Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Goal Review

Another year, another set of goals. As I've said in previous years, I like setting goals, especially in running. I know working out is good for my physical and mental health, but without goals it can really become a drag. With running, having a goal race and a goal time keeps me honest.

This year was my toughest year of running since 2009. The broken knee in November of 2012 got my year off to a slow start, and my slacking off on glute and core exercises in the weeks leading up to the Twin Cities 10 Mile and the St. Louis Marathon lea to the knee acting up again.

So, with those things in mind, let's take a look at the goals from last year. I'm including an abbreviated version of the goals, but if you'd like to read them in their entirety due to some horrible cabin fever or an unhealthy obsession with goals, you can read this post.

Goal 1: Rehab the heck out of my left leg
I did pretty well at this one for the first 9.5 months. Then, once school started, I really slacked off and almost certainly increased my mileage and quality workouts too quickly.  I'll give myself half credit on this one.

Goal 2: Do at least 3 sessions of core and balance work a week until April, then maintain at least 2 sessions a week.
I did not meet this goal. Once my knee started feeling better, I let the core and balance work fall by the wayside. I'll do better this year.

Goal 3: PR in the 5k.
This one did not happen. Rehab went slowly, and by the time my knee felt better I was focusing on the St. Louis Marathon and didn't bother to race a fast 5k. 

Goal 4: PR in the 10 mile.
Close, but no. It may have been a bad decision to race this one so close to the St. Louis Marathon, but I have no regrets.

Goal 5: Break 1 hour in the Rochesterfest Sprint Triathlon.
Another failure here. Horrible swimming coupled with poor transitions and windy conditions kept me from this one.

Goal 6: Successfully help several runners meet their goals.
Finally, a win! I helped my mom run her first 5k, my dad his first race in over ten years, and another friend run her first 7k. I also did two Running Room clinics, and helped several clinic members reach their goals.

Goal 7: Publish at least two more articles, and submit two to a major publication. Hang rejection letters on the wall. 
I did have two more articles published in "Run Minnesota." I did not submit two articles to a major publication, but I did submit one to two major publications. Unfortunately, said publications do not send rejection letters. I'm counting this goal as a win.

So there's my year. I count 1.5 goals met out of 7--a 21% success rate. Not my best year, but that's OK because 2014 is going to be better. Failing to meet my goals gives me something to shoot for this year, and helps me reflect on how to be a better runner.

Thanks to those of you who submitted goals on this blog. Feel free to leave a comment on how you did with your goals.

Happy Running!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Running in a Winter Wonderland

1/25/18 Update 
Over the last few years, I’ve cut way back on my outdoor winter running. Really though, I’ve cut back on my winter running in general.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy running outside in the winter—I do. But, besides running less in general in the winter, I don’t enjoy the preparation that comes with winter running. I need to find a relatively clear route, dress in the right amount and right kind of clothing, choose the right traction gear, or, if I’m snowshoe running, deal with the hassle of finding a good trail, driving there, and putting on and taking off snowshoes with cold fingers.

Still, I miss the days when I ran more outside in the winter—especially with a friend or training group. I like the convenience of jumping on the treadmill or indoor track, knowing exactly what to wear and knowing there won’t be any snow or ice to deal with, but I miss running with friends and I miss the outdoors. Here’s an old post about running outside in the winter:

I've been slow to get myself outside this winter. I've never been a huge fan of running in the dark, and from the beginning of December to the end of January in Minnesota, it's dark when I leave for work and almost dark when I leave for home.

I can still run in daylight on the weekends, but this year I've been dragging my feet getting footwear for the snowy and icy conditions of the Twin Cities sidewalks and trails.

Before Saturday, the only outdoor running I'd done in the snow was a little snowshoe run after work one day. With the snow in Eagan not too deep and the temperatures seasonable, I was really itching to get away from the fluorescent-lit treadmills of the YMCA and into the winter wonderland of snow and ice on the Eagan trails.

With visions of runs on the snowy paths and trails of the Twin Cities, and possibly Rochester (where I am now), last Saturday Laura and I dropped into Marathon Sports. I had a $20 gift certificate I'd won at the Victory Labor Day 5k in September, and I was itching to spend it on some trail shoes.

It just so happened that the gentleman who helped me pick out some shoes was John Long, the owner himself. John helped me decide on a pair of Saucony Pergrine 2s. I won't spend any time reviewing them since Saucony has rebuffed my attempts at procuring free gear. I will, however, say that in my one run so far they felt pretty great. They also look pretty slick.

After running outside in the Peregrines on Saturday afternoon, on Sunday morning I hurriedly drilled some sheet metal screws into the bottom of my older pair of Kinvara 3s. I wanted to get a quick tempo run in before we left town for Rochester, and going to the YMCA was going to eat up too much time.

If you run in a winter climate, I highly recommend this shoe modification. With 3/8 or 1/4 inch sheet metal screws and a hex head drill bit, you can winterize your running shoes in about five minutes. I could tell you more about it, but this article by the great ultra runner Matt Carpenter does it much better than I could.

The downside of running in the Kinvaras, however, is that the upper has practically nothing to it. Its lightweight material and ventilation are great for 2/3 of the year, but running outside in temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit make for some numb tootsies. My tempo run went well, but when I got home my whole body was hot except for my feet, which didn't regain feeling until halfway through my post-run stretching.

Yesterday was another run on the treadmill, and today I'm going to sneak to the YMCA to try out a cycle and core strength class. I'm getting pumped to run the Modesto Half Marathon in March, and while I know a PR is not likely, I'd like to try to run under 1:20.

For those venturing outside soon, enjoy it. While winter running can get complicated, it’s totally worth it.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


I have a hard time running consistently when I don't have a goal race coming up in the near future. Since I ran the Saint Louis Marathon in October, I've been drifting pretty aimlessly with my running. I've stayed in decent shape by doing fitness classes at the YMCA, keeping up with my glute and core exercises, and running a couple times a week, but my time spent running has been low and inconsistent.

The knee I broke last November is still acting up a little, but it really isn't limiting my running. I saw my physical therapist a couple times, and he gave me some great advice, exercises, and an easier way of taping my knee. I can't really tell if the knee is getting better, but I can say for sure it's not getting any worse.

Laura and I are now planning on running the Modesto Half Marathon in March, which is less than thirteen weeks away. This weekend I started writing a week training plan, and I'm working on how much time I'm going to spend running.

I suppose it comes down to a decision of what I really want to do with my fitness and my time. I've got a long winter break coming up from teaching, so I'll be done with the 50 hour or more work weeks for three weeks, so I can slowly increase my mileage without sacrificing core and glute strength.

I'm really digging the year-round schedule at my new school. I'm looking forward to having three weeks to spend time with friends and family, catch up on some reading that's not for work, and do some more writing.

Speaking of writing, I had my third article published in the latest issue of "Run Minnesota." You can read it online at runmdra.org. The story is on page 22. I also submitted a long form version of the story to "Running Times" and "Runner's World," which unfortunately was not accepted for publication. I'll be sharing that story on this blog soon.

Happy Running!

Friday, December 13, 2013

New Toy

In my previous post, I mentioned a nice 12 mile run along the Minnesota River. I enjoyed the run immensely while looking at the clear blue sky, the now-leafless trees, and the various birds that frequent the Minnesota River Valley.

What I didn't enjoy was my Garmin 205 dying again. It had decided that holding a charge was a little too much work for it. On some runs it would hang on for a couple hours, and others less. It died at mile 25 of the Rock 'n Roll Saint Louis Marathon, which wouldn't have been a huge deal had Competitor Events known how to work an electronic timing system. 

It then died during my birthday run, which was a little more irksome as I'm not sure how many kilometers past mile goal of 31 I ran.

Since then I'd been researching my options for replacing the 205. I looked into sending it to Garmin to get it refurbished, but $70 seemed a little step. I then looked into replacing the battery myself, but that looked unlikely to end in success and more likely to end in me cutting my finger, burning myself with a soldering iron, or gluing my finger to casing (see video).

Short story long, I went to REI on Saturday and bought a Garmin 210. It's pretty sweet. This one came with a heart rate monitor, which I haven't used since I had my first GPS watch. I won't write a long gear review about it because I've got enough readers who couldn't care less.

What I will say, however, is that when I was at REI, the nice gentleman selling me the watch said, "I think GPS watches are nice because they really get people running more." I do like setting goals and all that, and the GPS watches definitely make it easier to track progress.

Plus, I've been doing some classes at the YMCA, and now I have a way to load them on my training log with the heart rate information. Isn't technology great?

Happy Running!

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Post-Thanksgiving Slump

Thanksgiving bird

It hit me last Saturday: the post-Thanksgiving slump. It was a day late, but man I was feeling lazy. It was nice, really, because I've had way too much energy lately. My little fall manic rush is, unfortunately, a double-edged sword. It can make me very productive, but also restless, anxious, irritable, and unfocused. Plus, some of the stuff I'm "productive" with ends up being a waste of time because I either lose it and have to spend time looking for it or redoing it, or it's totally incoherent.

A head cold that'd been threatening to take full hold of my sinuses finally bloomed to maturity, and that morning I woke up with a nose full of snot, swollen eyes, and a feeling of ennui. I was waiting for the cold to show up since nearly every teacher in my school has had some sort of ailment this year, and I've been spared except for a one-day stomach bug.

Amazingly, the cold really only stuck around full-bore for that Saturday, and since then it's back to lingering. I've been told it's perfectly safe to run with a cold, so I did. I felt as good as I did all day that Saturday during my 12 mile run along the Minnesota River.

I love Thanksgiving, and now that the fun is over, I'm OK with having a little slump. Though being a teacher can be stressful and can sometimes feel like thankless work (it isn't, but it can feel like it), I'm still pretty fortunate to be at a year-round school where I'll get a longer winter break. I just have to push through these last two weeks, and then it's time for a little more fun and relaxation.

I did have a nice Thanksgiving meal on Thursday with our friend Brittany and my lovely wife Laura. Highlights included my mom's stuffing and a pumpkin cream pie with filling made by Children's Country Day students, crust made by the artisan bakers at Wal-Mart, and cream made by yours truly. After Brittany left, Laura and I did a little school work, watched "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles," and then started in on Christmas movies.

The Friday after Thanksgiving I worked on writing a training plan for our friend Jon and saw Ender's Game with Laura.. Since then I've been keeping crazy busy with work, getting some classes in at the YMCA, and getting some running in. I also got a new Garmin 210 on clearance at REI, and on my one indoor run it worked swell.

This past weekend we spent some time with Laura's family, and even braved the frozen tundra to play outside for awhile. I thought about going for a run Sunday afternoon, but the snow and well-below freezing temperatures kept me indoors.

Jeff (and I) braving the elements while hiking in Lebanon Hills park

Thanks again, readers, for reading. Even if you only look at the pictures or skim and scan, I appreciate you stopping by. This blog has been a nice writing outlet, and I hope I can keep it up in whatever form it takes.

Happy Running!