Category Archives: Race Review

Anatomy of a DNS

DNS… Three nasty letters that I’ve never had to use before (at least in the running sense).  Did Not Start… DNS…  In my mind I know that a lot can happen between signing up for a race and actually reaching the starting line. A percentage of people get hurt during training, travel snafus, etc…  In my 20 some years of running I can’t recall ever having a DNS next to my name. I can definitively say that I’ve never had one in my post-collegiate career.

So why after 20 years did it occur?  That’s a good question and not really an easy one to answer. It was a combination of things that really culminated in one simple answer.  It wouldn’t be a wise decision.

I felt some reluctance to not start and even though my wife and I talked about it over a week before the race I couldn’t bring myself to announce it to anyone beforehand.  I felt bad for my 1st Covenant – Team World Vision teammates, I was their captain and I wasn’t going to be racing alongside them. I felt bad for my 2015 donors who had given to support me and brought clean water to people in need.  Honestly, I did feel a little bad for myself too – was I a quitter?

But it was the right decision and being at the race actually confirmed my decision.  They day was significantly better than last year, but still warm, humid, and sunny.  Those conditions plus the shadeless, rolling hilly course wouldn’t have been ideal for me.

So why didn’t I run? Simply put I wasn’t in shape to run a half marathon on August 1. That’s the easy answer.  But why wasn’t I in shape?  I’ve been doing Cross-fit, running, biking, hiking, etc.  The fitness should have been there.  But it wasn’t. Why not? I wasn’t being super-consistent with my training but I did the long runs, pushing my kids even.

Ok, let’s roll back the clock. For a period of time now while running I’ve gotten these weird sensations in my chest and my heart has been beating like crazy.  Don’t freak out.  My wife, a nurse, and my doctor have both already grilled me.  I wasn’t having a stroke or heart attack. When this happened I would back off the throttle and let my heart rate come down a bit and be fine.  Sometimes this would take awhile and it would usually come with a loss of power for a bit.  Some of you who have ridden or run with me might remember some of these random instances. I didn’t really think anything of it.

Looking back it has never occurred during a WOD at Cross-Fit or while taking a spin class at the YMCA.  It seems to happen when I pick up my pace while running or biking, or after a long period of exertion.  I haven’t consistently worn a heart rate monitor over time but when I have nothing seemed out of the ordinary.  In April I rode the Dickie’s Scramble 75 mile gravel (and hill) grinder.  It was a brutal ride and I had some trouble with some of the hills, when I pushed hard my heart rate went up.  I wasn’t watching my heart rate monitor but after the ride I remember that it said I had a Max HR of 238.  I mentioned it to the guys at dinner and we all agreed it had to be an equipment mistake.

So why did I sign up for a race? Remember, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal.  Something that would improve with conditioning. I trained, doing long runs and as long as I controlled the pace or maintained a steady, comfortable pace I was fine.  Ok, let’s come back closer to the present time.  On my July 11 long run several odd things happened that kind of messed up the routine. That was the day of the Lifetime Triathlon which makes it really hard to get to where the Team World Vision group runs meet.  No worries, I parked nearby and was going to wait for them to come down.  I even got to cheer a few people I knew racing the triathlon.  As I waited and waited I decided they might actually have gone a different way, so I took off.  After stopping at the porta-pot for Nadia they actually caught up to me.

My usual running partner was racing but I’ve run with some of the others so I fell in with them.  Chatting along the pace got a little faster and I felt my heart speed up, so I slowed down. I was pretty confident I knew the 10 mile route and wasn’t too concerned.  I don’t remember the whole run, but I do remember it was warming up and I was getting tired.  Sure mental games that we all must endure, so I endured.  Some of the group in front of me turned around and passed me heading the opposite direction.  Odd, but they are training for the marathon, I kept going.  Somewhere in there I had another “episode” or two, but kept trudging along.  My run took forever…  And I screwed up the 10 mile route and only ran 8.5 miles (probably a good thing).  I ended up running an average of 10 minute pace which is pretty slow for me, even pushing the kids.  My last run with the kids was 7 miles at 8:49 pace.

Ok, so I had a bad run.  Chalk it up to a crappy day.  I had actually remembered to wear my heart rate monitor for the run and when I looked at the data it said Max HR 238 and average HR was in the 170’s.  Possibly, still an equipment error, but I felt horrible.  It took over an hour for my HR to come back down into the resting zone and by the afternoon I felt like I’d run a marathon.  The next morning, I still felt horrible like post-race horrible.  Not an easy 8.5 mile at 10 minute pace should feel.  That’s when I decided something might be up.  The culmination of all of those things happening at one time made it clear to me that I needed to go find a doctor to check me out.

Understandably my wife got a little freaked out.  Asking lots of questions, getting out her stethoscope.  I do have a low-grade heart murmur and she says I have an occasional arrhythmia. The doctor did his work… And of course everything was fine and normal while at the clinic. He had to listen carefully to hear the murmur and I didn’t have any irregular heart patterns while he was listening. He did do an EKG on me and had some blood work drawn.  He said the EKG looked perfect and my blood work was all in the normal ranges.  So next step is to see a Cardiologist.  He wants me to see a specific guy who doescardiac electrophysiology, or studies how the heart’s electrical system (rhythm) works.  Unfortunately, I can’t see him until mid-September. The doctor who did the exam said that I would be fine to continue working out – running, biking, and Cross-fitting.  But to be careful.

So a DNS, being careful.  Knowing a hilly course and that I’d want to push the pace and “race” or at least PR the course. Knowing me, a DNS was the right choice.  Yes, I’m a little more concerned now than I was over the past few months. I’m being more careful about pushing the pace, running hills, etc.  And I’ve started to pay more attention to what is going on with my ticker.

I’ve started wearing my heart rate monitor on more workouts and wearing my RoadID bracelet more often.  I definitely don’t like talking about this kind of stuff, but it has been good to talk about it.  I’ll keep you updated as I learn more.

Race Review: MN Spartan Sprint

Wow. That was the hardest 4.5 mile race I’ve ever completed. We did at least 6,000 feet of climbing, most of it in the last 2 miles. Brutal on the legs would be an understatement. Oh, and did I mention that there were 21 obstacles to complete throughout the course as well? Oh yea! My official time of 2:28:33 (yes 2 hours for 4.5 miles) was good enough for 463rd place (out of 822) overall, 376th man (out of 574) and 62nd (out of 100) in my age group (30-34). The winner was a 34 year old man named Ryan Samson who finished in 1:13:41. My sister and I ran it together! She placed better than I did in the female and age group categories. We finished 1 second apart (my bad…) 20150627_092732

I didn’t do much specific training thinking that my Crossfit workouts and running would be enough to get me through.  Well, it obviously got me through, but I’ve got some things to work on.  Like running more hills!  Seriously though, I had some surprises and some disappointments.
I was surprised, was that I successfully threw my spear into the hay bale! Yay!! That was obstacle number 13 and most people were missing and having to do burpees.  Each failed obstacle required 30 burpees as a penalty. I was generally surprised at how relatively easy some of the obstacles were, especially if you were smart about them.







IMG_9467My biggest disappointment was the rope climb.  We do rope climbs somewhat regularly at Crossfit and I’m able to climb the rope and touch the top of the rig.  I’m usually good for a few climbs in any given WOD.  Granted the Spartan rope climb was way harder than anything I’d done I figured I’d be ok with it. I couldn’t get out of the 4 foot deep water pit and even try to climb the rope.  I think I just wasn’t able to get a good latch with my foot (slippery shoes) and the exhaustion by that point (Obstacle 19) just made it impossible.
I was generally disappointed at how hard it was to climb the hill and how easily my heart rate went up and wouldn’t come back down.  My sister did a much better job repeatedly going up the hills and she’d stop and wait and then we’d keep going.  Lots of people were struggling with the hills and the sun/heat (hardly any shade on the ski hills) so I wasn’t abnormal, just disappointed that my cardio wasn’t there when I needed it most.
IMG_9470My sister and I ended up with same number of penalties throughout the course. We each failed 3 events (though we realize now the errors of our ways) and yes we each did 30 burpees for each failure (sure).  She failed the spear throw, while I failed the Z walls.  We both then failed the rope climb and Multi-bars. Our error was in not helping each other more.  Obviously we couldn’t have done much for each other on the spear throw (I got lucky) or the rope climb (maybe climb up each other to start?).   But on the Z walls, she probably could have helped hold me on the wall and to make some of the harder stretches.  When we did the monkey bars the volunteer was telling us to help each other, so we could have done that for the multi-bar as well.
IMG_9499Probably the hardest obstacle I completed successfully which didn’t require a little bit of luck was the atlas lift (obstacle 12).  We had to pick up a huge (70 – 100 lbs) stone, carry it 10 yards (under a 3 or 4 ft rope), do 5 burpees, and return the stone to its place. I seriously almost couldn’t lift the ball off the ground the first time.
I think being a parent of a toddler and pre-schooler helped with a couple of obstacles.  Obstacle 7 was supposed to be a hay wall, but instead was a sandbag carry.  I got a 40 lb bag (some people were forced to carry two bags as a penalty for not running between two hills, but it really seemed arbitrary). The problem with this was that you had to carry it for maybe 50 yards, but it was down a steep hill over and then back up the hill.  The other was obstacle 9, bucket brigade.  Don’t get me wrong, this was hard.  We had to fill a 5 gallon bucket with rocks then carry it up and down a hill for about 50 yards. Without the handle! I started out carrying it from the bottom and then part way up shifted to carry it at a little bit of an angle more like I might a screaming toddler! That seemed to work okay and I didn’t spill too many rocks!
IMG_9507I’m not going to write about all the obstacles, but I think 2 that required a little bit of thinking or knowledge to be successful involved moving heavy weights around. Both involved moving weights by pulling a rope.  I think some people were trying to pull them hand over hand (like belaying) which actually requires a lot from your upper body.  Both easily allowed for use of your whole body to help move the weight.  The plate drag (obstacle 3) had a sled with 80 pounds on it that needed to be drug about 10 yards by a rope and the pulled back using a short chain loop until the rope was taunt against the stake. I had to pull hand over hand for the first few to get enough rope length on the slack side, but then once you get a good grip you can just pull and walk it back until it hits the stake. The other is the herculian hoist (obstacle 10) involved pulling a 150 pound bag up about 20-25 feet using a rope and pulley, you also had to lower it to the ground carefully.  Some people were also trying to pull hand over hand on this.  It is easier to get a good grip, pull and lower your body to the ground, climb the rope and repeat.  This required using the leverage of the log on the ground, but worked pretty well.  Lowering it was a little harder, but required pretty much the same technique.
IMG_9509A lot of the obstacles involved climbing up and over a variety of things and those vary in difficulty but really come down to more about being comfortable on the various nets or walls.  I think most people can climb a cargo net, but the fear of heights and the tension of turning yourself around and over the top can be a challenge.  Pulling up and over the walls can be a tough challenge and I don’t have any good thoughts on that.  I slammed my toe really hard on the 8ft wall and it still hurts over a week later.  For awhile I thought I might have actually broken it.
My sister and I both wore sunscreen, but still got burnt.  We were grateful for 3 water stops to drink water from and several “cooling stations” were water was spraying down on the course.  The last few mud pits felt really, really good!
IMG_9518I guess I should make a note of what I wore.  It was a tough decision… I ended up wearing a Under Armour compression shirt (wouldn’t snag on barbed wire as easily), with a pair of triathlon shorts (same thing wouldn’t snag).  Both also would dry out and not require me to carry a bunch of extra weight. I ended up wearing a pair of triathlon socks (I think they are actually Ironman brand, but not sure) and a pair of North Face trail running shoes that I’ve had for awhile – they don’t have any style marking so I’m not sure what they are, but I think the Cardiac.
IMG_9520I wanted a shoe with the traction of a trail shoe, but not one that would retain a lot of water and mud.  Gore-tex shoes would repel the water off the wet grass or small amounts of mud, but would retain it when submerged into a moat. A full on mesh shoe would retain the least water but probably wouldn’t be sturdy enough for the trails and definitely would make rope climb hard.
IMG_9523The last thing I wore, besides my required headband/bib, was a pair of gloves. I bought a pair of Under Armour CTR Trainer finger-less gloves. They provide a little bit of protection on the palms with a lot of mesh on the back of the hand. They are also usable for me at the gym, etc. I did a little bit of research on the gloves and the ideas ranged from man-up and go gloveless to wearing a specific pair of gardening gloves. I also wore my gloves the whole race and a lot people took them on and off.  The only complaint about the gloves was that I slipped right off the first monkey bar obstacle.  It was a combination of wet gloves and a wet bar, I’m sure.  Ok, and maybe some grip strength problems! For the second I grabbed some grass to try my hand a bit first and that helped a lot.
As we were leaving the Spartan Festival Grounds at Welch Village, I heard someone say that he’s done a bunch of Spartan races and this was the hardest one he’s done.  His reason – the terrain!  Should I do it again next year?  Only time will tell.

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First Blush: Dickie’s Scramble

A brutally hilly ride on a super windy day! I finished, it was definitely a challenge to keep moving.

Support my efforts to provide clean water in the Congo!

Race Review: 6k for Water

About 10 of us met at the Linden Hills Sebastian Joe’s Ice Cream shop to start a 6k around Lake Harriet. The 35 degree weather and impending snow storm wouldn’t usually seem to abnormal but having had near 70’s weather made it a little harder to get prepared for a cold race/run. Gathered among us were 3 strollers! This could have been the 6k stroller dash for clean water!


Why a 6k? The average distance people travel for water in parts of Africa is about 6 kilometers one way. It took us about 40 minutes to run 3.72 miles, can you imagine walking that carrying a 5 gallon container of water? I can’t. But that is the daily task for many women and children across the developing world. My “registration fee” of $50 helped to provide Edwin from Kenya with clean water for the rest of his life.

Like training for a race, there is a long process for him to get clean water, but the finish line is now in sight. Soon he will be able to walk a short distance and get clean, healthy water. This will improve his overall quality of life by allowing him more time for school, he’ll be sick less often due to dirty water, and he’ll be safer by not requiring long walks to get the water.


For our part in the virtual event we met at Sebastian Joe’s which happens to be below the local World Vision office. From there our group headed to Lake Harriet and we chatted and had a grand time for the first mile or so. Then like many runs (at least with me) someone pushes the pace, I think this time it was a cute kid and her dad who would run ahead and then she’d hop in the stroller for a bit. And suddenly the group starts getting split up as the pace increases. We were at sub-9 for the middle mile. Around Lake Harriet the running path is pretty flat so we were able to keep the strollers rolling pretty well.


At the Lake Harriet Band Shell we turned right and headed towards Lake Calhoun. From here until the finish we hit some “rollers”. The hills really aren’t that bad, but those of us pushing double strollers felt them a lot more than normal! I had only glanced at the course map briefly and Anne wasn’t 100% sure so we had to make sure we didn’t veer of course as we turned at the light and then the next light and ended the run on the sidewalk running down Sheridan. At some point around the Band Shell Nadia started singing in the trailer, loudly! We rolled into the finish line and celebrated our success! Our little team had raised almost $2,500 for clean water projects (we were the 5th ranked team as of this writing). We joined 1,400 people in all 50 states for this first time virtual event!!

You can’t be that close to Sebastian Joe’s and not get some ice cream. Even if it is snowing outside! This little guy will probably never know what it is like to carry 5 gallons of water for 6k. And hopefully together we can provide easy access to clean water to for everyone before he starts running competitively. Will you help make that a reality? Please donate to my fundraising mission this year!


Running Across Lake Superior

It isn’t every day you get the opportunity to run across a Great Lake.  Especially Lake Superior.  My buddy Brad and I did that over the weekend.  Our families went up to Bayfield to check out the Superior Ice Caves and the Bayfield Winter Festival.  A part of the Bayfield Winter Festival each year is a race across the ice road from Bayfield to Madeline Island and back, known as the Run on Water. (this year’s winning time was 24:59).

Smartly for the weather, the race starts at 11am.  Sadly, for us this was too late in the morning for us to be able to check-out on time and not ruin the day for our families.  So we set out to run the same course a little earlier in the morning.

It was a surprisingly warm morning (and weekend) which we were not going to complain about!


Before we set out on the ice we had to make sure our YakTrax were installed.  Brad was wearing the coilly YakTrax Pro and I was wearing the new spikey YakTrax Run.  We both had decent traction given that most of the run was on sheer ice, think running on an ice rink!  This is the view from the Bayfield side of the ice road.  The road gets plowed and maintained by the County! 


The race course was pretty much already setup for us! Pretty low key! 


Here we are on Madeline Island at the half way point! They did have mile markers posted for the race, but no sign indicating the turn-around spot.  So we stepped foot on the island and then turned around! 


This is the view from the turn around, looking back at Bayfield. 


There were a few of these little signs reminding drivers to be careful.  The speed limit on the road is 15mph, so I guess it is to be extra careful! This year’s race also included a longer bike race that went 12 miles instead of the 4 for the runners.  I’m not sure what their course was.  But as we were leaving town we saw some people riding a tandem bike with a race number affixed to the handlebars! And it wasn’t a fat bike. 


Here is a picture I took of the ice.  It was really pretty in places to look down and see 2 feet worth of ice below you! 


We made it to the finish line in one piece! Neither of us fell so that was a great thing! 


Here is the GPS of our run! Straight across the lake and back! Pretty unbelievable! 


Our pace was pretty slow throughout the run.  We were taking shorter strides than normal and we could both feel it in our quads and hip flexors.  Shorter strides meant less chance of falling though!! 


Here is the Strava data from the run: