 pace. That's 0:23 to 0:29 slower/mile than I did 4 years ago, BUUUUUT this year I'm running the 10K and 5K the day before. So, based on all of this, I think it's POSSIBLE to make sub-1:04 a reality. But the big "X-factor" is how my legs will feel after racing a 10K and 5K the day before. Should be fun!


Friday Funny 791: Being a Non-Athletic Person in Madison During Ironman Wisconsin

>> Friday, September 12, 2014

One of the young writers from The Badger Herald in Wisconsin (duh) recently wrote this article about Ironman Wisconsin:

"Ironman Wisconsin: The one day a year where I feel like an extra shitty person"

Every year, a day rolls around where I and many others in Madison feel 50 times more hungover and lazy than we actually are. It’s the day of Ironman Wisconsin.

On my way to work at the Herald this Sunday, I had to avoid roped-off streets, backed-up traffic and increased police roadblocks until I was finally able to reach State Street. It was there that I paused and watched some of the most dedicated athletes in the United States running the final stretches of a grueling endurance test. These people started off their day swimming 2.4 miles in Lake Monona. Then they voluntarily biked 112 miles. Now, they were completing a full marathon through the city of Madison. By the end of the night, a handsome percentage of these people would be shitting and pissing themselves because their bodies would literally shut down on them.

I, meanwhile, had started off my day as many of these people would end theirs: shitting violently. This was not due to exercise, however. It was because the night before, I had decided it would be a good idea to drink — among many other things — something called a “Straw-Ber-Ita.” I apparently also thought it was a good idea to end my night shoving sesame chicken into my mouth before falling asleep.

As I watched these kings and queens of endurance, I realized that I had woken up hungover three days in a row. I realized that the last time I had exercised was well over a week ago. I realized that after only a week of class I had already fallen behind on readings. I realized that I didn’t even have the textbooks for these classes. I realized that I had lost touch with a decent number of my friends who were very important to me throughout my first couple years of college. I realized that maybe I should be less shitty of a person.

Normally, I do not think of myself as a shitty person. I consider myself a compassionate and productive member of society. But as I stood there, watching these endurance beasts run past me while my head felt like a sack of bricks, I was struck by how dedicated these people were to pursuing an insane goal of traveling 140.6 miles by swimming, biking and running. These people were able to accomplish something most of us will never do in our entire lives. They were attempting something extremely difficult and actually accomplishing it.

After watching for a while, I made a lengthy to-do list of things I wanted to get done. The list included trivial things like “buy textbooks” and “clean room” and “get coffee with (insert name here).” After watching these people push themselves to the point of involuntary defecation, these simple tasks that I had been putting off for a long time seemed a lot less difficult.

I have a friend who once did mushrooms and watched hours’ worth of YouTube videos of people running marathons. He decided to join a track club and competed in various races throughout the Midwest over the following year. Like me, he was inspired by this superhuman endurance and decided to make positive changes to his life. While I don’t plan on joining a track club any time soon, I’ve come into this week tackling problems headfirst, with the understanding that conflicts and obligations — be they related to school, work or my social life — are all pretty insignificant and relatively easy to deal with.

So, what have I learned from this? I guess it’s this: If you’re ever feeling hopeless or feel like the things you have to accomplish in life are just too much, go to YouTube and watch some videos of people running marathons, skiing hundreds of miles, swimming long distances or completing Ironman triathlons. You’ll realize that your life isn’t so hard. You might be hungover today, but there’s always tomorrow to start working on not being a shithead.

Oh, and in other funny news, Little Debbie is adding a competitive eating competition to Ironman Chattanooga. (Not really. But that'd be awesome.)

Lots more funny stuff posted all week long on Happy weekend!


Friday Funny 790: Man vs. Ice Cream

You all know "former student Jeremy." He raced a lot of the 2012 Grand Prix races with me, and we've teamed up TWICE this year:

Our first place relay (NEARLY setting a course record) at the Trinona Triathlon.

Another first place relay at the Waconia Triathlon.

Well, he recently went to Nelson's Ice Cream Shop here in St. Paul, and he tried to conquer "the lumberjack." That's 5 softball-sized scoops of ice cream and a ton of toppings. If you finish it by yourself, you get your photo on a "hall of fame" wall. Jeremy's attempt was well documented by his friend Emily, and she kept the updates coming on Facebook. Here's how it went down (with Emily's captions):

Jeremy vs The Lumberjack

8:27pm: Jeremy has asked to borrow my hoodie and said, "I am beginning to doubt myself."

8:36pm: We have moved outside because it is warmer. Jeremy has
uncontrollable shakes. He admits, "Maybe I wasn't ready for this."

8:42: Jeremy is contemplating his life decisions.
[OH GOD, HIS EYES!!!! Ha!]

8:47pm: "I'm going to throw up."

8:53pm: "I've never hated ice cream so much in my life."

8:58pm: "My heart is beating really hard. I think I have a fever. My body is shutting down."

9:03: "Where is that fried fish smell coming from?" Jeremy can't focus on
the ice cream and is highly sensitive to his surroundings.


9:12pm: Second wind.


[Jeremy's post:] That was honestly the single most sinful, satanic thing I've done in my entire life.

Jeremy posted later: "Thank you to all of my supportive friends and fans. I couldn't have done it without you. Word of advice: never do it. It's the worst thing ever and I think ice cream and I are no longer on speaking terms."

And when someone asked how he did it, his friend Emily responded with "All I will say is, Jeremy was nice enough not to puke in my car. Other places though..." Gross. Awesome. Well done, Jeremy.

Check out more funny stuff on my tumblr page:


Friday Funny 789: 15 Funny Marathon Signs

Runner's World recently posted some funny signs from different races. Here are the best 15 (many with captions from the people who submitted them):

2011 Vermont City Marathon. Our 'Ricky Bobby fan' friend got second place so the sign helped!

Cheering on some friends at the 2013 Philly Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon,
I had NO idea how much attention this sign would get! A solid 70% of
the guys were like, 'Am I the creepy one?' Haha. (Yes.)

Good advice at a marathon on St. Patrick's Day.

They spelt "chasing" wrong. Oh wait...

Favorite race motivation sign ever partially due to the sign holder. This was at the top
of Deming Heights Hill, the highest point in Minneapolis, during the "Red, White,
and Boom! Half Marathon" on July 4 this year.

Took while running the 2013 Boston Marathon. Boston fans are the best. This sign is
my all-time favorite. If it had been any later in the race I might have fallen for it…

Made this sign for my husband left (411) for the Harrisburg Half this past weekend. I was supposed
to run too, but broke my toe and was benched by my doctor. The sign got a lot of attention.

Lots more funny stuff on!


Friday Funny 788: Food Realizations

Meat raisins are my favorite fruit.

Lots more funny stuff posted all week long on



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