Monday, February 28, 2011

Ready for Spring

I like running in the winter. The treadmill and I have made peace. I don't mind wearing two long sleeved running shirts underneath a running jacket to stay warm. It's OK that sometimes I have to run with shoes that have sheet metal screws drilled to the bottom of them or Yak Trax strapped onto them. I even enjoy throwing on some snowshoes and getting out on a slow, snowy trail run.

It is, however, time for spring to start. Tomorrow is the first day of March and my chin is tired from holding icicles on the ends of my whiskers. My washer is tired from washing the layers upon layers of clothing required for running in single digit temperatures. There's still got to be over a foot of snow on the ground and it's time for it to leave. I'm ready to put on some shorts, a running shirt, and shoes that don't have enhanced traction, and get outside and run.

The past two weekends have been exciting for weekend long runs. Two Saturdays ago I went out for 18 miles in Rochester and the route I had meticulously planned was all for naught when the trail I wanted to run on hadn't been cleared. One thing that really tires me out about winter running is running around random neighborhoods and doing little loops to get enough miles in for a long run.

Then, this Saturday I had a 20 mile run scheduled. I was all layered up, had a gel and some water ready and was just about to leave when I heard from our housemate that her husband, Jared, had started his run outside and had given up and gone to the gym after falling a couple of times. Then, she and my wife proceeded to talk me into the unthinkable: 20 miles on a treadmill. I did it. It happened. Two episodes of Top Chef, part of a fishing show, and part of a basketball game and I was done. Two hours, thirty six minutes. On a treadmill. Spring can show up pretty much any time.

I did enjoy a nice run on Sunday on a snowy trail by our place. I saw some Eagles flapping around by the river and the fresh snow looked nice. Last week was also my first week running over 70 miles in one week and that was pretty exciting.

Here's a nice shot of my icy face from a couple weeks ago (that's real frozen sweat there):

Monday, February 21, 2011

Yukon Days Race Report

It's time for a very late Yukon Days race report. The thing I like about the Yukon Days races are the novelty of it all. This year I decided to run my first snowshoe race--6 miles of pure fun. I also signed up for the 3 mile no-snowshoe race. The 6 mile snowshoe went pretty well--the 3 mile race not so much.

The 6 mile race was an interesting course--and none too exciting. They had to change the course from the planned three mile loop due to fog. Their change consisted of a one mile out and back along with a half mile out and back--each run twice. It was kind of cool running in the fog, but also very monotonous with zero to look at besides snow and fog.

Before the race started the director announced that there would be awards for the top three men and the top three women. There were 12 of us at the start line and we look around and kind of chuckled because half of us would be getting awards. Then, when the race began I took off at what I believe to be a reasonable pace. After a few seconds I got a little worried that I'd run off in the wrong direction because no one was next to or in front of me. I turned around and I was already about 40m ahead of the rest of the snowshoe runners. That was pretty much how it went for the rest of the race.

At the turn around of the one mile out and back I was about a quarter mile ahead of the next runner and by the end I believe I was about 12 minutes ahead of the second place finisher. I wasn't exactly blazing fast--this was the first year of the 6 mile race and with only 11 other runners I don't think I was facing the top snowshoe runners in the area. It didn't matter though--I still had a nice time.

The thing that probably made the race the toughest was that 15 minutes into it the snowshoeless 6 mile race started. On the first part of the course I was able to run in the tire tracks of the pickup that drove the course. Then, all the six mile runners had the same idea and with all their passing each other and such the surface was much tougher to run on following them.

I was also signed up for the three mile snowshoeless race, but after the 6 mile my IT band was really acting up. Anytime I've run on an uneven surface it's really given me trouble, so perhaps trying a snowshoe race in the midst of training for Boston wasn't the brightest idea. Oh well.

The three mile race was the same course and after stretching out my IT band and running a mile warmup I decided I'd try it. If running the snowshoe race on an uneven surface was stupid this was an even worse idea. My knee was killing me from the start and running without snowshoes made it even worse as I slipped and slid all over the place. Me knee was killing me so after the mile out and back and didn't even bother trying the half mile out and back. My knee was telling me I was finished.

They gave out a nice medal this year--it looks pretty much the same as the Resolution Solution one. My wife put it with the dress up clothes for our future children along with the other medals I've one. Now I can look forward to the day when our kids pretend to be Olympic athletes as they wear medals from prestigious events like the Resolution Solution 5k.

There were also several runners from the Minnesota Running Wild there as well. It's a fun group of people and it was cool to get together with them between and after the races.

The exciting start to the 6 mile snowshoe race:

The sweet fog:

Finishing with my eyes frozen shut:

The crew from MN Running Wild:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Chugging Along

I suppose tiptoeing along would be more accurate. Since my IT band started acting up I've been redlining it for the last month--training on that thin, invisible line where me knee hurts just enough to make it interesting. I haven't had to cut any runs short or miss any workouts because of it, so I'm going to say that so far I've done a pretty good job. I've made it two weeks in a row of 50+ miles and this week should be number three.

It's so much fun to have a hobby that constantly has me thinking about how much more of my hobby I can handle before the hobby becomes impossible. I'm trying to imagine other hobbies where people are faced with this same dilemma. How many more stamps can I press in this book before I get arthritis in my finger? I'd love to put in one more quilt a year but I'm afraid a stress fracture might keep me from my goal.

OK, so maybe casual tennis players and golfers might deal with an occasional sore elbow or a bad back. I seriously doubt, however, that they're often limited in how much of their hobby they can take before one of their body parts begins to break down.

I don't care--I'll take running anyway. Part of the fun of it is coming up with a training plan where I think I've got a good shot at improving while at the same time avoiding injury.

This weekend I'm head to White Bear Lake for Yukon Days. Last year was a good time so I thought I'd give it another whirl. They've added a couple of races so I'm going to see if I can run both the 6 mile races along with the one mile. Should be a fun weekend.