Race Report: Polar Dash Half Marathon

Official Results:
Time: 2:27:30
Pace: 11:16
Placing:
Overall: 307/354
Gender: 153/182
AG (F30-39): 46/55

Watch Results:
Time: 2:27:39
Pace: 11:27
Distance: 12.9 mi (???)
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals: (just trust me on this, I know I didn’t publish them ahead of time like I usually do)
A: 2:30
B: 2:32:01 (PR)

Food:
What I ate the night before: Jersey Mikes #13 sub
What I ate on race morning: bagel with cream cheese
What I carried with me: 3 gel packets (I ate 2, at miles 5 and 9) and a disposable water bottle

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt, tights, hoodie, buff, gloves
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker

Discussion:
What a great way to start the year! I signed up for this race several weeks ago and started to regret it because I realized it could be cold. Apparently last year it was like 0F. NO THANK YOU. I’d have stayed in bed and eaten the entry fee. I asked one of my friends if she wanted to join me and she said she liked to wait til closer to the start for winter races because of ice. Oh yeah, I hadn’t even thought about that, whoops. But it didn’t matter! Because the weather was amazing and the race course was almost completely clear!

I didn’t sleep well the night before the race, although I didn’t have my usual pre-race panic-as-soon-as-the-lights-turn-off nonsense. I have been having trouble sleeping the past week or so in general. I still think I got 3 or 4 hours of sleep which isn’t bad, although I still woke up BEFORE MY ALARM WHAT IS THAT and considered rolling over and going to sleep for several hours more. Honestly, the only thing that kept me going was reminding myself that I would have to get it done, one way or the other, since I’m back in ultra training again.

I wasn’t sure how this race was going to go since I’ve had a really terrible December, running-wise, and I haven’t run double digit mileage since November (my last half marathon, actually). It was good in the sense that my legs were well rested, but bad in the sense that I have had a lot of fairly sluggish runs lately. Many of them have been on the treadmill, so it’s likely a lot of that slowness is mental. I did almost nothing to prepare – I had a vague idea of the course as I run in that area all the time, and I checked the night before what kind of pace I needed to run to hit a PR. I didn’t set out any clothes or (obviously) write up my goals or do anything beyond purchasing a bagel bundle with cream cheese yesterday so that I could have my favorite morning snack.

I knew I had plenty of time to get to the race, since it’s so close to my house, and that I could park for free instead of paying the $10 to park near the pavilion. When I did the Night Nation Run, I walked all the way there and back, but that was an untimed 5K in summer. This was a half marathon in winter – even though it wasn’t frigid, I didn’t want to risk getting cold post-race while walking home. I parked and then did my warmup by running down the hill and to the pavilion. I got there with about 15 minutes until race time, and the pavilion was open for runners. At signup, I had misunderstood the website and thought I’d have to pay $5 extra to have access to the heated pavilion, but that turned out to be for spectators only. That was a really great idea, actually! It made sure that there was plenty of room for runners, instead of getting swarmed with people’s family and friends. I didn’t want to pay the extra fee for having my packet mailed or picking it up on race day, so I picked it up on my way home from work the night before. I love races in my neighborhood! So convenient! It takes so much of the worry away for me – I fret a lot over dumb stuff like parking and getting lost, and I didn’t have to worry about that at all!

The race started along the riverfront outside the pavilion. It was a lovely view in the dim morning light – the sun hadn’t fully reached us down there below the bluffs at race start. I lined up right behind the 2:30 pacers, figuring if I stuck with them I’d finish in like 2:29:55 or something. They were a couple of nice, friendly guys who knew each other, and they chatted the whole way, which — we all know by now how I feel about chatting during the race, but I actually found it helpful at times because they were making pace-related comments. We looped around under the Wabasha Street Bridge, then came out and crossed Wabasha Street and headed back in the opposite direction. We passed the pavilion area in the first mile, and I realized my watch was already behind – I was only at 0.95 miles, when it’s usually ahead. The pacer guys’ watches were slightly ahead so I realized it was probably a glitch on my end, and it turned out it was.

stravapolardash

What is this???

The next section was a loop down Water St. to the 35E bridge, a route that I have run several times. There were a couple of water stops along this section, but I ran through them since I was carrying a bottle of water. I found it much easier to keep a rhythm going if I didn’t have to stop to get a cup.

I played leap frog a bit with the pacers: I’d get in front of them, they’d catch up, and so on and so on. I only got behind them once or twice, and that was only a step or two. I wondered if my pace would fall off, or if I would start to get mentally weak, but it never seemed to happen. I thought it was happening, every time the pacers caught up to me I thought I was slowing, but I finally asked them and it turned out they were sometimes speeding up rather than me slowing down! I also learned they were ahead of the 2:30 pace, so I knew if I stuck with them or slightly ahead of them, I’d come in ahead of my hoped-for A goal.

The course turns around just before 35E (about 4 miles in, I think) and then loops back around to the start. Somewhere just before we turned off the road and onto the Mississippi River Trail (maybe mile 5 or 6?), I got passed by the lead runner in the half. That was a little demoralizing – getting lapped on a 2 loop course! But the first loop is longer than the second, and this guy was flying (I believe he ran 1:13), so I can’t even be mad! At the course turnoff, I got a little confused – there was no one ahead of me and I couldn’t tell where to go. The 10K runners/second loop half marathoners were streaming at us from the road so I figured turning off the road was probably correct, but I asked the pacers and they weren’t sure, and only at the last minute did a volunteer turn around (they were focusing on crowd control from the 10kers and faster half runners) and confirm we were going the right way. And then we didn’t really see anyone ahead of us – there was a GIANT gap between us and the next set of runners for awhile. Just before the second turnoff, the second place half marathoner ran by us. So, hooray, only lapped by 2 people!

We passed through the start area again, and it was totally deserted. We still couldn’t see any other runners! I was almost certain we were in the right area, but it was so odd to have no one in front of us. Finally we spotted some people as we got closer to Wabasha St. I have to say, I really liked that the first loop was a mile longer than the second! I knew when I started the second loop that I had done over half the race, and I was still going strong. I remembered from the Moustache Run that I wished I hadn’t waited so long to eat my first gel, and that I should have eaten a second one, and I made sure that I didn’t let that happen again. It definitely helped!

I started to pass more people starting around mile 8 or 9. I overheard one guy saying he was never going to run a Team Ortho event again because the mile markers were too confusing. Look, it’s a two-loop course, sir. It’s not that hard. If you’ve been running for 2 hours and see a sign for Mile 2, use some common sense, please. And if you see a sign for mile 3 and one for mile 5, then try to think – which one comes sequentially after the last one you saw? THINK MCFLY, THINK. Now, I am a person who made lap-counting signs for my friend to hold up when I was running an indoor 2-mile race, and I definitely forgot what lap I was on during FANS many, many times, so I can relate to getting confused during a race, but it seemed like an extreme reaction. There are lots of other reasons not to run their events – like, they are very expensive, for example!

The second loop really seemed to fly by. Honestly, the whole race did! It hardly ever felt labored or unpleasant. The conditions were perfect – not too warm, almost no wind, mostly ice- and snow-free terrain. There were a few tiny hills, rarely was it ever truly flat, but it felt flat. I feel like I ran a fairly evenly-paced race, but it’s really hard to tell because my watch was so off. I had a rhythm going, at least. I should have hit a couple split buttons along the way just to see how I did as the race went on – there weren’t any intermediate timing mat results. I’ve had some trouble with running too hard at the start and then tapering off at the end (it happened in TCM and the Moustache Run), but the course conditions changed a bit in those races. TCM has a couple hills in the second half, and the Moustache Run has a few as well (though it has the same hills, the other way, in the first half) and I also had some changing weather there, with the temp dropping as the day went on, and running into the wind in the second half. So of course it’s easier to pace a race without much variation. I’m not going to give the course all the credit though, I think I did a good job pacing and holding back at the beginning, too.

In the last mile, I did try to speed up a bit as soon as I saw the flag, since I knew the course well and I felt like my legs had more to give. I finished the last few sips of water in my bottle and planned to toss it away at the final water stop, which was about half a mile from the end. I passed a guy who decided to try to pass me back, and I don’t think it went well for him as he ended up dropping back just as we reached the water stop/turnoff. I tossed my water bottle (yes, it was single-use, but I have used it more than once!) and cruised away from him onto the pavement. I was mentally chastising myself for wanting to stay in bed this morning – I’ve got to remember that it’s almost always better to get up and run the race! (Surf the Murph is an exception.) I saw the mile 13 flag at the top of a small hill, and ran it on in.

I felt really great! Probably like I left something in the tank, but maybe not, since I’m still pretty tired this afternoon. But I felt happy and a little bit out of it, so I feel like that’s the hallmark of a solid effort race. I got my medal, wandered around a bit to clear my head and calm my body, and then picked up my post-race snacks (granola bar, Cheetos, gorp mix) and this cute penguin hat they give to all race-day participants. I watched the start of the timed and untimed 5Ks (they start late because there are multi-race challenges – e.g. run the half and the 5k, or the half, 5k, and 2.019k), thought about taking a couple of pictures, and then decided to just walk back to my car.

As I mentioned, I ran down the hill for my warmup. That meant I had to go up the hill for my “cooldown.” It didn’t kill me, as I wasn’t completely noodle-legged and my lungs were fine, but it wasn’t super fun either. I stopped and took a selfie about halfway up, just for fun. I got kind of cold while I was walking back, since I was all sweaty and my sweat was getting chilled, and that reinforced my decision to drive to the top of the hill, instead of coming from home. I picked up a latte before heading home to eat two more bagels and watch Star Wars while vegging out on the couch. Oh, and doing my daily pushups! I’m at 40! Eventually I’ll take a shower.

I am very excited to have gotten such a big PR – almost 4:30 dropped in just a month & change. Obviously the better weather and easier course helped a lot, but so did experience, improved pacing, and the motivation of trying to stay ahead of the pacers. Half marathons are so fun! I don’t know if I’ll make one a goal race in the near future, but I am definitely going to use them as training runs and as I get closer to an interesting milestone (2:20?), I might zero in on one as a goal race. In the way, way, way back of my mind, I’m hoping to run a 5 hour marathon this year, so this is an important step forward toward that. I’m not there yet, but I’m on my way.

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Race Report: Moustache Run Half Marathon

Official Results:
Time: 2:32:02
Pace: 11:37
Placing:
Overall: 356/384
Gender: 157/177
AG (F35-39): 24/25

Watch Results:
Time: 2:32:04
Pace: 11:20
Distance: 13.41 mi (not sure what the culprit was here)
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 2:30
B: 2:35
C: 2:45

Food:
What I ate the night before: Jersey Mikes #13 sub, homemade chopped salad with homemade peanut dressing, homemade apple pie
What I ate on race morning: bagel with cream cheese, part of another bagel with nothing on it
What I carried with me: 3 gel packets (I ate 1)

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt, tights, hoodie, buff, gloves
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker

Discussion:
I finally ran a road half marathon! Hooray!

I got a great night’s sleep the night before (okay 5 hours, but for the night before a race, that’s amazing).  I find this ironic considering this is the least prepared I’ve been for a race in a long time, with the exception of Surf the Murph. I didn’t do any specific training, most of my runs lately have been half-assed treadmill efforts, and I’ve been sick. I guess my brain was like “okay, it’s ‘just’ a half marathon, you have training runs longer than this.” Yeah I do, brain, but I also don’t try to run fast in training runs. I would like to know what was different about this race. Logistics were very easy, but I have had many races with easy race day logistics (like Superior – literally roll out of bed, walk to bus, get on bus), plus I did worry about finding parking and stuff so it’s not like I was super chill. I’m very happy I slept well, but I wish I could recreate that for future races.

The weather was really terrible on Friday. I had a great run in the early afternoon; I ran across the High Bridge in St. Paul for the first time. It has been closed since before I moved. I didn’t consider that there was a Wild game that afternoon, so I ended up dodging earlycomers (WordPress spell check says that is not a word!) while running along 7th Street.

It was really warm! Like in the mid 40s F, and there wasn’t much wind so it felt really mild. I wasn’t sure what to wear to the race as a result – I was overheated in a hoodie and t-shirt, but the forecast was for a colder day on Saturday.

An hour or so after I finished running, it started to rain, and it rained all afternoon, all evening, and well into the night.  Concerning! I thought it might get below freezing and then I might need to bring my skates to the race instead of my shoes. I went shopping (for records and for a new laptop, which I am using to type this!), then went home and did laundry. Most of my running gear was dirty and I wanted to be able to wear my favorite stuff to the race. The tights that don’t feel like they’re falling down, the hoodie with pockets, etc. Also I needed to wash my gloves since they were covered in snot from my run on Wednesday when my sinuses were emptying.

Back to race day, now. I set my alarm for 6:30, hit snooze, and then got up at 6:50. Clothes were all laid out (in a heap on the living room floor, not in a nice pretty flat lay), so I got dressed quickly and then ate a bagel and cream cheese, much to the chagrin of my friend Alan who (rightfully and kindly) points out my race day nutritional miscues. But I love bagels so much and I almost never eat them anymore. I stuffed a couple gels in my pocket, grabbed another bagel and some water to sip on in the car, and headed out the door. I left my race bib in my car after I did early packet pickup on Wednesday at Mill City Running, which is a great “life hack” (I hate that term – a tip to make things easier or repurpose a thing is not a hack!) for people who are very forgetful.

Getting to the race was very easy – they provided a suggested address for people to use  in their navigation apps, since the start didn’t have an address. I parked in the parking ramp at St. Anthony Main, although there were likely other parking options that did not cost $7. On a Sunday! $7! Madness. Whatever, I wanted the convenience. I sat in my car for about 15 minutes dinking around on the internet (checking the paces I needed to hit for each of the goal times – that didn’t take 15 minutes but it was one of the things I did to pass the time) and then walked down to the start/finish area. I did a very short warmup, about 0.6 miles, but it was enough.

The 10K and the half marathon start at the same time, which I find a little odd as it must be a little crowded at the front for the fast people. I’m sure they’re very glad I’m considering their feelings. I got completely confused as there appeared to still be half marathoners on the sidelines when I crossed the start, and I thought I was in the wrong spot. Nope, there just weren’t nearly as many half marathoners, and there were probably fewer back-of-the-packers in the half than in the 10K. It was nice to have more people running my pace in the first 4 miles.

This course is very similar to the course for the Hot Dash 10 Mile, although it starts at St. Anthony Main instead of Boom Island Park, and of course continues a little farther south on West River Parkway before turning around. It has the same hills, though! This is actually a pretty challenging half marathon, because although it’s nice to bomb down a few big hills, it sucks to go up them.

For the first few miles, I was ahead of the 2:30 pacer, and I felt pretty good about that. I thought if I could just keep her behind me, I’d be set for my main goal. I was running a bit too fast out of the gate, although I don’t really know how fast I was going because my watch was likely off already. It felt good so I went with it. Same as TCM. I figured I’d be slowing down a bit later because of this, but having never run a half marathon before, I didn’t know what to shoot for as far as intensity. I mean, I had a general idea of pace, based on my TCM half split (which I came within seconds of hitting!), but pace is only one part of the equation. Pace means nothing if, on race day, it’s harder/easier to hit it. I still don’t have a good idea of what kind of intensity I can sustain for 13.1 miles, since my pace fell off at the end (spoiler alert!)

The first few miles went by pretty smoothly. We crossed the Mississippi River right away, on 8th Ave NE, so there was a nice little incline to start off with, but I ran it even though my legs aren’t very accustomed to running hills right now. So many lazy 0% incline treadmill runs. I had a few issues with my glasses fogging up, thanks to the humid, just above freezing conditions. After a few miles of running, a car came up behind us and told us to look out for the 5K leader. Well, that was a bit demoralizing, since the 5K started 15 minutes after the half. The leader came through a bit after the warning. I was amused because I saw him at the start and thought “Hmm, that guy must be fast.” Even though he looked like a cross between Steve Prefontaine and a young David Crosby (I mean this in a good way), I just had this sense about him, and I was correct. He and his thick, long, luscious hair (unrestrained by any elastic or headband) blew by the rest of us schlubs.

We hit the first water stop at just under 4 miles – one thing I like about this race is they give out bottles of water instead of cups. They do this to avoid spillage, as the race has the potential to be run in sub-zero temps. If it’s really cold, it could get slippery out there. I loved it because I didn’t have to gulp down cups, I could sip as I went along. It was a little bit annoying to hold the bottle while also holding my gloves, but it was still way better than overhydrating at cup stations.

Once the 10K runners peeled off, I was pretty much on my own. There weren’t many people around me, although I kept leapfrogging with this couple who was running with a stroller, because they kept stopping to do god knows what. The guy was actually banditing the race and was doing the stroller pushing. I didn’t understand the point of what they were doing, but perhaps it was their first time doing a race with a stroller and they wanted to see how it went. It was kind of annoying, but mostly because I find leapfrogging with people in a short period of time very annoying. Pick a pace, please. I think the banditing guy eventually peeled off.

About 5 miles in, the 2:30 pacer got ahead of me. I was kind of bummed about it, but I figured I’d keep her in my sights and then hunt her down if I could. According to my watch, mile 5 was my second slowest mile. Yikes! I was feeling a little warm at this point, even after pushing back the buff (I was wearing it as a headband), removing my gloves, and unzipping my hoodie all the way to the top of the bib. But I had read the weather report and seen that it was going to continue to cool off throughout the day, and I was right. After the second water station (which I skipped, I still had a little bit left in the mini bottle I’d grabbed at the first station), I put my gloves back on.

I managed to get myself back up to pace again by the halfway point so I could keep trailing the pacer. My legs felt a little tired and what I should have done is gotten a fresh water bottle at the 6.5 mi water station and then eaten a gel. I didn’t feel hungry, but I should have taken one proactively. I didn’t do that, and once I reached the turnaround, I started to slow a lot. The turnaround is nice because it’s at mile 7.3 or so (not quite sure), which means there’s less than half the race to go at that point. Somehow that’s mentally comforting. I kept thinking the turnaround was coming, only to go around another bend and see it was nowhere in sight. There was a timing mat there, and I was hoping to see what my split was at that point, but the timing mat is marked as 6.55 mi, even though it was nowhere near there. So it shows a 13:22 pace to that point. Nope.

The race course is pretty lonely. Beyond the scattered police and civilian volunteers who are guarding the blocked off streets, there’s not much for crowd support. I didn’t mind, it was nice and quiet. I didn’t even get stuck with a group of talkers on my tail. It was actually very peaceful, much more like a trail race. I don’t feed off crowd support the same way; I’m more energized by periodic support than a constant stream of cheering, although the nice thing about a constant stream of cheering is that no matter what, if you need a pick me up, someone is there offering it.

Once I turned around, I noticed the wind. It was really starting to get cold, and I was glad I hadn’t worn shorts or gone with a t-shirt/arm warmer combination. I never got chilled, so I think I made the right choice for clothing. Plus, my hoodie has 2 zippered pockets, so I put gels in one and my phone and car keys in the other. I finally started eating a gel somewhere between mile 8 and the water stop, because my legs were really starting to get tired (my quads were getting sore, as were my hips) and mentally I was starting to say “hey, I could just walk now,” especially on the hills. I took little bites of gel and then grabbed a water bottle to wash down the last few bites. No stomach issues at all!

I tried to use any downhill to make up time on that orange pacer balloon that was getting farther and farther away. I reeled in a few people in this time frame (including one in my age group, taking me from last to second to last in my AG), but the balloon escaped me. The wind just broke me; it started to get really bad in the last 4 miles, especially once down at river level. I planned to walk part of the last really big hill to save my strength, and I think it worked out great for me. I walked for about 2 minutes, then ran (slowly) up the rest of the hill. The rest was enough to give me energy for the end. The 12 mile mark is just at the end of that hill, and then I knew I was going to have enough legs to finish strong. Once I reached the turnaround, I’d been counting down milestones, like “Oh, only a 5K to go… now only 2 miles to go, that’s not bad.” It definitely made it easier to keep going.

With about half a mile to go, I turned onto the Stone Arch Bridge, which was full of people. Well not full, but there were plenty of people taking selfies, milling around, getting engaged, etc. as I slogged on by. I was trying to speed up, but I also wasn’t sure quite where the finish line was. Once I got across the bridge, though, I saw that I’d be running off the bridge right into the street where I’d done my warmup, and I knew I was close. I passed another woman right at this point, and she started to run too, but she ran on the sidewalk while I ran on the cobblestones (the actual course). I was a little annoyed because that was definitely “cutting” the course, but seriously, what does it matter? I just didn’t want to have someone start running right at the end thanks to me passing them, only to finish ahead of me because they cut the route. Those little competitive things that come out in those last moments in the race…

I managed to speed up once I was off the cobblestones and onto the brick, which was much more even, and finished slightly ahead of the other woman (actually several seconds ahead, because she must have started before me). I saw the clock said 2:32:XX and tried to get across the line as quickly as I could, because the “fake” PR I had in the half was 2:32:08, and I wanted to beat that/make it official. I didn’t know how many seconds behind the gun I’d started, and my gun time was 2:32:58, so I was a little worried I wasn’t going to make it.

I got my medal and my post-race water, but there didn’t seem to be any other food or snacks. I walked up the hill to 2nd St, where the post-race festivities were being held. It was crowded and loud inside and I felt a little anxious. I also didn’t see any food there! I went up to get my free drink, but they didn’t have any non-alcoholic options. So my choices were a free beer, which I didn’t want, or nothing. So I paid $85 for no food and a free drink I didn’t want (yeah, it’s my choice, but I almost never drink alcohol and certainly couldn’t stomach a beer directly after a race, sorry I’m not “cool”); that was a little disappointing. I wouldn’t mind if I knew that almost all of my race fee went to cancer research, but it’s so hard to tell where that money goes. So I left, walked back to the parking garage, walked up the stairs to the fourth floor (#cooldown), and got in my car. I made a quick stop at Starbucks for an eggnog latte, something I don’t usually drink because it has one bazillion calories. The only danger to getting it after the race was it might destroy my stomach with its richness. It didn’t, it was delicious, and I probably won’t have another one this season.

I am not sure if I would run this race again, but only because there are so many other races that go on parts of this same course (e.g. Goldy’s Run, Hot Dash, TCM). It’s easy to get sick of, especially because of the hills. So I don’t know if I’ll ever make it a goal race, but it’s nice to have it there at the end of the year as one last longer distance race option.

I’m pretty excited to get a PR, have an overall great race, finally be healthy, and put myself in good standing toward meeting one of my big goals for the year (beating last year’s mileage – it’s gonna be tight). I think I still want to run a 5K in December just to try one more time for a PR, since I feel so speedy now.

Race Goals: Moustache Run Half Marathon

Apparently if I want to get sick, all I need to do is sign up for a race! I’ve been battling a cold since last Wednesday (so, one week strong) and while I am over the worst of it, I still have a lingering cough and some fatigue. I have been running a little bit since Saturday (I literally ran 1.3 miles on the treadmill on Saturday before I was like “This is stupid, there is no point!” and gave up. (Well, I made sure to end on an even tenth of a mile.)

I still picked up my packet for Saturday’s Moustache? Mustache? Run. I was over in Minneapolis getting a haircut so I picked up my packet and hat at Mill City Running. It was very awkward because I walked up to a table of bibs, said my name and the race distance, and they were like “Oh, M(o)ustache Run? That’s over there.” Then waved in the general direction of the back of the store, where there was… nothing but merchandise. I guess the table was for some Thanksgiving race or something. The Moustache Run setup wasn’t as fancy, just a computer which was not a touchscreen but that I tried to use like a touchscreen. After signing up, I also purchased a sweatshirt because they told me runners who picked up their race packets in store got 20% off. The guy pointed out this cool pale pink sweatshirt and I was like SURE I WILL TAKE THAT because I was high on how great my hair looked like after my haircut. Another sales guy then said “Can we also interest you in a Garmin?” because I must have seemed like a manic shopaholic.

I am still confident I will be able to run this race, but not sure what it’ll be like. It must be nice to be a mid-packer and know that if you slow down a bit, you’ll still be done in a decent length of time and you won’t be bringing up the rear. I’m going to be bringing up the rear to begin with! So the margin for error here is slim. My #1 goal is to feel well enough to run the race and make it to the starting line. I already DNS my first attempt at a road half marathon due to a UTI, so I am anxious to give it another shot. Other than that, I have my time goals:

A Standard: 2:30
B Standard: 2:35
C Standard: 2:45 (roughly my TCM pace – I really want to beat that)

I’m throwing numbers at a dartboard here, because I don’t really know what I’m capable of right now, but I do at least know that I ran a 2:32:08 half marathon for TCM. And that was also on the tail end of a cold! So I guess I’m in the same shape? Seems like a good omen!

Idle Feet

I’m really bored and unfocused with my running lately. The days are shortening, and the weather is getting colder. Over the weekend it was so cold! In the low 20s/high teens (F, of course. What I wouldn’t give for some 20 C weather…) I just got back from Duluth and instead of running on one of my favorite trails, I ran on the hotel treadmill. I guess I didn’t look at the weather closely enough, and packed clothes that might be acceptable for a run in near-freezing temps, but not 15 degrees colder and windy. Whoops.

In order to try to bring some excitement back into my running, I went out and spent a bunch of money on races. Ugh.

I’m probably going to race 2 more times in 2018, we’ll see. I signed up for the Mustache Run half marathon in 2 weeks. I’m not really training for it, just hoping to capitalize on my residual training from the Twin Cities Marathon (that was only a month ago??). I’m also well-rested from lower mileage and additional rest days. I think it’ll be fun, as long as the weather isn’t awful. I saw a very early forecast and it called for light rain in the morning. No thank you. Obviously anything would be a half marathon PR, as my current one (3:51:24) is from the Harder n Hell Half in 2015.

I hate road races – they’re so freaking expensive! Although I think I could have saved some money by signing up sooner. It was like $80 though! I had better get a gold-plated finisher’s medal.

I also signed up for Zumbro 50, which cost $90 – much better cost per mile than the Mustache Run. (Although I’ll also have travel and lodging costs so that is misleading.) Last year, I waited too long to sign up and it filled. I was somewhat bummed but also wasn’t sure I was ready to run it, and I’m also really glad I didn’t sign up because it ended up being terribly snowy, and I would not have been prepared for that. Now I know that I’m capable of it. I ran 42 miles in 13 hours at FANS, for crying out loud. I keep having to remind myself of that when I get scared of these 50 milers. Not only did I complete 42 miles in 13 hours, but a lot of that was walking/limping due to my poor foot.

Speaking of FANS, I also signed up for the 24 hour race again. I can’t help it – I love this race so much. I keep having disappointing results there, but I keep coming back for more. This coming year, I think things will be better. I’m planning to set up my tent with friends this time, so I’ll have a fun camp and that will mean my husband/my dad won’t be sitting by my tent alone while crewing me, bored out of their minds. FANS doesn’t fill and the price increase isn’t until April, but I signed up anyway. I guess that’s less money I have to worry about paying later?

The only downside right now is that Zumbro is the same weekend as the Frozen Four in Buffalo. Obviously I have no idea if I’ll be there or not, but the Bulldogs are having a great season! I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, I guess.

Now all that’s left is to get back into the groove of winter running. I’m not really excited about it, and it feels like I barely had any decent running weather at all in 2018 (it seems like it went from cold to blazing hot and back to cold), but I also know that this current cold snap is making it feel a little more difficult. Once it’s back to more normal temps next week, of course my crappy attitude will magically dissipate!

When the Music’s Over

Not training for anything is really boring.

I am still running here and there. I’m still trying to ensure that I reach my goal of beating last year’s mileage, and since I didn’t finish up October’s mileage in one fell swoop with Surf the Murph, I’m focusing on that while still trying to give myself a break. 7 more miles over the next 3 days! I can do that.

I am really at peace with my decision to skip Surf the Murph. It looked like an incredibly fun event, but I am pretty sure I wasn’t in the shape to do it. On the day of the race, once I finally got some sleep, I headed out for an 11 mile run around Fort Snelling, and realized my legs were still pretty heavy and overall I was lacking energy. It confirmed I’d made the right choice, especially because Monday I had to spend the day traveling.

I made the choice to leave all my running gear at home while I was on my work trip, partially because work travel wears me out, and partially because I didn’t have much room in my suitcase due to all the safety gear I bring with me. Monday was a fairly long day – I worked from home for awhile, running a couple miles on the treadmill before heading to the airport. I flew to St. Louis, then drove 3 hours to a city relatively near my construction project site. Lest you think that my sleeping problems are limited to running, I also had trouble sleeping Monday night.

Tuesday I spent the day at the construction site (as well as a quick visit to another site of an in-development project), and I was pretty wiped out by the end of the day. The banks of both sites were fairly steep and I had to do quite a bit of “hiking,” so I was doubly glad I had not done the race, and by the end of the day I was so tired I think I went to sleep at 10 PM. Which for me is absurdly early. Wednesday I spent the morning at the construction site and then drove/flew back home, so I didn’t work out when I got home. I actually spent like 20 minutes going out of my way at the airport to get a coffee after I got off the plane. My bag was the only one on the carousel when I finally got there, but I had only had terrible hotel coffee for the past couple days and it was not feeding the addiction.

I ran at lunch Thursday and Friday, which leaves my evenings free, but doesn’t make for a lot of mileage. And then Saturday (my birthday!) I didn’t end up running. I had planned on canvassing for my friend who is running for city council, then running, then watching some hockey — then I learned the hockey game was in the late afternoon, not the evening, and… I just didn’t really care that much about getting a run in. Again, not training, so there’s not much to motivate me.

Today I wasn’t going to run, either. I went to a rally of sorts in support of trans/enby/gender expansive people, had a late lunch at Mickey’s Diner with a friend, and then was going to run a few dull treadmill miles. I saw the temp was in the high 50s F and changed my mind – how many more times would I be able to run in weather that nice? I wasn’t going to waste it. So I ran 7 miles at Battle Creek (getting a twinge in my calf in the first few minutes of the run – I hope it wasn’t something bad…) and enjoyed the gorgeous weather.

I think I’m going to race one last big one this year – the Moustache Run half marathon on Nov 24 – and then start training for next spring. I had a good first half of Twin Cities marathon and would like to see what I could do if I didn’t have 13.1 more miles to go at that point. I also should probably find a 5K to run, but those are a dime a dozen. I get bored if I’m not planning or strategizing – apparently I don’t get enough of that at work.

Women Rock Half Marathon Goals

I signed up for this race on Monday of this week, but that doesn’t mean I can’t shoehorn some goals into this event.

A Standard: 2:20
B Standard: 2:30

I literally have no idea if these are realistic goals. I used a couple of race predictors based on my most recent 5K (29:30) and then backed off even more because I’m not tapered or making this a goal race. I have never run a road half marathon before, so I don’t know how this is going to go. My suspicion is that I have the physical capability for these times but I have to find the mental capability inside myself. Also I have to be vigilant because sometimes I think I’m cruising along at a good pace and then I look down and I’m running like a 14 minute pace.

This is going to be a good chance for me to test out a couple things for Twin Cities. I am going to run without a handheld or a hydration pack, and just rely on the water stops. This is new for me – usually I’ve got at least a handheld. It’s like the equivalent of a security blanket for me. But I’ve got to take the training wheels off at some point.

It will be freeing to run without a pack on my back, and with my hands free. But will it translate into a faster pace over a sustained period of time? It should, as should running in the morning before it gets too hot.

Of course I have all kinds of excuses pre-set in my mind for how I won’t be able to perform up to what my abilities likely are. Oh, I just signed up for this race. Oh, I’m not tapered. I’ve never done this before. It’s early. I’m tired. I lack endurance. But what it comes down to is that in hard races like this, I race without courage. I worry about how the miles down the road will be affected by the mile I’m in. I worry about my stomach. I worry that it will be too hard. I worry I’ll get sunburned. I worry that even if I do run my hardest, it’ll be a mediocre time and what will be the point? I worry less about that last one than I used to, because it is what it is. But even after a couple years of slow-as-f*** running behind me, I still feel a bit embarrassed that my best efforts are times sneered at by faster runners when they think people like me aren’t looking.

Whatever happens, I guess I’ll be setting a road half marathon PR (since I’ve never done one) and an overall half marathon PR (since I haven’t run one since Harder ‘n Hell in 2015), and I’ll finally get an idea of what’s to come in October.

Post-Mortem: Harder ‘N Hell Half Marathon

Now that the race is over and I’ve had some time to think, I have thoughts about what worked and didn’t work about the training cycle. Overall, a lot of things worked, since the race went well for me.

Refreshers
Race Report
All Harder ‘N Hell Half posts

Good Things
Hill work. I really think running up and down the hills at Chester Bowl was helpful. My legs felt extremely strong and I felt confident going up hills. Running hilly trails helped, too.

Running the entire course at once in training. I don’t need to do this every time, but since I’d never raced a half marathon, I wanted to make sure I was capable of it. It really boosted my confidence, especially since I’d been sick only a week or so before I did it.

Running by feel for most training runs. Since my GPS watch hasn’t been working very well, I used my phone to track my runs and just tucked it away somewhere. That means I had no idea what pace I’m running until I finished the workout. This helped keep me from “racing my training” or getting hung up on the pace, so my runs were more relaxed. I ended up kind of running by feel during the race, too, thanks to not starting my watch on time.

Running my own race. Yes, I noted when I passed people. But I didn’t make any special effort to get by anyone, nor did I worry if anyone passed me. I got passed at the end and didn’t really care. I got passed by a million people at the beginning and didn’t care.

Bad Things
Testing out only one source of food. Because when that food made me want to barf I thought I was in big trouble. It ended up being fine as I just ate at the wrong time in the race, but I should have had some other options for refueling.

Obsessively running the course. I ran the first few miles of the course way, way, way too often. I was obsessed with those stupid stairs, and they were a non-factor. I took them more slowly during the race than I had the last time I ran them, because guess what, other people took them slowly! It’s like I was surprised I wasn’t the only slow person in a race packed with elites. Test-running the whole course was good, but running it too often made me a little bit sick of it. One shouldn’t be sick of trails, they’re too freaking gorgeous.

Not warming up. I was too worried about other things and didn’t take the time to even run a half a mile to get some kinks out. The slow beginning helped me warm up, but there was plenty of time for at least some strides.

Abandoning strength training. I can’t believe my back didn’t hurt during the race! I was doing so well with yoga, but of course I had a lot more time during the summer. There was no reason I couldn’t have done push-ups on a daily or near-daily basis, at the very least.

There are other things, of course, if I want to nitpick every last detail, but these are the first few things that popped into my head. I worked hard in training; I was lucky not to be injured or sick (too often) and to have great race day weather; and there are things I can work on for next time. I didn’t come away from this race thinking “I’ll never do THAT again,” and I smiled almost the whole race. I’ll call this race a victory.