Chippewa Moraine 50K Training: Week 6

I finally chose a race! Since Zumbro 50 filled under my nose (the Ultrasignup notification didn’t work correctly, probably due to user error), I had to pick another race. I thought about doing Trail Mix, but the cutoff is 8 hours (and the 4th loop has to be started before 6 hours elapsed), which is faster than my current PR. Of course, I signed up for Chippewa Moraine last year knowing that the cutoff was faster than my 50K PR at the time, but I decided not to risk it 2 years in a row. Also, I like the out-and-back nature of CM50K better than 4 loops at Trail Mix, and I really enjoyed the Ice Age Trail. I’m looking forward to a big improvement in time this year – provided I can keep the sweat and sunscreen out of my eyes.

Monday: 7 mi, treadmill
Tuesday: 6 mi, treadmill hill workout
Wednesday: 6.5 mi, treadmill
Thursday: rest
Friday: 5.6 mi, treadmill speed workout (10 x 0.25 mi)
Saturday: 11.2 mi, treadmill (split into 8 mi and 3.2 mi)
Sunday: 13.8 mi, trail/road/treadmill (7.5 on the snowy Lakewalk & London Road, 6.3 treadmill)
Total: 50.1

Holy crap last week sucked. I am so bored of the treadmill. It’s really hard to get motivated to get on it after I get home from work… then I end up working out later than planned due to my procrastination, so then I have no time to do strength training before dinner… whoops. But that’s how January and February work. I endure, and no more.

I thought I was going to make this week a cutback week, and I didn’t! I’m glad of it. I didn’t do a long run, but instead did 2 medium-mileage days back to back on the weekend. It’s not quite the same when the runs are split up, but 1. the treadmill only runs for 99:59 at a time and 2. who cares? I still need to do some long runs, but those are going to have to wait until it’s warmer. I’ve got more time now that I’m doing a later race, and I am running a shorter ultra, so I won’t have to worry as much about not getting long enough long runs for a 50 miler.

I managed to get out on Sunday. I was planning to run outside on Saturday, too, but it was snowing and 10F so I decided against it. Sunday was even colder, but it wasn’t snowing, and I didn’t realize it was windy until it was too late. It was rough, running into the wind on the way back. My poor face. It was worth it just to mix things up, especially since this upcoming week doesn’t look any better.

I’m interested to see how a higher mileage training cycle will affect me at CM50K. Of course, I still have several weeks to go, so a lot could happen, but I decided not to cut back my mileage to the low 40s (what I typically strive for in a 50K training cycle) despite changing my goal race distance. I hope this leads to an improved time! Also, I want to celebrate making it through the entire month of January without an unplanned rest day and without illness! (Knock on wood!) The previous 2 years, I have spent several days out with illness in January and/or February, so now I just need to stay healthy through February!

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Racing Update

I still haven’t committed to a spring ultra yet, mostly due to cowardice (but also partially due to frugality), but I have signed up for a couple less daunting races.

In March, I am running the Hot Dash 10 Mile again. I don’t know if I’ll do it again after this year because it’s fairly expensive, but I do really like the race. It’s hard. The hills are really tough. I am hoping it’ll be a little bit warmer this year (last year it was like 33F); if not, I will dress a little more warmly than I did last year. Although I did feel fine while running the race, so maybe I just need to have a drop bag? I’m hoping I’ll be able to run faster than last year but not really sure what that will look like right now.

In May, I’ll be back in Lutsen for my 3rd straight Superior Spring 25K (here are my 2016 and 2017 RRs). I’ve already signed up to volunteer, and reserved my hotel room. I’m looking forward to running under 4 hours there this time around – I got so close last year. I feel compelled to return to this race after last year’s tragedy, to support the race staff and any runners who provided medical aid, and to honor the runner who passed away.

In September, I’ll be running the Moose Mountain Marathon again. I had to miss the race last year since I was in Maine, so I’m excited to get back. My hope is to volunteer at an aid station on the drive up Friday, and then work packet pickup, but I’m not sure how things will work out travel-wise. I’m signed up for at least the packet pickup shift. I’m really looking forward to this event – volunteering at this race sparked my love of trail running. Obviously I’m hoping to complete the event faster than I did in 2016, but I’ll leave any more specific goal setting for the fall.

I’m interested in an ultra at the end of February, but I’m not sure. It’s in Iron Mountain, MI, which is quite a drive, and there aren’t very many participants, so I feel like it would be very weird for me to run it. I don’t know if I’m comfortable with forcing volunteers to stay out there for 8 hours or so to support only me. Also who knows what the weather will be like? I don’t want to run in -10F conditions. On the other hand, it would be a good chance to get in a nice long long run before Zumbro (and would be a good bellwether for my performance at Zumbro), without having to deal with all the logistics myself. Update: Zumbro 50 is full! So the decision has been made for me.

Looking Back at 2017

It’s the new year, and that means I can arbitrarily look at a 365 day snapshot of my training and assess it. I looked back on 2016 around this time last year, believe it or not.

In 2017, I ran 1706 miles in 234 days, at an average pace of 14:06. That’s a pretty big improvement over 2016’s 1537 miles in 228 days, at an average pace of 16:38. In 9 of 12 months, I ran more miles than I did in the corresponding month in 2016. The big outlier there was June, when I took a bunch of time off after FANS, and therefore ran 83 fewer miles than I had in 2016. I’ve probably run more road workouts than I did 2016, which accounts for some of the increase in the overall pace, but I’m also just faster. Hooray!

I took 131 rest days this year, only 5 fewer than I did in 2016. One of my goals for 2017 was to reduce my rest days a lot, and to minimize unplanned extended breaks, and I don’t really think I succeeded at that, although I did take several planned breaks that were longer (my vacation to the East Coast, my 2 week break in early December), so maybe I succeeded a little bit. I’m definitely going to try to sprinkle more planned breaks into my training in 2018, for sure.

I raced 13 times, including one race I didn’t finish and one race that felt like I didn’t finish, and I had one race I didn’t start (I think, maybe there was another one). I didn’t solve my Race Eve sleeping problems. I bought a new treadmill and several new pairs of shoes. I failed to track my running-related spending, as I’d planned.

I set a goal to run more miles than 2016, hopefully 2000. I didn’t run 2000, but I’m not really concerned about that. Maybe I’ll make it in 2018. Maybe I won’t, but I do want to best my 2017 total.

Looking ahead to 2018, I will leave my more specific goals for each season, so I won’t have any performance-related goals until March. My year long goals are usually more abstract, more philosophical, nothing that can be achieved in a single day. Of course I already mentioned continuing to take deliberate rest breaks and to run more miles than I did in 2017. I hope to hit the 1000 mile mark sooner than I did in ’17 (31 July).

I want to go outside every day, with intention. Of course the word intention sounds like very “woo woo” self help planner culture b.s., but I don’t know how else to put it concisely. I want to go outside for the purpose of spending time outside, not just as a means to get in my car and go to work. Even if it’s just a couple minutes outside in the yard with my cats. Naturally, outdoor running will fulfill this goal, too.

I need to turn strength training into a habit. That doesn’t mean an intense lifting program several day a week, but I need to stop going weeks on end without doing so much as a push-up. I’ve said “I should do more strength training” in far too many race reports. It’s time to really work on my core and leg strength in a committed way.

I do want to try tracking my spending again. That doesn’t sound very forceful, but I’d like to get a better handle on what this pastime costs me.

I want to spend more time with other runners, whether that’s more volunteer time, or actually participating in a group run, or joining a running gym (which I am considering doing in a few months). I need more running friends, more familiar faces at the starting line and the finish line.

I’ve got other, more interesting things in mind for each season, but I never really know too far in advance where my running journey is going to take me, and I like it that way.

TBD Spring Ultra Training: Week 2

It’s cold and miserable. I took a whole week off, hoping to run outside every day, and ended up on the treadmill most days. Blah.

Monday: rest (holiday!)
Tuesday: 8 mi, split treadmill (3.9 mi and 4.1 mi), strength
Wednesday: 7.2 mi, split treadmill (4.2 mi and 3.0 mi), strength
Thursday: 8.8 mi, treadmill (4.2 mi) and Lakewalk (4.6 mi)
Friday: 6.1 mi, trail (Bagley)
Saturday: 5.5 mi, treadmill, strength
Sunday: 4.2 mi, treadmill, strength
Total: 40 mi

Okay, I fully realize that split up runs are not equal to the sum of their parts, but it’s what I had to do to mentally get through the week of workouts. Ugh. I was lucky to get out even twice, it was so cold. Christmas Eve, the temperature started to drop, and most of this whole week was spent below 0 Fahrenheit. I almost wish I’d gone back to work on Wednesday and not wasted the vacation days, but I’d have to use them in the next few months anyway.

But when I did get outside, it was gorgeous.

Thursday:

Friday:

Love Minus Zero Fahrenheit/No Limit #northcountry #trailrunning #conservationofmomentum #onlyinmn

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I love this place, and then I hate it. It’s hard.

TBD Spring Ultra Training: Week 1

I think I’m going to run Zumbro 50, but I’m not 100% certain yet. This is my first week back after my two-week hiatus, and it probably wasn’t super smart to jump right in with 42 miles, but I feel pretty good.

Monday: 6.2 mi, treadmill
Tuesday: 7.1 mi, road (Minnesota Point)
Wednesday: 6.6 mi, treadmill, strength
Thursday: 6.8 mi, treadmill, strength
Friday: 10 mi, paved trail/road (Lakewalk + London Rd)
Saturday: 5.3 mi, trail (Hartley Root Canal + Guardrail), strength
Sunday: strength
Total: 42 mi

I’m trying to reach 1700 miles for the year, and match last year’s total mileage for December, so that’s part of the reason I stupidly decided to ramp up my mileage. It’s not like I was inactive over my break, and I haven’t tried to run fast or do anything really hard, but it’s still probably not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. Eh. I’m not worried about training perfectly.

The treadmill is so boring, even with Netflix on and my cats downstairs to watch me. I do my best to break things up by changing the speed or the elevation, but it’s still a frustrating slog.

I was glad to get outside for half my runs, even though I was cold. On Friday, I actually started out too warm and ended up having to slow down to a walk because I was overheated and feeling a little ill from it. Unfortunately, I got cold later on from the damp clothes, though my handwarmers kept me from getting truly cold. Friday’s run was my first double-digit mile run since Fall Back Blast, which I didn’t realize, but I really struggled at the end and had to add in a few walking breaks. The cumulative effects of higher mileage + cold + bulky clothes + ice and snow + headlamp were too much for me to handle. Learning experience. It wasn’t an awful run, but not one of my favorites.

My run on Saturday was much better. Hartley was beautiful, and it wasn’t too cold. I think I found a good layering option, and I had hand warmers again. I brought my headlamp along but didn’t take it out until the final mile, preferring to run along in the gloaming with just the waning ambient light on the snow showing the way. I’ve run those trails at Hartley so many times, I could almost do them blindfolded. I didn’t even feel chilled afterward! It was a nice way to end my running week.

I’m really trying to ensure I do some kind of strength training a few times a week. It’s easier to do when I’ve done a treadmill run, because I’m not chilled and I didn’t have to drive home from somewhere else. Even if I do just a few planks and pushups, it’s important to do something. Greater core and leg strength will be helpful with building endurance and stamina, and overall improved muscle mass will help with weight loss. I did not do any yoga this week due to my bruised knee (it doesn’t hurt to walk or go down stairs or do anything dynamic, but it hurts to kneel on it directly, of course), but I did planks and lunges and other circuit-training-style exercises. I’m trying to build up a lot of different ideas of exercises to do, so that I can do a lot, or a little, or mix things up to avoid getting bored.

Fall Running Goals: 2017 Revisited

Fall ends very early in Duluth, so even though we’ve not reached the winter solstice, I’m ready to close the book on the season.

I won’t be setting any goals for “winter” (December-February), because I don’t really race then. I’ll set my year-long goals in January, and then do seasonal goals for spring, summer, and fall. I know some people need that next race on the calendar to get themselves psyched up, but I feel great about not having any running obligations, and I’m glad to have a break from race fees!

My fall running goals were as follows:

  1. Course personal best at WD50K.
    I didn’t finish, so I’m starting off well here.
  2. Set another marathon PR.
    I didn’t start the Birkie, so I didn’t set a marathon PR. I finished the Fall Back Blast in 15:55, a pace nearly a minute faster than my marathon PR pace from July.
  3. Run all the remaining segments of the Superior Hiking Trail between Duluth and Two Harbors.
    I completed all the segments except the long one from Lake County Demonstration Forest to Reeves Road. Bummer, but I didn’t have the time nor the energy for a 22 mile run, and couldn’t make it work to run with a friend and coordinate parking.
  4. Take 2 weeks off deliberately.
    In progress. I’m four days in and have a cold already. Huzzah.

That was a pretty poor showing (25%!), but at the same time, I still set an overall 50K PR, I ran a lot of fun new segments of the Superior Hiking Trail, and I am enjoying my time off during a really annoying cold snap. I had plenty to enjoy about my fall season, even if I didn’t achieve many of my goals. It’s about the journey, not the destination.

Lay Your Weary Head To Rest

Starting today, I’m taking a two week break from running.

I meant to do it starting yesterday, but it was 40 F and there’s cold weather in the forecast, so I didn’t want to waste what will probably be one of the last mild days of the year. I ran 8 miles on the Superior Hiking Trail starting at Martin Road and it was really frustrating – lots of ice, uneven frozen ground, and spots where the mud or grass was frozen, but I didn’t know, and then my foot would break through. It was a pretty tiring run, but I was glad to get out there just the same.

I set a goal at the beginning of the fall season to take 2 weeks off by choice. I meant to do it at the end of Wild Duluth, but because I DNF (and I took time off due to illness), I ran another race, and then I had 2 5Ks, so I had to push back the break until technically after the fall season (as I define it, it’s September-November, and then winter is December-February).

Physically, I can benefit from a break. The blister-turned-callus on my right heel might go away. The chafing on the middle of my back from my sports bra clasp can heal. In general, my knees, hips, and ankles can benefit from a break from the relentless pounding. My recent slower 5K times have indicated my body is fatigued.

Mentally, I really need a break. I’m a bit burned out. It’s dark out early. I have to wear layers. I always have smelly running clothes hanging in the bathroom. I’m tired of every route I run. I feel like I don’t have time to do anything but run. This isn’t actually true, but it feels true because of the early sundown.

I’ve got other stuff to do, though. Strength training, for example. That’s fallen by the wayside, and I’m going to need to work on both my core and leg strength for next year. I’ll work on my nutrition, too. I haven’t made dinner or a lunch for myself in weeks. I’m trying to lose weight, too (turns out you can gain weight even if you’re running marathons and ultra marathons! Ugh). I’m an overweight runner (technically an obese runner, if you go by BMI alone), it’s not a crime, but it’s also a hindrance to getting faster.

Running is completely off-limits, but walking and hiking are not. I’ll count hiking towards my total mileage during the year, since I do plenty of hiking during races, ha ha. I won’t count just regular old walking, because I already don’t, but I do need to increase the amount of walking I do during the day. My job is fairly sedentary, and I need something active to replace running.

I’ll do a lot of planning, too, at least for my next upcoming goal race (currently Zumbro 50, first time I’m admitting that “out loud,” but I’m not registered yet). I’ll get a training plan of some sort together so I at least have something to strive for once I’m back out on the roads/trails/treadmill on December 18th.

I’ve taken breaks before, but they’ve always come as the result of something outside of my control. Illness, injury, burnout, or scheduling issues have kept me off my feet for a few days or a few weeks at various points over the last couple years, but then I end up with a lot of guilt or anxiety about not running. Now I’m in control, and I’m going to enjoy the hell out of this break.