Minneapolis: The Water City is Hotter than Fire

True story: Minneapolis is hotter than blue blazes right now. At 11pm, it's still 88*.  My air conditioner is getting a workout!

Since things are so ridiculous outside, I headed inside this afternoon for a track workout.  Point of interest: the A/C seemed to be working on the track but not inside the gym.  So full of suck.  Usually when I do track workouts, I try to keep walking in between sets, instead of stopping completely.  It's a little easier for me to manage, and also logistically a bit easier on a busy track.

Workout for the day:
  • 1 mile warm-up
  • 2 laps running, 1/2 lap walking, goal pace of 9:00/mile
  • Repeat running/walking intervals for a total of seven sets
  • Cool down
  • Stretch

Mission accomplished for all except set 5 which was a bit off the pace. At first I thought 9:00/mile pace was too easy, but by the end I wanted to pass out.  That generally means I picked right.  This workout sort of simulates a 500M-600M sprint, with a 150M recovery interval.  I ran the first 'sprint laps' with a friend who is super fast.  And number five is the one that looks slower than all the others. Perhaps I did a little too much work on set 4?

The rest of the week will likely feature some more indoor workouts, and possibly evaluating the wisdom of a long outdoor run.  I will try to look back at some of last year's long run posts because I feel like several of those were done in super hot conditions.  Maybe that will provide some inspiration.


The Great Minnesota Get Together

I went with a friend to the state fair this year, so I could be her cheering support for the Milk Run.  It was hotter than blue blazes, all day.  I was thrilled that I wasn't racing.  The pictures should tell a convincing story on this one:

Start of the day: The Milk Run.  She ran by me, early in the race.  Then we sat around the finish line for a long time.  And all of a sudden, there she was.  Check out that lean.  She was cruising!

Checking out the barns.  We saw rabbits, goats, sheep, cows, chickens, ducks, turkeys, horses, and several different ways to sleep inside a barn, for both people and animals.

Next we learned all the different ways to make art out of food.  Butter sculptures were fun to see, only one was done.  Also, crop art.

Flowers in the agriculture barn.  True story: I was all "look at that black widow" and scared Lucinda to death because she thought I meant a real spider.

And all kinds of other general sights.  For those of you who haven't gone yet, bring your own water bottle.  Find good fried food.  Ride the sky galley so you can see the whole fair.  Come early because that's when the animals in the barns are actually doing things.  And then, go up to the second floor of the grand stand and get your hair colored.


Friday Long Run: A Tale of Two Runs

As per marathon training experiences in the past, the second 20-miler is always the best.  I'd say the last one is the worst but it would be hard to outdo this fiasco.  If you're seriously keeping track, my runs got a little out of order.  I was supposed to have a step back week now and 20-miler next week.  Between Ragnar and the week my body went into attack mode, I had a step back week last week, and now two weeks in a row of 14-mile long runs.

The plan for today was to start out slow and build.  Like this:
Miles 1-5: Run 5:00, walk 1:00
Miles 6-10: Run 1 mile, walk 60-90 seconds at each mile mark.
Miles 11-15: Run 2 miles together, then walk 60-90 seconds.
Mile 16: See how long this run actually is.

Mile 5 was about the time my phone went into freak-out mode.   The vibrations worked but not the sound, nor did Siri and the microphone work.  I don't know what happen but a re-start eventually fixed it.  Since I didn't want to re-set the phone in the midst of a workout, I turned off the interval app and let the GPS running app continue and it vibrated convincingly at every mile.  Convincingly means 13 times.  No joke.  I counted.

The route: This was a new route for me in several ways.  I started at the gym because a friend was going to meet me there for the end of the run.  I ran on the Greenway eastbound towards the river.  I'm familiar with the route from biking but this was my first run.  Then I headed north up the river, past the Franklin Ave bridge (my normal turning spot).  I hadn't run that way since the first time I ran a half marathon.  The route I picked involves Bridge 9 which is an old railway bridge converted for pedestrians and bikes and basically only used of U of M students because of the location.  The climb was easily identifiable but the it was hard to find the bridge.  I stopped a moment and looked at my GPS app to tell me where the hell I was.  Across the river I back turned south, running along the river parkway.  It didn't take long to get back into familiar territory.  I headed all the way down to the Ford bridge, then turned north in Minneapolis, back to the Greenway and the gym.  I had just enough time to run around the block at the gym, grab my gear and head inside for a poo before my next run. 

Nutrition: Perhaps even a bigger success than the lazy ass pace I kept was the nutrition.  The first 20-miler was not the only run where I'd had serious stomach issues.  Not the "I have to poop" kind, more the "I want to throw up" kind.  Fortuitously, I read this article before heading out today.  I saw the suggestion about 1/4 of a gel ever 20 minutes.  "Let's carry a gel around for 80 minutes" didn't sound ideal, but the overall idea seemed a good one.  I tried taking 1/2 gel at my planned mile markers (5, 9, 13 and 17) and then took the remaining 1/2 serving 1 mile later.  It worked like a charm.  Not one single issue with my stomach the entire time.

Part 2: The plan was to meet a friend at the gym and run the last 3 miles with her on our normal out and back route along the greenway.  Westbound this time so I wouldn't have to do anything twice.  The greenway was under construction so we got Greenway+neighborhood instead.  I've decided I need to meet a friend for the last few miles of any 20-miler from now on.  Best idea ever.  It was so nice to have something to look forward to at the end of this run.  It's good to have a friend take your mind of stuff too.  I kept telling her how excited I was to have her because there I was at mile 19 and 20 just plugging right along.  Nothing in the whole world hurt.  I felt great.  I couldn't even feel the heat which was coming on strong. I'm already planning a new route for my final 20-miler and hoping she's free to run with me!


Vibram Five Fingers - Follow Up Thoughts

A while ago I got my first (and second) pair of Vibram Five Fingers and then wrote about it.  Heads up here that I was able to buy two pairs for $60 because I got last year's model on closeout from the REI Outlet.  I bought these shoes for Zumba and circuit and other cross training activities and I feel like I got the right thing.  I use these mostly for indoor workouts on solid flooring and every once in a while wear them for walks or to do errands.  I've running miles on them, although only 1 mile or 2 mile runs at a time.I've had a hard time doing a follow up because it's been hard to figure out what I really wanted to say.

Start out slow: I've read this everywhere, since long before I even had the shoes.  It's legit and it's important.  I wanted to be in my new shoes all the freaking time.  They're so fun!  I've been super careful about limiting my running miles in them, and limiting the amount of time I'm in them working out.  If I do circuit and Zumba in the same night in these things, I'm usually done.

These shoes do not automatically make you a forefoot striker: Sorry, they really don't.  I mention it becuase it seems a big misconception I run into.  I talk to people who want to change their gait and assume changing shoes will automatically change their foot strike. Try a forefoot strike in your current shoes first.  See how it feels.

These shoes will automatically help your legs get stronger: Yowza.  I think my legs are stronger.  If they aren't stronger I can definitely feel them more.  If that makes sense.  I'm more aware of my feet as well.  When I run in shoes I tend to land on the outside of my foot, near the pinky toe.  When I run in these guys, I really try to land near my big toe and push off with the entire foot, not just the outside edge.  It's easier in these than any other shoe I've worn.

Sometimes they're just too much trouble to 'slip' into: Let me lay it down for you.  It's work getting into these shoes.  I'll make the effort for Circuit or Zumba or Body Pump, or when I'm going to have them on for a while.  But when I'm only headed out for a 1-mile run, it's not worth it to put the shoes on to be in them for 10 minutes.

Sometimes they're not the right shoe: The other reason I don't wear these sometimes is if I know I'm going to run on an imperfect or 'pokey' surface. The street next to mine just got a new coat of chip tar and you can't believe the gravel that was everywhere.  These shoes are not meant for gravel, at least the model I got.  When I run, I've really started to pay attention to where I'll be.  Indoor track is no problem and some of the outdoor paths I take are fine, just stay away from gravel and sticks.  


Nike Running and Instagram

I'm a data nerd, I admit it.  I track my workouts, I log my miles, I like to see what I've been up to.  I ran a descending interval workout on the track tonight.  Slow for most people but fast for me.  I came home and checked the Nike+ website to look at things and saw this:

WTF is that?  I was there.  That's not how my workout went.  I assure you.  I checked, to make sure I hadn't taken leave of my senses.  Since I'm still myself, I asked my friends over at Nike Running instagram account an important question.  I'll let you know if they respond.


200 Miles of Good Good Times

Great River Ragnar Relay was this weekend, and I ran. It's my fifth year doing this race.  Every year I swear it will be my last and then I'm all "just one more", much like marathons.  For past race reports see 2009, 2010 - the free race entry, 2011 - Ragnar 911's final year, and 2012 - running with fasties.
No one knows what happened to my friends over at Bolder Options.  They are still listed as the race charity of choice but they didn't have race teams or entries this year.  I didn't even think I was going to run this year until about three weeks before hand when a friend from last year's team was still looking for people to join this other team started by this guy from Chicago.  It was a whole scene.  I was thrilled to be on a team, and even more amused when I found out I was the only girl on the team.  I was going to call this post '200 mile sausage fest' but I digress.

Start times: First big difference from past years: we started at 2pm.  No one is at the starting line at 2pm.  I'm used to starting around 8am or 9am.  For those start times, the starting lines are packed.  They send tons of teams off every half hour and it's a mob scene.  By 2pm, no one is there.  Half the volunteers are even packing it in.  Teams from the 1pm departure are gone, teams departing at 3pm haven't shown up yet.  Only four other teams started with us.  We would connect with the other teams at the first few exchange stations but things got pretty lonely for us.  The second round of running in the middle of the night was actually the loneliest.  We'd get to exchanges and be the only ones there with the volunteers.  Up side to this was we knew we'd eventually start catching people, though it came late in the day on Saturday.  Second up side was we'd get to gas stations and restaurants and the lines would all be way way down so we could get service and use the bathrooms with no waiting.

Pace sheet: Our team captain had what I think is the best idea ever for a Ragnar.  He made a sheet of everyone's runs and projected pace times so we'd know if we were on pace for the race.  It was really helpful knowing when to expect people in exchanges.  Then the team decided they wanted to be done way earlier than our projected finish time of 5:47pm.  I highly agree.  So then the challenge was to run faster than our projected pace time.  Hilarious true story, I put my pace time as 10:00/mile for a 10K.  That's not so much an accurate pace as an "I wish that were my pace".  So when I saw this sheet and they're all "can you take time off your pace?" I had two reactions.  My out-loud voice was all "no problem, I got this" and my inside voice was all "what the f!ck have I just done to myself?".

I ran as the 3rd runner, same as last year.  Bonus this year was that I only had to do my legs, and not pick up that stupid night run up the hill.  This was the first year I'd had good enough coverage to use my GPS app, which was fantastic since pacing myself was suddenly so relevant to the experience.  Screen shots are below, and the times on my running app are slightly off. Because of handing off the batons I was starting the running app 20-30 seconds early, and because of finishes and handing off the batons again, I'd stopped the runs late.  All in all, I things went extremely well.

Run 1: 5.3 miles, 87* no shade, slight breeze.  I knew if I was going to be at all slow, it was going to be on this run.  It's 3 miles of corn followed by a brief stint in town and then more corn before getting to a park to hand off to the next runner.  Around mile 2 I started my music, just letting the phone speaker play since I didn't have earbuds.  Around mile 4.5 my friend called me and I had him on speaker and was all "just talk, say anything".  Around mile 5 I almost pooped my pants, walked for a second to get it together, and then ran in to the finish, handed off the baton and ran directly to the port o pot.  I did not poop my pants.  Side note: I was neither the first runner, nor the last on our team to have this issue.  It was a rough day.

Run 2: My night run started at way-too-early-o'clock.  This run is significantly down hill.  My favorite thing in the whole world is to run down hill.  Sadly, this run was also part ways on a deserted back road.  There weren't any teams near us on the course.  I wasn't thrilled about being all alone, and not even the van can follow for part of the run.  I have never wanted down from the top of a hill so badly in my entire life.  My mile splits will bear me out on that.  I knew that if I was going to contribute at all to the team being early, it was going to come on this run.  I killed it, coming in over two minutes, which is a lot of time to pick up on such a short run.  My running app also wanted me to know I'd set a new PR for the 3-mile and 5K splits.

Sleep: I got the most sleep I think I've ever had at any Ragnar.  The two years where the whole team was in one van, sleep was not an option.  Last year I did sleep some at Stillwater Junior High (I hate that exchange) but I was cold and grumpy and nothing could make me happy.  This year, I got back in the van after my run, got out at the next exchange and stretched a bit, ate some food, and then curled up on my bench.  And slept.  I think I got 4 hours of sleep.  Yes, that's a lot.

Run 3: I hate the last run.  This is actually this gorgeous little run on a trail in Afton and it's all separated from the road and the traffic (finally).  It's all safe, no semi trucks running me off the road like last night.  I had a runner who I knew was going to start a minute or two after me and my goal was to keep her behind me the entire time, or at least make her work to pass me.  The beauty and peace of it lulled me into a false state of relaxation before the gauntlet because at the end of this run comes the steepest hill on the planet.  And it's the last thing I do in the entire race so I have to climb it like a mountain goat and be all speedy about it.  Excellent.  I was about to pass out on that hill when my team held up a diet pepsi for me.  I felt like a fat kid running for a doughnut.  I gunned it.  And then nearly passed out.

Team and the finish: We did wind up finishing early, about 30 minutes early I think.  My friend came over to cheer on the team at the end and see the finish line.  He was really curious about the whole experience.  I thought it was super cool that he came out.  Overall, this was a great experience.  It was fun to be with a team of guys, fun to be with super strong runners, fun to feel like I made a contribution to the team finishing faster than expected even as the slowest person on the team.  Maybe I'd do it again...