Friday, April 29, 2011

Sick and Brick

This past weekend I was fighting a bit of a cold.  Monday it hit it's peak and totally knocked me on my ass.  I took the day off from work and tried to sleep as much as I could which was complicated by the fact I'd wake up periodically because I couldn't breathe.  Training wasn't an option on Monday or Tuesday.  I wanted to get up Wednesday and try something, but sleep seemed like better choice at the time.

Before leaving for work Erin had expressed an interest in doing an evening run Wednesday night.  We've been running in cold weather for the past few months, and with most of our runs being early morning we haven't dealt with warmer temps yet.  With the marathon less then a month away we needed to start getting used to heat in case we have weather like last years marathon. During the day I decided I'd take this opportunity to do a brick workout.  A brick workout is when you involve 2 sports of a triathlon in a single workout.

When I got home I wrote a note for Erin explaining I needed her to get ready to run when she got home, put the running gear I would need to transition together in our foyer and headed out on the bike.  It was a windy day for biking.  I normally hate biking when it's windy, but I figured that I wouldn't be able to control the weather the day of my event and this would be an easy approximation of hills.  Erin and I have a 5 mile loop that we normally run.    We head towards the golf course and then run around it, once we're on the far side there's a block that is a 1 mile loop.  I followed this route and decided I would just get mileage by making multiple loops of the 1 mile block.  This worked out really well as the loop is much longer in the North/South direction then East/West and the wind was straight out of the North.  I would have the wind at my back for half of the loop letting me recover and then right in my face for the other half making me work hard from a crouched position. When I finished up biking I had gone just a hair more then 12 miles and had timed it so that I got home just after Erin did.  I transitioned to my running gear a bit faster then she was able to change from her work outfit and had to wait a couple of minutes before we headed out on the run.  The first thing I noticed was how slow I felt.  I'm guessing I got used to the speed I was going on the bike and now things were flying by at about a third of the speed.  Even though I felt like we were crawling, we were actually running a good bit faster then our easy run pace.  We managed to keep a solid pace throughout the 5 mile run.  I was a little surprised when I got back and looked at the data from my workout.  The bike leg went well, a bit faster then I'm hoping to do at Liberty and it was a fantastic run for Erin and I.  Even though I wasn't completely over the cold, the extra rest I've been getting helped me through this fantastic workout.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Group Run And A Hike

This weekends group run was 12 miles.  It was a step back week for the group.  We ran from the downtown Y and the course was 3 loops, stopping back at the Y each time for our aid station. Kristy was manning the aid station and not running with the group this week.  Heading into the run, my plan was to do 4 loops with Erin, we'd run the first 3 with the group and then do a bonus lap. Before the run we had a chance to catch up with the usual crew we run with. Erik had run the earth day half marathon the previous weekend, Kris and Maria had run their first 20 miler, and Rick and Kristy had each done a 20 miler on their own.  Erik was interested in our plan to do another loop when we told him about it.

As we started running Erik and I were talking and not really paying much attention to our pace so we started off a bit fast.  I pointed this out to him, but he didn't seem to mind.  I figured I'd keep up with him and we could always meet up with our group on the next loop. After Trail Mix last week it felt good to cover some miles quickly again and our first loop was soon over at an average of around 11 minute miles.  We headed into the Y to grab something to drink and eat a few shot bloks and quickly headed back out again.  Again I figured I'd keep up with Erik and we'd meet up with the group on the next loop.  About halfway around the second loop we met up with Jackie, who is running the half marathon this year.  I had known Jackie from my days at NDSU and it was nice to talk with her as we ran.  The second loop was even faster then our first, we improved about 30 seconds a mile.  When we got back to the Y I told Erik that I wanted to wait for the group to catch up and run with them and he agreed.  The third loop was our usual group of Kris, Maria, Rick, Erin, Erik and myself with Jerry joining us for his own bonus loop.  He's training for the half marathon but is heading out of the country next week and wanted to get a few extra miles in this week.  After the first 2 loops I was a bit tired and was really dragging the third.  I think it was a combination of having a cold, recovering from Trail Mix, a fast start to the run, and poor hydration on nutrition during the run.  When we got back to the Y I was done.  Fortunately Erik was still interested in the bonus loop and he and Erin went out to get the extra miles in.

On Sunday we went out to Maplewood Start Park to do some hiking with Cory and Maggie.  We started off up Hallaway Hill and then left the trail for some free hiking. It was a great day to be out, warm enough for shorts and not too windy.  Our legs got a little tore up from some of the brush we were going through so after a couple of miles we found the trail again and stopped by the truck for a snack.  We then went looking for a geocache that was on the Ironwood Trail.  It took some searching, but eventually Erin found it in a log.  We left a packet of Gu there and signed our names.  After the hike we enjoyed a picnic lunch before heading back to town.

The geocache we found
Cory, Maggie and Erin
Our picnic lunch

Blast From The Past: Wildwoods 2009

Rick had told me about a brand new event in Itasca state park called Wildwoods.  He was going to do the 25k option there but there was also a 10k loop as well. I was interested in doing the 25k, but Rick wisely convinced me that I should do the 10k with it being my first trail run. Early in the morning the day of the event Erin and I drove to the park, I wasn't sure how long it would take so I left some extra time and we wound up being one of the first people there.  I picked up my packet and looked at the course map.  We had just camped in the park 3 weeks prior so I had some idea of the trails we'd be on, but others were going to be completely new.  As we waited for the start of the race I noticed the crowd was a little different then what I was used to.  All of my races had been in Fargo up to this point.  They were also all on paved flat surfaces and although I recognized a few faces, this event drew a slightly different group of runners.

The 25k runners started before us and I cheered as Rick took off, after running a couple of miles the course took them back through the starting area so I got to see him once more before I lined up to start my event.  The start of the race is along the Dr. Roberts trail which is right off lake Itasca.  The first section of the trail is covered by a wooden walkway which was very slippery as it was wet on this particular morning. Those of us running the 10k kept in a tight group along here as no one could get enough traction to go very fast.  Once we cleared the walkway the group started to spread out along the trail.  When I had last been in this part of the park Erin and I were attacked by swarms of mosquitoes, I was glad they weren't nearly as bad today.  Running back through the starting area Erin and Rick's wife Kristy got some pictures and then I headed back into the woods.  The trail was nice and wide here and I kept a good pace despite the rolling hills.  Runners from other areas would laugh as what I call hills, but most people don't live in an area quite as flat as I do.  The route wound around thought the woods and eventually ended up on a gravel road up to the fire tower.  From past experience I knew that this would be a hard climb for me.  The tower is the highest point around for miles and the road up to it is a long steady climb.  I was relieved when I had made it to the top and could start back down again.  The very last section of the race was on a trail that Erin and I had hiked on previously.  The last time I came down it we were going very slowly and carefully.  This time I blasted down the hill as fast as I could enjoying the challenging terrain and trying not to worry about what would happen if I fell here.

Shortly after I finished the sky opened up and it rained very hard.  Wanting to see some friends finish the 25k, I waited under a tall pine tree and tried to keep as dry as I could. After they finished we went inside as door prizes were drawn and to see the race results.  I wound up winning a gift certificate for a store in Bemidji.  Thinking we wouldn't be back to the area for a while we decided to drive there after the race and use our gift certificate.  The store had an unusual mix of items for sale ranging from hideously ugly clothing to craft supplies.  Erin was feeling a little cold after getting rained on and fortunately we managed to find a Bemidji State University sweatshirt which used up most of the gift certificate. On the drive home we laughed about our adventure and how we picked up this unlikely souvenir.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good questions

After Trail Mix I've been doing a lot of self reflection and soul searching.  Getting to the point of being able to run an ultra has taken a lot of time and effort and now is a good time to look back on what I've done and to start to look forward. This process seems to be fairly common in runners.  Greg is a runner who found my blog after Trail Mix, it was his first ultra as well.  Reading his writeup of the event I can identify with many of the feelings he had along the way and relate to how the event went for him.  Here are some questions he posted on the daily mile aimed at some other ultra runners.  I wanted to repost them here and try to address them in a little more depth.

Ultrarunning friends, I'm calling you out! I have questions and concerns, perhaps you can help. I recently completed my first 50K and naturally, I'm thinking of going farther. The 50K was a good, albeit humbling experience. Conditions were poor and I struggled. Not only did I struggle with the sloppy trail and plenty of fatigue and pain, but I battled waning motivation and ongoing questions about the value of my efforts. Ultimately I finished in about 6 hours. I never expected it to be easy and it's not like I've gotten comfortable even with the marathon distance yet, but for various reasons I am still attracted to going farther. I will at least attempt a second 50K in July. After that, we'll see...
My questions for you are: (1) What motivates you to run 50 miles and beyond? (2) How do you know when your ultrarunning pursuits are bordering on becoming dangerous and no longer fit into the realm of a healthy, sane lifestyle? (3) What have you learned from ultrarunning that is invaluable and could not have been garnered otherwise? (4) What the heck are you trying to prove, if anything, and does your ego need the validation?
Here's what I can come up with for answers to these questions:

#1) Trail Mix was my first ultra as well, and coincidentally I'm looking at doing anther in July too(Afton).  What lead me down this path was many of the the friends I made running were ultra runners.  I saw the great adventures they were having and wanted to be able to take part in them as well. There is a confidence you gain from being able to do what you once thought was impossible.  I want to keep conquering the impossible and once I've done the impossible I'd like to go back and do it again, only better.

#2) It becomes a problem when it consumes your life. I've made adjustments to my life to better accommodate my training.  I go to bed early, I don't always eat what I'd like to, but it's the small things I've given up. My closest friend ran the arrowhead 135 this year. He takes his training seriously, but still always has time for his family and what's important in life.  When you start sacrificing the important things you've gone to far.

#3) I've learned patience. It can't all come at once.  Every run you improve some aspect of your fitness, your strength, endurance, speed or general conditioning.  Each time you only gain a little, but over time your abilities grow.  Also there is so much more to learn.  There's a feeling you get the last few miles of a long race, when you feel like you've given all you have, and you still have further to go.  There's more lessons there, I'm just not smart enough to figure them out yet.

#4) I'm not sure it's an ego boost.  I was humbled by trail mix.  I'd like to eventually prove I'm qualified enough to enter some of the toughest races. Right now I'm just a cream puff, but I'll continue to grow.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Recovering from Trail Mix

One of great things about my Trail Mix experience was the great people I was with.  I knew I could give everything I had as part of the event and I wouldn't to worry about taking care of myself afterwards.  Even though my time wasn't what I was expecting I did put in all the effort I had to finish as quickly as I did.

The day after the race I slept in as best I could. I think I was still up before 8:00.  My goal was to keep moving, but not to really exert myself at all.  I spent the day unpacking all of our gear, taking care of some odds and ends around the house and some light stretching.  The most strenuous thing I did all day was going to the grocery store to pick up some stuff for breakfast.  My muscles felt tired and I could tell my heart rate was a little elevated. Joints and tendons felt good, but my quads were really hurting.  Sitting or standing back up were problematic as I needed to use my arms to help raise and lower myself.  Surprisingly my biceps were sore, I figured this was from holding my arms up for 7+ hours of running.

Monday morning Erin and I got up early.  She headed out for a 6 mile run and I headed in to work early.  During the work day things felt similar to the previous day, but not as intense.  Still a lot of pain in the quads when sitting down or standing up and some pain in the biceps with no pain in joints or tendons.  After work I hit up the gym for a short recovery bike ride.  I didn't want to push myself too hard and the fact that my headphones had fallen out of my bag during the trip and Maggie still had them made it easy to stop after half an hour. My heart rate was a bit high for the effort I put in but I wasn't too concerned about it. After the bike ride the quads didn't hurt as much and by now the soreness in the biceps had completely gone away.

Tuesday morning we slept in.  I was planning on testing myself with an early morning run, but when the alarm went off I decided that sleep was more important to my recovery.  When I did get up I noticed that my legs had tightened up considerably. The tightness in my calves was causing some tenderness in my arches.  This tenderness persisted through the day at work. I also noticed throughout the day I began to feel stronger.  I was able to crack my back and neck for the first time since the event.  After work I went for a run and was able to put in just shy of 6 fast miles.  Starting out I had a bad side ache which is very unusual for me, but it went away after a couple of miles.  When I got back I did the cold water soak in the tub and things almost feel back to normal.  My quads are still a little tender to the touch, but they didn't bother me during the run.

Going forward I'd like to get an easy run in on Wednesday, put in a longer run Thursday and hopefully be back at full strength in time for the group run on Saturday.  That may be a bit optimistic, but I can adjust if the soreness starts to creep back in.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

2011 Trail Mix 50k

Last year Rick told me that he was doing this event with his sister Jodi.  He described it as the perfect first ultra. The course is 4 loops through fairly friendly terrain.  Based on that I figured I'd give it a try this year.  I've gone past marathon distance once before for my birthday, but Trail Mix is my first ultra marathon event. Running the 50k with me will be Maggie.  This event also has a 25k option which is two loops of the course which Erin will run. Cory was planning on the 25k, but some injury issues have convinced him to sit this one out. Cory, Maggie, Erin and I planned to meet up at 2:00 am the morning of the event and car pool down. We would run the event and then head back the same day.  Rick and Kristy were going to join us at Trail Mix, but it conflicted with their daughter going to prom the same day.

 The day before the event I met up with Rick who gave me as much advice as I could absorb as well as a tub to use as my drop bag.  Many ultra marathons provide an area for you to leave your own support food and gear that you can pick up as you run the event.  Rick put all his experience to good use when he picked out this gift. The lid of the tub clips on and it's deep enough that it can sit in muck without getting the contents soggy.  The laminated card with my name on it also has instructions for people who crew me if I'm having common troubles with fueling and hydration issues.  The food inside are all things that have worked well for him in the past.  I loved it and all the thought he put in when assembling it.
Rick's tub of goodies

Maggie, Erin and all the crap we packed
It seems the wonderful spring weather we've had the past couple of weeks didn't continue into the weekend.  Thursday before the event 4-8 inches of snow was predicted for our area. It snowed on and off all day Friday and the snow followed us all the way to the cities. Knowing we were in for some slippery roads we left a half an hour earlier then we were originally planning. We loaded up more stuff then I thought possible and headed out.  Leaving early worked out well for us as the first couple hours of the trip were very slow going.  A little more then an hour into our trip Cory spotted someone who had gone into the ditch and was climbing out and Maggie phoned it into 911.  After we passed Alexandria the road conditions improved somewhat and there was a passing lane again.  We made it to the park about an hour before the event started. We were exactly on schedule again.

More of our junk

We picked up our race numbers and killed a little time by eating breakfast before getting our drop bags and heading over the the starting line. Erin had packed a bagel that couldn't be found, but at least we had some donuts she could eat. We finally found the bagel the next day in the driveway.  It had fallen out when we packed the car that morning.  When we headed toward the start line  Erin and I had our tub of food, a bag with different clothing option for each of us and a tarp to put our stuff on.  Maggie was more confident in her planning and didn't leave anything in the drop area.
Erin and I with all of our stuff in the drop area
Lining up at the start, blissfully unaware of what was to come

As Maggie and I lined up to start the race I was confident that I had prepared well and I was expecting a fun event.  The weather wasn't very pleasant, low 30s and windy with some fresh snow on the ground. The snow didn't really concern me much as I've been running in the snow for the past 5 months.  I thought the cold temperature would be a bit of an advantage since I deal with cold better then heat at this point.  The wind was a real wild card and I didn't know how much the trees would protect us.

Trail Mix 2011
I really tried hard the first loop to keep my heart rate down.  The plan was to get though it without really working much and try to get a feel for the course so I be in good shape to run later loops well.  I was at the very back of the pack walking up hills and slogging through the muck.  The trails were very soft and just sucked the energy out of you as you tried to run.  I remembered from time to time to look up and enjoy the beautiful scenery.  The fresh snow in the trees early in the morning looked amazing and the park had some really neat views. As I was entering the loop on the southern end of the course I saw Maggie on her way out of the loop.  She seemed to be doing really well, I was impressed by how much of a lead she had on me already, but these are also conditions she's more used to then I am.  After leaving the aid station at mile 5, I turned the corner and found the biggest hill of the course.  After a long steady climb I was able to look out over most of the park.  The downhills in this section of the course were steep and I focused on keeping my gate as smooth as possible so I wouldn't be too beat up as the miles wore on.  Around mile 6, I was starting to look forward to the second loop.  I was planning to stop and pick up something to eat more tasty then shot bloks at the drop area and contemplated switching from my red Sugoi jacket to my gray fleece hoody.  Running north next to the lake was enough to change my mind about the jacket.  It got cold in a hurry and I was thankful for the extra warmth and wind resistance of the Sugoi.

Heading in to the second loop I switched an empty hand held water bottle for a full one, grabbed a nutty bar and planned on grabbing more Endurolytes, but forgot to.  Fortunately I still had enough for the second loop, but I wanted to take on more just in case. During the first loop I had seen a few other runners enough to recognize them and as the second loop started my pace matched up with a lady I've been going back and forth with.  We talked as we went along. It was her 5th time running the 50k at trail mix and she said she's never seen the course in such poor shape.  We joked that every time our feet would start to dry out there would be water across the trail and they'd get wet again.  It was nice having someone to talk with and someone to help pace myself.  We walked most uphills and keep running on all the flats and downhills and soon enough the second loop was over.  After this loop I refilled my Endurolytes, took a 5 hour energy and grabbed some combos to snack on as I ran.

I met up with the lady I had been running with after the drop area and we continued on together. On 1 of the hills I joked that we'd only have to go up it one more time. After doing the loop on the northern end of the course we witnessed someone cutting the course.  We talked about how wrong that seemed and how they were cheating themselves.  Near the first rest stop on the course she stopped to use a port a potty and I continued on.  I was hoping she would catch up again, but that was the last I saw of her.  I seemed to do a good job keeping a running pace on the third loop.  I upped my intake of Endurolytes and it really seemed to help.  I remembered Rick talking about how it would take about half an hour for things I ate to help me and and how important it was to stay on top of things and forced shot bloks down.  Even with the increased intake of calories I was wearing down. The soft conditions forced me to work stabilizing muscles in my legs that rarely get worked running in town on pavement.

I felt good that I had moved ahead of at least 4 runners by the end of the third loop, but was disappointed to think of how empty the course would be for my last loop.  The previous loops had people from the 50k, 25k and relay out at the same time as me, but by now most of them had finished or were far enough into the course that I wouldn't see them again. Near the start of the loop there were 3 women running.  They asked how much I had left and told them 1 loop.  I figured they were part of the 50k event and I had just caught up with them. I knew they were just out for a run in the park when they asked how long a loop was.  I briefly told them about the event before they sped off on their run.  I kept looking back for the three runners I knew weren't too far behind me, but didn't see any of them again.  I figured they dropped out after the third loop.  As I ran I came across one of the runners that I knew was well behind me.  Last time I saw her she was about 3 miles behind me, and I know she did not pass me.  I was disappointed to see this from the second person today. I figured I'd come in last, but I knew I would run the entire course.  This event was too important to me to not do it correctly, I wasn't going to claim to be an ultra marathoner without getting it all in, no matter how much I hurt.  I quickly passed this person and figured it would be the last I saw of her, there was no one at the intersection heading into the southern loop and I figured she'd just head toward the finish line.  Around this time the 3 women I had seen at the start of the loop came by again and voiced some encouragement.  It was a nice pick me up.  I was glad to be done with the southern loop of the course for the last time and was heading for the finish line when I was surprised to see anther runner heading my direction.  This was the first time I'd seen her all day.  She was around 3 miles behind where I was but was still pushing forward.  I gave her some words of encouragement and pushed on towards the finish line myself.  Near the end I saw a volunteer along the course and someone taking pictures.  I forced a smile and tried to speed up to a slow jog. That lasted long enough for the picture.  As I approached the camera man he began to walk along side of me and it finally occurred to me that this was Cory.  I asked him to carry my water bottle to the finish and headed up the last little bit of hill. Turning the final corner I saw Maggie and Erin taking some pictures and after a few more painful steps I was done with this event.
The smile I was able to fake for Cory. 
Is that a smile on my face after 31 miles?
Nope, couldn't have been
Rick had told me to keep eating and drinking up to the end of the event, but the last couple of miles I was fighting to just keep down what I had already taken in.  This caught up to me after the race.  I felt a bit light headed and my face was tingling.  I received my finishers medal and shirt and we headed over to the truck so I could sit down.  Maggie was kind enough to help me change my shoes before we headed off in search of the local YMCA so we could shower.  

When we got to the Y the guy at the front desk gave us instructions on how to get to the locker room.  I laughed when it included the line "go down the stairs".  The shower felt wonderful and with the change of clothes I felt a little closer to normal then I would have thought possible.  I headed back out to the truck and Cory and I waited for the girls to finish getting cleaned up.  While we were waiting my stomach started to settle and I thought it might be possible to eat.  We were only a few blocks from the cheesecake factory and decided it would be a good place to grab some food.  Erin and I had the fried mac and cheese appetizer and I still was able to put down a burger, but barely touched my fries.
Erin and I after the race
On the ride home I was feeling a little motion sick.  I think a combination of everything from lack of sleep to the extreme exertion and bit of a sunburn I had gotten was just a bit too much for me.  The ride back went much quicker then the ride out to the cities.  The snow had melted from the road so we were able to travel faster and everyone was more awake and talkative.  We shared the stories of our various adventures throughout the day and had a great time joking around with each other. I was very thankful for Cory for doing all the driving and making this whole 19 hour adventure possible. 
Finally an ultra marathoner
Maggie and I after the race

Friday, April 15, 2011

Pre-race planning

With Trail Mix coming up this weekend I'm starting to get some of the pre-event nervousness creeping in.  I'm confident I've prepared well enough and I was able to make it through 30 miles just a few weeks ago, but you never know what new obstacles might pop up during the event.  The past couple of weeks I've lowered my weekly mileage and included more rest days. I'm still trying to find the fine line between well rested and loosing fitness.  The forecast is calling for snow the next few days, hopefully that doesn't impact things too much for us.

Below is a checklist I've started of stuff to bring with.  I'm also trying to find the balance between packing too much and not enough.

  • Fuel and Hydration
    • Nutty bars
    • 5 hour energy
    • Poweraid
    • Shot Bloks
    • Endurolites
    • Hydration Pack?
    • Hand held bottles
  • Clothing for race
    • Shorts, or tights
    • Windbreaker
    • Fleece
    • Gators
    • Extra dry clothes
      • Socks
      • Shoes
      • Top
  • Clothing for post race
    • Compression socks
    • Alternate shoes
    • Shower stuff
  • Misc
    • Garmin
    • Camera
    • Moleskin
    • Towels
    • Zip lock bags?
    • Blanket?
    • Chairs?
    • Sunscreen
    • Cooler
      • Ice Packs
      • Recovery shake

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Here are some of my thoughts on speedwork. Most of what I learned is based on training with Rick, but I've started to take some liberties with his wisdom to create my own speedwork philosophy.  This is based on my experience of training to run marathons and ultra marathons as a novice runner.  If you've been running a while you've probably got your own rules.  If you only want to focus on speed and not building distance your results may very with this advice.

Speedwork should be no more then 10% of your weekly mileage. If you want to run 3 fast miles during the week you'd better be running a total of 30 miles for the week.  Most beginning marathoners don't run that much when they start a training program so I would recommend introducing some faster miles around halfway or two thirds of the way through a training program if things are going well. Breaking the 10% rule tends leads to injury.

Exception: After my first marathon I kept my speed work miles constant while decreasing my total weekly mileage.  My body was used to the 1 fast workout a week already and I was focusing on running a fast 5k.

Tempo runs: For me a typical tempo run is 1 mile warm up, 1 mile cool down and the miles in the middle are run starting near a 10k pace and getting progressively faster until reaching around a 5k pace.  The warm up can be run at any pace you want.  The mile cool down is slower then your fast miles, but still at a good pace, generally a bit faster then your long run pace.  You want to teach yourself to recover at a faster pace then you normally run at. This is probably the easiest workout to do, all you need to do is track how fast your last mile was and then run faster then that. Only the middle miles at the faster pace count towards your 10%.

Tempo Intervals: Typically I'll do the same 1 mile warm up followed by half mile intervals faster then a tempo run separated by a half mile of recovery run near my long run pace.  I don't do this workout as often as a regular tempo run. I count both the half mile at speed and the half mile recovery towards the 10%, the warm up does not count.

Hills:  Again fairly simple to do, unless you live in the middle of the flattest part of the world like I do.  Fortunately overpasses work just as well.  I'll do the standard 1 mile warm up then start running across the overpass.  The goal is to work hard going up, and keeping the same speed(decreased effort) going down.  You teach yourself to recover at faster paces and running down hills is good practice as it works different muscles then running flats of uphills.  I try to do this just a bit slower then a tempo run.  If you have a big hill just turn around rather then run all the way to the other side.  The overpass I use is about a third of a mile from end to end. I count any miles on the hill or overpass towards the 10%, I've got a flat mile loop I use for the warm up that does not count.

Benefits:  There's more to speedwork then just having fun torturing yourself by running uncomfortably fast. You lower your heart rate, improve running efficiency, improve your ability to take in oxygen and you get faster. Not many people enjoy speedwork, but the payoff is well worth the effort you put in.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Blast From The Past: Run For Your Life

This 5k was the first race that Erin and I would both do.  I had been running a bit longer then her, but we felt we were fairly well matched against each other, so we decided to compete.  I felt good going into the race, which was on a Wednesday night after work. Lining up at the starting line I found myself towards the front of the pack, in fact I was lined up directly behind Dick Beardsley.  As the race started I felt really good and decided I'd see just how hard I could push myself.  I easily kept up with the leaders for the first quarter mile before looking down and seeing just how fast I was going.  I started to back off the pace a bit but I'd run about half a mile at a 6:00 minute per mile pace, I backed off a little further, but found myself walking before the end of the first mile.  Trying to catch my breath, I'd occasionally look back for Erin hoping I'd built enough of lead.  Near the halfway point she passed me and tried to egg me on, but I had melted down already.  The rest of the race was miserable as I'd try to run on occasion and feel like I just couldn't sustain it.  Erin beat me easily that day because she controlled her pace and ran with an effort she could sustain. I knew not to start races this fast, but it took a failure like this for that lesson to really sink in. I've definitely had events that have been more fun, but I learned a lot through the misery that day.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Changing plans, solid run

Originally the plan was for the group to run 14 miles this week.  It's a step back week down from 18 last week. The flood caused us to run from the store instead of the dome and the plan for the group was updated to 15 miles.  The same 3x5 mile loop route we did a few weeks ago.  Since Erin is a little behind due to injury we decided we'd run 4 miles to the store giving us a total of 19 for the day.

As we headed out it was in the mid forties and the air was dead calm.  It was the second run of the year where I got to run in shorts. Quickly we settled into a conservative pace.  A thick layer of fog blanketed the city, but didn't extend more then about 15 feet high.  In many places it went up just short of the street lights making for an interesting effect.  The run to the store didn't have the same feeling most training runs do.  It was more about exploring the city in the dark and the fog then having to run X number of miles.  I really wanted to take a longer route to the store, but we didn't allow much extra time and stuck to the 4 mile route.

When we reached the store we saw that turnout was good today.  The warm temps tend to take away peoples excuses to sleep in as does the rapidly approaching date of the marathon.  We had a few minutes to chat with friends and then it was time to get started. The first loop had a bunch of people all running at our pace.  Rick, Kristy, Erin and myself were just ahead of Erik, Maria, Lamont and Eric and about halfway through the loop our 2 groups merged.  I don't normally run in a group that large and enjoyed the opportunity.  With about a mile to go Lamont had an issue with his asthma and went down on the sidewalk.  He got up right away and after a short bit of walking we ran the rest of the way back to the store.  The rest of the group was happy it's wasn't a more serious issue.

When we got back to the store I made a mad dash for the bathroom.  We took a few minutes to grab some food and fill water bottles before heading back out. Erin and I shared a snickers and some pizza flavored combos.  In the past couple of weeks I've started to really like combos for running.  GUs and shot bloks tend to get a bit sweet after a while and it's nice to have something a little more savory. Lamont wasn't heading back out with us, and Eric ran ahead to catch up with some people he had seen running alone so it left the 6 of us to run the second 5 mile loop together.  Rick and I had an opportunity to talk about fueling and hydration strategies for Trail Mix and talked a little about what he and Kristy's plans might be regarding the race.  We changed the route up a little from the first loop which helped keep things fresh and soon found ourselves back at the store with loop 2 complete.

As we were fueling up for our third loop I could feel some tightness start to creep into my legs.  I was feeling tired and didn't really want to go back out.  I reminded myself that after running 14 miles this was a normal feeling and focused on keeping up with my hydration.  I remember having a similar conversation with Rick a little over a year ago after doing 10 miles, it was nice to see the progress I've made since then.  The 6 of us headed back out on loop number 3 which we decided to run backwards. The first half of the loop went well, but I was struggling mentally on the way back to the store.  My 30 miler a couple of weeks ago really helped get me through the low points because I remembered how much worse I felt at that point in the 30 mile run and how I still made it through the whole thing. Erin started to push the pace and Erik and I let her go ahead.  He had decided that since he was missing the group run next week he was going to do another 5 mile loop and get a 20 miler in.  I remember my first 20 miler and how grateful I was to have Rick at my side.  Erik's decision to run the last 5 by himself impressed me, I'm sure he's going to do great in May.  Erin finished her longest run ever with a last mile time just a few seconds off from her first mile of speedwork just 2 days prior. Looking at my heart rate data I also had a great day.  We steadily increased our pace the entire 19 miles and my heart rate responded well to that, never really getting that high during the 4 hours we were out.  It was good to see so many people having success at the same time.  We spent a little time at the store relaxing and chatting with people before heading out.  Since Erin and I both ran to the store Rick was kind enough to drive us home.

The tenderness I felt in my foot last week is gone.  A combination of rest, compression socks, stretching, and icing seemed to do the trick for me. I had made the comment to Rick that my birthday run was the first long run that I really needed time to recover from. I've been lucky so far in that after both marathons I've run I've recovered very quickly and could get back to running almost right away.  We'll have to see how the recovery after Trail Mix goes.  Hopefully I can learn from the past few weeks and have a quicker recovery.

Friday, April 8, 2011

New socks and a puppy

I've had a number of people recommend compression socks to me so Thursday night I broke down and finally got a pair. It's been a while since I've needed instructions to put socks on.
Looking good as always
So far I'm liking them, it seems to help with recovery, but more testing is definitely required.  I'll post a more in depth review after I've used them a bit more and tried running in them. It probably won't be until after Trail Mix because I don't want to do anything different going into a big event.

Wednesday night my parents got a new puppy.  Currently his name is Winston, but that may change in the next few days.
Sitting in the laundry basket

What a cutie

I love how this picture turned out

He likes chewing on these

How can you say no to a face like that?

Blast From The Past: 2009 Fargo Half Marathon

The 2009 Fargo Marathon is really the story of how I became a runner. Just an overview of the race itself doesn't give the detail that I feel is required for an event that was so pivotal in my life, so I've included the back story as well.

It was the first week of September in 2008 and I was at work. Kristi, one of my coworkers has stopped by my desk and we were chatting when the subject of biking had come up. I told her that I wanted to do the headwaters 100, but an upcoming wedding would conflict with the event. Hearing about that she replied that she's always wanted to do RAGBRAI. (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa)  After doing some research on RAGBRAI I thought it sounded really neat. Erin, Kristi and I eventually decided that we'd sign up and do it the following summer. After making the decision to do a week long bike tour I thought I would need to get in shape so I started to make a plan to spend more time at the gym and to lose some weight.  Thinking I'd need some variety in my workouts I thought I'd try running.  I'd never been a runner before and didn't have much interest in it other then thinking it would be great cross training and help out my biking.  The first few runs were tough, but I got through them.  I started to think that if I was going to put in all this effort and be in great shape maybe I'd try running a marathon.  The Fargo Marathon seemed as good as any and the date would work for me, so I made it my goal to run the full marathon in May 2009.

At the time I didn't really comprehend the decision I'd made or have any idea how much work it would take.  I started to do some research on training plans and strategies and eventually came across a local training class starting in January designed to get you ready for Fargo put on by the Red River Runners.  Deciding the class was my best option I showed up early for the informational meeting that was held at the YMCA downtown.  As I waited I started to talk with a few of the people around me. One lady told me flat out that it would be a bad idea to run a marathon so soon after taking up the sport and suggested I try for the half marathon. I was disappointed to hear this and angry with her and decided I would prove her wrong. To this day whenever I see her I get a little fired up remembering our first exchange, but I keep it to myself. Fortunately I met another runner that day, Tom.  While my goal was to prepare for and survive running a marathon, Tom's goal was to improve on his half marathon time.  He acknowledged the difficulty of what I was trying to do, but was much more encouraging towards me. The meeting got started and the director of the Fargo Marathon came out and told us the mundane details of the class and gave us some idea of what to expect and soon thereafter the meeting was over.

When the training plan was sent out to us I realized just how far we'd be running each week.  The first week called for a 7 mile run, it would be the first time I'd ever run that far. I also found out that I would be out of town for work on the day of our first group run.  I was a bit discouraged but determined to get the miles in.  Luckily the hotel we were staying at had a workout area. I thought I'd break up the 7 miles into more manageable chunks, and planned to run half before going into the plant for the day, and half afterward.  I was feeling good after getting the first half of the miles in so I opted to do the entire 7 miles.  The rest of the day I was excited about what I had done, even though I was stiff and sore as I worked that day.

The second week of the class was an 8 mile run leaving from the downtown Y, before the group headed out the trainers introduced themselves and gave us a rough idea of their pace they would be running. One of the trainers, Cassie,  had brightly colored hair and listed her pace as one of the slowest so I thought I would try to keep up with her.  The route took us into Moorhead and around MSU and then through Concordia before looping by the river and returning to the Y.  I had kept up with the group fairly well, chatting with Cassie until we had reached MSU but then I needed to walk a bit and fell behind.  I could still see the group up ahead as we neared Concordia, but with the quick turns I had soon lost site of them.  Feeling a bit dejected I started to walk through the campus.  I didn't have any idea what the route was at this point and considered just going back to the Y and figuring I'd do better the following week. As I start to head west again I was surprised to hear some people running. I had thought I was well behind everyone in the group.  As I took a few steps in their direction and one of them shouted to ask if I'm with the training group.  I jogged over and told them that I was with the group and had fallen behind and didn't know the route. The guy who had asked if I'm with the group introduced himself as Rick said that I could join them and we headed off together. As we ran we started talking, mostly about the usual stuff like what kind of job do you have, family, stuff like that. After telling Rick a little about myself we realized that I had just left the company he works for.  He told me about some of his experiences running, and what I would be able to expect as the training went on. I appreciated that he slowed to walk with me when I had trouble keeping a running pace. Eventually it came up that he had run from Grand Forks before running the marathon the previous year. I was impressed that someone with his ability would stick with me despite my struggling near the end of the run.  He just said that people don't sign up for the class to run alone.

As the weeks passed I progressed more and more as a runner.  Rick was kind enough to stick with me and share his wisdom on running. I was a little concerned about running the full marathon, but he said I'd be able to do it. Just before the training plan called for my long run mileage to peak Fargo had some major issues with flooding. The group runs were canceled for about 3 weeks while the entire city helped sandbag.  I had hoped that sandbagging would help keep me in shape, but with 3 weeks of minimal running I had regressed to the point that it would be very difficult to build back up in time for the marathon.  I knew the right choice was to run the half marathon, but I still took a long time to actually make that decision. I desperately wanted to prove the lady I had first met at the informational session wrong, and while running a half marathon is a great accomplishment it wasn't what I had set out to do. Eventually I couldn't deny the reality of the situation any more and decided that I would run the half marathon.

The day of the event Rick invited me to meet up with him before the race started.  Each year he brings his camper to the Fargodome parking lot and chills out away from the crowd while waiting for the race to begin.  With this being my first big event it was great getting away from all the excitement for a while and focusing on what I was about to do. The flood that had derailed my plans for a full marathon had also derailed the marathon's planned route.  With water still high on marathon day the route was changed.  The full marathon course was changed to be 2 loops of the half marathon route. This worked out well for us as both races also started at the same time. Rick was well aware of my tendency to start races too fast and offered to run the first mile with me. Shortly after we had crossed the starting line I looked over to him and asked about our pace and he replied by asking me what I thought it was.  I said I thought it was a little slow and he laughed telling me that we were a bit on the fast side.  I had started the run in my gray hoody, but was able to leave it with Erin after the first mile. The weather was perfect to run in but a bit cold for spectators. As I ran I would chat with other runners around me and a few times got to run with people I had trained with before our paces forced us to separate. I passed Erin, Steph, her boyfriend Jake and my mom on the course a few times and exchanged a few brief words and water bottles before dashing off again.  I had chosen to carry my own water rather then rely on the aid stations because I didn't have much experience with aid stations and I could drink at my own pace without worrying about where the next aid station would be. There was an opportunity to see Rick again on the course near the end if I was having a really good day, the last mile of the loop was head to head against the first mile and since Rick was doing 2 loops we should pass each other. As I made the turn and started to run head to head with the full marathoners I started to look for him and was a little disappointed I couldn't find him.  I figured he was having a good day and I wasn't quite fast enough to reach this location in time, but a minute or so later we passed and he shared some encouraging words with me. Shortly after seeing Rick I saw Cassie with her bright red hair running towards me ready to give me a high five. The last little bit of the race flew by, I was in great shape for running the half having gotten my training mileage up to about 18 miles before deciding not to run the full marathon.  Running into the parking lot of the dome and around the north end of it I felt like I was giving it everything I had, but after the final turn where you run down the ramp and to the finish line I found a gear that I didn't know I had.  Crossing the finish line I was a bit overwhelmed by what I had accomplished.  I received my medal for finishing and walked over to grab some food while starting to look for my family.  With all the noise in the dome I didn't hear them shouting to me when I had finished.  Heading back to where I parked I grabbed my bag with fresh clothes and found everyone as I returned to the dome.  After showering and changing I talked with everyone as I waited for Rick to finish the marathon.  His goal was 4:00 and he crossed the finish line in 3:59:22. I greeted him as he finished and we talked for a while about how the event had gone. I had a lot of fun that day, but even more fun in the months leading up to the event.  I knew that this was the start and not the end of my running journey.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Road Trip: Detroit Lakes

This past Saturday our training group ran in Detroit Lakes.  The day started early with Rick and Kristy picking Erin and I up shortly after 5:00 and on our way out of town we met up with Erik and Maria.  We enjoyed chatting on the drive down and catching up on each others long run from the week before.  As we neared Detroit Lakes a thick fog started to creep in. After a quick bathroom stop we arrived at Washington park just before everyone else started to show up.  Rick was kind enough to setup a rest stop at mile 4.5 and would not be running with us. The temp was in the upper 20s and the wind was dead calm as we started off around the lake.  Kristy ran head with some of our other friends, while Kris, Maria, Erik, Lamont and myself stuck together at the back of the pack.  Erin didn't plan on running the entire 18 miles so she got a ride with Rick to the rest stop and then ran back a little to join us.
Getting ready to run
The first few miles I was a bit nervous about how my foot would hold up.  Since last Saturdays 30 miler I had only run once because it's been giving me some problems. I consciously slowed my pace down and things seemed to go well.  The route was almost the same as the Dick Beardsley half marathon and was somewhat familiar to me.  Before I knew it Erin had met up with us and shortly thereafter Lamont made his turn around leaving Kris, Maria, Erik, Erin and myself playing catchup with Kristy.  We saw her as we pulled into the first rest stop, but she was heading out as we were getting there.  We filled water bottles, said hello to Rick, got some calories down and headed off again into the fog.  The middle of the run was a lot of fun for me.  The road is right next to the lake in a few spots and with the thick fog we could not see across.  it's like the world ended just a few feet away from where we were.

We met up with Kristy at the rest stop that marked the turn around point. She was waiting for us as we again filled bottles and tried to eat what we could. She showed us one of her shoes which had gotten muddy when she stopped to use the bathroom.  As we ran we noticed that the mud had spread all the way up the back of her pants.  With a couple of miles to go before getting back to Rick's rest stop I started to feel something in my foot. I made the decision to stop my run when we got to Rick and get a ride back.
The 5 first timers heading back out into the fog
The rest of the group headed off as I changed clothes and then Rick and I drove back to the park to wait for everyone.  After I stopped the foot quickly felt better and even though I could have toughed it out I know I made the right decision. As the rest of the group arrived at the park Rick and I congratulated them on what was the longest run most of them had ever done. Rick asked if anyone was in a hurry to get back to town or if we wanted to stop and eat. It might have been because I'd been waiting for the others to finish and had time to get hungry, but I was the only one who spoke up about wanting to grab some food.  Fortunately when I suggested heading to Perkins everyone agreed.  The ladies changed clothes in the bathroom there and we all enjoyed a leisurely brunch before heading back to town. This was a great start to the weekend