Monday, February 24, 2014

"Nice Run"

Trail head on a less-snowy day
I woke up on President's Day morning to some light snow mist. At the early hour of 5 AM, my Honda was dusted with snow. By 8 AM, when I headed out the door to run, a solid 2" of the white stuff coated the entire west side of my car.

The drive to the Big Rivers Regional Trail was a slow one. The plows hadn't hit the side streets of Donald Ave and Lentendre, making the hill down to Highway 13 a bit treacherous. The normal cruising speed of 50 mph on Highway 13 was reduced to a slow 30 mph.

The parking lot for the Big Rivers Regional Trail surprisingly contained a couple of cars. I headed southwest on the trail to run into the wind on the out portion of the run. Sharp snow sliced into my checks and froze on my beard. The sunglasses and cap I wore to protect my eyes gave me a decent view of the trail, and the screw studs drilled into the bottoms of my Kinvaras allowed for some traction on the fresh blanket of snow.

For the first mile, I followed a bike tire trail and a set of footprints. Wondering if I would catch up to the pedestrian, I climbed the bridge off the Big Rivers Trail to the trail paralleling I-494 toward Bloomington. Soon, I came to the other runner, now headed in my direction. "Beautiful day for a run!" he said. "It is!" I said.

Turning around a couple of miles from the trail head, I ran with the wind to my back. My sunglasses quickly fogged up, but after giving them a couple of swipes with my mittens, I could see just enough to stay on the trail.

When I arrived back to my Honda, I found the words, "nice run" scrawled on my windshield, presumably drawn by the gloved finger of the runner I'd passed on the 494 trail. It was a nice day for a run.

Happy Running!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

What's it Worth to Run?
<image credit: Runner's World>

A few days ago I read an article in Runner's World where the author gets this running assessment thing. She finds out she's got weak glutes and some other stuff. The article  had a lot more to it, but  the gist was the author had been chronically injured, and she wasn't able to run as much as she wanted.

One quote in the article that really stuck out to me was from one of the doctors at this NYU RunSmart clinic. He said, "I tell my patients to channel that energy and frustration into their rehab. Get mad. If you commit to that and do that, then when you get back to running, you'll see real progress." The author of the article ends up making some improvements in her functional strength and all that, but it sounded pretty expensive (though the article made the $325 assessment seem like a bargain).

Anyhow, you can read a synopsis of the article on the Runner's World website. Seems there are some places around these parts that do that sort of thing. I'm pretty sure I won't, but the article in the magazine gave some good exercise tips.

I'm slowly making some progress with my running, though I'm having a hard time shaking a sore hamstring, calf, and knee. I'm looking forward to spring showing up so I can run on a surface other than snow, ice, treadmill belt, or indoor track.

Tomorrow I'm looking forward to running in beautiful 20+ degree weather and snow, followed by a little yoga.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Weekend Reading: Eat and Run

Sometime before Christmas, Laura and I went shopping. Shopping as in, Laura shopped and I sat in Barnes and Noble reading, "Eat and Run" by Scott Jurek and Steve Friedman. I had the opportunity to see Jurek speak at an event during the Boston Marathon weekend back in 2011, and had read about him in the book, "Born to Run." I knew Jurek was an amazing ultra runner as well as a vegan, both of which are topics of interest to me.

After reading the first five chapters or so in the Rochester Barnes and Noble, I decided a couple of months later to pick the book up from the library. It turns out that not only is Jurek an amazing runner and all-vegan athlete, he's also somewhat of a gourmet vegan chef.

Co-written with accomplished sportswriter Steve Friedman, Jurek tells a compelling story of his journey to ultra running greatness and his adoption of a vegan diet. Even for those not interested in running, Jurek's personal story chronicling the highs (wins at some of the biggest ultra marathons in the world), and lows (his mother's MS, a falling out with his father) of his career and personal life will keep them turning the pages.

"Eat and Run" got me interested in trying a vegan diet. However, though the recipes included at the end of each chapter sound delicious, they also contain around 21 ingredients per recipe. I like cooking and eating healthy, but at this point in my busy-enough life I'd rather spend time reading, writing, and watching birds than driving to Whole Foods to get bulk bulgur wheat for a 24-ingredient chili (read the recipe here).

Still, if you like making complicated stuff, the recipes do sound tasty and the writing and story kept me turning the pages of "Eat and Run."

Happy Running!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Securian 1/2 Marathon

Two words for this race: cold. I'm going to grow my full beard back and coat my face in Vaseline the next time I run 13 miles when the windchill is -16 degrees Fahrenheit.

Although the Securian 1/2 Marathon was frigid, at least Securian opens its building to runners so we can hang around inside to get ready to brave the cold. Laura and I got to the building over an hour before the start, and were able to park in Securian's covered parking ramp.

After looking at the shirts and picking up a free mug, we got our race numbers, said "hi" to some of my pacing buddies, and met our friends Jon and Linda. We sat comfortably on the carpeted floor, waiting to venture out into the slick, windy, downtown streets of St. Paul to run the half marathon.

About 20 minutes before the race began, I went to look for a bathroom inside the building. I ran into Don, the 1:30 pacer, and Dan, the run-everywhere ultra runner. "Do you know where there's a bathroom?" I asked.

"The one that was open last year is locked," Don replied.

"Shoot, I guess I'll have to go outside and use the port-o-potties," I said.

"I'll go with you," said Dan. So, like a couple of female BFFs, Dan and I scampered across the street to use the port-o-potties. The line was only about three deep, but the wind whipping down Jackson Street was ridiculous. When the air temperature is only three degrees, a 16 mph wind channeled between the buildings of downtown St. Paul is not a pleasant feeling.

Once my bladder was cleared, I ran back in the building to stay out of the wind for ten more minutes before the start. Laura, Linda, Jon and I said some pre-race words of commiseration and ran out to the start about a minute before they let us ago. I lined up with the 1:30 pace team lead by Don and Dan. After the irregular starting instructions of, "On your marks... 30 seconds... go!" we ran past the fireworks display (which was announced dozens of times to avoid scaring anyone) and wound our way through downtown St. Paul to Shepard Road for the out-and-back portion of the race.

The wind was blowing and gusting from the northwest, so running west south west for the first portion of the race was not overly comfortable. Dan, Don and I chatted off and on, and Don did a nice job of letting runners know about all the slick spots throughout the race.

A little before the turn around I decided it was time to push the pace. "You taking off?" asked Don. "For now," I said. "See you at the finish."

Running back toward downtown wasn't much more comfortable than running away from it. My hands were freezing, my face was getting numb, and I kept having to move to different portions of the road to find firm footing.

I never knew quite how fast I was running since I forgot my Garmin, but I knew I was running just a little slower than I felt like I could run the last half of the race. I did manage to catch up to to a few people. I passed a few, turned back into downtown, ran up a couple of miserable hills, made several slick turns, all while having the wind blow against me so hard I felt like I was running in place. I got passed by a few more runners and finally finished.

The clock said 1:21:something, which I thought was a little fast. It turned out it was the clock for the 10k race. My actual time was 1:26:21. Running the last 6.5 in slick, cold, windy conditions at a 6:22 pace isn't too bad I guess, but my lower legs were miserable after.

After the race I was a little concerned that I hadn't seen Linda or Laura on either of the sections we went by runners going the other direction. I thought maybe they'd decided to just run the 10k, but when I didn't see them at the finish I had to hope that I'd just missed them.

When Jon finished, he let me know that he had seen them, so I was able to relax a little. My lower legs were killed me, so I went over and got some post-race massage and stretching from a therapist. She let me know what I suspected--I have a lot of knots, and probably have some muscle weakness and imbalance stressing my feet and legs in ways they're not used to.

I was having a hard time not feeling down about all the little nagging pains I've had the last couple months. My mileage is low, and while my knee's been pretty good, I've been having pains in my ankles, feet, calves, and Achilles tendons.

Fortunately our friends Brit and Jared came with their little twin one-year-olds, Laura and Linda finished safely and successfully, and we all went to Dixies on Grand. We had a great time eating and chatting, so I was able to forget about my stupid legs.

Now, I'll be deciding what to do about my lower legs. I've been doing a little yoga, but I may need to go see my physical therapist again and get a little more serious about doing some exercise to correct whatever problems I'm having.

Happy Running!