Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Archive for the tag “cold”

Remembering the Run

Do you remember the first run you ever went on? Do you remember what prompted you to decide to start running in the first place? Perhaps  you didn’t enjoy it initially but after one amazing run, you were hooked.  Perhaps the weather was beautiful, or you saw a beautiful sunrise or sunset. Were you all by yourself, did someone drag you out the door, or did you head out with a group of friends?

Now, when the euphoria wore off, why did you decide you go back out for a second run? We’ve all tried plenty of things once to be adventurous, and then decided they weren’t for us, but this was different. I raise these questions because I think it’s really easy to forget the answers after you’ve been running for a while. I’ve only been at it a few years, and I still need to remind myself what got me hooked in the first place, so I’m sure others that have been at it much longer than me are doing the same thing.

During the winter months, the theme of so many running-related stories is about survival. We are thinking about how to survive the snow, the cold, the ice, the treadmill, illness, darkness, and boredom. In the process of going on the defensive during the winter months, it seems pretty easy to treat running as something to get through and move on, but you miss out on whats around you when you are preoccupied with getting past it!


I can admit that I have been guilty of heading out on a run with a “must get it done” attitude, and I know I haven’t enjoyed those runs as much. I also know that I’m far from being a fan of the winter months, especially in the midwest, and I don’t enjoy the extra work involved in layering up just to get out the door. However, I want to always remember what an amazing gift it is that I have the chance to lace up and head out in the first place.


A week from now, I’m going to be relaxing on a sunny beach in Trinidad (or more likely, hiking through a rainforest), and I got all of my travel vaccinations last week. This is my first experience with international travel, so I didn’t exactly know what to expect. After an hour and a half in the travel clinic, it was hard not to be worried about everything from dengue fever to diarrhea, but I remained positive. In addition to the yellow fever, typhoid, hepatitis A, and flu shots, I also received a pneumoccocal vaccination. For most folks, this isn’t a bad shot, but in 1% of patients, in can result in high fever, along with aches, pains, and chills. I won the vaccination lottery 🙂

I spent most of this past week on the couch with a fever anywhere between 100 and 103. I’m pretty sure that the most productive thing I did for three days was move from the couch to the bed. Now, I should mention that I’m really bad at being sick. I hate not being able to get things done and not having control over my time. Thus, that fact that I couldn’t run all week was really frustrating for me. I know I should have looked at it as an excellent recovery period for my legs and enjoy the rest, but I just couldn’t. The fact that I woke up three nights in a row lying in a pool of my own sweat after my fever broke didn’t help either!

Not my friend!

Not my friend!

When Saturday morning arrived, and I was feeling well enough to head out for a run, I was as happy as a kid in a candy store. I planned to take it easy and keep a somewhat slower pace so as not to overdo it, but I was just happy to be out there. I ran the first leg by myself, and felt this overwhelming excitement and sense of joy with everything around me. I felt my foot falls, listened to my breath, thought about my gate, and just took in the world around me. Then I met up with some friends for the next leg and it was wonderful to reconnect with everyone. Saturday mornings were already one of my favorite times of the week, but it was that much better this week. After having so little human contact for 4 days, it was great to be around people. I had some great conversations and formed some lovely memories to add to the mix. After we finished our loop, I headed back on the third leg of my run to complete my morning training.

When I got home, I realized that I felt that same new and exciting sense of joy that I felt when I fell in love with running the first time. The fire has been burning for quite a while now, but the spark was relit and renewed. It brought back all of the memories of my first run and of my journey. In the process, I was not only reminded of why I run, but that I never HAVE to run…I GET to run. I am always thankful for that.


Race Report: Resolution Run 5K

The new year is most certainly upon us, and I wanted to jumpstart my 31 in 31 challenge with a race to kick the year off. Last year, I tackled more races and longer distances than I ever had before. I managed to complete 3 ultra-marathons, 4 marathons, and a host of half-marathons and other various races. I logged over 2100 miles! I’m not much for competition with others when it comes to my racing, but you can bet I’m plenty competitive with myself so I now have a number to shoot for this year amidst my training.

After my last race of 2012, I decided that I wanted to take my training in a new direction and commit to increasing my speed as well as my endurance. I started being more intentional with my speed work and hill training, and am hoping to break 4 hours for the first time at the Little Rock Marathon on March 3rd. As my speed has increased, it occurred to me that my mile and 5K times will probably improve as well. Thus, the Resolution Run 5K  in West Des Moines was a great barometer for my current training, and it also happened to be a fun New Years day morning trip with friends!

resolutionruntempWhy is it so cold out?

Luckily, the race didn’t start until 10:00AM. Clearly, the organizers understood the nature of the beast and elected to give people a chance to sleep in a bit more after a long New Years Eve. In total, there were only about 280 participants,  but the starting line was set up on a sidewalk so there was a considerable bottleneck as we got going. It probably took me a good quarter of a mile to work my way around folks and to my desired pace, but from there, I didn’t look back! The route was mostly sidewalks, and there was still a fair amount of snow and nice on the ground, so I was still a bit hesitant as I watched my footing. The last thing I needed was to twist an ankle or sprain my knee (which was already a bit sore from running on snow and ice around town).

resolution run

This was my first 5K race since this past summer, but I still remembered tanking on the third mile. Granted, that had more to do with the 18 previous miles I had on my legs that day, but it was still fresh in my mind. However, my legs continued to feel great. I clocked in at 7:34 after the first mile, and finished the second mile in 7:32. When I crossed the finished line in 20:55, I couldn’t have been more happy! Then I looked at my distance.

I had only run 2.8 miles! The race was short…ugh. I was certainly disappointed with this realization, but I knew that even with another 3/10 of a mile, I would have still PR’d by a considerable amount. I may not be able to log my 20:55 as an official 5K time, but I am still extremely happy with the result. The year is certainly off to a great start!

KISSing The Holidays

If you are like me, part of the appeal of a training schedule for any particular goal is the routine that it creates. I always know when I’m running and approximately how far I’m running, and I can plan my day accordingly. In general, I have a tendency to plan my life out quite a bit. I rely pretty heavily on Google calendar, and my iPhone 5  tends to help run my life on many different levels. This propensity for an organized and regimented life lends itself to a great deal of productivity, and typically works really well during normal daily activities. However, sticking to a routine is always a bit harder during the holidays, and I am certainly guilty of making a few adjustments to my calendar during the holiday season. I’m sure many of you are having the same thoughts!

The beautiful epicurean and I are doing plenty of travel this holiday season, and have been thinking quite a bit about how to adjust our schedules and our diets to accomodate for our travels. Yesterday, I was able to get up early and squeeze in a chilly but quiet and relaxing 16-mile run around my parents’ neighborhood in Minnesota. They’ve already received far more snow than our paltry dusting in Iowa, but Minnesota knows how to deal with snow, so the roads and sidewalks were easily runnable 🙂 However, as Christmas looms, and we prepare to engage in multiple family celebrations (we are able to celebrate together for the first time, which is exciting), I know that being able to disappear for 3 hours to head out for a run isn’t always going to be possible. This is why I’ve decided to KISS the holidays.

A calm and quiet morning for a run!

A calm and quiet morning for a run!

Keeping it simple (Stupid) makes a lot of sense for my varied schedule. Instead of locking myself into a rigid training schedule, I’m planning to dedicate a smaller block of time every day to heading out for a run or some other form of cardio workout. When I combine this with some brief upper-body work during breaks in the day, I’ll be able to keep my fitness level up without sacrificing valuable time with family.

Eating healthy during the holiday season is always a consideration as well, and the key is moderation in my opinion. Avoiding everything you love to put in your mouth just doesn’t seem reasonable, and will leave anyone more crabby than anything else. So, instead, I’ll still be allowing myself some tastes, without going overboard. The only exception for me will be continuing to avoid dairy, which has been HARD, but I decided to finally come to terms with the fact that I’m lactose intolerant.

Family = upper body workout?

Family = upper body workout?

So, no matter where the season brings you, who you visit, or what you celebrate (or not), I wish everyone the best this solstice season! Take some time for yourself and KISS your way into the new year 🙂

Hijacked by Hills: Surf the Murph Race Report

After so much research, preparation, training, and organization, it almost seemed surreal to be heading up to MN on Friday afternoon. The beautiful epicurean and I left early enough in the afternoon so we had time to get up to MN and visit with family, as well as get settled and have a nice relaxing dinner. I may have felt some nerves, but more than anything I was just anxious to get out there and start running! The combination of so much training and the taper of the past few weeks had left my legging revving pretty high, just waiting for the starting “gun”. I didn’t quite know what to expect from my first 50-mile race, and this race met all of my expectations and more!

Friday Evening: I set out my clothes for the next morning, got my drop bag ready, and laid out my breakfast so I didn’t forget to take in any early nutrition. I made a last second decision to wear my shorts over my running tights and commit to having them on for the entire race. The forecast called for early morning temps in the high 20s and highs in the low 40s so I figured I was safe. I had done a good job of carbo-loading the past two days, so I had a nice simple meal of quinoa with roasted vegetables and chicken. I may have wanted a beer to calm my nerves, but I resisted. I set the alarm for 4AM and closed my eyes in an attempt to get some sleep.

Am I really going to do this? The bed was so much warmer!

Saturday, 4AM: When I was young, I could never sleep on Christmas Eve. The anticipation of waking up the next morning to see what Santa had delivered was too much for my little mind to take, and I tossed and turned the entire night, seemingly amped up on a bottomless pot of coffee. The anticipation for this race matched that excitement, and I found myself tossing and turning quite a bit, but still jumping right out of bed (quietly, of course) as soon as the alarm went off. I proceeded to get my running clothes on, and consume my banana w/ peanut butter and protein bar, along with 12 oz. of water. I was ready to go!

Packet Pick-Up, 5AM: There was no packet pick-up the day before the race, no doubt because of the small number of participants. Thus, they began handing out race packets @ 5AM, and we arrived at the park shortly after 5AM. We had driven out to the course the night before, but I was still paranoid enough about something going wrong that I didn’t want to take any chances. As expected, the fact that I over-planned meant that we arrived with no problems, I walked right in and picked up my packet, and headed back to the car to stay warm, all in about 5 minutes. I’ve never been a fan of “hurry up and wait” and this was no different. Can’t we just start running, already?

Race Debriefing, 5:45AM: All of the runners convened around the starting line to listen to one of the race directors give us a heads up. Everyone performed their own personalized warming dance, huddled around headlamps, covered in varying layers of cold-gear. A few folks managed to come in varying degrees of costume as an homage to the impending pagan ritual of high fructose corn syrup gluttony. I figured that dressing up for my first 50-miler probably wasn’t necessary. The director’s debriefing consisted of letting us know that the trail had been personally marked by her with reflective ribbon, the trail was in great shape, and they had seen plenty of deer and only one pack of coyotes. Great!

Lap 1, 6AM: The “gun”, otherwise known as the race director yelling “go!” and starting the clock, went off @ 6AM, and our shivering group of runners headed off into the dark, light dancing playfully off the various reflective materials as our headlamps and flashlights pierced the darkness of the forest. I’ve never started a race in the dark, nor had I ever used a headlamp and/or flashlight to run, so this was an added virgin experience. I quickly realized several things. First, my headlamp wasn’t putting out enough light to be helpful, but my flashlight (which conveniently clipped onto a pocket in my gloves) worked perfectly. Second, NOBODY WARNED ME ABOUT THE HILLS! I suppose it should have occurred to me that they didn’t randomly name this race “Surf the Murph”, but good grief! The first 5.5 miles contained enough elevation change to make me sea sick and leave my quads burning. This didn’t bode well for the next 12 miles. However, I was hopeful that contained within this 17 mile loop would be some compensation for the hard labor we put in during the front half of the course. The middle 6 miles did provide some respite from the undulation of the previous 5.5 miles, at least in as much as the hills weren’t quite as steep. After the first hour or so, the sun began to rise, and I was able to start taking in my surroundings. Despite several close calls on the downhills, I had managed to stay on my feet, and I gained some confidence as the morning sun illuminated the beautiful wooded trail we were running along. The aide stations were wonderfully spaced every 3-4 miles, and very well-stocked with nutrition as well as eagerly helpful volunteers. One of my favorite parts of small races is the volunteers always seem to be experienced runners themselves. Having that kind of support and encouragement along the way goes a long way! Now, lest we get complacent with the smoothly rolling hills through the fields during the middle 6 miles, we were revisited by the storm surge of the final 6 miles back through the beautiful tree cover. The hand-made signs encouraging us to talk to our pain and embrace the hills made it clear that the organizers understood the joke they were delivering. They just weren’t terribly eager to deliver the punch-line! I came rumbling up one more hill (of course) towards the starting area, happy to see smiling family, and felt like I had already run a marathon. I had to repeat that journey twice more. Lap Time: 3 hours 14 minutes. 

Lap 2, 9:14AM: I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to head back out, but the sun was up, I was refueled and restocked, and ready to roll. My legs were already pretty darn sore but I had a better idea of what to expect, which was nice. Again, the first 5.5 miles were brutal, and they all seemed new in the daylight. Suddenly I was cursing entirely new hills, and my catchphrase for the day quickly became “seriously?!”. The worst part about this loop was having a complete sense of what to expect and knowing I had to do it for a third time before I was done. I definitely took full advantage of the aide stations, though, and the brief rest at each stop was very welcomed. Around the half-way point, I began running with a far more experienced ultra-marathoner, and it was great to hear about some of the other races he had done, as well as pick his brain a bit. He had done the race twice previously as well, so he gave me some great pointers on tackling some of the hills. This lap also saw the first of 4 distinct distance memories, that of the half-way point. At that moment, however briefly, I relaxed and let out a giant smile, announcing the milestone to a runner a few yards behind me. She didn’t seem all that amused. I rolled into the starting area at the end of the second lap, holding onto a better pace than I had expected. Lap Time: 3 hours 28 minutes. Total Time: 6 hours 42 minutes. 

Lap 3, 12:50PM: I did a lot more refueling before venturing out for the third lap, which I was not looking forward to “running”. A fellow runner came into the start area a minute or so after me and announced that he was done. He had cramped up and had no interest in trying to run the third lap. Was I feeling leg cramps at that point? Maybe I was? At any rate I left my wonderfully supportive parents, announcing to them that I wouldn’t be back there for at least 4 hours, and I gingerly headed out. This time I knew exactly what to expect. That didn’t make it any easier. I repeated the same 5.5 mile torture for a third time, all along calming myself with the reminder that each hill I tackled would not be one I’d need to tackle again. I found myself alternating between walking and running a bit more on this third lap, and didn’t even try to run up any of the hills. As expected, the descents just kept getting more and more painful, as I felt my quads get shredded. My next distinct distance memory came at mile 38.5, which was around the end of the 5.5 hill torture. I’d never been so happy to see an aide station in my life. I cheerfully continued on, hitting 40.1 miles (my next distinct distance memory), which marked the longest single distance I had ever run. From there, the last 10 miles were probably fueled by a strange combination of emotion, commitment, vanilla wafers, and M&Ms. Final Time: 10 hours 49 minutes. 

I’ve never been so happy to see the word “finish” in my life!

I had mentally established a goal of finishing in under 11 hours many months ago, based on what I thought I knew I was capable of or planned to be capable of in the future. When I approached the final hill and could see the finish line, I’m pretty sure my entire body let out a sigh of relief as the intensity of the day hit me like a wave breaking on the shore. I crossed the finish line, somewhat unceremoniously, but was greeted by the beautiful epicurean and my mother. In their own way, each of them understood not just the accomplishment, but the work I had put into it, and they were all the congratulations I needed after such an incredible day.

Do I look as tired as I felt?

It felt absolutely incredible, and all of the miles I had logged seemed that much more worth it. I had just run 50 miles! I gingerly headed to the car, eagerly awaiting the shower and warm meal that awaited me. This leg of my running voyage was complete. I guess the best way to learn how to surf is to be thrown into the waves after all. Oh, and I guess I have a new PR, eh?!

The awards were personally branded for each finisher!

Let the Preparation Begin!

When I ran my first long distance race (Dam to Dam 20K), I was exceedingly nervous. I begin thinking about the day and preparing a full week in advance. I made sure I knew what I was going to be wearing, what I would be eating, and I had my schedule all worked out. This process worked well with my sometimes OCD personality and my overly organized nature. The same thing happened with my first marathon. As the races have piled up, however, I’ve become a lot more comfortable with the process. I know what to expect, how to prepare, and I don’t give it nearly as much thought anymore. I’m comfortable with those distances and the races that accompany them. Now, a 50 mile trail race…this is all new territory for me!

I’ve certainly spent plenty of time thinking about this race, but now that it’s only a few days away, some of my original nerves and original running OCD are coming back into play. I don’t mind 🙂 I’ve gathered all of my clothes, supplies, and food for the day of the race and separated it into my suitcase and drop bag. I’ve also compiled a tentative schedule for the day so I know when everything is taking place, but also so the beautiful epicurean can track me effectively since I won’t be running over any timing pads or checking in with my phone while I’m out in the woods! I even have a folder of information complete with maps of the course (which I’ve studied), and other race-specific information. There is no packet pick-up until the morning of the race, which is a bit annoying, but I’ll work with it.

All packed up! Bring on the trails 🙂

It’s going to be a quick weekend and the schedule will be tight, but I’m ready for a whirlwind running weekend! I’m not normally a fan of getting up at 4AM for much of anything, but I have a feeling that even though I’m going to try and get to bed by 9PM, I’m probably not going to sleep much. Adrenaline can go a long ways!

My home away from home on Saturday!

Look forward to a full recap next week- I’m sure I’ll have a bit of extra time to write while my legs are recovering!

Seasonal Transitioning

Fall is definitely in the air, and with it all of the wonderful smells and flavors of the season. This time of year also means transition for me in terms of the daily aspects of life and running. Although I overall really enjoy autumn, I started thinking a bit more intentionally about just how different things become as the leaves fall off the trees and the air starts to nip at your nose. Here are a few of my observations:

Would anyone like to come over and rake the yard?

Nutrition: We’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a weekly bounty of vegetables from a wonderful CSA this summer. Alas, our share of the veggies is coming to an end this month, and with the drastic weather conditions over the summer, I have a feeling it’s going to become much more difficult to find reasonably-priced fresh produce that hasn’t been over-treated with pesticides and left to sit in a warehouse for too long. However, autumn also means the emergence of one of my favorite flavors- pumpkin! You can bet it will be finding its way into breakfast smoothies, breads, coffee, pizza, and just about anything else I can work it into on my plate.

Even more delicious when you fill them with custard and bake them!

Clothing: Generally, I like being able to pull out my fall/winter wardrobe. However, the need to add increasingly heavy layers of running insulation is not high on my list of likes! I’m still fully committed to running outside all winter, regardless of the weather, but that doesn’t mean I need to like the extra work involved. Gone are the days when I could be ready and out the door in 5 minutes!

Time & Mileage: I’m now tapering for my 50-miler at the end of the month, so my weekly mileage is decreasing quite a bit. Although I plan to do a 50K in November, I’ll still be pulling back some over the winter. I would like to keep my base high enough that I can move right into the spring race season, but I’m still going to have a bit more time on my hands, especially on the weekends. This is probably a good thing if I’m going to write a dissertation this winter though 🙂

Daylight: The combination of shorter days and evening runs means I’m going to be spending more and more time running in the dark. I’ll be prepared with my reflective materials and headlamps, but the cold chill of the dark is never as enjoyable when you are trying to crank out 10 or 12 miles, is it?

Extra House Work: I’m convinced that our home is a magnet for every leaf on every tree in the neighborhood! There are many ways to get a good upper-body workout, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be getting my workout with a rake in hand for the next two months! Does anyone want to come jump in a big pile of leaves?

Endless piles…if only we could sell them!

Running in the Dark

I have a love-hate relationship with my alarm clock. I’ve tried just about every type of alarm clock out there, even going as far as to buy one that vibrates at 110 decibals and vibrates my mattress! Alas, they all fall victim to the same demon…my desire to stay warm and cozy in the wee hours of the morning. However, the one thing that has gotten me out of bed at some otherwise unreasonable hours has been long weekend runs. This past Saturday was just such a run, my last 5-hour run to be exact. I didn’t want to spend the whole day running, so getting up early and knocking it out seemed like a perfectly logical decision. The alarm clock went off at 3:30AM. I hate logic.

None-the-less, I quietly rolled out of bed, and proceeding to stumble around the house getting ready. This was probably the coldest morning we’ve had in Iowa in quite some time, and after so much heat, it was pleasantly wonderful to slip a thin pair of running tights on and bust out a hat and pair of gloves. I planned to meet up with my normal Saturday AM group at 7AM, which meant fending for myself for about 3 hours. It also meant leaving the leaving in the dark. The streets are extremely quiet this early in the morning, and there is definitely something satisfying about being able to run down the middle of the road, without a car in sight!

However, the nature of the time/distance I was heading out to tackle meant I wanted to find a relatively long route so I wasn’t passing close to my house frequently, the temptation of crawling back into bed nipping at my toes (along with the cold…26 degrees, to be exact!). I headed south, and ended up on a fairly long stretch of road just outside of town. Under normal circumstances, this road isn’t very highly traveled, and at 4:30 in the morning, there wasn’t a car in sight. There also wasn’t much in the way of light.

I had brought a red blinking light to wear and alert cars to my presence, but didn’t think to bring any sort of light for my own benefit. As it turns out, I have a lot of interesting thoughts when I’m running in the dark. Most of them drift to the more illogically paranoid variety 🙂

No bright light of the moon for me!

Thought: What if I get hit by a drunk driver waking up in a ditch and driving home?

Response: Time to start looking for random tire tracks in the grass as I run.

Thought: What if a wild dog runs out at me?

Response: My fists clench, and water bottle becomes a defensive weapon.

Thought: What if I’m attached by a random lunatic murderer?

Response: A) Seriously, Adam? You live in the middle of Mayberry! Wait, lots of serial killers come from small towns…crap! B) fix posture, close fists.

Thought: I wonder if I’m going to end up running in the dark during Surf the Murph?

Response: I’m looking at buying a new hat with built-in LED lights 🙂

Thought: Seeing the sun rise as I breath in crisp fall air and enjoy my time alone is wonderful!

Response: Relaxing and enjoying the run, one foot in front of the other.

I happened to run into some friends I don’t normally run with and was able to tag along on their route for about 8 miles before I met up with my normal group as well. Sometimes it’s great to live in a small community where everyone knows everyone else! The run felt great overall, aside from my fingers and toes not really completely warming up until mile 18, of course. When I walked back in the house around 9:15AM, with 28 miles under my belt, I couldn’t have been happier, both to have it done so early, and to pour that first cup of coffee. Let the tapering begin!

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