Twin Cities Marathon Training: Week 1

That’s right – I’m finally running a road marathon.

Monday: 5.4 mi, road
Tuesday: rest
Wednesday: 5.3 mi, pavement (15 min warmup, 30 min tempo, 15 min cooldown)
Thursday: 5.7 mi, road/pavement (2.8 mi at lunch, 2.9 mi after work)
Friday: 3.1 mi, pavement (Midnight Sun Midnight Run 5K)
Saturday: 6.3 mi, road
Sunday: 7.4 mi, road
Total: 33.2 mi

This was a weird week to start, because I was out of town for the weekend, but that’s how things go for someone like me, who fits training around life rather than life around training. I’m kind of using a training plan this time around, instead of just winging it – I started off with Hal Higdon’s Advanced 2 Marathon Plan. I guess if I’ve run 8 (I think?) marathon (or longer) distance races, I can handle an advanced plan. Or maybe I can’t and I’ll burn out, but whatever.

Of course, I’ve taken this plan and made some tweaks to it, for a few reasons. First of all, I can’t always follow a plan exactly. I switch around rest days, I travel, I have weather delays, etc. Of course, it’s rare for someone to complete an entire months-long training plan exactly as prescribed, but I find building in some flexibility from the start is more helpful. Additionally, I am running another marathon (Moose Mountain Marathon) during the training, so I’ll have a bigger long run than prescribed, and moved around some cutback weeks and speed work. I’m also hoping to run Surf the Murph a few weeks later, possibly even the 50 miler, so I’m looking at some increased mileage over what is prescribed.

The other tweaks I’ve made to the plan are pretty simple: any run that isn’t a prescribed strength or speed workout, I’ve labeled “run,” “medium length run,” or “long run.” I can play around with the mileage on those days. I am not increasing the mileage or duration of any prescribed runs, like repeats, tempos, or marathon pace runs. I don’t feel like those are places I can safely and sustainably add mileage, since I have less experience with speedwork.

Monday’s run was dull and uneventful. I was planning to run Tuesday, but ended up going to the Twins game! It was fun, but I had to scramble around to figure out how to fit in another workout on Thursday.

Wednesday’s tempo run was okay. I had a hard time ramping up – I’m not very good at incremental increases in pace. I also had a couple little hills to push through, but overall it was fine. It worked out to be a nice hour-long workout. I guess that’s an upside to speedwork – the workout gets over more quickly!

Thursday I had planned to walk my cousin’s dogs with my mom, so I ran during my lunch hour, then went over to my cousin’s house early and ran to Lake Nokomis, ran partway around the lake, then returned in time to meet my mom and take the dogs out for a 45 minute stroll. They seemed to like it.

Friday I headed up to Duluth in the afternoon. My uncle, aunt, and cousins were coming in from both coasts, and my brother, sister in law, and nephew came over from North Dakota. We all went for a long swim in Pike Lake and were of course exhausted by race time. I had also eaten some ice cream that was making me feel really full, so I wasn’t sure the race would go well. After a slow start thanks to the crowd, I was able to take off and push through for a course-best 29:29. While my sister in law and I were waiting for my brother and my husband to finish, a woman came through the finisher’s chute and threw up like 4 times, which was… not what I wanted to see after finishing a race. Ew.

Saturday I went for a late run after a day of swimming, tubing, and water-skiing. I was pretty tired, but still managed to unintentionally run 10K by “circumnavigating” Pike Lake. I barely saw the lake during the run, so it wasn’t very scenic. It was also nearly dark before I finished, so that was stupid. Sunday I did another run near Pike Lake, this time along Caribou Lake Road, and I guess I’ll consider 7.4 miles to be my medium length run for the week. I didn’t have a long run planned, since this is my first full week of marathon training and also my first full week back after FANS.

Beast of Burden

I ran Midnight Sun Midnight Run 5K again this year, my third time running it. (First time here, second time here.) I finished in exactly the same time as I did last year, 30:02. I’m not super thrilled about it. I was hoping to not go back over that 30 minute mark, but my mental game is not strong right now.

I finally had my exam yesterday, and it didn’t go well at all. I mean, there’s still a possibility I passed, but it wasn’t my best day. I guess I’m out of practice with 1. taking test and 2. engineering from an academic perspective. I’m not excited at the prospect of more studying, though I’ve got a solid base so I won’t have to spend hours a night studying. So that’s good.

Before yesterday, I thought that I’d enjoy the race, that it would be a chance for me to run off some of the frustration of the last few weeks, or to triumphantly celebrate if the test went well. Instead, the results of the day weighed me down. 6 hours of stressful testing sapped me of my energy, and I just couldn’t get it back, certainly not for a midnight race.

The race itself was fine. There were fewer people there this year, possibly because it was in the low 60s and windy by race time, but still humid. I wore shorts and a t-shirt anyway and wasn’t cold. My husband was running the race with me, and we ran about a mile warm-up. The wind was pretty strong, and I knew it would be a factor and was planning to avoid going out hard, since I’d hit the wind the hardest in the second half-mile of the course.

I discovered we had started way too far back in the race pack. Last year, there were plenty of people behind us, but this year, we were almost at the back. That was stupid, because right at the start, I hit a wall of walkers. I should have moved closer to the front, but oh well. I passed a bunch of people and had a decent first mile despite the weaving, bobbing, and the wind.

The rest of the race wasn’t great. I didn’t have any giddy-up in me. I had heartburn from dinner (salmon and rice, but I had eaten too much and too recently, so I was too full), and I had no heart to put into my race. No desire to keep pushing. The hills slowed me a bit although I battled through them, but I slowed considerably in the last mile, and couldn’t get going again. I find that once I come down from a harder pace, I can’t easily find it again. But I think I can, and think I’m back to cruising, only to look down and see I haven’t.

I can’t be too mad about this. I haven’t been running much at all, and I have certainly not been working on speed. At this point, I think all the easy gains are gone from the 5K – if I want to get better, it’s going to require a lot of effort. I’m not sure I’m interested in giving up distance for speed, especially since I find there’s a lot more room for improvement and discovery at long distances, but there’s still opportunities to increase my speed overall. I just have to figure out how to want it again.

I’ve got 3 weeks left until Curnow, which isn’t great. I thought I had 4. I’m looking forward to the race, and I’ve got to remain positive about it. So my training isn’t the strongest – that’s fine. I’m not burned out. I’m not injured (knock on wood). I’m ready to give myself a chance to get back on track mentally.

Especially since I signed up to run the Birkie Trail Run 100K at the end of September. Gulp.


In the past 12 days, the only running I’ve done was on race day. I planned it this way for the most part (although I was hoping to do some walking last week to stay active, and didn’t), but I also expected a different outcome from the race, so now I’m re-thinking my plans. I will probably give myself this coming weekend off, and then start running some short miles the next couple weeks. This makes sense, based on all the things I’ve had to consider.

  • My left foot is mostly back to normal, but while the blister on my right heel (the one that never healed fully from CM50K) doesn’t hurt, it also needs to grow back skin of the proper thickness and texture.
  • The chafing on my legs is mostly healed, although I wore a skirt to work yesterday and noticed a bit of irritation.
  • I’m sleeping like garbage, thanks to early sunlight, constantly hungry cats, a snoring spouse, and Born to Run (the Springsteen memoir, not the running book).
  • Most of the rest of my body healed really quickly after FANS, I suppose since there weren’t any huge climbs and I wasn’t going very fast, but I did develop a knot in my back that turned rather painful. Deep breaths still hurt. (I had scheduled a massage, but there was a mix-up with the scheduling, so I didn’t get one.)
  • I’m taking the Fundamentals of Engineering exam on June 23rd, and I need to study every night. I don’t have time for long runs, I don’t have time to procrastinate starting my runs – I have to allot all my procrastination time to avoiding studying. This is the absolute top priority in my life for the next 2 weeks. And let’s hope it’s over after that! Yikes.
  • I signed up for 2 short races between now and Curnow on July 15th. I signed up for Midnight Sun Midnight Run 5K on June 23rd (a good way to run off all the stress of the test that same day), which was planned. This will be my 3rd year running this race, it’s always fun! I also signed up for the Park Point 5 Miler on July 13th. So yes, 2 days before Curnow. I ran this 2 years ago and had my first disappointing race. A dubious milestone, I know. I didn’t run it last year because I was supposed to run Curnow, which of course I didn’t do. This year, I’m going to run it and see if I can get some of those race week jitters out of my system.

So, that’s a lot of thinking about something fairly insignificant – in other words, the same approach I take to all things running. I’m looking forward to getting back out there, especially now that the weather is better!

Race Report: Midnight Sun Midnight Run 5K 2016

Official Results:
Time: 30:02 (-4:19 from last year)
Pace: 9:40
Overall: 226/551
Division (F30-39): 20/69 (I think. There are some people listed without ages as well as some unidentified runners on there, so I could be lower.)

Watch Results:
Time: 30:06
Pace: 9:37
Distance: 3.13 mi
Heart Rate: 183 bpm

A: 29:59
B: 30:30

What I ate the night before for lunch: Thai peanut pasta and tabbouleh
What I ate on race morning for dinner: Small steak (bad idea) and corn
What I carried with me: nothing

What I wore: T-shirt, shorts
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh. SO CLOSE. Just 3 seconds away from a sub-30 5K. I’m disappointed, but I will survive. I think I ran a good race, and probably wasn’t in a position to run a great race.

We left the house at about 11:20, parked at a ramp on Michigan Ave, and then jogged (well, I jogged, my husband walked) over to the race start. I did about a mile warm-up in all, as we ran a small part of the course to check it out. It was much darker than I recalled. Maybe last year the moon was brighter, I don’t know. But, I warmed up! Hooray! I would have liked to do a slightly longer warm-up but realized it was 11:45 and turned around to get back in time for the start. The start seemed to take forever to come, we stood around for 10 minutes but it felt like 20. We didn’t start exactly at midnight either, and then it took awhile for us to filter through the start area. My heart rate was kind of elevated at the start (still aerobic) due to the warm-up and some slight pre-race anxiety.

Mile 1: 9:54 (180 bpm)
I was in the hole from the beginning, but it was so hard to dodge people. There weren’t pace groups, just a single sign at the front that said 7:00 pace. I think that was just a deterrent for slow people who might want to start at the front. It was very frustrating to try to dodge and weave through people while uncertain what the ground in front of me was like. There were a few small puddles and you’d think they were filled with battery acid from the horror of some participants. They were stopping, panicking, and making sudden lateral movements, just to avoid a puddle that wasn’t more than an inch deep. People were slowing to a walk (and not an intentional run-walk walk) less than half a mile in; just take 10% off your effort and you won’t have to do that, folks! I had a lot of speeding up and slowing down during this time, and it took almost half a mile to get up to goal pace, which was now too slow to make my goal. My mouth was a little dry which bothered me.

Mile 2: 9:45 (184 bpm)
Still above goal pace, argh. I really screwed myself. This did have 2 hills, but I did ok on the hills, even sometimes accelerating on them. I regretted the steak; I didn’t feel actually nauseated in my stomach, but did have kind of a gaggy feeling in my throat. I still had some dodging and weaving around people to do, which was made more difficult by the visibility. There were lighted stretches, and then unlighted stretches with enough ambient light to see, and other stretches in shadow where the ground wasn’t visible. That made it challenging for my eyes to adapt, and I wasn’t sure of my footing at times, so I had to be a bit cautious. So that caution cost me those 3 seconds… but tripping, falling, and twisting an ankle would have cost many more seconds. Right before the turnaround, the woman in front of me slowed suddenly due to an errant glow bracelet on the ground, which she said aloud that she thought was the cone. Um, thanks for stopping short right in front of me. I found anytime I was forced to slow down due to a sudden movement from someone else, it took me a bit to find my groove again, as opposed to a gentler slowdown from approaching a slower runner

Mile 3: 9:22 (186 bpm)
This mile was mostly downhill but did have one significant (for a 5K) uphill. I knew I needed to make up time, as I’d set my watch to show average pace and could see I’d been in a hole the whole race. I did have some slight cramping in my lower GI system but I knew I could power through and it would go away, either when I finished or before. It did, and I was glad I didn’t let it scare me. I was really able to get in a groove and was running much faster, but it clearly wasn’t enough. When my watch flashed for the 3rd mile, I saw I had about 55 seconds to get to the finish, and I turned on the jets, but it wasn’t enough. I didn’t know right away, though I knew it was close. I came through the chute at a sub-8 pace. Some spectator reached across to give me a high five, but they reached out so far I had to dodge around their hand. Look, I don’t mind giving high fives at the finish, but don’t hold your hand out so far it obstructs me. Let me choose if I want to touch you or not. I blew my nose into my hand about 80 times during the race so I saved the guy a snotty high-five.

My husband finished before me by about 45 seconds, and was lying in the grass (because he doesn’t know how to race without practically dying… I could use a bit of that devil-may-care attitude) and called out to me to let me know that he was there. I acknowledged him but he was also coughing and I was like dude if you’re going to be sick get away from me. He was fine, I was just being paranoid. We got some water and cookies and picked up our race shirts, then cooled down walking along the Lakewalk a bit before returning to the car. I felt fine until we got in the car and started driving, and then I started to feel a bit queasy. It passed, but gave me a moment of panic.

I am pleased with how I raced, even if I didn’t get that sub-30 I wanted. This was not a good race to try to push myself to the max, since it was fairly crowded until maybe the last kilometer or so (after passing the last of the runners still heading out), and it was pretty dark in some spots, with some sketchy footing. I probably shouldn’t have eaten steak, but it was what was for dinner. I can analyze every aspect of this race and find a million spots where I could have just changed things a little bit and I’d have made my goal, but it really doesn’t matter. I still ran a very good race, finished strong, improved my time and placing significantly, and now I know without a doubt that a sub-30 race is within my grasp. There’s still a lot of potential left in this body and mind, and I’m not even working on speed or shorter distances right now. We’ll see if I really do try to chase down the sub-30 dream again this summer; so far I haven’t found a 5K I want to run that’s cheap, convenient, and timely.

Midnight Sun Midnight Run 5K 2016 Goals

I have to take a moment here before I discuss my race goals to just lose my cool. I joined the Upper Midwest Trail Runners this year, and as part of the benefits of membership, I’m entitled to a discount at BOTH Austin Jarrow and Duluth Running Co., the local running stores I patronize. But I totally forgot. And I’ve bought shoes, accessories, and gels this year AND HAVEN’T USED THE STUPID DISCOUNT. I’m so mad at myself. GAHHHHHHHHHHH!

It popped into my mind since I’m stopping by DRC this afternoon to pick up my race packet for tonight, and I also need to buy some more anti-chafing balm since I left the one I just bought in my car and it melted into the cap. It’s… semi-usable. Sigh.

So, tonight, Midnight Sun Midnight Run. I’m excited. I know the course, the weather should be decent, and I’m well-rested. I did a speed session on my treadmill on Wednesday (6 x 0.5 mi @ 9:41 pace), didn’t run yesterday, and took a half day today so that I could sleep in a bit. I’m going to run a few errands and then lounge around until dinner time. (And do laundry, oops, I was supposed to do that yesterday, I have no clean running socks.) As long as I can pick up my packet with no issues this afternoon, I won’t have the logistical nightmare I did last year, and plan on parking in a ramp (for free) on the other side of the freeway. That will ensure that I get a warm-up completed.

My goals are as follows:

A Standard: 29:59
B Standard: 30:30

Last year I ran this race in 34:21. My most recent 5K time is 30:51. It might be a little absurd to try to shave nearly a minute off my race from a little over a month ago, but I don’t really care. I have a litany of excuses regarding that race which I can trot out to justify my goals for this race: upset stomach, super cold weather, lack of sleep, no warm-up, overall malaise. I’m well-rested today, had an encouraging speed session, and I’m fairly certain I’m physically ready to hit that sub-30 milestone. I just need to be mentally tough. I need to run a 9:39 overall pace in order to get under 30, and I know I can.

Strategically, I don’t know what to say. I’m not going to line up at the back like I did last year. The race is really congested, but lining up at the back didn’t help avoid any of it. I think I should find a good position in the first mile, tackle the hill on the second, and just hammer it on the way to the finish. The most important thing is to keep digging in and not let up on the pace or get lazy mentally. If that means I need to keep checking my watch to see where I’m at, that’s fine. Right now it appears I need that accountability.

The other mental mistake I need to avoid is assuming I’ve got my goals in the bank. I did this in the Gobble Gallop and I probably left something out on the course. My biggest weakness as a racer is fear. I don’t push harder enough because I fear I’ll blow up or throw up or both. I’ve conservatively raced enough 5Ks; it’s time to throw down.

Race Report: Midnight Sun Midnight Run 5K

Official Results:
Time: 34:21
Pace: 11:04
Overall: 395/569
(Other results not available)

Watch Results:
Time: 34:24
Pace: 11:04
Distance: 3.10 mi
Heart Rate: N/A

A: 35:00
B: 36:00

What I ate the night before for lunch: Spaghetti and meatballs
What I ate on race morning for dinner: Curried chicken with rice (not the best idea)
What I carried with me: nothing

What I wore: Tech t-shirt, running tights
Gadgets: GPS watch

I guess my goals were a little conservative, no? I crushed both of them, and now I’m chastising myself that I didn’t shave off that extra 15 seconds or so that would have gotten me to a sub-11 pace. That’s silly, though. Perhaps if I had not eaten curried chicken at 8:00 PM, I would have found that extra oomph? I think the course was a little short, since I only measured 3.1 miles on my watch, but I think it’s also having some issues.

I did some yoga after I got home from work, to try to loosen up a bit, but I didn’t do much else and kind of sat around watching TV until it was time to get ready to go.

I didn’t want to park in Canal Park, so my plan was to have my husband drop me off. However, bib pickup ended at 11:30, so I couldn’t just roll up with 15 minutes to go. I really should have picked my bib up yesterday afternoon at Duluth Running Co., but I didn’t think about it. I picked up my bib just after 11, and then I didn’t know what else to do. I wasn’t going to bring my phone or anything else with me, so I wouldn’t have had anything to do for almost an hour. We live 5 minutes away, so we went home. I know that sounds ridiculous, but there wasn’t anything else to do, and I had to pee, so we went home for about 15 minutes.

I got back to Canal Park at about 11:40, and did a short warm-up, just over half a mile. I wanted to do a slightly longer warm-up because there was nothing else to do, but they said there would be a runner’s briefing at 11:50 so I made sure to get back in time. It didn’t matter because I couldn’t hear anything anyway. Everyone lined up at the start behind Endion Station, and I made sure I was pretty far toward the back. They said go, we shuffled forward, and then immediately ended up on rocks/gravel and a bunch of people started walking. So I dodged them, zipping along, passing people left and right. My concerns about the congestion on the course were valid.

Since runners were going both ways on the course, we were told repeatedly to stay to the right of the path. Some people ended up on the boardwalk, but I tried to stay off it. It was hard to get around people as many were walking two or three abreast, which is annoying in a road race, but extremely frustrating on a narrow trail. At one point, a woman made a move at the same time, and we almost bumped into each other. We ended up befriending each other and ran most of the way together, dodging walkers on the hills (THANK YOU, HILL WORKOUTS), sneaking our way around others when we saw a gap in the oncoming runners. The course hit both major hills on the Lakewalk (in Leif Erickson park) both ways, so there was plenty of hill passing going on. The only good thing about getting hung up behind walkers in the narrow parts of the trail was that it forced me to moderate my pace, because my legs wanted to fly.

I started to fade in the last 0.75 miles because I felt a little nauseated. Well, not really, but I just had kind of an icky feeling in my esophagus, and that made me worry I was going to hurl yellow curry all over the pavement. I lost the woman I was running with, cheering her on to go ahead of me, but I hung on and I had one hell of a kick at the end. The last 0.2 mi I turned on the jets and ended up flying through the chute feeling strong. I passed a couple people at the end, pleased that I had finished strong, which is always one of my non-time goals.

I felt pretty great afterward too, grinning like crazy after that great finish and the time on my watch. (There wasn’t a time clock at the start or finish, so I couldn’t tell when I crossed the start or the finish.) I got my shirt and didn’t feel like waiting in line for food or drinks, so I just went to find my husband. Once I sat down in the car and we started driving, I started to feel a little bit icky, and my face was a cherry red tomato, but I just stuck my head out the window like a golden retriever and bore it for the short drive.

I am really, really excited with these results. This is a huge confidence builder for me going into the 5 miler next month, and it’s also a sign that my training is effective. If I can have a strong 5 mile race and avoid too great of a drop-off in pace, I will feel a lot better about whatever fall race I decide to do. As long as I can increase my mileage safely and without getting too worn down, I should be in a good spot to run a nice long race in the fall.

To bring myself back to earth a bit, I’m just going to remember that the Western States runners are going to run 33 times the distance I just ran, and a large portion of them will do it at a faster overall pace than I just ran. I’ll be following along!

Midnight Sun Midnight Run 5K Goals

Today’s the day! I’ve got the Midnight Sun Midnight Run 5K coming up at 11:59 PM! I am excited, I feel ready for this race, physically. I took yesterday off from running after a nice speedwork session on Wednesday (9×400: 10:49, 10:39, 10:50, 10:46, 10:46, 10:42, 11:47 due to an intersection I think, 10:54, 10:58), and ate a bunch of food.

This isn’t my goal race, of course, but I’d like to build some confidence going into the PP5M, to really feel like my training has paid off and to feel I’ve improved. The main thing I’m worried about is the time of day. Will I feel sluggish? Or will I be able to shake off any tiredness? I’m probably going to grab a latte in the late afternoon/early evening, just to give myself an extra little perk up.

I’m a little worried about pacing, because my heart rate monitor isn’t working and it will be harder to see my watch. I did re-set it so that the “light” button is in toggle mode. I’ll probably just leave it on the whole race so I can glance at it as needed. I hope I don’t end up eating pavement as a result; tripping and falling is a little bit of a concern, too, but I do know the Lakewalk is well-illuminated at night.

I don’t want to go out too fast, but I do also want to challenge myself and push myself harder this race. There’s no sun to heat me up like last time, and I was just over 36 minutes that time. The evening caffeine boost plus a longer warm up plus a cool lake breeze might be a chance for a big PR for me. I know I’m supposed to downplay my hopes for the race and just smile humbly after the fact if I do well, but I don’t think that will work when I post my goals.

A Standard: 35:00
B Standard: 36:00

Yep. Both are below my current PR. Both are achievable for me, if I can dig deep and I don’t run into any abnormal issues (falling, coming down with a cold somehow between now and the race, getting lost on a completely well-marked trail). I do wonder if this race is going to be a little more crowded than I’d like, but I think I can fight off the crowds if I need to, and blame them for my abject failure if I can’t.