Training Plans - That did NOT work

It may be a surprise to me and only me that my whole "let's use the 2-per-day Garmin training plan" was a spectacular fail.  If it had been less of a surprise I probably would've stopped after week 1.  But I had high hopes and pressed on into week 2 before acknowledging some serious issues.

Let's start with what went well:
  • I acknowledge that running in Z2 is probably beneficial.  It definitely helps me keep easy days easy.  Even if I feel like I'm so slow I'm going backwards.
  • Using the Elliptical for some 'recovery runs' was also a good idea.  Especially the longer Z2 efforts.  It made me want to punch people less than if I'd been on the track or treadmill. 
  • The tempo/hill runs were surprisingly fun.  I think it was a good idea that those occurred as part of shorter workouts. I found them challenging and I found myself looking forward to them.  Even though I only completed 1.
  • I finally worked out a 3 mile route I can live with.  It's technically 2.96 miles so it's not perfect.  But I can deal.

What did not go well:
  • 2 Per Day workouts - I don't know what I was thinking but this was NOT a good idea.  Some days I can't get up in the morning. 
  • Long runs in Z2 - just, no.  I refer to the 'so slow I feel like I'm going backwards' comment above.
  • Workouts by minutes versus miles - I really thought I was going to be able to cope with this one even more than the 2 per day thing and it turned out to be the biggest sticking point.  Even though I was supposedly working out more, I found myself with fewer miles.  And I found my body feeling like crap.  Not even the good "I've worked out and now I'm sore" feeling.  The "I'm so lazy I can feel the fat cells conquering my underused muscle tissue" crappy feelings.
  • Step back weeks - in all previous training plans I've timed my step back weeks to match with my cycle.  It was surprisingly helpful to do so and I couldn't figure out how to do it with this plan.   Thus, I failed in week 2. 

Plan going forward: 
  • I will make my own training schedule, focusing on long runs like I have in the past, and also adding in at least one tempo workout.
  • I will continue to train for the 10 Mile in March, somewhat ignoring the existence of a 5K on my race schedule in February.
  • I will try to keep the tempo workouts once/week.  It may be the only nod to the 5K that I make.
  • Long runs will be done with a warm up and then in Z3 and then a cool down.  I can't handle this Z2 nonsense.
  • I want to get back to running trails.  Unfortunately, it's harder to do in the winter.  Seems like I'll be spending a lot of Mondays at French Park and Medicine Lake where the trails will hopefully be cleared. 
  • Keep doing the TRX/Kettlebell class because I like it.
  • Maybe start doing Zumba more again?  I've been absent from that class a lot lately.


Half Marathon Training Plan

This is my first date with one of those "let us design your training plan for your next race" things.  It's day 3 of week 1.  Of a 16 week process.

The Plan: Level III Half Marathon Training by Heart Rate. Since my Garmin 225 is my new boyfriend, I used one of the training plans off the Garmin website.  Helfpully they have plans based on both time and heart rate, so I picked the "Level III Heart Rate" plan.  It involves 8 workouts a week.  Not only is this my first date with a training plan, it's my first date with 2-per-day workouts.  Here's a peak at the first week.

Thoughts before trying: 
  • "This is totally reasonable, I can do the 2-per-day workouts when I have TRX or Zumba because I'll be at the gym anyways".  I don't think I was drunk at the time I chose this.  
  • Threshold/Hill/Tempo workouts have to be in the morning and the recovery workouts have to be in the afternoon, opposite how they are listed on this plan. 
  • This will only work in the winter.  Anything that involves working out in the afternoon in the summer will not work because the heat alone jacks up my heart rate too much.  If I like this training plan I will try the "Level 2 heart rate" plan for the summer because it involves only 5 workouts per week and no doubles.

Thoughts so far: 
  •  2-per-days only work if you get up in the morning for the first one.  And if you don't have other stuff going on in the evening.  So far, Monday's second work out got moved to Tuesday (and I actually did it) and Wednesdays second workout got moved to the one blank Thursday.  Rest days are for sissies.  
  • Recovery runs inside: Today I did the 'recovery run' on the elliptical and that worked surprisingly well.  It kept me honest about my pace and effort and was less frustrating than running on a treadmill as fast as some people walk.
  • Recovery runs outside:  I'm still terribly slow running in Zone 2, like "oh look at that snail zooming by my ass".  These runs are tolerable outside with no other runners to watch me. Better than inside with people on the track or treadmills observing my slowness and making me feel grumpy.
  • That whole "90 minutes of Z2 running" coming up this Saturday?  That's going to suck.  So far, I can really only stay in Z2 for 30-40 minutes so they'll be some walking. 


Operation Mickey

As I mentioned yesterday, at least one mouse was visiting my home.  Being not at all cool with those arrangements, I'd set a bunch of traps to remove said visitors.  Late last night as I was falling asleep I heard one of the traps fire.  That didn't take long.  But no way was I going to go deal with the situation at that exact moment.  I'll just dream about it instead.

So I had this dream...
I woke up to a big black rat in the trap.  The mouse trap wasn't quite strong enough to kill the rat, but the rap was quite trapped.  So when I came into the living room to turn on the television the rat made eye contact with me and rolled it's eyes as if to say "this is ridiculous, can I go now?"  Because I had no desire to address a live trapped rat I just left it there.  In walks a live possum.  That thing looked at me too, before it sat on top of the rat in an attempt to keep it warm and comforted.  I got an eye roll from the possum too.  And I'm all "how did a possum get in here?!?" and "what is going on?!?" 
So I start chasing the possum.  It's not in a trap, it can run.  And it runs into some door that I didn't know existed that leads to the stairs and the people who live upstairs, but also to a window in the stair well.  The window is notable because everything else in the house is nice, but this window is in disrepair.  It's opened and the screen is straight up torn out.  Which leads to a discussion with my roommates about getting the house fixed.
To recap - I had a dream where I made it someone else job to fix the house but never delegated emptying the rat from the trap. Priorities?

Back in real life, this dream kind of woke me up.  Shortly after I woke up, I decided to go face Mickey.  I reasoned it was early enough, my brain was probably still too tired to figure out what was going on so that would make it less awful. Why?  I think the big black rat comes from the imagery in this video which I watched yesterday to figure out how to load the traps.  It's one degree less obvious than you'd think.  For reference, the rat in my dream was slightly larger and less plastic than "Mister Mouse" but roughly the same in all other aspects.

The internet also tells me that rats are about evaluating the clutter around you, relevant because I spent so much time last night cleaning.  Possums are about taking a passive stance in things that are happening around me.  I love the imagery of my dream of the Possum coming in and laying on top of the rat.  Trumped.


Productivity Saturday

So, late last night I swear I saw a mouse run across the floor.  I don't think it was the wine.  This event helped me plan my day today.

5am: Wake up, it's dark but I have to pee.  All I can think is "I hope the mice are hiding right now".  
5:01am - think "I should turn off my alarm.  I don't want to wake up for real in 2 hours" and then do so.
9:45am - Mo starts to vacuum and wakes me up for real.  God bless vacation.
10:00 - 6 Mile run.  I'm still not totally loving heart rate training.  I'm back into trying to keep lower heart rates and moving so slow it hurts.
12:45 - meet friends for lunch.  Hello Biscuits and Gravy. 
2:00pm - So this is why we don't go to Home Depot on Saturday.  PS - Home Depot does not have compost pails but they do have mouse traps.
2:30pm - Walgreen's does not have my shampoo/conditioner.  I hate shopping on Saturdays all together.
3:00pm - I think I met the girl who has been responsible for several police calls to my building.  Her name is Laura.  She was perfectly nice to me, and let me know she was only using one washing machine, the other four were open.
3:01pm - Let the cleaning begin.  First I did the kitchen.  Because mice.  I didn't find any mice nor any poo nor other signs of varmints.  I put away the dish washer, got the counter top totally clean and everything put away, did all the dishes, cleaned the stove and toaster oven, etc.  As I was starting to do the floor I had to change out the laundry.  I got basically the whole house clean, and it was lovely. I also got all the laundry hung/folded/put away. 
5:00pm - Operation Mouse Trap begins.  I used moldy mozzarella as my bait.  The instructions said peanut butter.  All I have is almond butter and I refuse to use something that costs $10/jar for rodent bait. 
5:30pm - I sat down on the couch.
6:00pm - I do not want to cook food in the kitchen.  The dishes are clean, the counters are clean, the floor is clean.  I must go out to seek food.
7:00pm - Himself and I head out to Sober Fish and had a lovely dinner.  We agreed that we had an excellent server tonight.  If we go back I hope we get her again.
9:00 - Got home.  Nothing in the traps.  Not sure if happy or sad.
10:30 - Blog.  Plan tomorrow.  Not sure when to run.  Because it's cold outside now, but cold is still sometimes better than Treadmill.  


Tuesdays on the Run

Trying something new, thanks to this site for the prompt:

Do you run with music? 
Outdoors - typically not. Here's a brief history.  There was a point where I never thought I'd do any runs without music, so the progression has been quite shocking.  The best part is not having to make so many playlists to keep myself interested and not frustrated by music.
Indoors on the track or treadmill - Hell yes.  Music is essential to my sanity.  There has never been a moment when I was all "maybe I'll try to give up the music completely".  When I'm inside, it's on and it's loud.

What’s on your playlist?
Pandora Latin Workout Playlist is important.  This is only usable when I workout with my phone, and when there's signal.  There's a part of my gym that is like a cave and gets no signal of any kind.  Long time favorites include Bad Romance - Lady Gaga and Echa Pa'lla - Pitbull ft Papayo.  Newest addition is Bring it Back - Shy Carter ft Aleon Craft


Heart Rate Training - Again

Did you know you can biomechanically be running and only moving at a 15:00 mile?  I do.  Because Z2 running is awful.  I was looking back at this blog to find encouraging stories of improvement from my first round of heart rate training.  I'm disappointed that I never wrote how utterly frustrating it is, and how slow it forces me to to run.  I should've said that before.  I keep trying to remind myself there was a time I couldn't run a 15:00 mile with a heart rate below 150, so keeping it around 135 is a good thing.  But some days, I just want to go. 

Mio Alpha: Last April I got my first heart rate monitor.  It was a plain watch that paired to my iPhone.  It had some downsides, particularly that it didn't work with any apps that tracked indoor running, but I thought it worked quite well and I was happy with it.  Until it broke 1 week before my A race this year.  Sigh.  The wrist band is the part that broke, but the monitor won't work without being strapped tightly to my wrist.  Sigh

Garmin 225: The day the first thing broke, I got myself over to REI and bought a Garmin.  I can't believe I never owned one of these before.  This thing is way more sophisticated than the original heart rate monitor and I enjoyed putting it through its paces.  One of my favorite features is the display of 'heart rate zones' complete with pretty colors. 
One the other available features are in depth training plans on Garmin Connect.  (I have yet to decide if I like this feature.) There are training plans that are heart rate based (vs a traditional distance/speed based plan).  I was checking them out in advance of my 2016 races, and all the plans have significant amounts of time running in zone 2.  Z2 is not an intensity to which I'm accustomed.  And it's slow.  Like, I mean, SLOOOOOOW.

I haven't started the actual training program yet, but it's clear to me the Z2 runs will be my Achilles heel so I'm trying to practice them now.  I'm still seeing this as part of my race recovery time.  As Z2 runs are considered "recovery runs" it seems appropriate.  Hopefully this time around I post more about the heart rate training progress.  And hopefully it becomes less frustrating this time around, as it did last time. 


TCM - Loony Challenge Year 2

Goals for year 2: I had no idea what to expect this year.  It's been a solid year of heart rate training.  But as soon as I got to racing season I was all "how do I set goals for this?!?"  Should my goals be based on pace?  Heart rate?  A mix of both?  I knew I badly wanted to go sub-2hrs in the 10 mile, but I had no idea if that was realistic or not.  I had no idea what I wanted for the 10K and the 5K.

Packet Pickup: Olive volunteered in packet pick up and reported there were some issues.  TCM mails out some pretty sweet Runner Guides well ahead of the race.  Among other things, it shows my bib number for the 10 Mile race.  Since I am a genius, I left it at home.  When I got to Packet Pickup I had to go to the "find my number" table, showed my ID and told the helpful volunteer I'd registered for Loony Challenge.  She printed off two slips for me, one with my Saturday events number and one with my Sunday events number.  I went to the two different tables and collected my things.  Olive was at Saturday events packet pick up and reports that most Loony runners only knew their 10 Mile bib number from having their guide mailed to them.  I reviewed and nothing I was sent ahead of time had my bib number for Saturday events.  I guess forgetting to write down my bib numbers saved me time in the end.
Goal: Find Olive.  Thank all the volunteers I saw.
Outcome: Done
Bonus Goal: Get a new race belt.
Outcome: Also done.  I wore it for all three races and I was tremendously happy with it.

This year,  I found myself wishing I'd written down what I wore last year.  I was having a hard time with the logistics. 
Outfit - Day 1:
Skora PhaseX (blue - yes, I have more than one pair of these shoes); Injinji Socks; Saucony Running Tights (full length, not lined), Short sleeve technical shirt and long sleeve technical shirt.  New race belt.  Sunglasses for part of the race.  Temps around 40* for the start of the 10K, slightly warmer for the 5K but I was still freezing my tail off.

TC 10K: I went easy up the first hill and about 500 people passed me in the first quarter mile. I passed many of them back later so it was all good.  I had a very hard time at the beginning of this race.  It was partly nerves and partly standing in the corral and not being able to warm up properly, and partly literally being cold.  My shoes are very thin and my socks were thin, and my feet felt like ice cubes for a solid mile.
Goal: Be back in time for the 5K
Outcome: Done
Bonus Goal: Run under a 12:00/mile pace
Outcome: 11:19/mile, that really shocked me

TC 5K: I'd warmed up after the 10K, but I got really cold again, waiting for the 5K to start.  Olive did not run this year with me and that made me sad. I started off heading back up this stupid hill again, happy that I got turn around much sooner in this race than the first one.  This race was packed with kids.  No matter how high up I seed myself, they're always there.  I think TCM needs to have the kind of corrals that were in the Flying Pig's 5K last year because that worked really well.  The end of this race was really tough.  I kept running and feeling like, I cannot kick.  What is the deal?!?  And then I checked my run data and saw how fast my final mile was, and felt much better about myself.
Goal: Finish
Outcome: Done
Bonus Goal: Another sub 12:00/mile pace would be nice
Outcome: 11:19/mile.  Weird right?

Day 2 Outfit:
Skora Phase X shoes; Smart Wool Running socks with high cuffs; Fleece lined tights; Smart wool long sleeve shirt; "Liz shirt" over top.  On Summit Ave I ran with a guy who'd been racing for years, and when people were all "go Liz" he's like "I'm going to do that to my shirt next year".   Temps around 40* for the start.

TCM 10 Mile: I was really looking forward to another crack at this course, hopefully routed correctly this time.  I found myself back in Corral 4 again.  I wonder what it takes to move to Corral 3. The day before, the strategy that worked was for me to feel my body going hard and strong.  Hard, but not hurting. Since I was surprised and pleased by the outcomes of both the 10K and the 5K I decided it was quite a sound strategy and went with it. 
Early on I was quite frustrated.  There is a huge bottle neck in this course where the runners go through a narrow tunnel.  It happens just before Mile 1 so the runners are still fairly bunched up.  This year, the bottle neck was so bad I had to walk and got almost completely stopped.  WTF?!?  This was not an issue last year.
My goal for the hills in the middle miles of the course was to challenge myself but also to stay within myself.  These were comparatively slower miles, but I was pleased when I saw how things worked out.
On Summit Ave I met this dude who was a race walker straight up walking an 11:30 mile, or so he told me.  I made it my mission in life to stay with him, since he'd walk me right into my own goal of going sub-2hrs.  We talked and it made that part of the course go really quickly. He also kept me challenged and focused on the up hills in that section.  He dropped me in the last mile on the flats but I almost totally caught him back on the down hill.
Goal: Sub 2 hrs
Outcome: 1:55:52, 11:36/mile pace.

The Finisher Area: beyond insane.  (There was a significant stretch of spectating area between the Cathedral and the finish line that was reserved this year for a protest.  Typically it is filled with spectators and runners who've already finished.)  Olive had race credentials so she came in there to meet me after I grabbed my medal and food.  Bag check was super fast but finisher t shirts had lines that stretched back to bag check.  Olive stood in line for my shirt while I changed.  I was going to try to connect with another friend who was race walking, but things were so cramped in there we just made a run for it. 

Marathon: On the way home, Olive and I decided we wanted to cheer for the marathon runners.  We found our way to about mile 14 on the course.  We'd only been there a few minutes when the 5:00:00 pace group came by.  We made sure we stayed for the 5:30:00 pace group.  These are my people.  And then we stayed after.  I was really surprised how many people were behind the 5:30:00 pacer at mile 14.  About three people looked good and strong and like they knew what they were doing.  Everyone else looked like they were suffering.  Hard.  Olive and I went for Donuts and watched a bit.  Finally Olive was like "I don't want to watch anymore." 

Loony Challenge: I'm glad I did it a second year.  I don't know if I'll do it again next year because of the timing of another race I want to try. If I don't do it again next year, I'm going to volunteer with Olive so I get Race Official Credentials and Clothing.  No joke.
Goal: Go faster than last year
Outcome: Mission completely accomplished

Suggestions for next year:
  • Corrals for the 5K and the 10K - look at how Flying Pig does them because it actually works
  • Two bag check bags, one for Saturday and one for Sunday - mine always rips the first day
  • Last year, Loony Challenge and Summit Challenge people had back tags. Not this year.  Any chance of bringing them back?

What I liked:
  • The Volunteers: No race is complete without volunteers.  Thank you! 
  • The Expo: I thought it was really good this year. 
  • Get the 10K and 5K medals after both races are done.  Thank you!  Flying Pig didn't do it that way this year and it severely annoyed me.
  • One bib for 10K and 5K.  Again, thank you for simplifying the logistics of my race life.
  • Corporate Team Challenge: My employer participates in the 10K, 5K and Marathon corporate team challenge.  That means on Saturday we got a special tent with a special changing area and our own potties.  The tent was heated.


Trail Monday: WIlliam O'Brien 10 Mile Trail Race

It's race day, the reason I made sure I ran on trails at least once a week with pretty good regularity all summer. William O'Brien 10 Mile Race and 10 miles is a very sensible trail race distance.

Trail: We ran parts of the lower park and the camp ground by Lake Alice, and parts of the upper park which was mostly prairie and some woods.  The course was very well marked.  We had aid stations at mile 3, and then at the loop by miles 5.5 and 6.5.  I was happy for the water and Gatorade because I didn't carry any of my own. 

Hills: The hills are for real.  To recap, Pike Island has 144 feet of gain, all at the end up that big hill.  Baker has 178 feet of gain, and I whine about it a lot. Elm Creek actually has the most gain at 211 feet. For reference the Flying Pig Half Marathon clocks in at 696 feet of gain.  This trail had a whopping 709 feet of elevation gain.   Lesson for next time: I need to run more hills. 

Ease of Running: Absolute pleasure.  The only single track is up and down that ginormous hill at miles 1 and 3.  The rest of it is a mix of cinder trail and wide grass track.  I was so happy the grass was mown and fairly beat down by the time I got to it.

Nature: I did not see many animals.  I'm going to guess the 200 runners in the woods scared them off. My parents said they saw some butterflies.  I did see lots of flowers.  The course is straight up gorgeous.

Will I come back: FrontRunner put on a great race, and the course was great.  I would run this trail race again in a minute, if I keep up with the trial running next year.  My training plans for next year are definitely the wild card.

About the race: My parents were in town for the race and told me to only run trail races from now on.  Another friend joined us today, and they three were together spectating. While I was running, they had a visitors center to walk in, and they checked out some of the trails themselves.  At the end of the race there were leftover shirts and my parents scored them as out of town spectators.  Park entry, parking and packet pick up were all super easy.  The course was very well marked.  The volunteers were awesome (shock!).  I met some people who seemed to be running about my pace and wound up sticking with them.  I knew I would be slower than them on the up hills something to practice for next year.  I was really surprised how much faster I was than them on the down hills.  Something I should keep practicing for next time, because it earns me time on the courses. I was both crazy hungry and not wanting any food by the time the race was over. 

Special thanks to my crew: Mom, Dad, and Lucinda!


Trail Monday: Trail Sunday

Today was the final trail run before my only trail race of the year.  The most important thing this run did was help me make a decision about which shoes to wear on race day. It's not the ones I wore today.

Trail: Ft Snelling's Pike Island.  I've run here several times before this summer.  The loop around the island is roughly 3 miles, so it's the shortest of all the trails I've found acceptable.  The Anoka Preserve is technically shorter, but I'm divorcing that trail.

Hills: The island itself is fairly flat.  The run on the mainland from where I park my bike to the island is another story. This is the hill I use to identify my "max heart rate" for heart rate training.  174BPM may be a new record for me.  Is that good or bad?

Ease of Running: There was more gravel on the island than there has been in the past, and that's what hurts me in my itty-bitty minimal trail shoes.  It's clear gravel was added to some parts of the trail that had been flooded for a while, probably as a way to improve drainage. And it was those moments it was clear to me I needed different shoes for the race.  Shoe choice aside, this path is an absolute pleasure.  It's wide and clear and most runners don't even bother with trail shoes on it because it's so well done.

Nature: I saw road kill on the bike path.  I can't imagine being the biker who managed to run over a squirrel.  How does that happen? 

Will I come back: Likely.  I've liked this path for several reasons.  It's by far the closest to my house and the only trail that doesn't require me to drive to it.  I also like the excuse to add biking to the workouts.  The trail is short enough that I can easily do it, even when I cut back miles for the post-race season.


Bonus Trail Friday: Baker Park Reserve Part II

I found myself badly wanting to break in my new trail shoes.  I'd tested them on the rather tame Lake Minnetonka LRT Trail but I badly wanted to know how they'd be on grass and rougher trails.  I knew I'd be around Baker Park Reserve at the end of the day, and it seemed like I could make a 6 mile run work in my schedule this week, so I jumped on the chance.   I'd been here once before and was looking forward to the rematch.

Trail: I ran the horse trail around Lake Katrina, though I don't think I saw that lake once.  The horse trails are largely grass.  Long long grass.

Hills: These hills do not stop.  That hill at mile 4 is hard, but I 'ran' up most of up.  That hill at Mile 5 is awful and I walked.  Bombing down the other side was an absolute blast though.   I found myself thinking that the rolling hills on the Baker paved trail would actually be good training for the Flying Pig

Ease of Running: Awful.  And then wonderful for moments, before it goes back to awful.  The first time I was here, I knew nothing about trail running and just thought "running in grass is hard".  Then I ran at Elm Creek and thought "this grass is way shorter than Baker, and that makes things much easier".  Today I just thought, "this grass is too long, this is no fun".  The grass is crazy long and the footing is jacked in some places.  I know the course is groomed for horses and it's probably a great trail for that.  But running it is slow and hard.  The parts of the course that run through the woods are a pleasure and I lived for them.

Animals: This was not a big animal day.  I saw butterflies and dragonflies and not much else.

Will I come back: I find myself torn. I like Baker, and the location is sometimes convenient for post-work runs. But it's not so fun running on the horse trails.  I think if I do come back, I will check out the paved trails and see if I'm any happier there.


Trail Monday: Lake Minnetonka LRT Trail

I had many many needs today.  They included a long run, breaking in new shoes, not getting the new shoes muddy, and avoiding horse trails as much as possible.  I'd been thinking about the Lake Minnetonka LRT Trail for a while, and it met all my conditions.  I've run this trail twice before, slightly different parts.  Once last summer and one other time last winter when my phone died.  It was winter and it was cold. 

Trail: Lake Minnetonka LRT Trail.  Similar to River Bluffs, this is a crushed limestone trail.  The surface is interesting enough to call it a trail, but tends to drain well and be utterly non-technical.  I started in Excelsior, and ran a 5 mile out, 5 mile back route.  I picked this particular spot on the trial because I thought it would offer the best views of the lake.  I was so right.

Hills: No lie.  I felt like I was running up hill all of the time.  You know those days when flat ground looks like it's up hill?  Turns out there may have been some truth to my feelings, given the elevation profile, but probably nowhere near how I felt.

Ease of Running: Absolute pleasure.  Have I mentioned the crushed limestone?  The trail was actually packed today, and the hardest part of running when when the trail got narrow, and there were bikers and runners and walkers.  Oh my.

Animals: I saw birds of prey, ducks in the ponds and dogs on leashes.  There were way too many people out to expect to see a deer.

Will I come back: I think so, but sporadically.  This trail is crazy scenic with all of the bays on Lake Minnetonka.  This trail is also crazy far away, and on not the funnest route in the world to traverse, so I pick my moments sparingly on this course.


Trail Wednesday: Sadness

It's been a little while since I've had a Trail Monday.  Step back weeks, storms, and a road trip were getting in my way.  I'm having a low mileage week this week, but still needed to get in some trail work, so I headed to a trail I hadn't run on in quite some time.

Trail: Anoka Nature Preserve, where I've run before and loved, but it's quite a short trail really.

Hills: There are some rollers here, rolling down to the river bank and up away from it, but nothing terribly steep nor painful.

Ease of Running: Nightmare. This is where my sadness came.  I've been here before and the trails were grassy in the "farm" areas, and sandy to dirt in the wooded and shaded areas.   They were heaven and utterly runnable.  At least in my memory and old pictures. 
I don't know what happened in the last year.  Because now, in real life, they are big fat gravel roads.  The kind of big fat gravel rocks that hurt your feet to step on.  The loop I did was 2 miles and that was absolutely all I was going to do.

Animals: Do high school students count as animals?

Will I come back: Sadly, no.  I'm so over that gravel pit it's not funny.


Trail Monday: Minnesota River Bluffs Trail

Today, I had the odd combination of needing to do both my trail run and my long run.  I considered various options.  It seemed highly unlikely that I'd run around the Pike Island loop three times.  It'd rained last night so both Baker and Elm Creek seemed unlikely candidates.  I had strongly considered the Lake Minnetonka LRT Trail but there is way too much construction between me and the trail head to make that viable. I settled on an old favorite, The Minnesota River Bluffs Trail

Trail: It's a dirt trail, but long enough to get in a full 10 miles.  It's paved right at the beginning and then again near the bridge up/over 62.  The rest is beautiful packed crushed limestone.  I've been on the trail several times, and am getting more and more familiar with it.  My favorite parts are around the lakes which are always quite scenic.

Hills: The only real hill of note is the one leading up to the overpass over 62.  I walked up on the out and the back, mostly in honor of keeping my heart rate low but also as an excuse to eat and take a drink.  Yes, miracle of miracles, I packed food and water today.

Ease of Running: I almost feel bad calling this a "trail run" because it's not nearly as dramatic nor technical as where I typically go.  It's a crushed limestone trail on what I assume to be an old railroad bed.  This trail has the distinction of being my first foray into running on a non-paved surface.

Animals: There were some birds, no deer.  There was a dead frog.  When I see frog road kill on the bike bath, I tend to blame the frog and not the biker.  This path is actually unusual for the number of people I see when I'm on it.  There were a few runners and loads of bikers.

Will I come back? I've missed this trail and it was nice to be on it again.  This is actually a great trail for winter running because it's so nicely cleared.  The horse trails turn into snow mobile trails and I assume they are off limits to hikers.  Logistically it's a bit different now for me to come here.  I used to come some days after work but my territory has changed slightly so I don't get down to Hopkins anymore.  In addition, all of the roads between me and this trail head seem to be closed, bridges out, under construction, etc.  It took me a while but I was able to work out a back roads way of coming and going, so the fall and winter running here is looking positive.


Trail Monday: Elm Creek Park x3

Last week I did not trail run.  I did lots of other running and just didn't make it to a trail.  This week, I thought I was going to bail on running, but headed outside on an errand and found it to be the nicest day ever.  I headed out to the trail after all.

 Trail: The horse trail continues to be brutal.  About 1/4 mile of it was mowed today.  That was the best thing ever.

Hills: I figured out today that one of my favorite down hills comes at almost the exact middle of the course.  I walked up most of the uphills and ran all of the downs.  The Larisa Danis plan is going strong.

Ease of Running: It's getting harder.  I can't even imagine what Baker is like.  The grass is getting way taller.  The woods are still generally a pleasure.

Animals: The number of frogs and toads I saw today was biblical.  I also saw deer, a hawk, wild turkeys and tons of butterflies.  The butterflies are my favorite though impossible to photograph.

Will I come back? My own personal challenge for the day was to go faster than the last time I did this course.  I managed it well, though mostly by utterly ignoring my heart rate.  My heart rate average was still 146 bpm for the entire time.  I needed a confidence booster in anticipation of the trail running coming up next month, so I went a bit harder than usual.


Trail Monday: Elm Creek Again

Today marked my second trip to the north loop of Elm Creek Park Reserve.

Trail: I did the horse trail again, and this thing is brutal.  It's well marked, and a very nice loop.  Total distance is around 7 miles.  Today was wild flower day.  There were clovers, black eyed susan, queen anne's lace, and any number of purple flowers I can't name.  This song was in my head the whole time.

Hills: Perhaps the most frustrating part is that the hardest section comes in the middle, and it's near impossible to get my running groove back after that middle rhythm section.  

Ease of running: I agree with my earlier statement for the most part.  This trail is really runnable for a grass trail.  In most of the places the grass is mowed or worn down from the horses.  There were a few puddles, though nothing as bad as the first time around.

Vermin: I am thrilled to report a tick free run. It was not mosquito, gnat nor fly free though.  Many good insects lost their lives today.  Jerks.

Other animals: This may be the first time I didn't see a deer.  I may have seen something drinking from the lake, but I felt like what I saw was too still.  I did see a falcon, eighteen million frogs, and all of the butterflies and dragonflies.

Will I come back: I now have a determination to conquer this trail. I am so slow on this thing.  I want to keep going on it until I get stronger and faster now.


My New Special Power

This story brought me a certain amount of glee as I read it.  Not earlier when I was trying to drive though.

My new special power for the summer - name a road and I'll tell you where the construction is.

Where I work: 
169 - May actually be done
100 - Stay away. 
394 - I've been staying away at rush hour, but had no trouble getting to Costco in the middle of the day on Monday.
494 - Really really really stay away, except if you get into the construction zone you can't really get out.
US 10 - Being re-done in Ramsey, lanes are all over the place, as are big trucks.
94 - being made wider between Rogers at St Michael.  The combination of the 94 project and the 494 traffic patterns are outstanding.

Where I live: 
Lake Street - being resurfaced by my gym.
31st Street - about to be resurfaced and painted with bike lanes.
26th and 28th Streets - rolling closures while they are resurfaced and protected bike lanes installed.
Those of you familiar with south Minneapolis will understand that the biggest east/west streets across the city are all closed at the same time. 

Because I love St Paul too: 
35E and US 52 - I don't even understand what's happening in St Paul, but it gets wild over there by the river.
MN 5 - Remember that time I tried to take Nathan to the airport and we got in the monster traffic jam from hell?  It's because of this bridge.

That's all I can think of off the top of my head.  But give me another road.  There's more I'm sure.


Trail Monday: I forgot all about it until Saturday

Trail running has all these intricacies that make it a bit harder to schedule for me.
Sunday I'd actually thought to do a trail run but it was crazy hot and then stormed all night.
Monday the aforementioned storms put me off running on grass and dirt for the day because I'm basically against a mud slog.   Tuesday night I did make it to Elm Creek but it was crazy hot again, and I was without proper trail shoes, and in a part of the park where the horse trails are much harder to follow.  The rest of the week went on until last night when I was all "I haven't done a trail run yet this week.  Doh!!"  

Trail: Ft Snelling - Pike Island.  This time I had a goal of running six miles, so I wound up doing and odd mix of a loop and out and back on the island to get the correct distance.  (One loop around the outside of the island is roughly 3 miles.)

Hills: Yes, that one hill.  Anyone who's ever run at Ft Snelling knows what I'm talking about.  See what it does to my heart rate?

Ease of Running: This is the most runnable trail of the three I've done so far.  It's got a wide flat path.  There were some giant puddles in a couple places, but I was able to pick my way around them without any trouble. It was a bit rocky at times, and sandy at other.  I found myself wishing for a shoe with rock plates in a couple places, and I'd never felt like that the other times I've run here so I'm not sure what's up.

Nature: I saw some deer coming up from a drink at the river, and a fresh Bald Eagle sighting that was pretty cool.  I also thought I was going to get attacked by some crows.  I'm not sure what they were so mad about.

Will I come back: Well obviously.  I'm digging this route a lot, partly because it's so much closer than any other option that exists, and I can squeeze it in quite early in the morning if I need to.  Adding biking into the workouts has also been a positive for me so I'd like to keep it up.


June 30 Day Learning Challenge: Yoga

I read about the 30 Day Learning Challenge.  It sounded interesting and I thought about what I'd want to learn.  Resuming my efforts with Duolingo came to mind.  What I ultimately landed on, though, was doing Yoga for at least 10 minutes per day for the entire month.  Learn by doing.   Since I wasn't going to take a class every day, Youtube videos seemed my best option.

The beginning: I had a lot of luck with this in the beginning, and had fun discovering different types of yoga and different videos along the way.

The middle: I stayed strong through the middle of the month, missing a day here or there, but not feeling too terrible since I was still averaging over 70 minutes per week and running is really the only 'every day' streak I've ever been able to maintain.

My undoing: Vacation for the last week of June had been planned long before this June 'Liz learns to do yoga' business.  I actually did some Yoga and stretching on vacation, but I didn't plan to do it the way I should've.  I mean, when I thought about running I looked at maps and routes and considered alternate routes and what 'trail Monday' would look like.  I didn't do the same thing for this, so I didn't have a space picked out in my mind to practice, nor a time of the day, etc.  So most of the time it just didn't get done becuase too many other wonderful things distracted me.

Overall: I spent an average of 11 minutes per day stretching or doing Yoga in June.  Yes, I have that information in my training log.  Shut up.    

Thoughts: Despite it being more like the "21 day challenge" than a 30 day challenge, I'm glad I gave it a try, and I learned some things along the way.  I really like Restorative Yoga.  I really dislike downward facing dog for extended periods of time. I like stretching best directly after a run, with a second best being directly before bed.  Stretching and Yoga tend to make me pancake-like.  Anything that helps me relax is a good thing.

Will I keep up this habit: I actually really enjoyed the Restorative Yoga and have added some of the videos to my various YouTube playlists so I can keep doing them.  I don't know that I'll do it every single day, but I do like the idea of having that to aim for.

Some of my favorite videos: 
  • Yoga Practice for Runners - I've done this one several times, mostly after runs.  It's the most challenging and 'active' of all the videos.
  • Restorative Yoga - my first date with Restorative Yoga.  There's some awkwardness when the camera momentarily stops working but I generally liked it.  
  • Restorative Yoga Video - different from the one listed above; I didn't like this one as well at first, but I quickly came to love it.  It's a bit slower than the other video in the best way possible and totally relaxing.
  • Yoga for Hips.  I run and bike and sometimes Zumba. It's important.
  • Yoga, An Evening Practice  I liked all of the Ekhart videos that I tried.  Her voice has sort of a hypnotic quality to it, so it makes you forget you're upside down and trying to stick your front leg behind your head to scratch your back, or whatever weird positions she tries to get you in.
  • Bonus: Not a video. But this is hilarious


Trail Monday: Trail Sunday Again

Trail: I hit up the Ft Snelling Pike Island Trail again.  A couple of weeks ago, I rode to the trail by bike and had a great run.  This week, I took a slightly different route by bike and started my run in a different place, but still had a great run.  This the most runnable dirt trail I've found, and the biking is a nice touch.

Hills: Did I ever tell you about that giant hill at Ft Snelling?  Here's the elevation profile?  Guess where is the island and where is the mainland with the giant hill.

Ease of Running: I ran this in my Skoras.  Not even trail shoes.  Because the trail is that good.

Nature: I did, in fact, see a deer.  This deer had a very small rack.  But I saw him on the bike trail on the way home.  Happily, I did not encounter any wild turkeys because they are mean.  It had rained recently so there were one billion snails.

Will I come back: I'm digging this bike/run scenario and digging the trail too.


Would you rather

Thanks to HRG for the questions.

Would you rather run along a beach path or a mountain trail? That beach path in North Carolina was pretty special. 

If you could choose the flavor of gatorade at your next race’s aid stations, what would it be?  Whatever.  I'm only taking a sip or two.

If I gave you a $100 gift card to a running store, what would be the first thing that you would purchase with it?  I've had my eye on one of the Garmin Forerunners, but I'm a sucker for clothes and shoes.

Do you prefer to follow a training plan or wake up and decide then how far and how fast you want to run?  LOL.  A training plan with paces.  You make me smile.

Would you rather start your run with the uphill and end on the downhill or start your run with the downhill and end with the uphill?  Definitely end on the downhill.

When you can’t run, what type of cross-training do you choose to do?  I do not understand this question.

What is your preference: Out and back, point to point or loop runs?  Out and back or loop is usually my first choice.  I do point to point runs, but it usually involves packing a bus pass and some extra clothing to get home and it's just a bit more logistical work for training.

If you could recommend ANY running related item to a new runner, it would be a: Besides a good pair of shoes?  I think the Couch to 5K training program is really fantastic.  But only if the runner already has shoes.

Do you ever see any wild animals while out on your runs?  Yes.  Lots of deer, ducks, geese, herons, etc.  Wild Turkeys and mad geese are my least favorite. Blue Herons are hands down my favorite.

Ever gotten lost while out on a run? Yes. Isn't that part of the fun?

If you could have one meal waiting and ready for you each time you got home from a run for the next 30 days, what would that meal be?  Bacon and eggs with fresh bread from the bakery.  That's what I make for myself when I can.

Capris or shorts: what do you run in most often?  In the summer I wear shorts. 

At what mile (or how many minutes) into your run does your body start to feel like it is warming up and ready to go?  I usually warm up for at least five minutes to .5 miles.  On longer runs, my body starts feeling good around mile 3.

What do you do with your key when you run? It involves a carabiner.

If you could relive any race that you have done in the past, which one what it be?  My first marathon in Amsterdam was pretty special.  And the least awful I've felt in any of them.

What type of run is your least favorite type of run?  The ones where I have to go fast up hill. Seriously, I don't do a lot of running that I don't really like.  I run for fun, why torture myself?

What has been your biggest motivation lately to get out the door to get your run on?  This whole run streak business, but also my body has just been feeling good lately and seems to want to move.

When you go for a run, do you leave right from your front door or do you drive somewhere to start? In the morning before work I leave from home.  In the summer after work, I head to a trail near wherever my day is ending.  

When running in daylight are sunglasses a must or an annoyance? 
Must.  And honestly, I never thought I'd say that.  Between running in the heat and wearing sunglasses, I barely recognize the person I've become in the past year. 

When you get tired, what keeps you from quitting?  Have I run my mile?  That running streak will keep me going.  Also, seeing my heart rate stay lower and my body get a bit faster in the recent months has been really encouraging.


Trail Monday: Barefoot on the beach

Trail: I was on vacation, so my 'trail' was the beach at low tide. Most of the time, I was on Bird Island, with all of the other people.  One of my cousins wanted to get up and run, but he only made it a couple of miles because he had to pee and didn't want to use the ocean.  It was nice having company for a minute.  I wound up doing 6.7, and the blisters were kicking in for the last mile or 2.

Hills: LOL.

Ease of running: This was straight up packed sand and it was an absolute pleasure.  I ran barefoot.  I learned that running barefoot on the beach does in fact cause blisters.  I got some honkers mostly on my big toe and second toes.  Nothing popped and a band aid for a day or two set the problem right. 

Nature: There were dead jelly fish, live crabs, lots and lots of birds, dogs and other people.  I did not see any deer.

Will I come back: I really really hope so.


Trail Monday: Trail Sunday

This is a special edition of Trail Monday.  Due to a forecasted day of rain tomorrow, I wanted to get in the trail run today. 

Trail: I decided to ride my bike over to Ft Snelling State Park, and run around Pike Island.  It's by far the shortest of any of the trails I've run.  This is a step back week for me, so a short run fit nicely into the rest of my schedule.

Hills: Well, there's that one hill at Ft Snelling that I walked my bike up.  Pike Island itself is almost pancake flat.

Ease of Running: By far the most runnable trail I've been on.  There was no grass.  It was packed mud/dirt/sand and gloriously free of mud.  If I want a longer run in the future, I think I will try multiple laps of the island.

Nature: No ticks.  I have continued my streak of seeing at least one deer on every trail run.

Will I come back: The appeal is the most utterly runnable trail I've found so far.  The wild card here is transportation to the trail.  Parking at the trail head is more complex than you'd think, which I knew ahead of time. The bike ride kind of wore me out ahead of time.  Despite the ease of running, I didn't have the fastest time out there. I think as I get stronger on the bike, it will be an appealing option to head back this way.