Monthly Archives: November 2015

The Year Of The Run (?)

2014 was my triathlon year. It was the year of Ironman. In retrospect, I over trained an I ┬áhad drifted too far from my original passion…running. I swam over 125 miles and biked over 3000. I no longer enjoyed either. That same year, I ran a decent (but not overwhelming) 1580 miles.

The plan for 2015 was simple…get back to running. I would do a few sprint triathlons to keep me cross-training, but the goal was to do a lot less swimming and cycling. This would give me a lot more life/work/family balance, and it would free up a lot more time to run. I lined up 5 marathons and an ultra-marathon. I had visions of some impressive run totals by the end of 2015.

This only partially worked.

I did a lot less cycling (300 miles instead of 3000 miles) and much less swimming (12 miles instead of 127 miles), but I still felt that I had no life balence. I felt that I was now overdoing it on the run…and it was burning me out.

I have already planned to cut down my running totals next year, and to get more balence. I “knew” that I used up too much of my swim and cycle free time and just ran instead. I never reached the balence point.

However, I completed all of my races, and I was certain of a mighty impressive year end running total. I just tallied the mileage so that I would know if I needed to do a little more to get to a 2000 or 2500 mile benchmark.

I surprised myself. The 2015 total was…1139 miles.

My running total had gone DOWN…by over 400 miles.

I was dumbfounded.

I cut my cycling and swimming by 90%. I felt that I worked at least as hard as the previous year.

Perception can be a funny thing.

It is clear I didn’t work anywhere near as hard as 2014. I was not up every morning at 3 to work out for 2-3 hours. I was not logging 20+ hour workout weeks. I was at home a lot more, and getting a lot more sleep. And I still felt burnt out. I probably was.

This testifies to the potency of a big dream. A dream that can empower you and motivate you past your breaking point. Ironman did that in 2014. Nothing did that in 2015. The numbers show it. The fitness level shows it as well. I am 1-2 minutes/mile slower then last year…with a similar perceived effort. I am nowhere near any of my PR’s from 2014.

This also testifies to the potency of a clear and specific training plan. I had a thirty week plan that I followed very closely in 2014. I went by “feel” in 2015. I did slap on my Garmin and downloaded the results…and never looked at them again (unlike 2014 where I obsessed over every little detail). In 2014, I knew when I was slacking off. This year, I ignored the data and convinced myself that I wasn’t.

I should not have been surprised. This year was a letdown from 2014…but that was an incredible journey that I will always treasure and never repeat. Logging 1100+ miles this year is still an impressive total…one that I likely will not reach next season.

For now, I am enjoying the swim and the bike again. I think I am ready to do the same with the run. I am finding that I enjoy being fit and active for the simple joy that it brings me. Obsessing over speed and numbers were empowering for a time, but now just seem to get in the way. It is time to just enjoy the ride…and to see where it takes me…

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The Offseason Finally Begins…

My last race of the year was on Halloween. My legs were beat up from a very heavy running season, including 3 marathons in October. My plan was to take a week off, then move back to “offseason” mode.

The weather had other ideas.

For once, we had a very mild fall. It is Thanksgiving day in Minnesota and we have not yet seen snow. I could not let the mild weather pass. I would be trapped on the treadmill any day now. As long as I could, I would run outdoors.

The weather has finally become chilly…cool enough to make me think twice about going out the front door. I will still do it (until the Mercury drops too far, or the roads start to get slippery), but indoor training is becoming more appealing.

I visited my local indoor pool for the first time since August, and swam a mile yesterday. Nothing has changed. It never gets easier, harder, faster or slower. The only change I noticed from intense training years ago was endurence improved (since I will be limiting myself to sprint triathlons again this season, it will not be an issue). I felt really good.

I also got back on the bike (currently perched on the trainer in front of the tv). Again, it was the first time since August. That didn’t feel so good (never does after a long break). Legs were jello, and my butt hurt after 5 minutes…

I have done a couple of short treadmill sessions (hate that thing), and I will work my way to the elliptical and indoor track soon enough.

I thought about doing a Turkey Trot yesterday morning, but I am burnt out on races. The thought of driving across town, parking, getting my bib for a 10k just didn’t appeal to me at this point. I will keep the schedule empty until the season starts with some Disney events in January.

And my “never again” on marathons is already wavering. Fargo half is in May. The thought of bumping it up to a full has crossed my mind. The event should not sell out and I can make that decision at the expo if my spring training permits…

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The Year In Review/The Year In Preview

The final events of 2015 are behind me, and the running season is now complete. This a good time to reflect on the season that was, and to plan for the future.

2014 was an incredible success. I completed an Ironman and I had crushing new PR’s at almost every race distance. I was engaged and excited by my training (but I did get a little burnt out on cycling). Overall, it was an incredible season.

2015 could not live up to that year. In the end, the season was a mixed bag. I had scheduled a season that was almost as bold as my 2014 campaign. I decided to go easy on the bike, and to focus on the run, and likely attempted a little bit to much.

On the bike, I cut way back to just over 300 miles (compared to 3000 miles last year). The result was that I started to look forward to cycling again! I competed in 4 triathlons…all of them sprints. It was a lot of fun and I was able to be more competative then I had been in longer events.

Running was another matter. I registered for too many big races, including 5 marathons and one ultra-marathon. I recall being in my start coral at the Pittsburgh Marathon (second marathon of the year) and thinking “I don’t want to be here”. That made for a long season. I was committed to it, but I was dreading it as well. Many days, I wondered if I would even be able to just get through it. Somehow, I completed it all. There were no DNS or DNF this season (and I have never had one). Along the way, I finished my first 50k, my first back to back marathon, and my 15th marathon in different 10 states. I have qualified for membership in the Marathon Maniacs (jumping from level 1 to level 4), Half Fanatics, Double Agents, and 50 Marathons States clubs.

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However, my enjoyment of the long run had faded, and they have become a chore. I was going through the motions when training, and it showed in my speed. I was slowing down at all distances…especially in the marathon. I finished the season with three consecutive marathon “personal worsts”. During this process, I came to realize that my days of running marathons would soon be over.

My priorities are changing. My days of “ultra”-anything are behind me. Huge events that take months to train for, and packed schedules with a race every weekend have taken their toll. I still love to run/bike/swim, but I need balence. I am moving away from being a “competative” runner. I will never qualify for Boston or get up on a podium…and that’s OK. What I want is health and fitness. I want this to be fun. I want to participate in a few events that excite me, but doesn’t require endless hours of training. I want some balence, and not have one (or more) events eating up every single weekend.

I want to be a recreational athlete.

With that in mind, I have put together my 2016 race schedule. It still ended up being a lot busier then I wanted, but a big drop off from this year. There are no marathons. There are four half-marathons and two 10 milers. It has a big running event in the Winter, Spring, and Fall, as well as a few triathlons in summer to keep me engaged. I signed up for a local series at the last minute (Summit Challenge) which has made the year busier then planned.

2016 Race Schedule:
January-Disneyland/Star Wars Half Marathon, 10k, 5k (Rebel Challenge). 3 events in one weekend. I can’t imagine a better event for me. A few days at Disney in the middle of winter, lots of Star Wars geekiness, and a bit of running. Can’t wait for this one!

February-Valentine 5K (Summit Challenge)

March-Hot Dash 10 Mile (Summit Challenge)

April-Walt Disney World/Star Wars Half Marathon, 10k, 5k (Dark Side Challenge/Kessel Run Challenge). The sister event to the January Star Wars series. This may be my last big destination race for the foreseeable future.

May-Fargo Half Marathon and 5k. The Fargo Marathon has a great reputation and has been on my short list of “must do” marathons. It is also “almost local” (just a three hour drive up I-94). Since I am no longer running marathons, this “must-do” is unlikely to ever get done. But I can still race the “Go Far” challenge by combining the Half Marathon and 5k. The bling last year was amazing and it sounds like they will revisit the same design this year. I get the big marathon expo and event feel without having to run 26.2 miles. It also fairly cheap trip needing just one night motel stay and gas.

June-open

July
-Red, White, and Boom Half Marathon (Summit Challenge)
-Lifetime Minneapolis Sprint Triathlon. I really like the Lifetime Triathlon series, and Minneapolis is my favorite course. I look forward to this event every year.

August
-Lifetime Maple Grove Sprint Triathlon. This is the other local Lifetime Triathlon. Not nearly as good as the Minneapolis race, but it is nearby and a lot of fun.
-HITS Wacconia Sprint Triathlon
-Minneapolis Duathlon (postponed from 2015)

September-open

October-Twin Cities Marathon Weekend/Loony Challenge. The TC Marathon is one of the biggest races in the country and the biggest running event in the Twin Cities. This allows me to participate in multiple races, get to the expo, race with the corporate team, and finish the year with a bang. It gives me guaranteed entry into the 10 miler (bypass the lottery) as well as getting an armload of bling.

November-open

December-open

Looking way ahead to 2017, Disney, Fargo, and Summit Challenges all fall off the schedule. So I will likely add one or more MN running series races to the calendar, continue doing the local Lifetime Triathlons, and run the Hot Chocolate 15k that I deferred this season. If I am itching to run a marathon, I might toss my name in the hat for New York or Chicago lotteries (both are world marathon majors), and a part of me wants to run a major before I give up marathons for good. But, I suspect that my marathon days are truly behind me. As far as travel goes, I suspect the Disney runs may be my last “destination” races (unless I get around to Chicago or New York), although I may do one overnight “semi-local” (Fargo, Winonna, Duluth, etc) race a year just to keep things interesting…

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Race Report: Monster Dash Half Marathon

October 31, 2015
St. Paul, MN
Half Marathon #24
Event #89

For the fourth year in a row, this was the final race of the season. Sure, I sometimes did an off-season Turkey Trot, but this has been the psychological finish line to the running year. After this event, I would be in off-season mode…resting, recovering, swimming, spinning, weight training, and very little running for awhile.

This race has always been good to me. My PR in the half marathon was set here last season…a stunning 1:44:03 (under 8 minute/mile for a HM), people run in costumes, a decent after party, and the event is HUGE. It is also a Team Ortho train wreck…which is why this will be my last Monster Dash for the foreseeable future.

This event also makes me a little nostalgic. It is a chance to reflect on the season that was…and it was a good season. Five full marathons, a 50k Ultramarathon, four triathlon, back to back marathons, my fifteenth marathon in my tenth state…

Yep, it was a good year. It would also be the last of the “crazy” years. Moving forward, this would be my new “long” event…the half marathon. Fewer events, shorter events, more focus on balence, fitness and fun. 2016 would not be a bragging rights year, but it just might be a lot more enjoyable.

But first, I have one last order of business before I close out the season. The Monster Dash Half Marathon, and the completion of the Monster Series.

My last Half Marathon was not pretty. I ran it injured and got a Personal Worst. I would want some redemption today. I know a PR is out of the question (I have not come close to running that fast all year). But, I was consistently finishing in just under two hours earlier in the season. That was my goal today.

The weather was a wild card. All forecasts called for rain overnight. It would blow through quickly up north, and linger all day down south. It was a razor sharp line as to who would see sun, and who would get rain. Most forecasts called for sunny skies.

They were wrong.

A cold downpour greeted me when I got up (43F). A quick look at radar told me that it MIGHT dry up for the ride home. My best hope was that the intensity of the showers would dwindle.

I did a quick analysis of my running gear…and swapped most of it out. Multiple thin layers that were water and wind resistant, gloves and ear protection, no iPod, lots of Glide, and a garbage bag.

I got there early. Traffic is a mess at this event even an hour before the race starts. I got there about 90 minutes in advance and traffic was decent. With the rain, I elected to stay in the car as long as possible. With 10 minutes to the gun, I headed out (and almost didn’t make it in time).

The rain had fortunately changed to a misty drizzle. Didn’t matter all that much…I looked like a drowning rat by the first mile marker. Around that time, I happened to bump into the runner that (unknowingly) paced me to my PR at that event the previous year. She was pacing someone who was hoping to go sub-2 hours…so I latched on and hung with her as long as I could. It killed the time (I was shocked to cross the halfway mark when I did), but I knew that I didn’t have it in me to finish at that pace (I don’t run well in this weather, the training was not where I wanted it, and my legs were not fresh after my back-to-back marathons). So, just before mile 9, we parted ways.

The next four miles were not pretty. I was cold, drenched, stiff with feet that were starting to blister (and chaffing wherever I missed applying Glide).

Finish Time – 2:09:54

So, now for a few more reasons that I will no longer sign up for Team Ortho events (I heard today that their BBB rating is an “F”…and I confirmed that when I got home). First, the water stops had water. Nothing else. Really. No Gatorade anywhere. Second…cold and wet day…no heat blanket (hot broth would have been nice too…nope).

I ran the Monster Series and was supposed to get a bonus medal…except that nobody at the finish line knew anything about it. I was directed to the information tent two blocks away. They had a Series Fulfillment line (most runners were getting their series jacket, but I had to stand in line with them…for over 30 minutes…in the rain. When I got to the front, they yelled accusingly at me that I already received my jacket. I said yes, but I need my series medal. They handed me one still wrapped. “What? No ribbon?” “No, not this year”.

I am so glad to be done with this organization…except that this summers Duathlon was rescheduled for next year.

As an aside, a writer from Runners World magazine repeatedly tried to contact me over the past month as he is writing an article about all the problems runners have had at Team Ortho events. I replied that I have no interest in bashing a running organization in a national magazine (and still don’t). But I have to say that I am looking forward to reading the article…

On that note, the off-season is finally here. I think that I will celebrate with 1-2 weeks without any exercise at all (probably just one week). Then ease into to cross training for awhile. It will be a short offseason as the Disney/Star Wars HM/10k/5k is coming in 10 short weeks!

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