A Short List of Things I Suck At

I suppose I could be positive and grammatically correct and call this “A short list of things upon which I wish to improve,” but I don’t really care to. The list of running-related things that I suck at is long, so this is of course an abridged version. I’m going to give it its own tag since I suspect I’ll be revealing more suckage in the future.

I went for a run at Hartley yesterday that was fairly disappointing, both in length (Hartley is undergoing some kind of logging operation and many of the trails are closed, so I had to improvise. I am going to have to trust that it’s a good thing, as I’m not a forester, though I am the granddaughter of one) and in overall performance. I’m coming off a rest day so I thought it would go well and it didn’t.

Here are some things I suck at, relevant to yesterday’s run.

  1. Running fast (for me, not objectively fast) on trails.
    Once again, I found myself looking at my watch and noticing I’m going at a 20+ minute pace. It’s really annoying. Why am I so bad at gauging my pace? And why is my pace so damned lazy? I did manage to focus on pace successfully yesterday, and after running the first 2 miles in 18-something, I ran the last 3.5 in 16-something. Again, fast is relative, but that is more like the pace I want to be running on trails. It might be too little, too late for Curnow, but it’s a start.
  2. Picking up my feet
    I am always tripping over things that I see. I don’t really know why. It’s annoying. I need to quit shuffling. Especially when I’m like 2 miles in. There’s just no reason.
  3. Keeping my head up
    I watch enough hockey to know that keeping one’s head up is a key part of any sport, but I find myself staring at the ground in front of me instead of focusing on good posture and scanning the ground a few feet ahead of me for hazards. How can I stare at the ground in front of me and suck at picking up my feet? It is the mystery of the dance.

That’s enough for now, I was only running for an hour and a half so I didn’t have time to make any more mistakes.

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A Chill in the Air

Well, getting some warmer running tights or a base layer for underneath them just rocketed to the top of my shopping list.

I had a great run today at Hartley, hitting three of my favorite trails (Guardrail, Rock Knob, and Root Canal) and ending up with 7.5 miles. It was slow, an average pace of 17:47, but there were some really chewed-up trails rutted and covered in ice. I assume this is because people were biking on them when it was wet and muddy. So with the icy/slippery parts, plus my generally cautious nature, I wasn’t exactly flying down the hills. It’s probably time to start putting the shoe chains on.

I felt great for most of the run, enjoying the scenery and grateful to be outside rather than stuck on the treadmill. Toward the end, my hands started to get cold and my plan to try to eke out 8 miles was cut short. It was a good decision, because I got cold fast.

As I was driving to Hartley, I was concerned I wasn’t wearing enough gear. For a shorter run, those concerns were unfounded, but it turned out I was right. I had a short-sleeved tech tee, a hoodie, a pair of medium-weight running tights, a pair of short shorts layered over the tights, over the calf socks, gloves, and a buff worn as a headband. It was in the low 20s F, so kind of on the borderline of when I like to add more clothing.

What I really needed was another thin layer on top, and another layer on the bottom. I discovered this when I was showering; the skin on the backs of my arms, my sides, and the front of my thighs was bright red. My thighs definitely had the worst of it, as they were itchy, too. I probably should have waited longer to get in the shower, but oh well. I’m still feeling a bit cold, but I also keep my house kinda cold.

So, I’ve concluded I need warmer running tights, another layer for underneath the tights, or possibly both, depending on what kind of temperatures I’m running in as we get into full-on winter up here. If I come up with a good solution, I’ll pass it along.

PP5M Training: Week 8

Since I counted the weeks wrong and started my 8 week training program a week too soon, this week was kind of… strange.

Monday: 5.2 mi, road
Tuesday: 6.7 mi, trails, Hartley Nature Center
Wednesday: 4.5 mi, tempo, 3.5 @ 12:30 avg pace
Thursday: rest
Friday: 6 mi, road
Saturday: 6.7 mi, training, Superior Hiking Trail
Sunday: 5.2 mi, road
Total: 33.4 mi

That’s my highest mileage week for this training cycle. I realized that on Sunday and decided not to run the 8 miles I’d planned. I want my legs to be fresh on Friday.

My running watch, a Suunto Ambit 2R, is really sucking. I haven’t been able to use the heart rate monitor for a few weeks because it connects but does not display or record a heart rate, no matter how good of a connection I get. I wonder if the battery is dead, or if there’s some other problem. I’ve been too lazy to check.

But now I do need to contact the company because the watch still charges (thank goodness) but the computer doesn’t recognize the device, or if it does, the download fails. This happens in all my USB ports on my home and work computers so it is clearly an issue with either the watch or the cord. I have only had this watch for 6 months, so it’s still under warranty, and there’s no reason it should be failing. It doesn’t charge with a micro USB cord, so I can’t just swap in a different charger.

This week of training was kind of weird, since I was just winging it. I didn’t do a long run, but I did 3 runs of six or so miles, so I don’t think I needed a long run. I got speedwork and trails in, and all the runs felt decent-to-good. I am pumped for the race (except I think it’ll be hot), and plan to take it easy in the days leading up to it.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

-Wendell Berry

I love that poem so much. Never mind that I came across it because Alan Alda quoted (and misattributed) it on an episode of ER and I… well I would say I Googled it but I don’t think I used Google in 1999.

Friday and Saturday I got out for shorter runs, proving that it only takes one day to get back into the habit of running, even after taking several days off.

Friday I rewarded myself after a crappy day at school with a run through Hartley Nature Center. It was precisely what I needed mentally. Since it has been warm here and we’ve had some rain, the trails were starting to come alive. Little shoots and buds of green were everywhere, and it smelled lovely. The sun was shining but it wasn’t too hot (I didn’t start until early evening). More trails are open now, so I got to take a different route this time around. The only downside was hiking up the back side of Rock Knob and looking up to see a couple of guys peeing. I mean, the trail was right there, guys. Come on.

Saturday my plan was to head out and do some controlled hill repeats, instead of my usual “run as fast as you can stand” hill repeats. It was early evening again when I ran (6:30 or so), but still plenty light out. I did two repeats and held back a bit each time, then jogged back down. I made sure my heart rate was under the requisite 142 by the time I got back to the bottom, which in the past had sometimes required walking back down.

I was halfway up the hill for the third try and I saw a deer. Then two more. I see deer all the time when I am running, and they just go on their merry way when they see me. If they don’t, I usually say something like “Hello, deer” and sort of wave my arms a bit and they trot away. Two of the deer edged away, but this other deer wasn’t bothered.

The deer was closer than it looks in this photo, in which it is almost indistinguishable from the background. I paused my watch for a bit while I took a picture and thought about what I was going to do. The deer started to slowly move toward me and that’s when I turned around for good and got the hell out of there. (I started my watch again, because I had my wits about me!) I got across the street and the deer was still following me and looked like it might consider crossing the street, so I booked it up the hill, looking over my shoulder every so often to see if the deer was trying to catch up. It wasn’t, so that was good, but it was still a weird experience. I also saw some kind of dead, half-eaten bird and a dead raccoon, so that was nice.

I really do enjoy seeing (live) animals while I am running. I saw a bear last summer about two blocks from my house, a very exciting occurrence. It was the middle of summer, so I wasn’t really that concerned and ran right by it. This lady in her truck was yelling at me to warn me, but a bear by itself that has been chowing down on garbage and pick-a-nick baskets all summer isn’t going to eat me. A bear in early spring or a bear with cubs would frighten me. I also found a cat on the Lakewalk last fall, which I didn’t enjoy because it was clearly domesticated and had no claws (which I know because I carried it 2 miles) and had obviously been dumped there by the dregs of humanity. Other than the poor cat, the flora and fauna of the northland are part of what makes running up here so pleasant.

Tired Legs

Well, 11 miles into the week and I’m already dragging. Of course, I don’t think I’ve done 11 miles to start a week this training cycle, other than maybe when I was on spring break. (Well, then I went and looked it up while that’s true, I’ve started the week with 10 miles twice, so my whining is kind of ridiculous.)

Tuesday I did 8 hill repeats. I suffered a bit. My legs were really tight, so when I got to my usual hill, I wanted to stretch, but I had to stretch cautiously. My muscles felt like overly tightened violin strings; one more turn of the peg and they’d snap. Then when I tried to stretch my quads by doing the flamingo-type stretch which I’m sure has a real name, I actually tweaked something in my arm and side. It didn’t last but I was worried for a minute. The repeats didn’t feel that great, but I reminded myself how thrilled I was I’d done all this hill running when I was charging like a rhino up Lake Avenue on the home stretch of the 5K last weekend. I reminded myself of that feeling probably 16 times during the exercise. I had half the run in by the time I was done with the hill workout. I was feeling ok for awhile as I started the rest of the run, but my legs started to feel heavy after awhile, and then I had some lower abdominal cramping that slowed me to a walk a couple times. I spent the whole night working on homework, got home at about quarter to midnight, did more homework, and then couldn’t get to sleep because my neighbors had their windows open and music playing til after 3. I finally shut my window at 3 because I couldn’t stand it anymore.

Wednesday I woke up before my alarm (ugh), was too hot, and opened the window. Then the garbage truck came by, so I couldn’t fall back asleep. I was late to class and just dragging. I finished the homework I hadn’t done Tuesday night, and tried to convince myself I didn’t need to run, or maybe I should swap days and just run the 4 miles slotted for today. I still had a bunch of homework to do that evening, and I had a meeting, and I had been late to my group meeting on Tuesday night because I’d run so slowly, so it wasn’t looking good for getting in my scheduled mileage.

Well, my meeting was canceled, and I managed to wake up enough that I got out and did 6 mucky miles at Hartley. 6 very tired miles. My legs didn’t want to go fast. They didn’t even want to go slow. I shuffled along, getting passed by other runners, and also getting zoomed past by a dog repeatedly. I swear the dog was just showing off. Also I find it odd how many people around here do not leash their dogs. Hartley is still in the city limits! It’s not like we’re on some remote trail. I like dogs, but they really need to be on a leash, for their own safety and for the safety of other people and animals.

I wasn’t in any pain while I was running, so I was just suffering dead legs from the run the day before and from my general fatigue. I got back to the parking lot with 5.5 miles down and thought about calling it quits because I was dragging so badly. Then I reminded myself that I’ll be running on tired legs during marathons (and ultras if I ever get there), so I had better learn to suck it up for one half of a mile. So, I did, and finished at 5.98 miles, somehow still at a similar pace to most of my trail runs and a 146 bpm average heart rate. I do not know how that happened, but I’ll take it. I guess it just seemed like I was running in slow motion.

Trail Review: Guardrail at Hartley Nature Center (Winter)

I gave the Guardrail another shot on Saturday, after my first whack at it left me a bit puzzled. This time I didn’t wander off the trail onto Blue Pots, which, it turns out, dumped me off on the trail headed in the direction I’d already traversed when I ran on it before.

Guardrail is a single-track, two-way, packed and groomed, multi-use, technical trail at Hartley Nature Center in Duluth. It winds its way through the woods like the switchbacks on Berthoud Pass in Colorado. Whoever designed this path made the most of the space available in the park, which I appreciate.

Since I am a little bit lazy, I don’t even mind stepping off the trail for the occasional cyclist. All of the cyclists I’ve encountered have been friendly and don’t come whipping around corners out of nowhere, so I am more than happy to accommodate them. I was lucky that most of them were coming from the opposite direction, so I could see them coming and pick a spot to let them pass. I hope in the summer there isn’t a significant uptick in bike traffic on the trail, but if I extrapolate my experiences last fall at Hartley (on different trails), that would seem unlikely.

The trail is accessible by taking the Old Hartley Road Trail to Tunnel Trail to Fisherman or Rhamnus. I ended up getting on the trail via Fisherman and getting off again at Rhamnus, which is the clockwise version of the loop.

Let me take a moment to mention how much I love the Tunnel Trail.

I could run that forever.

I enjoyed the twists and turns of Guardrail, even though it felt at times like it was a net uphill course, which it obviously can’t be since it’s a loop. What goes up, must come down. There were exposed icy patches on some of the steeper parts of the trail, not all of which were immediately visible, and so I was as conservative on the descent as I was on the ascent. I may or may not have briefly thrown out my heart rate training restrictions to fly across a few of the more gentle declines. They were just too good.

The trail, as I took it, ended up being about 4.9 miles, which makes it a nice medium (for me) run. The other trail I’ve run at Hartley, Root Canal, is a bit shorter, so now I have a few options at the same park. I can also combine Root Canal and Guardrail for a long run, something I’m looking forward to as I gradually increase my mileage.

Overall, this trail is one of my favorites within the city limits, with lots of access points, including Howard Gnesen Rd, Marshall St., and North Road, so it’s not necessary to drive all the way to Hartley if there’s a closer trail spur. I almost ended up living out this way, as I looked at a house to rent nearby. The house ended up being small, with an incredibly weird layout, and a trompe l’oeil “basketball court” scene in the basement, and I am glad I didn’t end up there, but I suppose a small consolation would have been easy trail access.

Ups and Downs

Friday was an unexpected rest day.

Now that school is in session, my planned rest day is Monday. I have class starting at 9 am and don’t get home til 8 pm, so it’s not a day conducive to working out. I don’t like the situation because I like having the flexibility to slack off when I feel like it, rather than on a schedule, but I guess I’ll have to take two rest days in a week if that comes up.

Friday was an unexpected rest day because I went out to start my car to let it de-ice a bit and fell down the four concrete steps from the door to my yard. I didn’t realize that the stoop would be icy under the awning and stepped out confidently into the warm air, only to completely lose my balance on the invisible coat of ice, tumbling down the stairs. I actually rolled down them, rather than sliding like I have in other stair-related incidents in my life. I kind of wish I had a video of it because I am sure I looked ridiculous. I wasn’t hurt that badly (just some bruises) but I had some stiffness in my back (which could have been from sit-ups from Thursday) and some random twinges, so I chose to take the day off.

Saturday I felt good, apart from the bruise, and it was a beautiful day (any warm day in winter is beautiful, even if it is cloudy), so I drove to Hartley Nature Center. There’s a trail map here. I enjoyed running there last fall, although the trails I typically ran on are groomed for classic cross-country skiing, so I chose to stay off them. I tried out a new trail, the Guardrail, which is not shown on the trail map I just linked to. I should probably look around the interpretive center and see if there’s a better map, but I spend most of my time on the Guardrail trail wondering if it was a loop, an out-and-back, or part of a larger trail. I wondered if I was actually going around in circles or possibly getting farther and farther away from the nature center. It turned out I was not, but it was a bit nerve-wracking. I ended up running just under five miles, a lot of it at a pretty slow pace. My GPS was acting kind of funky and giving me 19:xx paces when I was flying down a hill and quicker than expected paces when I was walking, so I was having trouble gauging how things were going. I was also fairly cautious because the last thing I wanted to do was fall again, especially if I fell on my already-wounded right side.

The Guardrail trail is actually pretty nice and I would like to run it again soon. I planned to do a full trail review but I’ve already forgotten my thoughts about the trail.

Sunday I was really struggling to get moving. I got up, had a bagel and cream cheese, and got dressed in my running clothes, but I couldn’t get my butt out the door. I kept stalling. I was having an “I hate being slow” moment. Even a few miles at my sloth-like pace ends up being a major commitment. There’s no such thing as a “short” run for me, time-wise. I can’t fit a run in at lunch or between classes; it’s not worth the hassle for a measly 1.5 miles. I want to be at a point where I can put in 3-4 miles and have it be over like *that*. That is a long way off.

I finally got off my butt and headed out, running along Skyline to Chester Creek Trail. This stretch of Skyline Drive has some of the best views (I should have brought my phone to snap a pic or two), but I also don’t feel safe running on it because it doesn’t have a sidewalk, and just before the bridge over Chester Creek, there’s a nearly blind curve. I end up running on the wrong side of the road at that point because I am concerned about being struck by a car coming around the corner. I had to kind of sprint (relatively speaking) across the bridge because half the sidewalk was under construction and blocked off. I hate road running.

I wanted to do a trail review of Chester Creek Trail from the Skyline bridge down to 4th St, but in order to do that, I would have had to slide down on my belly like a sea otter. It was horribly icy, and even with my shoe chains on, I didn’t want to risk it. One slip at certain spots along that trail and I’m falling over a cliff. I was really bummed because I like that trail and because I wanted a little extra distance. Instead I had to circle back home and didn’t even get to three miles.

Monday I got out of class about an hour early, and decided to forgo the rest day by running an uneventful 40 minutes on the treadmill. I managed to run an average pace of 15:33 with an average heart rate of 142 bpm, so I guess I’m improving? That should be a pick-me-up after Sunday’s crabbiness, but I’m mentally drained. I also won’t get a chance to run outside until Friday, thanks to work and a meeting, so I’m disappointed about that. I’m going to need to end this post before I complain about something else.

To end on a high note: I have no lingering effects from my exciting tumble down the stairs on Friday.