This weekend marked the 5th and final race of the Team Ortho Monster Marathon Series, the Monster Dash Half Marathon. 4 half marathons and a 5k later, I can finally fill my medal holder with all 5 medallions.
This is my 2nd attempt at the series. Last year, I was one race shy after having to pull out of the Minneapolis Marathon for multiple reasons. Wanting the bragging rights awarded by having a full medal holder, I signed up again for the series last year at packet pick up for Monster Dash during early bird registration. The original plan had been to run 3 half marathons, a full marathon, and a 5k. After a strong start at Polar Dash, the rest of the year was a little rocky. Learning how to juggle my new life as a single mom, running became a way for me to stay sane. Training for any single race got shuffled down the list of priorities. My goal for the year was to be half marathon ready at any given time. I accomplished this. Dropping down from the full marathon at the Minneapolis Marathon to the half, I ran the next two half marathons at an insanely dependable 1:50 (and a 1:51 at women rock. Talk about being consistent). Ready to step it up a notch, I set another PR, this time in the 5k, winning the Minneapolis Duathlon 5k. Which brings me to the Monster Dash. (more…)
Once again, I feel like I’m being asked to pick a favorite child (does my dog count?) I’m a bit of a workout hoarder of sorts. No really. I have a couple of binders full of exercises and workouts I’ve printed out or pulled out of magazines. Then there’s my notebooks that I jot workouts down in to take with me to the gym. And a huge folder in my file cabinet at the gym where I save new ways to torture clients. I collect squat variations like some girls collect handbags. So I couldn’t pick one gym routine that I love the most because it changes about as often as I change my underwear. So I’m going with my favorite run.
Go ahead laugh. All runners do it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. I fartlek with pride. I often tweet about my best fartleks. I’ve fartleked in public. Sometimes I fartlek until I nearly puke.
I’ve probably lost a lot of the non-runners and maybe even a few runners out there that are trying to figure out what the hell I’m talking about. Chances are, even if you’ve never been a runner, you’ve probably fartleked as well and didn’t know it. Fartlek is Swedish for speed play. A typical fartlek is going to be a longer run with some unstructured speed work thrown in for fun. It works both the aerobic and anaerobic systems and is a great training tool to help build endurance as well as improve speed. So going for a run and saying, “I’m going to run as hard as I can to the end of the road” would be a fartlek. Remember doing (sorry for not being so PC) Indian runs you did in elementary school or as warm ups with your sports teams? Yep, those would be fartleks as well. Great thing about a fartlek is you can do it anywhere, make it as hard or as easy as you want, and it’s never the same run twice.
Have you fartleked recently?
I’m on the road this week. First stop – Racine, WI. So it may not be a vacation hot spot, but it is home to one of my favorite running routes, the Lake Michigan Pathway. This 9.8 mile mostly paved pathway runs along the shore of Lake Michigan, starting north of Racine at 3-Mile Road and Douglas Avenue and heads south to Chicory Road. If that isn’t enough mileage for you, it connects to Racine County’s MRK trail on the north end, Racine County’s North Shore Trail on the south end, and to the Root River Pathway at the Main Street bridge.
Today I ran from the northern edge of the zoo to the lookout on the southern bank of the Root River. This 6 mile run follows the Lake Michigan shoreline and Root River, and passes some of my favorite sites in, including North and Zoo beaches which together span over a mile of continuous sandy beach which is great for a little beach running or barefoot strides in the water.
Heading south from the corner of Augusta Street and Michigan Boulevard, hop on the trail heading along the eastern edge of the zoo down to Zoo Beach. If you’re looking to get your feet a little sandy, this is a great place to run across the beach to the water where you can follow the shore to North Beach and catch the pathway again at Barker Street. There is a blue tarp path leading from the trail to the life guard stand on Zoo Beach if you’re worried about getting sand in your shoes. If you’re not really up for running in the sand, the path continues along the eastern edge of the zoo to North Beach. There are some hills along the route, since you’re following Michigan Blvd. and Hoffert Drive for parts of the run. From North Beach, the trail continues south past the Racine Yacht Club. If you’re looking for a nice spot to take a breather, there’s a spur that heads east at the Yacht club that takes you to the end of a peninsula on the northern shore of the entrance to the Root River. While the pathway along the lake is nice, it does take you through some sketchy alleyways on Reichert Court. While this is safe during the day, if running in the early morning or late evening, I would suggest getting off the path at Barker Street and taking that up the hill to Main Street, where you can catch the path again at the draw bridge.
At Main Street, the pathway takes you south across the draw bridge over the Root River. Once you cross the river, the path takes a hard left and follows the south shore of the river. From there, the pathway follows the river to the Marina. If you need to stop and stretch or just want to enjoy the view, there are several benches along this stretch to stop at for a quick break. While it’s secluded from the main roads, the pathway is bordered by upscale condos, hotels, and restaurants. The Marina also uses the pathway to get to its docks, so most of this stretch is monitored and somewhat secured by their security systems. At 4th Street, I left the Lake Michigan pathway and followed Christopher Columbus Drive to the walkway above the breakers. The Lake Michigan Pathway continues south past the Civic Center where it then follows Pershing Park Drive along the coast to 11th Street. While you do get some great views of the lake, the marina loop offers a lot more in the way of seeing the sights of Racine. As you follow the walkway along the breakwater, you can catch a sidewalk at the end of the parking lot to an overlook on the southern bank of the entrance to the river. Down a set of stairs, the sidewalk continues along the marina before joining back up with the Lake Michigan Pathway at the marina’s southwest corner. Continue back the way you came or you can always keep along Main Street to Augusta and get a glimpse of some of the animals at the zoo.
After an amazing 6 mile run, I took the shoes off and did a little stride work barefoot along the beach. This time of year, the water is comfortable (someone told me 70-75 F) and felt great on my tired feet. I did a little cross training in the form of skipping some of the stones that had washed up on the shore. Even though the day was warm, most of the beach crowd was congregating on North Beach, leaving the stretch of sand just north of zoo beach nice and quite for a peaceful end to my workout. If you’re ever in Racine or nearby Milwaukee, this run is definitely worth checking out.