Running Goals in the Time of Cholera (Spring 2020 Running Goals)

It’s kind of ironic that just as I started to come out of a prolonged running funk (my usual late-winter malaise, plus a sinus/cold situation) just in time for a pandemic and the drastic changes to our everyday lives that have resulted. I’m not complaining about social distancing, I’m very fortunate that it will have a minimal impact on my life, but I do recognize the irony.

I’m also lucky that my reluctance to commit to any races has put me in a position where I haven’t laid out any cash for a race that has been canceled or has the potential to be canceled. I was very close to signing up for Chippewa 50K and/or the Med City Marathon when the new social distancing recommendations started coming out. Even the Boston Marathon has been postponed, I’m not assuming anything about the status of any other races.

So, what is there to work for this season? I’m not sure. Here are my original goals:

  1. Run two races.
  2. Run a mile in two new counties.
  3. Visit two new state parks.

Those goals are pretty weak, but they reflect my mindset the past month or so. I haven’t been able to get any interest in signing up for races. I’m feeling so slow right now, and my workouts feel like a grind. Even racing a 5K seems like a pointless endeavor. Warmer weather, an adjustment for daylight saving time, and better terrain (snow melted, ground dry) should make things feel a bit easier (and if not, I guess I need to seek answers elsewhere), but in the meantime, those are the goals I feel comfortable setting. And even running two races seems like a tough goal considering I don’t know if races I’m interested in will still go on.

So, that’s not an exciting way to start the 2020 racing season, but it could be! There’s plenty of adventure to be had, even with such mundane-seeming goals. And there’s no better way to practice social distancing than by spending time in the woods!

2020 Running Goals

I wrote these goals down on New Year’s Eve, and after ignoring them for three weeks, I haven’t thought of any new ones or decided not to pursue any of them. I still have nothing on my race calendar as of now, and while it’s kind of nice to just plod along running the mileage I feel like running, maybe I’m going to need some structure soon.

  1. Run a distance personal best.
    I’ve been hoping to run 50 miles for the past few years, and I’m inching toward it, but I need to surpass that this year, hopefully by a lot! If I can get it together at FANS, that should be very possible.
  2. Complete more long runs than I did in 2019.
    I only ran 28 runs of 10 miles or more! It’s no wonder I didn’t have a lot of success last year; I wasn’t putting in the work. I’ve decided to set this as a goal instead of trying to beat 2019 mileage (although I’ll strive for that, I’ve found this particular goal has put a lot of stress on me at the end of the year). This will include split runs (say, 5 miles on the treadmill and 5 on the trails), even though those aren’t technically long runs; sometimes in the winter that’s all I can handle.
  3. Do 100 push-ups a day.
    Yes, I have that on here again. I did such a poor job of sticking to that goal last year that I need another crack at it. I need to prioritize strength training, and this is a measurable way to do it that doesn’t eat up a lot of my time.
  4. Start cross-country skiing again.
    I’ve decided in order to facilitate this, I will count x-c skiing mileage in my overall mileage. I set aside my skiing plans because I found I had to choose between running and skiing. Now I can do both and still work toward my goals.
  5. Run a new marathon.
    I’m setting a new multi-year goal for myself, to run every marathon (road and trail) in Minnesota. I’ve done three so far (Moose Mountain Marathon, Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon, and Twin Cities Marathon), but there are so many more! Maybe someday I’ll even enter the canoe division for the Ely Marathon!
  6. Buy a bike.
    This goal will have to wait awhile, as yesterday my vehicle was sideswiped by a truck that drove across the center line of the road, clobbered my poor car, and then drove off without even slowing down, so I will be paying my insurance deductible instead of buying a bike any time soon. I planned to buy one for myself and for my husband last year, but it didn’t make financial sense at the time. I think it will be great for both of us – we can take our bikes for small errands in the neighborhood (coffee runs, short grocery store trips) and we can go on some adventures together. I won’t count cycling miles in my running log or replace running workouts with cycling, though.

In addition to these goals, I’ll still pursue my other multi-year goals of running a mile in every county in Minnesota and visiting every state park in Minnesota. I’ll also continue to set more specific goals for each season, and to build on some of the good habits I set last year (I’m still taking that multi-vitamin, and I’ve only done a handful of treadmill runs so far this year).

Fall 2019 Running Goals Revisited

I haven’t had much of a desire to revisit my fall running goals, because I totally sucked at running this fall. I also remember now that I did try to log in to write a post once and I had trouble accessing WordPress and forgot about it. Then I had trouble accessing it again today and freaked out because I thought my account had been corrupted or something.

  1. Marathon PR
    I DNF the Twin Cities Marathon. I’m pretty much over it but it was a big disappointment!
  2. Half marathon PR (official or unofficial)
    This is reaching so so so so so much, but I ran 14 miles at Icebox 480 in 3:46:13, which is faster than I ran the Harder ‘n’ Hell Half Marathon in 2015. So I guess that’s sort of a half marathon PR, even though I don’t know exactly what my half marathon time was. I DNS the Mustache Run due to bad weather – it turned out it rained, snowed, sleeted, and hailed during the race, and I felt pretty confident in my race-morning decision not to run.
  3. 50K PR
    I only ran 14 miles at Icebox 480, which was a serious disappointment in a season chock full of disappointments. I didn’t even write a race report (which was a serious disservice to the race – it’s great fun!) It wasn’t my day, and I gave up on myself, although I also went home and slept for several hours after I got home from the race, which was probably a sign that I wasn’t ready to run that day.
  4. Visit a state park with my friend Laura.
    I didn’t even do that! I am a terrible friend.
  5. Catch up to last year’s mileage.
    I didn’t, but stay tuned for the end of year recap.

I don’t want to dwell too much on how disappointing my fall “racing” season was, because I have moved on and moved forward since then. I’m looking forward to a quiet winter season, setting some new goals for 2020, and then starting fresh in the spring with some big and small successes.

Cooler Heads Prevailed

In case it wasn’t obvious, I didn’t run the Mankato Marathon last weekend. It was a good decision, for many reasons, which I will enumerate here.

  1. It was an overreaction.
    I wanted to run the Mankato Marathon because I was upset with myself for my poor performance/DNF at the Twin Cities Marathon. I was mad at myself for not achieving my main goal for the fall, getting a marathon PR. I have signed up for races on an impulse before, and I am sure I will in the future, but any time I can restrain myself from making a reactionary and overly emotional decision to enter a race, I consider that a win.
  2. It would have expensive.
    The race itself would have been nearly $100, plus I would have needed to get a hotel room the night before the race in order to safely get to and from the race. It’s an hour and a half drive from my house to Mankato, and I’d have needed to arrive there well before race start in order to get my bib and handle the rest of the logistics. We all know I don’t sleep well before races even in the best of circumstances; it’s highly likely I wouldn’t have slept a wink before the race, knowing I had to drive and deal with packet pick-up, and then I’d have had to drive home after running for 5-6 hours. NOT SAFE.
  3. I have two other races coming up.
    I’ve already paid for Icebox 480 and Mustache Run. It’s likely my performance at Icebox would be negatively affected by running a full marathon two weeks before. I can focus on trying to get a 50K in less than 8 hours and set myself up for success now.
  4. I was less ready than I thought I was.
    I ran 9 miles on Saturday afternoon and I felt pretty fatigued after the first 5-6 miles, and that’s after sleeping in! I have had a lot of stress at work lately and I think that affected me a lot more than I realized. My resting heart rate has been up, too, which is another sign of fatigue. I might have ended up crashing and burning again, but without an easy way to bail out this time.
  5. It was really, really, really, really, really, really nice to have a weekend with no commitments.
    I slept in! I ran when I wanted to! I vegged out! It was great. I enjoy running, but with a lot of commitments lately, doing nothing was far preferable to running a marathon. Of course if I’d destroyed it with a 4:55 time or something I would probably feel different.

I’m moving forward and trying to put my disappointment behind me. I hate that I have to wait until next year to get redemption at this race, but I can’t let that get me down. Not every race is going to go well, or even go decently. Time to move on.

Road to Redemption

As you might expect, I am having a hard time coming to grips with my non-performance at Twin Cities Marathon last weekend. I’m questioning my decision to drop out of the race, still wondering what happened, not sure if I’m past whatever it was that did happen, and looking ahead to what I can do to wash the stench of failure off of my body.

I signed up for the Moustache Run the same evening as TCM, but I was planning on doing that anyway. And of course I already have the Icebox 480 coming up at the beginning of November. But I really, really, really wanted to get a marathon PR this year. Early last week, I started searching for another marathon nearby to try to capitalize on my training.

Enter the Mankato Marathon, which is October 19th. No, I haven’t actually signed up for it yet, but I’m still thinking about it. Registration is still open, and the price isn’t going to change between now and race day, so there’s no reason for me to jump the gun. What’s stopping me? Two things: money and health. Pretty important things!

This race has been on my mind so frequently that last night I dreamed about it. In the dream, I signed up and then showed up on race day completely unprepared. The race started and I wasn’t even in my gear! I rushed to get ready and tried to start, and they didn’t let me. The worst possible outcome: paying for a race I didn’t even start, thanks to nothing but my own logistical incompetence! Not ideal.

Money is the most important factor in the decision to run or not. The race is far enough away (the drive is about an hour and a half long) that I wouldn’t feel comfortable driving down there on race day and would need a hotel room. There is actually packet pick-up the day of the race, but the race itself starts at 7:30 a.m. As we all know, I can’t sleep before races even when I don’t have to do much on race day to get to the starting line. Driving for an hour and a half to get to the race start with enough time to pick up my packet, drop off my finish line bag, and get to the start would be extremely stressful for me. I’d almost certainly be driving down on an hour or less of sleep, and then driving back after a sleepless night and 5-6 hours of running. That’s not safe. So it’s either rent a room for the night or don’t run. I had a third option of staying with a family member but I didn’t feel comfortable asking any of my extended family.

The other question is health. Obviously something was up on race day, and I need to be sure that whatever the problem is, I’ve fixed it. I have run a couple times since then (once at Battle Creek, and once on the treadmill) and have felt okay both times, but I’ve felt cold-like symptoms coming on a few times thanks to the cold snap (complete with snow!) and the rain. I’m not going to sign up until I can tell if I have a cold or if it’s just some allergies.

Of course this is a completely crazy and desperate idea. And of course it’s going to be detrimental to my race at Icebox. But it’s still nagging at me, even after a week of pondering it. I’ll make the final decision Thursday, based on my health and also my financial situation. If we get some good financial news this week, and I don’t have a cold, then I’ll go for it. If we get no news or bad news (not catastrophic, don’t worry), or if I still feel sneezy, then I’ll rest up for Icebox and work through my emotions in some other constructive way.

Four more days of equivocating! I’m so excited.

The Long Walk

The long walk isn’t a marathon. That’s the whole problem. It’s much shorter. It’s me, fighting my way through the crowds on the Capitol grounds to get to the gate of the finish line area, bib clutched in hand so I can prove I belong back there. Then it’s swimming upstream of runners in their medals and mylar blankets, trying to avoid being noticed while I retrieve my drop bag. My fingers can’t untie the knot I enthusiastically cinched it with five hours prior, so I rip it open and put on the jacket I tossed in there before I handed it over to a volunteer. And finally, it’s leaving the crowds behind and walking a mile and a half back to my car at Union Depot, just like I did the year before, but without a medal and a mylar blanket of my own, because I didn’t finish. Of course, it’s also spending that walk thinking about what went wrong on the race and second guessing my decision to drop out.

There’s no traditional race report to be found here, not just because it was a DNF, but because the entire 13.3-ish miles that I completed before dropping out, I spent trying to figure out what went wrong. I don’t really have splits because the first mile was so jacked up from being in downtown Minneapolis that it looks like I set a mile PR. I promise I didn’t even come close. This will be a list of excuses couched in overwrought language.

I slept poorly the night before, as I usually do, but I did manage to get a couple hours of sleep. I’m not sure how many, maybe as little as one, maybe two and a half, but either way it was enough that I didn’t feel completely woozy like I do on no sleep. I got up, got dressed in clothes I’d put together the night before for the cliched “flat lay” for my Instagram, and completed the remaining items I had on the obsessively detailed checklist I made for the race. Items on the list include “remove rings” (I don’t race in my rings because my fingers get puffy and they get tight, especially my Order of the Engineer ring, but I forget to take them off sometimes) and “fill soft flask” because it’s too important a task to leave to my forgetful brain. I left a little later than planned and had to park a little farther away from the light rail station than I wanted to because the Union Depot parking lot was unexpectedly full. I had to hustle a bit and got on the train with only a couple minutes to spare before it left.

The start area was absurdly crowded and it took me quite awhile to get to the bag drop. I had to meet my colleagues at 7:45 to take a group pic, and I barely made it back in time. I only met up with one (who had flown in all the way from Houston!) for a pic and then tried to find a spot toward the back of Corral 3. That didn’t work because there were Biffy lines that prevented me from going much further back. I did find my other colleague and he and I stood together until the start.

Right from the beginning, it felt hard. Yes, a marathon is hard, but it felt too hard. I don’t know what pace I was actually running at the beginning because of the GPS errors from running through downtown, I know that I hit mile 1 at about 11:50, so I was about 25 seconds over my A goal pace, and slower than I went out last year, so I know I wasn’t out of control. I chalked it up to the lack of warm-up and the wind through downtown, and then the second mile felt slow because there’s a hill there. But the third mile felt hard, too, and the fourth. I grabbed some Gatorade at the aid station around mile 4, and at mile 5 ate my first gel, thinking that maybe I just needed some more fuel. Through 5 miles I think I was at about 58:40 or something, so just below 12 min/mile pace. The last 5 mile run I raced, my pace was 10:01 or something. I finished the Run Baby Run 10K back in August at a 11:09 pace. I think I was still around 12 mins at the 6 mile mark (I had to glance at elapsed time on my watch and I think I was at like 1:11:XX), and if Run Baby Run felt hard a minute faster in high humidity, there was just no reason to be through 6 miles at a pace 40-50 seconds slower and feel like I couldn’t hold it. And yet I did.

Between Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet, I started taking walking breaks. I thought maybe I could give my body a chance to take in the gel and the Gatorade, I’d start to perk up again. The Chain of Lakes section is supposed to be a section to cruise through, not a place to struggle for no apparent reason. But I thought maybe I could turn the race around. The section around Minnehaha Parkway (which is really nice! I need to run there more often) has one of the bigger hills of the race so that slowed me further since I walked the entire thing. My walk breaks were becoming longer and I wasn’t feeling any better, despite having more Gatorade and another gel at mile 10.

I also wasn’t having any fun. I had a few sections where I gave thumbs up to people who cheered for me by name thanks to my bib, and I saw my friend Laura at mile 4, which perked me up momentarily, but I wasn’t smiling. I smile during races a lot, partially because I’m having fun, partially because it helps keep my spirits from sagging, and partially because it suppresses the gag reflex. I wasn’t thanking as many volunteers or enjoying the surroundings and the music and the general party atmosphere. It was a grind.

As I started the section around Lake Nokomis, I started to think seriously about quitting. I had thought about quitting several times, but I often do when I’m getting settled in to races and then that feeling dissipates once I’m in a groove. But I’d keep talking myself out of it, saying I could do a run/walk and keep on surviving. So what if I didn’t make my A or B goal? Maybe I could still make my C. Or maybe just a PR. Or maybe I’d battle my way to a finish. Instead, I came through the half marathon mark at around 2:50, and at that point knew I’d spend most of the rest of the race chased by the sag wagon. I didn’t have enough water and fuel to continue on the sidewalks on my own (and there would be no value in doing so) and if I got on the sag bus at like mile 16-17 I’d probably be bus-sick all the way to the finish. I’d gotten nauseated on the light rail on the way to the race and that was before running (although it was also because a woman was smoking on the train).

The thought of running down Summit didn’t appeal to me, or that amazing point in the race when the course crosses into St. Paul. I didn’t care about seeing the Cathedral and then heading down into the Capitol to the finish. I love so much about this course and nothing was giving me joy at all. I didn’t want to learn a lesson or tough it out or force them to cut me. I just wanted to be done.

Conveniently, my mom was spectating at the half marathon mark and I was able to drop out and get a ride back to the Capitol with her. I didn’t know you could just drop whenever, so I continued past the half marathon timing mat to the drop station, thinking they’d need to take my number or my bib or whatever. I guess they don’t do that in big races! Weird. I’ve never dropped out of a road race before. So I added probably an extra half mile of walking to my daily total because I’d walked to the drop station and then back to my mom. Then she and I walked back to her car, which was parked like… maybe another mile away, maybe a little less, at my cousin’s house. This ended up giving me time to cool down and stabilize so that I didn’t get so claustrophobic when I got in the car. I felt sort of crappy in general at that point: my lower back hurt, and my face was sunburned (if I had continued this would actually have become a huge problem, because I wasn’t carrying any extra with me), and I’d been feeling slightly breathless the whole day, likely due to the wind and the cold-like symptoms I’d had earlier in the week (as well as the overall labored running).

I’m so disappointed, and I can’t really tell what the cause of my dead legs/low energy was. I didn’t have a designed taper, but I also didn’t run a lot of mileage so I didn’t think my legs had been overly taxed, and this week I ran like 15 miles with two rest days so I don’t think I overdid it. Of course the converse could be true, that I didn’t run enough miles, but that would become evident later in the race, not from the get-go. I didn’t sleep, sure, but I never sleep before races. I had a bit of a cold last weekend, but I got over it and it was never in my lungs. I don’t eat very well, but I never have and I’ve still managed to run a couple miles without my thighs turning to cement. Maybe I put too much pressure on myself for this one event, but I didn’t really.

Maybe there’s nothing to figure out. Maybe it just wasn’t my day. I’ve been stressed at work and that’s probably taken its toll in ways I didn’t realize. The good news is that I am not hurt or sick or otherwise impaired in the long-term, so I can go out and run some other fun races and try to make at least a few of the goals I’ve made for myself this fall. The bad news is that I didn’t have an amazing Twin Cities Marathon experience and I’d really been looking forward to it. Next year, I’ll be ready.

Twin Cities Marathon 2019 Goals

It’s chilly and damp here in the capitol city and I’m tired in mind and body. This isn’t a great way to end marathon training, but I have two days of rest and relaxation before the race. I’m off work tomorrow and will head to the dreaded expo, since the weather on Saturday looks like more garbage.

I’m staying pretty active this week since it’s the final week of this crazy steps challenge I’m participating in at work. I feel oddly competitive and my team is in the lead, so I don’t want to let them down! I’ve been on the treadmill the past couple of days since it’s been damp and chilly.

I don’t know what is realistic to expect for this marathon. I think my training went all right. It wasn’t great, once again I didn’t get in much training at actual marathon pace, but I really feel like I was committed to this training cycle. I did almost every speed workout required, with a couple exceptions (I think twice I was traveling, once my stomach was upset, and once I realized I didn’t have enough time to do all the repeats I needed to and finished one short). I didn’t do many long runs; I think I topped out at 15 miles. I don’t know how much that matters – I know how to run for a long time. Well, I know how to be on my feet for a long time, intermittently running.

I’m going to set myself up for success based on some lessons I learned last year. Of course I won’t be driving up to Duluth, going to a hockey game, and then driving home (not that it mattered, I didn’t sleep more than an hour the night before the race anyway). I certainly won’t be eating a rich chocolate cake that upsets my bowels the night before the race either. I’ll bring more stuff to put in my drop bag, now that I know how efficient it is. I’m going to bring a soft flask to put in my hydration vest (I wore the vest last year just to store my phone and keys) so that I can take a sip of water when I feel like it, rather than gulping down water at aid stations and getting a side stitch as a result. I’ll also carry some mints to avoid dry mouth. I know I’m going to be carrying a lot of stuff and real marathoners don’t carry anything with them and blah blah blah but also I am a real marathoner and this is my strategy and it’s valid. Suck it, Letsrun.

A Standard: 4:59:59
B Standard: 5:05
C Standard: 5:20

I have stated already that I want to run a sub-5 marathon, and I’m going to stick to it, and I’m going to do my best to do it. I’m going to remind myself of that at mile 5, at mile 13, at mile 21, at mile 24, as many times as it takes to keep going when I mentally want to check out. I got a lot of practice with that at Ice Age 50K, when a huge blister on my foot popped with a few miles to go and every step caused my shoe and the painful raw skin under that blister to collide. Even though I quit FANS early, I still willed myself through several loops on sore feet before throwing in the towel. So I’ve gotten some practice honing my mental game this year.

I think 5:05 is a reasonable backup goal, especially if I commit the cardinal sin of positive splitting (this is almost certainly going to happen because I don’t have a solid idea of my training, I don’t have a detailed race plan, and I’m not very good at holding a steady pace). I would be immensely proud to run that time if I gave all that I could and just didn’t quite have the fitness to go sub-5. A lot can go wrong over 26.2 miles and 5-ish hours.

5:20 is a nice PR (about 13 minutes) and I wouldn’t feel awful about it, but I’d definitely be hungry for another race so I could redeem myself with a successful result. Of course last year I didn’t even make my C goal, so I could end up in a troubleshooting situation where eking out even a 5:20 is a big achievement. I’m fairly certain I could have run somewhere around 5:20-5:25 if I hadn’t had the side stitch issue. I’m sure I’d have faded but I don’t know by how much.

Non-time related goals: avoid a massive negative split like last year, stay out of the med tent, finish the race, walk as little as possible, and don’t become a meme.