Sunday Long Run

Winter Running: It was 32* and sunny today  Excellent weather for running outside.  Everyone else thought so too. 

Goals for the run: Warm up properly.  Keep my heart rate below 153.  I'm back on the heart rate training bandwagon. 

Route: I headed to the downtown gym.  It has better trail access than my house.  Trails are preferable to relying on people to actually shovel their sidewalks at this time of year.  I ran past the Sculpture Garden, onto Cedar Lake Trail, around Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake, and then back the way I started.  The beginning of the run was a bit hairy.  There was ice in some places that had probably been puddles yesterday, and would be again later today.

Execution: I started with a five minute walk to warm up, then kept my heart rate in the low 140s for the first couple of miles.  After that, I went by feel.  This entire run was great. I was not discouraged when the first couple of miles were very slow.  I picked it up in the middle and towards the end, but nothing too crazy.  My heart rate was dialed in right where I wanted it, and it felt good to move. 

Bonus: Totally took all the pictures.


Running and heart rate training

After my brief and failed flirtation with online training plans I felt off and very slow for a long time.  Too long.  Whenever I would run outside, I'd ignore my heart rate monitor (because I couldn't see it under my 85 layers of clothes).  On the treadmill, I'd just get frustrated because I was soooo slow.

I've moved my Zone 2 workouts to the elliptical.  This has ended the frustration and made me feel less like I want to punch people.  For outdoor running I've moved my focus away from Z2 and back into Z3 where it belongs.  It's gotten slightly (and pleasantly) warmer outside, enough to leave my wrist bare and look at my watch during runs. 

Last week on the coldest day ever I did an hour on the treadmill next to my walking buddy.  I was doing a running pace and had my heart rate dialed in.  Best workout ever.  On Monday I had a painfully slow (but in the correct HR zone) outdoor run.  Today I had another outdoor run that was both in the correct zone and at a pace I recognized from this summer.  Things are moving along slowly, but I'm seeing some positive signs.

Bonus: still bringing the phone on some outdoor runs for pictures.


Before and After

Two pictures, taken from roughly the same spot on Medicine Lake.
One if from January 2016.  The other is from March 2015.  See if you can tell which is which.


Trail Thursday - A Surprise Winter Run

Trail: French Park/Medicine Lake Loop.  I have run here before but never done a 'trail review' because normally the thing is properly paved and not an off road trail. Today, however, felt like a true off road adventure, so I'm doing a proper trail report.

Hills: The hills here are hard.  I run this loop counter clockwise because it gets most of the hills out of the way right off the bat.  That last hill absolutely owned me today.  I let myself walk up most of it because I knew my heart rate was already way too high.  Whatever, I was cold.

Ease of Running: This trail was varying degrees of plowed.  Not sure what happened on the west side of the lake but it was not great.
  • Inside French Park - totally plowed down to the black top.
  • Path along Northwest Blvd - well plowed, packed snow, very runnable
  • Path along Medicine Lake Blvd - has seen a plow at least once this year. Opposite of fun.
  • Path near Medicine Lake Park -completely not plowed.  Absolutely off roading.
  • Luce Line, the path around the east side of the lake, and 36th Ave - well plowed, packed snow, very runnable

How cold is cold: My face froze during this run.  Literally.  I wore shorts under my sweat pants, wool socks, and two shirts under my running sweat shirt.  I had a band over my ears and gloves on my hands.  It wasn't that it was soooo cold, it was that I was out in it for a long time.  I wished I'd worn tights under my sweat pants instead. Everything else was fine.

Animals: I saw other runners and walkers and maybe a dog.  Also, lots and lots of ice fishers.

Will I come back: I like this route very much.  It's a challenging distance and the hills are legit.  Bonus is that it has a place for me to park and change my clothes after work, so I've always liked it.  But I may wait until the snow melts off and I can see the pavement again. 


My one track workout for the winter

Today, I accomplished what I hope is one of very few track workouts this winter.  My main gym has a fantastic track.  6 laps is a mile.  It's so fantastic everyone knows it's fantastic.  And everyone comes to play.  It's not a ton of fun for me to be on the track in the winter.  It's so crowded it becomes un-fun.  I view it as more of an "I can't do every single run on the treadmill" kind of thing.  Today, I wanted to run longer than the -20* wind chills would've allowed outside, and I'd been on the treadmill a ton in the past few days.  So I put on my Patient Pants and headed to the track with everyone else.

My mental prep really helped, because I hated being on the track much less than usual at first.  At first I was enjoying being with so many other runners.  After a while the runners mostly dispersed and I was left with walkers which was significantly less fun.  Why must you walk in the running lane?!?  But by then, I was deep into the workout and set on finishing.

The workout itself was one I've talked about before.  It's a descending ladder.  Run 7 laps, walk 1, run 6 laps, walk 1.  Etc. Each set winds up being a slightly faster pace than the one before.  I'm calling this my Race Pace workout for the week.  (Side note, Race Pace workouts may have been the missing ingredient in the 'what should I do besides long runs' question.) This is my heart rate for the workout.  I was nice and aerobic for 1 of the 7 intervals.  Oh well.  Something to shoot for in the future.

There were three ingredients to success in this workout.

First - I told myself that I absolutely had to run the 7 lap interval because that would be mile, and I should give the 6 laps one a try too, and after that if the track was insane or I felt bad I could stop.  Since I never had any pressure to finish, I focused on running in a way that felt good and got to the end nicely.

Second - I'd planned a trip to Seward Co-op afterwards and promised myself a Latte for post run fueling.  It's half milk which is good protein and sugar. 

Third - I had a dinner date at Revival.  I knew I'd feel better about eating all the fried chicken and cheesy grits if I had a good workout under my belt today.  I feel so much less guilt about food on days I've worked out hard.  That's probably a post all it's own.  For the locals, the secret to Revival is have your entire party present and ready to be seated by 5pm.  Otherwise, plan to wait at least an hour.  I am not joking.


January Running

Running in January is always hard because:
  • It's cold.  Very cold.
  • Now it's icy too.
  • The sun is never out.  (Sunrise today was 7:45am and sunset was 4:57pm) 
  • The track at the gym is full of all of the people.
  • I can only run on a treadmill so often. 

Given those barriers, running has been going surprisingly well so far this year.  I've made a point of getting out and running any time the weather is halfway decent.  I've made a point of getting to the gym at not busy times, and my mileage is staying where it should be.

One of my goals for the year was to take more pictures.  (Picture taking fell off dramatically when I got my Garmin and stopped taking my phone on runs with me.)  I've made more of a point to have my phone with me on runs, and to get some snaps from time to time.

The Mississippi River from St Paul.  It was around 11* when I started that run, but remarkably ice free.
Minnehaha Creek, earlier in the month. It took a long time for the creek to freeze over.
The creek today. Almost totally frozen over.

For my 1 mile days, I'll go outside in just about any weather.  This day was about 5* and had some kind of wind chill or another.  Still easier than fighting on the track at the gym. 


Mouse Battles: Part II

All the mice love my apartment.  Remember when I met the first one around Thanksgiving?  I thought maybe I saw a tail the other day, and then today it was absolutely confirmed, the mouse is real.  And brazen.  The thing was just out, running around while I was sitting trying to finish up my work.

As I looked up and stared into his little beady eyes, decisions were made.

Outcome: I'm calling it a draw.  I heard the trap go off just as BiteSquad was delivering my food.  When I went to go check the trap, I see the mouse is very much alive and freaking out because only it's leg got trapped.  Well fuck.  A dead mouse with a broken neck is one thing.  A live mouse with a broken leg is a whole other ball of wax.  That I don't want to deal with.

Ultimately I put on gloves and got a dish towel which I was willing to sacrifice for this endeavor and went over to address the situation.  Mouse and trap covered with towel, taken outside, and mouse freed.  It ran away, probably with a broken leg.  I was having a conversation with a friend via text and she was impressed that I could deal with a live mouse at all. I was a bit impressed with myself too really.


2016 Training Update

Early training update from 2016: I realized I have some things nailed down but some room for improvement, and some solid goals.

Training log - nailed down: I was explaining my training log to a friend. It's kind of nutty and I track a lot of information.  Special bonus, the graphs will work for the whole year (assuming I don't add any fields) without any extra work.

Weight lifting - sort of nailed down I think: I've been doing this TRX/Kettlebell class at my gym for about six months and I've really enjoyed it.  It costs extra and so far it's been worth the cash.  I'm registered for another 6 weeks. I hope I keep it up. 

Step back weeks - nailed down: Step back weeks are always 25 mile weeks with no runs more than 6 miles long.  As a bonus, I have them timed to go with, um, nature.

Long runs - nailed down: I've had the 'long run' concept down for a while.  For Half Marathons, I will try to run at least one 13-15 mile run, and several 10-12 mile runs before the race.  For 10-miler, I will run several 10 milers with some runs over 10 miles.

Heart rate training - both 'nailed down' and not: I tried adding all these Z2 runs and I got nothing but frustrated.  In some ways winter solves this all on it's own because I can't see my heart rate monitor underneath all the layers.  Ongoing plan: Z2 works on the elliptical so that will be the focus of those workouts.  Z3 works very well on runs and I will try to keep that going as well. 

Other runs - room for improvement:  I realized I'm great at the 'long runs' but that's only one day per week.  What do I do the other 6 days?!?  This year, I may try to have some additional focus on these other workouts, since there are so many.  Hill runs and trail runs are near impossible to plan in the winter.  Elliptical workouts are easier to plan at this time.

Hill runs - room for improvement: I have always imagined myself doing more hill runs.  I have like 80 ideas for how to accomplish this goal, but no real plan.  My brain keeps saying "this will be so much easier when the trails aren't covered in snow and you can run there". 

Elliptical - goal for this year: I want to add at least one workout per week on the elliptical, for 60 minutes in Z2. I did one today.  My legs hurt.

Pictures - goal for this year: I want to take my phone on at least all of my long runs.  I'm very missing the pictures from long runs that I've had in years past. Special bonus, ducks from my run earlier this week.


2015 Fitness in Review

Biggest surprises: 
I did not blog a ton this year.  I loved writing the trail reviews but got less interested in other stuff. 
I bought a Garmin (when my heart rate monitor broke 1 week before a big race), and as a follow up, I stopped bringing my phone/camera on as many runs.
Trail Running was a bit of a revelation.  I don't have William O'Brien or Trail Mix on my race list yet, but I hope I keep up with the trails and get some of those races on my list too. 

I did lots of running, a fair amount of walking, and spent some time on the elliptical as well.  I rode my bike some in the summer, more for transportation than fitness.  I flirted with swimming but that never really took off. 

Cross Training:
Spinning kind of took a back seat after a huge January.  Yoga and stretching were big in June, when I did some 30 day challenge.  And as the year went on, I started lifting more and more.

Tentative Plan for 2016:
February - Valentines Day 5K
March - Hot Dash  I think I need to find flannel for this oneMay - not sure about Flying Pig but I may do a walking half marathon with a friend.
June - I want to do Lola's Half Marathon, but this may be a little much
July - Red White and Boom Half Marathon
September - I want to try Running of the Bays Half Marathon which looks awesome.  My Pooky Bear had also mentioned a half marathon in Duluth which could be fun.
October - TCM 10 Miler
Bonus Goal - I really want to run the Flying Pig Full Marathon in 2017.