Friday, November 17, 2017

Destigmatizing Mental Illness: Mental Health Myths and Facts


I'm continuing on writing about my experiences with myths and facts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. You can read all of the myths and facts on the article, Mental Health Myths and Facts, from mentalhealth.gov. All the myths I quote in these posts are taken verbatim from that article.

Myth: People with mental illness are often violent and unpredictable
This myth is still prevalent. I see it spread often when there is an act of mass violence, and there's also some huge double standards involved. When there is an act of so-called Islamic terrorism, the mass shooting is by and large blamed on radical Islam, and mental illness is barely discussed. However, when the perpetrator of a mass killing is white, all of a sudden we want to blame mental illness, not the fact that the shooter was able to get access to an extremely deadly weapon. Could it be that some people are just plain violent and not mentally ill?

As the U.S Department of Health and Human Services points out, people with mental illnesses are no more likely than the general population to commit violent acts. In fact, they are actually more likely to be victims of violent crimes.

The idea that people with mental illness are prone to unpredictable and/or violent behavior is a major reason why people are afraid to share that they have a mental illness. No one wants to feel like people around them are uncomfortable or on edge because they think their going to do something strange or scary.

Probably the biggest reason I'm not more open about having a mental illness is that I don't want to be treated differently. If people think I might become unpredictable or violent, they're definitely going to treat me differently.

While mental illness can be uncomfortable and even scary at times, people with mental illnesses should still be treated like anyone else. It's important to know that by and large the behavior of people with mental illness is the same as that of those without mental illness. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Running Poem: November

It's been a while since I've posted a running poem, so I thought I'd throw one up here. Although winter does not officially start until December, November kicks off winter weather here in Minnesota. We've already had several days of low temperatures below freezing, and several days when the high temperature didn't reach 40*.

While September and October are my favorite months for running -- cool temperatures, fall foliage, and trails clear of overgrowth -- November definitely is not my favorite. There will be a few nice days to run, but now there'll be more runs in the dark and in cold weather. So, here is my poem, "November."

November
November is the cloudiest month.
The leaves on the trees are gone,
their lack of foliage leaving them
as skeletons silhouetted by
a grey sky.

A return to long sleeves
and gloves
and running pants
on every run.

Running on the trail along the lake
dead leaves crunch underfoot--
a small, thin crust of ice
on the lake's surface.

Birds fly overhead
leaving for sunshine,
escaping the gloom
and the coming
of winter.

November says,
"The summer is long past
and the color of fall has ended.
Trees and flowers and plants
are past, and nothing will grow
until spring."

November is the cloudiest month.
Blue skies make only brief, short appearances.
The grey days grow shorter and shorter,
the darkness increasing
as winter approaches.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Destigmatizing Mental Illness: Mental Health Myths and Facts



I'm continuing on writing about my experiences with myths and facts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. You can read all of the myths and facts on the article, Mental Health Myths and Facts, from mentalhealth.gov. All the myths I quote in these posts are taken verbatim from that article.

Myth: Children don't experience mental health problems 
This myth is becoming less prevalent. Schools especially have created more awareness about signs of mental illness in children and about how to get those children resources. Probably the biggest mental illness issue we hear about in children is ADHD. When I was in elementary school, ADHD wasn't commonly diagnosed, but now it isn't uncommon to have several students in a class with this diagnosis. 


Now, many experts in the field believe that ADHD has been overdiagnosed or mistreated. Numerous scholarly journal articles and research studies suggest that pharmaceutical companies have had undue influence on ADHD diagnosis and treatment. This isn't a post about the overdiagnosis of ADHD, but I do want to suggest that often behavioral issues in children are a mental health issue and not a mental illness.

Just like adults, students experience anxiety, depression, and other emotional issues. And, just like adults, these problems could be mental health issues, or mental illness. If a child is experiencing persistent difficulty with emotions, consulting a physician or therapist is a good idea.

I remember experiencing frequent anxiety in childhood. Often I'd worry excessively, especially when I was alone. In middle school and high school I would frequently experience sleep problems because worry made it nearly impossible to shut off my brain and go to sleep at night.

While I don't think a diagnosis of a mental illness would have been appropriate for me as a child, I probably would have benefited from some kind of therapy. Going to therapy was definitely not as common or accepted when I was young. I think it's getting better today.

Children do experience mental health issues, and as adults in a children's lives, we are in a position to help those children when we see something wrong. Even asking a child if she or he would like to talk or saying something like, "it seems like you've been sad a lot lately," can go a long way. Be aware of when a child in your life may be experiencing a mental health issue, and be ready to offer some help.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Training Limbo

A rare Minnesota winter half marathon - Securian Half Marathon

This is the time of year when training becomes a bit of a no-man's land. Fall marathon season is over for most people, save those running the NYC Marathon and a few others. Granted, that's tens of thousand or runners, but according to Running in the USA there are only two marathons in Minnesota between now and April. Also, in all of our border states there are only four marathons between now and April. Of those six marathons, three are indoors.

There are a few more half marathons in Minnesota between now and April --  seven by Running in the USA's count. Still, even with a good amount of 5k, 10k, and half marathon races, most people shut down their serious training until 12 - 20 weeks from a spring race. That leaves the months of November, December, and some or all of January as a sort of training limbo.

These are months when I sometimes struggle. I do best at getting in a good amount (sometimes too much) of running when I'm training for a race. Even when I don't have a set training plan, I usually get into a routine when I have a race coming up. I like to do a tempo type run, a 5k pace run, and a long run every week, and I usually have an idea of how many miles I'd like to run in a given week.

A big downside to the training limbo of November and December is its timing. Thanksgiving and Christmas. I love Thanksgiving, and I really love Thanksgiving food. Reducing training volume and falling into taking too many days off can mean really putting on pounds over the holidays. I definitely have a little room, but as I get older extra pounds get harder and harder to shed, and that extra weight can throw a wrench in the spring training cycle.

Last year I decided I'd put in a bunch of extra miles over Thanksgiving so I could feel better about eating more than normal. While I was down visiting my family, I did reasonably long runs each day. I think I logged over 10 miles three out of the four days we visiting. I'm planning on doing it again this Thanksgiving break.

One thing I got going for me this year is that I still have two unmet goals -- breaking 17 minutes in the 5k and setting an indoor mile PR. In less than two weeks I'm going to start some real workouts, so that should help keep up the motivation until I start training for the Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon.

Coming up I'll be writing more on mental health myths. For those who enjoy reading only about running, thanks for your patience with other types of posts.

Run well.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Destigmatizing Mental Illness: Mental Health Facts and Myths


I never could have predicted what an amazing response I received when I wrote about hospital stays for mental health reasons. Friends, family, and strangers offered words of support, encouragement, and gratitude. It's amazing to hear that my experiences with mental illness and hospitalizations has connected with others.

Reading all those kind words made me feel that we as a society are on the right track when it comes to how we talk about and deal with mental illness. Although there is still a great deal of stigma surrounding mental health, things have definitely improved since my first hospitalization in 1998.

While there is still a long way to go, there are factors that have lead to the destigmatization of mental illness. Schools have taken steps to inform teachers and students about mental health issues. In Minnesota, teachers need to take a class every five years on recognizing early signs of mental illness in students. The internet has also broadened social circles, making it much more likely for individuals to know or read about someone with a mental illness. Additionally, the Web provides an easy opportunity to learn about mental health.

While awareness has improved, there's still a lot of work to do. Even though people may know someone with a mental illness, misconceptions and assumptions about mental illness persist. In my posts about hospitalizations, I linked to Mental Health Myths and Facts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human services. I highly recommend checking it out, especially if you feel like you don't know much about mental illness, or if you feel like you don't know what to say or do around someone who has a mental illness.

If you, your families, or your friends believe any of these myths, that's OK. It's not until we recognize our beliefs, conscious or unconscious, that we can change them. The article above does a great job at explaining and debunking myths. I've had experience with each of these myths, so I wanted to share my thoughts.

After that long introduction, here's the first myth and my experiences around it (All these myths are quoted directly from www.mentalhealth.gov):

Myth: Mental Health Problems Don't Affect Me

This myth is really two myths rolled into one. First, mental health problems are different than mental illness. We all experience mental health issues. I can remember the first time feeling really guilty as a kid. I'd lied to my parents and started feeling really guilty. The guilt gave me a sick feeling in my stomach as I lay in bed, unable to fall asleep. I finally went to my parents' room and told them what I'd done. They forgave me, and I asked, "Did you ever lie to your parents?" My dad told me about how he'd broken a rake when he was young and lied to his parents about it, and I instantly felt better.

How is that a mental health issue? Guilt can be both a contributing factor and a symptom of depression. While guilt is a healthy emotion that often leads to more ethical or reconcilitory behavior, unresolved, unnecessary, or excess guilt can be a factor in depression.

I've often felt guilty about things out of my control. I can't help having a mental illness. I can't help that I'll be hospitalized at times. I can't help that I have to take medication to keep me stable. These are not things to feel guilty about, and when I do it only puts me in more of a downward spiral.

And guilt is just one of many emotions that can negatively affect mental health. Anxiety, mild depression, loneliness, and anger are things we all experience. When these emotions linger in an unhealthy way, problems with mental health can arise. An extreme, persistent excess of any of these emotions may indicate a mental illness or a need for therapy.

We all deal with mental health problems. It's healthy to recognize this, and to be supportive and encouraging of others who deal with mental health issues or mental illness.

If you're feeling like negative emotions are getting the best of you, tell someone. There's no shame is asking for help. And if you know someone who seems to be suffering, encourage them to find help. Untreated mental illness can lead to a downward spiral,

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Race Schedule: 2017 / 2018

2012 Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon
 I've been waiting for almost two weeks to see if and how the PNC Milwaukee Marathon organizers are going to adjust my marathon time based on the fact that the course was 4200' short. I've sent them an email, but haven't heard back. To take my mind off that debacle of a race, I decided to plan out my next season of races. I haven't finalized my schedule yet, but as of now here are some of the major races I've penciled in:

Eagan Parkrun:
I'm going to keep going at this one. I'm following a little training plan from McMillan Running to try and break that elusive 17 minute barrier. For a while I had the course record and then was tied for the course record at 17:14, but that was recently blown away by a runner who clocked 16:24, so a course record is definitely out of reach for me this season (and, let's be honest, probably ever). I thought about finding a flatter, faster 5k to aim for that sub-17, but the Parkrun is free and it'd be good to break 17 on a tough course.

I don't have dates set in stone for when I'm running this one again, but I'll probably shoot for the end of November and the beginning of December to aim for the sub-17.

Pensacola Beach Run:
My in-laws are renting a condo down in Florida for the month of January, so Laura and I are going to visit for a week and do a half marathon while we're down there. I don't have any set goals at this point, but based on the results of the last few years, it'd be cool to finish in the top five.

MDRA Races:
I'm hoping to get a good gauge of my spring fitness by racing several spring Minnesota Distance Running Association races: The Lake Johanna 4 Mile, the MDRA 7 Mile, the Ron Daws 25k, the Fred Kurz 10 Mile, and the Mudball Classic 4 Mile.  I'm not sure which all of these I'm going to run (I'd love to do all of them, but I doubt that'll happen). There are several that come free with the MDRA membership: The Lake Johanna 4 Mile, the MDRA 7 Mile, and the Mudball Classic 4 Mile. The others are are very reasonable -- the Ron Daws 25k is $5 with an MDRA membership, and the Fred Kurz 10 Mile is only $10 with an MDRA membership.

I'm mainly going to be racing these to stay in race shape and test my fitness, but it'd also be cool to set a PR at a couple of these distances.

Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon:
I've been looking forward to doing this one again. I ran a 3:02 at Wobegon in 2010, my first Boston qualifying time. I've said that this past year was my last try at setting a PR in the marathon, so I'm not going to approach this one as hardcore as I have in the past. This winter I'm going to train for less time -- training for a PR marathon was putting me in the ten hour a week range between runs and core exercises. So, I'm going to be running significantly less, and am going to focus more on supplemental exercises and improving my muscle balance.

Afton 50k:
This will be my third time running this race. As of now I'm planning on camping with some running friends and doing the race the next morning. I'd love to set a PR at this one, but finishing a 50k is a decent accomplishment, PR or not.

Surf the Murph 50 Mile:
If I finish, guaranteed PR. It'll be my first 50 mile, and I'm definitely looking forward to it. Since I'm no longer going to try to set a PR in the marathon due to the time it eats up, I'm going to keep my training for the 50 mile reasonable. I'm not going to commit as much time during the week as I did when I was training for a marathon PR. Instead, I'm going to bunch my training on the weekends when we have more free time, and get longer mileage in then.

I'm also planing on doing an indoor mile race this coming December -- I think the only one in the twin cities is the USATF Minnesota All Ages Indoor Track and Field Meet on December 17. I haven't given up my goal of setting a new indoor mile PR, but honestly the odds are not in my favor. I'll be coming out of marathon training where I never did workouts faster than 5k pace, and I'll only have about five weeks to get some mile specific work in before the race.

I'll probably also pace a handful of races. I really enjoy pacing -- not only do I get to help other runners reach their goals, I also get a long run in with the bonus of not having to carry water and/or sports drink with me. I'm thinking I'll probably pace two or three half marathons this year.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

PNC Milwaukee Marathon: Race Report


This race report will get at least one update, but it won't be a three-parter like last year's (read them here if you're so inclined). I'll just get most of the negativity over first, then write about how my race went.

First off, I talked with a speaker at the expo about how the course would be marked since I missed the turnaround last year. "On thing we learned from last year," he said, "is that we needed to mark the course better. This year there'll be way more markers." He wasn't wrong. There were a lot of cones marking the route, but unfortunately there were several spots where it wasn't clear which way to turn.

Around mile 8.5 the course came to a Y at the bottom of the hill. A right turn brought you on a sidewalk toward a bridge and a left turn brought you on a paved path along a river. I didn't know which way to go, so I stopped, turned around, and yelled, "Do you know which way?" to a runner twenty yards behind me.

"I don't know," he said. Then he shrugged and said, "maybe right?" We turned right, and fortunately he was correct. There was at least one other spot I had to guess. The route went through some city parks, and the trails would sometimes come to an intersection and you really needed to look ahead for the next cone since it wasn't always clear which way to go. There was also a spot where a volunteer had to yell at me that I was turning the wrong way.

So while the turnaround at least had cones and a volunteer this year, there were actually more spots with the potential to get a runner off course. I read on the PNC Milwaukee Marathon Facebook page that several runners ran off course. If getting enough volunteers to direct runners at turns was an issue, most places where it was confusing could have been solved by simply having an arrow pointing which way to turn. Although there were tons of cones, I don't remember seeing a single arrow to mark a turn.

OK, negativity over for now. The actual race went well. We started at 6:30 a.m., about half an hour before sunrise. It was a little chilly waiting for the race to start due to some very gusty winds, but the air temperature was almost perfect at right around 60*. Throughout the race the temperature dropped until it was down in the low 50s -- perfect for a marathon.

The tough part about the weather was the wind. The course was a loop, so there was a decent amount of tailwind, but at some points the headwinds were ridiculous. There was one section about half a mile long that went through some buildings and it was an absolute wind tunnel.

Despite the wind, I did enjoy the course. It's by no means a flat, fast course -- too many hills and turns, but there's a good amount of variety. Although there are a lot of hills, most are just rollers and the longer ones have pretty gradual inclines.

The course also does a nice job of going through the different areas of Milwaukee. There are some great views of the lake, some nature areas, historical neighborhoods, and landmarks like Miller Park, MillerCoors brewery, and Harley-Davidson.

I wasn't sure what to expect going into this race. I hurt my right foot a few weeks previously, and had been dealing with some peroneal tendonitis in the opposite ankle that wasn't getting any better, so I finally went to physical therapy. Thankfully the physical therapist cleared me to run, but told me not to expect a PR. I definitely felt some pain in both the right foot and the left ankle, but I don't think they really slowed me down.

Although I knew my foot and ankle would hurt, I tried for a PR anyway. I went into the race with a plan to start out slower than goal pace and then speed up until I was on target by the half marathon point. My mile splits weren't perfectly even, but I generally sped up as the race went on. I got a nice pick-me-up at mile 21 where Laura and Calvin were waiting for me. They were at a great spot because they saw me right as I was headed on the out portion of the out and back section of the Hank Aaron trail, so I got to see them twice.

Blowing kisses to Laura and Calvin
I was feeling pretty good when I went by Laura and Calvin and headed for the turnaround on the Hank Aaron Trail. Unlike last year's race, this year there were a ton of cones and a volunteer at the turnaround. I went around the cones, and despite being at the point of the race where the fatigue starts to set in, my legs still felt good and I was still on pace for a PR.

My watch ticked past mile 22 and I started to wonder just how far off it was going to be on the mile 22 marker. Last year the course was long, and I was hoping that wasn't going to be the case again. Finally, I saw a mile marker up ahead and looked down at my watch. I was almost at 22.5 miles -- I didn't expect to be that far off of mile 22. Then, I got closer and noticed that it was the mile 23 marker. I hadn't seen a mile 22 marker at all.

After that, things are kind of a blur. I don't remember the scenery much, and I know I passed two other runners, but I don't remember where. I hit the mile 24 and 25 markers and they were still half a mile short. I was holding onto hope that the final distance would be correct, but it was not. When I went through the finish, my watch read 25.69 -- not even close to a full marathon distance of 26.2 miles.

I was pretty chilly after finishing, so I put on some warmer clothes from my drop bag, found Laura and Calvin, took a couple pictures, then got my post-race beer. Later, I confirmed on the race's Facebook page that many people had found the course to be short.

Today I got a email from the race organizers confirming that the course was in fact short by about 4,200 feet. There was some miscommunication about the course map and markings, and the turnaround was placed in the wrong spot.

I did some math, and depending on how the organizers decide to adjust times, I may have a new PR. I ran 2:45:03 for the short course. If they adjust the times by simply adding on the 4,200 feet and multiplying by that pace ran through the finish, then my adjusted time will be about 2:50:14, a twelve second PR.

We'll see what happens. I'll keep you in the loop

Run well.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

PNC Milwaukee Marathon: It's Goal Time

After the 2016 Milwaukee Marathon

Last year I was aiming for a shiny new PR at the PNC Bank Milwaukee Marathon, and if the course had been properly marked and measured, I would have had it. I will say, however, that the race organizers did right by me and refunded my entry fee.

This year I'm giving it another shot. Here are my goals:

A. Set a new PR. That means running under 2:50:26

B. Run under three hours

C. Run under 3:05

D. Finish the race

This race is going to be interesting. There are several reasons why I feel like I can meet my "A" goal. First, my training went pretty well. I had a lot of solid workouts, and got a tempo run, speed workout, and long run in every week but one. My mileage was high, and I averaged over sixty miles a week from July 10 to October 1.

There are also several reasons why I might not meet my "A" goal. My speed workouts went well, but my tempo runs were a little slower than before I ran the Milwaukee Marathon last year. Also, I'm a little banged up after smashing my right big toe against a median, as well as having a little tendinitis in my left ankle.

So I don't know what's going to happen. I'm going to try to go out at a conservative pace and slowly speed up to hit the half marathon split right around 1:25:00.

Thanks for all the support and well wishes.

Run well.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Hospital Stays

Twin Cities Marathon the day I was discharged
One year ago this week I was in the hospital (read about it here). It was frustrating because I had been hospitalized just over a year earlier, and before that I hadn't been hospitalized for over eight years. Late summer and early fall are often difficult for me as I tend to experience symptoms of bipolar disorder. Last year it was a depressive state, and in years past it's been mixed states, hypomanic states, and manic states. Read more about it here: Bipolar symptoms and causes - Mayo Clinic.

It'd been a goal to stay out of the hospital ever since my first hospital visit when I was fifteen, back in 1998 when I was hospitalized with an unspecified mental illness. I made it from 1998 until 2002 without being hospitalized. Then, in 2002 I received an official diagnosis of bipolar I, and after being on a consistent medication regiment, I went from 2002 until 2007 without a hospital stay.

Two thousand and seven was my first stay for a major depressive episode. I didn't have health insurance, and I'd stopped taking my medication. At that time my medication cost over $300 a month, and I thought I could make it without it.

Sharing my hospital stays with others had always made me anxious and embarrassed in the past. I didn't want too many people to know about my condition, fearing they would think less of me or treat me differently. Now, I realize my amazing circle of professionals, friends, and family has been nothing but supportive. Instead of making me feel guilty or embarrassed, they've helped me feel loved, supportive, and accepted.

The stigma of mental illness is still real. Following the tragic shooting in Las Vegas, cries have gone up from celebrities and politicians to, "improve access to mental health care." While improving access to mental health care is important, we shouldn't do it because we're afraid of violence from the mentally ill. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
"The vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population." - from MentalHealth.gov
I get it: mental illness can be scary. People with depression can wind up in a place where they are hurting themselves or threatening to hurt themselves. People with schizophrenia can hear or see things others can't. People with bipolar can talk nonstop or share delusions of grandeur.

Though these things can be scary (and in some cases it's appropriate to be scared), the illnesses and the people with these illnesses need not be stigmatized. Part of of stigmatization is silence. I was ashamed of being hospitalized for a long time. I felt I'd failed at keeping myself stable, and although there are factors I can control when it comes to mitigating, coping with, and preventing episodes of  hypomania, mania, and depression, some factors are out of my control.

Higher levels of stress, seasonal changes, and medications that just stop working are all things out of my control. Anticipating and planning for these times are in my control. I'm not perfect at managing, but I try. Still, as much as I work at it, there have still been times when I need to be hospitalized, and there's always a possibility I'll need to be hospitalized again.

Part of breaking the stigmatization for me is being more honest about my condition. It's a difficult balance between oversharing and staying silent when I need help or when I hear people talking about mental illness in a stigmatizing manner--especially when I'm dealing with a high or low patch.

Thankfully, I've been blessed beyond measure with people who love and support me. A year ago when I was in the hospital, I was visited by the pastor of my church, and my wife, and received many phone calls from friends and family.

Mental illness, along with hospital stays, need not be stigmatizing. While some people may create a distance in a relationship when they find out I've been hospitalized for a bipolar cycle, most offer nothing by caring, support, and prayers.

Are there times when I get well-meaning but unwanted advice? Sure. But for the most part all people have offered is a listening ear or asking what they can do to help. And that's usually all someone wants when they're dealing with mental illness -- someone to listen and to support them.

Thank you to all my readers. Knowing you read what I write and know me through this blog makes me feel listened to and appreciated. When I have strangers come to me at a race and talk to me about my blog, it always makes me grateful. And when I hear from friends, family, running buddies, and acquaintances commenting and offering encouragement, I feel supported and cared for.

No hospital stay this October.

Run well.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Peak Week(s) Part 2 - Dances with Medians



I started writing about the second toughest week of my training cycle, but then I thought, who wants to read a glorified training log? What people really want is gore. So gore it is. I drew out the story a bit to give it some drama and stuff. Feel free to skip to the end if you're more interested in the workouts I did the two and three weeks weeks before my marathon.

My first hard workout of the week was on Tuesday. I wanted to watch the Burnsville High School Cross Country Team race that afternoon, so I decided to get my workout done before work.

My run started before 6 AM, and that means it's dark. It was also raining, so I didn't even get that predawn light. I put on a headlamp to deal with the darkness, and a hat to deal with the rain.

The workout involved running two 3.5 mile intervals at 5:55 / mile with one mile of easy running in between. I usually plan my routes to avoid as many stoplights as possible, so I ran an out and back that only had two intersections with lights.

The run was going pretty well when I came to the intersection of Diffley and Johnny Cake Ridge Road. I was about to run a section of Diffley known by runners and cyclists for its lung bursting hills. I needed to go east on Diffley, then south on Pilot Knob (don't we have awesome street names in Eagan?), so I had to cross Diffley.

I could have waited for the light at Johnny Cake and Diffley, but I was in the zone. I decided to turn left on Diffley since the light was red. Then, I could have just waited for the light at Pilot Knob and Diffley, but I figured there was a good chance that would be red too.

There was no sense in breaking my rhythm, so  when I came to a side street I looked back and forth for traffic before crossing. I turned right when I got to Pilot Knob, then turned around back toward Diffley. The light to cross Diffley was red, so I turned left again and figured I'd cross at side street again.

Halfway between Pilot Knob and Johnny Cake there was  a side street. Traffic was clear, so I started to cross. I looked across the street and noticed the side street didn't go through. There's probably a median, I thought, so I shined my headlamp in front me toward the street, but unfortunately my right foot found the median before my headlamp.

I was running fairly fast at that point -- faster than 10 mph, so I stubbed my right toe really hard. I fell face first, mostly on my right forearm, and landed flat in the street. I was able to get back up pretty quickly and resume my run. My foot hut pretty bad and I could tell I'd scraped my forearm and cut my hands.

Thankfully my foot stopped hurting after a few minutes and I was able to continue my workout. When I got home, Laura was in the kitchen. "I think I hurt myself," I said. I showed her my right forearm -- it was pretty torn up. Blood was oozing out of a patch 2.5" long and 1.5" wide starting from my elbow and then in another 3" X 1" section from the middle of my forearm to my wrist.

I also had some road rash on my thighs and scrapes on my hands, but miraculously my chin didn't get cut. My post-run shower was excruciating as I scrubbed street dirt from my wounds. The next day we discovered sand in the bathtub, and after some detective work we realized it had probably stuck to me when I fell in the street and had been rinsed off in the shower,

My running suffered a little the next few days. I did a little jogging at the cross country meet the evening after my fall, and my foot was really bugging me, which made me change my gait, which made my left knee start hurting.

I probably should have taken Wednesday off -- my foot hurt was sore that morning, so I skipped the run. That afternoon, however, my foot was feeling a little better, so I went for a very slow run pushing Calvin in the jogging stroller. I had a streak of over 80 days in a row of running, and I didn't want to break it.

The knee was bothering me through Friday, but fortunately it started feeling better by Saturday. The foot still hurt a little, but it wasn't affecting my running too much.

This past Sunday was my last hard long run of this training cycle. I made it 16 miles with the last eight at marathon pace.

Here's how my peak weeks broke down:

Week 1 Workouts

  •  9.7 miles with 10 minutes at 5:50 / mile, 6 X 400m at 5:25 / mile, 10 minutes at 5:50
  • 10 miles with 8 miles at 6:30 / mile
  • 20 mile long run with a 5k race
  • 82 miles total for the week


Week 2 Workouts

  • 9.4 miles with 2 X 3.5 miles at 5:55 / mile pace and a trip and fall
  • 11.5 miles with 8 miles at 6:30 / mile pace and 2 miles at 5:52 / mile pace
  • 16 mile long run with last 8 miles at 6:29 pace




Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Endurance and Dehydration


I touched on how tough my long run was during my first peak week. The heat index was 88*-- way too hot for the end of September.

Running in the heat really got me dehydrated, and I started to feel nauseous after the run. I thought I'd drank enough -- two full 16 oz bottles of water and a 20 oz Gatorade as well as two stops at a water fountain. Still, it wasn't enough.

I make a habit of weighing myself right away in the morning and then again after a workout to see how much fluid I should replace. I'd lost around nine pounds. It isn't unusual for me to lose 4 - 5 pounds during a long run in the heat, but considering I'd drank a fair amount, nine was pretty high.

Nine pounds might sound like a lot, but elite marathons much lighter than me have lost more. Haile Gebreselassie is reported to have lost 12.5 pounds (almost 10% of his body weight) during the Dubai Marathon in 2009, and other marathoners have lost similar amounts. You can read more about it in, "How Much Do Champion Marathoners Sweat and Drink" from Runner's World.

Traditional advice has been, "if you wait until you're thirsty to drink, you're already dehydrated." In fact, it's actually more dangerous to drink too much water. Hyponatremia is a condition caused by over consumption of water. Your blood sodium can drop dangerously low, and you could experience symptoms like seizures, confusion, or even death. Read more about it in, "Tim Noakes on the Serious Problem of Overhydration in Endurance Sports."

Which brings me back to my run long run in the heat. Since I first read about hyponatremia, I started drinking more to thirst, but I found like I still wasn't getting quite enough fluid. Now, I drink just a little bit more than I'm thirsty for, and I seem to feel better. During the long run in the heat, I didn't have quite enough water to keep up with my thirst. I retrospect, I should have stopped at the water fountain a few more times.

When I got home I was planning on drinking some chocolate milk to replenish lost fluid, carbs and protein, but I didn't think milk would sit well, so I drank some water and Sprite. Unfortunately, it didn't stay down. For the next hour and a half, I tried really hard to keep from throwing up, but it just kept happening. Fortunately, the Sprite started to go down, and then I could start drinking plain water.

So the next time you're working out, remember that thirst is a pretty good indication of how much you should be drinking.

Run well.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Peak Week(s)

Peak weeks are big. They usually involve the most mileage of a training cycle and some of the toughest workouts. Last week was it--Monday through Friday was my peak week for marathon training. Really, I do more like a peak 12 - 14 days, ending by running a hard (but not as long) long run two weeks before the race. I've read that training takes about 8 - 14 days to give a benefit (read this article if you're interested benefit times), so for my last two marathons I did tough long runs two weeks before the race.

My peak week went well, but not as well as I would have hoped. The thing that threw a wrench in the training was a tough long run. I always have at least one bad long run during a training cycle, but it was too bad it happened on the peak week long run.

On the morning of my long run, a buddy came and raced a 5k beforehand (and smoked me), and then we did a cool down jog together and chatted for a bit. After the race and cool down, I had about 11 miles left. I was hoping to run the last 10 miles at marathon goal pace, but after one easy mile and two miles at miles at goal pace, I knew wasn't going to happen. My legs were heavy from a tough week of training. The race also took its toll, and the heat index by the time I finished the run was 88*.

Eagan parkrun 5k without a stroller
So instead of running the last 10 miles at marathon pace, I decided to do two miles at marathon pace and then mix in some goal pace during the last mile. I hit those paces OK, and my pace overall for 20 miles wasn't bad. I was feeling pretty sick afterward, but I'll write about that a bit more in my next post.

Although my long run didn't go great, the workouts earlier in the week did. Both my speed workout and tempo run went well, and I ran just over 80 miles for the week--the most I've run in quite a while. I'll write about my next big week of training in one of my next posts.

Run well.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Metro Wildlife

I've bounced around the idea of doing a weekly post on wildlife, but as I thought about it more, I decided it would get pretty redundant. Yeah, I see a lot of wildlife, but generally it's the same animals throughout the week. So, instead, it seems better to do a little general post about wildlife.



I've already written a couple posts about my various wildlife sightings, although not nearly as many as I would have thought. If you're interested, you can read them here:
A warning: This post is long. Really long. I've been running in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metropolitan Area for over seven years now, so there's a lot of wildlife encounters I've stored up along the way.

One of my favorite parts about running is being outdoors enjoying nature. I wish I could run on un paved trails more often, but for convenience's sake, I usually run on the paved sidewalks and bike paths near my house.

Fortunately for me, even running through suburbia, there's a great deal of wildlife within the Minneapolis and St. Paul metropolitan area. Eagan, where I reside, has ample green space. According to the City of Eagan's website, Eagan has 56 city parks, along with a county park and an adjacent state park. I've run by and through many of these parks, and seen an amazing variety of wildlife within the city limits.

Besides Eagan, I also get around the Twin Cities area for other runs. Many are urban, but even on those routes I often end up running along a lake, river, or stream, through a wooded area, or a restored prairie. In 2011 I did a lot of training in Afton State Park, and have run at several other county and regional parks over the past several years.

I don't have a single favorite place to run--either in general or for seeing wildlife. Some runs in places I'd expect to see wildlife--wooded parks, along rivers--end without seeing much of anything. Other runs--through suburban housing developments or near businesses--bring some of the most interesting wildlife sightings I've had while running through the twin cities.

Here's been some highlights of my year so far, along with some past sightings of note:

Mammals:

I see tons of the two most common city mammals--squirrels and rabbits--as well as the semi-common ones--ground squirrels, chipmunks, muskrats, and deer. This year I've seen lots of all of these animals. Though squirrels aren't generally noteworthy, it is interesting to catch sight of a black or white squirrel. One of the coolest squirrels I saw was black, but it had a reddish brown tail--first time I've seen one like that.

I seem to see deer in spurts. Generally I see them early in the morning or later in the evening. Pretty much anywhere there's a patch of trees--even if it's in the middle of a housing development--there's a chance to see a deer. I've gotten pretty close to several deer. One morning I was running through a residential area, and in some pine trees I encountered three deer no more than forty feet away. All three kept munching on whatever they were eating and only glanced at me, obviously not considering me a threat. The other day a deer stood in the middle of the Minnesota River Bottoms Trail and allowed me to walk within twenty yards.

A little less common are raccoon--especially in the daylight hours--but last week I saw one climbing a giant cottonwood tree. I was running around Blackhawk Lake, and I was admiring a tree that's about twenty feet taller than any of the other trees. It just so happened that a raccoon was making her way up the tree as I was looking. I took a second lap around the lake, and when I came by the next time, several park goers had stopped to watch the raccoon moving on the cottonwood's thick trunk.

Beaver are another less common mammal to see--especially within the metro, but they can be spotted in some of our lakes and in the tributaries of the Minnesota and Mississippi. I see signs of beaver--houses, dams, felled trees with the tell-tale beaver gnaw mark--all the time when I run on the Fort Snelling Trail in Eagan, but seeing an actual beaver is pretty rare.

Some mammals I haven't spotted have in the past include a long tailed weasel, red fox, and coyote. The weasel was in Lebanon Hills Regional Park, and I saw it last spring. In was jumping in and out of some brush next to the trail about twenty yards ahead of me. It was pretty cool as I'd never seen a weasel before.

The fox was in what I would consider to be a pretty unlikely place. Central Park in Eagan is not a very "woodsy" park, geared more toward the playground, picnic areas, band shell, and outdoor workout equipment. Still, one evening as I was running near Central Park, a fox appeared on a small hill in one of the fields adjacent to the park. I've only seen a few foxes in the wild, and this one was by far the prettiest. It had a thick, auburn coat with black and white patches on its fur, and it seemed well-fed and healthy. Though I've unfortunately seen some roadkill foxes since, that's the only live one I've seen in Eagan.

Though I've read that there are quite a few coyotes in the metro area, I've only seen a couple. Once I was running on the Highline Trail in Eagan early one morning,. About twenty yards ahead of me a coyote was just standing in the middle of the trail. It stared at me for a while, and I stopped running to take a look at it. The other time I saw a coyote was when Laura and I were running early--before the sun came up--and a coyote was right next to the sidewalk just outside a copse of trees and a drainage pond. Pretty neat. Most recently I saw a coyote running out of a cemetery while I was coaching and running with the Burnsville High School Cross Country team.

Probably the coolest mammal I've seen was a river otter. On the way to the FANS 12 and 24 Hour Race to run a few laps with a couple buddies, I ran past some river backwaters in Fort Snelling State Park. In a pool of water near Lake Snelling, a river otter was floating on its back.


Birds:

I could go on for pages about birds. My friends know me as a little bit of a bird nerd--not only do I actively look for birds when hiking, running, walking, driving, canoeing, or doing pretty much anything outdoors, I also have several bird feeders in my yard.

This post is already outlandishly long, but, as always, feel free to skip the next several paragraphs if you think watching birds is a waste of time, and reading about them is even worse.

There's an amazing variety of birds in the twin cities metro area; raptors, songbirds, and waterfowl are some of the major groups.

I really enjoy seeing raptors when I run. Some of the most interesting are the sharp-shinned, red-tail and Cooper's hawks, barred owls, and bald eagles. The other day I was running on a trail that passes through a wooded area interspersed with some marsh, and on a fallen branch within a few yards of a trail were a crow and a Cooper's hawk. It happened to be one of the few times I was running with my iPod, so I attempted to get a picture. The crow flew away as soon as I stopped, but the hawk moved to a higher branch. Unfortunately, by the time I had the iPod out and the camera turned on, the hawk was gone.

Bald eagle sightings are common. Generally I see them soaring in the skyline, but occasionally they're doing something interesting while airborne. I've witnessed a few engaged in mid-flight acrobatics. Just the other day, I saw an eagle carrying some type of mammal--possibly a rabbit or muskrat. Besides airborne eagles, I occasionally see eagles perched in trees or nests. On a run on a Fort Snelling riverside trail, a fledgling bald eagle squawked, presumably signaling its eagle parents that it was time to eat.

Songbirds are another of my favorites. Scarlet tanagers, indigo buntings, Baltimore orioles, cardinals, and various warblers always add nice splashes of color to runs.

A couple years ago was a particularly good year for bird sightings. I saw good amount of birds less common to my part of the metro including pelicans, an indigo bunting, and a cormorant. I've also seen lots of the semi-common birds like oriels, northern flickers, cat birds, yellow warblers, and ruby-throated humming birds.I also spotted a couple pileated woodpeckers.

I always have my eyes open for birds--scanning the trunks of oaks and cottonwoods along the Minnesota River for hairy, downy, and red-breasted woodpeckers; gazing into the distance at the sound of a pileated woodpecker; squinting into the sky wondering what waterfowl or raptor is soaring above my head.

Reptiles

Spring and early summer are a particularly good time for spotting reptiles. Snapping turtles leave the wetlands to lay their eggs on higher ground. Western painted turtles sun themselves on logs and rocks in lakes and ponds. Garner, bull, and fox snakes warm themselves on bike paths and sidewalks.

I never tire of watching a painted turtle stretch its head out, its neck reflecting translucent rainbow hues. Or of a snapping turtle crossing a sidewalk or sitting by its edge, laying its eggs in soft dirt, ready to snap out with powerful jaws at careless observers.

Once, I was running down Blue Cross Blue Shield Road. Across the street from Blue Cross is a large pond. A small snapping turtle had made its way from the pond and up to the sidewalk and decided that the best place to dig its nest was about six inches from the sidewalk. As I ran by, I gave the turtle a wide berth.

...

Some people avoid being alone with their thoughts as they run, or, worse yet, thinking about the running itself. More often the not, runners I pass have earbuds, presumably listening to music, podcasts, or, less likely, recorded books.

I don't mind occasionally listening to music, an audio book, or a podcast, though I mainly distract myself with such things in the winter while running indoors. Occasionally, as I put in more miles and longer runs by myself, I'll take along my iPod and listen to something once or twice per week.

Still, I prefer focusing on my surroundings, and, if at all possible, nature. The varied colors of the sky, the many hues of green in the spring and summer woods, giving way to splashes of auburn, maroon, and reds in the fall--these sights along with the accompanying animals--whether mammal, bird, or reptile--all add to the experience of a run, quieting my inner monologue as I make my way down paths and trails, streets and sidewalks.

Thanks for reading.

Happy running.


Friday, September 1, 2017

Goal Reviews

I maybe should have done this halfway through the year, but I thought I'd come back to my goals to give some progress.

Goal 1: Set a PR at the marathon distance.
  • A PR at Grandma's didn't come close to happening. Illness kept me from training well, but I did manage to run a BQ time of 3:04. 
  • I'm taking another shot at a marathon PR at the PNC Bank Milwaukee Marathon in October.
Goal 2: Break 17 minutes in the 5K.
  • I've run one 5K, and it was in 17:38, so I was nowhere close. 
  • I've been having some better 5K paced workouts, so I think I might have a shot at my next 5K.
Goal 3: Set a new indoor mile PR.
  • This is the one I'm closest to. I ran a 4:55 in January and my PR is 4:52.
  • I might give this another shot in December.
The running season is winding down, and I've only got one more shot at a marathon PR and likely only one more shot at an indoor mile PR. Meeting all three goals will be a stretch, but I'm optimistic.

I'm also going to track my goals a little differently from past years. Since I only have three goals, I'm going to use percentages, so here's how I stand on percentages of goals met:

Marathon PR: My PR stands at 2:50:28, and I ran 3:04:26 at Grandma's, so that gives me 94% of my PR.

Break 17 minutes in the 5K: A 17:38 puts me at 96% of breaking 17.

Set a new indoor mile PR: My PR is 4:52, and I ran a 4:55 in January, so that puts me at 98.9% of my goal.

Looking at my goals this way, I feel a lot better. Although I'm zero for three in meeting my goals all out, I'm averaging 96.3% of meeting my goals.

Tomorrow I run a 5K. It's a pretty casual affair, so I'll probably be running by myself for the whole race. Although it's pretty much going to be a solo time trail, if I run smart I'll have a pretty good shot at breaking 17 minutes.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Another Shot

It's been over a month since I've posted a blog, but I've resolved to do better.

Sometimes, things don't go as planned. Last fall, I was hoping to train hard enough to set a new personal record in the marathon. Also, I was planning on that training cycle being my last try at a marathon PR. Training for a marathon is time consuming. It's not just the weekend long run that can chew up close to three hours--it's also all those days trying to carve out an uninterrupted hour for a training run. Put on top of that some more time for injury prevention exercises, and you're looking at a significant commitment.

During my peak weeks of training for a marathon, I'm putting in between seven and nine hours just running. That doesn't count the time spent getting ready for a run, supplemental exercises, or driving to run somewhere else. So, I figured last fall would be my final go at setting a marathon PR.

Things didn't go as planned. You can read about it in my PNC Bank Milwaukee Marathon race reports. The short version of those reports is that the race was mis-marked, and as a result I ended up covering around thirty miles.

Coming up short of a PR would have been one thing. I told myself that I'd be satisfied with giving it my best effort and coming up short. The thing was, if the course had been marked properly, I would have set a PR. Instead, my official time was over four hours (I haven't even looked it up).

The only silver lining was that I set a new half marathon PR at a build up race during the training cycle, but otherwise it was pretty disappointing.

So, I decided I'd give a PR attempt another shot. Running on an erroneous course didn't seem like I had a fair attempt at a PR, so I set my sights on a PR at Grandma's Marathon. You can read what happened there, but again, things didn't go as planned. Some sort of gastrointestinal issue severely curtailed my training, so by the time the race came a PR was out of the question.

I could have called it quits after Grandma's. Maybe I should call it quits, but I can't help but think I still have one more PR marathon left in me, and I still want a shot at it. I decided to give the PNC Bank Milwaukee Marathon another shot, mainly because it's late enough in the season that I could recover from Grandma's and still have a good training cycle, and because we have some good friends in Milwaukee.

My official training plan started after I finished coaching the Burnsville Cross Country summer running program, but during that time I was running with them almost every day, so it wasn't like I was doing nothing until the plan started. I don't think I'm in quite as good of shape as I was at this point in my last training cycle, but my mileage is high (for me) and my workouts are getting faster.

 I'm crossing my fingers that everything falls into place--that I avoid illness and injury, that the course is properly marked and measured, and that the weather is favorable for fast times.

Run well.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Grandma's Marathon: Race Report

Near the finish of Grandma's Marathon

Grandma's Marathon weekend was supposed to be a PR race. After training hard to set a PR at the Milwaukee Marathon last November and having a mis-marked course thwart that PR attempt, I decided to try again for a PR in a spring marathon.

Unfortunately, several weeks into my Grandma's Marathon training, I knew I wasn't going to set a new personal record there either. In the first three months of my training for Grandma's, I dealt with a gastrointestinal issue that reduced my running to two or three days a week as opposed to my normal six or seven. Three months is about 75% of a training cycle, so a PR was out of the question by the time I was feeling better.

So, back to Grandma's Marathon. My weekend started with a ride to Duluth from my friend Brittany. Her, her twins, and I drove through horrendous traffic from Eagan to Duluth. We got to the expo as vendors were beginning to close down, but still within plenty of time to pick up my packet.
After a delicious dinner provided graciously by Brittany's sister-in-law, we talked about running. There were quite a few of us there, and four of us were running the marathon the next day: Brittany's sister-in-law Madeline, and her in-laws, Jen and Wayne. We then settled down for the evening to get some sleep for an early morning.

That morning we all grabbed a quick breakfast and made a short walk to the bus. The ride to the start was in a coach bus rather than the standard school bus, and it was nice to have a comfy ride. At the start was my only complaint about the race: long lines for the porta potties. I was in line for almost forty minutes, and made it to the start line with about five minutes to spare.

My plan for the race was to go out at about a 7:00 - 7:10 first mile and see how I felt from there. Instead, I came out at about a 6:45. I thought to myself, hey, that didn't feel so bad, so I decided I might as well go for a sub three hour finish--about 6:52 a mile.

The course was nice--more rolling hills than I expected, but scenic. There were nice views of forest, rivers, and Lake Superior, as well as the singing of white-throated sparrows. Along the way to the finish, I saw about half-a-dozen people I knew either running or spectating. As we got closer to Duluth, there were more and more spectators along the course, which gave a nice boost.

One thing that was bothering me was the outside of my right ankle. It'd been giving me a little trouble off and on throughout my training cycle, and about seven miles into the marathon it began to hurt--especially when I was running on the cant on the left side of the road. After a while, it felt almost as if a tendon was flapping around in there, but after several miles of discomfort, it pretty much faded away.

With the scenery and the ample runners, the miles really ticked by. Then, it started to warm up. The race had started overcast, but it wasn't long before the sun came out. At that point, I really started to feel the humidity as well. The heat had me drinking more than I had in any previous marathon. Every aid station I would grab a drink of water, then a drink of Powerade, then another drink of water. When I could, I would grab a cup of ice to and pour water or Powerade in that.

By mile 21 it'd become clear I wasn't going to break three hours. Though I'd slowed a little, I was still on pace for a sub-three, but my legs were telling me it wasn't going to happen. For a while I thought maybe a 3:02 would be possible, but I soon gave up on that as well.

By mile 23, I'd decided to be satisfied with a Boston qualifying finish of under 3:05 (later I learned my BQ time is actually 3:10). I came through the finish at 3:04:26, so mission accomplished.

After the race I ran into a running buddy and we chatted for awhile. He hadn't hit his time goal, mainly due to the heat. After we talked, I headed to the food. Unfortunately, my stomach began to hurt. I ate a fourth of a bagel, then gave away my drink ticket to a grateful stranger.

I lay in the grass for about ten minutes, then headed over to find Brittany and her family. I checked on them, watched Jen and Wayne finish, then walked over to a park bench to lie down. An hour or so later, I went over to watch again, but right away I began to feel nauseous. I went back to my bench to rest so more, then made another try at watching the finish. I didn't make it long, and a few minutes later I threw up into a storm drain.

At that point I felt fine. I watched Madeline finish, then we went over to a restaurant near Madeline's house where I had a big dinner.

All in all it was a fun weekend. I did about as well as I thought I could considering my horrible training, and ran my first Boston qualifying time since 2014. Now it's on to my next marathon this fall.








Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Back from a long hiatus

For anyone still following my blog(s), you may have noticed that I haven't posted for months. This was not really intentional--it just sort of happened.

The main reasons I stopped blogging was that my running wasn't going well and that I just wasn't interested.

So, this will just be a quick update, and I'll let you know what's in store for my blogging future. First, the update:

This past year both Laura and I have had some health problems. Thankfully we're both recovered, but for a while things were a little on the hectic side.

My issue was some sort of gastrointestinal problem that had me nauseous almost every day, and sick enough to throw up at least once a week. After numerous visits with doctors and several tests, I was never given a diagnosis. Fortunately, the issue has largely cleared up on its own, so for the last month I've been doing pretty well.

A month, however, is not enough time to get in a good marathon training cycle. For the first three months of my training cycle, I was only running three days most weeks as opposed to the six or seven days I'd normally run during a training cycle. The only fortunate part of my training was that I was usually feeling well enough on Saturday or Sunday to get in a long run (though I was often feeling too sick to run on the other day), and I only missed one long run the whole cycle.

With a terrible training cycle (if you could even call it a training cycle), I had a hard time deciding a race plan for Grandma's Marathon. In my next post, I'll write a quick race report to let you know how it went.

On to my blogging future:

I'm going to continue this blog, which will be mostly about running, but will definitely have some other stuff thrown in as well. The big change I'm making is retiring my coaching blog. I'll still do some coaching, but I won't be advertising or seeking new clients. I'll leave the blog up, so if anyone wants to read any of the posts or contact me about coaching--great.

That's all for now. Run well.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

There's ice ahead and other setbacks

Last week was supposed to be the first week of my training plan for Grandma's Marathon. Unfortunately, it didn't go so well.

Two weeks ago, I went on a final longish run before my official training plan started. It was beautiful in Minnesota--warm enough that I was wearing shorts, a long sleeve, and no gloves. My plan was to run somewhere around ten miles.

The run started out great. That morning we had taken little one-year-old Calvin to baby swimming lessons at the YMCA, so I threw my bag in the car and ran home while Laura drove Calvin. The YMCA is only four miles from our house, so I headed south to run in a u-shape to hit ten miles or so.

I wanted to run a hilly route, which is easy to do in Eagan, but I wanted a really hilly route. There's this nice paved trail called The Highline Trail that has two really steep hills and a couple more gentler ones, so I decided to run there.

 Besides the hills, the other nice thing about running on The Highline Trail is its beauty. It goes through a restored prairie and by a couple of ponds, so there are often birds, turtles (not so much in the winter) and deer to be seen. Though it's not as pretty in the winter, it's still nicer than running along one of Eagan's busy streets.

So, as I was enjoying the hills and the beauty, I came up on a group of walkers. "Watch out," one said. "There's ice ahead."

"Thanks," I said.

The walker wasn't kidding. At the top of a hill there was a twenty foot section of ice shaded by the trees. In my infinite wisdom I thought, OK, I'll just run this section really slowly--I'll keep my strides short so I don't fall. It was a brilliant plan.

Or not. After a few strides, my feet flew from underneath me and down I went. I was able to keep my head up, so I didn't get knocked out, but my back, glute, and pelvis didn't fare so well. I landed hard on my right side, slid about five feet, and came to rest. I'd landed sort of on my lower back, slightly to the right, so the bulk of the force went through the top of my pelvis, my glute, and my lower back--all on the right side.

Unfortunately I was still three miles from home. So, I hobble-ran the last two miles, which gave me pain in my hamstring the next day.

Due to my stupidity, I had to take an entire week off of running--which really stunk because we had amazing weather for three of those days.

But, I was thinking it wasn't a huge deal because my marathon training plan didn't start until the next week. Then, another setback.

Last Saturday night I started feeling nauseous, and by Monday, the first day of my training plan, I wasn't any better. Stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting kept bothering me, and last week I only felt good enough to run on Tuesday and missed the entire rest of the week.

Yesterday I finally went to urgent care, and the doctor there sent me to the ER. At the ER, after a CT scan, they diagnosed me with colitis. They gave me some prescriptions for medications for the nausea and stomach pain along with an antibiotic for the colitis.

They also gave me some medication in for the nausea through an IV, and after the third try and second different medication, my stomach finally felt better. After getting out of the ER I was able to eat real food for the first time in four days.

I took the nausea and stomach pain medications this morning, and as of right now I'm feeling pretty good. I'm optimistic that I'll actually get to start training for Grandma's this coming week.

Run well.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Unplugged


Social media use can lead to depression. You heard me right--that mindless scrolling, looking at your friends' pictures, political postings, and status updates can leave you depressed. According to an article from Forbes.com, "Research Links Heavy Facebook And Social Media Usage To Depression," researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have found a link between a high amount of social media use and depression.The study states that, "highly idealized representations of peers on social media elicits feelings of envy and the distorted belief that others lead happier, more successful lives."

One thing I enjoy about running is the ability to be unplugged. Sure, I sometimes listen to podcasts, recorded books, and watch T.V. on the treadmill, but for the most part I run sans technology. Running unplugged takes me away from the informational stream of social media--Facebook in my case. I wouldn't call myself a heavy user, but I use it often enough that it definitely affects me.

Running unplugged helps me clear my head. I'm not reading news articles posted by Facebook friends. I'm not scrolling mindlessly through my Facebook feed, looking at people's status updates and photos. Instead, I'm spending time in motion, enjoying the outdoors, and being able to think without the "noise" of technology.

Regardless of whether you run or not, I encourage you to spend some time unplugged. It's nice to have a mental break.

Run well.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Running Books: Fiction and Biographies

Though I've written some posts about running books before, I thought I'd share some books runners (and non-runners) may enjoy. For my non-running readers, I'll share some fiction and biographies, and memoir first. Though avid running readers would most likely enjoy all of these books, non-runners would likely enjoy several as they are well-written and tell good stories.

Once a Runner series
by John L. Parker Jr.
These books include "Once a Runner," "Again to Carthage," and "Racing the Rain." "Once a Runner" is a cult classic among runners--a well written novel about a collegiate runner, Quenton Cassidy, striving to reach the top of his sport.

"Again to Carthage," the sequel, follows Cassidy several years after his collegiate career as he tries to make the Olympic team in the marathon.

"Racing the Rain," the prequel to "Once a Runner," chronicles Cassidy's athletic endeavors in middle and high school as Cassidy moves from basketball to running as his primary sport.

You don't have to be a runner (though it helps) to enjoy these well-written novels. The characters are believable and the story is engaging. I read the novels in order of when they were written, but it may be more interested to read them in chronological order, starting with "Racing the Rain" and ending with "Again to Carthage."

The Perfect Mile
by Neal Bascomb
"The Perfect Mile" tells the story of three runners racing to break the four minute barrier in the mile. It follows Wes Santee, Roger Bannister, and John Landy attempting the break the elusive four minute mark, less than 60 seconds around a track four times.

Duel in the Sun
byJohn Brandt
"Duel in the Sun" tells the stories of Dick Beardsley and Alberto Salazar, framing the story leading up to and after the 1982 Boston Marathon, know as "the duel in the sun." This book is very well-written, and you'll enjoy it whether you know who one the race or not.

Born to Run
by Christopher McDougall
"Born to Run" is a story both of adventure and of barefoot running. The author, along with several friends and acquaintances, head to Mexico to visit and run with the Tarahumara, a native Mexican tribe known for their distance running. This book sparked the barefoot running phenomenon, and though barefoot running has somewhat faded from the trend of "barefoot" running shoes, it still enjoys a popular niche in the running (and walking) communities.


http://running.competitor.com/2015/10/lists/the-25-greatest-running-books-of-all-time_138463

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Favorite Running Movies: Dramas/Comedies


This category is tough. Unlike the biopics and documentaries, running is not the main component of all these films. There are a few films that some include in running movies where I don't think running is an important enough part of the plot to include them like, "Marathon Man," where although Dustin Hoffman's character is a runner, that part of the plot doesn't seem very important.

There are others, however, that might not come to mind when you think about running movies, but I included them because I don't think they'd be the same movies without running. Feel free to comment on those I left out or those I included.

Saint Ralph
I thought this one was funny and somewhat heartwarming. Ralph is a troubled boy who's mother is in a comma, and he basically lives alone while attending a Catholic school. He finds running as a way to cope, and becomes connected with a former marathon running priest who trains Ralph to run the Boston Marathon. While the plot is a stretch at times, especially in the race itself, and though parts of the film are crass, "Saint Ralph" is definitely entertaining.

Forrest Gump
Running is one of the most important parts of this film--don't even argue on this one. Forrest gets into college, becomes a military hero, and  gains national attention because of running. What would "Forrest Gump" be without Forrest's run across America? Without his famous line, "Ever since that day, I was run-en!"

Run Fat Boy, Run
This film employs the quirky humor of Simon Pegg as he attempts to train for and complete the London Marathon--in a span of about three weeks. This film is entertaining, though parts are completely unbelievable, such as Pegg's character and rival running at the front of the race with the elite athletes for far too long. On my best day I could maybe run one mile of a marathon with elite athletes, and Pegg seems able to run with them for a decent stretch on three weeks of training. Pegg's attempting to complete the race to earn back the respect of his ex-fiancee and mother of his child, and after Pegg stops running with the elites, the rest of his race is actually pretty entertaining.

Across the Tracks
"Across the Tracks" features a very young Brad Pitt as a half miler on a quest to win the county championship and earn a scholarship to Stanford. His younger, troubled brother has just returned from juvenile detention, and although is initially met with hostility from his brother, he also begins running for his track team. This one is a little cheesy in parts, but the running scenes are actually pretty decent and the story is entertaining enough that you might enjoy it if you're a runner.

Running on the Edge
In this Bruce Dern film, Dern plays a runner unfairly banned who sets his sights on winning an iconic mountain race 20-some years later. The race is age-handicapped, so Dern's character has a chance of winning. The race itself is based on the the famous Dipsea race, and Dern plays a compelling runner. The race itself plays out like a Jock Semple/Kathrine Switzer scenario with an angry director trying to remove a runner from "his" race.

The Jericho Mile
This one's fun if not purely for the 70s lingo. Set in a prison, a talented runner is spotted by prison officials who see his talent, set up a race for him, and try to get him entered into the Olympic trials. If you can get over the pure 1970s feel of this movie, the running scenes are actually decent and the story isn't awful.




Friday, January 6, 2017

It's Goal Time 2017

Last year I didn't set any goals on my blog for the first time in several years. My lack of goal setting was partially due to my my lack of success in 2014 and 2015. Instead, I decided to set a couple of private goals, and I met one officially and another unofficially. The three goals I'd set for myself was running under 17 minutes in a 5k, and setting PRs in the marathon and half marathon.

I didn't meet the goal of running under 17 minutes for the 5k. I only ran one 5k in July, and though I likely would have run under 17 minutes if the weather had been more cooperative, my time off from running in June and the first week of July had me in less than peak shape. It was the only 5k I ran, so I never gave myself another chance to break 17 minutes.

My goal of setting a marathon PR was unofficially met. You can read all about the debacle that was the Milwaukee Marathon (parts one, two, and three), but suffice to say I ended up covering almost 30 miles. I took a split at the 26.46 mark, figuring that would be about right considering GPS correction and not running the tangents perfectly. My unofficial split at that point was a PR, so I unofficially met my marathon PR goal.

As for my half marathon goal, I officially met that one, running a PR time of 1:16:09. Everything came together at the City of Lakes Half Marathon. I was in good shape, had a good day racing, and the weather was almost perfect. It felt good to set a PR in the half marathon, especially since my last half marathon PR was over four years ago.

So there's the rundown of my 2016 goals. Three goals seemed like a good amount, so I'll do the same of 2017.

Goal 1: Set a PR at the marathon distance. I'll be running Grandma's Marathon in June, a marathon that won't be in danger of having a mis-marked course. I'm hoping for good weather since running in the heat is tough after training in cold and cool weather in Minnesota's winter and spring.

Goal 2: Break 17 minutes in the 5k. I'm looking to run a 5k in February, and if the weather is decent I'll have a shot. If it's too cold, I'll probably try to run a 5k in the fall.

Goal 3: Set a new indoor mile PR. I'm running a mile race in less than a week, and my training has been going pretty well. I'll have to break 4:52, and I think that based on my training I've got a chance.

These should all be doable goals. I'm looking forward to a great 2017!

Happy Running!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Year in Review

This year was the most eventful year of my life, and included the biggest life change ever--a new baby. Calvin is almost a year old, and it's been an amazing year. Being a father is sometimes challenging, but it's worth every minute. I won't break down every month with Calvin, and since this is a (mostly) running blog, I'll write a bit about my running and racing.


January
Our lives changed forever when we were blessed with a healthy baby boy on January 22. Calvin seems to be doing something new nearly every day, and though it's been almost a year, I still feel like a new parent.

February and March
February and March brought a lot of visitors eager to meet Calvin. We were also blessed with a lot of support from friends and our young adult group through church who brought us lots of meals. In March we got to see lots of friends and family at Calvin's baptism.


As far as running goes, I ran the Lake Johanna 4 Mile. I wasn't in as good of shape as I was at the beginning of 2015 and was over two minutes slower than the year before, but I still had fun.

April
In April my running started to pick up. I trained pretty consistently starting the end of February, and I came up just short of a PR at the 25k distance on a terribly cold and windy day at the Ron Daws 25k. I got to enjoy going out for drinks and talking to a couple running buddies after the race.

In March I ran my first ever Mudball 4 Mile race, and took second overall. Even better than that, Laura and Calvin came to watch me run.


May and June
May was a busy month for running. I paced the Valley Fair, Minnetonka, and Fargo half marathons. I also got in the most running I had for the year, logging 276 miles. In June, I paced the Lake Waconia Half Marathon. At the end of June, I took it a little easier with running and reduced my mileage and took some extra days off. I wanted to be fresh going into my marathon training.

July and August
July brought a lot of fun. We had a Hill family reunion (my mom's side of the family), a trip to a lake house with Laura's side of the family, and Calvin turned six months old.

Hill cousins
Calvin also got his first haircut. He was completely calm during his haircut, and he sure was handsome when it was finished.


As far as running goes, July started my official training plan for the Milwaukee Marathon. I also ran a 5k, Juliette's Race, with goal of running under 17 minutes. The weather didn't cooperate as it was very hot and humid, and I missed my goal by just under 10 seconds.



August brought me into the thick of marathon training. I ran every day of the month besides the first, and put in over 260 miles, averaging over 60 miles a week.

September and October
In September I raced my one half marathon in 2016, the City of Lakes Half Marathon, and came away with a shiny new PR of 1:16:08. It felt pretty good to set a PR as my previous PR was over four years ago in 2012.


October brought my low of the year, being hospitalized for symptoms of bipolar just over a year after my last hospitalization. Though it was a bummer, it resulted in some adjustments to my medications which have now become even more effective. It also led me to a therapy skills group where I learned more strategies to manage and prevent future bipolar episodes.

November and December
In November I raced my first marathon in over a year, the PNC Bank Milwaukee Marathon. I had high hopes for the race, but due to a turnaround that wasn't well-marked I ran over three miles extra, and I missed out on an official PR. My unofficial split when I had run 26.46 miles was good enough for a PR, but since it wasn't official I'm going to try for a PR again this spring at Grandma's Marathon.


Though the race was disappointing, we did have a good time in Milwaukee visiting some friends.

December brought some nice holiday fun including our annual Christmas party with Laura's side of the family in Eagan. Unfortunately we were unable to make it to Rochester on Christmas Day due to weather, but we did get to stay with her family for several days after Christmas and celebrate then.

December also brought me to my second highest mileage total for the year. I ran over 2,300 miles in 2016, only about 100 miles short of my all-time highest year in 2011.

All in all, 2016 was a great year. A new baby has brought so much joy to our lives, and we got to do many fun things with friends and family. I'm looking forward to another great year in 2017.

Looking Ahead to 2017
We don't have any big trips or vacations planned for 2017, but I know it's going to be an eventful year. Calvin will turn one in January, and soon he'll be walking and talking. He'll also start going to Laura's school in September--another big change.

As far as blogging goes, I'm planning on writing more about my challenges and successes with bipolar, sharing a bit of my story.

Happy New Year!