Tag Archives: running goal

Skunk Cabbage Half: Race Report

On Sunday 4/8/2018 I ran the Skunk Cabbage Half Marathon. Four months into 2018 I am running my first race. I generally don’t sign up for cold weather races because while I don’t necessarily mind running in the cold I like it to be by my choosing on my terms. I don’t really like to have the obligation of having to run on this day particular day where the forecast is for cold weather. Last year I ran the Skunk Cabbage Half in shorts and a T-shirt and it was so sunny that I ended up with a sunburn by the end of the race.

I realize it is early April and anything can happen with the weather but this year the weather was slightly different. The forecast was for about 30 degrees at the time of the start of the race. So dress was a little different for this race. I was wearing tights and three layers of shirts and a hat and gloves as well. After three miles the sun was actually starting to peak out a little and I felt a little warm and contemplated taking my hat and gloves off. I decided against it as it seemed possible I would just end up having to put them back on later and I didn’t want to have to worry about fussing with things and possibly slowing myself down unnecessarily.

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Keeping the gloves on was the right choice as by mile seven snow squalls moved in and there was on and off snow for the rest of the race. I have run int he snow, but I have never raced in the snow, especially when I am trying to run a fast race for me. At times the snow and wind were blowing right into your face. The snow just driving right into you pelting you and feeling like little ice bullets. It was not even possible to look straight ahead because the snow would literally hit you right in the eyes if you didn’t have glasses on which I did not. This was not a condition I had anticipated. It was snowing hard enough and directionally enough that just one side of your body would be coated in snow. By the end of the race the roads were wet and my feet were wet. It almost felt like I have run a trail race. Running in that kind of weather at a race was a new experience for me and even though I managed it ok, I would prefer not to do it again.

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The next part of the event that I had to navigate for me was my photography. I have been photographing and writing about my running especially my 50k training as a way to document my experiences. This race is in the midst of  my 50k training and was a good opportunity to get a sense of my overall running fitness even though a half marathon is nothing like a trail ultra marathon. I really wanted to have a camera with me to document the race so I could have photograph to accompany my writing. I debated if I should even take a camera with me for fear of using it and slowing myself down and self sabotaging my effort at a goal time at this race. I did end up bringing my GoPro with me and carrying it with me during the race, however I did not take it out and photograph anything until after I crossed the finish line. So all the photos here are after I finished the race.

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And now we come to it. The actual running of the race. How did the race itself and the actual running go for me? The first three miles had me a little nervous. I felt ok but I had a really difficult time settling into a pace. I was either too fast or too slow. I could not get on track. The vast majority of my training has been at a slow pace to build mileage for long distances. It took some mental effort to make my legs move faster. There was a time when I felt good and settled in and then my watch buzzed at me and I checked and I was running a 10 minute mile pace. That is a full minute slower than the pace I needed for my goal. so after that I knew I had to be much more conscious of my pace and really pay attention.

The real challenge to this race is the course itself. It is a relatively hilly course with 500 ft of elevation gain. So it isn’t really possible, at least not for me to plan to just run one steady pace the whole way. There would be times on the uphills I would be too slow and times on the downhills I would be too fast. My goal was to just check in at my mile splits and make sure I was on pace at each mile and adjust accordingly. As it turns out I had only two 1 mile split times where I was over 9 minute miles which is the pace I needed to hit my goal of a sub 2 hour time.

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My previous best for a half marathon was 2 hr 15 min and with all my training the past year I was pretty sure I would beat that relatively easily, baring injury. What I really wanted was not just a PR I wanted that sub 2 hr time.

So can training for a 50k increase your fitness enough that you can PR at a half marathon and hit a new and challenging goal for yourself. The answer for me, a middle of the pack runner, is yes. Improving my overall fitness and endurance through 50k training was enough for me to run a half marathon 20 minutes faster than I ever had previously at an official race.

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I achieved my goal of a sub 2 hour half marathon with a time of 1:55. I ran better than I every expected. More importantly I felt better than I ever expected. This was the best I had ever felt at a race. This is the first time I have ever been working through an official training plan and the benefits are pretty clear. I felt good the whole race. I was even able to speed up for the last three miles. I ran mile 13 at a 7:57 pace. That seems like a near miracle for me and what my running is normally like as far as speed goes. Having enough left in the tank to run that fast at the end of a half marathon is unheard of for me. Usually I am limping across at the finish getting passed by people. This time coming down the stretch I was passing other people. It makes me think I could have actually run a little faster. So maybe the future holds more room for improvement at the half marathon distance for me. But I am extremely happy with this accomplishment and extremely happy with how I have felt before, during, and after this race. I could not have done it without the support of my wife and my friends who have supported me on this journey.

 

Planning for Skunk Cabbage Half

In three days I will be running the Skunk Cabbage Half for the second time. This wil be the first time I have run a race with a very specific time goal I want to achieve. I have been training hard ever since the last time I ran this race and I am in the best shape of my life. That said I am still nervous. What if I fail?

I have only run four official half marathons, but I have run many half marathon or greater distance fun runs or training runs. I ran a recent training run where my Garmin reported a half marathon PR of 2 hr 2 min. So I know this goal is within my grasp. I think that is part of what makes me nervous about this race. I feel like I should accomplish this. I have this expectation of myself now.

I have worked harder and ran more miles in the last three months than I ever have in my short running life. But the training has not been for a half marathon. The training has been for a trail 50k with 6,000 ft of elevation. Will that kind of training translate into a half marathon PR for me. I guess we will have to see. But I think it will.

I think it helps that my actual official half marathon PR is 2 hours and 15 minutes. So, if nothing else I should at least PR. I rarely run a half marathon distance in that time frame these days unless I am intentionally running at a slower pace. So my A goal is a sub 2 hr half at Skunk Cabbage and my B goal is to at least PR which I believe is a gimme as long as I don’t get hurt. I am probably jinxing myself right at this moment typing those words.

The other issue I have been debating in my head is do I want to bring my camera? I have been documenting and photographing as many races and training runs as I can and have been increasing that as part of my 50k training documentation. If I bring my camera I don’t want to get distracted taking photographs and lose time and cost me my chance to reach my goals. But it would be nice to have my camera in case the race does not go as planned. It will be easier for me to enjoy a race that goes off the rails if I have my camera with me and I can at least take some photos and find other ways to keep myself positive.

So I think the conclusion is bring the camera but commit to only taking it out for pre-race and post race photos unless something goes wrong and I will not hit my goals. Then I can take out the camera and document what is going on. That seems to be a good compromise that will not compromise my goals.

I will likely write a race report after the race. Look forward to reporting back. Wish me luck.

This Run Almost Didn’t Happen

Training for an ultra marathon has been a lot of work. The first race I’ve ever done any official training plan and I picked a doosey. The have been challenges along the way, but today was a big one.

Today was the closest I have come to not running at all on a day that my training plan has me scheduled for a run. I was mentally exhausted after a long day at work. I was hungry. I was tired. I just needed to eat and sit for a minute.

I nuked some rice and beans and ate it quickly. Then I just wanted to sit back and close my eyes for a minute. My eyes were burning and my brain was buzzing. Just closing my eyes would help everything settle down.

As soon as sat back my loving dogs swarmed me. Three of my dogs laid on anf around me. Theu snuggled up with me and nearly put me to sleep. After about an hour I was able to pry myself off the couch and change into running clothes.

I got in the treadmill and started running. I needed some motivation for running and REI Presents: How To Run 100 Miles https://youtu.be/iC7Lh4opLsc was spot on.

#1. It Helps To Have A Friend Along

#2. It’s Going To Be A Struggle At Times

#3. You Have To Put In The Work

#4. Eventually You Have To Start The Race

#5. Commit

#6. You Have To Keep Moving

This might have been the perfect movie to watch durring a struggle of a training run.

Then I watched some Jam Jam and some Ginger Runner. They helped get me through.

Today was supposed to be speedwork but after 2 miles at 10 minute miles I tried to speed up to 8 minute mile pace for 1 mile but I just didn’t have it. I was too sore and tired from yesterday’s workout. At about 2.5 miles the combination of the big TV, the space heater, and the treadmill managed to blow a fuse. So I had to get off the treadmill and reset the breaker. It took every ounce of willpower to get back on the treadmill.

The next 4.5 miles were a mental challenge. Being on the treadmill where I can literally stop any time I want with no negative consequences is a real challenge to keep going when it gets tough. Boy did I want to stop. With one mile left I was literally chanting out loud to myself “One more mile.” Over and over until I was done. But I did get it done.

It’s not always easy but it is always worth it.

Winter Trail Long Run

The weather and timing finally coopaerated enough for me to be able to get out for a decent trail run this winter. I am in the process of training for a trail marathon and a trail 50k and I have been aching to get on some trails. I like road running but hitting the trails is really where it’s at for me.

This weeks long run in my training plan called for 14 miles. There aren’t really any local trails that allow for that distance too easily, so I headed to my favorite local spot planning to just run loops of various trails there until I reached my goal of 14 miles. The warm weather had melted off most of the snow in our area but then the temperature cooled right back down. I was being cautiously optomistic about the quality of the run I would be able to have with mostly clear trails. I expected there to be at least some snow or ice left on the trails but I was hopeful that it would be minimal.

When I arrived it looked like the conditions would be good. It looked like most of the snow had indeed melted and I would be set to get in some good running. As I approached the trail head I was greated with the sight of a large sheet of ice. My heart sank a little. This was going to be interesting.

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This run ended up being more challenging than I had anticipated. I think I experienced just about ever trail running condition you can all in one run. It was cold. The temperature was in the mid to low 30’s. The trails were hard because, well its winter. It was kind of like running on a very hard, lumpy, uneven road with potholes in it. Despite most of the trail being hard there were also parts that were still muddy and had not refrozen from the cold. There was standing water in parts as well as run off running down the trails too. Combine this with the nice long sheets of ice on some spots and the frozen puddles, and patches of ice interspersed with the grass and you had quite the adventurous obstacle course to navigate. Oh, and did I mention the wind. The wind was especially brutal in the sections where I circled one of the highest parts of the hillside that is completely exposed. So the wiping wind combined with the cold temps were enough to chill you pretty good. The only trail running conditions that I didn’t really have to contend with was precipitation and heat. Could you imagine if in the middle of that run somehow it started getting hot. Things would have really gotten tumultuous then.

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This was the first real long run on a trail I have done probably since I ran the Green Monster 25k last October. It wore me down pretty good. I was tired and competing with all of the trail conditions did not help me. I slipped a few times and tripped a bunch of times. I managed to stay on my feet despite a few close calls. I ended the day with general body soreness and a sore ankle from all the tripping. I definitely have to work on getting my feet up when I am tired. But overall I was happy with the run and glad to get it done and in the books. I was just super happy to have an opportunity to hit the trails again for a good run and take a few photographs along the way. Monday starts week 8 of 50k training. Getting close to half way through the training plan towards running my first trail marathon at Sehgahunda in May.

50 K Training: Week 3

Training for a 50k has been a big change to the way I run. I have never done any kind of official training program for any race I have run. If I set my sights on a run that is a little different in the past I just change the way I run to suit the type of race I am striving for. If the race is longer than what I normally run I just try to run a little farther each time I run until I can run that distance. If my goal is to run a familiar distance a little faster I just focus on trying to run each run of that distance a little faster and improve over time. If I am focusing on a a trail run instead of a road race I try to spend more time running trails.

Following a plan that tells me what days to run and how many miles to run is so much more regimented than anything I have ever done in my running or in any aspect of my life really. In a way its good because there it eliminates the decision making. Do I want to run today? How far do I want to run today? What kind of run do I want to have today? Not having to make decisions regarding the running is good. It alleviates a little bit of stress and indecisiveness. I know exactly what I am doing. I just have to look at my calendar.

On the other hand, following a plan feels a bit daunting at times. There is a limited amount of flexibility one can create within the structure if a plan. I sometimes can push a run back a day or run a day early. But other than that I wake up and I know, I am running TODAY. I think that as runners we have all had days where we just don’t feel like running. But when you are trying to follow a training plan to train for a very specific event you can’t decide I just don’t feel like running today and let that feeling win on a very regular basis. If you do you will show up to your race an be unprepared.

On Sunday 1/21/18 I finished up week three of my training plan. It felt like a particularly tough week. I felt tired several days I had to run. I just didn’t feel strong on most of my runs. There were days I just didn’t feel like running. There were days I almost stopped mid run and just called it good enough for no real reason than I didn’t feel like running anymore.

Part of this is I am running more miles on a more regular basis than I ever have before. I am running more days a week than I ever have before. And the biggest factor for me I think is, that due to it being the middle of winter in upstate NY, I have spent more time running on a treadmill than I had ever imagined I would. I am a hater of the treadmill. The monotony kills me. I can’t wait for Spring and more light an nicer weather.

On a positive note, Sunday I was scheduled to run a nice easy five miles the day after my weekly long run. My long run had felt like a struggle even though it was my shortest long run of the plan so far. I was kinda dreading going out for a run for fear that I just wouldn’t feel good. I procrastinated as much as I could. Eventually I laced up the shoes and stepped out the door.

It was relatively warm compared to recent weather trends here. I left my house and started slowly heading down the road. The run started off slow. But the longer I ran the more I wanted to run. The running started working its magic. I started to feel better. I felt better physically and I felt better about being out for a run. My run was supposed to be at an easy pace, but I was feeling good so I just ran what felt right. I didn’t check my watch much to make sure I was running the planed pace. I think just letting go and running the pace that felt right helped me feel better physically an spiritually. It was just the right thing to do for me in the moment.

I finished the run with an average pace that was 30 seconds per mile faster than what I was supposed to run but I also finished the run feeling satisfied. I left the mindset of training behind for one run and just enjoyed the run. I want to be prepared for my race. I want to be conditioned so I can enjoy the race but I also want to enjoy the training as much as I can. I think that this might be the approach I take throughout training from now on. As long as I feel good physically I might just run casually without minding my training plan once in a while for a refresh. It’s like hitting the restart button.

So if you are struggling take a minute and reset. Then get back to work.

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Tanglewood Nature Center

2018 Running Goals

My running goals generally revolve around types of runs I want to try and increasing distance. I think in 2018 there will be more goals involving increasing distances, but I think I also want to set some different types of goals. Some goals I have already talked about in past posts but some of them will be newer.

  1. Run a trail marathon
  2. Run my first ultra
  3. Increase my mileage from 2017 – 2018
  4. Run a sub 24 Minute 5k
  5. Run a sub 2 hour half marathon
  6. Learn more about running
  7. Learn more about proper running training
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STRC New Years Day 5 Miler

My first Trail marathon and ultra are already on the calendar. I will be running Sehgahunda Trail Marathon and Worlds End 50k. I am super excited about these races. These are sure to push my limits and help me explore ho I am as a person and as a runner. I will be running these races with some of my friends which makes it even better. Training for these races began 1/1/18 and it is something totally new for me. I have never followed an official training plan. This should have me more prepared for these races than any other I have run previously.

After my training throughout 2017 I feel like a sub two hour half marathon is within my reach. I ran at least on half marathon distance run almost every month. Now that I am starting 50k training the training plan has me running a half marathon distance long run almost every week. Seems like this should help me even more even though the long runs will not be focused on speed at all. I have a half marathon on the calendar already for 2018 at the 37th annual Skunk Cabbage Classic. The race is a bit hilly, so not necessarily a fast course but hopefully with the trail running and training I will be doing I will be able to get it done here. I am also planning to run this race with some friends so no matter what it will be fun.

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STRC New Years Day 5 Miler

My other time related goal is to run a sub 24 minute 5k. I haven’t run a 5k in years and I seldom push myself to run as hard as I can like one would in a 5k race. This is the one goal on my list I am least confident I can achieve. I am planning to take some time off running long distance post 50k to try and train myself up for a 5k in the summer. If anyone has ideas for a fun 5k to run preferably in the Finger Lakes region of NY or a good training plan to follow let m know in the comments.

My other goals amount to just becoming smarter and more well informed about running. So everyone share with me their favorite running columns to read to learn more about running and become a better runner. I’d love to see what is out their besides articles by Runners World.

Get out there and enjoy a run. Talk to you again soon.

1st Day of 50k Training

Monday was my first day of training for the Worlds End 50k in June. Lets just say it was sub optimal conditions. The weather here in New York has been below freezing almost every day for over a week now. Today was no different. I really did want to capture some sort of footage of my first training run to share with you all though. However it was way to cold to try to take regular nice photos and too cold to break out my new stabilizing gimble for my GoPro and attempt a nice video. So I decided to try to capture a time lapse series on the GoPro to share. It was cold and difficult to hold the camera at a good angle so the results are not that good. Maybe you can see my breath freeze on my face as I run though. I selected a few random photos to share as well. Here is the 1st Day of 50k Training video. Everything is totally unedited. Enjoy.