Birkie Trail Run: DNS

At 3:30 this morning, still wide awake, with adrenaline pumping, I realized I wasn’t going to run this race. I had everything prepared – clothes laid out, hydration pack filled, extra gear packed. But once again, as soon as I crawled into bed, tired from a long day of fun with my family as we celebrated my Gramps’ 91st birthday, I was suddenly wide awake. I only expected to have 4-5 hours of sleep and figured that would be sufficient. Then that ticked away to 3 hours, 2 hours (and I wasn’t even obsessively looking at the clock, I just knew the time was slipping away), and I realized that I wasn’t going to get enough sleep to drive 1.5 hours, run a marathon, and then drive 1.5 hours back. I could have done the race, had it been local, but I didn’t feel safe driving in a sleep-deprived state.

I’m disappointed and embarrassed, but it’s not the end of the world. I went on a short trail run and then spent time with my family – time I wouldn’t have had if I had tried to make the race. Even if I had made it safely back home after being awake for 30+ hours and running a hard race, I wouldn’t have had energy left to have an afternoon, dinner, and fire with everyone. I’d probably have had to take a 3-4 hour nap and missed out.

I have to regroup and refocus on Wild Duluth. I don’t know how to fix this pre-race insomnia – I hadn’t had any caffeine (not even pop), I didn’t change anything about my bedtime routine, I was tired when I went to bed, and I tried to zone out, take my mind off running, and avoid looking at the clock or my Fitbit. It’s frustrating, and is something I’m going to have to fix before I try a longer race than a 50K. I don’t need to go into, say, a 100K that could take me like 17-18 hours when I’ve been awake for a day already.

I’m still tired, even. I got really poor quality sleep even after I decided not to run. My consolation run was ok, but not great. Now I have three more weeks to let this stew in my guts before I get the chance to race again. Goody!

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

Birkie Trail Run Training: Week 8

I’m just glad this week is over.

Monday: rest
Tuesday: 8 mi, road
Wednesday: 7.2 mi, treadmill
Thursday: 5.5 mi, treadmill
Friday: 9 mi, road + trail (home to Hartley Root Canal & back)
Saturday: 5.4 mi, road
Sunday: 18.2 mi, paved trail (Munger Trail, starting at Thomson trailhead)
Total: 53.3 mi

Monday, Monday, can’t touch that day. I hate taking Mondays as rest days. I know it’s totally arbitrary to start a new training week on Mondays, but it’s when I start them. I’m starting fresh with a work week, so I might as well start fresh with a training week. I took Monday as an unscheduled rest day as I was feeling slightly under the weather. Then I felt like I was playing catch-up the rest of the week.

I ended up having to run on the treadmill Wednesday and Thursday due to weather. This is the problem with taking a rest day on Monday – I have no flexibility the rest of the week to account for other circumstances: work, weather, personal life, etc. So I had to torture myself on the treadmill 2 days in a row. (Yes, of course, I could take two rest days in one week.) I decided to start re-watching Game of Thrones from the beginning, so at least I was entertained. Thursday I did 10 x 0.25 mi repeats to keep from having my brain implode from the monotony.

Friday I ran a similar loop to the previous Friday, notably excluding both the short loop at Bagley and the bear encounter. I think I could eventually set this up to be a long run – start from home, run to Bagley, do a loop, then run to Hartley and do the Guardrail loop and come back home. We’ll see. Now that students are back at UMD, I don’t want to do a whole lot of running on campus until the parties have died down a bit. I’m too self-conscious.

The less said about Saturday’s run, the better. I was feeling a bit tired on Friday’s run, and on Saturday’s run, I just gave up on caring. I ran in the middle of the day, it was hot, I hadn’t had much to eat, our lawn mower wasn’t working, I procrastinated my run which ate into my time with my nephews, and I ran with no enthusiasm or drive. The rest of the day was great, I got some kayaking in on the lake, and then a little bit of swimming.

I tried to go easy on myself on Sunday, so I decided to run the Munger Trail, rather than a harder, more technical trail. I thought it would mean I could get done faster. I mean, technically, I got done faster than I did the previous week, but it was a miserable slog. I forgot that easier terrain sometimes means boring terrain. Some short climbs and descents can really break things up; flat terrain means nonstop pounding at the same elevation, same gait, using the same muscles. I hated this long run. But I did it, I survived it, I felt fine afterward. So I guess it was a good mental test.

I really could use a cutback week, to be honest. Normally, I would take one, but I will be on vacation in a few weeks and will be cutting down my mileage in order to enjoy time with family (and also because I’ll be in my car quite a bit). I’ve got two more weeks of higher mileage (for me) to get through, and maybe I’ll start enjoying it again this upcoming week (spoiler alert: it’s Tuesday evening as I’m writing this and I’m not in a super great mood). I am so glad that I’m not doing the 100K race – I can’t imagine what the additional stress of that huge challenge would feel like. It’s fortuitous I decided to just do the marathon, as my cousin is now planning to visit Duluth on the Birkie weekend. Now I can just dash off a quick marathon and head home right after.