Twin Cities Marathon 2019 Training: Week 4

It’s so hot.

Monday: 4 mi, road
Tuesday: 5.5 mi, paved trail (MRT, 5 x 0.5 mi)
Wednesday: rest (volunteered at Endless Summer Trail Run Series)
Thursday: 3.7 mi, trail (Battle Creek ski trails)
Friday: 6.2 mi, pavement (Big Rivers, 33:36 @ tempo)
Saturday: 10.1 mi, trail (Lebanon Hills)
Sunday: 8 mi, paved trail (Battle Creek, 7 @ marathon “effort”)
Total: 37.5 mi

Woof, this last week has been pretty steamy. It wore me down a bit, honestly. I started Monday with a pretty slow run starting at Harriet Island and crossing the Mississippi twice (on the Wabasha St. and Robert St. bridges). I did another set of sweaty half mile repeats on the Mississippi River Trail on Tuesday, starting at Upper Landing Park and heading downriver. I find the best way to get those repeats in without running out of real estate is to go back and forth on the section of the trail that parallels Warner Road – it’s not as busy as some other sections, and it is relatively flat. My paces were all over the place (8:51, 8:20 [how??], 9:02, 9:08, 9:10) and once again, too fast for what the workout calls for. I don’t know if I allow myself too much recovery or what the deal is, but I need to get better at pacing myself for these speed workouts.

Wednesday I volunteered at Lebanon Hills, checking in runners and feeding them pizza. One of these days maybe I should actually run an ESTRS race, but I find that it’s much more relaxing to volunteer and use it as a rest day, plus I am trying not to spend as much money on races these days (especially because I finally registered for TCM and that was a HUGE chunk of change). Perhaps next year?

Thursday I did a short but challenging trail run at Battle Creek on the ski trails. The trails near the school had been recently mowed so it was a much more pleasant experience! I hate running in longer grass, it takes up so much energy. There was a peloton of bikers out on the same trails which was sort of awkward, but the ski trails are wide enough that there was always room for me to squeeze past, as long as the bikers were paying attention. One of these days I need to take some pictures up on those trails because they are really lovely.

Friday’s tempo run was a bit shy of the 35 minutes I was supposed to do. It was tough, because it was so hot, but I also timed it a bit poorly and ended up at the bottom of a large hill with 1:36 to go in my tempo time. I was not about to run up that hill (and make a deal with god), so I ended the tempo a little early. My overall pace was 10:23, not bad.

The weekend was hot again, so I swapped the long run and marathon pace runs in order to get the long run out of the way first. The plan was only 10 miles for the “long” run, so it wasn’t that hard to accomplish. I went to Lebanon Hills on Saturday and managed to eke 10 miles out of just one pass around the park (with only a few sections of backtracking). It was pretty shady there so I didn’t have a lot of issues with the heat, despite it being probably 90F or so and who knows what for a heat index. Sunday I waited until about 6 to start my marathon-ish effort run (on the paved trails at Battle Creek), because it was blazing hot during the day. It was still sultry and miserable to run in the heat and humidity, but at least the sun wasn’t beating down on me. I can’t say I gave a true marathon effort (and certainly did not approach marathon pace), but I was trying to be careful in the heat. I did a half mile warm-up, ran 7 mi at 12:44 average pace, then walked a half mile for a cool-down. I drank an entire handheld bottle of water during the run and probably sweat out twice that much!

One of the biggest challenges for me has been trying to plan my workouts around some rather fluid weather forecasts. I will see thunderstorms in the forecast, try to plan around them, and find they either do not materialize or shift earlier/later and screw with my plans. I don’t mind running in the rain a bit but I prefer not to be caught out in a thunderstorm!

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Twin Cities Marathon 2019 Training: Week 3

Lots of schedule changes this week to accommodate holiday vacation plans.

Monday: 3.3 mi, road
Tuesday: 4.7 mi, road (35 min @ tempo)
Wednesday: 3.3 mi, road
Thursday: 3.8 mi, road (speed workout)
Friday: 6.2 mi, road
Saturday: rest (volunteering at Afton Trail Race)
Sunday: 12.1 mi, trail (Luce Line)
Total: 33.4 mi

Last week already feels 100 years in the past. It’s like I didn’t even have 4 days off, yikes. It’s been really hot, too, so that has made running pretty hard. I was tired early in the week and also had trouble getting motivation to get out and run. Tuesday I didn’t even start running until 8:45, after I had eaten dinner. Yes, I did a tempo run (at 11:07 average pace!!) after eating tacos. It wasn’t that bad. Other than that, the first 3 days of the week were fairly unremarkable.

Thursday my husband and I drove up to Duluth for a quick overnight for the holiday. My sister-in-law came with me for my late afternoon run after we had an early (like, senior citizen early bird special early) pizza dinner. She is also running Twin Cities Marathon! I don’t know how she finds the time to train between her career and her three kids – it kind of puts me to shame. She’s also much faster than me so I was really pushing – that’s why it became kind of a speed workout. Our overall pace was 11:17 and that includes a couple of stints of walking – I had some abdominal cramps from the food and rigorous running. It was fun to run with her although I definitely pushed myself too hard – I was trying to have a conversation and that was making it even harder. The good news was for once I wasn’t monopolizing the conversation.

Friday I ran around Pike Lake by myself (I couldn’t handle 6 miles at my SIL’s pace and I didn’t want to slow her down), which went pretty well. I was only planning on doing 3-4 miles but once I was moving, I decided to do the whole thing. My plan called for 7 miles but 6.2 was good enough! We went swimming about an hour afterward, and my nephews kept asking me to swim with them around the boat (they were wearing life jackets and using noodles, I was not) so I got pretty worn down. I crashed pretty hard on the drive home because I had not had enough to eat. Once I snacked in the car, I managed to come back to life.

Saturday I volunteered for Afton Trail Race. I’ll write a separate race report but I was BEAT at the end of the day. I am so glad I set that aside as a rest day because I had NO energy left to do a run. I slept for 12 hours on Saturday night/Sunday morning, only waking up once.

Sunday I drove out to run a new section of the Luce Line trail, parking at the Lyndale lot and running out to Watertown before turning around. I was worried I would be too hot, but the trail was pretty well shaded. There were a few flies, which was annoying, and I got a couple mosquito bites, but that was the worst of it. I started out really slowly because of course as soon as I got out on the trail I had to pee. After a couple miles, I quickly ducked onto a horse trail and felt a lot better. So the moral of the story is: if you have to pee 2 miles into a long run, don’t try to hold it forever. I ate two gels during the run, reapplied sunscreen once, and overall cruised along. The Luce Line trail is a railbed trail so it doesn’t really have any hills, which makes long runs so much easier! I don’t always seek to make my long runs easy, but when it’s hot, sometimes it’s nice to get done earlier. I was supposed to do 14 miles, but since I had only done 10 miles for my long run the weekend before, I decided that I wouldn’t ramp up quite as much.

I did my 125 pushups Monday-Thursday, but Friday I figure I replaced my strength workout with swimming, Saturday I lifted a bunch of stuff and was too gassed to do pushups when I got home, and Sunday I just kind of forgot/ran out of time since we went to a movie that night. I’m back in the habit again already though!

I was hoping for more miles this past week, and it’s shaping up that my July is going to be way lower mileage than last year, but the important thing is that I get in quality workouts, which I think I have been doing so far.

Twin Cities Marathon 2019 Training: Week 2

Monday: 3.3 mi, paved trail
Tuesday: 5.2 mi, road (4 x Wabasha Street Bridge)
Wednesday: rest
Thursday: 3 mi, trail (Battle Creek)
Friday: 5.7 mi, paved trail (MRT, 35 @ tempo)
Saturday: 10.6 mi, trail (4.2 + 6.4 at Battle Creek)
Sunday: 7 mi, paved trail (MRT, 6 @ marathon pace)
Total: 34.8 mi

Wow, that was a tough week.

Monday was a really hard day for me. I was tired, my workday was super frustrating, and I packed a lot of stuff into my evening: a quick run, my weekly violin lesson, and then dinner with my mom. All fun stuff, but stuff I didn’t have the mental bandwidth to handle. On top of that, my hamstring was really bothering me during my run. I felt like I was on the verge of hurting it badly, so I ended up walking quite a bit during what was supposed to be a quick, easy run.

Tuesday I was still having hamstring problems, even sometimes when walking. I was stretching it and using magnesium oil nightly, but it would go from feeling fine to giving me a zap unexpectedly. I decided to still complete my hill workout but not go full throttle. It was hard enough as it was! Plus I was running into the wind! Yikes.

Thursday I found a new section of Battle Creek trails. I did 3 miles of hilly x-c trails, which was fun except for the mosquitoes. I guess it really is summer now. I thought it was going to storm so I tried to stay conservatively close to my car, but then I ended up barely getting 3 miles. I like this section of Battle Creek (near the ballfields), but the grass was a bit long and I dislike running in grass.

Friday was pretty hot, but I had a tempo run to do. I picked a dumb section to run: starting in Mendota and heading downriver on the MRT. The section was too short for a 15 minute warmup plus 35 minute tempo plus whatever minute cooldown. I had to continue to Water Street, which is supposed to be closed to traffic, but people just go around the barriers and drive like idiots. Super safe. Also, it’s downhill to start, which meant it was uphill going back. I felt like I really struggled with the heat and especially with the direct sunlight beating down on me, even though it was already early evening. I did manage an overall pace of 10:52, which wasn’t terrible (especially since I am not even kidding, I walked a little bit during the tempo part), and I did manage to do the appropriate ramp up, peak, and taper off structure that I use for tempo runs. It just… sucked.

Saturday was hot, too. I was supposed to do 6 miles at marathon pace on Saturday, and then 13 miles on Sunday, but since Sunday was supposed to be even hotter, I switched them around so I could get the harder workout done first and coast through Sunday, relatively speaking. My plan was to run the various sections of Battle Creek (ski trails, water park area, etc), but after 4 miles on the ski trails, I wanted to quit. I thought I could go back home, cool off, and run somewhere else later. I changed my mind after a few minutes and decided that I could drive from the ski trails to the dog park area, cool off in the AC for awhile, and get back out there. This worked out pretty well! I could not bring myself to do the full 13 miles, as I was wilting in the heat and was running low on water, but I figure 10 miles in that heat was worth 13 normal miles, even split up. My time on feet was over 3 hours, so that’s definitely comparable to 13 road miles.

Sunday turned out to be cooler than expected! It stormed a bit during the day, so I was glad I’d flip-flopped my work-outs. I would have been interrupted by the thunderstorms if I’d done 13 miles on Sunday. I started running around 3:30, and while it was in the mid 70s F when I started, it was still pretty tough due to tired legs and high humidity. I didn’t worry too much about trying to reach goal marathon pace, just marathon effort. Even that was kind of difficult after the sun came out. I ran the MRT from Upper Landing Park to Elway Street and back, and it’s rather hilly, which made the workout even harder. So, even though I only ran a 12:16 pace for that section (still faster than my pace at TCM!), I’m trying to stay positive.

I did 125 push-ups every day, so strength training is going well, in the sense that I’m doing something rather than nothing. I do notice a difference in my upper body and my core, so this habit is starting to pay dividends.

This upcoming week is going to be a bit of a mess, with Independence Day and Afton Trail Run volunteering. You’d think a four day weekend would mean more opportunities to run, not less, but that isn’t the case. That 4:45 a.m. shift start at Afton is gonna be rough.

Twin Cities Marathon 2019 Training: Week 1

Monday: 3.2 mi, road
Tuesday: 2.9 mi, trail (Battle Creek)
Wednesday: 5.1 mi, paved trail (MRT, 4 x 0.5 mi)
Thursday: rest
Friday: 5.6 mi, road/paved trail (MRT/Water St, 30 @ tempo)
Saturday: 6.9 mi, road (6 @ marathon pace)
Sunday: 7.1 mi, paved trail (Battle Creek)
Total: 30.7 mi

Wednesday I was calculating how many weeks I had until TCM. Whoops, it was 16 weeks, so I retroactively started my training. Fortunately the first 2 days were 3 mile runs, which I had done!

Monday I did a short run around my neighborhood. There’s a new section of sidewalk that was just installed that makes running my typical neighborhood loop significantly safer. I decided it was time to check it out.

Tuesday I did a cross-country style run at Battle Creek up on the bluffs. I don’t love running in grass, so it wasn’t that much fun, but I barely got a run in as it was. I’ve never been up in that area (and had to use a mountain bike trail to get there, which made me feel like a jerk), so it was fun to find somewhere new, but I just haaaaaaaaate how slow grass is.

Wednesday’s half mile repeats I already discussed here. I planned Thursday as my rest day because I was going to go to a local concert, but we ended up not going. It sounds like it was a good idea, because the only band I was going to see ended up playing last, so it would have been like midnight. On a work night, ew!

Friday I did a tempo run. It was okay, I guess. I didn’t think my route through very well. I ran the Mississippi River Trail starting at Harriet Island and heading back toward Lilydale. It was okay until I ran under the railroad tracks, got back on the trail, and remembered it was covered in sediment. And there were two downed trees. I had to veer over to the roads for the rest of the workout. It went all right, although I should have had a snack or something beforehand because I could feel myself running out of energy. I ran an average of 10:34 pace for the 30 minutes, peaking at the 20 minute mark as planned.

Saturday I did a marathon pace workout on Summit. That was a stupid idea, since I hit a bunch of stoplights. I think I hit eight of them in total. I had a really hard time getting into the right rhythm. At first, I was running too fast. I want to run a 5 hour marathon, so I’m looking at an 11:26 marathon pace. I’d look down at my watch and see 11:10 or 10:40, so I’d back off and then I’d see 12:40 or something. And then when I finally settled into a groove, I’d hit a stoplight and have to recalibrate. The first few miles went all right, but then I started getting some abdominal cramps that wouldn’t go away. I guess my morning latte wasn’t sitting that well. This really messed with my head and I was having a hard time staying motivating myself to hold the harder pace. The “marathon pace” section of my workout ended up being a 12:13 average pace, stoplights included.

There are two ways of looking at this result: I need to be more realistic about this marathon, or I’m in okay shape but need to keep working. 12:13 is much faster than my previous TCM pace, so that part is good, and of course I will not have stoplights or other traffic to deal with during the race, but those stoplights also gave me little rest/recovery breaks. I wanted to give up so many times, too, because my stomach hurt and it was hot and I think I probably should have eaten a little snack just before running. So my mental game is weak. The next marathon pace workout will need to be on a paved trail with fewer road crossings, in order to get a better sense of my abilities, but it was disheartening to have such a hard time holding it for even six miles. Of course, I have run longer distances at faster paces, so I shouldn’t be too worried about it, and even if I do run a marathon with a 12:13 average pace, I’ll have a huge time improvement over last year, so that’s a bonus.

Sunday I had to drag myself out to run, and I don’t know why. The weather was sort of iffy – I wasn’t sure if it was going to rain or not while I was running. And I just wanted to do nothing and be lazy. We had a barbecue to attend in the afternoon, and for some reason if I have a deadline I need to finish my run by, then I get all squirrelly and don’t want to run at all, or take forever to get started. Why must I be such a self-saboteur? I got out there and did 7 miles, though my plan called for 8. It didn’t rain more than a little sprinkle, but the air was so thick and heavy that the whole run was fairly unpleasant. I got it done, so hooray, but I didn’t feel very accomplished about it.

In addition to the running, I did 120 push-ups every day, including the rest day. I have been doing push-ups daily for awhile now, but I’m often doing them at bedtime because I space out about getting them done during the day and then realize oh crap, it’s 11:00 and I’ve only done 80 (I do reps of 20-30 periodically, I don’t usually knock out all the push-ups at once. This probably isn’t the best way to do them but it is better than doing zero.)

Summer 2019 Running Goals

Okay, it’s the summer solstice, so I should finally reveal my summer running goals, even though I’ve been “governed” by them for 21 days already.

  1. Distance PR. (Trust me on this one, it was always on my list.)
  2. Unofficial 50K PR. (Again, I know FANS has come and gone, but it’s been on my list.  wrote a draft of these in my private running journal on May 16th.)
  3. Run a 10K. I’ve still not managed to sign up for a 10K in, what, four years of consistent running? I’m sure there will be plenty to choose from this summer.
  4. Run 5 new counties. This goes along with my multi-year goal to run at least a mile in every county in MN. I have a trip to North Dakota in July that could pound all those out at once.
  5. Volunteer for trail work. I do a lot of volunteering at races, but I don’t have a lot of experience doing trail work. There are some opportunities coming up I’m hoping to take advantage of.

That is sort of boring, but I also don’t do that much during the summer because I am such a delicate flower, wilting in the heat. And my big big big goal, Twin Cities Marathon, isn’t until fall, but I will be working toward it this whole season. Playing the long game, as it were.

Speeding Up

It turns out this is the first week of Twin Cities Marathon training! I only discovered that today. I whipped up a training plan really quickly, and by that I mean I printed out calendar pages for June – October and wrote down weeks 3-18 (because whoops, I’ve only got 16 weeks left) of Hal Higdon’s Advanced 2 marathon plan, with some modifications. I don’t take rest days on Fridays, and I moved around a few other workouts to accommodate a couple 5Ks I’ve entered, as well as some travel I have in August.

The good news was the first two days of workouts were just 3 mile runs, and I did 3 mile runs (approximately) on Monday and Tuesday! So I was right on schedule. This evening, the plan called for 4×800 repeats. I don’t have a track nearby, so I just did half mile repeats with quarter mile walking breaks. I have not run fast in a long time, and wow it was tough. I ran by effort/feel, rather than by pace, because I really have a hard time targeting a specific pace. I was hurting at the end of each repeat, though I was still in control of my breathing, and I was able to recover fully during the walking intervals, so whatever pace I was running wasn’t terrible. I looked at the data on MovesCount afterward and my pace was also fairly even.

I was worried that this hard effort would result in slower than 5K pace or something else depressing. I didn’t look at the pace on my watch while running, so I had no idea if I was sucking wind or if I still had a little speed left in me, and I had no idea if I was being consistent between reps. Upon investigation, it appears I nailed it:

Lap 1: 9:04
Lap 2: 8:56
Lap 3: 8:57
Lap 4: 8:56

I rule! Kind of. This sounds super humblebraggy of course, but I was definitely running too hard. I want to run TCM in 5 hours, so my half mile repeats should take 5 minutes, at a 10:00 pace. I need to rein it in and do the workout as prescribed next time; I need to run a pace I can sustain for more than 4 reps, and tighten up the recovery pace (anywhere from 17:45 to 20:25 pace, although I was talking to a passerby during the slowest lap).

I’m excited to have a training plan again! It is nice to have some focus and some built-in variety to my workouts. I’m still looking for another race or two for the summer (a 10K and a half marathon, I’d say) to give me some chances to measure my progress and to stoke my competitive fires.

Race Report: FANS 24 Hour Race 2019

Little by little, brick by brick.

Official Results:
Distance: 45.4 mi
Pace: N/A, but I tapped out at about 15:14, so 20:08
Placing:
TBD once the results are published

Watch Results:
Time: 15:14:02
Pace: 16:12
Distance: 48.1 mi (once my watch even beeped off a mile while I was sitting in a chair)
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
Big distance PR, short laps

Food:
What I ate the night before: Gyro pizza
What I ate on race morning: bagel with cream cheese
What I carried with me: gels, mints (I had some Oreo cookies at my tent), water bottle with electrolyte tabs

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt, shorts, arm warmers for the first few laps, ball cap, hydration vest (without a water bottle – used for storage), buff as headband (in the afternoon)
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker

Discussion: It’s pretty amazing how much the events of the week preceding the race can affect the race itself. The cumulative effects of a rainy and chilly Twins game on Monday, another Twins game on Tuesday that wasn’t rainy or cold but got out late, a lot of deadlines and stress at work, a really poor night’s sleep on Wednesday, air quality issues late in the week that left me feeling sick, and temperatures over 90F on Friday ended up putting me in a significant sleep debt. To cap it off, despite being tired when I went to bed on Friday, at a very decent hour, after avoiding caffeine most of the day (just like I did at Ice Age), my bedroom was so hot and stuffy I couldn’t fall asleep. I had a built-in excuse right from the get-go! Lucky me!

Before this week, I was really excited for the race. I imagined that I was going to really enjoy myself out there, that the shorter loops and the even surface would mean I could really cruise and even walking would be a lot faster. I pictured myself taking selfies with all my friends at the start and having a great time. I even allowed myself to imagine, for a moment, taking a few short loops at the end, dead tired but triumphant. It’s disappointing now to look back at how excited I was the week prior, and how optimistic I was, and see that I let the days preceding the race wholly throw me off my game.

I spent most of Friday preparing for the race, after doing almost nothing earlier in the week. I was just so darn tired. I meant to sleep in as late as possible, but ended up waking up at 7 to feed the cats and had a hard time truly falling back asleep, so I got up around 9. Very annoying, I used to be a champ at sleeping in. I realize that 9 am is sleeping in to a lot of people, but it’s all relative! I felt sick most of the day; my eyes itched and my head felt stuffy. I hoped it was due to the air quality and not due to an illness. Allergy pills didn’t help at all. I felt so listless I didn’t want to run any errands before the race, but I managed to get everything done that I needed to. I bought a bunch of gels (yes, I waited til the day before the race to replenish my gel stash!), picked up some bagels and vanilla Coke, packed my gear bag (I got a free duffel bag at the Twins game on Tuesday, which was the perfect size for my gear), re-stocked my supply kit, and went to packet pick-up to get my number and my t-shirt.

I tried to be as minimalist and self-sufficient as possible for this race. It stresses me out to rely on others for this event. It’s a lot to ask people to get up early/stay up late and sit around bored while I run in loops, whine and grump, and then throw in the towel early. It’s also very embarrassing to me to pack a lot of stuff, set up a tent, etc., and then have to haul it all away in a walk of shame when I tap out before the event ends. So this time, I brought hardly any gear at all, no tent, and I drove myself to the race. I told my dad he could stop by (this was a big mistake for him, because I was cranky every time he got there, which I feel badly about), and my husband came in the evening to support me overnight (the two of them also ferried my car back to our house, so that I wouldn’t have to figure that out later on), but other than that, I didn’t make a big deal of the race or invite a bunch of friends to do loops with me. You would think that this would make it easier to quit, but it actually worked out in my favor. The first year, I quit early in part because I knew that my dad was leaving and that would mean I’d have to haul a bunch of stuff back to his house in the morning, so I chose to quit so that we could send the tent and chairs and stuff back to his place when he left. I find that the more inconvenient a race is for others, the less likely I am to run it, or in this case, complete it. It’s sort of funny because in other spheres of my life, I am pretty self-centered, but in running I can’t seem to muster any of that selfishness.

I showed up to the event at about 7:00, a little later than the year prior, but I didn’t have to stake out a tent location. Instead of bringing my own tent, I was lucky enough to mooch off my friends’ tent. Through my race volunteering adventures, I have made friends with some incredibly awesome people who are also much more serious runners than I am. My friends Jeff and Amy had a whole set-up going, with a canopy, tent, tables, chairs, etc., and right next to them, my friends Tyson and Stefanie had a similar camp. I was able to lug my chair, cooler, tackle box, and duffel bag over to their site in one trip. (One benefit of the last-minute change of venue due to flooding at Fort Snelling: the new location has a parking lot close to the “camping” area.) I took over a little corner at the front of Amy and Jeff’s tent and walked over to get weighed in at the start. (The timing tent was actually about a quarter of a mile from the tent area, which was a little strange. I technically ran like 45.6 miles before giving up, boo, I was robbed of mileage!)

I felt really tired and out of it at the start, and basically wanted to quit right away. I have a serious running attitude problem that I need to fix if I ever want to improve. This self-defeating nonsense that gets inside my head on race day is seriously hampering my fun. Since there was no actual reason for quitting, I soldiered on. My legs felt kind of heavy, which was to be expected because I felt sleepy and because I hadn’t run since the previous Sunday (due to feeling sick/overwhelmed/tired). Overall, things just sucked for the first few miles, but I figured I’d get into a groove and go from there.

The new course is a bit different; it’s much hillier than the Fort Snelling course, and it’s all pavement. It’s also much busier; while I wouldn’t say it was crowded, there were a lot more non-racers on the course at any given time. There’s still a bit of plane traffic overhead since it’s close to the airport, and there was a lot more street traffic noise, since it’s much more urban. While I was glad not to have the painful gravel from Fort Snelling, I didn’t realize how much the asphalt would affect me.

For the first few loops, I used the hills as a natural point to switch from running to walking. I was drinking and eating gels fairly regularly; I didn’t want to get behind on my nutrition since that has been an issue for me in past races. There were Rice Krispie bars at the smaller aid station, and I probably ate three or four of those (or more) throughout the day – they were a bit sticky but they were a nice change from the usual cookies/chips, and they were surprisingly easy to eat, I thought they might be a little dry. The sun came out fairly early on, and while it was much cooler than it had been the day before, I started to heat up quickly. I decided to change my strategy to manage the heat; I told myself I’m here to stay, I’m not going to let myself get overheated, and I started walking entire laps. My friend Amy, who was entered in the 6 hour race but not really racing, joined me for a lap and perked me up. After running along in relative silence for close to 4 hours, I was glad to have her to talk to, and it changed my mental outlook. Talking to her also helped me release some of my expectations and anxieties about the race. I didn’t have to do anything, there was nothing I was supposed to do. I could do whatever I wanted.

I ended up resting a lot between laps, something I hadn’t done in the two previous races. I sat down and put my feet up a few times during the day, just to take the weight off my feet. I was having blister issues, which was unsurprising – I got them in the exact same spots I did at Ice Age, so my feet likely didn’t have a chance to recover entirely. I stopped and dealt with the first batch of blisters, drank some pop, and then got back out there. If this race has taught me anything, it’s that I need to get a much better handle on blister prevention. Time to start experimenting with the tips from Fixing Your Feet.

I thought things were going better for me after I taped up my feet, but then I got either sweat or sunscreen in my eyes. It doesn’t matter which, it just matters that it hurt like crazy and the sun and wind didn’t help. One eye was burning so badly that I had to run about half a mile with it mostly closed, tears running down my cheeks. I had to stop for probably 20 minutes to rinse out my eyes and let the stinging subside. I put a buff on my head under my hat after that and didn’t have any more problems, so maybe it was sweat (or sweat and sunscreen mixed together). Just as I was ready to head out after dealing with my eyes, my colleague (who was running the 6 hour) came by and said he’d walk the last lap of his race with me. We talked about strategy, and he told me screw it, just walk until it cools off or you feel better. He’s done the 24 hour race before, so I trusted his judgement. Once again, just spending a lap talking to someone changed my mindset for the better, and I was able to pick up the pace to match his.

After my colleague peeled off to do some short laps, I continued right into another lap. I knew I was getting close to a marathon, and I dialed in on that milestone. I told myself no more breaks til I was beyond the marathon. I hit the 26.2 mi mark at 7:13:24 (they had signs marking a marathon, 50K, 50 mi, etc.), and then focused on hitting 50K. I was feeling more motivated, so I switched to running the shady sections and walking the sunny sections, and was really motoring (for me). I could tell I was getting more blisters, and I had switched to straight water because I didn’t stop for more electrolyte tabs, but I wanted to get to 50K before I took another break. The 50K mark was between the timing tent and the camping area, but I wanted to do the entire loop to get “credit” for reaching 50K before I took a break.

I hit 50K in 8:44:37 and finished that loop for 31.6 miles. After that loop, I was looking forward to stopping, dealing with my feet, eating some spaghetti (yes, really) and chilling out. My dad was there when I reached the tent, and for some reason that was making me super anxious. I don’t know what it was, but it made me feel like a zoo animal, like he was just watching me and waiting for what I was going to do. Which he kind of was, but mentally at that point I just couldn’t take it. He said he was going to wait to leave until I was on my next lap, and that seemed like too much expectation. I ended up eating a couple cookies instead of the spaghetti, and basically told him to leave by saying I was going to start my next lap soon. Oh look, there was some of that selfishness coming out. After he left, I dealt with my blisters and hung out for a little longer talking to Amy before I headed out.

I ate my spaghetti on the following lap, as well as part of a piece of ciabatta. This was one of the biggest benefits of walking through the afternoon – my stomach was feeling great, as was most of the rest of my body. I was eating and drinking like normal, everything was going down fine, I wasn’t losing weight (I’d lost 2.5 lbs between the morning weigh-in and the 4:00 PM weigh in, but at the 8:00 PM weigh in, I was stable), and I didn’t have any dehydration issues (total TMI but because I wasn’t worried about time, I used the real bathroom at the pavilion a couple times, so I can confirm I was staying hydrated). I also didn’t have any issues with finger swelling like I did at Ice Age.

For a little while, things started to look up. The sun was still hot (I reapplied sunscreen at 6PM, and Amy asked “Are you sure you need that? It’s after 6.” I’m just that pasty) but I was able to run a lot more than I had been able to when it was hotter. I felt like things were going well. Then my feet started to hurt a lot. Not just the blisters, but the balls of my feet, as well as the side/top of my right foot, which hurt like my left one did last year. I was getting worried. I switched to completing a loop, then putting my feet up to rest, then heading out for another.

And it got dark! I made it past nightfall! That was huge for me. Last year I was still there at night, but I didn’t actually do a loop with a headlamp on. This year I did two. And they were hard. I ran quite a bit of them, mostly because it hurt more to run, but I was starting to get frustrated with how much my feet hurt, how much I wanted to go home and sleep in my own bed, and how futile the rest of the race felt. I passed last year’s total on lap 24, and started to feel better about how things were going, but I was also annoyed with how long each lap was taking. I was past last year’s total, but it had taken me so long to get there. I didn’t know how many more laps I had in me, and I started thinking about what it would take to even get to 50 miles. I finished what ended up being my final lap at about 11:00, and realized that it would probably take over two more hours, maybe even three, to do the three more laps I needed to get to 50 miles, and I decided it wasn’t worth it. I just didn’t feel like the effort was worth the result. I could go home and go to bed, or I could shuffle through a few more laps. I don’t think I could have even made 100K if I’d stayed there til the finish, and I didn’t care.

I don’t feel too badly about it. Of course now I realize I could have shuffled on longer with some tweaks here and there. I could have stopped at the benches along the way, for example. I could have stayed in my chair and just done a lap here or there and stayed there all night. I could have just shuffled along in increasing amounts of pain. But that’s okay. These are all things I am saying in hindsight; in the moment, I didn’t think of them, or I just didn’t want to do them. But I still did a lot.

I figured out a survival strategy when things were going wrong. I fixed my blisters (kind of) and got back out there. I ran when it hurt. I got back out there when I didn’t want to, over and over again. I didn’t chafe. I didn’t get sunburned. I ate and drank like I should have. I spent time with my friends. I got a distance PR and lasted longer than I ever have at this event. I ran night loops. I did all this on really minimal training – the only truly long run I did was another race.

I’m left with a lot of the same questions in my mind as I had last year. Am I cut out for these really long races? Is this event a waste of my time? Should I just do the 12 hour or 6 hour next year? So much helpful self-doubt and self-flagellation. Yet I do keep improving. And I do love this event. And there’s something so special about the loops after 8 PM and that solidarity that the 24 hour runners have that I don’t think I want to give up. I think I really need a big success at this event before I’ll feel comfortable trying for 100K or longer (I could probably still give 50 miles a shot, though it would need to be the right race), so it’s probably going to be on the docket for next year, even though I said last night that maybe I’ve finally scratched the itch this race has given me.

I completed 45.4 miles and was still running at the end. Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t even run the entire mile in gym class because it seemed too hard. Five years ago, I couldn’t even handle marathon training. When I feel like a failure, it helps to remember where I started.