Spring 2019 Running Goals Revisited

“Spring” as defined by me for the purposes of this site (March, April, May) has effectively ended. As is tradition, I’m reviewing my goals for the season and the year to see my progress.

I will note this winter/spring has been pretty terrible for me as far as running is concerned. I found joyful runs to be few and far between, and spent far, far too many miles on the treadmill. I also found it hard to get my runs in while heading up to Duluth for hockey. That’s something I’ll have to work on for next winter.

My spring running goals were:

  1. Distance personal best. Zumbro 50 was canceled, but I wouldn’t have finished anyway considering my training and the men’s hockey national championship game.
  2. 50K personal best. I thought I came close at Ice Age Trail 50K, but then it turned out I misremembered my PR. I got my second best overall time, though!
  3. Set up a corporate team for Twin Cities Marathon. I’m working on it, but haven’t gotten very far. We can have an unofficial team, if that doesn’t work out.
  4. Run in three new counties. I ran in Carver County, Le Sueur County, Wright County, Rice County, and Goodhue County. Overachieving!
  5. Throw away all socks that have holes in them. This is ongoing since I am making new holes all the time, but I ditched a LOT of pairs of socks.

Let’s call that 2.5/5. Not great, but I did have a great time exploring new areas of Minnesota.

My annual goals are:

  1. 2019 mileage > 2018 mileage
    I’m not doing very well on that right now, but I’m not too far off and have plenty of time to make it up.
  2. Do 100 pushups/day
    The first few months of the year, this didn’t go well. Then my colleagues started doing a group push-up challenge at work, and I got back into doing them. I’m not anywhere near 100/day, but I’m working toward making up for lost time.
  3. Run more new races/courses than old ones.
    So far, I haven’t run any old courses! I ran the Polar Dash Half in January, which was a new race to me, and then I ran Ice Age Trail last weekend, which was entirely new terrain. Even FANS is going to be a new course, thanks to epic flooding on the Mississippi River.
  4. My highest category of training mileage will not be treadmill mileage. I’m still at probably around 50% treadmill workouts and maybe 45% treadmill mileage, but again, I can make a lot of that up as the year progresses.
  5. Start taking a multivitamin. Done. I didn’t notice a difference.
  6. Volunteer at a race that isn’t put on by Rocksteady Running.
    I volunteered at The Willow 10 & 20 Miler in Hudson, WI. I didn’t know anyone there, but I had a great time and truly enjoyed everyone I met. I got to hand out the awards to the top runners, answered questions, and helped call off bib numbers. I narrowly avoided being showered in blue Gatorade puke by a hard-charging tween boy.
  7. Go for a run in every county in MN. See above.

I think for the year, I am doing pretty well, except in the push-up area, which I’m already working on. I’m not sure what my summer running goals will be, I should firm them up in the next week or so.

Advertisements

Race Report: Ice Age 50K

The first rule of trying to beat your PR is to know what your PR actually is.

Official Results:
Time: 8:23:33
Pace: 16:13
Placing:
Overall: 224/242
Gender: 108/121
AG (F30-39): 36/39

Watch Results:
Time: 8:22:49 (Since there was a timing mat at the beginning, I didn’t start the watch til I crossed the mat, but it appears they used gun time for the official time)
Pace: 16:12
Distance: 31.02 mi (this is crazy because during the race it seemed very off)
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 7:45
B: 8:00
C: 8:20

Food:
What I ate the night before: half of a peanut chicken noodle dish from Noodles that wasn’t very good
What I ate on race morning: bagel with cream cheese
What I carried with me: 8 gel packets, water, water with electrolytes in a disposable water bottle, mints

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt, shorts, arm warmers, ball cap, hydration pack
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker

Discussion:
I am so happy with how the race went, even though I didn’t make any of my goals and didn’t PR. I didn’t even make my fake PR, which I thought was 8:23. I don’t know what I was thinking, since my PR is 8:14, but I didn’t think of that until like 20 miles into the race. I even linked to the race report from the Fall Back Blast, where I set that PR, but I didn’t even verify it. I was mixing it up with my trail marathon PR, which is 7:22, I guess. This ended up being a good thing because it gave me something to fight for when I realized all of my goals were out of reach.

I drove down to packet pickup the night before, then made a quick drive-by of the race start to check it out, then drove to my hotel about a half an hour away. I ate a depressing dinner; I guess I should have stuck with the spaghetti or something but I was worried about getting heartburn from the red sauce. I sort of put myself in the hole, nutrition-wise, but oh well. I went to bed fairly early (for me) and I actually slept! I think I got about 5 hours. I woke up before my 6:45 alarm, but overall I was very happy with the amount of sleep I got, considering I’d have an almost 5 hour drive ahead of me after the race.

I got to the race start with about 20 minutes to spare, which is a lot less time than I’d like, but I had enough time to do everything I needed to. Parking was very easy, and it was a very short walk to the start/finish area. The 50 milers had been off for hours, and the half marathoners would start after us 50Kers. The start was a bit of a surprise for most people, but that’s because so many people were talking while the race director was giving his speech.

Section 1: Start to AS 3 (1.5 mi section, 1.5 mi overall, 13:32 section pace, 13:32 overall pace): I guess I really cruised through this section! It’s fairly easy, a few little rolling hills and then a nice section through some pines. The trail is really wide here, so there wasn’t the normal bunching that you see at the start of a race with single track early on. I breezed through the aid station as I didn’t need anything. This section is actually run 4 times during the course, but this was the only time I did it in that “clockwise” direction. I can’t tell if it’s much easier that way, or if it was easier because it was the first segment in the race. Possibly both?

Section 2: AS 3 to AS 8 (0.9 mi section, 2.4 mi overall, 14:47 section pace, 14:00 overall pace): I’m not 100% certain why there are two aid stations so close together, but with three vastly different courses for the three distances, there is probably some logic to it I don’t understand. I didn’t need anything at this aid station since it was also so close to the start, so I cruised through. Honestly, I don’t remember much about this section, other than the “Confusion Corner” point, where there are so many different directions to go. The 50 milers have to go through that section quite a few times and go different ways, so they have volunteers out there helping to get people through. I slowed down a bit here so there must have been some climbing involved, but since it was less than a mile, it’s easy to forget.

Section 3: AS 8 to AS 9 (4.2 mi section, 6.6 mi overall, 15:29 section pace, 14:57 overall pace): This section is really hard! It has probably the most challenging climbs of the day, including a huge one right after the aid station. It does have some sections to run, so it’s probably my favorite type of trail running. I don’t mind a few decent climbs, as long as they aren’t as steep as Moose Mountain. I think the course description undersold how much of this section can be run, but maybe for a faster runner it wouldn’t seem that way. For the amount of climbing/uphills in this section, I think that’s a pretty freaking great section pace! The aid station/turnaround was near a horse camp, and I could hear some horses whinnying when I passed. I don’t really like horses, but that was kind of fun! I drank some pop at the aid station and grabbed a couple cookies. At some point during this section, I ate a gel. Since it was an out and back, I got to encounter all the runners ahead of me on the way back, which is okay but also gets old.

Section 4: AS 9 to AS 8 (4.2 mi section, 10.9 mi overall, 16:20 section pace, 15:29 overall pace): Dang, I slowed down a lot here! I am surprised. I did have some minor stomach trouble here, as I drank too much pop at the aid station and it made me feel kind of gross. I ate one of the cookies but had to force it down, and then ate a mint (Lifesavers wintergreen). I need to break those mints in half because I was sick of the darn thing but didn’t have anywhere to put it and was not about to litter. I didn’t have a gel during this section because of the stupid mint! That was probably dumb. I started running into 50 milers during this section, which was neat! They were spaced out farther than the 50Kers on the previous section, so it didn’t interrupt my rhythm as much.

Section 5: AS 8 to AS 3 (0.9 mi section, 11.8 mi overall, 17:12 section pace, 15:37 overall pace): I have no clue why I slowed so much during this section. I didn’t stop at the aid station, so I guess I was just dawdling.

Section 6: AS 3 to AS 2 (start/finish) (1.5 mi section, 13.3 mi overall, 15:30 section pace, 15:36 overall pace): Here, I started to encounter half marathoners finishing up as well as 50Kers finishing their first loop. Both were a little demoralizing, especially since the half marathoners were finishing the same distance as me, but had started 45 minutes later. Of course, they had a bit easier terrain to run and they didn’t have to conserve energy for another 18 miles, but still!

Section 7: AS 2 to AS 1 (5 mi section, 18.3 mi overall, 15:48 section pace, 15:40 overall pace): This section starts out with about 2 miles to just cruise. I vowed to myself that I would run all the runnable sections, because I think at this point I had realized that my A and B goals were out the window but that my C goal was within reach, if I kept on it. I also thought that meant a PR, so I was really holding on to that. Once the two miles of mostly flat terrain ends, it’s 3 miles of rolling hills, some of them rather large. I think this section’s hilliness is undersold, which is the opposite of the description of the first portion of the course. I thought the aid station was 4.5 miles away, not 5, so I was getting extremely frustrated until I checked my pace chart and realized it was farther away than I thought. At the aid station, I reapplied sunscreen and some Vaniply to a few spots that were chafing.

Section 8: AS 1 to AS 2 (3.9 mi section, 22.2 mi overall, 17:29 section pace, 15:59 overall pace): Woof! This section was hard! The funny thing is, I don’t remember it being hard physically. I do remember it being hard mentally, because I was running with a lot of 50kers who were finishing while I had one more lap to go. It had a few hills, but still.

Section 9: AS 2 to AS 1 (5 mi section, 27.2 mi overall, 15:32 section pace, 15:54 overall pace): I left the finish line determined to give it my all on this last loop. I knew that AS 1 was closing at 3, so I planned to run right through it. I was starting to hurt a bit at this point, and I know my gait was starting to get wobbly, but I continued to run even if I wanted to walk and/or lie down in the grass and quit. And sure enough, I ran this section 4 minutes faster than the first time, although most of that was because I didn’t stop at the aid station. At this point, I still had hope of finishing in 8:20, and I was jazzed leaving the aid station.

Section 10: AS 1 to the finish line (3.9 mi section, 31 mi overall, 18:03 section pace, 16:12 overall pace): Well, any hope of finishing in under 8:20 died in this section. I am still a bit confused about what was so hard about this particular section, because it isn’t that bad, but I was also sort of crushed by it. I had the physical energy to continue but my joints were starting to hurt, especially my hips. The bottoms of my feet weren’t feeling great either, and I had blisters on both heels. At one point, the blister on my right heel burst and it started to feel like absolute fire every time I took a step, without the nice cushion of fluid to prevent my sock from rubbing on raw skin. I was demoralized and knew that I didn’t have the 8:20 finish in me, but I kept going. I ran when I didn’t want to run, even some uphills. I was getting passed by 50 milers who looked like they were in much better shape than me for the most part. I thought even the 8:23 was beyond hope, but I kept on pushing. I didn’t want to give up, and I started to look at the race as mental test for what I’ll be facing at FANS. I saw the red Saucony signs which marked the approach of the finish line, and realized I could still squeak under 8:23 if I pushed. So I pushed, and even though the stupid finish is UPHILL for some terrible reason, I ran through the finish with a smile on my face and finished under 8:23 per my watch. (If only I’d known to start my watch at the gun instead of when I crossed the timing mat…)

After the finish, I got my finisher’s token and walked around elated. I know why this race is so popular, and it’s not because the course is challenging but fun, or because the scenery is beautiful. It’s because everyone involved is so nice. Like, I want to cry when I think about how nice everyone was. The finish was crowded with people who were shouting encouragement at me, and I couldn’t stop grinning and thanking them. I sat down and had a ginger ale and talked with a volunteer, then headed off to find a bathroom. I decided I wasn’t quite ready to go inside anywhere, so I sat down and had a nice conversation with a 50 miler name Pat, and then another guy who I know by face but not name (and was too spaced out to ask for his name) who recognized my Rocksteady Running gear. I talked with Pat’s cute daughter who was telling me all about her dolphin she had gotten at an arcade or something (I wasn’t quite following), and then I had to get up and go because some woman in the medical tent was throwing up her entire soul and I couldn’t deal with seeing that or even trying to ignore it but knowing it was happening.

I walked over to the lot where I thought my car was, realized it was in a different grassy lot, and hobbled over to that lot to change my clothes (I changed everything except my sports bra and underwear, I didn’t even care that I took my pants off in the middle of a field) and then drove home.

I had a lot of thoughts and feelings during this race, mostly about my future as an ultrarunner. I don’t know what was going on in my head, but I was thinking “Why am I doing this?” quite a bit. That tends to happen a lot when I’m doing a race that’s far from home and requires a lot of money and effort to attend; I feel like I would rather just go back home and go to bed. Unfortunately this race gives a couple primo opportunities to just quit, since you come through the finish area at 13 and 22 miles. And I thought about quitting a couple times, and I’m not sure why. I really do enjoy the sport and by the end I was reminded why I do it: because of the strong connection with other runners and volunteers, because of the beauty of the outdoors, because I do love the challenge and the struggle, and because a runner’s high is an unbeatable feeling.

I was surprised by how much self-doubt I felt during the race despite overall performing pretty well. I suppose that’s partially because I have not been training that hard, which was evident from the pain in my legs and feet. I know I made a lot of nutrition mistakes during the race (and leading up to it), but I never really felt like my energy was lagging, I just felt like it hurt so much I didn’t want to run. But I still did. I ran almost all of the runnable sections of the race, with a few exceptions: one downhill that was pretty steep and a little bit of time after my blister exploded (but it actually hurt more to walk than to run). I feel like I pushed harder than I have in the past, and I’m pretty proud of that. This is still faster than both of my other runs on the Ice Age Trail (as part of Chippewa Moraine – obviously a different section of the trail), so I’ll call it an Ice Age Trail PR.

Ice Age 50K Goals

I’m racing in 12 hours! Surprise surprise. I am of course going from excitement to anxiety and back from minute to minute. The farther away from home I go for a race, the more that seems to happen.

I really want to get a 50K PR, so my goals are as follows:

A Standard: 7:45
B Standard: 8:00
C Standard: 8:20

Ambitious? Maybe. Probably. Yes.

The single most important thing I can do right now is get enough sleep. I mean, 4 hours would be great. I don’t have to get up super early (maybe 6:45?) so maybe that is going to work in my favor, but maybe not. I was on a work trip last week and I had a terrible time sleeping, so I am not anticipating a nice long snooze. Of course worrying about it now doesn’t help, does it?

I don’t know much about this course. It sounds like the first 13 miles are hilly and the two 9 mile loops after are more runnable. I don’t know what to expect beyond that. The area looks gorgeous, and I hope I am able to enjoy it.

That sounds very fatalistic, I guess. I realized I haven’t run an ultra in almost a year. That is crazy! I didn’t realize it had been that long, but I DNS both Zumbro (canceled) and Surf the Murph (ugh), and my other two big fall races were marathons. So it’s hard to know what to expect, plus my mileage has been a lot lower lately since I’ve been not super enthusiastic about running. I think I’m in good shape and I’m going to have a much better race than I did at, say, Moose Mountain Marathon, but I also don’t know what kind of mental shape I’m in. We shall see.

Out of the Black and Into the Blue

I have been completely unenthusiastic about running lately. And that’s putting it mildly.

I’m starting to come out on the other side of things, mostly because Zumbro is behind me. The race, unfortunately, was canceled due to weather. I am not going to lie, this was a huge relief to me. Zumbro weighed so heavily on me. My training went fairly poorly, and I failed to get even 50 miles most weeks. I think that probably would have been okay if my average mileage had been in the 40s, but my average mileage for training ended up being like 37 miles or so. Not much more than I’d get during a 50k.

I was prepared not to run the race, or to run a modified version of it. Once the Bulldogs advanced to the Frozen Four, I canceled my hotel room. I knew I’d still have an opportunity to run the whole race, if they didn’t make the national championship game, but I could also run 2 loops (~34 miles) and make it home in time to watch the game. (If I ran the whole thing, I’d be done before game time, but also likely too tired to watch.) When it looked like it was going to be nice, I was still thinking I’d do what I could.

When it looked like it was going to be frigid and rainy the whole time, I was out. I was not prepared to run at night, in rain and potentially ice, even for a shorter distance. I was chicken, and I was coming face to face with the consequences of the denial I’d been living in. I’d done very little to prep for the race. I didn’t do any really long runs. I didn’t run at night. I didn’t run in poor conditions. I barely ran outside at all, and hardly ever on trails. I didn’t do anything hard, but expected to show up and do something incredibly hard.

My chest felt so heavy it felt like a rock had replaced my heart. I knew I’d have to live with the decision not to run, and feel like I’d wasted money, embarrassed myself, and overall let myself down. When I saw the weather started to turn, I started to think that maybe I could avoid all that misery. If the race was canceled, I wouldn’t have to be a quitter! Then I thought about all the people who worked hard to put on the event, and who worked hard to line up at the start, especially those who missed out on last year’s race, and I felt like garbage for even entertaining the hope that it would be canceled, just so I could look myself in the mirror.

The race was canceled, and I’m still a quitter. I quit in my head and my heart before I knew it was canceled (although I do think I would have made it down if the weather had been favorable, and at least started the race), so no one else knew I was a quitter. I’m here to correct the record.

It’s been warm enough to run outside in just shorts and a t-shirt lately (though the warm weather comes and goes), and that has helped me love running again. I don’t have to think about unshoveled sidewalks, phantom patches of ice, and frostbite. It’s still light out when I finish my runs in the evening. I’m not chilled to the bone when I come in from a run. Trails are starting to dry out.

I’ve got Ice Age 50K in a few weeks (although I have a weird soreness in the upper part of my left leg that I can’t seem to pinpoint, so I’m taking a few days off to rest and spending that time worrying about what could be wrong), and I’m really looking forward to that. I have missed racing and I’ve missed being in the woods.

The bright shiny silver lining to this story is that UMD won another national championship, so Zumbro weekend ended on a very, very, very high note!

Spring 2019 Running Goals

It IS actually spring, according to the rules here at CoM (spring = Mar-May, summer = Jun-Aug, fall = Sep-Nov, for goal setting purposes), so I need to step it up and get my spring running goals together, even if running is making me miserable right now.

I don’t have a whole lot planned for the spring, so I had a hard time coming up with too many short-term goals. I managed to come up with four distinct goals:

  1. Distance personal best. It’s mine as long as I finish Zumbro.
  2. 50K personal best. I was gunning for that last spring at Chippewa Moraine and didn’t make it, so I’ll give it another shot at Ice Age in May.
  3. Set up a corporate team for Twin Cities Marathon. Several of my colleagues have expressed interest in running TCM this year, and I thought it would be fun to get some of the perks that come with being a corporate team. I’m in the beginning stages of setting up the team (and setting myself up as team captain!)
  4. Run in three new counties. I set a multi-year goal to run at least a mile in every county in MN, and I am ready to start exploring! With upcoming races and the current poor trail conditions, it’s going to be hard to get too many new counties in, so I am setting the bar kind of low.
  5. Throw away all socks that have holes in them. (I added this 3/11/19). I realize this makes me seem like a pathetic hoarder, but I wear clothing into the ground. A hem coming out? A hole in a seam? Faded/dingy whites? Small stain? I’m still wearing it. But holey socks are just going to lead to foot discomfort. Time to jettison those socks and replace them (hopefully with more durable pairs).

I know once the weather improves, I am going to get excited about running again, so it’s just a matter of buckling down for these last few weeks of winter weather (I’m being optimistic here, of course there could be 6 more weeks, but I can’t think about that now.)

Frustrated, Inc.

I hate running right now.

That’s pretty much where I’m at. I ran 17 miles last week, all indoors. I have cracked 50 miles ONCE in this training cycle, which is a training cycle for a 50 mile race. Can’t get 50 miles in a week, but definitely will be able to do 50 miles in (less than) one day.

This is normal and seems to happen every winter. The sun goes down early. The weather is cold. The sidewalks are iffy. The trails are unpacked. The wind is brutal. The gear is cumbersome. The water freezes. The gels freeze. Snot freezes. Sweat freezes. Tears freeze.

It’ll all be fine eventually. I’ll make it out of this funk (I ran 7.5 miles today, for example), but it sucks when I’m down in it. I’m bored of the treadmill. I dislike most of the running routes that are still available to me. I’m tired of encountering snow/ice/poor conditions halfway through a run. I’m tired of layering up and laundering my clothes constantly. I will find pretty much any excuse to put off a run, then get frustrated that I have left myself with little daylight to get it done.

I’ve kind of accepted that I’m going to go into Zumbro 50 undertrained, and I’m just going to have to deal with it. (Unless I’m in Buffalo for the men’s Frozen Four. Which I said I wasn’t going to. But I’m sure I’ll waver if UMD makes it.) I have almost no runs completed that one would call a “long run.” I’ve tried to balance motivation and self-preservation, frostbite and sweat, treadmill and trail. I’m failing at most of my year-long goals, but I can always make more progress later, once I’m back in a running groove.

I guess maybe signing up for a race would be a good idea. The Hot Dash is coming up soon, and while I don’t always love grinding out a run on that hilly course, it would be a nice medium-ish run that could give me back some of my running mojo. Of course that is over a month away, so I’m going to have to find a better solution. A beautiful day in the woods will probably do wonders.

If you’re a cold weather runner and you’re going through the same doldrums as I am, hang in there. Eventually it’ll be spring, and until then, we’ll just have to find that invincible summer inside ourselves.

The Discontent of My Winter

I am at that point in winter where I’m thinking “What business do I have running a 50 mile race in April?” Unlike the last two years this has happened, I’m actually signed up for Zumbro 50 this year.

The first 5 weeks of my Zumbro training have been 22 mi, 40 mi, 42 mi, 45 mi, and 50 mi. Somehow I expect to run 50 miles in 17 hours despite averaging less than that in one week, with my longest run being my half marathon in early January.

These unremarkable weeks of training are all I’ve got to give right now. I’m figuring out survival techniques for eking the most mileage out of my days as I can. Last weekend the temps were in the single digits Fahrenheit, so I ended up splitting my runs into an outdoor and an indoor portion. I ran as much as I could stand outside, then went home, changed, ate something, and ran the remainder on the treadmill. No, I don’t count those as long runs, but the miles are better than nothing.

It’s too cold and the footing is too iffy for me to feel comfortable running outside during the week after work. I don’t want to ruin my whole evening by being cold, and I don’t want to risk an injury that might leave me exposed to the elements longer than planned. Once the sun is gone and the wind kicks up, the nights are pretty brutal. And obviously the -30F weather we’re having this past week has turned evening running into a nonstarter.

But January is almost over. The days are getting longer, the weather isn’t going to be brutal forever, and maybe the trails won’t be so icy in February and March. It certainly will be a lot more fun once the weather’s back in the 20s and 30s and I can do some long runs outside. I’m doing pretty terribly on all my goals so far – I’m not consistently doing push-ups, the lion’s share of my runs have been on the treadmill, and I totally forgot I was going to take a multivitamin.

The next 11 months can only be an improvement over January, or at least I hope so.