Friday, March 27, 2015

MDRA 7 Mile: It's Goal Time

Saturday will be the third time I've run the Minnesota Distance Running Association 7 Mile. The last time I ran it was in 2012 when I ran 41:05. In 2011 I ran it in 40:44, but it the course was short, registering only 6.8 miles on my Garmin, so I'm going to have to count the 2012 race as my PR for good conscience.

This will be my second race of the season, and I'm hoping to show an improvement from the MDRA 4 mile and run a somewhat better time. Not better as in faster than my four mile time--that would mean running at a pace of just over three minutes per mile, which I believe is most likely physiologically impossible. Instead, I want to be able to run a better equivalent time.

Running a better equivalent time, as calculated by the McMillan Running Calculator. McMillan suggests that I should be able to run a 40:08 based on my recent 4 mile time. This may be a little overly ambitious as the MDRA 7 Mile is known as a tough course, and while there were some hills at the Lake Johanna 4 Mile, I remember the hills at the MDRA 7 Mile being quite a bit tougher.

Still, I'm going to give it a shot. Running under 40:08 will be a stretch--I'll need to average under 5:44 per mile to do it, but I don't think it's totally out of the question. So, on with the A, B, and C goals.

A: Break 40:08
B. Set a PR
C. Break 41:30

Saturday's supposed to be pretty chilly, so running in the cold may hamper my efforts at a PR, but I'll give it a shot. Although I technically set a PR at the MDRA 4 Mile (it was my only 4 mile race), I haven't really set a PR in over a year.

Happy Running!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Lake Johanna 4 Mile: Race Report

My first race of the year is in the books. Saturday, March 14 was ideal conditions for an early season race. Above average temperatures, but still cool, a slight breeze, and a cloudless deep blue sky made for an enjoyable run, whether the actual race went well or not.

Warming up before the race
Laura was kind enough to accompany me to the race after doing her own run and a class at the YMCA earlier in the day. The 11 AM start was late enough that she got to do what she wanted before the race and I had plenty of time to get ready.

Upon arriving, I got my race number and did a two mile warmup. Running in a long sleeve for 15 minutes was about perfect to get ready to race. With the small race field and informal setting, I was able to finish my warmup just a couple minutes before the start and still line up toward the front. I tossed my long sleeve to Laura, and after a couple of pre-race instructions, we were off.

There was a lead pack of about seven runners right away, but after about 200m I could tell we were going a little fast. A quick glance at my Garmin let me know that I was running at a sub-5 minute mile pace. I backed off and let the leaders go, passing a couple of them within the first mile.

I came through the first mile in 5:28, right on pace for my goal of under 22 minutes. I was in fifth place at this point--right where I'd stay for the rest of the race.

The course was somewhat hilly, but nothing terribly steep up or down. I came through the second mile with another 5:28, still on pace for s sub-22 minute finish. My legs were starting to feel a little fatigued at this point, but I still felt strong enough to hold that pace. Mile three was a 5:35, which meant I needed to run under 5:30 to break the 22 minute barrier.

Finishing the last mile
 The last mile started with a decent hill, but it flattened out and went downhill, making me think I could pull off the sub-22. Coming off the last turn, one of the volunteers said, "downhill from here!" and it pretty much was. On the final straightaway I could start to see the clock as it ticked up toward 22 minutes. I pushed it as hard as I could, going through the finish line with the clock at 21:58.

Unfortunately, when I looked down at my Garmin, it read 22:05. Apparently the clock was not quite right. Although my official time was 21:58, I'll know that I didn't actually run that fast.

Under 22 minutes?
 Overall I was pretty happy with the race, barely missing my "A" goal and coming in solidly under my "B" goal. I did feel like I finished with a little gas left in the tank, and that I could have pushed it harder that last mile. It was, however, the first race of the season, so I'm still getting the rust out. This weekend I'll be running the MDRA 7 Mile, and I should have a better idea of how to pace that one.

The photographer and I
Happy Running!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Goal Time: Lake Johanna 4 Mile

It's time to get the rust out and race for the first time since the Chicago Marathon. This year, I'm trying out the Lake Johanna Four Mile. I've never done this race before, nor have I raced a 4 mile--definitely a nonstandard distance.

I'm looking forward to this race quite a bit. It should feel like a 5k, but it's just long enough to make choosing a pace a challenge. Running at 5k pace would definitely be too fast, but a 10k pace would be too slow. Time to find a brand new gear.

I'm excited to see what sort of time I can pull off. My running's been going very well, and I've had a couple great workouts including an 800m repeat workout in which I was able to run quite a bit faster than I thought I would. My mileage this winter has also has been the highest I've run since college--I've averaged about 52 miles per week since Christmas.

So, though I'm not really sure what I'll be able to do, I'll go ahead and set my traditional A, B, and C goals.

A. Finish the race in under 22 minutes. This would be at a 5:30 pace or faster. A steep goal, but based on my 800m repeats the other day, I don't think it's out of the question.

B. Finish under 22:30.

C. Finish under 23 minutes.

I'm hoping for a good race today. The last thing I have to do is choose the shoes. I'm either going to run in my Saucony Virrata 2, or the Merrel Bare Access Ultra. The Merrel is a little lighter and I like the firmer feel, but the Virrata is a little more comfortable. It might come down to a race time decision.

Happy Running!

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Language of Running

I very much appreciate that many of my readers are non-runners. If you are a non-runner or a very new runner, and you've had the unfortunate experience of being around a couple of runners, or, even worse, at a gathering of runners, you've probably been overrun with runner jargon. Acronyms, obscure workout references, famous runners--you can politely nod, and if you're assertive you can ask questions, but after awhile you just zone out.

It can be especially rough for the non-running spouses of runners. While out to a meal, as the talk drifts toward the glycemic index of chicken wings and the relative benefits of carbo-loading, you might casually check your phone, eventually slipping it under your table to start a game of Candy Crush to pass the time.

For those that don't want to play their own personal sound track in their heads, I've put together a little cheat sheet. Feel free to print a copy of this cheat sheet to take with you to your next runner-related gathering.

PR or PB: Personal record or personal best time. When a runner says they ran a PB or PR'ed, she or her means they ran faster for a given distance than they've ran before.

BQ: Boston qualifying. It means a runner has run fast enough in a marathon to be get into the Boston Marathon. This is a goal of many marathon runners, and you'll often hear, "I'm going to try to BQ at my next marathon," or, "She BQ'ed at the Twin Cities Marathon."

DNF and DNS: Did not finish or did not start. A runner may have been unable to start or finish a race, usually because of an injury.

MP, GMP, and HMP: Marathon pace, goal marathon pace, and half marathon pace.

Tempo Run: A workout in which a runner runs "comfortably hard" for between 20 minutes and an hour, somewhere around 10k or half marathon pace.

Fartlek: A Swedish word meaning "speed play." A workout in which runners alternate a slower paced running with moderate and faster paced running.

Taper: A period of time before a race when runners cut back on their mileage in order to increase their chances of running a fast time in a race. Some runners feel anxiety or generally uneasiness due to the decrease in mileage, known as "taper madness."

Carbo-loading: Usually done before a longer race, runners "load up" on carbohydrates to improve the stores of glycogen in the liver and muscles for improved endurance.

Unfortunately I can't do much to make you interested in running. Although I enjoy watching races, the idea of spending time watching runners traverse an oval track for two minutes seems dull, much less watching gazelle-like runners swiftly cover 26.2 miles in a little over two hours. It can be especially hard to become a fan of running when most of the best distance runners in the world come from East Africa, making it difficult to keep straight the unfamiliar names of Keino, Farah, Gebrselassie, Gebremeskel, Bikila, and Mutai. If you want to find out more about professional runners, check out this link: 20 Runners You Should Be Following on Social Media.

And while being a fan of running can be difficult, professional runners are some of the most dedicated, inspiring athletes around. Rural Kenyans dedicate their lives to the uncertain prospect of being noticed by a manager or elite coach. And even if they do make it out of the country and into some elite races with chances at big prize money, there's no guarantee of winning any of that prize money. For even an elite Kenyan runner, the difference between changing an entire family's life, or even an entire village's life, can be matter of seconds. Unfortunately for Kenyans, the chances of becoming sponsored by and athletic brand are much less than the chances of even an inferior American athlete.

Although I very much enjoy following professional running, many, if not the majority of runners don't follow the sport professionally. They still, however, might have solid knowledge of training methods, racing strategies, and the many benefits of running. If you're skeptical about running and think it's pointless, boring, or will ruin your knees (not true), read this link: Why Run?

So the next time you're out with your running friends and are quietly zoning out of the conversation, feel free to use the cheat sheet above. Or, install more games on your smart phone and discreetly play them as those around you descend into the abyss of running conversations.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Waiting for Spring

Springtime in 2010 at the Fetzer 20k
 If you follow this blog, you know that for the most part winter running can be bearable, and in some cases it can even be enjoyable. At some point in the winter, however, I really start to get pumped for spring. It has been pretty cold this winter, and looking through my training logs last week, on Friday the 27th of February I had officially run 16 days straight indoors, including a 16 mile jaunt on the treadmill while watching episodes of "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

Fortunately, last weekend I got outside for a couple runs, and this week I only had to do two runs inside so far. This weekend I'm planning on getting out and enjoying the first murmurings of spring weather, 

There's something refreshing and renewing about spring. The trees starting to show signs of greens, the first run in shorts outside, and the smell of freshness in the air make spring runs something to look forward to and enjoy each year.

Spring means rediscovering the trails that were previously covered by snow and ice. Spring is not doing the extra laundry required from winter layers. Spring is running after work in the daylight, no longer putting on reflective gear and a headlamp for 6 PM runs. 

Spring is tuning up the bicycle and riding to work. Spring is gearing up for the racing season. Muddy trails, running in the rain, enjoying the coming of warmer weather before the heat of summer makes the outdoor running less enjoyable--I love it all.