Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Final Farewell

I would like to wish 2009 a final farewell as I'm almost certain I might not live through the 5k tomorrow. It will be a shame to only see 2010 for a few hours. Check out these temperatures for tomorrow morning:

My friend will be picking me up at 9:00a.m. (will feel like -19F, awesome). Packet pickup is from 9:45-11:00a.m. (will feel like -15F). We will start running at 11:00a.m. (will feel like -11F). Holy balls. It that's not stupid and masochistic, I really don't know what is. I knew it would be cold when I signed up for this race -- but none of us fathomed it would be this cold.

I actually haven't done a lot of thinking and reflecting back on 2009 because I think it's a tad strange and I've been kind of busy these past few days. I had a good running year -- I did 13 races in 9 months, cut a total of 35 minutes off my half marathon time and set new PRs for every other distance, had my 1-year anniversary of not smoking, and had no major injuries. I'd say it was a pretty good year.

As I think ahead to 2010, I have some goals in mind. I don't really feel like sharing all of them either, because I'll feel let down if I fail and everyone knows it. I also tend to make up a lot of things as I go (how many times did I tell someone on a Friday, "I want to find a 5k this weekend and just run really fast..." and then I ended up at the pre-race registration tent on a Saturday morning?!). But all I can say is that 2010 is going to be switched up.
  • I will share that I'm running my first full marathon. 26.2 miles is a long way to go, but I think I'm ready to do it. Actually, I better become ready because I am already registered!
  • I will also share that I have one event that involves a little more than a road race.
Here's to 2010 being as action-packed and successful as 2009. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A New Record

Today I set a new record: I think I ran my slowest run to date. It eclipses my very first race, running (erm, gimping) with bad knees, and the time I tripped and fell and skidded up my knee and needed to turn around and go home.

My 2.56mi splits: 9:15, 9:38, 5:18

Okay, okay. So I think I averaged something like a 12:00 pace during my first race, but it really felt like my 9:25 average today wasn't that far off.

Not only was my route suuuuper slippery today (my neighbor saw me running but wouldn't honk to wave in fear I would lose concentration and fall), there was a spot where I literally ran in place for 3 or 4 steps because I couldn't get any traction! I wish I could have seen myself do that. I would have cracked up and shook my head at myself.

And despite it being the iciest, slipperiest route ever, it was about 7 degrees with a windchill right around 0. Yes, my friends, when I got back home, my balaclava had ICED OVER.

Two more days until my frozen 5k! I may go for a short run tomorrow on the treadmill, otherwise, I plan on not doing any activity that will potentially break my ankle. I've taken enough risks in preparation for this ridiculous 5k. :)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


My weatherman is telling me that New Year's Day will be a balmy 8 degrees. Of course he's talking about air temperature, not windchill, and oh yeah ... that's the day's high temp, too.

It is supposed to be 0 degrees when we head out for the 5k Friday morning, but the windchill will curse us with a below-0 reading.

Late December/early January is notorious for having awful windchills, and after checking out this afternoon's temperatures, I realized it must have already begun. I headed out on the Greenway to prep myself.

And holy eff, was it cold. It took a good 7 minutes before my hands warmed up. Note to self: must find better handwear during my next couple of days off!

No such luck on the ice going anywhere either -- it'll be below freezing all week. Friday morning is going to be a tricky race.

3.54mi splits: 8:23, 8:15, 8:11, 4:41
Windchill: 2F (Actual: 13F)

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Good & the Bad: Brooks Running

I love Brooks Running. But every once in a while, my Midwestern passive-aggressive side flares up.

Any and all distaste I have for Brooks stems from the fact that I have lost count of the number of races I wear running in/promoting their gear (shoes, tights, sports bras, t-shirts, tank tops, socks), and yet month after month, race after race, I still don't make it into their Inspire Daily (I.D.) program. The I.D. program isn't that big of a deal -- until they constantly rub it in your face that you aren't a member, and boast to no end about letting in brand new members while you are still waiting for that acceptance (or in my case, rejection) letter. I love running, I register for countless races, and I inspire others to run/sign up for races nearly every month. And yet, I am just "not as inspiring" compared to the members for whatever reason, even though I fit all of their criteria for joining.

"Blah blah blah, try coaching, blah blah blah, try again next year, blah blah blah, okay you can leave me alone already," seems to be the feedback I receive after asking how to improve my chances of getting in the program. Thanks, guys. Maybe I don't get along well with kids. Maybe I prefer to promote running and Brooks by getting out there and demonstrating to my peers.

The discount that I.D. members get on Brooks apparel isn't a big deal to me, either; although it would be nice, it's the fact that they won't let me in because I fall into some grade-B plebeian class for not being a rock-star coach or athlete. I thought this was about everyday people inspiring everyday people?

On the other hand, I adore Brooks for the materials they use and how they are one brand that truly listens to comments/complaints/questions from their customers. They stand up for their products, are strictly focused on running and walking, are very earth-conscious, and all of their workers are insanely happy and extremely helpful. I work for a management consulting company, and I know how much employee engagement pays for itself. Brooks is the epitome of an engaged workforce. I admire them for all they do to keep workers and customers satisfied. They are doing something very, very right and other companies looking to boost morale need not look any further than the Brooks environment.

I also love Brooks for another undeniable reason: They saved my knees (i.e., they kept me from giving up on the sport of running).

I developed tendonitis in my last pair of shoes (I'll spare the company's name, as I'm sure their shoes are fine ... for other running types). I happened into a running store that overestimated my pronation, put me in a supportive shoe, and wore the tendons in my knees down like a pepper grinder. After seeing a doctor, taking time off from running, icing and elevating my joints after working out, and finally trying to change my gait, my knees were only getting worse.

I ran in The Other Company's shoes for years before my knees and I had had enough. I went back into the Running Store That Ruined My Knees and told them I thought there was something wrong with the shoes they were giving me. They re-analyzed my gait, looked at the wear pattern on the traction of said shoes, and apologized for their error in fitting me in the wrong type. They threw me in a Brooks neutral shoe, pushed me onto a treadmill, and I saw the light.

Without taking any time off of running -- by just wearing these new shoes -- my knee pain was gone within a week.

Thus commenced the "I Love Brooks!" phase in my life.

Well, until I realized they picked all the high school varsity kids to join their elementary kickball team and left me on the playground by my lonesome.

I guess I should say, thus began my love affair with the Glycerin 7 and all the Brooks clothing I could find that would make a complete outfit.

I recently learned that my savior neutral shoes are going off the market. Starting January 1, 2010, Brooks is going to roll out their new models. I've read about the improvements in the updated shoes, but Brooks is sort of an old-man shoe company in that their color selection is fairly non-existent. They are a durable shoe and a diehard company, but I don't know if they realize how many women run in their shoes and care a hair about appearance. I might not care about appearance very much -- okay, I lied; the "praying mantis" green Launch series could use a feminine makeover -- but I love my pink Glycerin 7s. Not the gold Glycerin 7s, not the baby blue Glycerin 7s, and certainly not the purple Glycerin 8s that will be on the shelves soon. Allow me to reiterate: I love my pink Glycerin 7s.

I had a moment of panic when I heard my pink Glycerin 7s will no longer be available. I thought about buying as many as I could from (hey, I still have that giftcard, right?), and I thought about buying out the stock left on Brooks's Web site. But then I knew I was being irrationally ludicrous. These shoes have lasted me 13 races this year, ranging from 3.1 miles to 15.535 miles AND all the daily training in between, and, especially after reading Born to Run, I'm not worried about the shoe "dying" and me being stranded because there is no padding left. After a dude wore his choice pair of shoes for 4,000 miles, I know my Brooks will last me just as long. I believe in Brooks, I believe in my shoes, and I believe that they have truly become an extension of my leg. My pink Glycerin 7s have become an everyday part of my life. They have become synonymous with my feet.

While enjoying my time back at work today, the miracle phone call came. A few weeks ago, I went into my new and awesome running store, Marathon Sports (sorry, Running Store That Ruined My Knees) to buy a balaclava and, in passing, I asked if they happened to have any pink Glycerin 7s in my size. They said no, they might not be getting any more in -- ever -- but they'll call me if they do. Today they got a pair. In pink. In my size. I freaked. And better yet, because the shoes weren't in when I originally inquired, they gave me an additional 30% off. Kudos to you for your need for customer satisfaction, Marathon Sports. You and Brooks make an unstoppable team.

Today, I'm the proud owner of these beautiful, soon-to-be-rare pink Glycerin 7s.

Yes, I am replacing a pair of shoes with the exact same pair of shoes. (And yes, I still plan on wearing my old pink Glycerin 7s for a long time to come.) My heart couldn't feel more full. I feel a renewed sense of love toward Brooks because of this satisfaction I am experiencing. I also understand their motto even a little bit more today: Run Happy.

These will probably be my last pair of pink Glycerin 7s until I have to surrender to another color or model. But I'll deal with that change 20+ years down the road. ;) I love my pink Glycerin 7s, and I love a great Marathon Sports deal. Merry Christmas to me. Again.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Is It Wrong That a "Day Off" Means Going Back to Work?

Now this is just getting discouraging.

I went for a quick run before heading to my aunt and uncle's house for a late (but my first) Christmas gathering this year. It was a disaster ... both the jog and the time with the relatives.

We got a light dusting of snow last night -- I like to think of it is as the Great Blizzard's final bow -- and it provided a decent barrier on top of the jagged ice. I thought this meant better traction, easier footing, and an overall distraction from looking at something that people shouldn't attempt to run on. I also noticed that a lot of my short route was plowed, so no mile-long obstacle course for me but instead maybe 6 blocks.

My splits (2.61mi): 8:28, 9:09, 5:18
Air temp: 18F, light snow

A 9:09?! Mile 2 covered the unplowed part of my route, but I walked part of my run yesterday and went faster than that. And I felt like I was moving faster than that today, too.

Perhaps a day off is in order. Maybe being holed up with myself for the past 5 days is making me far too critical. :) Back to work I go.

Weekly total: Ran 22.56 miles, biked 26.11 miles, & a lame 30 minutes of upper body/core work

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Slip 'N Slide

"Wave 3" is coming down as I speak, and, I have to say, I'm not entirely impressed with this Storm of the Decade ... although it does have some admirable qualities.

First of all, it snowed Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. That's a long time to not get much of a break. Then it decided to rain on Friday. Now, all the rain is frozen, Minneapolis looks like a giant icebox, and it's back to snowing.

After crossing the parking lot to get to the gym yesterday, I knew that the sidewalks were going to be a disaster today. I was going to do my weekend long run on the treadmill, but seriously? The thought of running like a hamster for an hour or longer was preventing me from getting out of bed. So, plastic bags on feet, I headed out for a slow, grueling, slippery run.

I knew it was going to be a long run when I had to stop to walk ... during the first mile. Some of the sidewalks weren't plowed at all, and, again, I was wishing I had snowshoes. At least I had plastic bags?

I also stopped for a second during Mile 4 to share this classic shot: The Minneapolis skyline with a snowed-over Lake Calhoun in the forefront. This city is so beautiful, especially in the winter.

For as much as I was struggling to keep my footing, I only turned both ankles once (but didn't fall -- a first!), nearly slipped completely sideways as both of my feet slid down into an icy groove, and still managed to fit in a 7.14mi run in a hair over an hour. Overall, much more entertaining then being on a treadmill, but probably not as efficient. ... Or safe. :)

Splits: 8:55, 8:45, 8:25, 8:27, 8:45, 8:46, 8:43, 1:11
Windchill: 19F (Actual: 20F, snow)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Wave 2?

Like a little kid on Christmas morning, I woke up excited to see what 12 to 18 more inches of snow would look like. Instead, I woke up thinking, "That's it?"

Because it's been hovering around freezing these past few days, at some point(s) last night it got above 34F and the snow turned into rain. All of the fluffy white snow that was accumulating on my deck melted off. A lot of the snow in my backyard now looks compact and slushy (great for making snowmen, though, which I may or may not do later this afternoon!).

Because it's so mild (it got close to 40 degrees today -- is it winter or what?!), I thought today would be a good day to go for a run outside. However, because the temperature is flirting with freezing, the rain sometimes turns into hail, which turns into sleet, which turns back into snow, and eventually back into rain. I'd like to think I'm hardcore, but I'm not that hardcore. I am not much in the mood to turn into a dripping wet mess, only to turn into an icicle halfway through my run. No thank you.

Instead, I hit up the fitness center, and boy, am I glad I did that. Just walking through the parking lot to the fitness center was like stepping through a giant White Cherry Slurpee. I tiptoed through the sludge since I didn't have bags on my feet. The slush was about an inch deep in places and my shoes are mesh. You do the math.

This will all turn into ice the second it goes below freezing. Yuck.

Merry Christmas to these guys! They should have a fun time digging their car out when they get back.

It looks like I'm talking on the phone, but really I'm just taking a picture of myself in the mirror. Here's what I did for Christmas -- what did you do?

My gift of December 25th: A 25-mile bike ride with the book I'm currently lost in, Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall. I did 6 more miles than this screen shows, because at mile 6, I realized I forgot my water bottle on my kitchen counter and wanted to get it. So, yes, I got to tiptoe across the sludgy parking lot a total of four times, and thus re-started my workout.
Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wave 1

The Snowmaggedon is expected to hit us in waves. The first wave was from last night into this morning, the second wave will be this afternoon until tomorrow morning, and then another wave will hit Friday afternoon into Saturday. It looks like there could even be more snow Saturday and Sunday as well.

I woke up this morning (well, actually, it was more like early afternoon), saw that it was only lightly snowing, and decided to head out. I figured the sidewalks weren't cleared, so I experimented with a trick I've heard about but never tried because I'm sensitive to getting blisters:

I put on a pair of knee-high compression socks, layered on my regular running socks, covered my feet in plastic bags, then put my running tights and shoes on over that. As I pulled out my camera to document how ridiculous I looked, I noticed people gliding over the path in my backyard on snowshoes. I knew my tiny little Brooks shoes weren't going to keep me atop the half foot of snow we got overnight, but hopefully my feet would stay dry!

(Oddly enough, I have been eyeballing a pair of Tubb snowshoes, poles, and gaitors on Amazon. I ogle them in my Wish List every day, hoping the money to purchase them will magically show up in my bank account. Man, this morning I wish I had put them on a card!)

My 5mi run this morning was beautiful, to say the least. I saw a number of walkers, runners, snowshoers, dogs on walks, and even a few bikers. There's something about fresh snow that's undeniably (if not literally) breathtaking to experience.

The plastic bags were a brilliant idea as, right off the bat, I had to create a new path to get to the Greenway. The one I was using previously was snowed over and the plows had pushed all of their snow into this area. But, alas! My feet stayed dry the whole time! (This is the snow going up to my knee. Yikes.)

The Greenway wasn't perfectly plowed, but it had been cleared at some point overnight because it was easy to distinguish where the path is compared to where the grass is.

This is actually the canal that canoers take to get to Lake of the Isles. It's completely snowed over and it appears people have been skiing on it. Personally, I didn't think the ice was that thick yet, but perhaps because it's just a canal and not a deep lake, it's safe for traveling on.
Running in fresh snow is hard work, and at times I felt so tired and had no choice but to slow my pace. But, at the same time, something about truly getting out during this beautiful White Christmas is actually really fun.

My splits:
5.03mi: 8:36, 8:38, 8:36, 8:41, 9:02, :17
Windchill: 23F (Actual: 30F, light snow)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Let It Snow!

Speaking of a few feet of extra snow, the Great Blizzard of '09 is upon us (no lie -- the weather crew is predicting this will be our largest storm since '91 and our largest Christmas storm in nearly 6 decades). This year, I had to make a difficult and selfish decision: For the first time, I'm not going home for Christmas.

My parents live in Wisconsin, as do both of my brothers and sister-in-law, and with the prospect of all us driving in up to 2 feet of snow, my mother graciously asked to "postpone" Christmas for a later weekend.

How is this selfish, you ask?

I took today off of work and could have made it to their house before the storm. Unfortunately, my brothers couldn't get today off, and the prospect of being holed up in my parents house with just them for 5 days would have taken a major toll on my psyche. (I love my parents, but not to the point where I want to be trapped under the same roof with them for that long. Don't lie; you know where I'm coming from.) Here, I have plenty of books, movies, food, my cat, the comfort of my own bed, leg warmers, infinite sweatshirts, slippers, coffee, and (selfish point No. 1) a fitness center.

(Selfish point No. 2) While I could have gone into work today -- not only to get some of my own work done, but to help a few of my coworkers with their work -- I decided to start my solo stay-cation instead. I made it out for two short runs: The first when I woke up, the run during which I decided I was going to stay in Minneapolis over Christmas; and the second this afternoon while the snow began to fall and the wind began to pick up, the run during which I tried to impress in my mind what imperfect running conditions feel like.

I have a 5k in 8 days, and as the snow will be violently falling for the next 5, I'll probably be sticking to treadmills, elliptical gliders, and stationary bikes for my maintenance work until then. Knowing my knack for running quickly (ermmm, what I think is "quickly") on treadmills, I can only imagine this will lead to a sloppy spill and a pretty twisted ankle during the icy 5k.

My splits:
Morning jog (2.6mi): 8:34, 8:24, 4:46
Windchill: 20F (Actual: 24F)
Afternoon jog (2.03mi): 8:22, 8:13, :12
Windchill: 15F (Actual: 28F, windy & snowy)

Let it snow!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

After an unseasonably mild summer, suprisingly frigid October, and wonderfully warm November, it's finally winter in beautiful Minneapolis. As the daylight has been leaving us earlier and earlier every day, I have been leaving work earlier and earlier every day to fit in a few miles when I can easily be seen by traffic.

Yesterday's run proved to be a challenge. I awoke to a fresh coat of powder on the sidewalk, and concluded it to be a perfect day to bake Christmas cookies rather than lace up and head out for a run. But after eating one too many "imperfect" cookies, I decided to finally pound the pavement mid-afternoon while the flakes were still falling -- if not to just get away from the delicious raw cookie dough I also kept nibbling at. I turned off the oven, tied up my grubby shoes (for running in rain and snow), and layered my face and hands in black reflective gear so I could be seen against the bright white. Much to my chagrin, not only did a look like a bandit, I picked potentially the worse sidewalk to traverse. The snowplows had pushed all the snow from the road onto the pedestrian path and I was basically running in a knee-high bank of slush and dirt. My feet and calves were soaked and filthy, I was lifting my legs so high I looked like I was maneuvering through an obstacle course, and I was barely moving faster than a brisk walk.
If anyone thought I was a robber, I definitely was not making a quick -- or clean -- getaway.

My average splits for this 2.65mi route: 7:51, 8:09 (all uphill), 4:38
My splits yesterday: 8:54, 9:28, 6:26

But what a difference a day makes! Because I didn't want to run in rush-hour traffic -- and I certainly didn't want to run that unplowed loop again -- I headed out on the Midtown Greenway after work for a car-free run. I ran into three bikers and four walkers on this normally populated path. Although no one returned my greeting when I acknowledged them braving the elements, I still got a feeling of camaraderie when our eyes meet through our icicle-coated eyelashes.

My 3.16mi course splits: 8:14, 8:18, 8:19, 1:06

That consistency is more what I'm used to, even though I am trying to run cautiously as the Greenway is still snow-packed with very slick spots of hard-to-detect ice.

With the Winter Solstice, I welcome the few extra minutes to run in the daylight every day, but I also welcome a few more feet of future snow that I challenge myself to tread through. It's going to be a hard winter for serious outdoor running, but I'm determined that the extra precaution of slowing down to run on ice will bring me better form come spring.