Race Report: Polar Dash Half Marathon

Official Results:
Time: 2:27:30
Pace: 11:16
Placing:
Overall: 307/354
Gender: 153/182
AG (F30-39): 46/55

Watch Results:
Time: 2:27:39
Pace: 11:27
Distance: 12.9 mi (???)
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals: (just trust me on this, I know I didn’t publish them ahead of time like I usually do)
A: 2:30
B: 2:32:01 (PR)

Food:
What I ate the night before: Jersey Mikes #13 sub
What I ate on race morning: bagel with cream cheese
What I carried with me: 3 gel packets (I ate 2, at miles 5 and 9) and a disposable water bottle

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt, tights, hoodie, buff, gloves
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker

Discussion:
What a great way to start the year! I signed up for this race several weeks ago and started to regret it because I realized it could be cold. Apparently last year it was like 0F. NO THANK YOU. I’d have stayed in bed and eaten the entry fee. I asked one of my friends if she wanted to join me and she said she liked to wait til closer to the start for winter races because of ice. Oh yeah, I hadn’t even thought about that, whoops. But it didn’t matter! Because the weather was amazing and the race course was almost completely clear!

I didn’t sleep well the night before the race, although I didn’t have my usual pre-race panic-as-soon-as-the-lights-turn-off nonsense. I have been having trouble sleeping the past week or so in general. I still think I got 3 or 4 hours of sleep which isn’t bad, although I still woke up BEFORE MY ALARM WHAT IS THAT and considered rolling over and going to sleep for several hours more. Honestly, the only thing that kept me going was reminding myself that I would have to get it done, one way or the other, since I’m back in ultra training again.

I wasn’t sure how this race was going to go since I’ve had a really terrible December, running-wise, and I haven’t run double digit mileage since November (my last half marathon, actually). It was good in the sense that my legs were well rested, but bad in the sense that I have had a lot of fairly sluggish runs lately. Many of them have been on the treadmill, so it’s likely a lot of that slowness is mental. I did almost nothing to prepare – I had a vague idea of the course as I run in that area all the time, and I checked the night before what kind of pace I needed to run to hit a PR. I didn’t set out any clothes or (obviously) write up my goals or do anything beyond purchasing a bagel bundle with cream cheese yesterday so that I could have my favorite morning snack.

I knew I had plenty of time to get to the race, since it’s so close to my house, and that I could park for free instead of paying the $10 to park near the pavilion. When I did the Night Nation Run, I walked all the way there and back, but that was an untimed 5K in summer. This was a half marathon in winter – even though it wasn’t frigid, I didn’t want to risk getting cold post-race while walking home. I parked and then did my warmup by running down the hill and to the pavilion. I got there with about 15 minutes until race time, and the pavilion was open for runners. At signup, I had misunderstood the website and thought I’d have to pay $5 extra to have access to the heated pavilion, but that turned out to be for spectators only. That was a really great idea, actually! It made sure that there was plenty of room for runners, instead of getting swarmed with people’s family and friends. I didn’t want to pay the extra fee for having my packet mailed or picking it up on race day, so I picked it up on my way home from work the night before. I love races in my neighborhood! So convenient! It takes so much of the worry away for me – I fret a lot over dumb stuff like parking and getting lost, and I didn’t have to worry about that at all!

The race started along the riverfront outside the pavilion. It was a lovely view in the dim morning light – the sun hadn’t fully reached us down there below the bluffs at race start. I lined up right behind the 2:30 pacers, figuring if I stuck with them I’d finish in like 2:29:55 or something. They were a couple of nice, friendly guys who knew each other, and they chatted the whole way, which — we all know by now how I feel about chatting during the race, but I actually found it helpful at times because they were making pace-related comments. We looped around under the Wabasha Street Bridge, then came out and crossed Wabasha Street and headed back in the opposite direction. We passed the pavilion area in the first mile, and I realized my watch was already behind – I was only at 0.95 miles, when it’s usually ahead. The pacer guys’ watches were slightly ahead so I realized it was probably a glitch on my end, and it turned out it was.

stravapolardash

What is this???

The next section was a loop down Water St. to the 35E bridge, a route that I have run several times. There were a couple of water stops along this section, but I ran through them since I was carrying a bottle of water. I found it much easier to keep a rhythm going if I didn’t have to stop to get a cup.

I played leap frog a bit with the pacers: I’d get in front of them, they’d catch up, and so on and so on. I only got behind them once or twice, and that was only a step or two. I wondered if my pace would fall off, or if I would start to get mentally weak, but it never seemed to happen. I thought it was happening, every time the pacers caught up to me I thought I was slowing, but I finally asked them and it turned out they were sometimes speeding up rather than me slowing down! I also learned they were ahead of the 2:30 pace, so I knew if I stuck with them or slightly ahead of them, I’d come in ahead of my hoped-for A goal.

The course turns around just before 35E (about 4 miles in, I think) and then loops back around to the start. Somewhere just before we turned off the road and onto the Mississippi River Trail (maybe mile 5 or 6?), I got passed by the lead runner in the half. That was a little demoralizing – getting lapped on a 2 loop course! But the first loop is longer than the second, and this guy was flying (I believe he ran 1:13), so I can’t even be mad! At the course turnoff, I got a little confused – there was no one ahead of me and I couldn’t tell where to go. The 10K runners/second loop half marathoners were streaming at us from the road so I figured turning off the road was probably correct, but I asked the pacers and they weren’t sure, and only at the last minute did a volunteer turn around (they were focusing on crowd control from the 10kers and faster half runners) and confirm we were going the right way. And then we didn’t really see anyone ahead of us – there was a GIANT gap between us and the next set of runners for awhile. Just before the second turnoff, the second place half marathoner ran by us. So, hooray, only lapped by 2 people!

We passed through the start area again, and it was totally deserted. We still couldn’t see any other runners! I was almost certain we were in the right area, but it was so odd to have no one in front of us. Finally we spotted some people as we got closer to Wabasha St. I have to say, I really liked that the first loop was a mile longer than the second! I knew when I started the second loop that I had done over half the race, and I was still going strong. I remembered from the Moustache Run that I wished I hadn’t waited so long to eat my first gel, and that I should have eaten a second one, and I made sure that I didn’t let that happen again. It definitely helped!

I started to pass more people starting around mile 8 or 9. I overheard one guy saying he was never going to run a Team Ortho event again because the mile markers were too confusing. Look, it’s a two-loop course, sir. It’s not that hard. If you’ve been running for 2 hours and see a sign for Mile 2, use some common sense, please. And if you see a sign for mile 3 and one for mile 5, then try to think – which one comes sequentially after the last one you saw? THINK MCFLY, THINK. Now, I am a person who made lap-counting signs for my friend to hold up when I was running an indoor 2-mile race, and I definitely forgot what lap I was on during FANS many, many times, so I can relate to getting confused during a race, but it seemed like an extreme reaction. There are lots of other reasons not to run their events – like, they are very expensive, for example!

The second loop really seemed to fly by. Honestly, the whole race did! It hardly ever felt labored or unpleasant. The conditions were perfect – not too warm, almost no wind, mostly ice- and snow-free terrain. There were a few tiny hills, rarely was it ever truly flat, but it felt flat. I feel like I ran a fairly evenly-paced race, but it’s really hard to tell because my watch was so off. I had a rhythm going, at least. I should have hit a couple split buttons along the way just to see how I did as the race went on – there weren’t any intermediate timing mat results. I’ve had some trouble with running too hard at the start and then tapering off at the end (it happened in TCM and the Moustache Run), but the course conditions changed a bit in those races. TCM has a couple hills in the second half, and the Moustache Run has a few as well (though it has the same hills, the other way, in the first half) and I also had some changing weather there, with the temp dropping as the day went on, and running into the wind in the second half. So of course it’s easier to pace a race without much variation. I’m not going to give the course all the credit though, I think I did a good job pacing and holding back at the beginning, too.

In the last mile, I did try to speed up a bit as soon as I saw the flag, since I knew the course well and I felt like my legs had more to give. I finished the last few sips of water in my bottle and planned to toss it away at the final water stop, which was about half a mile from the end. I passed a guy who decided to try to pass me back, and I don’t think it went well for him as he ended up dropping back just as we reached the water stop/turnoff. I tossed my water bottle (yes, it was single-use, but I have used it more than once!) and cruised away from him onto the pavement. I was mentally chastising myself for wanting to stay in bed this morning – I’ve got to remember that it’s almost always better to get up and run the race! (Surf the Murph is an exception.) I saw the mile 13 flag at the top of a small hill, and ran it on in.

I felt really great! Probably like I left something in the tank, but maybe not, since I’m still pretty tired this afternoon. But I felt happy and a little bit out of it, so I feel like that’s the hallmark of a solid effort race. I got my medal, wandered around a bit to clear my head and calm my body, and then picked up my post-race snacks (granola bar, Cheetos, gorp mix) and this cute penguin hat they give to all race-day participants. I watched the start of the timed and untimed 5Ks (they start late because there are multi-race challenges – e.g. run the half and the 5k, or the half, 5k, and 2.019k), thought about taking a couple of pictures, and then decided to just walk back to my car.

As I mentioned, I ran down the hill for my warmup. That meant I had to go up the hill for my “cooldown.” It didn’t kill me, as I wasn’t completely noodle-legged and my lungs were fine, but it wasn’t super fun either. I stopped and took a selfie about halfway up, just for fun. I got kind of cold while I was walking back, since I was all sweaty and my sweat was getting chilled, and that reinforced my decision to drive to the top of the hill, instead of coming from home. I picked up a latte before heading home to eat two more bagels and watch Star Wars while vegging out on the couch. Oh, and doing my daily pushups! I’m at 40! Eventually I’ll take a shower.

I am very excited to have gotten such a big PR – almost 4:30 dropped in just a month & change. Obviously the better weather and easier course helped a lot, but so did experience, improved pacing, and the motivation of trying to stay ahead of the pacers. Half marathons are so fun! I don’t know if I’ll make one a goal race in the near future, but I am definitely going to use them as training runs and as I get closer to an interesting milestone (2:20?), I might zero in on one as a goal race. In the way, way, way back of my mind, I’m hoping to run a 5 hour marathon this year, so this is an important step forward toward that. I’m not there yet, but I’m on my way.

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Chippewa Moraine 50K Training: Weeks 13-15

I’ve pretty much given up all hope that the weather will ever be nice again. It’s really hard, I’m not going to sugar coat it.

Monday (3/19): 4.5 mi, trail (Brickyard)
Tuesday: 6.1 mi, treadmill
Wednesday: 6 mi, road/pavement (Harriet and Raspberry Island)
Thursday: rest
Friday: rest
Saturday: rest
Sunday: rest
Total: 16.6 mi

Monday (3/26): rest
Tuesday: 5.4 mi, road/pavement (Brickyard/Harriet Island)
Wednesday: 5.2 mi, road
Thursday: 3.6 mi, pavement (Centennial Lakes)
Friday: 8.1 mi, road/pavement (River to River Greenway)
Saturday: 10.1 mi, pavement (MS River Trail/Harriet Island)
Sunday: 8.2, treadmill
Total: 40.6 mi

Monday (4/2): 7 mi, treadmill
Tuesday: 6 mi, treadmill
Wednesday: rest
Thursday: 8 mi, treadmill
Friday: 5.5 mi, treadmill
Saturday: 3.5 mi, treadmill
Sunday: rest
Total: 30 mi

You know, when I write it out like that, it doesn’t look so bad.

The week of the 19th was kind of hard. As I said before, we had a minor but frustrating bed bug infestation, and I did not get much sleep, plus I was covered in bites from before we realized what was going on. I was supposed to run the Hot Dash 10 miler and didn’t. We drove to Sioux Falls, SD on Saturday to watch the Bulldogs win the regional and earn their way back to the Frozen Four.

I did explore a couple new locations. The Brickyard trail is HARD. It’s a long downhill, which means a long uphill, FYI. I also did it in soft snow so my legs were ON FIRE. I also ran around Harriet Island and Raspberry Island, then across the Wabasha St. and Robert St. bridges. I am really looking forward to warmer weather, because there are so many cool places to explore in St. Paul that I just don’t feel like investigating when it’s cold.

The week of the 26th was better! I ran outside almost every day! I thought I was turning a corner! (Spoiler: I was not.) There was no hockey that weekend, so it was very relaxing. I experimented with lunchtime running on Thursday (it’s ok but I have to get my act together on organization), and ran around in the neighborhood on Wednesday, which I hated. I can’t stand when I have to piece together mileage because roads end or sidewalks end or I end up on a busier-than-I’m-comfortable-with street. I found a new paved trail, the River to River Greenway (Friday), which I’ll be trying out again soon! I ran the Brickyard trail again on Tuesday, and won’t be running it again any time soon. It’s a soggy mess and there’s only going to be more sogginess. I’m not interested in running through ankle-deep water on an urban training run.

Saturday, I thought I had everything planned out: the Mississippi River Trail is hundreds of miles long – I can run mindlessly for 5 miles, then turn around and run mindlessly for 5 more miles. NOPE. I was thwarted by a road and trail closure only 3 miles in, and had to run around the Lilydale trails and Harriet Island (again) in a stiff and miserable wind in order to get the planned 10 miles in. So I was cowardly and ran on the treadmill on Sunday.

The week of April 2nd was so depressingly cold. I traveled to Missouri for work, and mistakenly thought it would be decent out. It was not. I ran on the hotel treadmill Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday, I didn’t run, but I did walk around the Mississippi riverfront in St. Louis before my late afternoon flight. Thursday, I had the day off for the Frozen Four semifinals (which were after working hours, but I knew I’d be too nervous to work), so I had time to run a longer treadmill run, then I walked around St. Paul and also spent lots of time jumping around and cheering and also raised my heartrate through sheer panic. UMD won and made it to the finals! Friday the high temperature was below 30 F, so it was amazing I did anything at all. I worked half a day, had lunch with friends at a Russian restaurant, ran on the treadmill, and then went to the grand opening of my friend’s 9 Round Fitness franchise. I want to join, because it seems like a good cross-training opportunity for me, but it’s too far away! Saturday was the NCAA championship game, I ran 3.5 miles on the treadmill (I planned to do more, and then didn’t), and then walked around St. Paul quite a bit, and then cheered and screamed and literally raised my heart rate to 110 bpm while sitting quietly in my seat because I was so nervous, and UMD won the national championship and life was grand. Sunday was a rest day, because obviously.

Zumbro 50 starts in 5.5 hours, and I am so glad I’m not racing it. It’s cold and dreary and the driving post-race is going to be atrocious – we’re going to get dumped on with snow. Plus the added pressure of a 50 mile race during my downtrodden winter training would have been crushing. I think I’ll be ready, with my imperfect training, to take on Chippewa Moraine, but I would in no way have been ready for Zumbro, even if the race day weather had been perfect. There’s always next year.

Chippewa Moraine 50K Training: Week 10

Marking time.

Monday: 8.6 mi, paved trail (Lakewalk)
Tuesday: 7 mi, paved trail (Lakewalk)
Wednesday: 4.6 mi, treadmill hill workout
Thursday: rest
Friday: 6.5 mi, treadmill
Saturday: 10.2 mi, paved trail (Lakewalk)
Sunday: 8 mi, road (Minnesota Point)
Total: 45 mi

After a few weeks of lower mileage, I picked things up again this week. I only had two treadmill runs, too! That was pleasant. Somehow I didn’t even remember that – I thought it was yet another week of the treadmill grind.

Since it snowed a lot last weekend and then we had a few warmer days with below-freezing nights, I knew I was going to be limited in spots to run. Sidewalk shoveling is iffy (I’m guilty of this myself) and drainage is poor, and I figured many trails would either be skating rinks or unpacked, so I stuck with the safest options.

The Lakewalk itself is a lake in spots, which was slightly annoying. I had to detour onto the gritty snow on the sides a few times, which was fine but took a bit out of my legs. Tuesday, it turned out that there was a Grandma’s Marathon training group out as well, so I ended up “banditing” part of their training run (I went past their turnaround point, so they were all gone by the time I turned around #humblebrag). I filed that away in my memory for this week, since that was a significantly larger group of people than I prefer to encounter during training.

Wednesday was my grandmother’s 92nd birthday, so I visited her for an hour or so pre-workout. I considered making that my rest day, but since I was driving to and from the Twin Cities on Thursday for work, I just did a short workout after my visit. That kind of makes me sound like I sacrificed time with my grandparents for a workout, but we had a great visit and I am there at least twice a week, so I’m not a completely awful person.

Both Saturday and Sunday, I started my workouts significantly later than I needed to, for no reason. I find myself stalling and finding all kinds of distractions and excuses not to start my run, and then I get in my head about it. “You ate breakfast/lunch like you were going to run 10 miles, now you have to.” “But it’s cold.” “But I’m going to be done late.” “But I am enjoying watching this movie.” “Maybe I can just do 6 miles.” “Maybe I’ll just run on the treadmill even though I have the opportunity to run outside.” “What if the route is snowy/icy/impassable?” “I don’t wanna put on all that gear.” “I’m so slow, this will take forever.” “I have to pee for the 10th time.”

I really admire people who just get out there and run. I also admire me because I do get out there and run, eventually. It is hard, for no reasons other than ones I invent for myself, but I do still have to grapple with those reasons. I’d like to think that I’m not going to be quite so neurotic about running once the weather clears up, but I can’t say for sure. I guess eventually it’ll be warm and I’ll find out.

Chippewa Moraine 50K Training: Weeks 7-9

I’m in survival mode right now, which has resulted in a lot of treadmill running and not much other stuff. I’m moving in a couple weeks and have a lot of other stuff to take care of on top of training.

Monday (2/5): 7.9 mi, treadmill
Tuesday: 6 mi, treadmill hill workout
Wednesday: 5.6 mi, treadmill
Thursday: 8.1 mi, treadmill
Friday: rest
Saturday: 8.4 mi, trail (Hartley)
Sunday: 16.1 mi, trail (Munger)
Total: 52.1 mi

Ever have a training run that feels as amazing as a race? That was me on that 16.1 mile run on the Munger trail. I was flying at the end, even after suffering through some bitterly cold winds in the last 5 miles.

Monday (2/12): 6.2 mi, treadmill
Tuesday: rest
Wednesday: 6.2 mi, pavement (Lakewalk), fartlek
Thursday: 7 mi, road (Minnesota Point)
Friday: rest (I closed on my house this day!)
Saturday: 8.7 mi, trail (Hartley)
Sunday: 8.3 (3.1 & 5.2) mi, treadmill
Total: 36.4 mi

This was a planned cutback week, although I intended to run more on Sunday. I planned to run outside on Sunday (or do a split indoor/outdoor), but then decided against it due to the snow (it snowed Sunday-Tuesday), and then I ended up with a shorter run than planned since my stomach was acting up a bit. The weather was fairly balmy Wednesday and Thursday, so I was able to get outside and run. I’ve been carrying a head lamp in my pocket and putting it on if needed, but it’s so pleasant to have more daylight.

Monday (2/19): 7.9 mi, treadmill
Tuesday: 8.3 (2.7 & 5.6) mi, treadmill
Wednesday: rest
Thursday: 5.6 mi, treadmill
Friday: 8.1 mi, treadmill
Saturday: rest
Sunday: 2.5 mi, treadmill
Total: 32.4 mi

This last week ended up being an unintentional cutback week. I knew that due to snow, we’d have to make a weekend trip down to check on our new house and to shovel the sidewalks there, so I tried to front-load my week as much as I could. Wednesday I had dinner with friends, so I knew that would be a rest day. Thursday was brutal. I’d stayed up extremely late watching USA win the gold in women’s hockey, and couldn’t fall asleep after due to the adrenaline and excitement. I slept poorly and was a zombie at work all day, but I still managed to get in a workout. Hooray for me. Friday I stayed up even later watching USA win the gold in curling, and there was no chance for a workout the next morning. Saturday I drove down to shovel the sidewalks at our new house, and then got a few things done there. I stayed overnight due to the weather, shoveled again at the new house, did a few other things to prep for the move, then drove back to Duluth to shovel at our current place. I was glad to get any miles in at all on Sunday.

Other than shoveling, I haven’t been doing much strength. Maybe some push-ups or planks here and there. I need to get back into that, but at the same time, I’m in survival mode, so I’m trying not to wear myself down. Since I’m a master procrastinator, what I should do is start my strength routine while I’m in procrastination mode (specifically on the weekends), instead of waiting til after the workout is done, when it’s dinner time, or when I get home from a run and I’m chilly from wearing damp, sweaty clothes. I am dreaming of the balmy spring days just around the corner, when the temperature doesn’t sap my energy.

Now that the Olympics are over (I devoured as much Olympics content as I could, sometimes watching a TV feed of one event and a stream of another), I have a bit more flexibility with my running. And maybe I need to wax up my cross-country skis and get out on the trails in this fresh snow…

UMD women’s hockey is also done for the season, so that frees up a little more of my time. Trying to get a run in before an afternoon hockey game was kind of a pain in the butt. Ugh, the amount of time and mental energy I expend procrastinating my runs is really starting to add up. Sometimes I spend more time procrastinating than the actual run takes. It’s a vicious cycle that I need to find a way to escape. It’s extra vicious in winter, so I know it’ll resolve itself in a few weeks, but avoiding that entirely next winter would be nice. Maybe next winter I’ll be so much faster that my runs won’t seem so onerous. Hahahahahaha.

Great news, though: I signed up for FANS 24 hour again. Game on. Never mind that I’m in a mental mindset right now where I can’t imagine racing – that’ll pass. At least, it had better pass, as I have a race (Hot Dash 10 mi) in less than a month!

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!

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.

That Old North Wind Should Begin to Blow

The white ravens have been released from the Citadel. Winter is here. I looked at the extended forecast and cried. The high on Christmas Day is -5 F. I took next week off from work and was looking forward to some long runs, but now I just feel despair.

Tuesday I was determined to run outside. Monday it was snowing hard enough that I decided against an outdoor run, but I want to get in as many outdoor runs as I can when it’s not frigid, so I resolved to make it up on Tuesday. It was in the mid-20s F so I figured it would be okay. I also thought it would be ok to leave my headlamp at home (I did wear my reflective vest). I headed down to Minnesota Point, because I knew it would be a relatively safe place to run. It’s not hilly (I’m always afraid I’m going to slip down a hill while running in winter, or slip off an uneven sidewalk into traffic) and I thought that it would be light enough from streetlights, house lights, and ambient lighting.

It wasn’t light enough, and I was constantly afraid that I was going to slip on black ice – so much so that I actually walked on clear spots in the sidewalk because I thought they were black ice, rather than pavement (since it was too dark to tell). Every time a car went by, its headlights cast everything out of their narrow beams into shadow, so I couldn’t see what I was traversing. Long stretches of sidewalk weren’t shoveled, so I ended up running in the street (which also had icy/snowy stretches).

The wind was brutal. It seemed to swirl around me and come at me from all sides, especially on the way back. I ran 7 miles and it went pretty slowly due to the sidewalk/road conditions and visibility issues, so I was out there for over an hour and a half (yeah, it really sucks to be a slow runner in winter), and for half that time, I was getting bombarded by icy winds. Even with Warm Skin slathered on my face, my cheeks were still frozen.

I couldn’t get warm when I got home. I was so cold I ended up having to take a shower after dinner, and then sat with a heating pad in my lap. Somehow I wasn’t able to generate enough heat to truly warm up on my own, even with cozy clothes, a bathrobe, and a blanket on. Someone suggested last year that I drink hot tea after a run, but I don’t have any tea, because I forgot about that suggestion. I did end up utilizing this suggestion yesterday at work when I was so cold at my desk (I sit by the window) that I was having trouble typing.

It’s only December and I’m already anxious about the cold weather to come. I mean, it’s been cold already, with little reprieve, since late October, but not cold. Not bone-chilling subzero Hoth-level cold. I’m worried about how long this cold snap is going to last. Weeks? Months? When will I see a temperature above freezing again? It feels like it was barely summer.

I’ll figure out how to cope, eventually, but right now all I want to do is whine and worry and wonder if it’s a mistake to try to run a spring ultra.