Off-Week #2

I’m finally over my cold (I think! I woke up feeling kinda crummy this morning) and had a much better week last week. I’m sad that my hiatus has come to an end, while at the same time looking forward to running today (maybe… see below).

Monday-Wednesday: Strength training
I did that same set of exercises from last week. Super boring. I also did yoga videos.

Thursday: Strength training
I finally found a new workout, one that focused more on legs (LOTS of lunges). It was a nice change although I found one of the exercises (pistol squats) basically impossible. My balance isn’t the best and neither is my flexibility. I found a video that gives a progression to follow in order to do them, so I’ll give that a try. I did a yoga video as well.

Friday: Strength training
I combined the two strength workouts together, which was good, although then I was kinda tired for yoga afterward.

Saturday: Hiking
I went for a 5 mile hike starting at Twin Ponds and heading southwest. I stopped short of the big climb, which probably would have been too icy to be worthwhile. It was a nice hike but I was really late to the high school hockey games I went to in the afternoon. Whoops.

Sunday: Hiking and skating
I went for another 5 mile hike, this time starting at Highland/Getchell and turning around at Haines Rd. I meant to do a longer hike, but I didn’t have time, since I knew I wanted to go skating, and then get home in time for dinner and then Star Wars. I brought out my trekking poles to test them out. It went ok, although they were kinda clumsy with my big gloves. I did like them for uphills and downhills but didn’t really know what to do on the flats. I know people carry them parallel to the ground sometimes, but with the big mittens, that would have been tricky. One of the poles snapped at the lock about half a mile from the end, so I need to get in touch with REI to get it replaced.

I went skating at Pike Lake again with my dad and my stepmother. My dad and I skated around a lot and practiced some hockey skills, while my stepmother was more cautious (she has had hip and back surgery) and skated back and forth with a walker (seriously! it was so funny) while she re-taught herself to skate.

Rink ratting #onlyinmn #pikelake #hockey #runninwiththedogs #outdoorrink

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I tripped while skating on one foot and went down hard on my knee. It didn’t feel great and still doesn’t feel fantastic today, although I still have a full range of motion. I will probably run today, since it is above freezing and by the end of the week it’s going to be horribly cold.

I did an ok job of fulfilling my plans for this break. I didn’t plan on getting sick, so that derailed some of my motivation. I didn’t make food at all, other than the food I made for a potluck at work. My weight fluctuates up and down within the same 2-3 lb range, so I can’t tell if I actually lost any weight or if I’m just on the low end of that swing, but I didn’t gain any weight. I hiked about 20 miles combined on the two weekends of my hiatus. Other than that, I didn’t get over that magical “10,000 step” threshold, but eh. I don’t care too much about that, especially since I still got in about an hour’s workout (or more) every day last week. I also didn’t do any planning for Zumbro 50. I’m still in play-it-by-ear mode. My work-life balance might be tipped in favor of work in Q1, so I’m not sure if I’ll have the time to get in all the running I’d like to. I plan to, but I don’t know what my workload will be.

I would without a doubt recommend a planned, extended break to any runner, whether fast or slow, experienced or novice. It felt great. Most of my minor injuries are gone (the callus on my foot is still there) and I had time to do other stuff and enjoy downtime. I also managed to avoid some cold and snowy days. I got outside on the trails and hiked, forgetting about pace (other than “I need to turn around after x time in order to get back for xyz event”) and trying to enjoy my surroundings (though icy conditions inhibited that to some extent). I hardly ever thought “I should be running.” That was the best part of all – a break with no guilt, frustration, or negativity associated with it.

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Off-Week #1

I can’t say that I’m enjoying this off week as much as I’d have liked. I started feeling cold-like symptoms on Tuesday, and have been suffering through them ever since. So far, I haven’t been completely incapacitated by them (I did take a half day from work in order to get some extra sleep on Wednesday, but that was it so far), and I’m hoping I’m on the mend. I was a little concerned because I had the same progression of symptoms I had back in October, but I also didn’t attempt to run an ultramarathon in the rain, so I’m thinking I might be on the mend.

Here’s how my week went:

Monday: Strength training
I did several reps of a rather complicated combined strength move I found on the internet when searching for “exercises for runners dumbbells.” I also did some planks (3×20 seconds) and wall sits (3×60 seconds), and then I did a yoga video.

Tuesday: Strength training
I did a circuit workout I found on Self.com, which I had to modify slightly because I don’t have an exercise ball. Also I had to do box jumps onto the basement stairs because I don’t have anything else sturdy to jump on, which made me hesitant. I did a yoga video and then went out to a nice dinner and walked around Bentleyville with my family. It was like 12F and windy as heck.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday: Nothing
I lazed around trying to recover from my cold. Oh, and watched some hockey Friday night. That got the heart pumping.

Saturday: Hiking
I decided on Friday night that as long as I didn’t feel worse when I woke up in the morning, I was going to go on a short hike. I almost didn’t go, but then after I ate lunch, I felt better, and went on a 4 mile hike.

It was cold, but manageable. I was worried about getting cold because I wouldn’t be running hard, but it wasn’t a problem. I made sure to wear my super warm gloves (which I need to clean now, thanks to the deluge of snot from my poor nose) but other than that, I wore what I normally wear to run when it’s cold-ish. (I wasn’t bundled up the way I was when it’s really cold, of course.)

I hiked the Superior Hiking Trail, starting at Martin Road and heading back to town this time. It was still fairly icy in spots, so I wasn’t able to enjoy the scenery the same way I thought I’d be able to, but I still stopped to take a few pictures and check out a few views. Since it was icy (and sometimes the ice was covered in a thin layer of snow, so sketchy), I never really felt the urge to run and didn’t worry too much about my pace. It was very relaxing! This section is okay – it has a really nice stretch along Amity Creek, but then it joins up with a gravel road, goes between two cemeteries (kind of a downer), and then ends up on the street for awhile before going into Hartley. I only went 2 miles in before turning around, so I didn’t get onto the street. While I hiked, I had “Life is a Cabaret” in my head, probably because I was by cemeteries and I want that song played at my funeral.

I did feel kinda chilled and tired when I got home and through the evening, so I was worried I’d get up and feel sicker, but I didn’t!

Sunday: Hiking and ice skating
I got up decently early and was actually out on the trail by a little after noon. It’s a lot less stressful to get out for a hike than it is to get out for a run. I don’t know why – maybe this will help me stop getting so anxious about runs, and stop procrastinating? Maybe?

I wanted to go to Ely’s Peak, but I suspected approaching it from the Beck’s Road trailhead would be treacherous, due to the steep rocky climbs. I ended up starting at the Magney-Snively trailhead (heads up: Skyline Drive is open to the trailhead, but closed directly after it), and after 3 miles, still had probably half a mile to go to Ely’s Peak, so I skipped it. I was only planning on 6 miles, and it would have probably added 25 minutes to my hike to actually “summit” the peak. So I turned around. This section is tough on the way to Ely’s Peak, lots of uphills, and my legs were definitely feeling it. There were a couple of icy or otherwise sketchy sections that forced me to slow down, and on the way back, I somehow was able to catch myself just before my tailbone hit the ground. Yikes.

That sky. #superiorhikingtrail #duluth #conservationofmomentum #fueledbylefse

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I enjoyed a bit more challenging hike, even if at times I felt pretty tired from the effort. U had a song for this hike, too: I couldn’t get the Bloodhound Gang’s “Bad Touch” out of my head today, for some reason.

After I got home, had a latte, and took a shower to warm up, I drove out to Pike Lake, where my dad had cleared a rink on the lake behind his house. I didn’t get there until 4:30, when the sun was already almost gone, but we had a great time skating in the twilight for an hour. I brought a stick and a puck, but he forgot his down in the Cities, so we just skated around and had fun talking, and then looking at the stars with an app once it was late enough for the stars to come out.

I’m really hoping I didn’t overdo it during the weekend, because I’m hoping to get back to strength training during the week (and do more hiking & skating next weekend!), and also making some lunches for myself. I haven’t had the energy to make food or do any meal planning, but I do need to get to the grocery store for my work potluck (once I figure out what I’m making, ugh).

Fall Running Goals: 2017 Revisited

Fall ends very early in Duluth, so even though we’ve not reached the winter solstice, I’m ready to close the book on the season.

I won’t be setting any goals for “winter” (December-February), because I don’t really race then. I’ll set my year-long goals in January, and then do seasonal goals for spring, summer, and fall. I know some people need that next race on the calendar to get themselves psyched up, but I feel great about not having any running obligations, and I’m glad to have a break from race fees!

My fall running goals were as follows:

  1. Course personal best at WD50K.
    I didn’t finish, so I’m starting off well here.
  2. Set another marathon PR.
    I didn’t start the Birkie, so I didn’t set a marathon PR. I finished the Fall Back Blast in 15:55, a pace nearly a minute faster than my marathon PR pace from July.
  3. Run all the remaining segments of the Superior Hiking Trail between Duluth and Two Harbors.
    I completed all the segments except the long one from Lake County Demonstration Forest to Reeves Road. Bummer, but I didn’t have the time nor the energy for a 22 mile run, and couldn’t make it work to run with a friend and coordinate parking.
  4. Take 2 weeks off deliberately.
    In progress. I’m four days in and have a cold already. Huzzah.

That was a pretty poor showing (25%!), but at the same time, I still set an overall 50K PR, I ran a lot of fun new segments of the Superior Hiking Trail, and I am enjoying my time off during a really annoying cold snap. I had plenty to enjoy about my fall season, even if I didn’t achieve many of my goals. It’s about the journey, not the destination.

Lay Your Weary Head To Rest

Starting today, I’m taking a two week break from running.

I meant to do it starting yesterday, but it was 40 F and there’s cold weather in the forecast, so I didn’t want to waste what will probably be one of the last mild days of the year. I ran 8 miles on the Superior Hiking Trail starting at Martin Road and it was really frustrating – lots of ice, uneven frozen ground, and spots where the mud or grass was frozen, but I didn’t know, and then my foot would break through. It was a pretty tiring run, but I was glad to get out there just the same.

I set a goal at the beginning of the fall season to take 2 weeks off by choice. I meant to do it at the end of Wild Duluth, but because I DNF (and I took time off due to illness), I ran another race, and then I had 2 5Ks, so I had to push back the break until technically after the fall season (as I define it, it’s September-November, and then winter is December-February).

Physically, I can benefit from a break. The blister-turned-callus on my right heel might go away. The chafing on the middle of my back from my sports bra clasp can heal. In general, my knees, hips, and ankles can benefit from a break from the relentless pounding. My recent slower 5K times have indicated my body is fatigued.

Mentally, I really need a break. I’m a bit burned out. It’s dark out early. I have to wear layers. I always have smelly running clothes hanging in the bathroom. I’m tired of every route I run. I feel like I don’t have time to do anything but run. This isn’t actually true, but it feels true because of the early sundown.

I’ve got other stuff to do, though. Strength training, for example. That’s fallen by the wayside, and I’m going to need to work on both my core and leg strength for next year. I’ll work on my nutrition, too. I haven’t made dinner or a lunch for myself in weeks. I’m trying to lose weight, too (turns out you can gain weight even if you’re running marathons and ultra marathons! Ugh). I’m an overweight runner (technically an obese runner, if you go by BMI alone), it’s not a crime, but it’s also a hindrance to getting faster.

Running is completely off-limits, but walking and hiking are not. I’ll count hiking towards my total mileage during the year, since I do plenty of hiking during races, ha ha. I won’t count just regular old walking, because I already don’t, but I do need to increase the amount of walking I do during the day. My job is fairly sedentary, and I need something active to replace running.

I’ll do a lot of planning, too, at least for my next upcoming goal race (currently Zumbro 50, first time I’m admitting that “out loud,” but I’m not registered yet). I’ll get a training plan of some sort together so I at least have something to strive for once I’m back out on the roads/trails/treadmill on December 18th.

I’ve taken breaks before, but they’ve always come as the result of something outside of my control. Illness, injury, burnout, or scheduling issues have kept me off my feet for a few days or a few weeks at various points over the last couple years, but then I end up with a lot of guilt or anxiety about not running. Now I’m in control, and I’m going to enjoy the hell out of this break.

Race Report: Jingle Bell Run 5K 2017

Official Results:
Time: 31:41 (2:20 slower than my 2016 race)
Pace: 10:12
Placing:
Overall: 62/148

Watch Results:
Time: 31:47
Pace: 9:53
Distance: 3.21 mi
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 29:59

Food:
What I ate the night before: Qdoba burrito bowl
What I ate on race day: nothing (I had the burrito bowl at like 10 PM so I wasn’t hungry)
What I carried with me: Nothing

Gear:
What I wore: hoodie, t-shirt, arm warmers, tights, buff (as headband)
Gadgets: GPS watch

Discussion: This race is confirmation that I need a break. It was even slower than last week! I do have some suspicions that the course was a bit long. Well, either the course was long, or the course last year was short. Either way, the turnaround was at the top of the first hill into Leif Erickson park, rather than at the base of the hill as it was last year. I really hope this course was long because otherwise my PR is invalid. Who cares, it’s not a world record. I’ll stick with it.

I didn’t run the day before the race (well, except for like 0.3 mi on a treadmill at my local running store – I bought a new pair of road shoes yesterday and tested them out with a quick run on the treadmill), but I had gone through a streak of running 10 days in a row. It wasn’t hard running, but I normally do not go that long without a rest day. I doubt it made a huge difference, although my hips were a bit sore by Wednesday or Thursday.

This morning I woke up and really didn’t want to get out of bed. I did manage to arrive in Canal Park in time to run just over a mile to warm up. The warm-up felt slow and my stride didn’t feel effortless. So, bad sign.

After I finished my warm-up, I met up with friends inside the Sports Garden. This is one of the nice perks of the event – an indoor place to gather beforehand. It was already like 32 F so I had decided to forgo gloves (last week my hands got really warm about 2 miles in), and I actually felt a little TOO warm even with only lighter layers on, after just a warm-up.

We were busy taking a picture when the race started – we thought we had more time, but as we were trying to move up in the starting line, we realized the race had already begun. I ended up being walkers again for the first 0.08 (by my watch) miles. Oh well.

I thought I was doing a pretty good job of running hard, but not too hard. This was my first time on this section of the Lakewalk since it was heavily damaged during a storm in October. It’s sad to see there’s still so much work to be done to restore parts of it. The path did have some rocks (and broken glass!) on it in spots, although I can’t say it affected my race trying to avoid the detritus. I just sucked.

I really thought I gave a more even, more sustained effort, but I guess I didn’t. I am tired, but last year I set my PR even though I had a cold (a cold that ended up knocking me for a loop the next couple of days, causing me to have to go home sick from an all-week work training in Edina). I’m frustrated that I’ve backslid so much on my speed, but it’s a learning experience. If I want to race middle distance races, I either have to do some occasional speedwork, or adopt a different attitude toward races.

I’m taking 2 weeks off from running now, starting tomorrow. Hooray!

Race Report: Gobble Gallop 2017

Official Results:
Time: 31:29 (1:02 faster than my 2015 race)
Pace: 10:08
Placing:
Overall: 962/1937
Sex: 509/1214
Age Group (F35-39): 54/146

Watch Results:
Time: 31:33
Pace: 10:04
Distance: 3.13 mi
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 28:59
B: 29:20

Food:
What I ate the night before: Qdoba burrito bowl
What I ate on race day: Triscuits (I didn’t plan ahead for food)
What I carried with me: Nothing

Gear:
What I wore: hoodie, long sleeved tech shirt, tights, buff (as headband), gloves
Gadgets: GPS watch

Discussion: LOLOLOL. I stink at 5Ks.

I arrived early enough to warm up for about a mile. I didn’t get a good sense of how my legs felt because I had to be cautious in my warm-up. It snowed just a little bit overnight and some spots on the sidewalk and roads seemed slippery. When I finished my warm-up (just over a mile, so a real one!), I ran into my friend, her daughter, and her parents, which was the highlight of the race, I have to say.

A lot of what happened in this race can be attributed to where I lined up. It is really a challenge to gauge where I should line up for 5Ks when there aren’t pace groups. It usually involves a lot of sizing people up. I want to stay out of the way of faster runners, but not get into the groups. When I ran the race in 2015, everyone had to go through the blow-up archway in order to go over the timing mat. They did not do that this year, and I have to say, the other way was better. While it took forever to get through the arch, it was significantly less congested once we got through. This year, they moved the arch out of the way and extended the timing mats. This meant that people got through the start faster, but it was so congested.

I respect that people have different ideas about the purpose of a Thanksgiving 5K. Some people want to win, some people want to wear crazy costumes (one person ran the entire Tough Turkey mile wearing an Angry Birds head), some people want to run with family and friends, some people are running their first race. However, people need to have some situational awareness regardless of their goals. I lined up too far to the back and ended up behind people who were walking from the start, people who brought their dogs (not allowed), people who started with strollers (there was a designated stroller wave, but I guess this person was too good to follow the rules), people who were walking with young children, people who were in a group and running 5 abreast, people who were texting/otherwise on their phones, people having conversations, etc. And it didn’t let up until I was probably halfway through the race. I wasted a lot of mental energy getting frustrated by that, and decided I’d rather act like a big baby and “quit” (I was still running, but not pushing it hard) than try to make up time in the second half once the congestion let up.

This was one of the most crowded 5Ks I’ve ever run, and I think if I run it in the future, I’m going to have to line up a lot closer to the start than I am comfortable with. Of course, if I’m not going to run hard and put in an effort the whole race, there’s probably no point to lining up closer to the start, but that’s not supposed to happen every race.

I’m doing the Jingle Bell Run next weekend and I’m hoping that will be a better experience. I will certainly try to prepare better for the race. After that, I plan to take a full two weeks off from running before beginning training for a big spring ultra, so it’ll be my last “hurrah” for the season.

‘Twas the Night Before a Thanksgiving 5K

Ugh why do I run these stupid things? I am not good at them. I decided to “sabotage” my race by running almost 7 miles today. I say “sabotage” because for all I know, it’ll help.

I’m not getting any better at 5Ks, which is not surprising because I am putting zero effort into improving at them. It turns out running trail ultramarathons is not great for speed. Who knew? Well, I knew.

Sometimes I think about putting serious effort into my 5K time. It never happens because I always find some shiny new trail race to occupy my training. Also I feel really stupid about putting a lot of effort into 5K training, when the average semi-fit person could amble up to the start wearing basketball shorts and Chuck Taylors and knock out a better time than I can with a full training cycle. I realize that’s kind of pathetic and I should just run my own race and get on with my bad self, but it’s unlikely.

5Ks are really hard for me to do well at. I wonder about this. I am running at a very hard effort for 30 minutes. A faster person is running very hard for like 25 minutes, or 22 minutes, or 18 minutes (we’re talking local 5Ks here, people, not the Olympic trials). That’s way easier! Says me, the person with no experience running anywhere near that pace. Hey, if people can make obnoxious generalizations about how a 10:00 pace is “not really running” or make snide remarks about people who participate in Thanksgiving Day 5Ks like it’s some kind of offense to the sport of running itself, I can say it’s easier to run hard for a shorter period of time.

Why yes, I do feel very defensive. I don’t care.

I’m still going to go into this with hope of a PR (current PR is 29:21 and is now almost a year old) even though I have no reason to believe I have the leg speed to do so. Which, let’s be real, “believing” is the actual problem. My mental game is weak.

A Standard: 28:59
B Standard: 29:20

Okay, gauntlet thrown down. Time for me to also pick it up.