{Motivation Monday-Create adventures for yourself!}

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This morning as I’m enjoying a little late start to the day due to an unexpected snow day, I just can’t calm the happiness I feel about yesterday’s run. I was so sick of running the same boring routes in my community that it was making me not look forward to my long runs. I simply felt uninspired and bored with the routes. Having also not ran a race yet this year (crazy for me!) I needed something different. Then I came up with an idea that is not so new to me, but easily forgotten-go run somewhere different.

We had originally planned a route that was at a state park about an hour away, but with the inches of rain we were receiving we were not sure what the conditions of the trails would be like and with youth turkey hunting taking place in the park, I wasn’t so sure that would be entirely safe either. Instead the husband and I drove to a nearby city that has miles upon miles of running trails, bike paths, and scenic routes. We visited the city we fell in love in, partied the weekends away in, and hiked the trails of-La Crosse. We thought up a route Saturday night that would highlight some of our favorite spots and running trails.

Sunday morning I woke up excited to run the distance with butterflies in the stomach mixed with some dread (22 miles-eek!) It would be both of our longest training runs. I’ve never ran more than 20 miles training for my previous marathons. Had I not signed up for a 50k I probably would have stopped at 20. I commented to Ryan that it was like we were on a little adventure. We approached the looming 22 miles as just that-an adventure. There would be miles that didn’t feel great, that we would get annoyed with each other, and there would also miles where we would be laughing and smiling.

The route would take us 22 miles out and back and out and back. For those of you who might ever get the chance to run La Crosse these are all great routes below. You could do the whole thing or run a section or two. We parked at Menard’s because it is near the La Crosse marsh trails entrance and in the middle of our planned route. We ran the La Crosse marsh trails to part of the Hixon Forest Trails (here we had to turn around as melting ice and water created an impassable area).  I mentioned to Ryan while we were running through the marsh trails that it was just what I needed.  The sounds of ducks, birds, frogs.  The sights of water, trees, bluffs, and dirt trails.  My heart felt full and content.  I was at peace with the nature around. Our nature run then took us to the UW-La Crosse campus, past our old apartments to Cass Street where we enjoyed the big beautiful houses before turning around and repeating our route for the most part.

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Click to enlarge!

At this point we were back at the car, eleven miles in, to quickly refuel. We then headed out on the La Crosse River Trail in the opposite direction leading us to Riverside Park which borders the Mississippi, past some of our favorite restaurants/bars, to the Cass Street Bridge where we crossed the Mississippi for the first time, to Pettibone Park where we looped around, before heading back onto the sidewalk leading us into Minnesota. Once meeting up with the welcome to Minnesota sign we headed back to our vehicle skipping the Pettibone Park loop. I saw so many runners out doing their weekend long runs.  We didn’t talk or exchange conversation, but you can usually just tell a runner on their long run.  There was a camaraderie to the whole thing-us runners out doing our long runs on a Sunday morning.

As the Garmin chimed 22 miles (oh, how I love the sound of that chime EVERY time) we high-fived each other and smiled.  People in the Menard’s parking lot gave us weird looks as the rain came down, but we didn’t care.  We both felt strong at the conclusion of our run and I believe the scenery and change in routes has almost everything to do with it. I mean we were running half the miles (11!) in the rain and it didn’t even phase us much. Part of the fun was also knowing we were going out to eat somewhere local for a meal and a drink after the run.

Our running adventure was just what I needed to love the long run again. So many of them have been just okay. Nothing exciting, got the miles in, and survived to run again. When it comes to running and why I love it though, this wasn’t making the cut. I wanted to love the long run, to get the sense of adventure back, to feel like the explorer I love to be. This long run reminded me that I have complete control over where the long run takes me. I don’t have to run the same routes in town. There are plenty of unexplored trails, routes, bike paths, roads, etc. just an hour away in any direction, but it’s up to me to create my own adventures.

You can bet my upcoming long runs will not be boring or follow the same routes.  I’ve found my exploring spirit again and I can’t wait to see what else is out there. I’m already anxiously planning where to complete my next long runs.  What new trails can I visit?  What city can be explored?  Let’s be adventurous. When will you create adventures for yourself?

Happy Monday!

{Wisconsin Marathon Training-Week 15}

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As I sit starting this post it is pouring rain outside and thundering and lightening. My hopes of running a long run on Saturday this week are pretty much gone. Instead I’ve been blissfully stalking reading race reports about the Wisconsin Marathon and searching for other races to add to the spring training schedule. With so many long, long runs for my 50k training coming up, I feel the need to break up the monotony of running in my boring city with only six miles of trails.

Speaking of my 50k I recognize I haven’t really mentioned how I’m training for it exactly. I’m basically following the same training plan as Ryan is for the Wisconsin Marathon with longer distances on some days and hillier and/or trail routes on other days. My actual 50k training plan is below. I’m currently on week 9.
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I’m not looking to break any times or records, rather I’m hoping only not to die or end up hurting so much I never want to do it again. I want to enjoy the trails and running and training in nature more. I want to accomplish a new distance I never have before. I want to get a taste of ultra running.

Back to the focus of this post…Wisconsin Marathon Training.

Monday-5 miles (Sarah)
3 miles with the track kiddos and two miles on my own.

Tuesday-5 miles (Ryan)

Wednesday-7 mile tempo run (Sarah) and 7.5 miles (Ryan)
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I had a dinner date with friends so we did not run together. I left school right after I could and got my miles in and Ryan ran his after baseball practice. I had a phenomenal run. It was a run that makes your heart feel full and bursting with happiness and contentment. I needed that-it had been too long. My legs just wanted to go fast. My lungs still struggled to keep up with some junk in them yet, but they are improving. I managed what I think is my fastest 10k time during this run. Hmmm…now I might need to set a PR goal in this.

Thursday-6 miles
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4 miles with the track kids plus 2 miles on hilly trails.

Saturday-5 miles (Sarah)

Sunday-22 miles (both of us)
We are so bored with the running scene in our community, so we decided to take a road trip to La Crosse. La Crosse is so runner friendly with lots of runners, beautiful trails and scenery, and lots of places to celebrate a long run. Below is our route for our 22 miler. We basically went out 5.5 miles then came back. Then we went out 5.5 miles in a different direction and came back. If you ever get the chance to visit all locations below are great for running.  We took a GU every 4-5 miles to stay fueled and drank water in the middle of the run.
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Running into MN and back. The WI-MN state line is in the middle of the Mississippi River.

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After running in a light rain from miles 11-19.75, we felt lucky it only poured on us for just over two miles. Even though we were drenched we were happy to have felt as good as we did.
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After all of our hard work it was time to relax a bit. I chose a delicious bloody mary from a local favorite of mine, Fayze’s.

Tip of the Week: When long runs get mundane and old running routes lose their allure it is time to change up your running route. There are so many running friendly trails, state parks, towns, and bike paths that there isn’t really a good excuse not to try new routes. We are usually willing to drive an hour to these places if needed for specific runs. It gives you new scenery, a chance to try new local fare, and a renewed mental appreciation for runs. More on this idea later!

Total Miles for Week: 45 miles (Sarah) and 34.5 (Ryan)

{Race for the Heart Half Marathon}

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Lately I’ve been working on eating local and unprocessed foods. I decided to translate that to running races this year, too. After traveling around to races over the past few months, most of my races will be close by this year. I’m running local!

By racing local I don’t always have to stay in a hotel, which is easier for my schedule right now and my wallet. I also get bored by the monotony of running the same paths for long runs and am really trying to run at least two long runs a month somewhere new and unexplored. This keeps running fresh and exciting. By signing up for races I also ensure I get all of my long runs done. I don’t have the I-want-to-sleep-in opportunity and then it gets too hot to finish every mile. It also prevents last minute plans from interfering. Races hold me accountable. They also stop me from having too many beers the night before. Been there, done that, learned that lesson.
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Whenever I run a new race in Wisconsin I always get excited to explore new parts of the state, see new trails, and experience the diverse beauty of our state. On Saturday, I raced in Wisconsin Rapids. I had been to Wisconsin Rapids once before when I was in middle school, and drove through it a few years ago. So basically I knew nothing about this city. When looking at the race overview a few things attracted me to this race: 1-distance from my house, 2-the course (all bike path trails), 3-SHADE, the course was mostly shaded (amen in the summer), 4-it supported the Boys and Girls Clubs, 5-price (it was only $35) which included a t-shirt. When I picked up my packet I was surprised to see some other great swag for such a small race. Often small town races don’t offer anything which I understand. The juice, chapstick, granola bar were all unexpected, but awesome additions.

Great race swag for a very small race.

Great race swag for a very small race.


I worked the night before getting home around 11:45. I was in bed an hour later and you guessed it-didn’t get much sleep. Five hours later the alarm went off and I was up to get ready. Same old story, just a different race it seems. BUT the totally new thing! Wait for it, wait for it…I was not running late for the race. I go to the race 30 minutes before the start. While this may not even be close to enough time before a big city race, it is LOTS of time before a small race.

Speaking of small, I knew the racing field would be small, but I had no idea just how small. There were 41 of us a the start. No I didn’t count as the national anthem was being sung, I looked at the race results. The 5k which started an hour later had many more runners and walkers. Don’t get the small size thing wrong; the race was very well organized and had many features of a larger race such as an official start and finish, well marked course, very well aided water stations, and medical people always nearby.
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My goal for the race was to treat it like a long run and run smart. I was not running this race to race, but rather as a training run. By running smart I mean, not start too fast like I’ve started doing recently. I needed to remember when I got the urge to go faster that when I crossed the finish line, I was not finished. I would have three more miles to go. The last five miles I had planned to run at goal marathon pace or faster as my training schedule dictated. I wanted to run comfortably fast.
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The race started outside the Rapids mall along the Wisconsin River. Mile one took us along the Wisconsin River and then mile two led us out onto the shaded bike paths. The bike paths are part of a larger system of trails along the Wisconsin River.
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It had been raining until about an hour before the race, but the clouds stuck around for about 3/4 of the race. Mother nature must have been on my side that day. Mile 3 continued on the bike path leading closer to the city of Port Edwards.

mile 1-8:20

mile 2-8:41

mile 3-8:47

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Miles four and five we passed through Port Edwards via the bike path. At one point there was a family standing on the bike path cheering runners on. Their young daughter said as I passed, “She’s running really, really, really, fast.” I smiled and thought to myself, thank you small child! Your view of the world is so awesome because in truth I am not running really, really, really fast.

mile 4-8:41

mile 5-8:47

Mile six and then the turnaround at mile 6.5 were in Nekoosa with a turnaround in Riverside Park. One thing I love about out and back courses is you can see the competition as it is coming back after they’ve turned around. Around mile six I started counting ladies to see what place I was in. At the half way point I was the sixth female in the race. I had stuck to my race plan of running this like a long run. I was feeling great.

While the course didn’t take us into Nekoosa the Swiftwater Mural is a unique work of art in the city.
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mile 6-8:27

mile 7-8:36

Mile 8 marked the last six miles of the race, so it was time to pick up the pace to my goal marathon pace or faster for the rest of the half marathon. This is when I began passing other girls.

mile 8-8:21

mile 9-8:20

mile 10-8:15

Mile ten I was in third place for females, and I could not see the first two women. I was running just barely comfortably fast. It was warm enough out that I didn’t have a dry spot on my body. Mile ten I passed a man in his sixties who was movin’ butt. I love how the sport of running can be so humbling. Here I am 30 some years younger than this man and he has been ahead of me for ten miles. He was awesome.

I started to get a bit tired around mile 11. By mile 12 I didn’t have a lot of gas to go much faster. I had stuck to my plan, maybe a bit quicker. I didn’t need to go faster, but the inner competitor just makes me. It’s like it takes over your brain and body and you CANNOT stop it. Your legs just go faster, your arms pump harder, your brain focuses harder. Even if you’re tired, you still find a way to go faster.

mile 11-8:10

mile 12-8:00

mile 13-7:51
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I crossed the finish line as the 3rd female. I had hoped to be under 1:50, but just missed it. Overall I was super excited about how I ran, where I am at in my training, and how I handled the very humid and warmer day. Normally I really struggle when it gets in the 70’s and/or is humid. Today I didn’t. In a race that I kept the pace comfortable during most of the race ended up being my third fastest half marathon. I feel my speed coming back. Maybe I’m turning over a new leaf.
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Either way I wasn’t done with my run. I was pretty sure one of the first two runners was in my age group and they only gave awards to the winner of each age group, so I had a small bottle of water which they handed out at the finish and continued on for my last three cool down miles in the opposite direction of the race.
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I ran along the Wisconsin River, past the “wisconsin” rapids, and turned around. It was a gorgeous day with great trails. How lucky these people are to have shade available all summer long. Experiencing a new city was just what I’d hoped it would be. It adds a bit of adventure to the everyday. And Cran-Grape never tasted so good after a warm long run.

Race for the Heart Half Marathon
Time: 1:50:17
Pace: 8:25
Overall: 9/41
Gender: 3/22
Age Group: 1/6*

*As I wrote this post and looked up my results, it turns out I did win my age group. I need to enjoy this last year in this age group all year. Next year it will be a different ball game.