2020: Great Bear Chase

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.

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2020: American Birkebeiner

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.

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2020: North End Classic

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.

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2020: Wolf Tracks Rendezvous

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.

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2020: Noquemanon Ski Marathon

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.

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2020: SISU Ski Fest

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.

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2019: New York City Marathon

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.

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2019: WhistleStop 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. 

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2019: Bridges & Bluffs Half 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.

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2019: Marquette 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!

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2019: Paavo Nurmi 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 needed 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.

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2019: Canal Run 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.

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2019: Run The Keweenaw

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.

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2019: Grandma’s Marathon

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 LindaMark 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.

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2019: Whitefish Point 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.

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2019: Journeys Marathon

The half marathon associated with this event should have been my maiden half marathon when I got into running several years ago. Nancy and Josh had tried their best to convince me – to sign up and train. I didn’t even sign up in 2012, let alone train. Though signed up in 2013 and still didn’t train, I had favored the hometown Hancock Canal Run to be my first half marathon. So, instead of Eagle River, WI, being the site of my maiden 13.1 attempt, the town just remained an occasional pit stop during adventures deep into the heart of Wisconsin … until now.

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2019: Illinois Marathon

I first learned about this event some months ago … not by searching the remote corners of the internet (Running In The USA is one such corner) but from Patricia Gropp during the Women in HPC networking event as part of the SC18 festivities in Dallas, TX. I had put it on the back-burner of bucket list items … things for which I’d eventually make time. But during the Coalition for Academic Scientific Computation (CASC) Spring 2019 meeting in Alexandria, VA, the event re-surfaced again … thanks to a post-dinner conversation with David Moses and John Towns. Once John re-explained the festive small town America atmosphere associated with the big Illinois Marathon event that runs in the shadows of the famed National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), the event moved to the front-burner and I signed up.

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2019: Great Bear Chase

This too was an event I had deemed I am not going to race during 2018-19 winter but much like Birkie two weekends ago, things changed and changed in a hurry. The last of the officially timed ski event for 2018-19 winter season, being held in our very own backyard in the good company many of my wonderful friends, sufficient knowledge of the Swedetown Trail System and its terrain gathered over the past 3-4 seasons with help from many said friends – to an extent that I feel at home on every loop and not just when I see the final stretch to the finish line, an opportunity rub shoulders with the elites, and a peroration for Pat Szubielak as he embarks on retirement a second time … drove the said change.

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2019: American Birkebeiner

140 km base training [for a ~30 km event] seems low … remarked Jan in the aftermath of 2018 Birkie festivities. Consciously work on your downhills and turns … suggested another Jan a month or so later in Washington, DC, during the 2018 Spring Meeting of CASC. How much base training would have been sufficient? … I inquired the encyclopediac minds in and around our community. Deciphering their collective answer, though it led me down an entirely new rabbit hole of time-based training, hinted towards a training plan that included some long/long-ish outings. Coupling that with the sneak peak I got into Jessie Diggins‘ annual training plan, courtesy of Team USA’s Olympic Coach of the Games, I settled on putting in at least 300 km of base training ahead of the 2019 Birkie weekend.

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