Friday, January 30, 2015

Be Careful or Be Roadkill

In one of my favorite "Calvin and Hobbes" comic story lines, Calvin is making a poster about traffic safety and it trying to come up with a contest-winning slogan. When he asks his dad for ideas, he dad tells him, "Cyclists have a right to the road too you polluting maniacs! I hope gas goes up to eight bucks a gallon!"

 As someone who does a fair amount of driving, I don't begrudge drivers. Maybe if I lived further south where I could bike to work all year I'd be a little more anti-car. However, with cars generally being the fastest, most convenient way to get places around the twin cities (sorry public transit--it still takes an hour to go 15 miles in many places), I won't stop driving anytime soon.

I do, however, get annoyed at drivers who pay no attention to people on the sidewalks. The biggest transgressors are those who habitually roll through stop signs, fail to check the crosswalk when turning right at a red light, or people who make a left hand turn without checking for pedestrians.

The running gods, however, seem to smile down on runners for the most part. Of all my running friends, I don't know any who have been seriously injured by a car while running (biking, however, is a different story).

You can't count on cars to see you. Running, especially around traffic, means keeping your head up. Don't assume people will stop for you in an intersection. Also, remember that driving puts people in a heightened sense of alert, and some people will act aggressively when they feel wronged. A couple summers ago as I was doing a workout and running at a decent clip, a car rolled through a stop sign right in front of me.

It may not have been the best decision, but I decided to smack the side of the little grey crossover-station wagon thing as I swerved to run behind it. The driver did not take kindly to my action. He slammed on his brakes, backed up so he had a clear view of me (sure, then he was out of the crosswalk), and began to shout colorful things as me such as, "come over here and I'll kick your ass!"

Not knowing how brain damaged he was or if he was packing heat, I decided to continue my run rather than turn around and confront the mouth-breathing poor driver.

Calvin ends up going with his own slogan on his traffic poster of, "Be careful or be roadkill." As much as I wish drivers would be more conscientious, avoiding becoming roadkill is up to runners because in collision between a runner and a car, the car always wins (with perhaps the exception of Smart Cars).

Happy Running!

Friday, January 16, 2015

More Winter Running: Staying Warm

In my last post I talked about dressing for winter weather. The concept is fairly basic and if you follow the advice from the previous post, you'll probably do fine with staying warm. If, however, you are still having some difficulty staying warm, here's some more specific advice for beating the cold.

If your core or legs are not staying warm, the first option is always adding more layers. When it is very cold, having a windbreaker in between two other layers works well. To keep your legs warm, tights, running shorts, and running pants usually do the trick. You can also get some warmer under layers if those three layers aren't enough.

If you're having trouble with keeping your face warm, there are quite a few options out there. Some runners spread a little petroleum jelly on their faces which offers a little more insulation. There are also a variety of face masks out there that do a nice job. Some are entire hoods, and others have Velcro to hold them in place at the back of the head. Just make sure you don't use any cotton, and you should be fine.

I have the most difficult time with my hands. It's tough to figure out how much glove you need, and when it gets really cold I have a tough time keeping my hands warm. This year I may spring for some thicker running mittens. When I ran a race last year in below zero temperatures, one of the guys I was running with had a nice thick pair. I've layered gloved in the past, but for whatever reason it doesn't seem to work as well as layering shirts or pants.

Finally, one of the best ways to be comfortable when running in the cold is to be mindful of the wind. Though it's uncomfortable at first, start out running into the wind on an out-and-back run. You'll definitely appreciate it when you turn around, and if you start out with the wind at your back, you'll get sweaty and end up with a very cold run on your way back.

If you find yourself just not enjoying yourself once it reaches a certain temperature, there's nothing wrong with a little treadmill or indoor track running. Though boring, it can offer a little break from the frigid temperatures and winter darkness--I actually do most of my weekly mileage indoors to avoid running in the dark.

Happy Running!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Minnesota Winter Running

It seems that over the past few year, my post on winter running has been viewed quite a few times. Starting to run in the winter in Minnesota is no small endeavor. My previous post on winter running can be viewed here, but feel free to read more specific advice below.

Although running is a relatively cheap winter sport compared to, say, skiing, winter running still requires an investment. The essentials for winter running in Minnesota are clothing and proper footwear.

Clothing can be pretty simple. A nice pair of running pants works well for temperatures between 10 and 40 degrees. Down in the single digits and colder, however, adding another layer to running pants will probably be necessary--tights are a good choice, but be sure to steer clear of anything cotton. As soon as cotton gets wet it loses just about all of its insulating ability.

On the top a good long-sleeve tech shirt and a light running jacket work well. The colder it is, the more layers you can put on. When it gets really cold, I recommend the following layers, from inside to out: short sleeve tech shirt, long sleeve tech shirt, windbreaker, medium-heavy fleece. Having the windbreaker on in between layers does a really nice job of keeping the core warm.

A good hat and pair of gloves are also essential. Again, cotton is a poor choice--there are lots of good products out there made of polypropylene or other synthetic materials that wick away moisture and keep your head and hands warm.

Winter footwear is perhaps the trickiest. A pair of insulated trail running shoes can do the trick on some surfaces, but for more snow and ice, you're going to need some sort of traction product. Yaktrax work fairly well, as do these cheaper, do-it-yourself screw shoes. I find screw shoes work a little better on ice and Yaktrax a little better on snow.

The other thing to be aware of in winter running in the northern climes is decreased daylight hours. Running outdoors in the early mornings or in the evening usually means running in the dark. If you live in a well-let area, you may be able to get away with just wearing reflective gear, but I would still recommend some sort of headlamp. I actually have a cheap Eddy Bauer headlamp from Target (though I don't believe they sell it anymore), and it works just fine. There are plenty of options out there, but be sure to go with something lightweight and water resistant.

There you have it--everything you need to know about winter running up north.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2015: It's Goal Time

Honestly I've been having a hard time coming up with a list of goals for this year. My gut tells me I need to drum up some achievable goals after only making 4.5 out of 14 goals in the past two years. The year before that I set twelve goals and made nine of them, so I'd love to get back to that sort of record.

I decided it would probably be in my best interest to set some goals that were 100% achievable barring a serious running injury. They're entirely dependent on being dedicated to running and fitness, discipline, and sticking to my schedule.

My other set of goals is are time-based, and if I can stick to my training schedules and get closer to my race weight of 2011-2012, I think they're achievable. In my ultimate display of running nerdiness, I mapped out my winter training plan in detail with my sights set on a 5k this spring. I then did a rough outline of my training for a marathon this fall where I hope to set a PR.

So, here is my ambitious, but what I hope to be more achievable, set of goals:

1. Run 2,200 miles. My mileage has gone down every year since 2011, so it's time to change that up and get back closer to my 2011 total of 2,400 miles.

2. Bike to work at least 30 times.

3. Write 40 or more blog posts.

4. Publish at least one article.

5. Break 17 minutes in the 5k--not a PR, but it would still be my second best time in the 5k.

6. Set a 1/2 marathon PR.

7. Set a marathon PR.

I've yet to meet all my goals in any year, but I think I've got a good shot this year.

Happy Running!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014: Year in Review

Another year in the books. This year was marked by a somewhat disappointing running season. After finishing the 2013 St. Louis Marathon, I had a lot of little nagging injuries that didn't seem to want to heal. I never got my mileage up to a high level and the quality of my training never got where I wanted it to.

The year wasn't a total loss though. I still ran more days than I didn't, and despite not running a ton of mileage, I finished the year with almost 1,500 miles of running. As far as meeting my goals... well, let's take a look:

Goal 1: Set a 1/2 marathon PR.
Not even close. I was obviously ambitious last January and thought I would be able to get over the injuries I was dealing with a train at a high level. Unfortunately, it never happened and the one half marathon I raced was five minutes slower than my PR.

Goal 2: Help a couple runners meet their goals.
Check! I helped one runner with a training plan and he ended up setting a big PR in the marathon and qualified for Boston. I also led the TC 10 Mile class at the Running Room and helped several runners with their training for their first 10 mile race.

Goal 3: Break three hours in the marathon again.
Fail. I was over three minutes too slow at Chicago.

Goal 4: Ride my bike to work more than half the days in April and May.
Although I didn't ride half the days in April and May, I did ride half the days in August and September. I guess I picked the wrong months.

Goal 5: Write more than 50 blog posts this year.
Nope. I did write over 30.

Goal 6: Read at least two books about running.
Success! I read several books including "The Hanson Marathon Method," "Relentless Forward Progress," and "To Be a Runner."

Goal 7: Raise some money for World Vision.
Success! I helped raise $1310 to bring clean water to communities in Africa.

So three successful goals out of seven. I hoping next year will bring a little more running success.

Happy Running!