Race Report: Hoof n Woof 5K

I ran a race for the first time since 2019!

Official Results:
N/A (non-chip timed, actually not even sure if there was any timing)

Watch Results:
Time: 30:53
Pace: 10:14
Distance: 3.02 mi
Heart Rate: N/A

A: 29:29
B: 31:59
C: 36:59 (faster than my first 5K)

What I ate the night before: pot roast sandwich and cajun tater tots
What I ate on race morning: Clif bar
What I carried with me: nothing

What I wore: tshirt, long-sleeved quarter zip, leggings, ball cap
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker

Discussion: I finally forced myself to race again. Racing hasn’t appealed to me that much since the pause for the pandemic; I hated the idea of giving up a precious day to sleep in, and I just couldn’t stomach the cost of a lot of races. I decided to force myself back to running races a few weeks ago, and searched for a local race that didn’t cost too much. The Hoof N Woof 5K was only $25 (plus I made an additional $10 donation to the charity) and was in Falcon Heights at the vet school/State Fairgrounds, so it was easy to get to.

Wednesday (when it was still boiling hot!) I did a workout where I practiced “running fast.” I wanted to know what certain paces/efforts felt like, because I haven’t tried to run fast in a long time. I had no idea what I could even do, or how long I could sustain a hard effort. Since it was hot and I was tired when I ran, I don’t know if that run actually told me much, but it gave me an idea of what paces were out of my reach and which were more reasonable.

I rested on Thursday, and on Friday I meant to do an easy shake-out run. I accidentally picked a pretty hilly route in Highland Park, which I mitigated by walking some of the steeper or longer hills. I wasn’t really sure if I was going to run, because the weather forecast predicted rain in the morning and much chillier temps. I didn’t want to get soaked and frozen for a race I hadn’t invested much in. The race organizer sent out a course map the day before, showing the start/finish was right next to a parking garage; knowing there was shelter next to the race start helped reassure me the race wasn’t going to suck before it even started. It turned out packet pickup was indoors, so the problem was totally nonexistent.

I woke up before my alarm and tried to go back to sleep, but it didn’t work. It was raining when I got up, but I decided to take a chance anyway. I had plenty of time to get dressed and out the door and still arrive about 20 minutes before the start. It rained most of the drive but it did start to let up. I picked up my bib, put my cell phone and featherweight jacket back in the car, and did a very short warm-up in an extremely light drizzle that was gone before race start.

The race start was so casual that I didn’t even have my watch ready. This was more of a fun run atmosphere, so I actually think I was at the front of the finishing pack (though well behind the winner, a woman who absolutely blazed ahead of the rest of us and continued to put distance on even her closest competitors.) There were a lot of people with dogs or people who had come to support the cause and have a relaxed walk/jog. I was one of the first ~10 or so people who crossed the start line (since the start took us by surprise), and after maybe the first minute or so, no one passed me.

The race started with a short but fairly steep uphill and I realized that was probably going to sap my legs for the whole race. After a brief downhill, another prolonged but more gradual uphill followed – directly into the wind. I accepted that this was not going to be an indicator of my raw speed, and decided to focus on the effort instead. The course didn’t have any road closures, and only one crossing that was monitored, but there wasn’t much traffic and we could easily run on the sidewalks most of the time. In the second mile, there was a nice prolonged downhill, but it was followed up by a steeper uphill at the beginning of the third mile that really didn’t feel fun. I had an interval runner behind me and I couldn’t seem to get separation; I could hear his heavy footsteps behind me for most of the race, and he would a few times get ahead of me for a moment before stopping for a walk interval. Intervals are a valid race strategy that I wish I was better able to incorporate (I found myself focusing too much on the next interval and not in the moment and it would make me really frustrated), but it’s really hard to have someone that close constantly catching up, passing, falling back, catching up, etc. The third mile had a prolonged downhill onto the State Fair campus and I thought I could speed up and shake him, but the overwhelming scent of the ag school kept me from taking advantage. The morning rain and the humidity really made that manure scent powerful, woof. I did finally shake him in the final quarter mile, because it was uphill and I somehow charged up it as best I could and that put some seconds between us. It’s only fair I get to go in the chute first if I’ve been your rabbit all race!

Despite the difficulty of the course, I had a great time! It felt so wonderful to challenge myself again, to push and then push some more. Somehow despite fairly significant variations in pace, my mile splits were very close together: 10:14, 10:12, 10:16. I can’t be that consistent when I’m trying! I am going to look for another 5K in May to give myself a shot to beat this time, and maybe the sneak under 30 mins? I’m a masters runner now, time to establish masters PRs! (And I hope overall PRs eventually! I’ve still got a lot of room to improve.)

After the race I picked up a latte on my way home, chilled out for a bit, and then went for a second run. My legs were pretty tired, and I made it worse by having to hurry because I added about 0.7 mi to my planned distance by accident, and had to book it to get home in time to meet my friend for a walk. Now it’s bedtime and despite MYRTLs and foam rolling, my lower half is pretty achy. Tomorrow’s run is going to be rough.

Marathon Monday

Yesterday was the Twin Cities Marathon, and it marked my second year in a row of not participating, after finishing in 2018, quitting in 2019, and running it solo in 2020. Last year I saw all my friends participating and felt sad and kind of ashamed of myself. Last year I lost a lot of motivation to run, and felt completely without purpose, beyond my quest to run every street in St. Paul (which I completed on Christmas Eve 2021). I thought the discomfort and jealousy I felt following my friends’ accomplishments would spur something in me and I’d get back on track with training for endurance events like marathons and ultras.

I didn’t. I can’t say for sure, but I think this year I might actually run less than last year, and last year was the lowest distance I’ve run since I started tracking. Naturally, I didn’t run any marathons. I’m a lot more at peace with that this year. Once again, I had to prioritize my mental and physical health, and training for something high stakes, that consumes a lot of time and energy, would run counter to that plan. I could hardly justify giving up one of my precious weekend days to get up early and run for 5+ hours. Even writing about running had to go – my work was consuming so much of my brain that I had no creative energy left over. I slept poorly (sometimes not at all!), my legs sometimes felt weak and wobbly (though I had no balance issues at all), and often times if I ran, I felt anxious the entire time (zero runner’s high) instead of settling into the run a mile or two in. I struggled to make simple decisions and I found even a single evening or weekend commitment was too much. I decided I would only run when I felt like it, and just focus on doing my work as well as I could.

A few things happened recently that have changed things for the better. In August, the Inflation Reduction Act was passed, and I can’t understate the immediate and significant impact it had on the work that I do (I build solar plants). Overnight, it transformed my approach to my projects for the better, and that made my job more bearable (I love what I do, but the intense pressure to meet certain targets or face catastrophic impacts to my projects was not part of that love). After that, two things happened in quick succession: I went on vacation, and I got promoted. The promotion alleviated a lot of the pressure to perform and be perfect all the time – it’s a long process to get promoted at my company, and it can be derailed very easily, so I felt like at any moment I could sabotage my own success. It wasn’t logical or helpful but I was very focused on this goal.

I got to go to Colorado knowing the financial success of my projects was more secure and my own career was on the right trajectory, and it only took a few days before I had shed a lot of the stress, anxiety, and worry, and the physical effects evaporated. (It would have been more immediate if we had not decided to drive up Mt. Evans, which was terrifying.) I didn’t run at all (it was too hot and I don’t handle altitude very well), but we hiked every day and I slept well almost every night.

I got back home and the energy persisted. My first full week back at work, I was motivated enough to pack running clothes and work out directly from the office, instead of going home and hoping to get in a few miles. And that’s continued through all of September into October. I’m still working on getting out of the run/walk habit and adding distance, but I’m making progress. It feels great, and explains why I haven’t felt a lot of concern about not racing, or FOMO at seeing other people racing.

There’s no guarantee that I won’t spiral back into doom and gloom and miss out on another season of racing, but I’m feeling hopeful that I’m starting to feel committed and competitive again. Of course, now I look at the prices of races and think “Is it really worth it?”

Calling an Audible

At one of my previous jobs, I had a co-worker who would say “I’m calling an audible” when he decided to take his lunch early or not to work extra hours. I thought it was a funny way of using a sports term in real life and it stuck with me.

Yesterday I was getting ready for a run after work, had all my gear on, had my car warming up, and stepped outside to a light snow. I took one step out onto the sidewalk, felt how slippery it was from the thin layer of snow covering up the smooth ice underneath, a product of the thaw we’d had earlier in the week, and decided not to run. I turned my car off, changed into my sweatpants, and watched some Frasier reruns instead.

I know that sounds kind of wimpy, but based on the sidewalk conditions I’d seen during my runs earlier in the week, I knew there was no chance of getting through a run without slipping and possibly injuring myself. Last weekend I strained my knee a little bit, not running but by trying to get the pillow I support my hips with out from underneath my husband while he was sleeping, and I didn’t want to take the chance of losing my footing and really hurting it.

Today I went for a run in the same conditions, stopped to take a picture of the Walker Art Center from my view on Groveland Terrace, and before I knew it, my feet were sliding out from underneath me, my face hit the ground, and one of the bows on my glasses had snapped off. I wasn’t even moving! I was just on a bit of an incline in the sidewalk. But an inclined plane is a simple machine, and before I could put my arms out to protect myself, I was on the ground. I don’t really remember what happened because it was so fast, but I must have hit shoulder first because the impact to my head was minimal. I don’t even have a skin injury because my glasses broke so cleanly. I drove home after the run balancing them on my face with the remaining bow and the bridge, and repaired them enough to be usable until I can get an eye exam and a new pair. I’m fine, no headaches or nausea or vision issues. But I felt even more justified in my decision not to run yesterday!

Running culture, at least online running culture, makes it seem like if you’re not out there getting after it every day no matter the conditions, no matter how you feel, no matter what else is going on in your life, you’re weak or you don’t “want it” enough. And sure, maybe that is true. I don’t want it, whatever it might be. Someone who wanted it would have put screws in their shoes or hopped on the treadmill (my treadmill deck is still up from the holidays – we hosted a party and needed the room). What I want is to get outside, stay active, and get a little bit faster and stronger. What I don’t want is for running to make me unhappy, take over my life, or injure me. I’m working on blocking out the #howbaddoyouwantit culture from my life (which is tough sometimes, because it comes from people who I like but have different goals and approaches to running). while trying to put a little of that #notthatbadlyactually energy back out into the world for anyone who needs to hear it.

Tomorrow’s probably going to be more of the same conditions as today, so let’s hope I don’t break something more than my glasses. I can’t use two part epoxy on my ACL.

2021 Running Goals Revisited

Or, rather, re-revisited. In my last post, I wrote that I had given up some of my planned goals in order to preserve my mental health and to make running enjoyable again. It was a great decision! While I am somewhat of a quitter by nature, I don’t think this was one of those times when I gave up on something I should have pushed through, like when I DNFed the Twin Cities Marathon. I think giving up on my distance goals for the year preserved my long-term relationship with running and overall made me a happier person.

Even though I scratched a few of these goals, I’ll still go through the whole list.

  1. Finish St. Paul, Mendota Heights, South St. Paul, and Lilydale; Get to 30% completion in my hometown of St. Louis Park.
    I completed all of these! Technically I have to go back and do another street in South St. Paul that was added after I got to 100%, but it was complete at one point! I will write more about my experience running St. Paul in a separate post. I passed 30% of SLP on Christmas Day (and then went back a couple more times because I thought my goal was 33%, not 30% – it made more sense!) and – spoiler alert – plan to complete it in 2022. I also completed Mendota, which is like 10 streets.
  2. Complete a Myrtl routine at least 50% of the time.
    I blew through this goal, which I figured I would. I set the bar low just in case it took me longer to establish a routine. A few years ago my company set a performance metric that, by the time it was released (in late Q1!), was impossible to attain; we just didn’t have enough work to offset the hole we’d dug ourselves. I didn’t want to end up in that situation. It ended up being easy to remember to complete the routine, I just did it when I did my pushups, like I’d anticipated when I originally wrote about my goal. I ended up hitting an ~81% success rate! It really helped with the hip pain, too.
  3. Do 110 pushups a day.
    I hit this goal after a furious effort in the last 5-6 weeks of the year. I did 200 pushups a day pretty much every day of December in order to make up for some missed days, but I made it! (Edit: I averaged 112.25 pushups/day, which was about 5 better than 2020!)
  4. Increase my mileage 10% over last year.
    I ran less than 1600 1500 miles this year, my lowest total ever. (I was writing this from memory and went back to check after publishing. I ran 1485.35 miles, which is the lowest total in the 6 years I’ve been tracking – I guess not technically the lowest total ever, as there were years I didn’t run much or at all. Technically if you count walks, I made it over the 1500 mile mark.)
  5. Buy a bike.
    I don’t know why this is so hard for me to accomplish, but yet again I have not done it. 2022 will be my year!
  6. Run 5 more long runs than last year.
    I didn’t do too many long runs this year, and haven’t done one in months. Running streets for completion isn’t conducive to long runs, it turns out. I need to get back to trails!

I finished 50% of my goals, which isn’t great, but I get bumped up to 75% completion if I focus only on the goals I didn’t throw out halfway through the year, and that is pretty good! It’s a passing grade, at least, which counts for something in these crazy times.

2021 Running Update

This year has not gone at all as planned. Months ago, I threw many of my running goal out the window. This year, running has caused me more stress and anxiety than it should. I found myself with no interest in completing long runs, finding excuses to push back my running for the day until I had to reduce my planned mileage for the day. At times this manifested itself physically, which scared the hell out of me until I realized it wasn’t some weird or scary illness, it was just physical symptoms of stress (not all running related).

I let go of my distance goals, and allowed myself to run what I felt like running. I took a couple of breaks where I didn’t run or do strength training; I took a couple more breaks due to colds/allergies. I focused on my city completion goals instead – although I think this ended up to my detriment. l ran a lot of entirely joyless routes this year in my quest to complete all the streets of St. Paul (and other cities). I could have been off on trails or running favorite routes instead of running industrial roads or dodging litter. I learned important things about this city while traversing its streets, but the monotony started to wear on me.

I’ll still hit a lot of the goals I set back in February. As of today, I’ve completed Lilydale, Mendota Heights, and South St. Paul, plus I also completed Mendota. I’m at 95.65% of St. Paul, with many other streets close to complete. I have a plan for how I want to finish it out and where I want my last run to take me. I’m also at 18.56% of St. Louis Park, with not a heck of a lot of effort put into it. I even made a little progress on Alfred, Maine while I was on vacation!

I haven’t run any races. I thought about running Wild Duluth and just seeing how it went. I can hike 31 miles if I need to, I figured. I held off and decided not to – my heart wasn’t in it, and I was letting silly externalities get to me, so I knew on race day that would only get worse and make it so easy to DNF. Or DNS. I decided instead to run Icebox 480, the last race I ran before the pandemic hit, but I waffled on signing up and wound up with a cold so I was glad I didn’t run it. I got really anxious to race after seeing everyone having a blast at the Twin Cities Marathon, but I’m just not quite ready yet. It turns out that focusing on completing streets is detrimental to completing long runs, speed workouts, and pretty much everything else related to racing, whether for a 5K or an ultra. Once I’m done with St. Paul, I’m not going to be hyper-focused on completing streets (although I still plan to mix that in) in order to get speed and endurance back, as well as my mental training.

I haven’t felt much like writing about running in months – I’ve been keeping my running journal but I haven’t wanted to write anything on this site (or the hockey fan site I’ve had for almost two decades), partially because there’s not much to say, partially because I haven’t had a lot of mental energy to write. My brainpower was being used up at work and I had nothing left to give creatively; this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I have accomplished a lot at work and enjoy what I do, but it really stunk that by the end of the day, I had such severe decision fatigue that I couldn’t handle something as simple as my mom asking me what kind of sauce I wanted for my birthday spaghetti dinner.

There’s a story in here somewhere, or a lesson, or at least a question. Most people talk about how important running is to their mental health; I almost never see anyone talking about running being detrimental to their mental health unless it’s in the context of an eating disorder. I have no external pressures to run; it’s not my profession, I’m not in running groups where people count on me to show up, and I don’t have some large audience here to whom I’m beholden. And yet the internal pressures got to me. This summer I slowed down so much, partially due to the heat, partially due to the routes I was running (like I said, completing streets is counterproductive to speedwork or hills, and it takes a LOT of planning to do a long run), and of course in very large part due to my not giving a crap mental approach to running. Slowing down meant every run took longer, which ate away at me. If you’re a fast or medium-ish runner, I want you to understand how much it sucks that it takes an hour or more to run a simple 5 mile workout, which was true even before this summer’s slowdown. Then add in the time it takes to get to and from wherever I started – running was a total time suck. I really hated it, but I wasn’t in the right headspace to try to get faster, so I just gritted my teeth and got it done. You know those platitudes about how you never regret doing a run, you only regret not running? I can’t say that I regretted any runs but I came out a lot of them not much better, and it the best I can say after a run is that I avoided feeling guilty about not running, that’s not great. I mean once in awhile, yeah, that’s going to happen, but most of the time? That’s bad.

Am I on the other side of this? Maybe. I felt great completing South St. Paul (yesterday) and Mendota Heights (a few weeks ago). I was happy to get back to running and smiling during my runs this past weekend, after I took 9 days off due to a cold plus work obligations. But that’s only a few days, and coincided with a four day weekend, so we’ll see how things go when I return to work (I’m back in the office twice a week, so I’ve got to tack on a commute at the end of the day) and am stuck running in the dark thanks to the time change. My hope is to finish up St. Paul this month (I have a few really awful, long, industrial roads I’m avoiding), and then work on a plan to increase my mileage and get back on trails, so that I can be in race shape once something comes along that interests me.

I still haven’t bought a bike.

2021 Running Goals

I have no idea what 2021 will look like in terms of racing, training, or pretty much anything else running or not running related. I’ve decided to keep my year-long running goals limited to what’s entirely in my control, and if things change, if racing becomes more of a feasible option for me, then I’ll set some season-specific goals.

I created the skeleton first draft of this post on January 1st, and here I am over a month later finally getting around to finishing it. I guess that shows how seriously I’m taking my plans for this year. I have been keeping them in mind, though!

  1. Finish St. Paul (54.12% completed as of 12/31/20), Mendota Heights (23.47% completed), South St. Paul (5.6% completed), and Lilydale (42.86% completed); Get to 30% completion in my hometown of St. Louis Park (4.15% completed).
    Since June of 2020, I’ve been working on running every street in St. Paul. It was a great motivator, having something challenging and interesting to work toward, as well as a way to explore all kinds of interesting places in my city. Along the way, I started adding in other cities (I completed all of West St. Paul last year!), and I’m also working on Minneapolis now, although I’m holding off on setting a specific completion goal for Minneapolis until I’ve completed the cities I’m working on now.
  2. Complete a Myrtl routine at least 50% of the time.
    I have dealt off and on with some minor hip issues this year; they go away with rest, but one of my goals for this year is to prevent hip/pelvic pain with a flexibility regimen. I don’t actually do all of the exercises in the routine linked above; I skip 3-4 and 6-9. I don’t have any professional advice that told me what’s necessary and what’s not, so perhaps I’m missing some key benefit by skipping those exercises. I just find it uncomfortable to be in “table position” for so many exercises, and I don’t have a place where I can do the hurdle leg exercises without kicking something. So far I have done a Myrtl routine every day in 2021, and I have found it very effective against the pain I had been experiencing last year.
  3. Do 110 pushups a day.
    In 2019 and 2020, one of my goals was to do 100 pushups a day. I didn’t come close in 2019, but in 2020 I did a much better job and pushups became part of my daily routine. I decided to add 10% to my goal from last year. I’m trying to complete the exercises earlier in the day this year, too; in 2020 I was often doing them before bedtime because I’d forgotten or pushed them off. I’m not bothering to track whether I do my pushups before midnight, so it’s not a formal goal, just a consideration. I think making pushups a habit in 2020 is making it very simple for me to meet my Myrtl goals so far in 2021.
  4. Increase my mileage 10% over last year.
    Since I’m increasing my pushups goal by 10%, I thought increasing my mileage 10% over last year was fitting. In the past I’ve set my sights on just beating the previous year, and that ends up being a very small increase in mileage. Does it matter if I run 1700 miles one year and 1701 the next year? It’s essentially the same thing. I think a 10% increase in yearly mileage is significant enough to challenge me, but won’t be such a great increase that it leads to injury or burnout. This year’s goal will be 1912 miles.
  5. Buy a bike.
    I have money saved (actually, I have money saved for two bikes, one for me and one for my husband). I know where I want to purchase one. I just need to do it.
  6. Run 5 more long runs than last year.
    I found that I did just the bare minimum to reach my goal of “more long runs than last year” in 2020, although I didn’t have any races, so I think that things turned out pretty good. Adding 5 long runs on to last year’s goal will be more of a challenge, especially since so many of my long runs came from my solo FANS effort in August, but I’ll need more long runs if I plan to increase my mileage. Long runs in this case are considered double-digit mileage, and will include days where I do split mileage. Long skis are included, should I actually do a 10 mile ski.

I’ll keep my eyes out for good options for interesting run locations, virtual race options, and maybe an in-person option for a really worthwhile race, and take things as they come this year.

2020 Goals Revisited

It’s incredible to think about my outlook on life when I wrote these goals. It was the absolute height of American privilege for me to think that the COVID-19 pandemic was something that would happen in other countries, not in the US, and something that would be over quickly. The past 4-5 years have shown me how many things I have been taking for granted and it’s a shamefully long list.

I was still able to accomplish some of the goals that I set – that’s one advantage of setting very high-level, general goals. Some of my multi-year goals will have to be put off until 2022, since there’s still so much uncertainty regarding this pandemic and so many people who are committed to prolonging it. There’s also growing violence from insurrectionists and traitors around the country that could make running or traveling unsafe.

  1. Run a distance personal best.
    I could have done this, I guess, by doing FANS on my own or just setting a personal goal to run 50 miles in a day. It seemed like a poor idea to weaken my immune system with such a strenuous effort, and with facilities like restrooms closed at state parks, doing a long FANS day would have been a bad idea.
  2. Complete more long runs than I did in 2019.
    I made it! I did 29 long runs vs. 28 in 2019! That’s pretty good considering I ran no organized races and thus didn’t have any training runs. I also did fewer “split” runs; more of my double digit mileage days in 2020 were from single runs rather than 2 or 3 runs that added up to more than 10 miles.
  3. Do 100 push-ups a day.
    I averaged 107.9 pushups during the year, and the last day that I skipped was August 5th when I wasn’t feeling well. There were only 16 days during the year that I did not complete at least 100 pushups — even though sometimes I was doing them at bedtime. I wish I’d taken a “before” shot to see how buff my arms have gotten over the year.
  4. Start cross-country skiing again.
    It took until Christmas Day to make this happen, but I went skiing 4 times! I need to get better at waxing now. There are so many places to go that aren’t that far away.
  5. Run a new marathon.
    Obviously this was not an option for me this year, but I did run a solo Twin Cities marathon, so that’s kind of a new marathon?
  6. Buy a bike.
    I don’t have a new bike. This is because of my own stupidity. My company “wellness dollars” onto a rewards debit card and I have been hoarding those dollars for years. On the day my husband and I went to purchase new bikes (for his birthday), I discovered that the “special spot” that I had kept my rewards card was not so special, and while I tore my office apart looking to the card, it appeared that the card got swept into the trash at some point. I ordered a replacement but it was a huge rigmarole that took a long time and cost me like $10 and we never got around to ordering the bikes. This year is our year!

I also ran in two new counties and three new state parks. That’s much lower than I’d like in a normal year, but I chose to stay in the metro area, especially during the time when outstate Minnesota was not yet experiencing many cases of COVID-19. Once I start traveling for work again (or for fun!), I’ll be able to catch some new parks and counties and make more progress on those goals. And maybe combine those goals with my new marathon per year goals!

The only goal I feel truly disappointed about missing is the last one, because there was no reason beyond my own disorganization that kept me from making that goal. As a matter of fact, I just went downstairs and verified that the new card is exactly where I placed it for safekeeping, and it was. I’m learning from my mistakes!