What did you leave undone? Do you intend to try again in 2017 or let it go?
Lot’s of things were left undone this year. On this day, I am okay saying that is The Way it Was for 2016.
The one that really slipped through my fingers this year was running the Twin Cities Marathon. I was close. Like, really close to having that happen. Due to a delayed training start after getting sick in the spring, I had to abandon some of my time goals and reshift to just a goal of finishing. Which, frankly, is enough for me.
August was a difficult training month. The weekday runs were getting in to the 6-8 mile range one to two times a week, and I was feeling pressure to find the time for those as well as my other obligations. Then the weather took an expected but still unwelcome turn for the hot and humid. A few times I told myself that training through some of that would make me stronger, but the runs were of such low quality I had to bring some training indoors. Running 8 miles on the treadmill in the gym at your workplace is… is probably not good for your spiritual health, to put it mildly. My 14 and 15 mile long runs were sufferfests, the 15 miler bringing my first good mid-run cry (at a busy intersection around mile 9).
And then the next week my 16 miler went by like a dream. The weather had finally cooled, the day was a bit rainy, I was calm and peaceful and it felt almost easy.
Imagine my surprise when I woke up the next morning to an ankle the size of a grapefruit. Two days later, an MRI confirmed some good news/bad news. I didn’t break, twist, or tear anything. But I did irritate the heck out of something because the entire ankle joint was filled with inflammation.
I was sentenced to the boot.
On the same day, my new running shoes– my marathon shoes– arrived in the mail. Neat.
Even though it was only a two-week sentence, it came at exactly the worst time in marathon training, and I didn’t have the time to recover my training plan. The marathon would be left undone for me. The last (I think) of the long string of defeats brought to me in 2016.
Will I go back at it in 2017? I honestly don’t know. I am about 90% yes and then also 90% no, depending on the day. Marathon training is hard and time-sucking. I feel like I neglect my house and spouse a lot during the training, and make him skip out on some things to accommodate my weekend long runs. It’s hard to add in the other activities that bring me joy because I am always running.
Will I go back at it someday? Probably. Once you get the high of finishing a marathon, you don’t forget that feeling. And eventually, you go looking for it again.
Treats! Show us your favorite treat for yourself- it could be a favorite holiday indulgence, or a little gift you got yourself to reward all the gift buying you’ve been doing for others.
I do love me a sweet treat. Or an expensive, “I worked hard on [insert project], so I totally deserve this thing that I will now buy myself.”
But the best treat I can give myself is time for myself, which I generally fill with running. Slow running, because that’s just the person and the runner that I am, and that’s okay.
Running is where I do most of my best thinking. It is where I do almost all of my praying. It is the fastest way for me to diffuse anger or to bring in some much needed peace. When everything else seems out of control and crazy, running reminds me of the beauty in pattern and simplicity– the steady beat of my footsteps, the deep rhythm of my breath.
There is this… movement? Or collective awareness, maybe, often referred to by the title of a book and video called “Slow is Fast.” It’s this idea/awareness that you can live or work in a place for a very long time, and never really see it until you slow down. Literally. In the case of the book, it’s these dudes who sort of rediscover parts of California when they take a 700 mile bike trip. I feel like I get that with running.
I cannot even begin to describe how intimately I know some of the stretches of sidewalk in our neighborhood. I know how different the Minnehaha Creek sounds under the bridge at Chicago Avenue from the gentle bend it takes leaving Lake Harriet. I mark the changing of the seasons by this rabbit statue in a tiny triangle park along the running path. She gets a red Christmas bow in December and a beautiful flowered crown around Easter. Through the summer she gets spoiled by dirty, sticky hugs from the kids riding by on bikes and scooters.
I count the ducks I pass and often report a post-run Ducks Per Mile (DPM).
I don’t remember the real reason I started running, but I’d guess it was out of vanity. I was in my early 20s, after all. I signed up for more races then– maybe to prove that I was a “real runner.” I still race, but I find the real satisfaction is found on the long, slow distances on the weekends. Church of the Sunday Long Run.
This year, when I realized injury had prematurely ended my bid to run the Twin Cities Marathon, I wrote this about my running this year:
At Mile 2 of today’s run, first I cried. Then, immediately, I forgave myself. I am beautifully and wonderfully made, inside and out. I am not a “good” runner, but I’m doing it anyway, because I am not ashamed of my pace or my body or my running form. I am proud of the work I put in during this training cycle– it was my most diligent one ever. I worked hard and I will not have a finisher’s medal to show for it, but instead I have collected sunrises, lakeside loops, and moments when I wanted to quit and didn’t. That is a worthy prize.
It has become apparent to me that I still owe a Goldy’s 10 Mile recap– oops. The condensed version of what that will be is: “Oh, hills. Yeeeouch.”
As I was starting to write this post, I was going to tally the number of times I have run the Get in Gear. I started running in the fall of 2008, so I figured I had for sure done this event at least 4 or 5 times over the years.
Or… just twice. The 5K in 2011 (with my mom- her first!) and the 10K in 2012.
This race has a good reputation (but dubious and predictable weather reputation) that makes it feel like an old staple. It is comfortably predictable and maybe that’s what makes me think I have done it so many times. Or maybe because the course runs through a part of the city that is often included on my training runs and bike rides. I don’t know what it is, but this event always feels like an old friend.
My original plan was to take the day nice and easy in preparation for the Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon next weekend. I was, however, nervous that I was shirking my last opportunity for a long run to do a 5K, so I decided to run from home to the park (2.6 miles) and then after the 5K decide if I wanted to run home or take the Nice Ride bike share, which has a station at the park and another a half mile from home.
My run to the park actually went stunningly well. I left plenty early and took two tiny walk breaks on the way there (once to watch ducks play in the creek and once because I didn’t feel like running up a hill). Even though I stood around for about 40 minutes before race start, getting some good miles in before was actually really nice. My legs were warmed up and I didn’t waste the first half mile of the race finding my mo-jo for the day. I’ve biked to races before, but never run. I kind of liked it and would definitely consider it for events close to home.
One running truth of mine that I am having a hard time adjusting to is the fact that my 5K times are consistently and steadily improving, even if only by very teeny tiny increments. I see that reflected in my times both in training runs and events, and yet when it comes time to line up at the start line for an event, I am always shuffling myself somewhere towards the back of the pack. Then I spend my first mile weaving around slower runners, walkers, dogs, strollers, etc. For the Get in Gear, I decided to be brave and start a little closer to the front, and I think that really paid off. I did have to weave around a pair of walkers right after the start line (seriously, do no get me started on their terrible race day manners!) but after that I did only had one time where I really got jammed up and chose to run up on some grass for a while.
The course is pancake-flat. My Garmin recorded a total elevation gain of 7 feet and a loss of 4 feet. I am not sure that is perfectly accurate, but it’s probably close. There are approximately 4 turns total, which I think is just done to prevent a hair-pin turn on the River Road to which I say, “God bless thee, Get in Gear!” I hate a crowded hair-pin turn and would much rather make a 1 block loop (which is exactly what we did). When I glanced at my watch at the first mile and it said “Lap 1: 9:31” and I felt really good I thought, If I just keep this up, I could PR, right? Then I spent an inordinate amount of mental energy trying to calculate the pace I would need to keep to get a sub-30 minute 5K time, but I could not do the math because of that damn 0.1 extra miles. (Hint: if you want to run a sub-30 5K, you must average 9:39s.)
That’s really the whole race story. I decided to run hard and I did. As we approached the finish, I saw that the gun time was about 29:50 and I had to really push it to try to beat the 30 minute clock time, but I didn’t cross the start line at the same time as the gun, so I felt pretty confident I would get a sub-30 official time when I was able to see my chip time. I took a triumphant photo of my Garmin time (29:43) and declared myself a PR and my sub-30 via Instagram.
I decided to run home, with a stop for a cup of coffee and a donut around mile 2. When I got home, I had an email from Get in Gear with my race results and I was giddy with excitement to see a sub-30 time.
They had assigned times to all 5K runners based on gun time, not the time we actually crossed the starting mat. What is the point of chip-timing a 5K other than to earn that time at the beginning of the race?! To say I reacted to this dramatically would be an understatement. Especially because I could think of a million times in the race I could have earned those 2 seconds back. #*&%*@*#%!!!!!
I know what the Garmin said, but I am tied to official times in an old-school kind of way, so this email was pretty crushing. I whined about it a full 24 hours later to my friends at brunch.
On Sunday afternoon, I received an email to watch my finisher’s video. Or, as I called it, my “two seconds too slow loser’s video.” I was still not handling that oh-one with much grace. I opened it anyway and was surprised to see a new official time of 29:41– they had adjusted for the chip start!
Overall, it was a motivating run and improved my spirits heading in to this half marathon this weekend. I think the half is my most challenging distance and I have yet to have one go off without a hitch, so hopefully my good running juju will last. I need just a 2:27:59 to PR at the half, which is an 11:17 pace. On paper, it looks overtly do-able, but I really struggle to pace myself appropriately at this distance and usually let things get silly around mile 8. I definitely won’t be running 9:30s!
The Hot Dash 5K is the 2nd race in the TC Summit Challenge. Formerly, the March race of this series was the 100% Irish For a Day 5K (and 10 Mile) and that is what was listed this year when it was time to sign up for the challenge. I did the 100% Irish 10 Mile in 2013 and didn’t really enjoy it, particularly because the course has runners looping Lake Harriet, then Lake Calhoun, and then Harriet again in the same direction. In 2013, I found the return to Harriet for the 2nd loop to be intensely defeating so I knew I wasn’t going to do that again.
Then, in what was a sort of confusing few days, TCM sent emails and announcements about their new race, the Hot Dash, to be held on the same day as the 100% Irish I had already signed up for. At first I thought it was a second race offered in an entirely different location, but it turns out the 100% Irish For a Day was out and in it’s place a flannel-themed, lumberjack-laden event with beer and hot dish served at the end. Though the switch was confusing, I was looking forward to a change in venue (the Hot Dash was in NE Minneapolis) and a non-holiday theme.
I really think Marathon Sports is a great store. I really think it makes a terrible location for packet pick-up. No parking, a line extending all the way from the back of the store to the front door, and only one volunteer to process runners one at a time. Packet pick-up is “easy” in terms of something that requires very little effort (except for trying to find a parking space), but it was bone-crushingly inefficient. I said it last month and I will say it again, this is not the best location for packet pick-up.
A light grey, quarter zip pullover with the race logo on the front chest. Like last race, not a great fit and the color was not flattering on me. I’ll admit: this shirt is already in the giveaway box…
Minnesotans have been very patiently waiting some more Spring-like weather and Saturday did not disappoint. It was still a bit chilly, but the sun felt amazing and it was easy to keep warm while running. Post-race, while waiting for some friends who were running the 10 mile, I started to suffer the cold a bit, but a free beer helped lift my spirits if not warm me up.
A pre-race email said that parking would be available to runners for $3 and I said, “Nope city” to paying for parking and rode my bike to Saint Anthony Main, just across the Mississippi River from downtown Minneapolis. That worked out superbly and I was able to park my bike pretty close to the start area.
I made some mistakes in the beginning that probably cost me my goal time (29:59– I am gunnin’ for a sub-30 5K time). I lined up too far back and spent a lot of time weaving in and out of people. And when I didn’t want to weave, I sometimes just accepted someone’s slower pace for a while, even if I knew I would be more comfortable going a little faster. The cost of the weaving was an extra 0.1 miles run, which is probably what cost me most in terms of missing that goal time.
Still, the course was nice, included the Stone Arch Bridge–which is always fun to run across, and had the added challenge of a cobblestone/brick street at the end!
Official: 30:36. Garmin: 30:38. But my Garmin says I ran 3.2 miles, which I am sure I did with all the weaving and carrying on.
Mile 1: 9:44
Mile 2: 9:40
Mile 3: 9.35
Mile 3-3.2: 9:02 (pace)
Still a PR, so nothing to shake a stick at. And I still seem to have the hang of this negative splits thing. Let me tell you, not going out as hard as a banshee and then bonking spectacularly at the midway point has really made running events a lot more fun…
On Sunday I did a 5 mile training run and really felt pretty good. So far, I think the prognosis for Goldy’s 10 (in a month!) and the Lake Minnetonka Half is positive.
On Wednesday of last week I graduated from my physical therapy return-to-run program, which then allowed me to “slowly and deliberately” rebuild distance and speed. So, then, three days later I ran a 5K. Probably not entirely what my PT had in mind… I must have forgotten to mention it to him when I skipped out of his office with a doctor’s note saying I could run again…
The TC Valentine’s Day 5K is the first race in the TC Summit Challenge. I ran it last year for the first time (also as a Summit Challenge runner) and quickly fell in love with it. I had never done a race so early in the season, opting usually for the classic mid- to late-April start that most Minnesota runners take, but I love the quick and early start to my season and the fact that I am already 2 months in to “race season” by April.
Packet Pick Up
I picked up my packet on Friday at Marathon Sports in South Minneapolis. I accidentally said the words “car trip” in front of the dog, so he came too…
I really like when Twin Cities in Motion does their packet pick-up at their offices because they are on the Green Line, which is the train I take home after work, so I was bummed that this required me to take an extra car trip (and that there are approximately 1.5 parking spaces near Marathon Sports and 23 vehicles trying to get in them). Even then, it was stupid easy to get my packet once I got in the store and I highly appreciate the lack of gimmicks, giveaways, and other stuff. I got my bib (chip timer attached) and my shirt. Badabing. Badaboom.
Nice design, high quality… odd fit.
I am not new to struggling with TC event shirts and the fit. Fairly universally, I wear a women’s large shirt– in casual clothing, business clothing, and workout/running clothing. Last year that is the size shirt I ordered for all of the TC runs in the Summit series (except the 10 Mile). And exactly none of those shirts fit, except the 10 Mile because I ordered a men’s medium. The women’s large was dramatically too short (um, for running or working out? weird) and too narrow in the shoulders. But I have broad shoulders, so this isn’t surprising or do I think it is the fault of the shirt company (Brooks) or TCM.
But I am not an idiot, so I didn’t repeat last year’s mistake. I ordered a men’s medium for all the races. Because, look, I am beyond being embarrassed about my shape or how clothing fits and all that nonsense– I am just going to buy what works for me and actually wear it. Men’s race shirts work. Usually. Length is supremely perfect, fit in the torso and shoulders is dreamy (fitted but not tight and I can actually lift my arms up over my head should I be wearing the shirt when I do something like lift a weight or throw my arms up in celebration). But the arms? Super baggy. Fine length, but about twice as much fabric as I need. Are my arms really THAT much punier than the average guy? I lift weights!
Anyhow, the moral of the race shirt story is I am too big to be a woman and too small to be a man. Neat.
It was like, actually zero degrees. With windchills whipping around the lake at around negative twenty degrees. I was wearing exactly everything I own. Beautiful sunshine, though.
[Note: The term ‘race’ is used quite loosely.]
I was not going to arrive one minute earlier than I needed to for this race, given the weather conditions. I parked up the hill from the first mile marker about 25 minutes before the start time and that worked perfectly. After walking from the car, I got down to the start with less than 10 minutes to wait. I knew I would be slower than normal due to cold and injury recovery, so I started pretty close to the back. That also helps me keep a slower pace at the start and burn any extra energy with a stronger finish.I was surprised at how soon a lot of people started walking, and that really caused some traffic jams for the back of the pack.
My strategy was 10 minutes of running, 1 minute of walking. In hindsight, it was probably too long for the running and I should have done something closer to 8:1, but I really had a hard time convincing myself to start walking before I reached the first mile. It is very humbling to not be physically able to run a 5K. It was a good reminder that getting injured is no joke.
Most of the run was pretty uneventful. The wind really hit hard in the 2nd mile and most of us were sucking air pretty hard trying to get a full breath that the wind didn’t steal.
I am sure the post-race food was excellent, but when I crossed the finish line I paused the Garmin and just kept running to the car. I was very worried that if I stopped I would get cold. From the time I arrived for the race to the time I got back to the car, I was outside for less than an hour– success!
Slow. 32:47 (Official), 32:57 on my watch- a 10:29 average pace, which included the walking time. But I was successful at negative splits and had a 3rd mile that I am not unhappy with.
Mile 1: 11:02
Mile 2: 10:27
Mile 3: 10:11
Last 0.1: 8:54 (pace, not time)
It’s funny, I have sort of been chasing the elusive sub-30 5K time for a while, so a 32+ is disappointing, even though understandable given my current health status. But then I think back to my very first 5K in 2008. I ran/walked that in 41 minutes and I was SO EXCITED about that time and that is how I got hooked on running. Perspective. I can be at peace with 32:47 today.
The next race is March 7– the TC Hot Dash 5K. I am jealous several of my lady-runner-friends are doing the 10 mile that day, but there is a-no way I would be ready for that. But we are going to have brunch afterwards and I will probably eat as if I ran 10 miles instead of 3. Perspective!
Looking forward to full health by the Goldy’s 10 and Lake Minnetonka Half in the spring!
It’s been 20 days since my last run, a statement I made yesterday to my sister and she laughed, presumably at the idea that this is currently my most serious “problem.”
I suppose lots of people go for stretches of 20 or more days without running. Probably most people. But I can’t remember the last time I went nearly three weeks without at least hitting the lake trail for 2 miles, just to keep the blood flowing.
So, sure, maybe in the global (or even local) scheme of things it isn’t a big problem, but it has certainly been a misery-maker for me. I have had to find other ways to fill that time and try desperately to maintain at least some of my running fitness. Here’s how I’ve been doing it.
Reading about running. I am not sure this is actually the most positive coping strategy, because it occasionally makes me feel like everyone is running except me. And I get a bit stabby about that. However, I have re-read at least 4 back issues of Runner’s World, I have revisited my running Pinterest board, and I have read in great detail other peoples’ race reports for some of the events I have coming up this year. I did a tiny bit of information gathering about returning after injury, but I thought it was depressing and I kind of just want to trust the PT. He seems more competent than like, 88% of the internet so I think I will just be a patient patient.
Reading about adventures. Specifically, I just finished “Be Brave, Be Strong: A Journey Across the Great Divide” by Jill Homer which made me want to grab my bike and criss-cross the entire world with nothing but 2 sets of bike clothes, some rain gear, and a lot of Sour Patch Kids. It has definitely made me super excited for some of the biking plans I have this year, including the Almanzo 100 and a trip to the Idaho Hot Springs Mountain Bike Route. Unfortunately, I haven’t been on my bike much, which brings me to…
Wallowing in misery on the stationary bike. If Hell is a place where people go to be punished for their bad deeds on Earth, it is not an expansive pit of fiery rage. It is a gray room filled with gray stationary bikes that inform you every time you have completed another 10% of your workout. Good God, these machines are insufferable. This month alone I have put in 57 miles on the stationary bike. 57 miles to NOWHERE. I am an object that appreciates either being at rest or being in motion. Stationary bikes (and treadmills) exist in this horrible no-man’s land where I am in motion but I am not actually moving. It defies the laws of physics and the Natural Order of Things and I do not like it.
Yoga. I have been using yoga as a (not boring) way to incorporate a little more stretching in my life and to get in workouts at home when I am short on time or don’t want to go to the gym. I rely on doyogawithme.com and I really enjoy the videos they have available. I especially like being able to sort the videos by skill level and time. Advanced for over 60 minutes? No thank you.
Physical therapy exercises. I can go to the gym and barbell squat just under 100 pounds (I’m working on it) but I cannot do 15 reps of single-leg squats?! PT has been a great reminder to me about how simple exercises can make a big difference and that every muscle deserves (and needs) a workout.
And how is my Achilles feeling? Some days great, some days are still touchy. I have been doing my exercises to a T and I am hopeful that Thursday’s appointment will have me on the treadmill at least attempting a run and- if it’s unsuccessful- further developing a plan of action.
Two weeks ago I made an appointment to get into physical therapy because I had a nagging, and supremely painful, Achilles injury. I know getting in to PT is often a scheduling nightmare so I should have been grateful they could get me in 10 days after I called, but all I could think was “10 WHOLE days?!” I had already not been running for 3 days, which was challenging after having a great December and easily racking up 20 mile weeks at the end of the month.
On the eighth day, I tweeted, “I have not run in 8 days and I am going to punch someone in the throat about it.” Handling this setback with nothing but maturity and grace… and a lot of time on the stationary bike. Let my save my absolute rage for the stationary bike for another day.
I had my PT appointment on Tuesday and it was akin to a long Runner’s Confessional. I first totaled all of the injuries my left, lower leg had suffered since 2007 (seriously). Scar tissue build up in foot from a childhood break surgically removed, bone graft, and titanium screw placed; multiple stress fractures in the tibia in 2011; debilitating plantar fasciitis in 2013 that almost resulted in my first DNF and did result in me becoming completely apathetic about running for most of that summer; a decidedly, but ultimately self-diagnosed, sprained ankle in 2014 (Rocky Mountain National Park is indeed rocky and thus full of tripping hazards); a post-sprain plantar fasciitis flare up in late summer 2014; and the cherry on top– this new Achilles pain.
The reason I gave the therapist this lengthy history is because I think I can pinpoint some critical mistakes made that could have prevented subsequent injuries. For example, when I had my foot surgery I was on crutches for 10 weeks and in a boot for another 4 weeks. By the end of that, I had lost a significant amount of muscle in the left leg and it was an incredible amount of work to regain strength and balance. But I cut my PT short to go back to college and continuing my PT exercises was the furthest thing from my mind during my senior year. Then, when I broke the leg in 2011, the doctor said part of the reason for the break was probably weakness in my core, butt, and thighs– all the big muscles that support your body. With those big muscles undertrained and overused, once they fatigued my leg bones took a much more severe pounding. I did some PT, but as soon as I could run pain-free, I abandoned the strengthening exercises for more miles.
All this to say: I think I had been cheating myself for years and paying a very real price. As I was detailing all of these injuries, confessing to all the times I had scoffed at PT, and then providing annotated details of every workout I have been doing since I first hurt my Achilles, the therapist stopped and said, “This is intensely thorough information and actually super helpful. But you kind of seem on the right track, having given the tendon some rest. What is the anxiety about?”
Obviously, I had left the part about wanting to punch people in the throat out of the detailed history…
The anxiety is about the most fabulous running event line up already in the hopper for 2015 and the total and complete fear that something as annoying as my Achilles tendon would mess that up.
Look at this baby! I am doing the TC Summit Challenge again this year, which includes the 4 TC races you see below. I am absolutely not going to wear new socks to the TC Red, White, and Boom! Half. I am also repeating the Goldy’s 10 Mile, in part because it is a great race and in part because it falls at the perfect time to prep for the Lake Minnetonka Half in early May. This is a new race for me, but I have heard supremely positive things about the beauty and relative flatness of the course. The Get in Gear and Women Run the Cities feel like staples to me– I don’t do them both every year, but they are events I can always count on to be well-run, fun, and fit well into any training plan. They are both perfectly situated before other big events, so they can be a great way to practice strategy or just enjoy the race day feel without committing to big distance 2 weeks in a row.
February 14: TC Valentine’s Day 5K
March 7: TC Hot Dash 5K
April 11: Goldy’s 10 Mile
April 25: Get in Gear (Probably 5K-Not Registered)
May 3: Lake Minnetonka Half
May 16: Almanzo 100 (This is a bike race. I am not now, or ever, running 100 miles.)
July 4: TC Red, White, and Boom! Half
September 27: Women Run the Cities (Probably 10K-Not Registered)
October 4: TC 10 Mile
Without saying it quite so bluntly, and trying to seem more interested in my overall health than just my running schedule, my main objective at PT was to answer the question, “When can I run again?” To my relief, the therapist said, if I do my exercises every day this week, I can run on their treadmill next week. Next week! I also love that I can run while he is there, so that if something is funky, we can address it right away. So last night, even though it was late and I was tired, I battled through 20 single leg squats (good god- the thigh burn!) twice, and an oppressive battery of heel raises of the bottom of the stairs.
I am so excited, my running shoes are already packed for the appointment. On my 3rd rodeo, I have finally decided not to cheat myself.
This is, undoubtedly, my most favorite race in Minnesota.
The course is challenging but gorgeous, the crowds are fantastic, and Twin Cities in Motion works so hard to make the whole experience excellent.
I did set A, B, C goals for this race, but forgot to share them on the blog. They were:
Goal A: If the stars all align in my favor, I wanted to set a personal record. My old PR was 1:46:39. I got close to this in the Goldy’s 10 Mile in April, but missed by about 30 seconds. To get this PR, I was going to have to average a 10:36 pace.
Goal B: Run consistently. I have a terrible habit of going out too fast and suffering the most spectacular bonks in the second half of races. I simply get too excited at the start and follow too closely to runners going at a faster pace. I told myself to aim for a 10:35 pace, and try really hard not to go slower than 10:40 for any given mile and to absolutely not go any faster than a 10:10.
Goal C: If nothing else goes right, I at least wanted to finish without injury. Late in my running season I sprained an ankle climbing the Colorado Rocky Mountains and I have had a few issues with sore shins and mild plantar fasciitis. I really didn’t have high hopes going in to this race considering how my legs and feet had felt on my longest run– an 8.6 miler.
Let us work our way backwards.
Goal C: Accomplished. I think this race might be actually have some sort of magical powers. Because this is my second time running it where I have gone in to it thinking injuries would get the best of me, particularly because the course is hilly, and run it practically pain-free. At Mile 1, I said, “Well, sure. You feel good now. But you’ve got 9 more to go.” At Mile 3, “Well, it’s just the adrenaline. But eventually those shins are gonna get you.” And by mile 7, “I don’t deserve to feel this marvelous!”
Goal B: Accomplished. This feels like my biggest victory– like I finally “get it” with pacing. I have run like 30+ events in the last 6 years and I finally get it. Better late than never. I took a look at my Garmin lap data for Goldy’s 10 Mile in April to compare it to my lap data for the TC 10, and the differences are night and day. It is no wonder I had such a great race this weekend.
Goldy’s 10 Mile Laps
Mile 1: 10:11
Mile 2: 10:07
Mile 3: 9:49 (For a slow runner like me, this was a huge red flag. I never run sub-10s in any distance longer than a 5K. Never.)
Mile 5: 10:17
Mile 6: 10:09
Mile 7: 10:59
Mile 8: 11:02
Mile 9: 12:14
Mile 10: 11:08
At first my excuse was that the 2nd half of that race has some big hills, but miles 7-10 are clearly a gigantic bonk. My average pace was 10:33, which I wasn’t totally disappointed in, but doesn’t tell the same story as the lap data– it was a bad race. Unfortunately, in July, my half-marathon went almost exactly the same.
TC 10 Mile Laps
Mile 1: 10:32
Mile 2: 10:23
Mile 3: 10:38
Mile 4: 10:19
Mile 5: 10:43
Mile 6: 10:32
Mile 7: 10:38
Mile 8: 10:30
Mile 9: 10:24
Mile 10: 9:03
Mile 10 is not a typo. I not only had enough gas in my tank to get faster over the last 4 miles of the race, but I crushed the final mile. The race also ends on a big, long downhill that I sort of ran pell-mell down like a drunk orangutan, but the key is that I had enough energy to act like a drunk orangutan. Only a single mile that was slower than my Goal B pace and I know exactly why, and I am not upset. There is a short, steep climb in this mile as you leave East River Road and get onto Summit. It is easy to want to blaze up this hill, but once you hit Summit you have TWO MILES of hill. No way was I going to grind it out on this little sucker with no opportunity to recover on flat land before the Summit climb. Also, I saw my dad and sister in Mile 5 and that makes me cry and then I can’t breathe. A much better race technique than Goldy’s, resulting in an average pace of 10:25, which means…
Goal A: Accomplished. Crushed my PR by a little over 3 minutes. This was far and away better than I expected and even though I got my first sneaking suspicion I would PR when I was around mile 5, I thought I would be squeaking in by the skin of my teeth. Instead I came FLYING in with fire under my butt.
I could talk forever about how good it feels to feel good about a run, but just check out this picture my dad captured around mile 5.5:
I am the happiest idiot out there.
And at the end, with 2 medals (one for the race and one for finishing the entire Summit Challenge Race series) and a space blanket, I am still the happiest idiot out there:
A race for women. A race organized by a women’s professional organization (Minnesota Commercial Real Estate Women). A race that raises money for the Ann Bancroft Foundation, which works hard to make bright and thoughtful girls into empowered and influential women. A race that is kicked off by a 1 Mile race for girls in which Ann Bancroft herself said to about 100 girls of all ages, poised at the starting line, “You can do this because you can do everything.” (Also, there were Storm Troopers at the packet pick-up. I mean, they were there for a different event at a movie theater, but still.)
With a race like that, how could you not have a great time?!
I’ll admit, my race day morning was sort of a comedy of errors. I didn’t charge my Garmin or my ipod until the night before. I didn’t lay out my clothes or even choose which shoes I would wear. Instead I went to Autumn Brew Review and enjoyed all-you-can-drink beer samples from some great craft breweries. Carbo-loading, right? Right. But things really took a left turn when I noticed one of the seams of my running knickers had blown out, rendering them nigh unwearable. At first this caused no panic because I was sure my drawer of running clothes included a back up pair. And as I rummaged frantically through that drawer, I slowly remembered that earlier this month I went through a phase of obsessively removing items from the house that I wasn’t using anymore.
Old running knickers were out.
My options were a pair of fleece-lined running pants or $9.99 Target gym shorts, purchased sometime before 2007. Recognizing that the running pants were the superior quality item, I put them on. But when I stepped out on the deck to see what the weather was like, I realized those pants would be a one-way ticket to the medical tent for heat exhaustion. So, gym shorts it was.
The event takes place at Minnehaha Falls, a place where it is notoriously difficult to park. Unless you ride your bike, which I did. And it was awesome. By the time I arrived, the Girls’ 1 Mile race was about to start, so I decided to do some light stretching while watching their kick-off and race. I won’t lie, it was pretty ridiculously cute and I got some last minute advice from a young participant to “Have fun and run fast!”
The weather was delicious for this time of year. We are in that blessed zone where no Minnesotan takes a nice, snow-free day for granted. But to be given sun and high temperatures? Glo. Ri. Ous. Of course, also the reason I had to wear the terrible gym shorts, so kind of a double-edge sword I guess.
The course was a familiar one– it is used by many other events, in whole or in part. Leaving Minnehaha Falls, we ran toward West River Road and went north on West River. We cross the river at the Lake Street Bridge, giving runners the most glorious view of the fall colors along the river. It definitely made me think that this weekend’s marathoners are in for a big ol’ eye candy treat– the trees are gorgeous! We then headed south on East River Road, including the notorious hill between University of Saint Thomas and Summit Avenue. It is a case of what runner goes up does eventually get to come down, but it is a wholly unpleasant journey up. We crossed back into Minneapolis on the Ford Parkway Bridge, except we had to run about 30 yards past the bridge to a turn-around before we could head back and across. It was a teensy bit demoralizing to cross under and past the bridge you knew was the way to the finish. Once we got back on the Ford Bridge it was just a short half mile or so back into the park and across the finish line.
I had no real goals for this race, particularly because I had a really terrible run at the Lululemon Twin K the week before and I am coming back from being sick and (slightly) hurt. I was really just using it to practice running on parts of the TC 10 Mile course and to get an idea of what my pace could be this weekend. But I have only run one 10K before, so I had a very clear idea of what my previous best time was. I started out maintaining a comfortable 10:15 pace for miles 1 and 2, but worried it was too fast. The incline up and over the Lake Street Bridge caused my calves to cramp up and I had to stop in mile 3 to stretch and I didn’t really recover my pace in mile 4 either (see: St. Thomas hill). I told myself to just take it easy in mile 5 as I really didn’t feel like I had any “skin” in this race, but then I looked at my watch and thought, “Well, I think a PR is actually… doable?” I won’t lie, I had to dig deep at the end. Especially when we ran past the bridge I was prepared to cross immediately. On the last bridge, I looked at my watch again and said, “Oh no. I’ve lost it.” Really convinced I had missed my PR, I decided to just run calm and comfortably the last quarter-mile. I gave a final little sprint to the finish line, which may have been futile because there is a bit of an uphill at or just before the finish, and collected my medal. Checking my time on my watch, I realized I had either just gotten under my PR or just missed it, but I couldn’t remember the seconds in my old time. I also failed to hit my watch right away, so I wasn’t sure if my Garmin had my most accurate time.
A few friends and I went to Chatterbox for brunch, where you can get a PINT of mimosa for $3.50. A PINT. I forgot all about my time.
But, in the evening when WRTC posted the times and I was able to reconfirm my exact 10K time from the 2012 Get in Gear, I had bested my PR by 31 seconds!
Which makes up for the terrible chafing I have suffered from those wretched shorts.
Is there a more patriotic way to celebrate July 4th than getting up at ass o’clock (my new favorite way to describe SUPER early morning running, courtesy of The Oatmeal) and paying money to run around the city you live in?
There is not.
There are many things to share about this event– particularly some important lessons learned and the beauty of silver linings. Let’s take this chronologically, starting on Race Day Eve.
July 3, 2014. Approximately 5:20PM.
It was at this time I made one of my first probably-less-than-stellar pre-race decisions.
For the past few weeks, my transit-based commute has sort of been going through a test phase. When the new light rail line (The Green Line) connecting the downtowns of Minneapolis & Saint Paul opened, my bus route connecting the downtowns was discontinued. Generally, I support light rail, but when my connection goes from 20 minutes to 42? Unhappy. This is after a 20 minute ride into downtown Minneapolis. As Aaron likes to point out, I do not like to be inconvenienced. Which is true. So the Green Line and I are off to a sort of shaky start, when I take it from Saint Paul to Minneapolis Thursday evening. By the time I get into downtown Minneapolis, the thought of spending even another minute of my life on public transit makes me want to lay down in traffic. So, I decide to schlep a few blocks to the Nice Ride, the Twin Cities bike share program. Which on a normal day is a perfect option to prevent me from taking my own life via passing Subaru. But, since they have to be durable, these bikes are pretty heavy. And they only have three gears. So, it was sort of like riding a tank 6 miles home. Awesome pre-race strategy.
July 3, 2014. 6:12PM.
I get home and say, “Aaron! Let’s go to Dick’s Sporting Goods! I want a new shirt for tomorrow’s race!”
Why should this raise red flags? Because every runner knows a cardinal rule of running races is NO NEW THINGS ON RACE DAY. No new food, no new shoes, no new clothes.
I did consider this, thought long and hard about it, and decided that a new shirt wasn’t a terrible idea as long as I didn’t try a new sports bra.
July 3, 2014. 6:50PM.
I get a new shirt. It is comfortable and awesome. I use social media to broadcast my outfit so all my fans my mom can find me on race day.
I also buy a 6 pack of new running socks. And now, 48 hours after the fact, I am asking myself, “Are you effing serious, Kate?!” We will revisit this disastrous decision later.
July 3, 2014. 7:04PM.
In the parking lot of the store, as we are leaving, I turn to Aaron excitedly and say, “Oh my gosh! Do you know what is over here?! Khan’s Mongolian Grill. Let’s go!”
Aaron, though not being a runner, is not an idiot. “You want to go to an all-you-can-eat Mongolian grill less than 12 hours before you run a half marathon?”
“Yeah, yeah. I’ll just get mostly veggies and things.”
Turns out, this was not actually as bad of a decision as I thought it was even as I was making it. I really did stick an almost all-veggies and noodles mix and kept things kind of simple and easy to digest. I thought of it as an all-you-can-eat carbo-load.
July 4, 2014. 5:10AM.
I am scrambling to get organized and remember all the things I need to bring. I get dressed and realize I didn’t lay out socks the night before when I was doing outfit prep, so I grabbed a brand new pair from the Dick’s Sporting Good bag. I eat my toast with peanut butter, but I forget to eat my banana. I am overdramatically distraught about this later. I yell at Aaron, who has graciously offered to drive me to the start, but is not doing so fast enough for my liking.
July 4, 2014. 6AM.
I am at the start and cannot believe what a beautiful autumn day Minnesota is having… seriously, I was even a bit chilled! I do suffer 4 mosquito bites, so I know it is still summer.
July 4, 6:30AM.
It’s go time! (and from here on out I will mark the passage of time by miles because I have no actual concept of time when I run).
Mile 0-not even 1.
I get a little freaked out running on St. Anthony Main because the roads are brick, but maybe 1 in every 20 bricks is totally MIA, which makes it sort of like running through a broken ankle minefield. I survive. Otherwise from here to Mile 4 is pretty uneventful.
My mom and mother-in-law are cheering! They drove up from Lakeville, and then had to navigate the closed roads and complicated traffic of a race in Northeast Minneapolis, so this is no small feat. The happen to catch a picture as I run next to a man in a very patriotic Speedo.
At this point, I realize I am going way too fast. My goal pace was 10:40 and Miles 1-4 were: 10:03, 10:02, 10:20, and 10:23. I have a sinking feeling this isn’t sustainable, but I am also feeling REALLY good. So I press on, but try to slow. Miles 5 and 6 end up right on pace around 10:40 and I feel comfortable.
I knew what was coming here, but I didn’t really know what was coming. On Thursday, my friend Jackie (who also came out to see the race– yay!) said, “Did you know the hill in the middle is the highest point in Minneapolis?” No. I did not. Neat!
I run pretty strictly only in the Midwest. I generally don’t run when I travel, except the one time I ran around a golf course in a retirement community in Florida. So, maybe if I lived somewhere with some more serious elevation changes, I would not be a sissy when it comes to running hills. But I am a sissy. And this hill? Not for sissies. Apparently, the view of Minneapolis from the top of the hill is fantastic, but I wouldn’t know because we were running the other direction and I was too busy hating myself to turn around and look.
Surprisingly, this does not end up being my slowest mile. Which sort of foreshadows how the wheels kinda came of the train in the second half of this race…
Mile 8 & 9.
I regain my composure and get back closer to my goal pace. I was feeling really behind because the 10:40 pace group passed me, but looking back at my Garmin results I wasn’t actually too far behind pace at all. Which kinda made me wonder what was going on in that pace group, but at Mile 8/9, it’s really not worth it or interesting to sit and ponder how anyone else is running. You just gotta do you, so I did.
Remember that part about how I bought a new shirt and new socks? Well, even at Mile 10 the shirt is working out marvelously.
The socks. Oh god, the socks.
If you run or walk a considerable distance or time, your feet will swell. You have to account for that when choosing running footwear. And I did– when I choose the shoes. I sort of let that slip when I chose the socks. I start to try to run/walk to relieve the pain in my toes. To no success. I can feel my pinky toes blistering. Closing in on Mile 11, I know there are 2 choices: walk (painfully) the rest of race or lose the socks. So I lost the socks, put my shoes back on, was pleasantly surprised at the relief that afforded me, and continued toward the finish.
Unfortunately, I think the damage to my feet had been done. While my legs were getting fatigued, they still had some go in them. But the pain in my feet never really subsided and I tried hard to find a comfortable strike position or gate, but I was mostly unsuccessful. I cried when I saw my mom and mother-in-law right before closing it up on the Stone Arch Bridge– partly because I always cry and partly because I was a bit disappointed. I had not made a mistake because I knew (I knew) new socks was treacherous. I had essentially been a bit lazy and I think that played a part in my discomfort at the end.
Still, good race or bad, finishing a run on the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis is a treat. I finished with a smile, I was given my medal by Uncle Sam himself, and Twin Cities in Motion rewarded my effort with a bomb pop popsicle. Then I rewarded my efforts with 2 sprinkle donuts.
Coming in at the back of the pack in 2:28, I did not meet my A Goal of a 2:20 half. But! I did meet both my B & C Goals! I crushed my half PR by 11 minutes and I do feel like a ran confidently. I look happy and strong in most of the photos and the reasons for a slower time than I hoped for are things I can change. And that’s empowering. Often times, when I run slower than I wanted, I tell myself, “You are a bad runner. You can’t actually do this. You are just faking it.” This time was different. I told myself, “You did fine. You made 2 boneheaded choices that may or may not have cost you the second half of the race. But that gives you something to work on.” I can’t fix “sucking at running” if I tell myself that’s the problem. But I can fix wearing new socks on race day and I can practice not going out so fast as I train for the TC 10 Mile this fall.
It was a great race– great course and TCM is easily becoming my favorite race organization. They just keep things simple, straightforward, professional, and still fun. Plus, bomb pops. I can’t imagine doing it in the heat that we usually have on July 4th, but now that I have regained some half-marathon confidence, I might have to try it out again!