Had 2020 unfolded as any of the most previous years, I would have run the Illinois Marathon (April) as my target race in Spring and continued to train towards Marquette Marathon (September) with a handful of road and trail running events spread in between. But 2020 has been a year unlike any that I (or most of us) have experienced so far and COVID-19 has led to the postponement (if not cancellation) of a vast majority of races around the world including
- the Summer Olympics in Japan and
- the World Marathon Majors events
- Tokyo – elites-only event in March,
- Boston – moved from April to September as a virtual event,
- London – moved from April to October as an elites-only event and virtual for non-elites,
- Berlin – scheduled for September but cancelled,
- Chicago – virtual event in October, and
- New York City – virtual event in November.
I was/am fully cognizant of the fact that there are more important things in life than training for and running a race. Having friends whose livelihood depends on timing such events made me realize the value of such events beyond just getting another medal or even earning a new PR.
Continue reading … “2020: Holland Haven Marathon”
With my running goals (as of late April 2020) focused primarily towards road running events (and the need for sustaining a specific pace for a considerable distance), I knew the chances of participating in an event organized by Lazarus Lake (or just Laz for us cool kids) – assuming that I actually qualified for one – were pretty slim, if not non-existent. For those of us not yet familiar with the notoriety of Laz (I mean this in a good way), he is most famously associated with The Barkley Marathons held in the Frozen Head State Park and the Big’s Backyard Ultra (or The Last Human
Standing Running) held in Bell Buckle – both in Tennessee. With most races around the globe either cancelled or postponed or turned into a virtual event as a result of COVID-19, a rare win-win opportunity came along: I’d get to continue working towards my long-term goals while simultaneously participating in a Laz-organized event, albeit virtually. Needless to say, I jumped on it!
Continue reading … “2020: Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee”
If not for the ongoing global pandemic, COVID-19
, the Illinois Marathon
would have happened on 25th April 2020 and the Grandma’s Marathon
would be happening on 20th June 2020. Organizers of the Grandma’s Marathon had sent out the cancellation notice at the end of March. In mid-March, organizers of the Illinois Marathon had only postponed the event to later parts of 2020. But the uncertainties being what they are, they too decided to cancel the 2020 edition. In the grander scheme of things, I believe cancellation aligns well with the greatest good for the greatest number for the longest possible time
philosophy, and I sure hope that I get to meet my friends I was supposed to meet at these events again and again. Both events offered a deferment to or registration discount towards a subsequent edition as well as virtual run option. Having had a sneak peak at behind-the-scenes actions in my community’s events, it was an easy decision to go with the virtual run option.
Continue reading … “2020: (Virtual) Illinois and Grandma’s Marathons”
Chassell Michigan Tech Maasto Hiihto/Churning Rapids
Swedetown Eagle Harbor Copper Harbor
Continue reading … “2019-20: Ski The Keweenaw”
Being a hometown event and the last officially timed nordic skiing race for the 2019-20 winter, this was an event that I could ill afford to miss. Given that it’s week #13 of a 20-week training plan towards a Spring Marathon called for a 20-mile LSD run, the only decision was the distance combination pending weather conditions: 25 km skiing + 10 km running OR 10 km skiing + 25 km running. In light of the 2020 American Birkebeiner
experience and a tentative plan for its 2021 edition, I chose to stick with the 25 km skiing (race effort) + 10 km running (easy/recovery jog) combination irrespective of prevailing weather conditions.
Continue reading … “2020: Great Bear Chase”
Currently in week #11 of a 20-week training plan towards 2020 Spring Marathon, this was never an event I planned on skipping. If anything, I had ambitions of skiing the full one – 55 km Classic – and powered by the CXC Academy
training plan, I had even signed up for it. Only after designing the aforementioned marathon training plan and analyzing the timing of Birkie did I realize that my current skill/fitness level would not yet permit the Birkie … at least not without jeopardizing the activities in weeks #10 through #12. So, a hard-ish decision was made to forego the named bib for the 55 km and switch down to the 29 km Kortelopet before the deadline.
Continue reading … “2020: American Birkebeiner”
Currently in week #09 of a 20-week training plan towards 2020 Spring Marathon, this too was an event I had deemed I am not going to participate
during 2019-20 winter. But it is held on Sunday – the day after Pre-Birkie
(in Cable/Hayward, WI) and Vasaloppet USA
(in Mora, MN) – in one of the prettiest settings I have ever skied in. Making minor adjustments in the aforementioned training plan (i.e., move Sunday’s rest to Friday) made room for this event.
Continue reading … “2020: North End Classic”
Currently in week #08 of a 20-week training plan towards 2020 Spring Marathon, this was an event I didn’t even know existed. If not for a nudge/inquiry from Kim Green
during the 2020 SISU Ski Fest
, I would have likely never learned about it. Minocqua being only 2-ish hours away and in Wisconsin (i.e., Central Time Zone) made it a candidate for day trip adventure and thus, made it easier to sign up! Once registered for the 24 km edition, it made sense to sensibly race this event as a reasonable substitute for a 14-mile LSD run (with few faster miles towards the end) prescribed by the aforementioned marathon training plan – quite similar to what I had done during the 2020 Noquemanon Ski Marathon
Continue reading … “2020: Wolf Tracks Rendezvous”
Currently in week #07 of a 20-week training plan towards 2020 Spring Marathon, this too was an event I had deemed I am not going to participate
during 2019-20 winter. Little did I know (or even remember) that I had signed up for the 24 km version loooooong ago – like in April 2019 – to take advantage of the early bird pricing. It’s only when I registered for the 12 km version and tried creating a label in Gmail (you know, to easily search for registration confirmation during packet pickup) that I realized the said label already existed. Fortunately, I had just enough time to cancel the 12 km registration.
Continue reading … “2020: Noquemanon Ski Marathon”
Currently in week #05 of a 20-week training plan towards 2020 Spring Marathon, this was an event I had deemed I am not going to participate
during 2019-20 winter. I was sticking with my claim until a handful of hours before the registration closed. Inquiries/Nudging by good friends and all the inspiration derived from watching world-class skiers during the recently concluded 2020 US Cross Country Ski National Championships
should take the credit for changing my mind.
Continue reading … “2020: SISU Ski Fest”
Like many aspiring marathoners, I had entered my name in the 2019 NYC Marathon Sweepstakes Application as well as the general lottery about 10 months ago. But the random numbers weren’t in my favor, on both occasions, for this World Marathon Majors
event. New York Road Runners (NYRR)
, the parent organization caring for this marathon, provided an option to earn a guaranteed non-complimentary entry in 2020
. All I had to do was sign up for a virtual marathon (i.e., run 26.2 miles in a single activity along my chosen course) within a certain window of time, tag it as a race in Strava and wait for NYRR officials to verify it. So, I had signed up and expected to make this virtual marathon the last race
of the 2019 calendar year. I was content with training towards 2019 Chicago Marathon and looked forward to being a part of the world’s biggest road marathon in 2020.
Continue reading … “2019: New York City Marathon”
I was on track for a finish time in the neighborhood of 3:20-3:25 in 2019 Whitefish Point Marathon
(Paradise, MI) and would have bested my then best time of 3:35:46
. But a more rewarding opportunity had presented itself in the second half. I had no regret (I still don’t) accepting it and finishing with a time of 3:49:25. Teetering a few seconds per mile (or about a second for every 400 meters) on the wrong side of my then threshold pace in 2019 Grandma’s Marathon
(Duluth, MN) had me on track for a similar finish time through mile 18. Once over the cliff, I had bonked hard and had ridden the struggle bus for the final 8 miles … eventually finishing in a time of 3:46:16. Though I was somewhat disappointed knowing that I had the potential for a faster finish, both were times – a year or so ago – that I’d have gladly kissed anybody’s feet to have earned. And the process of training for and participating in both these events were a memorable set of experiences on several fronts.
Continue reading … “2019: WhistleStop Marathon”
I would have never known that this event even existed if not for a conversation with Jan Haase
in last week of August. Opting to race it required re-arranging the week #09 schedule of my training towards Fall marathons: Thursday’s 9 tempo miles would be run during this event. A good portion, if not all, of Friday’s easy 10 miler would be repackaged as a recovery run on Sunday. Saturday’s 20 miler was swapped with last week’s 13 miler. Assuming that the weather angels and the course cooperated well, the plan was to start slow-ish through mile #3, and reach and hold the tempo-like ponderous pace rest of the way. I expected the by-product of a proper execution of this plan to help me earn a new PR for this distance (below 1:32:22) … preferably at or below the 1:29:59 mark that seems to be within reach.
Continue reading … “2019: Bridges & Bluffs Half Marathon”
Currently in week #05 of a training cycle towards a Fall marathon, my original plan for this event (like, when I first registered in December 2018) was to run the full distance as a supported long training run. Over the last 2-3 weeks (and even as late as Tuesday of this week), I flirted with the idea of sticking to the full distance at a fairly good pace … assuming the weather angels blessed us all with a day made for racing. As much as I believe in pushing the limits, I believe that I am a stronger believer in the process and its transformational power. Coupled with the advice Stephen Eles
offered halfway through week #04, I decided to run just half the distance but almost entirely in an unwieldy zone. Doing so would have the added benefit of having plenty more time to cheer on John Farquhar
as he punches his ticket to 2020 Boston
and Bill Sved
completes his 300th (yes, three hundred) marathon!
Continue reading … “2019: Marquette Half Marathon”
Currently in week #02 of a training cycle towards a Fall marathon, my original plan for this event was to run the full distance as a supported long run. But the collective wisdom of my mentors suggested that I no longer had as much of a need to train for full distance (the comfort zone
) as I did for holding the desired
pace for longer-ish distances (the discomfort zone
). So, the new plan and its goals were to (a)
reproduce the pacing strategy used in 2019 Canal Run Half Marathon
(i.e., hold back in the first half and then push the effort in the second half) on what has historically been a hillier course with warmer weather and (b)
earn a PR as a result. This year’s edition included a change in travel plan as well: a day trip instead of the usual overnight trip in an attempt to keep to more home-cooked meals.
Continue reading … “2019: Paavo Nurmi Half Marathon”
Reasons to participate in this event haven’t really changed over the past several years: a very well organized and attended race in my own backyard, the potential to see and be with a lot of friendly faces from the awesome community I am so fortunate to live in and a chance to sleep in the comfort of my house the night before, and show community that its investment in helping me run (better) has been worthwhile. This year was no different either.
Continue reading … “2019: Canal Run Half Marathon”
This marks the seventh year of being a part of this festival of trails (I call it, affectionately and with all due respect to the 100 mile version in the Golden State
, the Mid-Western States Endurance Run
). It certainly has taken on the flavor of a family reunion of my trail running friends. Even with a good number of familiar faces missing in action this year, the weekend offered a lot of what I’ve come to learn: trail running etiquette and friends that are competitive while being the kind, cooperative, caring and the very embodiment of the said etiquette. It’s a retreat away from the grips of electronic communication-overloaded civilization and nudging us to have humane conversations, and a lovely little platform to learn from the immovable mountains and never-stop-moving runners alike. The weekend also almost always offers something new, and with lessons about my own self and new friendships, this year wasn’t any different.
Continue reading … “2019: Run The Keweenaw”
I have known about this event for many years now (it, in 2011, was my buddy Nils
‘ first marathon). Every time I drove to or through Duluth since getting into running, a part of me had fantasized about participating in this event. On my way home from Linda
–Mark I Do
festivities in 2016, I had driven most of the course and checked out the starting area in Two Harbors. After some thought and almost putting it off for one more year, I decided to sign up for this year’s edition primarily as a backup for 2019 Whitefish Point Marathon
. If, for some reason (e.g., inclement health or weather), things didn’t unfurl as planned in Paradise, MI, then I would have had two weeks to rest, recover, re-group and give it another try again. Though far from achieving any of my time goals, Whitefish Point Marathon was more rewarding than I had anticipated.
Continue reading … “2019: Grandma’s Marathon”
The process of 2018 Chicago Marathon
was a memorable experience on many fronts. It was my first time following a well-written training plan
, sticking with a nutrition regimen, finding semblance of work-life balance and at the end of about 20 weeks later … running start-to-finish on race day to earn a 26-minute PR. As in most such experiments where the arrow of time flows purely in one direction, there wasn’t an opportunity for do overs. But a post-partum analysis revealed a list of things I should have tried
and I could have done better
Continue reading … “2019: Whitefish Point Marathon”