Birkie Trail Run Goals

I was feeling super chill about the Birkie Trail Run until yesterday, when I started making my time chart and realized what kind of paces I needed to run. I hadn’t realized until recently that my goal of 7 hours was actually also the cutoff time for the “marathon” (the race is 25.6 miles, something I don’t quite understand, is there not a way to eke another 0.6 miles out of the course?) and I was going to have to readjust my thinking.

So I set my goal times:
A Standard: 6:00:00
B Standard: 6:30:00
C Standard: 6:59:59

And then I started working up my spreadsheet to figure out what time I’d need to be at each aid station. And then I realized all of the paces are faster than I’ve ever run a marathon before. And that for the first 14 or so miles, I’d need to be on that 6:30 pace to hit an intermediate cutoff. (There’s one cutoff before and one cutoff after that one that are 7 hour pace cutoffs so I’m confused.)

So now I’m really anxious about the race, and about getting enough sleep, and about driving an hour and a half each way to get there, and about my slight weight gain, and about the cold-like symptoms I’m experiencing today (the downside of a short taper must be getting that “taper flu” during race week, argh), and about how I have a work trip on Monday morning… worry came rushing in to fill the space left by nonchalance.

I know that I consistently limit myself, with my fears and my doubts. I hold back when I should push. I worry about what might happen a mile down the trail, 10 miles down the trail, instead of focusing on the mile that I’m in. I know that I am a risk-averse runner.

I know that this trail won’t be full of rocks and roots, won’t have long climbs like Moose Mountain (although it has a billion short climbs), and won’t be hot and sticky. I know that I’ve put in a lot of miles (although the average mileage is only a few miles higher than my previous races, due to some low or no mileage weeks) and I’ve run this distance (or farther) five times in the 12ish months.

My non-time-related goal for this race is to be bold. This doesn’t mean charging up the first hill of the race and wearing myself out. It does mean running uncomfortably at times. It does mean forcing myself through the low points in the race rather than babying myself until I get out of them. It does mean this race is gonna hurt. But if I don’t start running more bravely, I’m never going to progress. I’m never going to be anything other than a back of the pack runner who is limited from entering some races due to cutoffs.

Tonight and tomorrow, I’m going to do my best to relax, have fun with my family, eat some chocolate birthday cake (not my bday, my Gramps’), and get my prep work done early so I can wake up and drive to Cable on Saturday morning feeling confident and relaxed.


Birkie Trail Run Training: Week 13

What’s a taper?

Monday: 5.9 mi, trail (Hartley)
Tuesday: 8.6 mi, road
Wednesday: 5.2 mi, trail (Minnesota Point)
Thursday: rest
Friday: 10 mi, pavement (Lakewalk)
Saturday: 5.3 mi, road + trail (Ran to Bagley, did one short loop, ran home)
Sunday: 11.2 mi, trail (Superior Hiking Trail – Rossini Rd to Lake County Demonstration Forest & back)
Total: 46.3 mi

I know the marathon is this weekend, but since I had 2 weeks “off” and my goal race is Wild Duluth, I figured there’s no harm in running a regular week of mileage. I spent a lot of time on the trails, too, I guess in some kind of attempt to make up for all the road running I’ve done this summer. And also because summer was giving its last dying gasp this past week.

Monday I ran at Hartley, and started a bit late, to the point where I was running in… hemidemisemidarkness, I guess. It is hard to get in a lot of mileage at Hartley since the trails have changed a bit, but I still enjoy running there.

Then I went home and made A Food.

Oh my god @theseasalt this is so good. #foodforrunners #idontknowhowtophotographfood #conservationofmomentum

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It’s been awhile since I made something really good for dinner (I was on a good kick for awhile), but I made this Golden Rice Bowl with Spicy Cauliflower and Black Beans bowl. I had dinner and 3 lunches out of this recipe, and the flavors are delicious – turmeric! Red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper! Also I am mentioned* in the recipe!

*I choose to believe “some of my favorite people in the world” includes me.

Tuesday I ran an unremarkable road run. Eating a lot of cauliflower kind of messed with my GI system so I cut it a little short, I was planning on 10 miles.

Wednesday, I needed a reset, and decided to go for scenery over miles or speed. I haven’t been out on Minnesota Point in a long time – I run the roads out there, but not the trails. Part of this is because it involves running in sand, which I dislike. The trails are also pretty short – I had to run all over the place and get creative to get to 5 miles. Some of the trails end abruptly, or they are overgrown. I just prayed there wasn’t any poison ivy (I didn’t contact any, whew). I finished running at sunset.

#Duluth #parkpoint #conservationofmomentum

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Friday my legs felt terrible when I set out on the Lakewalk. (Well, actually I started in Kitchigammi Park.) I wasn’t interested in slogging it out so I kept forcing my legs forward and ended up running a sub-13 minute pace without overexerting myself (once my legs loosened up, that is). I narrowly missed getting hung up by the scenic railroad where it crosses the trail near Blackwoods, but it passed before I got there. The acoustics were right and I could hear the announcers and the crowd at the East-Denfeld football game even after I was a couple miles away. It was a great way to spend a Friday night. I thought about all the football games I went to in high school, usually sneaking in with the pep band and dancing along to “Green Onions” and the other jazzy tunes they would play.

Saturday was hot. I was headed to a hockey game that afternoon so I needed to get my run in before. That meant running in the heat of the day, and I’m pretty sure it was 85F, with full sun, when I headed out. It was pretty miserable and I walked whenever I felt like it. I was so glad to be out of the sun during my quick loop at Hartley (I did the big hill loop, so at least I didn’t cop out that way), and I was wishing for a water bottle on the way home. On a 5 mile run! Ugh.

Sunday was hot too! I hit another Duluth-to-Two-Harbors section of the SHT. It was only 70F in Duluth, so I thought it wouldn’t be so bad up the shore. Nope, it was almost 80F. My run was painfully slow, due in part to the heat and also due to the more technical terrain, as compared to the segment I ran the weekend before. I had to climb over fallen trees and pick my way through scree, so I naturally slowed down over the mostly runnable section headed the opposite way.

I’m taking it fairly easy this upcoming week (with my usual strategy of denying the race is coming up soon) before spending basically the entire month of October traveling (3 out of 4 weeks, I have a business trip, and the only week I don’t is the week leading up to Wild Duluth, so I’m not thrilled), so who knows what kind of mileage I’ll get after that. I’m excited about the Birkie, even after finding out the race time limit is 7 hours (which was my goal time, oops) and realizing I’ll have to leave the house at 5:30 a.m.

Birkie Trail Run Training Weeks 11 and 12

The woman who kicked the hornet’s nest.

Monday: 10.4 mi, treadmill
Tuesday: rest (trip logistics)
Wednesday: rest (driving)
Thursday: rest (driving – some walking at Niagara Falls)
Friday: 2.5 mi, treadmill
Saturday: rest (some walking at Thorne Head Nature Preserve, also lots of aggressively bad dancing)
Sunday: rest (water-skiing for “cross-training”)
Total: 12.9 mi

Monday: rest (walking around Kennebunkport, water-skiing)
Tuesday: rest (driving)
Wednesday: 3.75 mi, treadmill (plus walking around the ballpark in Cleveland)
Thursday: rest (driving – some walking at ballpark in Detroit)
Friday: 6.6 mi, road
Saturday: 9.1 mi, trail (Superior Hiking Trail – Twin Ponds to Haines Rd & back)
Sunday: 12.6 mi, trail (Superior Hiking Trail – Rossini Rd to Fox River Rd & back)
Total: 32.1 mi

A week and a half of only treadmill running really sucked! Good thing it only consisted of two runs. My Monday (week 11) run got split into 2 runs so that I could get some stuff done. I ran on the treadmill, then did some trip prep, then ran on the treadmill some more. I’m trying to remember why I did this – I assume it must have been raining or cold. Or I just wanted to be around to get more stuff done.

I had also intended to run Tuesday (week 11), and in fact got dressed in my running gear and, after visiting my grandparents, started driving to the Highland/Getchell trailhead, and about halfway there, looked at the sky and realized the one time I don’t obsessively check the weather before going out running, a giant thunderhead is looming over the hill. During the downpour, I drove to buy pet food and litter, which was a good use of time and was sort of on the way. I considered going home and running on the treadmill, but realized I had a lot of trip prep left to do, plus some additional housecleaning. (I actually cleaned my house somewhat during the time I had off before we started driving. It still looks messy compared to most people’s houses, but a heck of a lot better than it had, and it was nice to come home to clean sheets and no dirty dishes.) I can’t do laundry and run the treadmill at the same time since they are on the same breaker, so I decided not to run. I could have managed my time better and gotten in one more run before I left, but that would require a lobotomy.

My treadmill run on Friday (week 11) was uneventful, as was my treadmill run Wednesday (week 12).

I was SO glad to get back out running on Friday (week 12). I almost didn’t get out there because I thought it was going to storm – then I watched the radar animation and saw the path of the rain. However, it was misty and visibility was low, plus my allergies were acting up badly and I’d taken a pill that was making my head a bit fuzzy, so I shortened my 8 mile run to 6.6. That doesn’t seem like much but 1.4 miles takes me awhile, so I was able to provide my brain enough excuses to turn back for home early.

Saturday (week 12) I wanted to make sure I ran before the predicted thunderstorm hit (spoiler: it didn’t) and get home in time to have a shake from Coney Island Deluxe courtesy of my dad. I decided I’ve been avoiding tough trails long enough, and decided to run the Superior Hiking Trail from Twin Ponds back toward Enger/24th Ave W/Highland-Getchell, turning around when I reached around 5 miles. This didn’t work out. First off, it was 1. sunny and 2. warm, two things I was not anticipating. I didn’t put on sunscreen, because I am stupid, and I only brought one handheld, which I thought would be sufficient for a cooler day. Maybe it would have been enough, we’ll never know.

I really hate that section of the SHT. After passing through the 24th Ave W trailhead, there’s a quick flat section followed by this really long, steep, annoying climb. It’s less than 400 ft in total elevation change, but it has a fairly steep grade and I am also not a mountain runner so I don’t know what I’m talking about. Then there’s a bunch of little climbs I don’t like, some of which are exposed. So I was hot, rationing water a bit (nothing dire), grumpy, hungry somehow (oops), and overall not having a good time. I reached Haines Road and decided to turn around there, even though it was short of 5 miles (I think 4.6?), because I didn’t want to go up that climb (it’s short but steep and also slippery due to lots of exposed boulders) and I also wanted to be done before 5. I tried to make up some time on the way back after having a gel (not enough), and was starting to enjoy myself once I started the descent of the aforementioned annoying climb. Somewhere before Miller Creek, while I was cooking along, I got stung by a bee. I haven’t been stung in a long time (which is surprising, since there are bees all over the place on the SHT), and while it was initially less painful than I remembered, it still sucked, and it hurt the rest of the run (I was stung on my right calf muscle) and the rest of the night it both hurt and itched. I decided to cheat a little to get done sooner, and ran along Skyline Drive past Enger Park Golf Course instead of dipping back onto the SHT after crossing Piedmont. I was able to get done a bit more quickly by running on the road (although I got back on for the last 2 segments at Enger Park), and by that point I was SO DONE with running and didn’t care if I ran 10 miles.

I decided I will not be running the Wild Duluth course sections of the Superior Hiking Trail from now until the race. I don’t need to be annoyed by/sick of the race course come race day. It’s just very irritating that the SHT section nearest my home is the one I hate the most. Yes, I could go the other way from Twin Ponds, but it’s all downhill from there until the Lakewalk, and then it’s a lot of city running back up the hill to Hartley. I barely consider that the SHT.

Sunday I tried out a new segment of the SHT, as per my fall running goals. I drove up Highway 61 to check out the Rossini Road to Fox River Road section. I actually intended to go the other way, but when I pulled up to the Rossini Road trailhead and was getting my gear on, a woman I know came out of the woods. We started chatting and she offered to run the Rossini Road to Lake County Demonstration Forest section with me at another time, since it would be new to her. So I headed back toward town instead of up the shore. I think I’m going to make a separate trail review post, so I won’t get too far into the details of the trail. I started about as late as I could start while still getting done before dark. This was great until I took a wrong turn on the way back and ended up going north until I was past Larsmont, so I got home after dark anyway. Oh man, I cannot even think about what it’s going to be like when daylight saving time ends. The run itself felt good and I was moving along pretty well. I didn’t get hungry til the last few miles, at which time I reminded myself during a race, I’d be eating stuff at aid stations instead of eating a single gel over 12.8 miles. Oh, I ate a tiny granola bar right before I started running. So a tiny granola bar and a gel over 12.8 miles (and 3.5 hours). Not the best. I did have plenty of water as I decided to wear my hydration pack (which I’d initially vowed not to wear until the race – but I didn’t want 2 handhelds and it’s basically the same as a weighted vest, right?) and didn’t close the valve on the mouthpiece so it leaked all over my passenger seat and my gear. Sigh.

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Everything but running, basically.

My top priorities for this vacation were to maximize my time spent with my family, and to make sure I got enough sleep so that I could be pleasant to them. Most of my family lives over a thousand miles from me, and with the exception of my grandparents (who until recently lived in Florida most of the year), everyone lives at least 100 miles away. When we do have time together, I want to spend it together, so I can’t exactly go off on a two hour run. I often don’t sleep well when traveling, and we moved around quite a bit, so there were a few days when I planned on running and then opted out of it because I had slept poorly.

My husband and I decided to drive, since I’m not a huge fan of flying, I prefer the flexibility of car travel, and we wanted to see sights along the way. We spent the first day (Wednesday the 6th) driving from Duluth to Buffalo. Chance of running: zero.

On Thursday (before we even went to bed), I realized we were going to have to have a relatively early morning. Our plans were to see my friend in Buffalo, go to Niagara Falls, and then drive the final 9 hours to Maine. This meant getting up at about 8:30 a.m. eastern time, which was 7 a.m. normal time. I don’t even get up that early for work, and certainly not when I roll into a hotel at like 1 a.m. Chance of running: zero. I did plenty of walking around Niagara Falls (American side only), so I got in some exercise before we drove for 9 hours, much of it in the dark and in the rain.


Niagara Falls. I wish we’d planned enough time to take the Cave of the Winds tour!

Friday I managed to get up early enough to run for about half an hour on the treadmill. It wasn’t pleasant, but I was happy to get a few miles in. Thus, chance of running: 100%. After that, we drove to Freeport, home of LL Bean. It turned out to be a big outlet mall, which isn’t really my scene. I avoided going in the Bike, Boat, and Ski store, so as not to try to buy everything in there. The flagship store is open 24 hours a day, and I was tempted to go there in the middle of the night, just because. Friday evening, we attended the rehearsal dinner for my cousin’s wedding. It was at the Small Point Club, which is a private beach club out on a peninsula on the coast of Maine, and I am pretty much ready to join the club right now.


A human being that was given to fly.


The view from the deck of the club house.

Saturday we had to leave the hotel as we were staying at the wedding venue that night. I could have run, and set an alarm to get up in time to run, but then… didn’t. So, chance of running: 33%. We had some time between check out and check in, so we went for a short walk in the woods at Thorne Head Nature Preserve in Bath. I was checking in on the Superior Trail Races periodically, since I’d originally planned to run the marathon before learning the wedding date. I had some FOMO, definitely, but there was no way I was missing this event for a race I can run any year. Also, it was really muddy this year, so I’m not super sad I missed out.


I did manage to find some rooty, rocky trails for solidarity.

The wedding venue was on the Kennebec River, and was absolutely gorgeous. It was a perfect day, a fun wedding, and I got plenty of exercise on the dance floor with my crazy, weird, wonderful family.


No decorations needed, beyond the arbor my uncle made.

Sunday as soon as I got up, I started helping load out the inn. My cousin had brought in a lot of things, which we had to bring back to the camp, or she had to bring back to Boston, or needed to be returned to someone else in the wedding party. So I got a lot of exercise in that way. We drove back to Commoosie Camp, my aunt and uncle’s lake place near the New Hampshire border, and got in some water-skiing, jet-skiing, and sauna sessions. The camp (or cabin, or cottage) has a stand alone sauna unit, and my aunt and cousins and I did two sauna sessions followed by two skinny dips in the lake. It was so relaxing and refreshing!


My cousin’s young sons tandem water-skiing.

Monday we had absolutely nothing to do. I could have, and should have, gone for at least a short run, but I didn’t. I’ll call that chances of running: 75%, as I had several opportunities to do so. After caffeinating, my husband and I decided to drive in to nearby Kennebunkport. We didn’t see any Bushes, but we did see the ocean, and it was lovely.


We spent some time walking around, so again, I got in some exercise. And I water-skied again, even though my arms felt like they were being pulled out of their sockets. We had a lobster boil and then another sauna session.

Tuesday we had to leave, which I absolutely did not want to do. I could have stayed at the camp forever, relaxing, swimming, boating, and enjoying time with my family. Of course, everyone else was leaving (or had already left), so the spell would have been broken. Chances of running: zero, although I felt pretty lame when I went outside to pack the car and saw the newlyweds doing a Crossfit W.O.D. in the driveway. Now that is dedication.


How could anyone want to leave this?

Wednesday we woke up in Cleveland and went to Progressive Field to check another stadium off our list. We walked around the ballpark quite a bit, taking pictures and checking out all the features and exhibits. We saw most of Cleveland’s 21st win in a row (the historic streak stopped at 22) before ducking out a bit early to get on the road to Detroit. It was only a few hours from Cleveland to Detroit, so we had plenty of time to get dinner at a delicious Lebanese restaurant and then I ran 3.75 miles on the treadmill. Chances of running: 100%!

Thursday, we went to Comerica Park for another baseball game, and again spent quite awhile walking around checking out their exhibits. I had set my alarm to try to run on the treadmill before going to the game, but I didn’t sleep well the night before and knew we had a long day ahead of us, so I went back to bed. Chances of running: 50%. It was really hot at the ballpark, so we left after only a few innings, and drove back to Duluth over the Mackinac Bridge and through the UP, which was lovely and scenic, and a nice change of pace from the southern route through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Also we saved a lot of money on tolls on the way back!

Running will always be there, but the once in a lifetime experiences with family won’t. I put on a pound or two during vacation, but I also let my blisters fully heal, the chafing on my back from my sports bra went away, and I let my mind and my body rest. Now I’ve got two more weeks before the Birkie and five more weeks before Wild Duluth to train with a clear mind and rejuvenated body.


Birkie Trail Run Training: Week 10

Last big week of this training cycle!

Monday: 10.5 mi, road
Tuesday: 7.6 mi, road
Wednesday: 7 mi, treadmill
Thursday: rest
Friday: 6.1 mi, trail (Hartley)
Saturday: 11.8 mi, trail + pavement (various Jay Cooke trails, Munger trail)
Sunday: 8.4 mi, road
Total: 51.4 mi

I’m very glad this is the last big week I’ll be running for awhile. Maybe. I haven’t decided if I’m going to full-on taper or what, since I am no longer running the ultra and I have WD50K coming up. I hadn’t even thought about it until I started writing this post, so I guess I’ll have to consider it some more. It depends on how much running I’m able to do during vacation, and how I feel physically and mentally.

This week really sucked though. Pretty much every run was horribly slow. Obviously my “cutback” week didn’t really change much. It was kind of interesting to get to 50+ miles without a true “long” run. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be to fit that in. While I might not have thought of whether or not I’m going to taper fully, I am absolutely certain I’m not going to do any long runs from now til the race. This is solely because I don’t want to have to run with my hydration pack on. The pack + the clasp of my sports bra (Moving Comfort – it’s a great bra but the hooks dig into my skin, even through the fabric) are a bad combination and the middle of my back is all torn up. It happens even without the pack so it’s not a complete fix, but the pressure/friction of the pack (even with various anti-chafing unguents) makes it worse.

None of my runs were really that interesting or fun. That’s probably a bad sign. The trails have been so muddy that I’ve been avoiding them for the most part (Hartley and Jay Cooke had plenty of sloppy spots), so I’m running the same old boring road routes. I suppose I’m also avoiding trails so that I can get running over with sooner, and also because the few times I ventured out on the usual Duluth sections of the Superior Hiking Trail, I kind of hated them. Maybe I ran a few sections too many times last summer.

I am excited to have some time off from running, or at least some new spots to run. I’m going to take vacation as it comes and see what I have time for, but beyond that, the 2 weeks are going to be unstructured and I’m not going to feel bad about it for even a second.

Fall Running Goals: 2017

It’s meteorological fall! Time for some new goals!

  1. Course personal best at WD50K.
    The time to beat is 10:25:27. Obviously an overall 50K personal best would be amazing, too, but the course is harder.
  2. Set another marathon PR.
    This is tricky, because the Birkie is not actually a marathon distance. So I’ll look at overall pace in addition to overall time.
  3. Run all the remaining segments of the Superior Hiking Trail between Duluth and Two Harbors.
    Segments remaining: Sucker River to Fox Farm Road, Fox Farm Road to Rossini Road, Rossini Road to Lake County Demonstration Forest, Lake County Demonstration Forest to Reeves Road (11 miles, yikes!), and Reeves Road to Lake County Road 301.
  4. Take 2 weeks off deliberately.
    Once I’ve finished Wild Duluth, I’m going to give myself 2 weeks off, for real, with no guilt. I need the mental reset, and to let the blisters and scabs and twinges truly heal. I’ve taken time off before, but usually due to either illness or a mental funk, so it’s never as satisfying as planned time off.

Checking in on my summer running goals:

  1. Reach a personal best in distance.
  2. PR at the marathon distance.
    I ran 7:22:17 at the Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon, a PR of 1:01:12.
  3. Run from home to my dad’s place on Pike Lake.
    I never made the time to do this. I still need to plan a route and then drive it to see how safe the roads look.
  4. Run from Gooseberry Falls to Split Rock Lighthouse.
    I did this at the end of July. It was ok. I might try it again and go all the way to the lighthouse.

Only 50%? That’s not a very good showing. I did a lot of other fun stuff this summer so I don’t mind.

Birkie Trail Run Training: Week 9

Whoops, I took a cutback week.

Monday: 10.5 mi, road
Tuesday: 6 mi, road
Wednesday: rest
Thursday: 7.1 mi, road (including Fartleks)
Friday: 6.2 mi, road + trail (Lester Park + Superior Street)
Saturday: 7.1 mi, treadmill
Sunday: 5.1 mi, treadmill
Total: 42 mi

I complained last week about my training and wished for a cutback week. My wish was granted, by me. It’s always great when that happens.

Monday I got drenched. It sprinkled a bit when I was about 6 miles in and then the final 2 miles the sky unloaded. Also there was lightning and thunder, which I really have to stop running in. I also got a side stitch at the end and had to slow down in the pouring rain. Sigh. My shoes were wet for like 5 days, because nothing dries here.

Tuesday I just dragged my butt through 6 miles on London Rd and salivated at the upcoming rest day. I wish I could do 2 rest days a week but I don’t have the time to spread those miles over the rest of the week.

Wednesday was great. I spent the evening with my grandparents and otherwise enjoying not running.

Thursday, I went out to Park Point and did some lovely unstructured fartleks. Unfortunately my legs were still tired and I was a bit frustrated by how slow my surges of speed were. I get that the point of training is to acquire some cumulative fatigue and my legs should be tired, but I still had emotions about it.

Friday I ran the ski trails at Lester Park. It’s a gorgeous area but so much of the trail system is ungroomed. All I could think about was ticksticksticksticksticks but fortunately I found none on me. I ran down Superior Street a ways in order to get in the mileage I wanted to for the day.

Saturday it rained and I ran on the treadmill and hated it. Sunday it rained kind of off and on, so my plan was to run a short treadmill run and then a medium length road run. I visited my grandparents again and then my dad stopped by to pick something up, so I got my treadmill run started mid-afternoon. I really didn’t want to do the second run, but I managed to get off my butt and get dressed and — remember when I said nothing dries? Even though I had put my running clothes in front of a fan to try to dry them off, once I had a cold, clammy sports bra and shorts on, I was done. So very, very done.

The bright side here is that 42 miles is still a decent week for me. 42 miles when I skipped a long run? That’s a long way from where I started. I’ve screwed up just about every other aspect of this training (diet, strength training, planning, etc.), but I’m pretty excited about how I’m getting in higher mileage week after week, and now a cutback week is what a normal week used to be.