Sunday, October 23, 2011

3 down, 47 to go: Mankato Half Marathon

There I was, somewhere between Mile 1 and 2, just starting my 11th half marathon and about to cross my 3rd state off the list. Though I was thrilled to see my friends Chris and Clint (who kindly took this photo), I'm not particularly happy about how thick it makes my neck look. :-) It was also good to see lots of old friends from work, hockey, the Y, and the running group I used to hang with when I lived in Mankato...John, Kim, Sreelatha, Michele, Angie, Joy, Liz, Dawn, Christine, and many more.

I've never bothered to go and listen to any of the speakers that they have at the standard fitness expo events before any of my races. I'm usually more interested in just going in, grabbing my packet, seeing if there are any good freebies being given away, and escaping without spending unnecessary money on impulse purchases. This time, however, my friend Jenn and I got to see Rebecca Meyer from Season 8 of NBC's The Biggest Loser. She's working on her 50 in 50 by 30 Challenge, where she is doing a race in each state before she hits age 30. Reading about Rebecca's challenge and finding out that she'd be speaking in Mankato is what gave me the idea to do my own 50 states challenge. I just wish could use speaking engagements to pay for it like she probably is. The added bonus? My former orthopedist, Dr. Scott Stevens of the Orthopedic and Fracture Clinic in Mankato, aka Dr. McHottie, happened to be the speaker right before Rebecca. Seriously, ladies...If you live in the Mankato area, this is the guy you want, and not just to fix your ailing knees. :-)

Speaking of my friend Jenn, that's her as she approached the finish line of the 10k race. She used to weigh over 300 lbs, but she's working really hard to get healthy, and to date she's lost about 60 lbs. I helped her get across the finish line last year, but with me in the half this time she was on her own, and I'm proud to say that she crushed her time from last year by over 10 minutes! Jenn has had far too many people in her life tell her that she can't do things, but hopefully this accomplishment will help her remember that SHE CAN. She sets a wonderful example for her two children, Jamie and Sarah, who also participated in race events over the weekend. My thanks to Jenn and her family for letting me stay at their house and save hotel costs. Sarah Barah kindly gave up her bed, and Paul cooked some great meals. They even made sure I had toasted bagels with peanut butter on race day!

The race itself went well. I finished in 2:28:05, only a few seconds slower than Fargo earlier this year, even on top of worries about my left hip and knee. My PR is 2:03:48 at the Norfolk Half Marathon about 6.5 years ago, and I hope to get back in that time frame at some point. Pie in the sky dream: Break 2 hours. So...What's next? I'm done with races for 2011, and Hot Flash is about to start the new hockey season, but that doesn't mean I'm done running. Cold weather running is my favorite! Right now I'm thinking about the 2012 races I should plan on doing and what states I can cross off the list. These are the possibilities so far:

Feb/Mar - Florida, either Jacksonville or Tampa, because I know people in both towns. Also, it would be a nice break from winter in Minnesota.
Jun - Nebraska, because my friend Justine's parents live near Norfolk. Unfortunately, summer races are HOT.
Aug - Wisconsin, because the Gopher to Badger race is both cheap and nearby. Might not even need an overnight hotel stay.
Sep - South Dakota, because Sioux Falls is cheap, nearby, and other friends might be going.
Oct - Iowa, because Des Moines is a relatively short road trip. Downside: People who live there can't drive for shit, so there's an added risk factor. Long story.

The only deal breaker on any race is going to be whether or not they give out finisher's medals, because my vision of the future is a giant, framed display of medals from all 50 states, with my challenge completion certificate in the middle. Here's what I've got so far:

So that's it for now. Please scroll down and click on my ChipIn link if you are so inclined, and let me know if you might have a sofa or spare bedroom I might take advantage of in the future. I promise to bring Minnesota themed goodies.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

50 States Half Marathon Challenge: What...WHAT?

I've decided to take up the 50 States Half Marathon Challenge. Read about the challenge itself at Half Marathon Club and follow my exploits here. This post will describe the beginning of my odyssey.

As many of you know, I took up running a few years ago. By accident, really. I mean, I used to be in the Navy's 3 Mile Club, meaning I would force myself to kind of run a mile and a half twice a year for their Physical Readiness Test (PRT). Back in 2003, however, I signed up for my first MS Challenge Walk, which was 50 miles in 3 days to benefit Multiple Sclerosis. Just so happens that the Virginia Beach Rock & Roll Half Marathon took place the weekend prior to our walk, so my friends and I decided to walk it as our last training event. It was fun to see all the local bands playing great music at intervals along the route.

When the 2004 event rolled around, we signed up again. We got to Mile Marker 1 just as the Kenyan Track Club was clipping past Mile 8, but whatever. At that point, I had what I call my "Forrest Gump moment" where I just "felt like running". I didn't have anything with me like water or Gatorade though, so I decided to take walk breaks at the water stops and see how far I got. Lo and behold, 2.5 hours later, there I was on the Va Beach boardwalk, thinking "Who's feet are these?" and "What could I do if I really tried?" This is me on the morning of the 2003 race:

In 2005, the Shamrock Marathon was my first full length marathon. Here is one of the few pix I've ever had taken of me while running that I actually liked. Since I'm still smiling, it's clearly before the halfway point of the race:

I moved to MN not long after that, and completed the 2005 Twin Cities Marathon in October. That's the race that made me decide that I prefer the half marathon distance, and since then I've completed a total of 10 half marathons.

My 11th half will be this coming Saturday, October 22, 2011, when I run the Mankato Half Marathon. Though I've completed multiple half marathons in MN, this is the one I'll be counting towards the 50 States Challenge.

Why a 50 States Challenge?
Well, frankly, I need something to do to stay active and motivated. Also, given the expenses involved in traveling to each state, I'll probably only be able to swing 2-3 trips per year if I'm lucky, so this is also a long term activity plan, which will hopefully keep me healthy and help with overall weight maintenance, at least through retirement. Every day I go to work, I see what happens to people when they fail to take care of themselves mentally, physically, and financially. This challenge is part of my plan to Age With Attitude. :-)

I have a vision of my 50 States completion certificate in a frame surrounded by all my finisher's medals. How awesome is that going to be?

Why the ChipIn Page?

As you might imagine, taking on a 50 States Challenge isn't exactly cheap. The average race fee is at least $75, plus plane fare, hotel, rental car, gas, food, etc. I love my job, but it barely pays enough to live on and fund a modest retirement, much less big extras like this. I'm going to need luck and help.

I'm hoping that people who read this blog as I go forward will be inspired to make a contribution in the name of setting an example for staying active and healthy as you age. Besides, I have pretty much everything I need as far as birthday and Christmas gifts are concerned, so I can be pretty tough to shop for. I've been telling my family for years to just get me gift cards to stores I like, but now I'm using this. If an occasion arises where you feel the need to bestow giftage upon me, please use the ChipIn button, which should appear below if I've done it right. You have my word that any donated funds will be used ONLY to support my 50 States Challenge. If you have a couch or spare bedroom where I can crash when I come to cross your state off my list, PLEASE LET ME KNOW. I will be bringing Minnesota themed goodies.