Harder ‘N Hell Half Training: Week 9

Another great training week. It’s all or nothing for me this training cycle, I guess.

Monday 4.3 mi, road
Tuesday 7.1 mi, road
Wednesday rest
Thursday 3.4 mi, treadmill (8×400 at 10:31 pace)
Friday 5.3 mi, road
Saturday 7.6 mi, paved trail (Gitchigami Trail starting at Gooseberry Falls)
Sunday 8 mi, trail (Superior Hiking Trail, Castle Danger to Nestor Grade)
Total 35.5 mi

I didn’t do much on the trails, I guess. Only one true trail run, and… ugh. It deserves its own post. I haven’t done a trail review in awhile so I’ll do one.

I really wanted to do a 10 mile run this weekend, but I needed to meet with my senior design project team both days. I think doing the back to backs was a good compromise. I only saved a couple miles, but at the pace I was going on Sunday, two miles extra would have added an extra 40+ minutes. It was a rough, muddy, buggy run.

I only have three weeks to go before the race, so I’m going to be stepping back the mileage a bit. I do wonder sometimes how I’ll ever start running the mileage needed to run marathons and ultras, because this felt like a pretty significant commitment of time, and most of these runs were on roads rather than trails. A somewhat depressing thought.

Harder ‘n Hell Half Training: Week 8

Week 8? Yikes.

Monday 4.5 mi, trails (Bagley)
Tuesday 5.6 mi, road
Wednesday 6.3 mi, paved trail (Lakewalk, 50 mins at tempo)
Thursday rest
Friday 5.5 mi, road
Saturday rest
Sunday 13.5 mi, trail (SHT, Harder ‘n Hell Half course)
Total: 35.6

I’d call that a good bounceback week. I ended up with two rest days; the second was semi-planned, as I could have done a short run, but there was no need. After all those days off, I didn’t need to ramp up the mileage too much. My dad came up to visit on Saturday and we did some creative engineering to fix my car window, and then we went to see A Walk in the Woods, which I read over the summer. We enjoyed the movie even though it departs greatly from the book.

Wednesday was a rough day. I was not feeling speedy, but I pushed it longer than the prescribed workout (40 mins) because… well, because I could get another 10k done for my Strava monthly challenge. That’s really stupid but it’s true. Ugh, Strava. Too competitive. I didn’t feel that fantastic and my lower back was a little crampy during the run, which I pushed through because I need to figure out how to push through things. Unfortunately, once I slowed down after the tempo portion of the run was over, my gut felt horrible and crampy and I ended up having to walk my entire cooldown to avoid anything gross from occurring.

I was using Wednesday as a test to see if I was going to run a race this upcoming weekend. I haven’t raced since the Park Point 5 Miler, which wasn’t the best, so I thought maybe another 5K before my half marathon might be fun. Since my speed session didn’t go so well and I wasn’t hitting the paces I wanted to hit to even have a prayer of a decent race, I decided not to sign up. Why risk my real race with some race I’m not in any kind of shape for? I was only going to run it if I felt like I could beat my PR, and I don’t think I can.

Sunday I ran the Harder ‘n Hell course from start to finish (or thereabouts). It was rough, but I think I’ve gotten some things figured out. It took me 4:23 to finish, so that gives me a benchmark. I didn’t stop on the Stairway to Hell, so that was also good! I ate two Snickers bars, which seemed to work well. They’re easier to open and eat than Clif bars and not as messy as the other granola bars I eat, and I didn’t feel sick when I ate them. I did feel pretty thirsty, and I was rationing my water at the end, but I will be able to refill at an aid station along the way. I just need to start eating earlier in the race, because I was dragging in the middle of the run once again. I also plan on only running short, flat, easy runs the week of the race, so my legs won’t be as beat up. Granted, the course is murder on them, but at least they’ll go in feeling ok. I was “flying” (relatively speaking) once I was on the pedestrian bridge crossing the freeway, so that was nice. Especially since I’d just gone on a nearly mile-long descent that tested the shocks on my knees to their limits.

I know I can complete the race. And maybe I won’t even come in last. I looked up previous race results and 4:23 would not have been last place in the last 3 years. So that’s good! Of course, this year could be the year everyone is super speedy, BUT, still. To know that even if I did come in last, I wouldn’t be unexpectedly slow, is a confidence booster.

Four weeks to go. Only the next two really matter, since it takes awhile for training to actually take effect, and the final week I won’t be doing much anyway. I just need to stay healthy and able, and get to the starting line in one piece.

Harder ‘n Hell Half Training: Week 7

Another wasted week.

Monday: unplanned rest day
Tuesday: unplanned rest day
Wednesday: unplanned rest day
Thursday: unplanned rest day
Friday: unplanned rest day
Saturday: Superior 100 Volunteering (no miles logged but I did move around a lot!)
Sunday: 12.5, trails (SHT)
Total: 12.5

Ugh. Not a good week, but I was sick at the beginning and then later in the week I couldn’t seem to get enough sleep, so I chose to rest longer in order to completely recover. Friday was spent working, then traveling, and I wasn’t able to get in a run like I’d planned.

Sunday I was all inspired by the runners from Superior 100 and probably overdid it. After 9 days off from running, I ended up running almost the entire half marathon course, and when I say running, I really mean hiking. Slow, slow hiking that took 4 hours and 20 minutes. However, at least now I know that I can handle this race even if it goes to hell. I can just walk it in and still make it under 5 hours, I assume.

This upcoming week I need to start getting my race day nutrition under control. I have been eating granola bars during long runs and that is such a pain in the butt. I need to try some gels, I’m just worried that my stomach will reject them. I don’t know why, as I’ve never tried them. I might need to carry a little something with me just to fill my stomach with actual substance, but maybe not.

I am disappointed in this training cycle, but at the same time, I have such low expectations for my performance in this race that I am not devastated. I know I can finish the race upright, even after not running for a week, so I guess I’m ready? I still have 5 weeks of training (I know only about 3 more weeks will actually have a real effect on my race, but still, 5 weeks), so there’s time for a bit of improvement, if all goes well.

Harder ‘N Hell Half Training: Week 6

A great start to the week derailed by a summer cold.

Monday: 4.1 (road)
Tuesday: 5.2 (40 min @ tempo, Lakewalk)
Wednesday: planned rest day
Thursday: 5.7 (Trails, Hartley)
Friday: planned rest day
Saturday: unplanned rest day
Sunday: unplanned rest day
Total: 15

I have been firing on all cylinders of late, and so I’m extremely frustrated to have gotten sick. I caught the cold from my husband, so I am not too worried about catching it due to overtraining/stress/whatever. My confidence is shot, though. I sneezed a couple times Thursday night as I was going to bed, and woke up with a full-blown cold on Friday. There went my planned 9-mile “fake race,” and my plans to shuffle my schedule around to accommodate the upcoming weekend by running a long trail run either Monday or today before school. I haven’t even done strength training or yoga. I suppose I could have, but I think all that would have done was set me back on returning to health.

My biggest concern isn’t regaining my strength. I’ve been lethargic the whole weekend and I’ve slept poorly, but I know the strength is still there. It’s my aerobic fitness. I have enough trouble on some of the bigger ascents on my runs, and I really wanted to get to a place where I could get up the 130 or so steps at the beginning of the race course without stopping or needing to recover once at the top. I need my lungs to recover quickly, and I need this cold to not have done any lasting damage to them. I know that sounds dramatic, but I’m not particularly aerobically fit to begin with, so I don’t have a large margin for error.

I dreamed about the race on Sunday night. Obviously this was a result of my drop in confidence. In my dream, I was completely unprepared for the race. I forgot almost everything I needed, except for a water bottle, and I was carrying around a flannel shirt with me. I showed up at the starting line needing to pee, and missed the start looking for a bathroom, which I didn’t find. The course wasn’t at all what I expected, and it went through buildings and out trapdoors and stuff. It was all very strange. I was running pretty fast in my dream, so at least that part was good. I woke up before the race ended, so I can’t tell if I ended up bonking or otherwise paying for my lack of preparation and speedy pace.

I am really hoping I feel well enough by the time I’m done with school today to go for at least a short run. Nothing short of getting back on the trails will ease my mind.

Misadventures in Trail Running

Last week’s long run looked a little funky, with 10.7 miles split up into one short run and one longer run. It has a story and some lessons to go along with it.

I didn’t do any running on the Harder ‘n Hell race course last week, but I did do a fair bit of trail running. I had all these grand plans earlier this year to run all these different places, and I hadn’t really done any of them. So I planned to do my Sunday long run at Tettegouche State Park, a bit over an hour away from Duluth up the North Shore.

I didn’t plan ahead, and it cost me. First, I trusted my GPS, rather than looking at a map. DO NOT TRUST THE GPS TO TAKE YOU TO TETTEGOUCHE STATE PARK. It took me to a service entrance, and then once I was at the service entrance, I had no data, so I couldn’t figure out how to get back. The park is aware of it and has a nice sign up with directions on how to get to the actual beginning of the park.

Once I got there, I drove to the trailhead near the falls. It linked up with the Superior Hiking Trail, so I jumped on the trail, which had more people than I would have liked, but it kept me going slow and steady. Unfortunately, I had to pee. I was an idiot and didn’t stop at the rest area at the park entrance. I figured I’d wait til I got away from the touristy area of the park and then hop off the trail. Instead, I was running through the campsites. I thought hey, there’s a bathroom up ahead, I’ll use that, but it was closed. Ugh. Then I realized I was running in a circle and would soon end up at my car. That was enough. I got back in my car, drove back to the rest area, used the bathroom, and then headed back southwest on 61. I decided I’d go to Split Rock instead.

After a few turns along the way and one mad dash across Highway 61 (no cars were coming but I still felt a little freaked out running across a highway), I ended up on the Superior Hiking Trail, and I cruised along. Relatively speaking. I felt fantastic on the run, despite the heat and the poor air quality. If I’d thought ahead, I’d have brought my sunscreen along to reapply, since it was basically useless after probably 2 hours in the car plus half an hour on the trails at Tettegouche. I was amazed at how nice my legs felt through most of the run, until I was on my way back and took a slightly different route and ended up running up several flights of stairs along Lake Superior. This was over 8 miles in, and I thought the steps would be the death of me, but I ended up surviving them and only dragged a little over the final mile. Hooray for me.

I need to plan a little better for these long runs. I drove a lot of unnecessary distance, and I got frustrated running down the “wrong” paths. If I am driving a couple hours round trip, I need to bring some supplies along and plan my routes (driving and running) with a little research. I will give Tettegouche another shot after some additional research, and find some gorgeous views along the way, I am sure. Split Rock was fun, and in the end I turned in a darn good long run.

Harder ‘N Hell Half Training: Week 5

Another fantastic week.

Monday: Off (I got a new kitten and didn’t want to leave him alone!)
Tuesday: 5, 4x Chester Bowl
Wednesday: 5.6, road
Thursday: 4.4, trail (Park Point)
Friday: 3.4, trail (Hartley)
Saturday: 3.1, trail (SHT starting at Martin Rd)
Sunday: 1.4 + 9.3, trail (1.4 at Tettegouche, 9.3 at Split Rock/SHT)
Total: 32.2

Another week over 30 miles, that’s excellent. It’s warm again here, and so I’m getting a little more heat training. My 9-mile Sunday run was actually a minute per mile faster than my 7-mile Sunday run in week 4, so that was exciting!

I didn’t plan to have Monday off, but I saw a kitten Monday morning that I just HAD to HAVE, so I went and got him. This has put me in an odd situation because I’ll end up running 8 days in a row, but I felt pretty strong even on Sunday after I finished the run, so I am pretty sure I’ll make it.

Harder ‘N Hell Half Training: Week 4

A monster training week.

Monday: 4.5, trail (Bagley)
Tuesday: 5, treadmill (8×400 repeats)
Wednesday: 4, road
Thursday: rest
Friday: 5, trail (Hartley)
Saturday: 5, trail (SHT starting at Spirit Mountain)
Sunday: 7.3, trail (SHT from Getchell to Twin Ponds)
Total: 30.7

Last week was a good week. I probably increased the mileage too much, but I have been lower on mileage than I wanted so far in this training cycle. I am averaging 23 miles/week, which is really low. Obviously I had a bad week 2, but still.

Friday’s run was decent for the most part. I always enjoy running at Hartley. I came across a friend who was biking (actually we had a near-miss, as I was running across a long section of planks and was halfway through when his friend came around the corner of the trail and had to stop at the last minute before riding on to the planks), which was a first. Two minutes after I saw him I wasn’t paying attention and tripped. I landed hard, face-first, and ended up with a stiff neck the next day. I am glad it wasn’t worse, but I need to remember to PICK UP MY FEET.

Over the weekend I spent some significant time on the race course. Saturday I ran a depressing out and back over the first 2.5 miles of the trail. I felt kind of sluggish during the run, but I had a decent time on the stairs of death, only stopping once to catch my breath. There was a family waiting at the top so I felt stupid once I got up there, since they were probably waiting for me to huff and puff my way up. I staggered through the seemingly endless uphill on the way back, reminding myself that I’d not be racing that way (poor 100k runners, they will be!), but it was a bit disheartening.

Sunday I dropped my car off at Twin Ponds and then was dropped off at the Getchell/Highland parking lot. It was misty and cool, and I had on long tights and a lightweight long-sleeved tee, which was a little much. The long tights were fine, but a short-sleeved shirt and some arm warmers would have been better, I think. I didn’t get overheated but a little more ventilation would have been good.

I spent the first part of the run feeling a little nervous and exhilarated, partly because it was windy and partly because I was afraid that my car was so far away. On an out and back, I can always double back early if needed. With a point to point run, I am committed to the distance. I had my phone (in a plastic bag, since it could have rained), lip balm, a roll of mints (for nausea or for dry mouth), my keys, and an energy bar all tucked in the pockets of my handhelds (I brought both). It’s a little more than I carry for a normal run, but it eased my mind.

I practiced a little nutrition experimentation. Around the halfway mark, maybe a little before, I ate half the energy bar I’d brought with. It was a pain in the butt, as the wrapper was hard to open and the bar was hard to tear. I wanted to just tear a chunk off, but it required a significant amount of force and torque to get even a small piece to eat. I ate the second half when I was nearing Enger Tower (a bit over 6 miles in), but I felt pretty gross after eating it. Mints to the rescue! I guess I can see the appeal of gels. I’ll have to give them a try, although I think for longer runs I still need solid food in my stomach to keep it from growling. We’ll see. I did get a nice boost in my step after eating, so I was glad to have the snack.

The best part about the run (physically speaking; the best part about the run OVERALL is the incredible view) was how I felt at the end. I was pretty excited to see my car and I had plenty of energy left in my legs to kick into another gear. I texted my friend David (who is also running the race) “WE ARE GOING TO DO THIS!!! IT’S GOING TO BE AWESOME!!!” Of course 7.3 miles is not 13.1, and I didn’t include the hardest part of the course, but still. I felt much more confident than I have been feeling lately! I may be slow, and I may be the last finisher, but I feel like I can run strong, and if I can have another 8 fantastic weeks of training, maybe I’ll surprise myself come race day.