Summer 2019 Running Goals Revisited

The windy, cooler weather this past week has made it clear that summer is over, so it’s time to take stock of what I’ve accomplished this summer.

  1. Distance PR. I ran 45.4 miles at FANS, which was 3.1 miles farther than I’ve run before. It wasn’t what I hoped for, but it’s still an accomplishment!
  2. Unofficial 50K PR. I didn’t get this – I ran 50K in about 8:44, which isn’t my worst time but is well off my best.
  3. Run a 10K. I ran the Run Baby Run 10K on August 3rd. It wasn’t pretty, but it meets the requirements. I can’t wait to get after that PR!
  4. Run 5 new counties. I took advantage of two work trips to accomplish this goal. In late July, I ran Douglas, Clay, Kittson, and Morrison Counties. In mid-August, I ran Winona County. I also visited six new state parks as a result of this trip!
  5. Volunteer for trail work. I reached out to someone coordinating volunteer work at Fort Snelling State Park, but I haven’t heard back yet. I don’t think that’s a good sign for the condition of the park.

So, 60% is a barely passing grade, and I’m really disappointed that I didn’t get any trail work in (partially because I miss running at Fort Snelling!), but I had a lot of fun getting in new counties and doing lots of exploring around the state.

I also have updates for my annual goals 2/3 of the way through 2019:

  1. 2019 mileage > 2018 mileage
    I’m still behind on this goal, but my mileage significantly declined in the last few months of 2018, so there’s still a lot of opportunity for me to make up ground.
  2. Do 100 pushups/day
    I’m off track on this. I was really doing well, up to 150 pushups/day at one point, but during my trip to North Dakota, I got off track, and it turns out new habits die easily.
  3. Run more new races/courses than old ones.
    I’ve barely raced at all this year, and I haven’t done any repeat race courses!
  4. My highest category of training mileage will not be treadmill mileage.
    I started off with a lot of treadmill running this winter, so it wasn’t until a week or so ago that I pushed treadmill mileage out of the top category for both mileage and quantity of workouts. I’ve now run more workouts and more total miles on paved trails than any other terrain. I haven’t been on a treadmill in a long time!
  5. Start taking a multivitamin.
    Still going strong.
  6. Volunteer at a race that isn’t put on by Rocksteady Running.
    Already completed in the spring.
  7. Go for a run in every county in MN.
    This is of course a multi-season goal, but I am plugging along! I’m trying to make sure I get quality, interesting runs in each county and I’m also trying to do this in a way that is less wasteful by planning ahead and getting a few counties in one trip, and piggybacking on already planned trips.

Twin Cities Marathon Training: Weeks 8, 9, and 10

It’s been awhile.

Monday (8/5): rest
Tuesday: 5.8 mi, road (6 x Wabasha Street Bridge)
Wednesday: 3.3 mi, paved trail (Hyland)
Thursday: 6.4 mi, paved trail (MRT, 45 @ tempo)
Friday: rest
Saturday: 15 mi, paved trail (Crosby Farm + MRT)
Sunday: 5 mi, trail (Battle Creek)
Total: 35.6 mi

Monday (8/12): rest
Tuesday: 6.1 mi, paved trail (MRT, 45 @ tempo)
Wednesday: 5.2 mi, paved trail (Crosby Farms to Hidden Falls & back)
Thursday: 4.4 mi, paved trail (Vento Regional Trail)
Friday: 12.1 mi, paved trail (Wirth Park – Brownie Lake – Cedar Lake – Lake of the Isles)
Saturday: 6.7 mi, trail (2.8 @ Whitewater State Park, 3.9 @ Great River Bluffs State Park)
Sunday: 5.4 mi, paved trail (Fox River Trail)
Total: 39.9 mi

Monday (8/19): 4.5 mi, paved trail (Fox River Trail)
Tuesday: rest
Wednesday: 5.6 mi, paved trail (Fox River Trail)
Thursday: 6 mi, paved trail (Fox River Trail)
Friday: 7, trail (Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve)
Saturday: rest
Sunday: 12.2 mi, road (home to Summit and back)
Total: 35.3 mi

Sheesh, I guess I went 3 weeks without recapping my training. How will I remember what happened? It doesn’t matter that much.

In Week 8, I plowed through some hill repeats despite hot, windy weather. The next day, I headed out to Hyland on my lunch hour (big mistake, it was way too far of a drive!) to get in a quick run since I was volunteering at the final installment of the Endless Summer Trail Run Series. That race was held at Spring Lake Park Reserve in Hastings, and I need to go back there to run, it was gorgeous! After pounding out a decent tempo run on Thursday, I took a break on Friday because I was planning on running a (free to me) 5K Saturday morning. Instead, I said screw it, slept in, and ran 15 miles, much of it in the pouring rain, in the afternoon. It was a nice change from the heat! I finished up on Sunday with a short run at Battle Creek.

In Week 9, I moved quite a few workouts around to accommodate my weekend travel. I had another fairly decent tempo run on Monday, tested out a new section of trail between Crosby Farms and Hidden Falls (it had been closed for awhile since it was under water and then under river sludge) on Wednesday, barely beat out a storm during a short run on Thursday, and completed my long run on Friday around some of the chain of lakes. I did take a short detour around the quaking bog before heading across the freeway and around Brownie Lake, part of Cedar Lake (light rail construction prevented me from going all the way around), and Lake of the Isles before returning. I did see a woman get into a minor scooter accident and made sure she was okay before continuing. Dramatic! Saturday I drove down to the Chicago burbs for a work training, so I stopped twice to run along the way (checking off Winona county and two more state parks, yay!). That kind of sucked because it made my trip really long and I had to drive 4 more hours in sweaty, stinky clothes… but I suppose I could have also changed clothes if I’d been smart. Thanks to my friend Chris from Running Ahead, I got great advice on a place to run, the Fox River Trail, and ran my first segment after class on Sunday. (Yes, my training started Sunday. Yes, it was a miserable week.)

Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I ran various other segments of the Fox River Trail. It was pretty nice – mostly flat, not too busy, with some decent scenery for the most part. The final day, the route was soured a bit by detours and some grubby areas, but it was fun to try a new section each night without needing to drive too far (or pay any tolls!) before I had dinner and studied for the next day of class. Friday, I had a test in the morning and then went for a run in the late afternoon. It took me over an hour to get to Waterfall Glen Park Reserve due to traffic and due to taking a super long route to avoid tolls (yay!), but it was worth it! Crushed gravel is the best surface ever! (Besides hard-packed dirt singletrack without roots or rocks.) Plus the trail goes around Argonne National Laboratory, which made me feel right at home as an engineer. I drove home Saturday, planning to run when I got home, but there was a mixup with my husband (who was visiting his parents) and I didn’t get my rental car returned until it was much later in the day than I’d planned. I made up for it on Sunday by running from home to Summit Ave (up Ramsey Hill, woof), running down to the start of the St. Thomas campus, and then back home. It rained a bit, but wasn’t too bad.

I’m trying to get back into a normal schedule and into my normal training structure, but I’ve got more disruptions coming the next two weekends, so I’ll just take training as it comes. The weather has started to cool off, so it looks like I might actually have to start, like running marathon pace workouts at marathon pace. Uh oh!

Twin Cities Marathon Training: Week 7

Wasn’t it just Week 6?

Monday: rest
Tuesday: 5.8 mi, paved trail (MRT, 6 x 0.5 mi)
Wednesday: 2.8 mi, trail (Murphy-Hanrehan)
Thursday: 6 mi, paved trail (Big Rivers, 40 @ tempo)
Friday: 4.3 mi, trail (Battle Creek)
Saturday: 14.6 mi, road (warm-up, Run Baby Run 10K, evening run)
Sunday: 5.1 mi, trail (Battle Creek)
Total: 38.6 mi

I hate Monday rest days. They’re the worst! They set the tone for the rest of the week and remove all flexibility. I had my violin lesson and got home later in the day and didn’t have the time to get a run in. It’s a shame, because the weather was PERFECT.

Tuesday I did half mile repeats on the Mississippi River Trail. I still haven’t mastered the proper pace, which probably contributed to the inflated sense of ability I brought to my 10K. It wasn’t exceptionally hot, so I wasn’t entirely miserable, but yuck do I hate these workouts while also loving them and feeling bada$$ once they’re over.

I volunteered for another installment of the Endless Summer Trail Run Series on Wednesday, and got to the park early to run most of the course. The run was awful. I dislike running at Murphy due to the flies — even one or two buzzing around me drives me bonkers. I wasn’t in a great frame of mind and didn’t have a lot of energy, so I couldn’t even muster 3 miles. I spent the rest of the night volunteering. One of the volunteer photographers posted a rather unfortunate picture of me in the photoset for the evening, so that was kind of a downer.

For Thursday’s tempo run, I “cheated” a bit. Well, not really. I started the run heading mostly uphill at one end of the Big Rivers Regional Trail (the Lilydale end), and the peak pace for the tempo run happened to hit just as I was turning around to run back downhill. So it’s not cheating in the sense that I ran the first 20 minutes of the tempo going uphill, but I did hit my peak effort while running downhill. It was tough! But it felt pretty good. I averaged a 10:55 for the whole tempo effort.

Friday’s run was a regular old boring run at Battle Creek (near the dog park). Not much to report. I recapped Saturday morning’s 10K already, but I did top up my mileage with another 7-ish mile run in the evening (with new shoes! I hit 500 miles on my road shoes so I had to spring for a new pair). That run was a bit of a disaster. It was hot during the day, so I didn’t start until 8:30 PM. I ran across the High Bridge and was tooling around St. Paul, planning to cross Shepard Road near the Science Museum. There was a train going through so I did a short loop through Upper Landing Park and then planned to wait out the train, which was almost through. But with the end of the train in sight, it stopped. And didn’t move. And I was stuck. There are only a couple other ways across Shepard Road along the river, and both were quite a distance away. It was late, probably 9:30 at this point, and I had a choice to either turn around and cross at Randolph (which turned out to be over a mile away) or continue and cross at Jackson (which was about 3/4 mile away). I made the (correct) choice to continue downriver and cross the street and the railroad tracks at Jackson, then come up along Kellogg and cross the Mississippi on the Wabasha St. Bridge. This added a bunch of time and distance to my night, as well as the potential to encounter some sketchy people, which I fortunately did not. It was a giant pain in the butt and a little bit disconcerting. I am lucky to live in a fairly safe city, but I did put myself in a not-so-great situation without a great option for extrication. I also did not have my cell phone with me, which I usually don’t for runs in my neighborhood. Safety moment!

Sunday I did a run in the middle of the day at the Battle Creek ski trails. One day, I will have a nice, pleasant, fast-ish run along those trails (and get some nice pics!), but Sunday was not that day. It was hot and sunny, and I actually ran out of water! I filled my soft flasks with only ice, and while the water was deliciously cold, there wasn’t enough of it. So yes, ice does melt slower in an air solution vs. a water solution (heat transfer, baby!), but I sacrificed volume for temperature. Yuck. Oh, also, it was hard to get water out of the soft flasks when it was still mostly ice – I kept sucking air instead.

I have another 5K coming up this weekend, and I think I’ll take the lessons of this last week and do a LOT of things differently, including a second rest day the day before the race, so I can build up my confidence again.

Twin Cities Marathon 2019 Training: Week 6

I’ve already forgotten what happened last week.

Monday: 3 mi, trail
Tuesday: 3.9 mi, trail
Wednesday: 5.8 mi, paved trail (Mississippi River Trail, 32 @ tempo)
Thursday: rest
Friday: 5.2 mi, paved trail (Mississippi River Trail, 3 @ marathon pace)
Saturday: 13.2 mi, paved trail (Mississippi River Trail)
Sunday: 6.4 mi, trail (Battle Creek)
Total: 37.5 mi

I started out the week with a drive to North Dakota for a site visit for work. I really dislike flying and when I visit remote sites, it often doesn’t save much travel time to fly. It also gives me the freedom to plan my trip how I want it to go. I was able to combine this trip with some state park visits and check off some more counties from my goal of running a mile in every county in Minnesota.

I stopped first at Lake Carlos State Park in Douglas County, and ran about 1.8 miles around Hidden Lake. I forgot my bug spray so the run wasn’t super pleasant, there were flies and mosquitoes buzzing around me.

I drove for a few more hours and then stopped at Buffalo River State Park, in Clay County, before I crossed over into North Dakota. I was running a bit behind schedule and kind of hungry so I didn’t get a very good run in, only 1.3 miles. I was planning on having dinner at my brother’s in Grand Forks (and to meet my new baby nephew!), so I didn’t want to get set delayed too much by my runs.

It does take a lot of extra time to drive to the parks and run. I’m slow so even a mile is going to take somewhere between 12-15 minutes, depending on the terrain and my energy level. The parks are often several miles off the route, so driving there and then getting back on the freeway can take another half hour or so. So each run probably added at least an hour to the trip, something I need to account for better in the future.

Tuesday, I got up and drove to meet my colleague at our work site, which was about an hour’s drive north of Grand Forks, up near the border. We conducted our (fruitless, but that’s another story) site visit, and then I hopped in the car to drive home. Since I was nearly in Canada, I was able to head east across the border and visit Lake Bronson State Park, knocking off one of the most remote counties, Kittson.

That’s probably the first and last time I’ll ever be in Kittson County, but the state park was really pretty! I got back on the road and drove through a lot of other counties that I’d have loved to have checked off the list, but I didn’t want to spend all freaking day driving, and while I looked for some options for a spontaneous stop in a county park or recreation area, they were all like 20 miles off the road, or just a tiny park on the side in one of the itty bitty towns along the way. I made a second stop in Little Falls (Morrison County) at Charles Lindbergh State Park, which was nearly impossible to get to due to construction.

It was SO BUGGY. I probably got like 15 mosquito bites during a 2 mile run. I was pretty grumpy when I got back in the car, and still had over an hour and a half of driving to go, ugh. Overall it was a fun trip and I liked breaking up the drive (we are encouraged to do this for our own health and safety, so it’s not like I was screwing around on the company dime), but I need to do a little better job of planning, especially when I have time constraints.

Wednesday I did a tempo run. It was supposed to be 40 minutes at tempo, but I could only manage 32 before I hit the lap button. I was having terrible abdominal cramps, in my stomach and my lower GI system, and was even reduced to walking a few times. It was pretty miserable. I took Thursday off to make sure I was recovered.

Friday called for 3 miles at marathon pace. I ended up running a bit faster than marathon pace (11:06/mi vs. 11:29/mi) because I was ignoring my watch and kind of going by feel. My current marathon pace is somewhere between trying somewhat hard and running sort of relaxed — it’s in this weird spot where the pace doesn’t come naturally to me. I try to run “comfortably hard” and it ends up being either too hard or too chill. Probably need to start nailing that down once the weather is more consistently comfortable to run in. I’m not super worried about it because it was only a 3 mile effort, so I guess I can write it off as another tempo.

Saturday I chose to do my long run. I started at Hidden Falls and ran the Mississippi River Trail, crossing the river at Franklin and running back on the other side. Once I crossed the river, things started to fall apart. It was hot out, but on the east side I was shaded. On the west side of the river, I was exposed to full sun for long stretches at a time, and after awhile I started taking short walking breaks to survive. I ran down to Minnehaha Falls (HUGE mistake, it was crowded, duh, and I was internally cranky at the people in my way), then looped around the Wabun Park area, then headed back across the river to finish the run. I was planning to run 14 miles (the plan called for 17), but only managed to get 13.2 because I couldn’t stand it anymore.

Sunday I ended up trying and failing to dodge the weather. I ended up running a few miles in the light rain, but when it wasn’t raining, the humidity was suffocating. I was glad I didn’t have to run in direct sunlight, but I was hoping for a more enjoyable run around Battle Creek. Once it’s cooler, I’m really going to enjoy running those ski trails. I’m not wishing summer away by any means, but it does get frustrating to boil in the sun or feel like a fish out of water in the humid air.

I have completely fallen out of the habit of doing push-ups, and need to get back on track. I was doing so well, and then fatigue and travel got me out of my routine. On the bright side, while I’m not performing very well to my push-up goal for the year, I’ve only got one more county to pick up this summer to meet my goal of 5 for the season!

Twin Cities Marathon 2019 Training: Week 3

Lots of schedule changes this week to accommodate holiday vacation plans.

Monday: 3.3 mi, road
Tuesday: 4.7 mi, road (35 min @ tempo)
Wednesday: 3.3 mi, road
Thursday: 3.8 mi, road (speed workout)
Friday: 6.2 mi, road
Saturday: rest (volunteering at Afton Trail Race)
Sunday: 12.1 mi, trail (Luce Line)
Total: 33.4 mi

Last week already feels 100 years in the past. It’s like I didn’t even have 4 days off, yikes. It’s been really hot, too, so that has made running pretty hard. I was tired early in the week and also had trouble getting motivation to get out and run. Tuesday I didn’t even start running until 8:45, after I had eaten dinner. Yes, I did a tempo run (at 11:07 average pace!!) after eating tacos. It wasn’t that bad. Other than that, the first 3 days of the week were fairly unremarkable.

Thursday my husband and I drove up to Duluth for a quick overnight for the holiday. My sister-in-law came with me for my late afternoon run after we had an early (like, senior citizen early bird special early) pizza dinner. She is also running Twin Cities Marathon! I don’t know how she finds the time to train between her career and her three kids – it kind of puts me to shame. She’s also much faster than me so I was really pushing – that’s why it became kind of a speed workout. Our overall pace was 11:17 and that includes a couple of stints of walking – I had some abdominal cramps from the food and rigorous running. It was fun to run with her although I definitely pushed myself too hard – I was trying to have a conversation and that was making it even harder. The good news was for once I wasn’t monopolizing the conversation.

Friday I ran around Pike Lake by myself (I couldn’t handle 6 miles at my SIL’s pace and I didn’t want to slow her down), which went pretty well. I was only planning on doing 3-4 miles but once I was moving, I decided to do the whole thing. My plan called for 7 miles but 6.2 was good enough! We went swimming about an hour afterward, and my nephews kept asking me to swim with them around the boat (they were wearing life jackets and using noodles, I was not) so I got pretty worn down. I crashed pretty hard on the drive home because I had not had enough to eat. Once I snacked in the car, I managed to come back to life.

Saturday I volunteered for Afton Trail Race. I’ll write a separate race report but I was BEAT at the end of the day. I am so glad I set that aside as a rest day because I had NO energy left to do a run. I slept for 12 hours on Saturday night/Sunday morning, only waking up once.

Sunday I drove out to run a new section of the Luce Line trail, parking at the Lyndale lot and running out to Watertown before turning around. I was worried I would be too hot, but the trail was pretty well shaded. There were a few flies, which was annoying, and I got a couple mosquito bites, but that was the worst of it. I started out really slowly because of course as soon as I got out on the trail I had to pee. After a couple miles, I quickly ducked onto a horse trail and felt a lot better. So the moral of the story is: if you have to pee 2 miles into a long run, don’t try to hold it forever. I ate two gels during the run, reapplied sunscreen once, and overall cruised along. The Luce Line trail is a railbed trail so it doesn’t really have any hills, which makes long runs so much easier! I don’t always seek to make my long runs easy, but when it’s hot, sometimes it’s nice to get done earlier. I was supposed to do 14 miles, but since I had only done 10 miles for my long run the weekend before, I decided that I wouldn’t ramp up quite as much.

I did my 125 pushups Monday-Thursday, but Friday I figure I replaced my strength workout with swimming, Saturday I lifted a bunch of stuff and was too gassed to do pushups when I got home, and Sunday I just kind of forgot/ran out of time since we went to a movie that night. I’m back in the habit again already though!

I was hoping for more miles this past week, and it’s shaping up that my July is going to be way lower mileage than last year, but the important thing is that I get in quality workouts, which I think I have been doing so far.

Twin Cities Marathon 2019 Training: Week 2

Monday: 3.3 mi, paved trail
Tuesday: 5.2 mi, road (4 x Wabasha Street Bridge)
Wednesday: rest
Thursday: 3 mi, trail (Battle Creek)
Friday: 5.7 mi, paved trail (MRT, 35 @ tempo)
Saturday: 10.6 mi, trail (4.2 + 6.4 at Battle Creek)
Sunday: 7 mi, paved trail (MRT, 6 @ marathon pace)
Total: 34.8 mi

Wow, that was a tough week.

Monday was a really hard day for me. I was tired, my workday was super frustrating, and I packed a lot of stuff into my evening: a quick run, my weekly violin lesson, and then dinner with my mom. All fun stuff, but stuff I didn’t have the mental bandwidth to handle. On top of that, my hamstring was really bothering me during my run. I felt like I was on the verge of hurting it badly, so I ended up walking quite a bit during what was supposed to be a quick, easy run.

Tuesday I was still having hamstring problems, even sometimes when walking. I was stretching it and using magnesium oil nightly, but it would go from feeling fine to giving me a zap unexpectedly. I decided to still complete my hill workout but not go full throttle. It was hard enough as it was! Plus I was running into the wind! Yikes.

Thursday I found a new section of Battle Creek trails. I did 3 miles of hilly x-c trails, which was fun except for the mosquitoes. I guess it really is summer now. I thought it was going to storm so I tried to stay conservatively close to my car, but then I ended up barely getting 3 miles. I like this section of Battle Creek (near the ballfields), but the grass was a bit long and I dislike running in grass.

Friday was pretty hot, but I had a tempo run to do. I picked a dumb section to run: starting in Mendota and heading downriver on the MRT. The section was too short for a 15 minute warmup plus 35 minute tempo plus whatever minute cooldown. I had to continue to Water Street, which is supposed to be closed to traffic, but people just go around the barriers and drive like idiots. Super safe. Also, it’s downhill to start, which meant it was uphill going back. I felt like I really struggled with the heat and especially with the direct sunlight beating down on me, even though it was already early evening. I did manage an overall pace of 10:52, which wasn’t terrible (especially since I am not even kidding, I walked a little bit during the tempo part), and I did manage to do the appropriate ramp up, peak, and taper off structure that I use for tempo runs. It just… sucked.

Saturday was hot, too. I was supposed to do 6 miles at marathon pace on Saturday, and then 13 miles on Sunday, but since Sunday was supposed to be even hotter, I switched them around so I could get the harder workout done first and coast through Sunday, relatively speaking. My plan was to run the various sections of Battle Creek (ski trails, water park area, etc), but after 4 miles on the ski trails, I wanted to quit. I thought I could go back home, cool off, and run somewhere else later. I changed my mind after a few minutes and decided that I could drive from the ski trails to the dog park area, cool off in the AC for awhile, and get back out there. This worked out pretty well! I could not bring myself to do the full 13 miles, as I was wilting in the heat and was running low on water, but I figure 10 miles in that heat was worth 13 normal miles, even split up. My time on feet was over 3 hours, so that’s definitely comparable to 13 road miles.

Sunday turned out to be cooler than expected! It stormed a bit during the day, so I was glad I’d flip-flopped my work-outs. I would have been interrupted by the thunderstorms if I’d done 13 miles on Sunday. I started running around 3:30, and while it was in the mid 70s F when I started, it was still pretty tough due to tired legs and high humidity. I didn’t worry too much about trying to reach goal marathon pace, just marathon effort. Even that was kind of difficult after the sun came out. I ran the MRT from Upper Landing Park to Elway Street and back, and it’s rather hilly, which made the workout even harder. So, even though I only ran a 12:16 pace for that section (still faster than my pace at TCM!), I’m trying to stay positive.

I did 125 push-ups every day, so strength training is going well, in the sense that I’m doing something rather than nothing. I do notice a difference in my upper body and my core, so this habit is starting to pay dividends.

This upcoming week is going to be a bit of a mess, with Independence Day and Afton Trail Run volunteering. You’d think a four day weekend would mean more opportunities to run, not less, but that isn’t the case. That 4:45 a.m. shift start at Afton is gonna be rough.

Race Report: FANS 24 Hour Race 2019

Little by little, brick by brick.

Official Results:
Distance: 45.4 mi
Pace: N/A, but I tapped out at about 15:14, so 20:08
Placing:
TBD once the results are published

Watch Results:
Time: 15:14:02
Pace: 16:12
Distance: 48.1 mi (once my watch even beeped off a mile while I was sitting in a chair)
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
Big distance PR, short laps

Food:
What I ate the night before: Gyro pizza
What I ate on race morning: bagel with cream cheese
What I carried with me: gels, mints (I had some Oreo cookies at my tent), water bottle with electrolyte tabs

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt, shorts, arm warmers for the first few laps, ball cap, hydration vest (without a water bottle – used for storage), buff as headband (in the afternoon)
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker

Discussion: It’s pretty amazing how much the events of the week preceding the race can affect the race itself. The cumulative effects of a rainy and chilly Twins game on Monday, another Twins game on Tuesday that wasn’t rainy or cold but got out late, a lot of deadlines and stress at work, a really poor night’s sleep on Wednesday, air quality issues late in the week that left me feeling sick, and temperatures over 90F on Friday ended up putting me in a significant sleep debt. To cap it off, despite being tired when I went to bed on Friday, at a very decent hour, after avoiding caffeine most of the day (just like I did at Ice Age), my bedroom was so hot and stuffy I couldn’t fall asleep. I had a built-in excuse right from the get-go! Lucky me!

Before this week, I was really excited for the race. I imagined that I was going to really enjoy myself out there, that the shorter loops and the even surface would mean I could really cruise and even walking would be a lot faster. I pictured myself taking selfies with all my friends at the start and having a great time. I even allowed myself to imagine, for a moment, taking a few short loops at the end, dead tired but triumphant. It’s disappointing now to look back at how excited I was the week prior, and how optimistic I was, and see that I let the days preceding the race wholly throw me off my game.

I spent most of Friday preparing for the race, after doing almost nothing earlier in the week. I was just so darn tired. I meant to sleep in as late as possible, but ended up waking up at 7 to feed the cats and had a hard time truly falling back asleep, so I got up around 9. Very annoying, I used to be a champ at sleeping in. I realize that 9 am is sleeping in to a lot of people, but it’s all relative! I felt sick most of the day; my eyes itched and my head felt stuffy. I hoped it was due to the air quality and not due to an illness. Allergy pills didn’t help at all. I felt so listless I didn’t want to run any errands before the race, but I managed to get everything done that I needed to. I bought a bunch of gels (yes, I waited til the day before the race to replenish my gel stash!), picked up some bagels and vanilla Coke, packed my gear bag (I got a free duffel bag at the Twins game on Tuesday, which was the perfect size for my gear), re-stocked my supply kit, and went to packet pick-up to get my number and my t-shirt.

I tried to be as minimalist and self-sufficient as possible for this race. It stresses me out to rely on others for this event. It’s a lot to ask people to get up early/stay up late and sit around bored while I run in loops, whine and grump, and then throw in the towel early. It’s also very embarrassing to me to pack a lot of stuff, set up a tent, etc., and then have to haul it all away in a walk of shame when I tap out before the event ends. So this time, I brought hardly any gear at all, no tent, and I drove myself to the race. I told my dad he could stop by (this was a big mistake for him, because I was cranky every time he got there, which I feel badly about), and my husband came in the evening to support me overnight (the two of them also ferried my car back to our house, so that I wouldn’t have to figure that out later on), but other than that, I didn’t make a big deal of the race or invite a bunch of friends to do loops with me. You would think that this would make it easier to quit, but it actually worked out in my favor. The first year, I quit early in part because I knew that my dad was leaving and that would mean I’d have to haul a bunch of stuff back to his house in the morning, so I chose to quit so that we could send the tent and chairs and stuff back to his place when he left. I find that the more inconvenient a race is for others, the less likely I am to run it, or in this case, complete it. It’s sort of funny because in other spheres of my life, I am pretty self-centered, but in running I can’t seem to muster any of that selfishness.

I showed up to the event at about 7:00, a little later than the year prior, but I didn’t have to stake out a tent location. Instead of bringing my own tent, I was lucky enough to mooch off my friends’ tent. Through my race volunteering adventures, I have made friends with some incredibly awesome people who are also much more serious runners than I am. My friends Jeff and Amy had a whole set-up going, with a canopy, tent, tables, chairs, etc., and right next to them, my friends Tyson and Stefanie had a similar camp. I was able to lug my chair, cooler, tackle box, and duffel bag over to their site in one trip. (One benefit of the last-minute change of venue due to flooding at Fort Snelling: the new location has a parking lot close to the “camping” area.) I took over a little corner at the front of Amy and Jeff’s tent and walked over to get weighed in at the start. (The timing tent was actually about a quarter of a mile from the tent area, which was a little strange. I technically ran like 45.6 miles before giving up, boo, I was robbed of mileage!)

I felt really tired and out of it at the start, and basically wanted to quit right away. I have a serious running attitude problem that I need to fix if I ever want to improve. This self-defeating nonsense that gets inside my head on race day is seriously hampering my fun. Since there was no actual reason for quitting, I soldiered on. My legs felt kind of heavy, which was to be expected because I felt sleepy and because I hadn’t run since the previous Sunday (due to feeling sick/overwhelmed/tired). Overall, things just sucked for the first few miles, but I figured I’d get into a groove and go from there.

The new course is a bit different; it’s much hillier than the Fort Snelling course, and it’s all pavement. It’s also much busier; while I wouldn’t say it was crowded, there were a lot more non-racers on the course at any given time. There’s still a bit of plane traffic overhead since it’s close to the airport, and there was a lot more street traffic noise, since it’s much more urban. While I was glad not to have the painful gravel from Fort Snelling, I didn’t realize how much the asphalt would affect me.

For the first few loops, I used the hills as a natural point to switch from running to walking. I was drinking and eating gels fairly regularly; I didn’t want to get behind on my nutrition since that has been an issue for me in past races. There were Rice Krispie bars at the smaller aid station, and I probably ate three or four of those (or more) throughout the day – they were a bit sticky but they were a nice change from the usual cookies/chips, and they were surprisingly easy to eat, I thought they might be a little dry. The sun came out fairly early on, and while it was much cooler than it had been the day before, I started to heat up quickly. I decided to change my strategy to manage the heat; I told myself I’m here to stay, I’m not going to let myself get overheated, and I started walking entire laps. My friend Amy, who was entered in the 6 hour race but not really racing, joined me for a lap and perked me up. After running along in relative silence for close to 4 hours, I was glad to have her to talk to, and it changed my mental outlook. Talking to her also helped me release some of my expectations and anxieties about the race. I didn’t have to do anything, there was nothing I was supposed to do. I could do whatever I wanted.

I ended up resting a lot between laps, something I hadn’t done in the two previous races. I sat down and put my feet up a few times during the day, just to take the weight off my feet. I was having blister issues, which was unsurprising – I got them in the exact same spots I did at Ice Age, so my feet likely didn’t have a chance to recover entirely. I stopped and dealt with the first batch of blisters, drank some pop, and then got back out there. If this race has taught me anything, it’s that I need to get a much better handle on blister prevention. Time to start experimenting with the tips from Fixing Your Feet.

I thought things were going better for me after I taped up my feet, but then I got either sweat or sunscreen in my eyes. It doesn’t matter which, it just matters that it hurt like crazy and the sun and wind didn’t help. One eye was burning so badly that I had to run about half a mile with it mostly closed, tears running down my cheeks. I had to stop for probably 20 minutes to rinse out my eyes and let the stinging subside. I put a buff on my head under my hat after that and didn’t have any more problems, so maybe it was sweat (or sweat and sunscreen mixed together). Just as I was ready to head out after dealing with my eyes, my colleague (who was running the 6 hour) came by and said he’d walk the last lap of his race with me. We talked about strategy, and he told me screw it, just walk until it cools off or you feel better. He’s done the 24 hour race before, so I trusted his judgement. Once again, just spending a lap talking to someone changed my mindset for the better, and I was able to pick up the pace to match his.

After my colleague peeled off to do some short laps, I continued right into another lap. I knew I was getting close to a marathon, and I dialed in on that milestone. I told myself no more breaks til I was beyond the marathon. I hit the 26.2 mi mark at 7:13:24 (they had signs marking a marathon, 50K, 50 mi, etc.), and then focused on hitting 50K. I was feeling more motivated, so I switched to running the shady sections and walking the sunny sections, and was really motoring (for me). I could tell I was getting more blisters, and I had switched to straight water because I didn’t stop for more electrolyte tabs, but I wanted to get to 50K before I took another break. The 50K mark was between the timing tent and the camping area, but I wanted to do the entire loop to get “credit” for reaching 50K before I took a break.

I hit 50K in 8:44:37 and finished that loop for 31.6 miles. After that loop, I was looking forward to stopping, dealing with my feet, eating some spaghetti (yes, really) and chilling out. My dad was there when I reached the tent, and for some reason that was making me super anxious. I don’t know what it was, but it made me feel like a zoo animal, like he was just watching me and waiting for what I was going to do. Which he kind of was, but mentally at that point I just couldn’t take it. He said he was going to wait to leave until I was on my next lap, and that seemed like too much expectation. I ended up eating a couple cookies instead of the spaghetti, and basically told him to leave by saying I was going to start my next lap soon. Oh look, there was some of that selfishness coming out. After he left, I dealt with my blisters and hung out for a little longer talking to Amy before I headed out.

I ate my spaghetti on the following lap, as well as part of a piece of ciabatta. This was one of the biggest benefits of walking through the afternoon – my stomach was feeling great, as was most of the rest of my body. I was eating and drinking like normal, everything was going down fine, I wasn’t losing weight (I’d lost 2.5 lbs between the morning weigh-in and the 4:00 PM weigh in, but at the 8:00 PM weigh in, I was stable), and I didn’t have any dehydration issues (total TMI but because I wasn’t worried about time, I used the real bathroom at the pavilion a couple times, so I can confirm I was staying hydrated). I also didn’t have any issues with finger swelling like I did at Ice Age.

For a little while, things started to look up. The sun was still hot (I reapplied sunscreen at 6PM, and Amy asked “Are you sure you need that? It’s after 6.” I’m just that pasty) but I was able to run a lot more than I had been able to when it was hotter. I felt like things were going well. Then my feet started to hurt a lot. Not just the blisters, but the balls of my feet, as well as the side/top of my right foot, which hurt like my left one did last year. I was getting worried. I switched to completing a loop, then putting my feet up to rest, then heading out for another.

And it got dark! I made it past nightfall! That was huge for me. Last year I was still there at night, but I didn’t actually do a loop with a headlamp on. This year I did two. And they were hard. I ran quite a bit of them, mostly because it hurt more to run, but I was starting to get frustrated with how much my feet hurt, how much I wanted to go home and sleep in my own bed, and how futile the rest of the race felt. I passed last year’s total on lap 24, and started to feel better about how things were going, but I was also annoyed with how long each lap was taking. I was past last year’s total, but it had taken me so long to get there. I didn’t know how many more laps I had in me, and I started thinking about what it would take to even get to 50 miles. I finished what ended up being my final lap at about 11:00, and realized that it would probably take over two more hours, maybe even three, to do the three more laps I needed to get to 50 miles, and I decided it wasn’t worth it. I just didn’t feel like the effort was worth the result. I could go home and go to bed, or I could shuffle through a few more laps. I don’t think I could have even made 100K if I’d stayed there til the finish, and I didn’t care.

I don’t feel too badly about it. Of course now I realize I could have shuffled on longer with some tweaks here and there. I could have stopped at the benches along the way, for example. I could have stayed in my chair and just done a lap here or there and stayed there all night. I could have just shuffled along in increasing amounts of pain. But that’s okay. These are all things I am saying in hindsight; in the moment, I didn’t think of them, or I just didn’t want to do them. But I still did a lot.

I figured out a survival strategy when things were going wrong. I fixed my blisters (kind of) and got back out there. I ran when it hurt. I got back out there when I didn’t want to, over and over again. I didn’t chafe. I didn’t get sunburned. I ate and drank like I should have. I spent time with my friends. I got a distance PR and lasted longer than I ever have at this event. I ran night loops. I did all this on really minimal training – the only truly long run I did was another race.

I’m left with a lot of the same questions in my mind as I had last year. Am I cut out for these really long races? Is this event a waste of my time? Should I just do the 12 hour or 6 hour next year? So much helpful self-doubt and self-flagellation. Yet I do keep improving. And I do love this event. And there’s something so special about the loops after 8 PM and that solidarity that the 24 hour runners have that I don’t think I want to give up. I think I really need a big success at this event before I’ll feel comfortable trying for 100K or longer (I could probably still give 50 miles a shot, though it would need to be the right race), so it’s probably going to be on the docket for next year, even though I said last night that maybe I’ve finally scratched the itch this race has given me.

I completed 45.4 miles and was still running at the end. Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t even run the entire mile in gym class because it seemed too hard. Five years ago, I couldn’t even handle marathon training. When I feel like a failure, it helps to remember where I started.