Twin Cities Marathon Training: Week 4

Another hot week. Ugh.

Monday: 4.8 mi, pavement (Mississippi River Trail)
Tuesday: 5.4 mi, pavement (Battle Creek, 35 min tempo)
Wednesday: rest
Thursday: 8 mi, treadmill
Friday: 4.2 mi, pavement (Battle Creek)
Saturday: 13.4 mi, trail + pavement (Lebanon Hills + Mississippi River Trail/Night Nation Run)
Sunday: 7.8 mi, pavement (Mississippi River Trail)
Total: 43.6 mi

I enjoy the long days, because I can get a run in while it’s still light out but not blazing hot. However, I miss being able to run at 5:30 or 6 in the evening (or on the weekends, at noon or 1) without suffering the beginnings of heat exhaustion.

Monday was a boring run and I don’t even remember it. I guess it was probably hot, though!

Tuesday I ran later in the evening – my partner was going out of town for a few days for work, so I had dinner and then went running after he left. I was able to have a much better tempo run since it was cooler – even though I was kind of miserable because the first mile of the run was uphill and my calves were super tight. I had a couple minor stops for road crossings but otherwise was able to plow through 35 minutes of tempo running and actually kind of enjoy it.

Wednesday I volunteered at the Lebanon Hills 7 mile race, part of the Endless Summer Trail Run Series. It was so freaking hot, and the air was stagnant. I was so thankful to be volunteering instead of running. Thursday we finally got a big thunderstorm, scary enough that I decided to run inside on the treadmill instead of seeing when the storm would pass. I thought that would cool things down but no. I mean, Friday wasn’t so bad, and I managed to do a loop at Battle Creek without melting, but it was still humid and warm.

I liked the surroundings of Lebanon Hills so much that for my “long” run (I didn’t do a true long run since I knew I’d be doing the Night Nation Run that evening) I drove out there again on Saturday. I’d planned on doing my run at around 1:30, but when I went to start getting ready, I realized it was 91 F. No thank you. So I waited to leave until around 3, which ended up being okay but not ideal. It didn’t seem that much cooler, and a lot of the path was shaded, so I could have left earlier. I felt pretty crummy directly after the run, and had only an hour and a half until I’d be walking a bit over a mile to Harriet Island, “running” 5K (in starts and fits, as detailed here), and then walking back home. I recovered quickly thanks to the magic of an iced latte with whole milk.

Sunday the same thing happened: I went to go running around 3 PM and discovered it was 92 F and “felt like” 101 F. I waited until 6 to head out for Minnehaha Falls Park, which I didn’t realize had pay lots. So I paid $3 to do a little recon of the TCM course – obviously on the running path, not the road, but it gave me a hint of what the section along West River Parkway would be like. Nothing I can’t handle.

Supposedly a cool front is coming through, so I expect to see lightning fast times coming across my watch! I did notice Sunday as I was slogging through the heat that from a musculoskeletal perspective, running is feeling a lot easier. As long as I’m in the shade or managing the heat well, my legs are responding well to the increase in mileage. I’m hoping to get up into the 50+ miles per week range soon, time and health permitting.

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Letting Go

A few months ago, one of my colleagues invited me to join her for a 5K race, the Night Nation run. I said yes immediately without much looking into it; all I needed to know was it was within walking distance of my house, and I was sold on it.

I looked at the race information a bit more closely after signing up, and discovered that the race was not timed, they had various fun stations set up along the course, and they seemed to be actively encouraging people to take their time. This is kind of my nightmare set-up.

I’m not fast, so I recognize that some people will look at my times out of context and think I must be goofing around on the course anyway, but of course I’m not. I’m showing up to races to do my best. Of course I want to enjoy myself and show sportwomanship at all times, but beyond that, I’m there to suffer a little. I mean yeah, maybe if I was faster, or once I’ve reached my peak and I’ve started to level off on my performance, then I can show up in jorts or goof off at aid stations or take pictures on the way, but I’m not there yet. It already takes me a longer-than-average amount of time to finish races – I’m not interested in adding to that time with distractions.

With its accommodating and welcoming philosophy, this race forced me out of my comfort zone. I did my best to go with the flow and enjoy the race for what it was.

My friend Samantha decided to do this race with me (actually, when she refused to let me pay her for shoveling the sidewalk at my house when a big snowstorm hit in the interim between closing on our house and moving, I offered to pay for a race entry so we could spend time together and I could ease my guilty conscience over not compensating her for the burdensome task of shoveling the sidewalks of our corner lot), and met me at my house so we could walk down and avoid the parking fiasco. It’s a bit over a mile walk, and it was still sunny and hot, and I was still a bit tired from my afternoon run. I figured since I wasn’t going for a PR at this race, a 10 mile trail run (easy trails) wouldn’t be a problem. It wasn’t, although I finished running at 6 and we started walking to the race at 7:40.

We realized it was going to be a bit of a letdown because it wouldn’t be that dark, so we didn’t even bother to wear the light-up glasses we got with our “premium” registration. We got bags to put our stuff in, as well, and it turned out we had to carry them during the race, so that was irritating. Sam chose to wear hers and just endure the bouncing, and I chose to carry it in one hand.

Since the race is untimed, they release people in waves about 2 minutes apart. Since the race had a lot of participants and was partially run on the bike paths of the Mississippi River Trail, it made sense to do limit the number of people pouring onto the trail, although it turned out not to matter.

Because it seemed like every single participant was walking. Or stopping. Or wandering aimlessly. Seemingly unaware of their surroundings. This happens to some extent at all races, but it was much more prevalent here. Sam and I spent most of the race weaving and dodging through the crowds; the race never opened up and gave us a chance to set our own pace. In a way, this was good, because we stayed together the whole race, but it was so frustrating. At the first station along the way (a DJ), we ended up at a standstill as people bunched up to take selfies, or dance, or whatever. At other times, we were stuck running through grass on the side of the trail to try to get around people.

There were parts I enjoyed. People were dressed up in amazing outfits – tutus, butterfly wings, light-up shoes, glow paint in intricate patterns on faces and bodies. I liked the DJ music along the way. And I liked spending time with my good friend. But this confirmed to me these races are not for me. Maybe I’m too uptight about running, or maybe if I want to go to a dance party, I’ll go to a club, and leave the races for when I want to run.

I finished in approximately 44:20 (of course I wore my watch! I am getting credit for these miles!), which is about 15 minutes slower than my last 5K. I knew going in that this race would be slower, but I didn’t think it would be such a drastic difference. It doesn’t matter that much – the time is what it is and I’m not ashamed of it. This race was a learning experience for me, and I can say that I went in with an open mind, enjoyed the atmosphere (though I didn’t truly take in all that the race had to offer, as I didn’t stay to dance at one of the DJ stages and I didn’t wait in line for a selfie at one of the selfie stations), and made the best of it.

And now I don’t have to run one of these ever again!

Twin Cities Marathon Training: Week 3

Another hot week. I’m trying to trust that I will eventually be able to run faster again.

Monday: 5.3 mi, road (4 x Wabasha St. Bridge repeats)
Tuesday: rest
Wednesday: rest
Thursday: 8.6 mi, road
Friday: 5.5 mi, pavement (Mississippi River Trail, 35 min tempo)
Saturday: 14 mi, pavement (Mississippi River Trail)
Sunday: 7.5 mi, pavement (Mississippi River Trail, 6 mi @ marathon effort)
Total: 40.9 mi

This week didn’t quite go as planned, but since it was a holiday week, that’s to be expected. Monday I suffered through heat and some minor nausea to do bridge repeats. The Wabasha St. Bridge is about a quarter mile long, so it’s perfect for hill repeats. Run up, jog back down to recover. I took the recovery very slowly due to the heat and my tummy (which was really fine, I’m just overly sensitive to even the slightest upset).

Tuesday I felt crappy. I was tired all day and again had a mildly upset stomach. We were driving up to Duluth in the evening, and despite having time to run beforehand, I chose not to since I wasn’t feeling so hot. I ended up feeling fine, it was probably some lingering heat/dehydration related issue, but it was good to take a break when I did. What wasn’t good was packing all my running gear Wednesday morning before we left my uncle’s house on Park Point and then discovering when we arrived at Pike Lake that I had forgotten to put my running shoes in my bag or my car. So I didn’t run on Wednesday, either. That was frustrating. I did water-ski, kayak, and participate in a multi-boat water balloon fight, so I wasn’t entirely inactive.

Thursday I ran on Park Point in the late morning/early afternoon. It was cooler than it had been in St. Paul, but still in the high 70s F and in full sun, so I was hot and slow. Every run is slow, it’s very frustrating. I went swimming and kneeboarding in the afternoon (and also got quite the workout trying to haul myself up on a jetski three times after falling off/tipping it), so I got in plenty of all-important cross-training.

Friday we headed home in the afternoon, and I had time for a tempo run in the evening. It was hot and miserable and I was tired from the drive, but I got it done. Right now that’s enough. Saturday’s long run was hot hot hot, but much of it was in the shade, so I was spared the worst of it. I nearly consumed my entire hydration bladder during the run. I ate a gel during the run and it was so melty it was much easier to eat than normal. I ended up on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus for the end of the run and had to circle around a bit to get to 7 miles before turning around, but I didn’t get too badly turned around.

On Sunday, I chose the same shady section of the MRT (up to Franklin Ave) for my marathon effort workout, since it was hot again, and I wore the hydration pack again even though it was only a 7.5 mile run. Better to be safe than sorry. It sucked. I mean, it was faster, maybe, than I had run the day before, but I’m just not anywhere close to where I’d like to be for actual marathon pace. I know that it’s the heat, not my ability, but I’d just like a couple cooler evenings in a row so I can reassure myself that I’m not going to run an 8 hour road marathon, or at least to get a better idea of what my pace might be. And also to get my workouts done more quickly!! The long runs are so darn time-consuming. I guess I need to make “Fall PRs are made in summer heat” my mantra.

Twin Cities Marathon Training: Week 2

Bleccch. Not a great week, but I got it done.

Monday: rest
Tuesday: 5.5 mi, pavement (River to River Greenway; 4 x 0.5 mi interval workout)
Wednesday: 7.2 mi, road
Thursday: 5.8 mi, pavement (Mississippi River Trail; 20 min tempo)
Friday: 4.8 mi, pavement (Mississippi River Trail)
Saturday: 7.2 mi, pavement (Mississippi River Trail; 6 mi @ marathon effort)
Sunday: 10.1 mi, pavement (Mississippi River Trail)
Total: 40.6 mi

Every workout I had this week sucked. Well, maybe Wednesday’s was okay, I don’t remember anything about it so it can’t have been too bad.

Tuesday I planned to do a track workout. I drove to a nearby high school and discovered that there was some kind of youth sports group using the track, and also the track had no lines and the surface was possibly uneven, so I ended up having to improvise. Unfortunately, improvising involved doing my half mile repeats on varied terrain, including hills, road crossings, and some quick course corrections. I got it done, but it was annoying. Now I need to find a different track option. Every other high school in the area appears to be 5 miles away from me. Hmm.

Thursday I tried to do a 30 minute tempo run and after 20 minutes I just gave up. It was hot and I was hungry, so I basically bonked the stupid run. Friday I ran in 95F weather and deliberately went slowly just to manage the heat. I even brought a water bottle, which I don’t normally do for short runs. Saturday was “cooler” than Friday, but because there was no breeze, it felt just as yucky. I tried to do a marathon pace workout but couldn’t muster any sort of speed. It was still pretty darn hard, which is why I call it a “marathon effort” workout. I think it’s better to focus on hitting an effort level (5K effort, 10K effort, marathon effort) rather than pace, because on any given day, the effort it takes to maintain a pace varies.

Sunday was also pretty miserable. I thought it would be a better run because it was cooler – in the 70s F! However, it was still humid, and I was still feeling the after effects of several hot workouts in a row. I barely kept my pace faster than 14 min/mile, which I could look at as an indicator that perhaps I am going to absolutely suck at this marathon and that my goals are wildly inconsistent with my abilities — but I’m trying not to. It was a hard training week. The heat was tough. I got through it. I’ll be better for running in that hot weather.

Sunday’s run was my first double digit run since FANS. It’s hard to believe that was only a month ago. It feels like a lifetime ago! It’s also hard to believe I ran more in one day than I did this last week. I’m going to have to pat myself on the back — that achievement was pretty cool. And it turns out my foot injury was minor, I haven’t had any pain in a long time! Let’s hope that’s not a jinx.

Twin Cities Marathon Training: Week 1

That’s right – I’m finally running a road marathon.

Monday: 5.4 mi, road
Tuesday: rest
Wednesday: 5.3 mi, pavement (15 min warmup, 30 min tempo, 15 min cooldown)
Thursday: 5.7 mi, road/pavement (2.8 mi at lunch, 2.9 mi after work)
Friday: 3.1 mi, pavement (Midnight Sun Midnight Run 5K)
Saturday: 6.3 mi, road
Sunday: 7.4 mi, road
Total: 33.2 mi

This was a weird week to start, because I was out of town for the weekend, but that’s how things go for someone like me, who fits training around life rather than life around training. I’m kind of using a training plan this time around, instead of just winging it – I started off with Hal Higdon’s Advanced 2 Marathon Plan. I guess if I’ve run 8 (I think?) marathon (or longer) distance races, I can handle an advanced plan. Or maybe I can’t and I’ll burn out, but whatever.

Of course, I’ve taken this plan and made some tweaks to it, for a few reasons. First of all, I can’t always follow a plan exactly. I switch around rest days, I travel, I have weather delays, etc. Of course, it’s rare for someone to complete an entire months-long training plan exactly as prescribed, but I find building in some flexibility from the start is more helpful. Additionally, I am running another marathon (Moose Mountain Marathon) during the training, so I’ll have a bigger long run than prescribed, and moved around some cutback weeks and speed work. I’m also hoping to run Surf the Murph a few weeks later, possibly even the 50 miler, so I’m looking at some increased mileage over what is prescribed.

The other tweaks I’ve made to the plan are pretty simple: any run that isn’t a prescribed strength or speed workout, I’ve labeled “run,” “medium length run,” or “long run.” I can play around with the mileage on those days. I am not increasing the mileage or duration of any prescribed runs, like repeats, tempos, or marathon pace runs. I don’t feel like those are places I can safely and sustainably add mileage, since I have less experience with speedwork.

Monday’s run was dull and uneventful. I was planning to run Tuesday, but ended up going to the Twins game! It was fun, but I had to scramble around to figure out how to fit in another workout on Thursday.

Wednesday’s tempo run was okay. I had a hard time ramping up – I’m not very good at incremental increases in pace. I also had a couple little hills to push through, but overall it was fine. It worked out to be a nice hour-long workout. I guess that’s an upside to speedwork – the workout gets over more quickly!

Thursday I had planned to walk my cousin’s dogs with my mom, so I ran during my lunch hour, then went over to my cousin’s house early and ran to Lake Nokomis, ran partway around the lake, then returned in time to meet my mom and take the dogs out for a 45 minute stroll. They seemed to like it.

I think this doggo likes #IronMaiden. #TheTrooper #dogsofinstagram #runninwiththedogs #literally

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Friday I headed up to Duluth in the afternoon. My uncle, aunt, and cousins were coming in from both coasts, and my brother, sister in law, and nephew came over from North Dakota. We all went for a long swim in Pike Lake and were of course exhausted by race time. I had also eaten some ice cream that was making me feel really full, so I wasn’t sure the race would go well. After a slow start thanks to the crowd, I was able to take off and push through for a course-best 29:29. While my sister in law and I were waiting for my brother and my husband to finish, a woman came through the finisher’s chute and threw up like 4 times, which was… not what I wanted to see after finishing a race. Ew.

Saturday I went for a late run after a day of swimming, tubing, and water-skiing. I was pretty tired, but still managed to unintentionally run 10K by “circumnavigating” Pike Lake. I barely saw the lake during the run, so it wasn’t very scenic. It was also nearly dark before I finished, so that was stupid. Sunday I did another run near Pike Lake, this time along Caribou Lake Road, and I guess I’ll consider 7.4 miles to be my medium length run for the week. I didn’t have a long run planned, since this is my first full week of marathon training and also my first full week back after FANS.

Summer Running Goals 2018

“Summer” as defined by me has already been going for two weeks! Of course, real summer hasn’t even started yet, but it feels like winter will be here in a matter of minutes. I’ve been traumatized by the cold climate, I guess. Anyway, I set more goals.

  1. Distance personal best.
    Spoiler alert: I achieved this at FANS, so now 42.3 miles is the longest I’ve traveled on foot.
  2. “Unofficial” marathon personal best.
    I also achieved this at FANS. By my calculations, my new unofficial marathon PR is 6:58:32.
  3. “Unofficial” 50K personal best.
    I didn’t achieve this at FANS, but I guess there’s always a chance to do this some other time.
  4. Check out the Endless Summer Trail Races
    This is a fun weekday evening trail series in the Twin Cities, put on by Rocksteady Running. I always hoped that my travel schedule would bring me down to attend one of the races, but now I live here and have no excuse!
  5. Legitimize my 5K PR.
    Due to Be the Match 5K using gun times rather than chip times for official race results, my 5K PR is 29:00 instead of 28:30 (per my watch). I want to make that 28:30 (or better!) official!
  6. Race a new distance.
    I don’t know what that’s going to be, as I was so focused on FANS, and I didn’t want to make any summer commitments until after I knew how I’d recovered from that race.

The good news is I’m really excited to start running again, and working toward my fall races. Considering how down I was about running during the spring, it feels good to know I’ve mentally recovered and am back to enjoying the sport!

Post-Mortem: Fans 24 Hour Race 2018

Over a week’s gone by, and I’m mostly back to normal. My foot still hurts a little bit, but I am able to walk without limping and most of the time I do not have any pain at all (although when I wrote that sentence, I had just gone to the printer to pick something up and my foot hurt a bit, so I guess I jinxed myself). I haven’t had much time to enjoy my break from running, because I’ve been traveling for work, but I’m looking forward to a weekend of nothing. Well, not nothing. I painted my bathroom. But there won’t be any running.

I’ve had some time to consider this years FANS experience. Overall I had a great time and I’m proud of my result. Of course it wasn’t what I wanted, but I did reach a new distance PR, and I made it past 12 hours. Some thoughts/lessons learned:

I liked bringing less stuff, but I really did need food at my tent. I got sick of the race food after awhile, probably because I was eating mostly cookies and pretzels. I realized right before I quit the race that I was behind on my food, and I either had to go back to the main aid station or walk a mile+ to the first aid station. I had some gels at my tent but what I really needed was a substantial snack like a bagel or a sandwich or anything different.

I don’t know nearly enough about foot care. I did a few things right, like stopping to fix my heel when my shoe was rubbing against it, or lancing my blisters and just getting on with it, but what I really should have done was tape up my callus to begin with. I read an article on I Run Far a couple days ago on blister care with a hilarious infographic on causes of blisters, with the #1 cause being “saying ‘I don’t usually have problems with blisters’ before the race.” TOO SOON, LIZA HOWARD. TOO SOON. I just ordered Fixing Your Feet so I can fix my feet.

42.3 miles wasn’t really that much harder than 31. Okay, it was also on a mostly flat trail, I didn’t have to carry my own water or gear, and I had plenty of people to motivate me along the way, but still. I was on my feet for almost 13 hours, and I felt pretty good the next day. As we were taking down the camp, I felt pretty crappy and sad about quitting early again, and thought maybe I wasn’t meant to run more than 50Ks. Then the next day I felt pretty good (other than my foot), and I realized that I completed 42 miles in about 13 hours with the last 10 miles at a slow walk, and the 50 mile dream was resurrected.

My job is more important than my race. I don’t get paid to run, I get paid to be an engineer. I had a site visit the Wednesday after the race, and it would have been unsafe for me to go out there with limited mobility. If I had continued for 11 more hours, even walking slowly, I doubt I would have been able to complete the site visit. Running is my hobby, not my livelihood, and this race was a good reminder of how to balance those. I’m reminded of one of my former coworkers, a construction manager who was a bull rider in his spare time. His superintendent finally told him that he had to choose between work and rodeo because he kept showing up to work injured. I don’t want to jeopardize my career for recreation.

It’s time to try something new. I’ve “failed” at the 24 hour event twice now, but I really love this race! I think it’s time for me to do the 12 hour race and set a different goal (like 50 miles?) before I give 24 hours another shot. Could the third time be the charm? Maybe. But it’s a lot of work and logistics and pressure to plan a 24 hour race. With a 12 hour race, I can sleep in my own bed!