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.)

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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.

Out of the Black and Into the Blue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frustrated, Inc.

I hate running right now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Discontent of My Winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.