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.

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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.

DNS: Surf the Murph

Oh, look. Another race I didn’t start.

I decided at about 1 am, when I was still wide awake, that I would not start the race. I am so incredibly sick of running races on 1 or 2 hours of sleep, but I don’t know how to fix it. I went to bed at about 8:30 last night, and tried to relax. But that same anxiety gripped me and my heart rate was way too high and I could not get my mind to turn off. It doesn’t help that in addition to worrying about the race, I’ve had a lot to worry about at work as well. So, knowing that I had to get up at about 2 or 2:15 AM in order to get ready for the start, I decided at about 1:05 that I would not be running the race.

I feel pretty defeated that once again, I’m sidelined or slowed by a lack of sleep. It doesn’t seem to ever get any better.

The more I thought about it (because I couldn’t fall back asleep after I decided not to run — I probably didn’t fall asleep until 3:00), the more I realized that this was an overall stupid idea. I signed up for this race impulsively – I was thinking about doing it and then signed up for certain when I was in a funk after having a bad race at Superior. My mileage has been fairly low (below 40 miles/week) for this whole training cycle, and I’ve been sick off and on thanks to the changing weather. I haven’t done any long runs (besides Twin Cities Marathon), I haven’t done any night running (and I’d be starting and ending in the dark), I haven’t done any practice with trekking poles (which I planned to use), and I didn’t do nearly enough logistics planning (I was planning to drive myself home after the race – probably not safe). I wasn’t ready for this race and I really need to stop pretending I’m one of those Type Z runners who can sign up for a race on a whim and just waltz their way onto the course.

I feel pretty embarrassed that I’m not running this race, but embarrassment is not a reason to run a race I’m ill-prepared for in countless ways. I’m disappointed about the opportunity costs of entering this race – I missed out on a hockey weekend in Duluth, I missed out on options to run several shorter races like Wild Duluth, or the new Loppet Loppet race, or even a shorter distance at Surf the Murph. I feel guilty that I’m wasting money on races I don’t run.

I need to remind myself that I ran 2 marathons in a month’s time, and that’s kind of a lot for people who aren’t, like, Killian Jornet. And I am not him. I need to focus on enjoying running again, staying healthy, avoiding burnout, and celebrating the successes I’ve had. I’m going to head out for a shorter run today instead, and try to shake off any lingering feelings of frustration or disappointment in myself. I run for enjoyment, and I need to keep that in the forefront of my mind during setbacks or screw-ups. I run with a smile — even when I’m smiling to suppress my gag reflex.

Surf the Murph 50 Goals

Oh man this race. I am basically not ready for it. That’s all I’ve got to say. It’s 6 PM and the race starts at 4 AM. I’ve sort of gotten my stuff together but I just… I don’t know. I’ve gone the entire two weeks since the Twin Cities Marathon ignoring what’s coming. Of course this is of my own making but whatever.

I’m hoping to get a few hours of sleep, but I don’t know. This is probably completely crazy. I have no idea what I’m in for. Although that’s somewhat ridiculous to say, considering 4 months ago I ran 42 miles. This is only 8 more. I’m just scared, mostly scared that I don’t have the toughness to get it done. It’ll be fine.

A Standard: 14:00
B Standard: 15:00
C Standard: 15:45

Let’s see what happens.

Post-Mortem: Twin Cities Marathon

Hey! That race was really fun! And I’m already recruiting colleagues to be on a corporate team next year!

tcmfinish

Look how freaking happy I am here! The finish of this race is actually amazing. Round the corner, see the cathedral, and see the gentle downhill to the finish. Maybe it’s too small to see how much I’m enjoying myself but I am! Thank you, magical endocannabinoids! I sure know how to pull it together for the finish of a race.

Thoughts/lessons learned/etc:

Road marathons are so easy! Hahahahah, not really true. They’re hard in a different way. But there’s something to be said for not being on my feet as long, even if I am putting in a faster effort. I didn’t have to plan ahead for something like Moose Mountain. I could mostly get into a rhythm. I never had to worry that I was out in the middle of nowhere and if I did try to push through something, that I would be in an unsafe situation if I got more injured/sick/whatever.

There’s a huge advantage to running on familiar terrain. I’m glad this was my first road marathon, because I’d run or driven on probably 90% of the course. I knew what was coming, or at least had a good general idea where I was. It was also an emotional boost to run through the chain of lakes and think of other fun times I’ve had with my friends, or to cross from Minneapolis into St. Paul, my city of residence. I got chills and thrills when I ran by the Basilica and the church bells were pealing.

It would have totally sucked if it had been sunny. I tried to pare down what I carried, so I didn’t carry any sunscreen. I brought some in my drop bag and applied it while on the light rail, but that didn’t last 7 hours. I was very fortunate I didn’t get sunburned.

Speaking of carrying stuff, my problems started once I tossed my water bottle. I know snobby runners like to make fun of marathoners who wear hydration vests or carry water bottles, but those people can go to hell. When I was able to sip water, I was in much better shape. Once I had to drink at aid stations, I was overdoing it. I should have either refilled that bottle, or I should have brought the small flask that came with my vest. Then I wouldn’t have gotten that stupid side stitch issue.

Maybe next time, I’ll try to pace it more evenly. I mean, duh. I had a 30 minute positive split. But I also didn’t have much of a race plan, and I sort of enjoyed going out too hard, even though I knew that I was screwing over my second half self. I wanted to see what I could do. I wonder how things would have gone if I hadn’t consumed too much water. I’d probably have shaved maybe 5 minutes off my time. Nothing drastic – I’m sure I’d still have been reduced to a walk.

I am terrible at following a training plan, but I still liked having one. The first month or so, I was kicking butt. However, the heat made the marathon pace workouts hard to do — I had to resort to marathon “effort.” And even then I was just guessing at what pace should be marathon pace, anyway. Then work, travel, and illness started to chip away at the training plan, and I was running whatever I could muster the strength and mental energy to run. Still, I liked having various planned workouts, like hill repeats or tempos.

I’m used to being self-sufficient at races, but it was nice to have the logistics taken care of. Free light rail right to the start! Extremely efficient drop bag check-in! Never a doubt whether I was on course. Water and Gatorade every mile (or so). EMTs everywhere. Entertainment and crowd support through almost every yard of the course. Someone to literally wrap me in the space blanket at the end! Immediate results, and a quick turnaround on videos and pictures. It was all very luxurious, and I was glad I was able to relinquish control and take advantage of some of the services and logistics support the race offers. I still threw my cups in the garbage, even if there were plenty of volunteers raking them up.

It was too crowded for my taste. I run alone almost all the time. I run alone at trail races, too. I went through periods where I was tired of seeing people, and hearing them. The expo and the start were both overwhelmingly crowded to me. I’m not agoraphobic by any means, but when I’m running, I feel uncomfortable around so many people, especially if I’m standing around alone. I hate accidentally being in the background of people’s selfies. And I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate hearing people chatter on in conversation during races.

Trail running is better, but I’m absolutely going to run more road marathons! I want to chase down a sub-5 marathon. I want to keep participating in this race, since it’s so convenient. I’m hoping to incorporate road marathons (and half marathons) into ultra training blocks as supported long runs. And maybe… maybe someday I’ll do Grandma’s.