“Why You No Like Us Anymore?”

I think most of us runners have, in some capacity, a group of people that we run with.

Whether all of your runs are with an organized group, or if you just have some friends that you get some miles in with. We all, likely, run with other people at some point or another.

I’m big on group runs, especially for those Saturday morning long runs. It’s a lot easier to get 15+ miles in with a group of people than it is to do it solo. But sometimes, I think, it’s good to fire off some long runs on your own.

The title of this post is something that was said to me by a member of my running group here in Ames. I haven’t been at a group run in over a month. Yes, running a crap ton of races did impact that. But now a big impact of this is coming with my new training schedule as laid down by my coach.

And as much as I love running with everyone in my group, I’m fine with this. My two best training cycles were the ones going into Grandma’s Marathon 2015 and for Milwaukee 2015 (until I got hurt of course). For both of those, I had a significant amount of time to myself on solo runs.

I’ve got a feeling that a lot of these solo runs will continue, as I continue to approach travel season.

It’s also good for me because, as I’ve mentioned on this blog, I tend to wind up running alone quite a bit in my marathons anyway.

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Just an Easy 6

First of all, Happy 4th of July folks!!

I always enjoy the 4th, in part because of fireworks, but also because it’s honestly one of the few holidays we can enjoy in nice weather in the Midwest. But that’s not really the point of this post.

The 4th weekend is also one of the biggest running and race days of the year. If you live in the Milwaukee metro, the big race is the Firecracker 4, and in the Twin Cities it’s the Red, White, and Boom races. And frankly, wherever you’re reading this from, there is a race near you today.

So for me, it felt odd to not participate at all in the race day festivities. An easy 6 was all I had planned, and that’s what I did. Meanwhile, my Facebook, Twitter, and Insta feeds were filled with red, white, and blue racing photos. For me, it felt odd, after so many races in May and June, to not be out there.

There’s nothing wrong with taking time to train (obviously), but normally it’s me running this and that race. I guess it’s just a little bit of no race FoMo hitting me today.

Thats it for today! I hope you all have a great rest of your 4th, and a great start (and remainder) of your training cycles.

Races in a Training Plan

I feel like this is a topic that is always a good debate amongst runners, and it’s one that’s on my brain right now as well.

This morning, I was thinking about my training and race schedule from last year. I had just started ramping up training for the Twin Cities Marathon, and looked to June and July for a quality race to test my fitness.

My initial plan was to go out and run the Rock N’ Sole Half in Milwaukee in early June, and then wait until mid July to run the River Falls Days 10k and Midnight Madness (a 5 and 10k). That went out the window.

I did run Rock N’ Sole, and it was absolutely dreadful. To date, this is still my worst road Half Marathon time. It also was the third consecutive race (after the Cherry Creek Sneak and Pony Express Marathon) that didn’t go too well. A funk, if you will.

So after Rock N’ Sole, I was a little down on myself. And what’s the natural thing to do for that? Sign up for a race. In I went for the Run to Exile 10k in Des Moines the next weekend. A PR later, and I was feeling good again.

Fast forward two weeks, and I had managed to sign myself up for the Afton 25k (an awesome race if you get the chance). And much like Rock N’ Sole, I wilted away near the end.

But if you’re keeping track (or remember when I ranted about this last year) I had my triple header of RF Days and Midnight Madness the next weekend. And PR’d the 10k…again. Another confidence booster.

And from there I was off to the training cycle. I had exactly two more races from that point. The Gopher to Badger Half, and my high school’s Homecoming 5k. But ultimately, I do attribute those races, especially the two 10ks after long races, to a huge boost of confidence that I was, in fact, in good race shape.

Those 4 races in 5 weekends isn’t too unlike my 6 races/relays in 7 weeks this past spring. But this year, it changed my perspective on things. I’ve become more focused and dialed into what I want from this training cycle more than races.

Currently, I have Gopher to Badger as my only race scheduled between now and Milwaukee. That’s 3.5 months of training with only one competitive race. It’s something I normally don’t do. I like tune up races. But I’m excited to see where this type of training can take me.

And speaking of training, I’ve got my first (of many) interval workouts of this cycle today. 3×1 mile intervals at a “comfortably hard” pace. What does that even mean? And depending on if the forecast is correct, I’ll be doing this in soul-crushing humidity or in a torrential downpour. Neat.

“It’ll Get Way Tougher, Don’t Worry”

Those were the words of my coach literally the second day of my training cycle for the Milwaukee Marathon.

As some of you know, I’m in the hunt for the sub 3 hour marathon, and along with that a BQ time. I’ve always felt that I was close to hitting at least the BQ, especially with a strong marathon at Twin Cities last October.

I’m not going to lie, though, I’m looking forward to seeing how challenging this training cycle will be. I know it will include lots of workouts and other things I haven’t previously included in my training plans. Ultimately, I already feel like this will be the most in shape I’ll be going into a Marathon.

The only hurdle, if you will, that I’m a little concerned about is that I’m running a bucket-list race smack dab in the middle of my training cycle. I’ve run long trail races as training runs before, but Pikes Peak will be a totally different animal. But I’ll have more of that on another post.

For now, I’ll just look forward to what Skelly has planned for me in this training cycle. It’s exciting and daunting all at the same time, and I can’t wait.

Fall Training Kick-Off

During my week off of running after Grandma’s Marathon, I wondered many times what people do if they don’t run in a day.

Fortunately, that time is over and it’s time to hit the pavement again. My fall training cycle for the Milwaukee Marathon gets started today, and things are going to be a little different this time. And I know, that’s what a lot of us say any time once we wrap up a slightly disappointing race.

But it actually will be for me this time. Why? I’m going in and working with a coach for this training plan. Scott Sekelsky (better known to a lot of us as Skelly) has been a point of contact for me in the past regarding injuries that would pop up for me, and now I’m hiring him to coach me up for Milwaukee. And here’s my plug for Skelly’s website, if you want a great coach: http://www.running4you.us

The training plan gets started a little slow, but I’m stoked to get going.

Summer is Here

We’ve turned the corner from Spring to Summer, although in Central Iowa it has felt a lot like summer for a while now.

Last time I posted, I was tapering off and getting ready for the Lincoln Marathon. Starting with that race, my running schedule has been a whirlwind of fun that left me very tired. So let’s talk about what I did.

And we start with Lincoln. This one definitely didn’t go as planned. I didn’t get a great amount of sleep leading into this race, which isn’t what you want going into a Full. The whole weekend just felt “off” to me, and had an eerily similar mental feeling to when I was in Sacramento for the Pony Express Marathon. Again, not where you mentally want to be going into a race.

The race was a little on the warm side, which played a factor since we hadn’t had temps in the 80s just yet (at that time). I never really hit a wall during the race, but couldn’t quite get going. If you’ve run Lincoln, you know the second half of the race gives you a lot of alone time and virtually no shade. The race definitely left me disappointed, especially after how well the Fall (and Twin Cities) went.

No rest for the runner though! I turned around for the Market to Market Relay, a staple in my spring schedule. I ran less than I had in past year, which was a nice change of pace for me. I also got to experience how uncomfortable running in a Captain America costume really is.

I was supposed to have the next weekend for a nice relaxing long run. However, I got talked into a 5k, by the events Race Management Coordinator. Even the day after a long run, this one went well for me, notching my second fastest 5k time and a third overall finish. For as well as this race was, it got me into the mindset that maybe I could race Grandma’s Marathon and do well. More on that in a bit.

The fourth week away from Lincoln and I finally had a weekend with no race planned. Did that stop me from doing a 22 mile training run? Nope.

On a whim, I signed up for Iowa’s Distance Classic, the Dam to Dam Half Marathon, with the purpose of pacing two of my running group friends to a 1:35. Dam to Dam has no pacers, so this one was up to me. I succeeded in hitting my marks on a hot day (75 at the start!) but my running mates dropped back around the halfway mark.

Normally a 22 miler three weeks out, followed by a Half, would put you into major taper mode for a marathon. Instead, I was revving up for the World’s Longest Relay: Relay Iowa. This relay is 339 miles across the state. Three days of little sleep, few meals (we only had two real meals across the three days), and lots of miles, I rolled up 36.

And that leads us into Grandma’s Marathon. I was hoping my legs would be ready for this, but I should have known better. The weather was warmer than you would’ve liked for 26.2, but it wasn’t outrageous. My second attempt at Grandma’s Marathon went just about as well as the first, which means not well. And I know, I’m calling a 3:24 marathon “not well,” but I was disappointed in my effort.

But some great things (other than racing) happened the last two months as well! I worked my way onto the Performance Running Outfitters race team, which frankly is a huge bucket list item of mine. Now I get to rep the best running store (in my opinion) every race day. I also tackled Strava’s #MyMile challenge, and got to run my first all out mile since high school. Managed to sneak in under 5 minutes at a 4:59, which was the first time ever I ran under 5!! It also reminded me how much I always hated going all out on the track.

Exciting things are brewing for this summer and the fall. But I’ll save that for Sunday’s post.

Go To Workout

For many runners, we’re closing in on peak training, or getting set to taper for a Spring Marathon (unless you ran Boston). As we all know, long runs are the staple in any marathon training plan.

Personally, I hit my longest run 4 weeks out from my marathon date. And followed that run up with a Half the next day. A little different than what I did for Twin Cities, so we’ll see how that goes.

But this post is not about the long run. It’s about that one workout everyone has in their training plan. The one that is probably the hardest that you’ll do. The one that lets you know if you are ready for 26.2.

For me, that workout was last night. Again, a little later than Twin Cities training. But with the La Jolla Half this weekend, and a week of travel for work coming up, I didn’t want to pound my legs less than two weeks away. Freshness is the key for me.

I hate going to the track. But this particular workout is clutch. I get about 3.5 miles of work and (depending on warmup and cooldown) somewhere between 7-8 miles total. Last time I ran this it was in a thunderstorm, and last night was into a fierce headwind on the back stretch of the track.

I managed to hit paces that I was happy with, and that’s what really matters. With that workout in, my last hardest thing will be attacking the hills at the La Jolla Half this weekend. From there, I’ll have one or two trips to my friends at the November Project, and it’ll be all taper from there.

So what is your go to workout? Do you hit the track? Hills? Or do you knock it out on the roads?

Back at It

I think last time I wrote that I was going to be more consistent with this blog I ended up writing a solid two weeks before falling off the wagon. I guess that happens when six people leave your office in a month and you have to pick up that slack.

So I’m back. Again. And I have a lot to catch up on!

The last post I had was at the end of December. So I guess it’s time for some updates from what I said I had coming up in early 2017. All of these will be on my Race Recaps page as well, so check that out!

Overall, training has been going very well. No injuries (knock on wood), and I’ve been very consistent with training and cross training. Not so much with lifting this cycle, unfortunately. But my mileage is up from what I prepped for Twin Cities, which mentally is great!

The first race of 2017 was the 5k edition of the Ice Breaker Indoor Marathon in Milwaukee. An indoor 5k on a 440 meter, three lane track. That’s not a typo. I was also coming off a bout with the flu heading into this race. So I definitely was not optimally trained. I dropped a 19:33, which was far from my best. But it was good enough for 11th place, and considering I wasn’t 100% for this race, I would take it.

Next up was my long awaited return to the Frozen Feet Half up in Minnesota. Unfortunately, with the mild winter we had in the midwest, it wasn’t so frozen. Instead of single track, we had to run multiple loops on the bike path in the park. To add to that, the night before it had rained and froze, meaning that the path was coated in ice. Brutal. Ran almost an identical time to what I posted last year,  in what I thought were much worse conditions, so that wasn’t the worst, but still not a great race for me.

March was a big month as I signed up, on a whim, for the Leprechaun Chase 10k. I was excited to run my first 10k since July, and was curious to see how my pacing at quicker speeds would work out. Turns out, ice would curtail my race plans again. With the amount of ice on the path around the lake, the race made the decision to run a 5k instead of a 10k. So a surprise 5k it was! My race was much more in line with a normal 5k for me, especially at that point in my training. I’m still a little salty about having to run a 5k, though.

That takes us to the big bad Music City Trail Ultra (a 50k) that was the next weekend. This race billed itself as one of the hardest ultras in the area, and it did not disappoint. Long steep climbs, technical trails, and all the stream crossings you could want were featured here. It was a race in which only about five people per year go under 6 hours, and that held true this year as well with only six finishers (including yours truly) coming in under 6.

And that brings us to April. The other weekend I signed up for a spur of the moment half which I ran the day after a 24 mile long run. Woof. My legs haven’t been that uncomfortable in a Half in a long time. But notching a 7:05 pace was more than fine in that situation. This next weekend I’m opting in for the La Jolla Half, which I ran in 2015 as well. It marks my last long(ish) training run before the Lincoln Marathon.

So here we go! Almost marathon time!!

2016 – What a Year

As 2016 is nearing it’s conclusion, I thought today would be a good day to take a look back at what has been quite the year. For a moment, let’s set aside the politics and celebrity deaths that has really shrouded 2016. In the running world (since this is a running blog) 2016 has actually been quite the year.

On a world scale, first and foremost, we had the 2016 Summer Olympics. The Games saw a resurgence in US Distance running, spearheaded by Galen Rupp, Matthew Centrowitz, Even Jager, Paul Chemlico, Emma Coburn, Clayton Murphy, Jenny Simpson, and Gwen Jorgensen; who all won medals at the Olympic Games.

And that doesn’t even scratch the surface. We saw Molly Huddle break the America 10k record, Shalane Flanagan, Des Linden, and Amy Cragg all slot 10 finishes in the marathon, as well as great runs from Emily Infeld (10k), plus Meb and Jared Ward in the Full (to name a few).

If you jump outside the US, we got to see the continued dominance of Eliud Kipchoge. The Kenyan dominated the Olympic Marathon, and nearly set the World Record in London (while breaking the course record). Kipchoge is unbeaten in the marathon since finishing second in Berlin in 2013 (he was second to Wilson Kipsang who set a then world record).

Nike has also announced plans to pursue the sub-2 marathon on the heels (or rather feet) of Kipchoge, Lelisa Desisa, and Zersenay Tadese.

Basically, there’s a ton to be excited about.

On a personal running level, 2016 was an exciting year as well. Coming back from a problematic hamstring/quad/IT Band at the end of 2015, I had high ambitions in 2016.

The year got started out very well for me at the Polar Dash, where I notched a PR on the first day of the year. In total, I actually ran a PR in every distance from the 5k on up. On that same note, I also ran my slowest Full and Half Marathons as well.

In total, I had the opportunity to run a total of 23 races (Holy Crap) in 8 different states. That includes 4 marathons, in four different states, and my first ever 50k. I also managed to win not one, but two races overall as well.

Mostly, I am the happiest to have remained more or less injury-free for the duration of the year. I’ll fall just shy of 1,800 miles, unless I do work in the next three days, but that’s fine. I made new friends, discovered the November Project, had have begun to broaden my running horizons both in races, and in gear.

On that note, I’m immensely looking forward to what 2017 has to offer. In the spring and early summer, I’ve got an indoor race, a return to the Frozen Feet Trail Half, a 50k, my “A” race marathon, Relay Iowa, and a return to Grandma’s Marathon all on tap.

Thanks for the memories, 2016, and let’s bring on 2017!

Safety

A while back I wrote a post about encountering wildlife on a run. Going over what runners have seen, could see, and what we never want to interact with.

But today I want to pull the scope back to look at possibly the most dangerous thing runners have to deal with, and something we see (and use) every day.

Cars.

Many of us take to sidewalks when we can, but that isn’t always an option. Running on roads is just something that we do, and why we also (or should always) run against traffic. But in the winter it’s a little harder. Mainly because, unless you can run during lunch, it’s dark when we wake up, and dark when we get home. So certainly, reflective gear and lights are important, especially if you are on a road.

Possibly more dangerous, though, are intersections. I’ve had a few close calls on intersections, even when I’m in the cross walk. Cars might not see you or might try to make a turn before you get there. If it’s icy, the car might just slide into your way.

This is the topic today as a member of my running group was hit yesterday on our group run. Normally you don’t expect to have to watch the cars turning right when they are stopped at a red light. Even less so when you’re in a pack. But that’s what happened. His knee is in really bad shape, but otherwise my friend is fine. So while it’s far from a good situation (because he won’t be running anytime soon) it could be worse.

So remember when you’re running, be aware of all cars, even if you think they see you. And to driver, be aware. When we run, we try to watch for you, run safe, and wear reflective gear. But next time you try to make the light, do a rolling stop at a stop sign, or turn right on red, just make one quick check to make sure that there’s not a runner or biker coming down the sidewalk.