Twin Cities Marathon Training: Week 12

Where did the time go?

Monday: 6.2 mi, treadmill (50 @ tempo)
Tuesday: 3.5 mi, treadmill
Wednesday: 3.3 mi, road
Thursday: rest
Friday: rest (volunteering)
Saturday: 26.2 mi, trail, Moose Mountain Marathon
Sunday: rest
Total: 39.2 mi

Huh, apparently it’s already Friday. I didn’t even notice, I’ve been fairly busy at work, which is great!

I took it easy last week after that last tempo run, but it wasn’t enough, as I started coming down with cold/allergy symptoms that ended up affecting my race. Massive bummer. I had originally been planning to do a final short run on Thursday, and possibly even a run on Sunday morning, but it wasn’t meant to be.

It seems like from here on out, I’ll be deviating significantly from the training plan I devised, as my next couple of weekends are kind of full, and I’m trying to avoid getting worn down. I’m not sure what my training will entail, but it’s unlikely to include any more long runs due to time constraints. I figure I can do more to harm my race than help it at this point!

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Race Report: Moose Mountain Marathon 2018

Am I headed for the same brick wall
Is there anything I can do about anything at all?
Except go back to that corner in Manhattan
And dig deeper, dig deeper this time
Down beneath the impossible pain of our history
Beneath unknown bones
Beneath the bedrock of the mystery
Beneath the sewage systems and the path train
Beneath the cobblestones and the water mains
Beneath the traffic of friendships and street deals
Beneath the screeching of kamikaze cab wheels
Beneath everything I can think of to think about
Beneath it all, beneath all get out
Beneath the good and the kind and the stupid and the cruel
There’s a fire just waiting for fuel.

Ani Difranco

Official Results:
Time: 8:42:12 (18:43 slower than I ran this race in 2016)
Pace: 19:56
Placing:
Overall: 259/306
Gender: 113/152
AG (F 1-39): 51/56

Watch Results:
Time: 6:23:45
Pace: 20:14
Distance: 18.97 mi (clearly it died — at 6 hours? that’s BS)
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 7:00
B: 7:20
C: 7:59:59

Food:
What I ate the night before: hummus and veggie sandwich, bagel and cream cheese, some cookies and goldfish crackers at volunteering
What I ate on race morning: bagel with cream cheese, also about half of another bagel
What I carried with me: 7 gel packets, water, water with electrolye tablet, spare electrolyte tablet. I ate a bunch of crap at the aid stations.

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt, shorts, ball cap, buff (I took it off pretty early on)
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker, hydration pack

Discussion: This was obviously not the race I wanted to run.

Starting on Wednesday of this last week, I started feeling stuffy, like I generally do when the weather changes. That was frustrating, but I also knew I had similar feelings the night before Chippewa Moraine this year and I managed to avoid getting full-on bronchitis or whatever garbage I was getting several times a year for awhile. I didn’t worry, and while Thursday I felt fairly crummy, I woke up Friday feeling better enough that I figured I’d feel even better on Saturday. I was sneezing a lot so I took an allergy pill, and a couple generic non-meth-strength Sudafed on Friday evening.

I didn’t make a packing checklist this year! I am really surprised. Usually I am so nervous I put everything on it. I literally write things like “fill water pack” and “take off rings” on there and check them off! I even put write blogpost on my checklists, which is kind of sad. I didn’t make one for this race, though, and I didn’t forget anything! Not one single thing, except I thought I forgot to bring a zip close bag for my cell phone and it turned out I had one in my car and two in the bag I used for toting around running stuff when I drive to a training location. (Note: using this bag to store a lot of my running supplies might be one of the reasons why I didn’t forget anything.) I packed everything on Friday when I got up, too. Usually I’m such a freak about getting everything set the night before, so it was nice to see I’m starting to calm down and get in a routine.

The drive up was really frustrating. It took a really long time, thanks to some bad traffic to start with at Spaghetti Junction, then more traffic in Duluth, then a quick stop to buy bagels in Duluth, then finally an extremely long wait north of Two Harbors thanks to a very small section of road that was down to one lane and thus using a flag crew. I was actually 45 minutes late to volunteering! Fortunately it wasn’t that busy, probably because everyone else was stuck in traffic. I was supposed to function as a greeter but I decided my services were needed at the merch tables instead. I did greet a few people but they just asked where the bathroom was and I told them there were porta-potties out back and they were dissatisfied with that answer. Then it turned out they were hotel guests anyway so idk what the problem was. I was a much better merch seller than greeter, especially since I was decked out in several items for sale, from my own personal collection. I really enjoy volunteering at check-in/packet pick-up, because I like the people who are assigned to volunteer with me, and because I like talking to the other runners. Many of them are starting to become familiar faces and remember that I have tried to upsell them on gloves and headwraps in the past, and seem to not mind. It’s fun to chat with these folks, even though most of them don’t know my name, and I don’t know theirs, or I do but pretend that I don’t while secretly sort of fangirling because they are accomplished or otherwise in the “cool runners” crowd.

I felt really fatigued at packet pick-up, and even at the time I had an idea that it was not a good sign. I was hoping it would translate into actually being tired when I got back to my hotel room (narrator: it did not), but it was concerning. Constant interaction with people helped keep my mind off how I felt kind of warm and that I had that weird spacey feeling I get when my sinuses are a bit stuffed up but my nose is clear. I was staying at the lodge next door instead of at the event location, so I had to go check in. Unfortunately since Ski Hill Road is very dark, I got confused and drove around trying to find the check in. I had to call and ask where it was — and it turned out it was really easy to find. So that was embarrassing, but the woman at the front desk was so nice about it and we laughed together. Then I couldn’t find my room, and it turned out that it was around the back of the lodge. It had a nice view.

I got back to the room, laid out all my stuff, and lazed around until I decided it was time to try to go to sleep. I was checking race results constantly, looking for updates on how Neal Collick was faring in his attempt to break the men’s course record (success), on how my personal hero Mallory Richard was doing (she managed to overtake the previous women’s leader, finish 5th overall, and break the women’s course record, also set by her), and on how my friends were doing. (They were all doing well at the time.) I turned off the lights, turned on my white noise app, turned on a TV show I could easily ignore, and tried to quiet my mind by thinking about mundane things like multiplication tables. All the usual tricks. NONE of them worked. My heart rate was high, my brain was wired, and I could not get to sleep. OF COURSE. I wonder sometimes if volunteering gets me too amped up and if I should just spend a mellow evening relaxing, but I enjoy volunteering too much.

I probably did sleep for an hour or two, but it didn’t really feel like it. I was up at 6 am, getting dressed (it was already 51F so I opted not to take my rain shell and just went with my arm warmers, which I took off at the start), trying to stuff my face with as much food as possible even though I wasn’t very hungry, and doing all the normal race prep stuff. I was out the door by about 6:40, with a short walk to the race HQ to catch the bus. I took a steeper shortcut through the parking lot of my lodge to reach the road more directly, and I started sweating. Not a good sign, especially when it’s a sweat that comes from my head and my back instantaneously, and I can feel it. It’s the kind of sweat I get when I exert myself too much when I’ve got a head cold (or similar). I shrugged it off, thinking hey, it’s early, I’m barely awake, it’ll be fine. I was still sweating on the bus though (it was warm, but not that warm) so it worried me even more, but once I got to talking to my seatmate I started to feel better and took my mind off my possibly real, possibly imagined illness.

I caught up with some friends at the race start and then finally it was underway!

Start to Cramer Rd (0.8 mi, 12:39 elapsed, 15:48 pace): The race start attempts to spread folks out by running them along Cramer Road and then jumping on the Superior Hiking Trail before the trailhead. It doesn’t work that well but it could be worse! I am fairly surprised at this pace because at one point we were at a dead stop while we tried to funnel onto the trail. I felt fine at this point, the running was easy, there were tons of people cheering, and I rolled through the aid station and onto the main trail feeling confident.

Cramer Rd to Temperance (7.1 mi section/7.9 mi overall, 2:09:47 section/2:22:26 elapsed, 18:17 section/18:02 overall pace): At first I was trotting right along, probably farther toward the front of the pack than I should have been due to the funneling, but still keeping pace with folks. At first it felt easy, although for the first mile or so I was running behind a couple who were getting their quarter mile splits from some kind of app. I could not fathom why, especially since pretty much every app is inaccurate on the SHT. Every time they got a split, the man would say “we’re losing time” and try to hurry the woman along. I was very glad to let them get ahead of me; I’m pretty obsessive about my races, but I’ve never seen anyone micromanaging a trail race like that. It stressed me out.

Then running started to become labored. I felt like my chest was congested (and maybe it is, but only mildly), my nose was running nonstop, and my head felt fuzzy again. Plus, I was still sweating, and it still was “I don’t feel well” sweat, not running sweat. The first little climb was so hard. Even walking up it was hard. I started to let people pass by me by the bunches so that I could go my own pace, and after awhile I let myself slow to a walk. Even on the runnable sections, like along the Cross River. I was extremely frustrated. I was also concerned about my health. At Wild Duluth 50K, I dropped at the second aid station when I was experiencing more extreme versions of the same symptoms (the difference then, I was getting over a longer illness and still had a deep cough). I didn’t have momentary blackouts, but these climbs were relatively minor and I knew that I had big climbs to come in the next segment, and again at Moose/Mystery.

Here I was only a couple miles in and looking for reasons to quit. I thought oh, I can just stop at Temperance and volunteer. Or just sit in a chair for awhile until someone I know comes along crewing and I can hitch a ride. Or something. Then I started questioning what I was doing running. Who did I think I was, trying to run an ultra? Or a marathon? Or anything at all? I was a big wimp who wanted to quit when things went slightly wrong. I was someone who couldn’t even get through a fairly low-mileage training block without getting sick/worn out/whatever – how could I ever run something longer than a 50K?

Then I thought about my friend Jeff, who had been running the 100 mile race. He was kicking butt (based on Facebook updates and runner tracking) when I went to bed, but when I woke up I found out he’d dropped due to terrible stomach issues. I thought about how I was running 1/4 of the distance he was running, and that if he felt like I did, he’d still be running. I could pretty much guarantee that any 100 mile runner still on the course felt worse than I did, and they were continuing. It was time for me to figure out how to face adversity without giving up. So I decided to keep going. If I had to hike it in, I had to hike it in. There was plenty of time. (I guess I didn’t have a headlamp so I couldn’t have taken like 12 hours to finish.)

So I hiked. I let everyone pass me who needed to pass me. I gave up on my A and B goals, although I did manage to get into Temperance with my 8 hour pace intact.

Temperance to Sawbill (5.7 mi section/13.6 mi overall, 1:58:09 section/4:20:35 elapsed, 20:44 section/19:10 overall pace): I left Temperance with hands full of food. I thought since I’d been feeling hungry during the past section, I had better eat something substantial, so I grabbed a couple cookies, a handful of potato chips, and a pancake. I should have grabbed two pancakes, because within minutes of eating it, I felt way better. Like, I realized I felt like running again. Except I had slammed two cups of Coke and one cup of ginger ale and stuffed my face because I thought I was going to be hiking. So then I couldn’t run because I felt like a whale. I also forgot that right outside Temperance is a prime spot for photographers, so I ended up getting photographed stuffing my face while carrying my bite guard (it keeps me from clenching so hard when I’m running). So classy. I did end up actually running after I burped about 100 times. I ran over the bridge spanning the Temperance River and then continued running until I reached the start of the uphill section. For some reason I thought the big climbs started sooner, so I was hesitant to run past the first set of stairs set into the hillside. I kept waiting and waiting for Carlton Peak to come, and it didn’t. I did get passed by the 50 mile winner somewhere in here, and I was definitely passed by WAY more 50 mile runners than last time, but whatever. I didn’t count.

And then came Carlton Peak. It was fairly warm at this point, and the sun was out, and that section was exposed. So I started to cook. I didn’t know until I got back to the lodge, but I was sunburned, and it likely started there. Once I started the really steep section, I knew it was going to be bad. I let a lot of people go by me and tried to go at my own pace, but my own pace included stopping. A lot. Which isn’t like me, I usually want to push through and get up and over as quickly as I can. I don’t usually find stopping particularly helpful. But this time, I found stopping necessary. I felt really stupid, partially because I usually feel so smug about my ability to get up these tough, steep sections. It was definitely humbling. I did manage to fake it for a photographer (I didn’t forget about this prime hiding spot) but just past that spot, I didn’t just stop. I sat down. I FREAKING SAT DOWN ON THE TRAIL. I have never sat down during a race. I realize this is overly dramatic but I felt very dramatic in the moment. But I was so fatigued, and on top of that, I felt totally nauseated. And I knew there was more to come. So I sat, until someone else came along, and sat, seemed like she was also nauseated. I didn’t want to stick around and see if she was going to barf, so I kept going. And stopped a bunch more, and then when I finally reached the top, I walked it down. Slowly.  So slowly, even though it was runnable. I kept alternating between being at peace with my decision and becoming frustrated anew. I wasted a lot of energy being mad at myself.

I also forgot that after the descent from Carlton Peak, it’s uphill to the aid station. And the road crossing is not anywhere near the actual aid station. I mean, it is, but it feels interminably long, because once reaching the road crossing, I anticipated the aid station would be imminent. I took one year off from this race and apparently forgot everything about it. I drank some pop, ate some chips, took some cookies, and walked out.

Sawbill to Oberg (5.5 mi section/19.1 mi overall, 1:54:43 section/6:15:18 elapsed, 20:51 section/19:39 overall pace): This section is probably the “easiest” section in that it doesn’t have any brutal uphills like Carlton Peak or Moose Mountain, although Temperance might actually be easier due to the long descent. I knew there were a couple of climbs in this section (thanks to re-reading my race report the night before), and couldn’t tell where they were, so I conserved energy and hiked quite a bit of this section. I’m surprised, doing the math now (I’m not relying on GPS data, but on my lap button on my watch, to get the time between sections), that this section was actually slower than the previous section, considering the time I spent sitting on Carlton Peak. I am a very slow hiker.

I like this section and I was looking forward to running it. Even though there are serious uphills, they are pretty short and there aren’t as many roots and rocks in this section. It’s mostly shaded, and it’s just… nice. Plus it’s the shortest segment of the race! Now I feel like I have to run this race next year just to prove that this section is fun to run, even though I’ve been thinking of sticking to volunteering for the 2019 race.

Nothing notable happened during this section. I was just looking ahead to Oberg, knowing that if I could get past the last aid station, I’d have to finish. I was doing lots of dangerous Race Math and trying to figure out if I could finish under 9 hours and was worrying I could not get it done. I felt my E goal slipping through my fingers but I knew it was still possible. The big unknown would be the Moose.

I ran a bit once I was past the switchback climb. I forget that the sign that says “Oberg Parking Lot” is not anywhere near the parking lot, and there’s still like a mile or so to go. I ran into a group of people with a 100 mile runner – it turned out one was a pacer and the other 3 were volunteers sent to fetch him, as he had been feeling dizzy and lightheaded, but was fine and joking about it. We were met at some point by EMTs coming to check on him as well, but all was well, and he finished – I checked! I trotted in chatting with one of the volunteers, who has been coming up to the race for 12 years! Just before the Oberg aid station, we were greeted by Kurt of TCRC fame, and then the excitement of reaching the final aid station swept me up.

I forgot that I stopped at Oberg a little longer than I did at any of the other aid stations. I was chatting with Mike Borst a little, as he paced the winner for 20 or 30 miles through the night before coming back to help at the aid station. So maybe that contributed to my slightly slower pace during this section. Maybe not, I don’t know. Does it really matter? No.

Oberg to finish (7.1 mi section/26.2 mi overall, 2:26:54 section/8:42:12 elapsed, 20:41 section/19:56 overall pace): The Race Math continued. I had 2 hours and 45 minutes to finish the race in under 9 hours. I also had 2 hours and 8 minutes to finish the race under my previous time. So the dream of a course PR wasn’t dead yet, although I was realistic about its improbability. My watch died only 8 minutes after I left the aid station, so I had to rely on the time of day as my only gauge of progress.

After a short uphill, there’s a nice downhill all the way to Rollins Creek, and I ran it as best as I could. I actually felt pretty decent at this point, but knew I needed to save a lot for Moose and Mystery. I told myself once I was at the top of Mystery, I could run.

Even though I’ve run this section a quadrillion times, I forgot how long it takes for Moose Mountain to actually start. There’s a lot of preamble, relatively easy uphill that belies the undefined slope (aka vertical line) to come. I was ready to just get it over with so of course it took forever to come. Then it also took forever to go up. And again, I stopped. A lot. Last time I ran this race, I kept telling myself to keep moving whenever I felt like stopping. This year, stopping was a survival technique. Maybe I should try trekking poles next time. I hauled my way up, bent over at the knees to catch my breath, sometimes leaning on trees, possibly even sitting once more (my memory is sort of fuzzy but yeah, I think I sat). I thought my legs would be jelly at the top, but they were okay. I was so happy to get to the top and walked my way across. It feels like the top gets longer every time I run this stinking mountain. I knew the saddle was coming at some point and that seemed to have more short ascents than I thought. Of course I was probably moving 5 or 6 minutes/mile faster when I last ran this section… I finally reached the descent (and the sign that told me it was only 3.5 miles to Ski Hill Road!!!) and was temporarily relieved… until I realized how shot my knees were. I’d been stubbing toes, rolling ankles, and otherwise destroying my joints, even with mostly walking. So this steep downhill was pretty painful, as was the climb over a downed tree. For a person of average height, it might have been okay, but I could barely get one leg over it, and it was a feat of strength to get my second leg over. I had NO flexibility at that point. I practically rolled over the darn thing.

Once it flattened out a bit, I was able to run, until I reached what I thought was the start of Mystery Mountain. I even started my “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” mantra – only to realize I wasn’t there yet! I crossed the footbridge and started the song anew once I started the real ascent. My brain was so addled that I kept losing track of where I was in the song. It was strange – I didn’t find Mystery Mountain that hard. It felt mostly the same, maybe a bit slower, but I never felt like I needed to stop or barf or black out for a second or two. Miraculous!

For some reason, I remembered the rest of the trail very differently. Like… there were more uphills than I remembered. I thought it was all downhill. Why? It’s clearly not. But I always forget. And am always rudely reminded. I ran as much as I could, even though this section is full of rocks and my ankles were killing me. I can feel every one of those ankle rolls now. Ouch. My feet hurt a bit too – I had a couple minor blisters on each heel and on my big toes. So I felt that, too. But as I crashed down the hill, I just kept thinking about hearing the river. The Poplar River – the sweetest sound in the world to a Superior runner. Of course I thought I heard it like 5 or 6 times and it turned out to be the wind. Sigh.

I hit Ski Hill Road and couldn’t believe it. I was almost there. I was going to finish in under 9 hours. I was going to run right by my nice cozy lodge room. And I was going to run the last 1000m or so with my eyes stinging with sweat. Ugh. I had to dig my sweaty buff out of the back pocket of my shorts (ew ew ew ew ew) and wipe my eyes in order to keep them open. One final insult.

Ahead of me as I turned the corner to leave the road, I saw a familiar figure making her way to the finish line, with the unmistakable triumphant shuffle of a 100 mile finisher: my friend Stephanie. I met Stephanie for the first time at the finish line of the 2015 Superior race, when I handed her a buckle and finisher’s medal and gave her a hug because… I don’t know why. Because she seemed cool and happy and inspiring. So I started calling her my role model, and then we became friends. Like Facebook official and everything. I could hear the emcee calling her name and the loud cheers for her, and then heard my own name as I came “flying” through the chute. Ha. And we hugged, and I practically started crying. This awful race had a happy ending. The race director handed me the buckle to present to her, and handed her a race medal to present to me, and we hugged about 10 more times.

I made the rounds at the finish line, checking in with friends and with others who I recognized from the trail, ate my chili, and then decided to pack it in and walk back to the hotel. I didn’t feel great, but beyond an overwhelming sense of fatigue and likely dehydration and low blood sugar, I wasn’t in that bad of shape. Which makes sense since I hiked like 80% of the race, I guess. I peeled off my sweaty clothes, took a shower, drank some vanilla Coke, and bummed around the room. I considered going back to the finish line but… it seemed so hard and so far.

I dug deep for this race. I swallowed my pride, fought my instinct to quit, re-set my goals repeatedly, and vacillated between embracing the suffering and questioning whether I even belong in this race or deserve to call myself a trail runner. But maybe I was really showing a glimmer of what it’s going to take for me to finish a hundred miler someday soon. Maybe not this one… yet. I didn’t get the race I wanted, not by a longshot. I wanted to run a big PR, make a decision about running Surf the Murph, and finish triumphantly with plenty of energy to hang out at the finish line after and help out. Instead I might have gotten the race I needed. I had to forget about what I “could have” or “should have” been able to accomplish — it doesn’t matter how fast I ran the 25K in the spring, or how much I’ve improved since the last time I ran this race, or what I conjured up in my head that I could achieve. The only thing that mattered was what I could do that day. So I put one foot in front of the other as best I could, showed as much gratitude as I could muster for a beautiful day in the woods with friends and congenial strangers, and I’ll treasure the finisher’s medal probably even more than I would have if I’d made my A goal.

Fall Running Goals 2018

Getting this in before I start achieving/failing to achieve some of these goals.

  1. Distance personal best. I hope this happens at Surf the Murph, but I haven’t registered yet. I need to see how Superior goes before I sign up. There’s also the option of a timed race in ND.
  2. Marathon personal best. I’ve got two chances at this: Superior and Twin Cities. I would like to beat my current PB (7:22:17) at Superior (it would be a great predictor of success at Surf the Murph!), but if that doesn’t happen, I’ll get it at TCM or… I guess quit running.
  3. Moose Mountain Marathon course personal best. Considering I have run a 50K faster than I ran MMM last time, I think this is very achievable.
  4. Spend some time exploring St. Paul. This may or may not be achieved via running – maybe biking, or even walking? I need to check out more spots in my new city.

I think that’s probably enough.

I’ve written enough race goals posts that there’s not much new to discuss regarding Moose Mountain Marathon – it’s my second time on the course, it’ll be my third (?) marathon, and I still just want to have a good time, not barf, and live through the ordeal ready to compete (against myself) at TCM. So I’ll append my goals here rather than write a separate post.

A Standard: 7:00:00
B Standard: 7:20:00
C Standard: 7:59:59

I think 7 hours is a stretch, but I ran the spring 25K at a faster pace than that. I understand a 25K is not a marathon but I also know that I only have to go up Moose and Mystery Mountains one way. (I do have to go up Carlton Peak, but I actually don’t mind that too much.) I put it on the pace chart, so I’ll be aiming for it as long as it’s physically possible. I feel like total crap today so that’s pretty much right on cue for race week!

Twin Cities Marathon Training: Week 11

I rebounded!

Monday: 7.3 mi, treadmill
Tuesday: 6.3 mi, road (7xWabasha St Bridge)
Wednesday: rest
Thursday: 5.8 mi, paved trail (Lake Nokomis, 42 @ tempo)
Friday: 6.2 mi, road
Saturday: 7.5 mi, road (split into 2 runs)
Sunday: 8.6 mi, trail (Fort Snelling)
Total: 41.6 mi

I was determined to get in a decent week of running this past week, and I succeeded, I think. Obviously I didn’t do any long runs, but that’s fine. Monday I stuck to the treadmill because I was still not totally over my illness (I think I am now, or at least I hope so — the alternative is I have a silent infection slowly taking over my body — shudder). Tuesday I’d had enough and headed out on the roads for bridge repeats, which sucked as they always do. But I always feel so self-satisfied afterward, like I’ve really accomplished something. Which I have.

Wednesday I was planning on running and didn’t. I had a long day at work and didn’t get home til almost 6, so I decided to pack it in. It was worthwhile, my brain was pretty fried and I had a big meeting Thursday morning I wanted to be prepared for. I brought stuff to work on Thursday so I could go directly after work to Lake Nokomis. Well, actually I parked at my cousin’s house, ran from her place to Lake Nokomis, did 2 laps around, and then ran back. I did a tempo run, my first on the road in awhile, and it felt really really really freaking miserable and difficult. Possibly because there was a STRONG wind around the lake, and I was running right into it at times. And also because I hadn’t done one on the road in awhile. I ended the tempo segment at 42 minutes, right when I got to the spot where I turned off the path and onto the street again. I thought my training plan had called for a 50 minute tempo run and I was SO DONE, but it turned out it only called for 45 minutes, and I think I had 3 more minutes in me, had I known.

I thought I needed to rush back to my cousin’s house to meet my mom and my aunt, who were walking her dogs, but it turned out they were late arriving and so I ended up hanging out at the house for awhile, chatting with my mom, my aunt (visiting from Colorado on her way to Norway), my cousin, and her mom (who is my mom’s cousin, but I didn’t feel like writing out “second cousin” and “first cousin once removed” because who cares?) while holding my cousin’s squishy new baby. (I waited until I’d dried off a bit and washed my hands first, because I didn’t want to snuggle with a newborn while drenched in sweat and caked in salt.) So I guess I had time to get those last minutes of tempo in, but whatever.

Friday I ran starting at Indian Mounds Regional Park. I need to remember not to do that, because it starts off as a lot of downhill. That means it ends with a lot of uphill. It was pretty miserable. There’s a great view of the city at sunset from the park, which I was treated to as I cruised in for the last half mile or so. There were some gentlemen enjoying adult beverages when I started my run, and they were still there when I returned, and one of them complimented me for running for so long. I was in a good mood and generally I don’t mind exchanging a few words with a drunk stranger if they are nice and not aggressive, so I thanked him and said it was tough, then wished him a good evening.

Saturday I split my run into 2 runs, because I had a bunch of stuff to do. I ran about 4 miles around lunchtime and got absolutely scorched. It made me feel fairly miserable and faintly nauseated for several hours afterward, even after taking a shower (far too quick) and rehydrating. My husband and I drove over to my mom’s, had a mid-day meal with my family before my aunt left for her trip, and then we drove home to start our project for the weekend: painting the kitchen cupboards. Ugh. What a dumb idea. We took all the cabinets down, removed the hardware, and then I went for another run in the evening (about 3 miles) which was a lot less miserable.

Sunday I got up, went to Fort Snelling, and had an actual enjoyable run around Pike Island and then up the Minnesota River Valley Trail toward Minnehaha Falls (I’ll have to run there another time). It was significantly more enjoyable to run that area without feeling like I had to pee the whole time. It was warm but most of the trail was shaded. I felt pretty strong but also caught myself spacing out and running at a mindless pace. I’d look down and see like 15:45 pace on my watch. I do not understand how I can let myself get so much slower just by zoning out. It’s really annoying, because zoning out helps the miles go by. I need to figure out a better way to run by feel, because I thought I was cruising along at least 2 min/mi faster. Then I went home and finished prepping my kitchen and started painting, which about killed my poor legs.

Superior is this week, I can’t even believe it. Time for my mini-taper (and time to get more done around the house)!

Twin Cities Marathon Training: Week 9

This week felt like nine weeks and five days, as Navin R. Johnson (Steve Martin) says in The Jerk.

Monday: 5.4 mi, treadmill
Tuesday: 5.6 mi, treadmill
Wednesday: 4.3 mi, road
Thursday: 6.3 mi, road
Friday: 5.6 mi, road
Saturday: rest
Sunday: 13.9 mi, trail (Lebanon Hills)
Total: 41.2 mi

I seriously cannot believe I managed to get over 40 miles in this week. As I said in my Week 8 post, I was in Portsmouth, NH for the majority of the week, and I didn’t have a car due to a comedy of errors. That meant that I spent Monday and Tuesday on the hotel treadmill, after a grueling 10 hours of technical lectures and lab work. I ate grocery store food and did homework after my workouts. Monday’s workout was okay, Tuesday’s was not as great since I had to use the crappy treadmill while some guy leisurely walked (with some occasional running) and watched something on his smartphone. I had been planning on doing an interval workout but the crappy treadmill kept cycling through the various display options, so I was only able to see the time or distance every 43 seconds or something. Oh he also didn’t wipe down the treadmill after using it, which is how I know this guy was actually the devil and not just someone who was looking for a lower-intensity workout.

Wednesday I got a car and I looked up some possible running routes. I thought I’d drive to this place, Prescott Park, and then run a loop as suggested on Map My Run. I headed that way, mistakenly driving through downtown Portsmouth in a very pedestrian-heavy area, and discovered this Prescott Park place was having a huge event. So I had to find something else to do, and drove around for awhile before parking on Goat Island and running onto New Castle Island and then along the beach at Great Island Common.

Yeah, wow. It was unbelievably gorgeous. I didn’t realize the sun sets a bit earlier in NH than it does in St. Paul, so I ended up running the last half mile or so in near darkness, wearing a black t-shirt and black shorts. Whoops.

Thursday I headed back to the same area, parking near Fort Constitution, running a circle around the islands near the mouth of the Piscataqua River. It was so blissful, a welcome relief after incredibly long and at times frustrating days in class. I started earlier so I was able to get in a longer run and then had a lobster roll and giant cone of ice cream at a place called the Ice House.

Friday I finished up my course with a practical exam in the morning, then took a self-guided walking tour of Portsmouth. It was mostly just me wandering off in whatever direction looked to have the most interesting old houses/buildings. I did see a few specific sites (I finally figured out what Strawberry Banke was), but I mostly stumbled upon cool things. I even walked across the Memorial Bridge into Maine, then turned around and went back again. I got to brag to my aunt later that I already had my 10,000 steps in.

After my walking tour, I drove up to Maine to my family’s camp near Kennebunk. I chose to take my training in Portsmouth because it was relatively near the camp, and fortuitously, it happened to be the same weekend that a lot of extra family was up there. So I got to have an amazing (but short) time with around 20 members of my extended family. After water-skiing, I headed out for a run around the lake between rain showers. (It was very humid.) After a late dinner, we had two sauna sessions and two jumps in the lake before I drove back to Portsmouth to take advantage of the opportunity to sleep in.

Saturday, I headed back to Maine for a few hours, getting in another water-skiing session plus some wiffle ball. We can call that cross training. I made Saturday my rest day so I didn’t have to throw stinky, sweaty running clothes in my suitcase. (I did throw my swimsuit into my carry-on, but it was dry.) I was flying out Saturday evening and drove back to Boston after the wiffle ball game. I made it home at about 10 PM and crashed at about midnight, without bothering to set an alarm. I was going to sleep as late as I wanted to.

Sunday I still got in almost 14 miles! I didn’t put any pressure on myself to get started by a certain time. I got up late, I ate my breakfast fairly slowly, and I watched a couple TV shows before I finally headed out. I probably could have cranked out a few more miles, but I was hungry and out of gels, and I was low on water. I really wouldn’t mind a few long runs on days in the low 70s F, if for no reason other than water conservation.

I am really amazed I managed to run 41 miles this week, with all the travel, work, studying, and even fun I crammed into my trip. I was pretty tired – traveling wears me down a bit no matter what the situation, and in this case I was up early every day and then up late studying due to semi-poor time management. Working out did help me decompress from the day and also allowed me to see some beautiful places. And yes, I did enrich myself professionally as well.

Half marathon coming up this weekend – I just signed up for it today, since I realized I haven’t raced in two months. And I’ll get to be home every day this week!!! So that will be great.

Twin Cities Marathon Training: Week 2

Bleccch. Not a great week, but I got it done.

Monday: rest
Tuesday: 5.5 mi, pavement (River to River Greenway; 4 x 0.5 mi interval workout)
Wednesday: 7.2 mi, road
Thursday: 5.8 mi, pavement (Mississippi River Trail; 20 min tempo)
Friday: 4.8 mi, pavement (Mississippi River Trail)
Saturday: 7.2 mi, pavement (Mississippi River Trail; 6 mi @ marathon effort)
Sunday: 10.1 mi, pavement (Mississippi River Trail)
Total: 40.6 mi

Every workout I had this week sucked. Well, maybe Wednesday’s was okay, I don’t remember anything about it so it can’t have been too bad.

Tuesday I planned to do a track workout. I drove to a nearby high school and discovered that there was some kind of youth sports group using the track, and also the track had no lines and the surface was possibly uneven, so I ended up having to improvise. Unfortunately, improvising involved doing my half mile repeats on varied terrain, including hills, road crossings, and some quick course corrections. I got it done, but it was annoying. Now I need to find a different track option. Every other high school in the area appears to be 5 miles away from me. Hmm.

Thursday I tried to do a 30 minute tempo run and after 20 minutes I just gave up. It was hot and I was hungry, so I basically bonked the stupid run. Friday I ran in 95F weather and deliberately went slowly just to manage the heat. I even brought a water bottle, which I don’t normally do for short runs. Saturday was “cooler” than Friday, but because there was no breeze, it felt just as yucky. I tried to do a marathon pace workout but couldn’t muster any sort of speed. It was still pretty darn hard, which is why I call it a “marathon effort” workout. I think it’s better to focus on hitting an effort level (5K effort, 10K effort, marathon effort) rather than pace, because on any given day, the effort it takes to maintain a pace varies.

Sunday was also pretty miserable. I thought it would be a better run because it was cooler – in the 70s F! However, it was still humid, and I was still feeling the after effects of several hot workouts in a row. I barely kept my pace faster than 14 min/mile, which I could look at as an indicator that perhaps I am going to absolutely suck at this marathon and that my goals are wildly inconsistent with my abilities — but I’m trying not to. It was a hard training week. The heat was tough. I got through it. I’ll be better for running in that hot weather.

Sunday’s run was my first double digit run since FANS. It’s hard to believe that was only a month ago. It feels like a lifetime ago! It’s also hard to believe I ran more in one day than I did this last week. I’m going to have to pat myself on the back — that achievement was pretty cool. And it turns out my foot injury was minor, I haven’t had any pain in a long time! Let’s hope that’s not a jinx.

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.