Saturday, April 7, 2012

Running Towards a Happy Birthday

The birthday run is a new concept for me.  I mean, I have read Dean Karnazes' book - heard his story about how he started running again by running 30 miles on his 30th birthday, and I admit to being in complete awe of that decision.  I think to myself, how cool would that be?  In real life, however, I had never really thought normal people do such things.  I was wrong.  As it turns out, a lot of people do these things, and yesterday I got to take part in one.

Yesterday, my friend Ann turned 42.  I don't think she'd mind me revealing that since to celebrate she invited anyone who wanted to come along to join her on all or part of a 42K (26.2 mile) birthday run.  Since I needed to get ten miles in this weekend on Sunday anyway and I was able to coax the GPs (grandparents) into letting the kids spend the night, I said I would join her.

My plan was to be there at the start of the run at 7 a.m.  Unfortunately, I timed the 45-minute drive a little too closely, and this didn't allow for any errors.  So, when I had to turn back to get my Garmin only a few blocks from my house, I already knew I was in trouble.  Getting to the University of Wisconsin Green Bay (UWGB) campus, which I had never visited, only sealed the deal.  I hadn't asked enough questions on where exactly I was going; had understood this parking lot, not that one.  So, I ended up circling around for quite a bit looking for cars with running stickers on them before finally deciding to park at a little cut-out right next to the trail.

I felt a little funny starting on my own, but I could clearly see the trail from my car.  And, since I had made the drive, I was determined I would do the run with or without others.  Besides, I figured I had simply parked in the wrong spot and knew there was a good chance I would a) either run into my friend on the trail or b) come across her car somewhere.

Obviously I didn't feel so funny at the start that
I couldn't take a self-portrait.
The deep, dark woods.
So, I locked things up, grabbed my Gatorade and Garmin and headed out.  Right away the trail dipped a bit into the woods, going under the road I had just driven and then disappeared into the trees on the far side.  It ran right alongside the Bay of Green Bay for a bit, and while it was beautiful, I couldn't shake the creep factor of being alone on a trail I didn't know.  (I had no idea where it was taking me!)  As it turned out, it took me to Ann's car.  Before I had even run a mile, I popped out into a parking area right next to the water and something called Lambeau Cabin (so, that is what Ann meant by Curly's Cottage; I had wondered.)  

Now, having found Ann's car, I decided to trot back the way I had come to move my car.  That way, at least they would know I was there.  In doing so, I ran right into Ann and another friend of hers only a hundred yards or so down the trail.  They kept me company on the run to my car, before running back to where they had parked.  I drove my car to the new parking area and met them there.  After regaling them with my morning's misadventures so far, we took off.

Bay of Green Bay
 The trail itself was great!  It consists of a 4.5-mile loop that circles the UWGB campus.  Some of it is paved, but most of it is actually crushed gravel or wood chips.  There are surprisingly quite a few ups and downs as the trail goes past a golf course and campus buildings before wending its way through the woods.  There are bridges, road crossings, hills, and even a tiny little stream crossing (you can step over it).  We even saw white-tail deer on the trail.  The Green Bay Running Club hosts a 6 and 8 hour ultra on the trail in June, and I can see why they like it.  It is challenging, and yet with the woods and soft trails, a person could reasonably expect to be shaded for part of it, and it would be easier on the legs.  Looping around every four or so miles is a plus, too.  There is no need to carry a lot with you.

As for my run, it was fantastic.  It was tougher for me from a pace standpoint.  I really had wanted to go between 10 and 10:30 pace, but with the others, it ended up averaging out to 9:55.  The others in the group consisted more of hardcore marathoners and ultra runners, so for them this was nothing more than a FUN long run.  They didn't care about pace at all and were happy to keep me company as I tried to push myself to keep going.  Trust me, I wanted to take a lot more walk breaks than we did, but I tried to challenge myself.  I am sure I slowed them down a lot, and despite telling them to go on - leave me behind, I was secretly grateful when they didn't.  The conversation was great, and before I knew it ten miles was DONE.  I have to say, I have never experienced ten miles go by so quickly before.  

So, I am sold on the idea of the birthday run!  During our run, two other friends of Ann's joined in and ran a portion of the trail with us.  After I left, I heard later that a handful of other folks showed up as well.  What a great way to celebrate a birthday - running and with friends.  Hmm, I keep thinking to myself now, I turn 42 this year.  Theoretically, I will have trained for and completed a marathon in September.  Is it so odd to think that a couple of months later I could celebrate my own birthday with a similar endeavor?  Something to keep in mind.

Peeps for the Peeps.
Scary picture of me mid-run with the birthday girl.
Stretching afterward.  Thank goodness for
the picnic blanket in the back of the car.
I needed to stretch before hopping in the car
for the drive back.
Have you ever celebrated anything with a run?


  1. Hi Shannon! That sounds like a phenomenal idea! I'm glad you posted it. I think you should totally go for it! Though, you can use that marathon as a long training run and run 42 miles on your birthday. Just get in a couple back to back long runs before your marathon and the week after :) Yeah ti's that easy...

    Are you going to do the 8 hour run? I think you should! A 12 hour trail run was my first intro to the ultra world and I loved it! It was on a 5 mile loop with some amazing people. The atmosphere was totally concert like (minus the pot smoking)!

    I turn 42 this January (am I sensing a theme?) and have not been healthy since I got hooked on running a couple years ago to race/run on or around my birthday. This year, I think I'll go for the 42 on my birthday. Granted it'll be cold in January (unless it's like this year) but it's not quite Wisconsin cold...If things go right, I'll be doing two 50's this fall and I may make mine a 42 mile birthday. Now to just get this adductor healed so I can run any distance...

    1. lol - I don't think I am up for a 42-miler, yet. Besides, if I am going to run ultra mileage, I think I would want it to be official somewhere. :) Actually, given my history with injuries, 42K will be challenge enough. I definitely think I might shoot for it. It sounds like you would be up for the 42 miles, though. And, you should definitely do it! Good luck on healing the adductor!

    2. Thanks! I'm hoping to get back to long miles by mid summer! I won't push it this time around :) I say give the 42k a chance! Maybe you can find a 50k around your birthday to run!

  2. A birthday run is a great idea. Glad you didn't give up and head home, although I probably would have! Good luck with your training.

    1. Thanks, Patty! I thought about calling it quits, but I can be awfully stubborn when I want to be. (It's one of my most endearing traits, I believe. lol) The down side is that I usually end up paying for my stubbornness with unnecessary aches and pains, and this past run was no exception - added mileage, faster than normal, on trails. Yeah, it all added up to more aches and pains. :)

  3. No, but I like this idea. I celebrate holidays by asking for race entries as presents. Does that count?

    1. That's a great idea! Why haven't I ever thought of that? :) It suddenly makes giving gift ideas easier. Thanks!

  4. I like the idea of a birthday run and was going to try to run a 50 mile race in the fall when I turn 50, but then the opportunity to run a 50 mile came up earlier than that and I signed up for one that takes place in less than 2 weeks. Can't wait to give it a go!