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.

Advertisements

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.

The Streak is Dead

I tried to get back on my run streak again, but it didn’t happen, and I am okay with that. My wonderful colleagues gave me a beautiful Christmas gift of a cold, so I haven’t run since Thursday, and now not only is my streak over, but my goal of running more miles than 2017 is also in jeopardy.

I guess that’s okay. I’ve run a lot of miles this year, and I’ve done a lot of other things, too. Does it really matter if I ran 10 or 20 miles less than last year? Not really. I’ll do the math tomorrow and see if it’s possible for me to make up the mileage in the next week, or if I’d have to run myself into the ground to do it. If I have to go crazy with the mileage (and, say, run 60 miles between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve), I’ll accept it’s not something I want to pursue.

Last week was supposed to be my first week of Zumbro 50 training, so I’m extra disappointed I caught a cold and couldn’t get many miles in. Whenever I get sick, I get extra dramatic in my head and think I’ll never be able to run another ultra again. It’s that yucky fatigue talking, when my head and lungs are so full of phlegm that I can barely think. Then I get over it and remember there are 15 more weeks of training to go, and I will survive.

I suppose this is another word of caution, that run streaks aren’t for me. Or at least they aren’t for me during cold and flu season!

On Streaking

I started a run streak on Thanksgiving, something I was planning to carry through until the new year. I am philosophically opposed to run streaks and wholly in favor of rest days, but I also think it’s important to get out of my comfort zone (and rut) with running. I got challenged by one of my friends to join his holiday run streak, so I decided to join in. It wasn’t years-long, so I figured it was doable. I also thought it would be a good opportunity to ensure I met my goal of beating last year’s mileage, a goal which has been slipping away from me lately after a promising start.

I managed 17 days of straight running, completing anywhere between 2 miles and a half marathon a day (the Moustache Run was right at the beginning of the streak). Actually now that I look back at my running log, I actually ran 22 days straight, but 5 of them were before the streak began. Hooray for me?

I stopped early because I got sick Saturday night with a stomach bug that was itself brief (no small mercy), but ended up knocking me back for longer than expected due to some dumb choices on my part (sleeping all day Sunday without drinking any fluids led to more dehydration issues than actually getting sick, I think!). I ended up not running at all from Sunday-Tuesday, and I began the streak anew yesterday. It won’t be the same as running all the way through until New Year’s Day, but there’s nothing I can do about it now.

First of all, how do people do really long streaks? Do they never get sick? Do they run whether they have a monster head cold or explosive diarrhea? I know I’m not a paragon of a healthy lifestyle, could stand to eat better, etc., but even people who don’t eat bagels or vanilla Cokes must get sick. Or do they?

Anyway, even at 17 (22) days, I was struggling to see the purpose of the run streak. Maybe I would have reached some kind of moral clarity about it, had I pressed on long enough, but it seemed more like a burden at times than a fun choice. I never wanted to quit or skip a day, but I didn’t enjoy running daily. I already run six days a week, so giving myself the mental space to rest and recharge on that seventh day is essential, especially when my work is stressful or mentally taxing. I had one day where I wanted to just pack it all in and give up on the streak; I had taken the day off and planned on a nice run along the river, followed by a mid-afternoon drive up to Duluth. It turned into a day of me taking phone calls and scrambling to find answers for about three urgent issues, broken up by a 2.15 mile run (my shortest), and then when we finally got going to Duluth, I slipped and fell down the deck stairs (only 3 stairs, so not terrible) and lay in the snow pondering the cruelty of the world for about five minutes.

There is value in suffering, of course. That sounds absurd, but as ultrarunners, all we do is practice suffering. I found a rigor I’ve been lacking; somehow there was time in a day to work, run, attend my violin lesson, eat, and catch up on the news. But there’s also value in one fewer day’s worth of laundry, in one evening where I can do nothing or go to a movie or just not be sweaty for a day. There’s value in channeling that energy into my work, or into one of my other hobbies, instead of into my running.

I don’t think I’ll ever see value in running 1 mile or 2 miles just to say that I continued a streak. For me, I’d rather have a rest day than just run a single mile. At least know I know that for sure.

And now I know that I can complete a run streak without completely falling apart. Of course, the days were low mileage; I don’t know if I could do a run streak while running lots of double digit runs, or difficult speed workouts, or heat training. So then, I don’t see the usefulness in a run streak either, if I have to keep it low mileage or risk serious burnout.

I can see its appeal, though. There is a kind of simplicity in waking up and saying “I will run today” and following through every day. It’s a ritual. It’s alone time, time to clear one’s thoughts. It sounds really nice, put like that. Maybe someday it’ll be like that for me.

Race Goals: Moustache Run Half Marathon

Apparently if I want to get sick, all I need to do is sign up for a race! I’ve been battling a cold since last Wednesday (so, one week strong) and while I am over the worst of it, I still have a lingering cough and some fatigue. I have been running a little bit since Saturday (I literally ran 1.3 miles on the treadmill on Saturday before I was like “This is stupid, there is no point!” and gave up. (Well, I made sure to end on an even tenth of a mile.)

I still picked up my packet for Saturday’s Moustache? Mustache? Run. I was over in Minneapolis getting a haircut so I picked up my packet and hat at Mill City Running. It was very awkward because I walked up to a table of bibs, said my name and the race distance, and they were like “Oh, M(o)ustache Run? That’s over there.” Then waved in the general direction of the back of the store, where there was… nothing but merchandise. I guess the table was for some Thanksgiving race or something. The Moustache Run setup wasn’t as fancy, just a computer which was not a touchscreen but that I tried to use like a touchscreen. After signing up, I also purchased a sweatshirt because they told me runners who picked up their race packets in store got 20% off. The guy pointed out this cool pale pink sweatshirt and I was like SURE I WILL TAKE THAT because I was high on how great my hair looked like after my haircut. Another sales guy then said “Can we also interest you in a Garmin?” because I must have seemed like a manic shopaholic.

I am still confident I will be able to run this race, but not sure what it’ll be like. It must be nice to be a mid-packer and know that if you slow down a bit, you’ll still be done in a decent length of time and you won’t be bringing up the rear. I’m going to be bringing up the rear to begin with! So the margin for error here is slim. My #1 goal is to feel well enough to run the race and make it to the starting line. I already DNS my first attempt at a road half marathon due to a UTI, so I am anxious to give it another shot. Other than that, I have my time goals:

A Standard: 2:30
B Standard: 2:35
C Standard: 2:45 (roughly my TCM pace – I really want to beat that)

I’m throwing numbers at a dartboard here, because I don’t really know what I’m capable of right now, but I do at least know that I ran a 2:32:08 half marathon for TCM. And that was also on the tail end of a cold! So I guess I’m in the same shape? Seems like a good omen!

Idle Feet

I’m really bored and unfocused with my running lately. The days are shortening, and the weather is getting colder. Over the weekend it was so cold! In the low 20s/high teens (F, of course. What I wouldn’t give for some 20 C weather…) I just got back from Duluth and instead of running on one of my favorite trails, I ran on the hotel treadmill. I guess I didn’t look at the weather closely enough, and packed clothes that might be acceptable for a run in near-freezing temps, but not 15 degrees colder and windy. Whoops.

In order to try to bring some excitement back into my running, I went out and spent a bunch of money on races. Ugh.

I’m probably going to race 2 more times in 2018, we’ll see. I signed up for the Mustache Run half marathon in 2 weeks. I’m not really training for it, just hoping to capitalize on my residual training from the Twin Cities Marathon (that was only a month ago??). I’m also well-rested from lower mileage and additional rest days. I think it’ll be fun, as long as the weather isn’t awful. I saw a very early forecast and it called for light rain in the morning. No thank you. Obviously anything would be a half marathon PR, as my current one (3:51:24) is from the Harder n Hell Half in 2015.

I hate road races – they’re so freaking expensive! Although I think I could have saved some money by signing up sooner. It was like $80 though! I had better get a gold-plated finisher’s medal.

I also signed up for Zumbro 50, which cost $90 – much better cost per mile than the Mustache Run. (Although I’ll also have travel and lodging costs so that is misleading.) Last year, I waited too long to sign up and it filled. I was somewhat bummed but also wasn’t sure I was ready to run it, and I’m also really glad I didn’t sign up because it ended up being terribly snowy, and I would not have been prepared for that. Now I know that I’m capable of it. I ran 42 miles in 13 hours at FANS, for crying out loud. I keep having to remind myself of that when I get scared of these 50 milers. Not only did I complete 42 miles in 13 hours, but a lot of that was walking/limping due to my poor foot.

Speaking of FANS, I also signed up for the 24 hour race again. I can’t help it – I love this race so much. I keep having disappointing results there, but I keep coming back for more. This coming year, I think things will be better. I’m planning to set up my tent with friends this time, so I’ll have a fun camp and that will mean my husband/my dad won’t be sitting by my tent alone while crewing me, bored out of their minds. FANS doesn’t fill and the price increase isn’t until April, but I signed up anyway. I guess that’s less money I have to worry about paying later?

The only downside right now is that Zumbro is the same weekend as the Frozen Four in Buffalo. Obviously I have no idea if I’ll be there or not, but the Bulldogs are having a great season! I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, I guess.

Now all that’s left is to get back into the groove of winter running. I’m not really excited about it, and it feels like I barely had any decent running weather at all in 2018 (it seems like it went from cold to blazing hot and back to cold), but I also know that this current cold snap is making it feel a little more difficult. Once it’s back to more normal temps next week, of course my crappy attitude will magically dissipate!

When the Music’s Over

Not training for anything is really boring.

I am still running here and there. I’m still trying to ensure that I reach my goal of beating last year’s mileage, and since I didn’t finish up October’s mileage in one fell swoop with Surf the Murph, I’m focusing on that while still trying to give myself a break. 7 more miles over the next 3 days! I can do that.

I am really at peace with my decision to skip Surf the Murph. It looked like an incredibly fun event, but I am pretty sure I wasn’t in the shape to do it. On the day of the race, once I finally got some sleep, I headed out for an 11 mile run around Fort Snelling, and realized my legs were still pretty heavy and overall I was lacking energy. It confirmed I’d made the right choice, especially because Monday I had to spend the day traveling.

I made the choice to leave all my running gear at home while I was on my work trip, partially because work travel wears me out, and partially because I didn’t have much room in my suitcase due to all the safety gear I bring with me. Monday was a fairly long day – I worked from home for awhile, running a couple miles on the treadmill before heading to the airport. I flew to St. Louis, then drove 3 hours to a city relatively near my construction project site. Lest you think that my sleeping problems are limited to running, I also had trouble sleeping Monday night.

Tuesday I spent the day at the construction site (as well as a quick visit to another site of an in-development project), and I was pretty wiped out by the end of the day. The banks of both sites were fairly steep and I had to do quite a bit of “hiking,” so I was doubly glad I had not done the race, and by the end of the day I was so tired I think I went to sleep at 10 PM. Which for me is absurdly early. Wednesday I spent the morning at the construction site and then drove/flew back home, so I didn’t work out when I got home. I actually spent like 20 minutes going out of my way at the airport to get a coffee after I got off the plane. My bag was the only one on the carousel when I finally got there, but I had only had terrible hotel coffee for the past couple days and it was not feeding the addiction.

I ran at lunch Thursday and Friday, which leaves my evenings free, but doesn’t make for a lot of mileage. And then Saturday (my birthday!) I didn’t end up running. I had planned on canvassing for my friend who is running for city council, then running, then watching some hockey — then I learned the hockey game was in the late afternoon, not the evening, and… I just didn’t really care that much about getting a run in. Again, not training, so there’s not much to motivate me.

Today I wasn’t going to run, either. I went to a rally of sorts in support of trans/enby/gender expansive people, had a late lunch at Mickey’s Diner with a friend, and then was going to run a few dull treadmill miles. I saw the temp was in the high 50s F and changed my mind – how many more times would I be able to run in weather that nice? I wasn’t going to waste it. So I ran 7 miles at Battle Creek (getting a twinge in my calf in the first few minutes of the run – I hope it wasn’t something bad…) and enjoyed the gorgeous weather.

I think I’m going to race one last big one this year – the Moustache Run half marathon on Nov 24 – and then start training for next spring. I had a good first half of Twin Cities marathon and would like to see what I could do if I didn’t have 13.1 more miles to go at that point. I also should probably find a 5K to run, but those are a dime a dozen. I get bored if I’m not planning or strategizing – apparently I don’t get enough of that at work.