Peak Week

Peak Week - Run Leelanau
Good Harbor at sunset after running 26.2

“It’s not 26.2 miles, it’s 6.55 x4,” I told myself going into Sunday’s long run. My training schedule called for a 26-miler, but what kind of distance runner stops at 26 and leaves the .2 hanging? Seems like bad luck.

Last week was “Peak Week” in my 18-week ultra training plan. This plan has me maxing out at 26 miles in preparation for the 50k. I suppose this makes sense, as most marathon training plans I have completed max out around 16-20 miles.  (Though before my first marathon, I ran 26.2 two times to make sure I could do it. I’m not obsessive or anything…)

So now? I taper. At the time I’m writing this, I ran the 26.2 yesterday. That means I’m prettyyyyy excited to taper since I feel a bit fatigued. I ran 3.5 recovery miles this morning. And by ‘ran,’ I mean hobbled. But I know as soon as the tightness of my muscles fades away, this taper will make me antsy. But hey, isn’t that the point? Isn’t the taper supposed to get me so eager to run that I’m ecstatic when race day comes?

I still have a couple of 10-13 milers left, so I won’t be completely deprived of long runs. I’m hoping I can complete more of my mileage on trails in these remaining weeks. My ultra is a trail race and I am sad to say I did not spend as much time training on the trails as I would have liked. The snow and ice really deterred that. Sometimes I couldn’t figure out where the trail was and got hopelessly lost. Other times the snow was deeper than my knees to a point where I didn’t feel like that would be quality running. And lately, the snow has been hard-packed into ridges where it’s too dangerous to try and run on it. So, this trail ultra will likely completely kick my ass.

My Sunday marathon felt pretty darn good though, which surprised me. I recently discovered Spring Energy and it’s an incredible fuel. I have the sampler pack, so I was stocked with on-the-go fuel and electrolytes. I continue to use Generation UCAN as well, so the combination of both of those with some salt tablets helped me stay energized throughout my run. The most important thing I have learned with distance running is the importance of fueling before you feel like you need to. I take a swig of UCAN or half a packet of Spring Energy every three miles. It may seem excessive, but it’s what works for me.

I finished the long run in 4:04:46. Given that my marathon PR in a race is 3:58, I was quite impressed with my time. I ran the majority of this on hard-packed dirt roads – it was as trail-like as the conditions would allow for the day. So do I feel ready for this ultra? Kind-of. But I feel that way going into every big race. Like they say, trust your training and just have fun. And most importantly, it’s not 31 miles, it’s 7.75 x4.

Persistent

Persistence - Run Leelanau
My brother and I after my first marathon. This photo is taken after I spent about an hour laying on that very concrete, vowing to never move again.

Persistence versus talent; there is a big difference between the two. Many runners today are extremely talented and have known nothing but their wild talent. I have a friend who recently started running. He’s in his early 30’s and has been admiring race photos and running from afar. One day he decided to go out for a run. Out of nowhere, this guy is crushing half marathons at a pace less than 7 minutes a mile. There has been no training, no weeks of progressive improvement; just out the door, running 13.1 miles in less than 1.5 hours.

I am not a talented runner. Genetics did little for me athletically and I am not, by nature, fast. During my 7th grade cross country season I always finished last. Literally last, at every.single.race. My first 10k and half marathon were desperate attempts to make it to the finish line without crying (or dying). I kept working at it, though. Not necessarily to get better, but because I enjoyed it so much.

For awhile, I developed a competitive side and worked really hard to increase my speed. I enjoyed (and still do enjoy!) placing in my age group. However, I’m definitely much slower than I was in my early 20’s. Heck, I’m much slower than I was just 3-5 years ago. Perhaps it’s the ongoing issue I have in my left hamstring, perhaps it’s the natural aging process, or perhaps it’s because I never turn down the opportunity to indulge in pizza and beer (hey, you gotta live, ya know?) And though I may be slower, I still head out for every run and complete the mileage requirements on my training plan (including last Saturday’s lengthy 24-miler. Bah!)

The people I admire the most are the athletes that have to work really hard to be elite. I love the ones who embrace their lack of talent and acknowledge their unending persistence. (Of course I love watching the ones with raw talent compete as well – it’s incredible. And I’m not suggesting that those who are extremely talented don’t have to work hard.) Perhaps it’s because I can identify more with the persistent ones or maybe it’s because it gives them a personable side to their fame. Whatever the reason, they’re my favorite athletes in the field to follow. They are the ones who do it for the love of the sport.

We are all well versed with the life metaphors that running creates for us and persistence is no exception to that. Most things in my life are a result of me being persistent and finding ways to accomplish things when they were seemingly impossible. My husband and I own our home because of persistence. I have my master’s and a wonderful job because of persistence. I continue to run marathons because I am persistent.

Strangely enough, people have a tendency to give up when they are the closest they’ve ever been to achieving a goal. It’s usually that last bit at the end that is the hardest. The last year of my master’s program was the hardest; I had to work full-time, intern 24 hours per week, and handle a class load. I considered taking the year off to give myself a break, but I didn’t. I powered through, painfully and full of complaints (just ask my husband). Similarly, the last bit of a marathon training plan is the hardest. You’re running 20+ mile long runs and often more than 45 miles per week. It’s exhausting, time consuming, and can be downright annoying to spend all your free time running. However, I personally believe there is no feeling quite like crossing the finish line of a marathon.

During my first marathon I panicked at mile 18. My legs felt like they weighed 80 pounds each and I was drained of energy. At this stage of my marathon running, I had no idea how to fuel for a distance that long. At that point I remember desperately hoping I would get hit by a car so I wouldn’t have to keep running. Somehow, I continued to place one foot in front of the other. My panic and feelings of despair lasted for four miles. Then suddenly at mile 22, I got a second wind. I came to the realization that I was actually going to finish. I clearly remember thinking, “Holy shit. I’m going to be a marathoner. I’m going to do this.” And I did. Finishing something that hard when I wanted nothing more than to stop has made all the difference in everything else in my life. The greatest lesson I have learned from marathon running is to be excessively persistent.

Surviving Second Winter

Surviving Second Winter - Run Leelanau
Those winter sunrises, though

Most people I encounter in Northern Michigan enjoy winter. They find ways to embrace it, think the freshly fallen snow is beautiful, and root for a white Christmas. However, come March, many of us sing a different tune. The end of February/beginning of March this year was glorious. There was sunshine and temperatures in the high 50’s. The snow was melting and the Yak Trax were pushed aside.

But then, second winter arrived. Second winter is the season that comes after that lovely, teasing warm-up – usually in March. March is the month of hope. The first day of spring comes and Michiganders warily let themselves feel a tiny bit of excitement for beaches, gardening, and fewer layers. Yet, winter always makes a comeback and we all know it’s going to happen every year. However, knowing it will happen does not necessarily make it more pleasant. Here are some tips I have for surviving second winter:

  1. Continue to embrace it. Get outside, run in it, play in it, hike in it. Remember how excited you were for the first snowfall of the season?
  2. Start planning your spring projects. Start your seedlings inside and map out your garden. My husband and I got chickens for the first time! We just picked up our baby chicks and they are happily hanging out inside under a heat lamp. This is definitely a sign of spring.
  3. Don’t put away your winter gear just yet. It’s very painful to have to dig it back out.
  4. Hold onto hope. Spring and summer will come! They always do.

Sadly, I only have four tips. My enthusiasm for winter is quickly waning now that it is the middle of March. On the bright side, second winter makes the beginning of spring that much sweeter. Since my tips are few and far between, send me yours! I’d love to know how you guys are dealing with the end of winter.

The Misery of Naysayers

The Misery of Naysayers - Run Leelanau
Miss you, good sir! Photo credit: Quickmeme.com

For every hobby, ambition, career, or belief system, there will be a person or group that will want to rain negativity on you for it. I recently had a very unpleasant encounter with a man who was determined to intimidate and contradict me in every way possible.

My husband works for a local brewery. I frequent this brewery to spend time with my bodacious spouse and enjoy the fine craft beers. Saturday night I walked in and spotted a seat at the bar. I asked the couple next to the seat if anyone was sitting there. The man replied, “No, but pretty girls can’t sit there.”

I rolled my eyes and suppressed the urge to vomit. After getting my beverage, this man continued to talk to me. I listened politely as he informed me of everything he purchased that day and that he lived in a wealthy community downstate.

He even went on to say, “I’ve made one million dollars in the past five years. Not many people can say that. Can you?”

However, he also mentioned that he had run six marathons, at which point I quickly brightened.

“Oh really!” I exclaimed, “I’ve run seven!” And our dialogue quickly turned to running. However, this didn’t turn out to be a pleasant change in the conversation.  He was quick to inquire about my marathon PR, and squealed with glee as he revealed he had been much faster when he was my age. Bravo, guy, your personality could not be less that of a runner. 

This man then informed me that he could no longer run at his age (57) and that I should enjoy running while I can. And then, the following conversation ensued:

Me, “What? Lots of people run at 57 and much older!”

Man, “Of course. But those people don’t start running until they are older. No one starts running at 20 and is able to continue doing it for 30+ years.”

Me, “Of course they do! What are you talking about?”

Man, “Absolutely not. I don’t know anyone who can run for more than 30 years. God gives you a season for running, and it isn’t that long. Enjoy it while you can, you won’t live forever.”

Me, “What about Katherine Switzer? And Meb Keflezoghi? Or Bart Yasso? And those are just a few of the famous ones. What about the everyday people who have been running their whole lives?”

Man, “Nope. There’s no way someone can start running at 20 and keep doing it when they’re 60. I’m a perfect example of that. And you probably hate Trump too, don’t you?!”

Whoa whoa whoa. When did this get political?!

At this point, I had to tell this unstable human that we needed to agree to disagree. Clearly this conversation was unpleasant, irrational, and ridiculous. However, he was unable to stop. He kept trying to prove his point, wildly swinging from Pro-Trump statements to informing me that I won’t be able to run much longer.

I don’t want to know what is going on in this man’s personal life to make him so miserable. I don’t want to know why a middle-aged man felt the need to continuously pick at a 30-year-old female sitting alone at a brewery. It is clear that he needed more attention than he received from the people in his life. Obviously this man was so miserable that he sought pleasure in attempting to pick a fight with anyone who would listen to him speak.

But you know what? The world is filled with people like this man. He was annoying and I’m sure I’ll encounter more like him. The point is, I’m not going to live my life any differently because of this stranger’s opinion. This man clearly lacked control over his life and was attempting to control those around him. He was insecure, rude, and unstable.

Sure, it’s very possible that I won’t be able to run at his age due to an accident, injury, or something else. But assuming I won’t be able to run merely because I am 57? Be serious, clown. I’m going to keep running until I can’t. And I’m going to start wearing a “do not disturb” sign at the brewery.

Spring Fever

You’re lying to my face if you tell me you don’t have just a little bit of spring fever right now. As a winter enthusiast, I greatly appreciate all four seasons in our beautiful mitten. Who doesn’t love the beauty of a fresh snow fall and the way it makes road running less impactful on our old knees and bodies? Plus, as someone who sweats more than the average person, the colder air definitely helps to tone down the perspiration.

However, on February 20th, we experienced a sunny, 57 degree day. It was glorious. And it was a great reminder of what it feels like to go outside without being in pain (winter winds are harsh!) and it got me just a wee bit excited for spring.

Not only is spring the beginning of warmer weather and fewer layers, but it is the unofficial start to the race season! A few races that I refuse to miss this spring and summer include:

Traverse City Trail Running Festival – April, 27-28, 2018. This race is a great weekend extravaganza! I’m running the 50k this year for my first ultra, but the 10k relay is so much fun!

Glen Arbor Solstice Half Marathon and 5k – June 16, 2018. Running up Inspiration Point is the perfect way to kick off summer, duhhh .

Friends of Fishtown 5k – July 21, 2018 – This is a great race! It starts and ends in the heart of Fishtown and the hills in between are sneaky challenging. Pro tip: Get a sandwich from the Village Cheese Shanty after.

Port Oneida Run – August 4, 2018. Choose between the 10k, 5k, and 4 mile race. The 10k is my distance of choice in this race. It is challenging, but takes you on the beach, through the woods, and all over Sleeping Bear’s beauty.

Spring Fever - Run Leelanau
Oooh summer races are coming!

The Dune Dash 4 Mile Race – Date still TBD, but last year it was held in mid-August. I love this race! It starts and ends at the famous Sleeping Bear Dune Climb. Check out my recap here.

Vineyard to Bay 15k – September 2, 2018. With a new distance this year! Historically it has been a 25k, 5k, and 25k relay. This is the first year that it is being run as a 15k. I can’t wait to see what the new course brings! My recap of the 25k can be found here.

Don’t fret, friends, spring is near. And pretty soon I’ll be complaining about running in the glaring sun and humidity, ha! What races do you plan to run this spring and summer? Are there any that I didn’t mention that I need to do?

 

 

 

 

Betsie Bay Frozen 5k

Betsie Bay Frozen 5k - Run Leelanau
Hoping for another FROZEN event this year

If you want to complete a race that will make you feel like a winter fanatic, look no further than the Betsie Bay Frozen 5k. This is hands down my favorite winter 5k. Only the hearty get out and race on the shores of Lake Michigan in the middle of February – and as it would turn out, there are a lot of hearty Northern Michigan runners.

Runners get shuttled from Frankfort’s Main Street to the top of Elberta’s scenic overlook. If you’re brave enough to turn your face toward the whipping winds of Lake Michigan, you’re in for a fantastic view. Runners then head down the hill and keep along the Betsie Bay, heading right back into Frankfort. Given that this race starts on a downhill and then is 100% flat after, it’s a great race to PR. Finishing fast is extra good in this scenario, because the shores of Lake Michigan are not particularly warm in February.

So I’ve discussed the awesomeness that is the actual race itself, however, the post-race giveaways are absolutely insane. The directors of the race do an incredible job of getting sponsors involved. The community completely backs this event and their support is very clear. Tremendous giveaways include gift cards to local establishments, baskets stocked full with useful and delicious items, as well as local attire that people actually want to wear.

If you’ve never done this race, I insist that you join me on Saturday, February 17th. Dress warm, make the mad dash through Elberta and Frankfort, then celebrate total winter badassery.

 

Training While Sick

A dreadful thing has happened. I can’t even bring myself to say the words, “I am sick.” Rather, I am “under the weather.” It came on Wednesday afternoon while I was at work. As a typical runner, I thought to myself, “I better get my long run in tonight before this gets worse.” I went out after work that evening with the intent of running 20 miles, AHA (against husband advice).

Fortunately, I was on a loop course instead of doing an out and back, because I could feel myself getting worse as I ran. I became fatigued and wondered if I could even finish my first loop. I did, slowly and agonizingly, then admitted defeat. Shortly after, I went to bed, thinking I’d feel tremendously better after a good night’s rest. FALSE. I woke up feeling worse. I’ll spare you my symptoms, but I felt extra stressed as I had already had my rest day that week.

After laying in bed for far too long, I decided to attempt to ‘sweat out’ my illness at the gym. It surprisingly helped. Three days later and I’m still not back to normal. I can’t bring myself to rest completely (I know, I know). I’ve been doing easy, 30-minutes runs these past few days. After yesterday’s I felt worse, after today’s I felt better.

Does anyone else feel like when they’re sick, that half the time going out in the fresh air for a run makes them better? I feel like I’m tricking my body; if I’m well enough to complete a run, I must not be sick. Silly, I know. So here I am, accepting defeat, I’m not going to get my 20-miler in this week. This is the first week of my training program that I have not completed each run as scheduled. Big sigh.

I know runners, including myself, are notorious for pushing limits on running when injured or sick. I am going to force myself to take an extra rest day so that I can complete my long run next week, along with every other planned run. The logic of resting when sick is obvious, but following through is the difficult part. Rest now, run later. Because if I don’t, I might have to rest for longer than just a few days.

Training While Sick - Run Leelanau
Bring on the chicken noodle soup! Photo credit: Campbell’s

 

Reframing

I’m a fairly optimistic person, but there are definitely moments where negativity sneaks in. If I’m not careful, I start to dread entire portions of my day and become irritable. One of my favorite quotes -oh wait, isn’t it called a mantra in runner speak? – Anywho, one of my favorite sayings is:

“Don’t treat a gift like a burden”

And we see this all the time. Something that we originally thought of as a gift eventually gets treated like it’s a giant pain. Work? Bleh. I don’t want to go to work today. But remember how grateful you were when you first got that job? What would your life look like if you didn’t have a job? Would you have a home? Would you be stressed about finances?

I would not survive without reframing. Reframing allows me to change how I look at situations to make them more positive. It allows me to see the benefit in doing things I might not want to do.

Reframing applies to most life situations, including running. (Of course!) On my long run days, I start to get anxious at work thinking about how I have to run 20+ miles in 10 degrees that evening. I think about how tired I am and how I’d much rather go home and stay on my warm couch than bundle up to run for an unreasonable amount of time. But I force myself to reframe. What if I was sick and couldn’t run? What if I lived in a dangerous area where I couldn’t safely run 20 miles? What if I had to run this long on a treadmill??? (Ultimate death) I worked for a long time to be able to run 20 miles. I reframe my thought process to think about how incredible it is that I can run a 20-miler after work and it doesn’t feel like a big deal.

Reframing - Run Leelanau
Running in 10 degrees and extra windy conditions. Instead of complaining about it, I think about how this weather will make me extra grateful in the spring.

I’m not saying reframing works for everything. As a social worker, I’m not going to ask someone with severe depression to “reframe and find the bright side in what you’re going through.” That’s a different beast. However, the art of reframing can make dreadful, exasperating tasks seem much more purposeful. Instead of saying, “I have to go to work today,” try, “I get to go to work today.”

Think about cleaning your home. Few people look forward to that task. Yet, I try to look at it gratefully. I have a home to clean. Not everyone can say that. I believe that gratefulness is essential to happiness. Reframing helps me to be more grateful in everyday life. So tonight, I am grateful that I get to run 20 miles after work. And I’m especially grateful I have a warm home and a pizza to come home too when I’m done.

18 Common Runner Pet Peeves

17 Common Runner Pet Peeves
Stanley and I share a patience level. Gif credit: Imgur

I recently had the joy of participating in a conversation with runners about their biggest pet peeves within the running world. Below are a few that we discussed. Please feel free to comment and add pet peeves of your own. These crack me up.

 

  1. When someone refers to any distance as a marathon. For example, “I ran the 5k marathon last weekend.” No, Daryl, no you did not.
  2. When you just start out in a race and a spectator shouts, “You’re almost there!” Ok, Clyde. Go sit in your car.
  3. Awful race signs. At my first marathon, there was a man holding a sign at the .2 mark that said, “Only 26 more miles!” I continue to hate this unknown man.
  4. Wardrobe malfunctions. Recently I went on a run where my shirt kept riding up, my pants kept slipping down, and my shoe came untied three times. Running is hard enough. Stay in place, shiz. 
  5. Catcalling runners. For a refresher on how to leave runners alone, check out this post.
  6. When you’re trying to pass some people but they are running or walking 4 wide and you can’t get by.
  7. When non-runners ask you if you won your most recent race.
  8. When your GPS watch malfunctions. Accuracy or death, bro.
  9. When you’re crossing a road at red light and a car is parked on the cross-walk. It’s cool, I’ll just run into the intersection to get around you. 
  10. When public forums complain about runners and say, “Roads are for cars.” I can’t even.
  11. Being chased by an unleashed dog while the owner just waves and says, “Don’t worry, he’s friendly!” But is he going to follow me all the way home?
  12. When races don’t start on time. Listen, no one held the race for me when I was stuck in the porta-potty line. Snooze or lose, suckers. 
  13. Referring to running as “jogging.” Pssh. Jogging is for mall walkers.
  14. People who show up to a 5k with 3 water bottles, 6 gels, and a hydration pack.
  15. Cars turning right at a red light without yielding to pedestrians. HELLO!
  16. Inhaling bugs or getting them stuck in your eyelashes while running in the summer. Can I call this fuel?
  17. When spectators smoke at a race. ARE YOU KIDDING
  18. When a non-runner finds out your time in a race and says, “Well that’s not bad.” Ok, Susan, you just keep that couch warm.

That’s the list so far! Like I said, I’d love to hear from you about your pet peeves within the running world. Cheers and happy running!

Running by ‘Effort’

Running by Effort - Run Leelanau
Yak Trax are required for optimal “medium effort” in these conditions

Every training plan I have followed sets up each run by pace: an easy run should be completed at a 10:00 minute per mile pace, speed work should be completed at a 7:15 pace, etc. My 50k training plan is not set up this way. With this plan, my runs are completed by “effort.”

On tap for today, I have a “one hour medium effort run.” As this is new way for me t train, I find it weird. I also do not find it consistent. “Medium effort” for me changes daily. My best “medium effort” is after 8 hours of sleep, maintaining proper nutrition, and tolerable weather conditions. Today’s medium effort run will not be optimal medium effort. I got less than 6 hours of sleep last night, drank 2 beers yesterday, and ate a Twix bar (not sorry about that). Not to mention, the roads are covered in ice and the wind is exceptionally gusty today.

Though my effort level will still feel “medium,” I am willing to bet my pace will be slower than if I was well-rested and nourished, running on dry roads. So I question, is it better to run by specific pace or on effort? What is the benefit of running by effort? It seems easier to me, almost like a cop-out. I can easily convince myself that I’m running at a medium effort. But with paced runs, there’s no cheating. Either you are on pace or you aren’t.

I suppose that since I do not have a time goal for my first 50k, running on effort is just fine. With this race and its training, I care most about getting the miles in. However, I don’t think I would use a training plan that utilized effort level over pace if I was training for a specific time in a race.

What are your thoughts about “effort training” over training with specific paces? How does this work out for you when race day comes?