Spring 2020 Running Goals Revisited

We’re almost a month into June and I have hardly thought about running at all. I mean, I am still running, but without a lot of thought. I just go out and do it, since there’s nothing to train for.

There’s not much to discuss with my spring running goals (they weren’t that exciting to begin with), but I still feel the need to be consistent with my posts. Spring running goal evaluation:

  1. Run two races.
    I ran one race, a virtual 50K. That was the only option; all in-person races were canceled. I didn’t find any other virtual races that were reasonably priced.
  2. Run a mile in two new counties.
    I did my best to stay near home the last few months, so this was tough to do. I think I got in one new county, Anoka County, but I can’t verify that because my counties list is on my desk at work.
  3. Visit two new state parks.
    Again, tough to do without driving quite a bit. I did visit William O’Brien State Park back in March, which was okay. It was still pretty snowy there, so the run wasn’t very entertaining. I will have to go back again and try out the full park now that the snow is gone.

Not a great performance, only 50%, but when I wrote those goals I had no idea what this pandemic would look like. So many race I love have been canceled. So many conveniences I took for granted, like bathrooms at state parks, have changed the way I approach my runs.

As far as my overall 2020 running goals, I am doing okay. I’m right on track with my number of long runs and I am averaging 100 pushups a day (I’ve missed a few days, but made up for them with >100 pushups on other days). I didn’t get any cross-country skiing done – I never took the time to wax and prep my skis. I’ll have to wait til November or December to hit this goal. I’m planning to buy a bike and have a model picked out, thanks to my friend Waylon, but the bike shop in my neighborhood is closed due to the pandemic. They are accepting online orders, but I don’t know anything about what size bike I need, and would like to test ride a few, so I’ll have to call them and see if there’s a test ride option. FANS has been canceled, but if there’s a virtual option, I will go for a distance personal best and fundraise. I don’t think I’ll have the choice to run a new marathon, unless the Mankato Marathon goes through, or some other late fall marathon. (The Fargo Marathon is occurring in August, but I don’t think North Dakota is handling the pandemic very well, and I also don’t want to run a marathon in North Dakota in August.)

It’s kind of nice, saving money on races, spending less time traveling for races and long runs, and doing my own thing, but I do miss the structure of a training plan and the support and atmosphere of a race. Still, it’s a small price to pay to keep hundreds of thousands more people from getting seriously ill or dying.

Race Report: Bigger Than The Trail Block Party (50K)

Virtual Insanity

Watch Results:
Time: 7:53:16
Pace: 15:12
Distance: 31.12 mi
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 7:00
B: 7:30

Food:
What I ate the night before: beef curry with rice, Oreo cookies
What I ate on race morning: cereal, nitro vanilla latte
What I carried with me: water with electrolytes, gels

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt, shorts, trucker hat
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker

Discussion: That was certainly a new experience. I heard about the Bigger Than The Trail Block Party from my friends Jeff and Amy, and I spent a few weeks hemming and hawwing about which distance to sign up for (they had options from 1 mile to 100 miles), before finally settling on the 50K. I considered doing a marathon and then just continuing if I felt like it, but I decided I would sign up for the ultra distance for accountability. I haven’t run an ultra since last year’s FANS, so it’s been almost a year! Hard to believe.

I didn’t do very much to prepare for this race, which ended up being to my detriment, though all it really affected was the overall time it took to complete the race, and my general attitude during the race. I planned to get going right around 8:00, the “official” start, just so I could get the race over with. I got up at 7:30 or so, and planned to prep two handheld water bottles with electrolyte tabs so I’d easily be able to swap them out. One of them smelled not great, so I filled it with soapy water and left it. I forgot to apply sunscreen before leaving. I also discovered my watch, which I thought I’d charged to 100% the night before, was only at 71% (and then showed up as 95%… and then back to 71% — thank you, Suunto, I think my next watch will be another brand), and had trouble getting a satellite lock when I did try to start. I actually went back inside, plugged it back in, and then re-started. I got going for real at 8:30. The weather was cool-ish, mid-50s F, and a bit humid. I was just hoping the rain would hold off until I was almost done.

I didn’t have a route planned or any planned stops, and while I had time goals, I didn’t do any math as far as what pace I needed to hit to make those goals. I figured I’d just wing it and do whatever it took to finish, even if that meant walking or resting or what. I took my first break after two hours and 8.5 miles, and stopped to use the bathroom (SO much better than peeing in the woods or using a Biffy), rinse off my face (to prevent sweat/sunscreen from getting in my eyes), refill my water bottle, eat half a Clif bar, take off my long-sleeved shirt, re-apply Body Glide, apply sunscreen, and head back out again. I felt pretty strong, and the miles really fell away at first. While my first mile was mostly downhill, I didn’t have an easy course – who knew you could get 2358 feet of vert in the city? I knew, because all my runs seem to be uphill both ways. I chose to walk almost any incline, and it was a nice way to break up the day and give my hips a rest.

I ate half the Clif bar while walking, and then took off again for a longer segment. It took almost 5 minutes for me to get through my rest stop at home, so I wanted to try to limit my stops to when I really needed them. The sun came out a little bit during this section, and I ran through some busier sections where I was dodging people a bit. I felt a little crappy during this section – not quite nauseated, but definitely “off,” and ended up walking a little bit on a flat section just to calm my body down. I started running low on water and started heading for home (this included a long uphill section) – this segment was 11.4 miles, and I did the same bathroom/face wash/water refill/etc. routine, maybe a little bit faster, and then I headed out again for what I thought was going to be my final segment.

I ended up having to return again after 7.5 miles to use the bathroom and get more water one more time. I didn’t have enough water to make it the final 3.7 miles, and I otherwise needed to stop. I did a lot of walking during the third segment, and my running turned into shuffling, which sucked. I probably should have eaten more – I don’t always get typical hunger cues when I’m running, and I don’t always recognize my cranky attitude as a sign of hunger. I should have pre-made a sandwich or grabbed a few cookies or something.

The final 3.7 miles were pretty brutal. My feet were hurting, there was a lot of uphill (my area of St. Paul is VERY hilly, especially near my house), and I checked my watch a few times to see my instantaneous pace and realized I was running so slowly I might as well be walking (so I walked). I got passed by a couple of chatty women out power-walking (can’t avoid gals chatting about domestic stuff even in a solo race!) and then I realized as I was heading into the final stretch that I needed to tack on a little extra in order to be sure that I was going to get 31 miles (Strava sometimes lops off distance, and I noticed that there were some GPS errors during my breaks – I took off my watch during the first two breaks because I was worried going inside my house would mess up my signal, but taking it off caused errors too, for some reason. Why isn’t there a function where you can pause distance but not time?) That was a morale killer, but I was determined to be running when my watch beeped 31 miles, and I was! And I kept running after that for the final tenth of a mile it took to get home.

I finished feeling pretty good! Especially considering there was no finish line energy whatsoever. My heels and toes have blisters, my shoes are toast after my big toes poked through mesh tops (Mizuno — go back to your old fabric), and I have some chafing around the band of my sports bra, but that’s minor. Of course my legs and hips are stiff, but that’ll sort itself out in due time.

I joined a couple of the Zoom events that were part of the BTTT Block Party. They were really fun, there were a lot of really cool people involved in the event. I even got to see someone finishing their 50 mile event live! It seems like a really great organization, and this virtual race raised over $15k! Not bad for a race that only had a $20 entry fee.

I said right after the event that I probably wouldn’t do another virtual race, but that’s not true. I’d do another one if it was inexpensive or if it was a charitable event. This hit both criteria, but I’d do FANS if it ends up being virtual. I just don’t think I’d do a virtual event that cost like $70 (unless I’d already been signed up for the real event).

What didn’t I like about it? Well, it was lonely out there. It was really weird to do an event without any support or any other runners. I missed the energy at the aid stations and the finish lines. I didn’t like not knowing if I really did 50K (thanks to a few bonus tenths from my watch while I was taking breaks), and I hated waiting for traffic and dealing with pedestrians, dogs, skateboarders, cyclists, other runners, etc. I missed aid station food – there’s much more of a variety and it’s so much easier to get in and out. It sucked not to be able to just duck off the trail to pee and get right back on – since I was in a residential area it wasn’t really an option.

What did I like about it? I liked some aspects of choosing my own route – like if I didn’t want to go up a hill right then, I just turned left or right. If I wanted to go back home and refill stuff, I did it when I wanted to, instead of having to wait for the next aid station or having to stop more frequently than I really wanted to. I liked starting from my house, instead of figuring out the logistics of getting to the race start, possibly traveling overnight, or having to drive home after 8 hours of running. I could have done this on a remote trail somewhere, but that would have involved carrying a lot more stuff – it was nice to just have one handheld and not need drop bags or anything.

Overall, I’m glad I did it – who knew when I set my spring race goals two months ago that we’d be in this place, with races canceled left and right, and no expectation for when they might start up again. It was nice to get in a really long run – I can use this formula in the future when I’m doing long training runs – loops around the neighborhood with stops at home, instead of driving somewhere and hauling a pack full of water. It was a reminder that I need to stop fooling around with 10 mile “long runs” and 40 mile weeks if I want to have a successful FANS in August (if it happens, sigh) — I’m not ready.

I’m going to take a week off now. I haven’t taken much time off other than when I was sick in late February. Normally I let races determine my time off, but with nothing on the calendar, there was no “reason” to rest, even though it’s healthy to take time off running even when there are no races on the horizon. I’m really going to enjoy the break!

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).

2019 Goals Revisited

2019 was a tough year for me. There’s not really any other way to look at it. I barely raced, and the best race I had all year was completed in the first week of the year. I didn’t meet many of the seasonal goals that I set for myself, and I found running to be a chore at times, or anxiety-inducing. I had some external stressors in my life – nothing major, just career-related stuff – that seeped into my training and drained me of the energy and the drive to train and improve.

  1. 2019 mileage > 2018 mileage
    On December 30th, I surpassed my 2018 mileage. It was a weight off my shoulders and a gratifying way to finish a tough year. As late as September 8th, I was 92 miles behind my 2018 pace, and as late as November 12th, I was 78 miles down. I rallied, thanks to a strong push in the last two months of the year (as well some relatively low mileage in December 2018 thanks to illness), and managed to run 1695 miles last year, which was just over 5 miles farther than I ran in 2018. In 2018, thanks to my various illnesses in December, I missed out on my goal of beating 2017 mileage, so it was a relief to avoid a repeat of that disappointment.
    I will admit the stress of trying to run 6 miles a day, 6 days a week, without any extra rest days or short run days, wore on me at times (especially when it was extremely cold out). Once I knew the goal was not only in reach, but could be attained a day early, the stress started to melt away.
  2. Do 100 pushups/day
    I gave up on this goal for no reason. I started off okay the first week or so, and then I quit doing it for weeks. In April-July, I did a pretty decent job of trying to get back on track, but the last quarter of the year, I didn’t do any push-ups. It says a lot about my mental state that I couldn’t be bothered to do push-ups for three whole months.
  3. Run more new races/courses than old ones.
    I only raced five times! It’s surprising to see that. I had two races canceled (Zumbro, which I wasn’t going to run anyway, and the Cosmic 5K in July at the Bell Museum, which was canceled due to a thunderstorm), I DNF the Twin Cities Marathon, and I DNS 3 races (Hot Dash, 811 Run, and Mustache Run). Of the 6 races I ran, they were all new courses! My only repeat race, FANS, was run on a different course. I forgot I’d even set this goal for myself, but hooray for me!
  4. My highest category of training mileage will not be treadmill mileage.
    I track my workouts by category in two different ways: number of workouts, and number of miles. In 2018, 42% of the days I spent working out were spent on the treadmill. (Only 34% of my miles were spent on the treadmill.) I needed to spend more time running outside in 2019.
    This started out poorly, as cold weather, icy conditions, and a lack of motivation meant that I had a lot of treadmill runs in the first 3 months of the year. I dug myself a big hole that took me almost to the end of the year to get out of. The end of the year got a bit stressful because it was cold, and I faced the possibility of two goals conflicting. Should I run on the treadmill, and make it harder to reach one goal? Or should I take a rest day, and make it harder to reach another? It all worked out in the end, thanks to some perseverance on my part (running in 10F weather sometimes) and some warm weather in December. At year end, 31% of my workouts were on paved trails, with treadmill runs coming in second at 28%.
  5. Start taking a multivitamin.
    I totally rocked this! I have only forgotten to take my vitamins a couple days. I even take the bottle on vacation! I just take a regular old generic Target gummy vitamin, nothing special or woo-woo. I don’t know if it has helped much or not, but it hasn’t hurt any. I plan to continue.
  6. Volunteer at a race that isn’t put on by Rocksteady Running.
    I volunteered at The Willow and In Yan Teopa, both put on by St. Croix Running Company. The races are much more low-key than the Rocksteady Events (and I still volunteered at all the ESTRS runs, Afton, and Superior Fall), which makes volunteering a breeze. In Yan Teopa was cupless and that made post-race clean-up SO easy. I had a great time, met some new fun people, and found some new cool places to run.
  7. Go for a run in every county in MN.
    I ran a mile or more in 10 new counties! I found some really cool new parks and trails, and I even checked off Kittson County, one of the most remote counties in the state.

While 2019 was disappointing from a performance perspective, that’s the whole reason that I set goals that aren’t based on time or distance. I achieved 5 of my 6 year-long goals and made significant progress on my multi-year goal. That’s exciting and helps me reframe 2019 as something other than a complete disaster.

Apart from these goals, my race performances, and my seasonal goals, I had an amazing year from a social perspective. I made some new running friendships this year that are incredibly meaningful, I strengthened existing friendships, and my husband came along to volunteer with me for three days at Superior, which allowed him to spend quality time with my running friends and also to experience for the first time the seminal ultrarunning event in my life, the one that five years earlier lit that endurance running fire in my soul. I had the best running year of my life when looked at from a relationship-building experience, and that’s what is sustaining me as I look to 2020.

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.

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.

FANS and ESTRS

I had a dream last night that it was snowing for FANS, and I had absolutely nothing except a winter coat (I guess that was fortunate). I tried to go home and pick stuff up (specifically like 25 pairs of socks) and realized I didn’t have my car keys. I think this is a sign that I need to get my butt in gear and start doing actual planning for the race. It is in six days, so that’s good advice.

Wednesday, I volunteered for the first installment of the Endless Summer Trail Run Series. It was a bit on the chilly side, so the “summer” part seemed more like “beginningless” than endless, but I was covered for many contingencies – I had long pants, a sweatshirt, and even a poncho. The poncho is so great that I almost want it to rain during an event so that I can bust it out. I spent the evening checking in runners, wrangling (and eating) pizza, and cheering people on. It is SUCH a great event: the prize this year is a race-specific sticker (collect all 5!), the people who volunteer and/or run are top-notch, and the locations are awesome, too. If not for this race, I wouldn’t have known about Lebanon Hills! I signed up to volunteer at all 5 events this year, just so I wouldn’t miss out on the party.

Before I headed to the ESTRS shindig, I went to the new FANS course over lunch for some course recon. I went with my much faster colleague (who is competing in the 6 hour event) and ended up busting my butt to try not to bog him down, but I feel like I got the lay of the land anyway. The FANS race committee had to scramble to find a new place since Fort Snelling is still experiencing flooding. What a nice surprise for the new race directors! This year it will be at Normandale Lake, which has some positives: no gravel, no fee to get in (great for spectators), and the course is much closer to the lake, so I think that will help keep things cool. It has some challenges, too: it’s all asphalt, which could be tough when it gets hot, and it has some hillier hills. They aren’t that bad, but I’m sure by the 10th time around, they’ll be annoying. They are strategically placed to facilitate walking breaks, so that will be good!

I still have a lot to do this week to get ready, including a trial run at setting up my tent on my own, purchasing gels (I went to REI during their sale and the selection was not great!), restocking my tackle box of supplies, and figuring out how to deal with my feet. I did finally rid myself of this annoying callus I’ve had forever that was causing some serious issues, but my right foot is still sort of healing from the blister I got at Ice Age. I think it should be ok, but I’m still missing a layer of skin from where the blister was, and there’s a ridge where the old skin meets the new that I’m a bit wary of. What an appetizing though, I know.

I’m hoping my newfound talent for getting a decent night’s sleep before wasn’t a fluke, but I’m taking the day before the race off of work, and I plan to avoid sugar and caffeine in the afternoon and evening. I’m hoping to avoid a lot of my past FANS mistakes this year (eat more, walk more, deal with ANY problem, no matter how small, ASAP, apply more sunscreen) while also avoiding new mistakes, I want to get a BIG distance PR, and I really, really, really want to get at least one short lap in (meaning, I’m still in this thing in the final hour). Other than that, no expectations. No A, B, or C standard distances planned. Just see what I’m capable of, and try not to permanently damage myself.