Trail therapy

You can’t really appreciate the beauty and quality of trails we have up here in my neck of the woods until you get out on them yourself. And while that might seem like a no-brainer, “we have great trails” is something that gets tossed out there regularly by people who’ve never been on them. I know, because in a way I’m one of those people. Not that I hadn’t been on the trails at all, because I have, but there were miles of them I hadn’t tried. They were just colored squiggly lines on a map. And when it comes to maps, I am not an expert. “You can’t really get lost” doesn’t apply to me.

I’m spending my un-runstreak getting to know the trails a little better. (Note: As for my non-running, let me just make clear that I’m not suddenly anti-running. For me, it seems to be a good choice for my body and mind.) I’m trying to tackle a new one every time I go out, or at least venture down a new section or two. It’s not always easy to tell if you’re still on the trail, but I’ve only gotten stuck once and had to turn around and backtrack. Not bad for the girl who has trouble with direction.

It was especially important I get out and breathe in some nature today after having a frustrating morning, topped off by locking myself out of my car as I got out of my car at the trailhead. (Short story: broken door handle after super cold temperatures, can only enter from passenger’s side, thought I had my keys in my hand when I got out of the car.)

Yep. Definitely broken.

After waiting for awhile for Scott to come rescue me with the spare set of keys, I considered bailing on the planned snowshoe for time’s sake. I eventually decided I’d be worth more to everyone if I went back to my desk a little less tightly wound. It was the wise choice.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m going to miss these lunchtime snowshoe adventures when the snow is gone.

I wanted to stay underneath these trees for the rest of the day.
I wanted to stay underneath these trees for the rest of the day.

It’s not always easy to slow down for me, especially when it comes to exercise. If I am going to work out, I want to break a sweat. I want to feel like I’m pushing myself and making the most of my time. When I think of a good workout, I normally think tempo runs or intervals. I think of playing hockey with only two or three lines.

I don’t normally think of snowshoeing along at a snail’s pace.

Fully appreciating the beauty of fresh powder. I get it now.
Fully appreciating the beauty of fresh powder. I get it now.

But I know the effort heart rate-wise is on par with a slow run, so even though I’m not clipping along quickly, I’m doing something. And there are perks. On days like today that are warmer—meaning sloppy roads—I don’t have to think about where I’m going to go, if the sidewalks are plowed, or if I brought the right pair of shoes. I’m also able to enjoy what’s around me instead of putting so much effort into looking down and watching the trail or road so I don’t fall.

At the risk of sounding hippy dippy, today I really felt like nature had a restorative effect on me.

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Or maybe I’m just hoping the snow on those branches doesn’t fall on me.

The year of trying new things – skate skiing

Because the same old thing is so 2015

The inspirational types on All the Social Medias are always telling us to push ourselves harder, get out of our comfort zone, that we should be trying new things. I think for the most part we tend to only think in terms of the activities we’re used to doing. The ones we’re either good at, really enjoy, or both. When I think about my running life, for lack of a better way of putting it, I know there are plenty of areas where I could improve. I’m not very fast. I could probably be faster. I can run far, but I could probably run farther. I have run plenty of races in my life but could tack on more bibs, I’m sure.

But then there are the other things I also do or have wanted to try for a long time. The sentences that begin with “One day I’ll do _________.” And I’ve crossed a few things off that list. There was that bike race I signed up for that scared the hell out of me but turned out to be not so bad after all. I learned how to skate, bought some used hockey gear and played with a women’s club team for years before my daughter was born. I’ve even strapped on ginormous goalie pads (okay, they’re child-sized pads) and let people shoot rubber discs at me at high speeds. Another bucket list item that I gave a chance and liked.

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Old hockey rink bathroom selfie, 2012

And back when I moved up north about ten years ago, Scott and I took a snowboarding lesson, managed to make it through without dying or getting a concussion (amazingly). Hey, I even have a picture of that in the archives.

trying new things on Amy up north - snowboarding
Back when 640×480 from a candy bar cameraphone was HQ.

I wanted this year to be one where I got out of my comfort zone that involved just dropping one foot in front of the other, lather, rinse, repeat. People have been telling me for years that I should try skate skiing. “It’s just like ice skating,” they said. People watch good skate skiers glide across the snow with a perceived ease and grace. It’s like they’re skating on the snow, right? So I borrowed some equipment from a friend, plus I found a pair of old skis from one of the older kids which were shorter. Between the two sets of skis, I figured I could tell if this was something I’d enjoy.

Just like skating. Sure, I could do this.

I’d say the only thing that skate skiing and ice skating have in common is that if you’re ice skating hard (say, in a hockey game situation), your legs are toast after about 45 seconds. It’s why hockey shifts are so short. This shit is exhausting, man.

trying new things on Amy up north - skate skiing
My favorite stretch of trail on the easy loop, even though it’s a little uphill and I have to stop ten times.

I honestly thought that once I got the hang of the motion that there’d be some momentum to carry me along. But right now every movement is a lot of work. Poling is tiring. This is all a lot more difficult than running.

But I’ve been giving it a fair shot. Get out of your comfort zone, right? After a few outings, I wouldn’t say I’m getting the hang of skate skiing, but I managed to go for 5K on Saturday and it didn’t take all morning. And even though the sight of the chalet was like a glittery oasis in the middle of the desert, I didn’t completely hate myself when I climbed into my car.

trying new things on Amy up north - skate skiing
This eventually goes down, right?

One thing I realized this weekend was that temperature matters. I’ve gotten used to sleeping in on weekends and trotting out in the afternoon for some sort of activity if I can get away from the kids for an hour. My chances of skate ski success are much higher if it’s colder, not the balmy 20-30°F that I normally prefer when I’m out running or snowshoeing in winter. On Saturday I hurried out the door to hit the trails while temperatures were still in the low teens. Who am I? I don’t even know.

But the bottom line: I’m going to keep doing this, even if it means stopping every minute and moving to the side of the trail every time someone better and faster comes my way (read: I do a lot of stopping). I want to get better. I want to add this to my winter repertoire for the long haul. I’ll be looking into some real lessons (and some equipment that possibly is a better fit) soon. And even though I thought I’d never utter the words, it turns out I kind of like this, too. Imagine that: there is life beyond running.


My first and last run of the year was on January 1. When I went running that day, I didn’t plan on taking an extended hiatus from running, but I wasn’t leaping into the new year with a ton of goals and dreams, either. I was just doing it, because it is what I do. It is what I have done for many years.

Then kids got sick and I got sick. And then kids got sick again and here I am, 48 hours into a course of amoxycillin trying to purge strep from my throat. The baby has a virus that causes her cheeks to flush with red; she looks like a painted doll. A constant refrain of “Boogers! Boogers!” rings out from my son’s bedroom every morning he wakes up and has his first sneeze of the day. It is a revolving door of disease. It is officially old.

Before I knew it, I hadn’t been running in a week. Then it was ten days. Then fourteen. Throughout this time I’d been following that 30 day challenge I mentioned last time (it’s this one). And normally I’m not into things like this, because I believe most of them are just ploys to get you to buy something bigger (diet plan, exercise tape, sign away your firstborn).

But I decided I could commit to doing something other than running for 15 minutes a day. And the bonus was that it would be working muscles I have long neglected. It wouldn’t be the equivalent of spending an hour lifting weights in the gym, but it was a start.

Also, my body and mind were just tired of running.

Yesterday was Day 18—I had to do Day 17 and 18 together because I missed a day from being to sick to do anything other than exist—and I’m rather impressed that I’ve made it this far. No, I haven’t seen drastic changes—there are no before and after pictures, you must be kidding—but I can tell you that the body squats are a lot easier and I can actually do more than a few pushups in a row. I have never done this much core strengthening work, and now I can manage to side plank without toppling over. And my ass? It’s sore. That’s how I know it’s working. (Note: my ass is never sore when I run, because I’m pretty sure I never use it.)

In between all the sick days I’ve tried to get out and ski, bike, and snowshoe. Not as often as I’d like, but I’m doing what I can.

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Thanks to a Nancy for lending me her skis to try. I’m almost sold on making this a regular winter thing.
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Blazing new trail on snowshoe
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Working on staying upright on the fat bike

So, when will I run again? After I hit the two week mark, I realized my leg was feeling a lot closer to normal. Maybe it’s helped that I’ve done more strengthening this month and less pounding on the road. I don’t know – I’m not an expert. But I do know that the pain in my heel I’d been battling is almost if not completely gone. My back feels pretty darn good. So I’m going to finish out my 30 day challenge and leave my running shoes in the closet at least until it’s over. It also feels nice to not have to seek out roads that are clear and safe enough to run on without falling and breaking my neck or getting run over by a car.

On a lunch time snowshoe today. No messing with tire pressure, ski wax, or complicated run routing.
On a lunch time snowshoe today. No messing with tire pressure, ski wax, or complicated run routing.

With a half scheduled for 2/14 in Austin, I’ll need to get some miles on the road before then, but I’d be lying if I said I was looking forward to that. This break has been nice and much needed. And the snow is going to be around for a long time. I might as well enjoy it.

Here we are

I’ve spent the last 2.5 days at home. Sick. Most of the time has been spent in some configuration under about three blankets and just as many layers of clothing, until the ibuprofen kicks in and I start sweating like a hog. I’m pretty sure my husband took an extra wide berth as he walked past me this morning, since I haven’t showered since Tuesday and have been wearing the same fleece pullover during all this sweating. If he’s avoiding me, it’s not because he thinks he’ll catch what I have. It’s highly likely I got it from him. After he caught it from the kids who caught it from god knows where. Parenting is really just an eternal cycle of your kids picking up disease and bringing it home.

Not sure what I was thinking when I said I'd go out for groceries for dinner, meaning I'd have to dig out my car and then scoop the driveway. This is the current level of snow in our yard. Actually, I think it's down this year from last.
Not sure what I was thinking when I said I’d go out for groceries for dinner, meaning I’d have to dig out my car and then scoop the driveway. This is the current level of snow in our yard. Actually, I think it’s down this year from last.

The worst part of this thing – okay, there are actually two worst parts – is that my throat is almost completely swollen shut. Sure, I’ve had sore throats in the past, but I’ve never had one where if I swallow when I’m bent over (say, picking up one of the 1,000 toys on the floor) it feels like someone is slicing my neck in half a la Ned Stark style. It is the strangest and cruelest thing, and I find myself remembering after I’ve done it that yes, I should not do that because it hurts.

The other worst thing is that I was rolling through a 30-day exercise challenge when this illness dropped me flat on my ass. Yeah, go ahead and laugh; I have become one of those fitness challenge people. I decided to do it as I was coming off the hangover that always accompanies the beginning of the year. Typically, we are returning from visiting family, which requires a 400 hr drive in the car – the car being a Toyota Prius, known for its fuel efficiency but not for keeping you from hating your fellow passengers by the time you reach your final destination, especially when you have crammed the entirety of your holiday festivities, two dogs, three children and two adults into said car. This year was no different, and it was made extra special by the Son showing symptoms of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease the day before everyone was due to go back to school and work. No, not Hoof and Mouth Disease, but gross in its own special way.

But back to the challenge – I haven’t done my 15 minutes of jumping and flailing for two days, and I’m actually disappointed. I feel like I’ve let the lady in the YouTube videos down. Which is ridiculous, I know.

So, 2016 is off to a less than auspicious start, it seems.

I do not do resolutions at the beginning of a new year. The only goal I have is to remember to write 2016 on my checks, and since I don’t write too many real checks anymore, my success rate is fairly high.

But someone told me once that we should not only set goals, but we should also set intentions. I really just have one intention, and I think it is applicable to just about everything I want to do this year.

I want to get better.

Better at managing my life. Better at finding a balance between home, work, and all the other shit. Better at doing my job. Better at writing. Better at being patient with my kids. Better at showing more kindness to others, to myself, to the world.

So that’s it. In 2016, let’s get better. I hope my immune system is paying attention.

Twin Cities 2015 – yes, it happened

You know that sweet feeling when you reach into a coat you haven’t worn for months and find money? I didn’t have quite the reaction when I found this blog post draft in my phone. Regardless, I’m posting it (more as a personal record for me than anything else) even though I wrote it over a month ago. Enjoy! Or don’t!

Scott in his surprise custom singlet, which went over quite well. (and possibly played a helping role in getting him a PR) ????

Hey, it’s been awhile. To refresh your memory, I last left you with this regarding the Twin Cities Marathon that was a month away:

 I know what to expect from the TCM course. I’m also adjusting my goals going in. At first, I wanted to see if I could run a 4:30. While that would be nice, and it’s possible my legs might be up to it by then, I know that running a slower race this time left me with legs that were not completely trashed. Sure, I was a little sore and stiff, but nothing like I’ve experienced before. I was even able to drive back home and head directly to a wedding for some friends. I’d much rather finish TCM feeling great, not wrecked and in a heap. I also need to decide if I will do a true taper before Oct 4 or continue to ramp up for the 50K (which is what I should really do). In that case, I will most definitely not be gunning for a particular time in St. Paul.

Ha! Well, I threw that out the window and did, indeed, gun for a 4:30. I even made a public proclamation on Facebook, because if you don’t put it on the Internet, it’s not real, right? twin cities marathon 2015
All the crap needed (plus a bunch of stuff I didn’t) for a marathon

SPOILER ALERT: I didn’t run a 4:30. You could say, in fact, that I wasn’t even close. I’m not even sure if I was ever on track to put up a time like that.

We were just happy to breeze through the expo with no meltdowns of the child or adult variety.
I did, however, go in with some pace goals in mind for each race chunk (10, 10, and 6.2), and for the most part, I felt really good about how I stuck to those goals until my legs decided they were done with the whole running thing (somewhere around mile 21 or so). 
i think this was right around 21, and the only reason I’m smiling is because I spotted Jo, Jess and Co.

I hate lengthy mile-by-mile recaps, so I’ll just say this:

When you have friends who are chasing you around the course to cheer you on, it’s like you’re playing one of those racing video games and you get a power boost. It’s been a long time since I’ve had spectators on the course (possibly since 2007?) and wow – instant mood lifter energy boost. Those ladies kept me going right to the end. Seriously.

Post-race at Jo’s house. Jess and Natalie not pictured, sadly. I love these ladies. This was also one of the first social outings we’ve been to in a long time without our kids. Whee!
The last 10K were really tough. Like, screw this and just let me sit down with a beer and a handful of bacon tough.

Pro Tip: When you are using a tech device (like a GPS watch) to gauge your time, don’t forget that it you set it up to auto pause and it did, indeed, pause when you just couldn’t take it anymore and make a pit stop at mile 20. This is important to remember; I was under the impression that if I ran my ass off for the last mile I could somehow squeeze in under 4:40 (which seemed like a perfectly acceptable B Goal after 4:30 was well out of reach). Well, I did run my ass off, which got me my PR, but I was a bit over what I thought I was. Oops. Oh well.

I ended up with a 4:41:56, which is a PR for me for ANY marathon, including Twin Cities, so running my ass off at the end was worth something anyway.

I am convinced I could not have pulled off those last few miles at anything other than death marching had it not been for the speedwork I did over the summer. I am indebted and so grateful to Christine Hinton and her marathon training plan madness. I’m a believer.

But that last mile took a lot out of me. So much that I experienced spontaneous crying at the finish line, with my husband nowhere to be seen. I refrained from giving the medal volunteer a hug, because that would have probably been stepping over the line, but I wanted to.

I was a little out of it and held the medal up backwards.
I was a little out of it and held the medal up wrong side out.
The legs did not want to work very well post-race as I shuffled through the food lines. Eventually I got over to a grassy spot after retrieving my checked bag. I choked down a little chocolate milk, some soup broth, and somehow pulled some calf sleeves on. After what seemed like the effort of a lifetime, Scott and I made our way to the Summit Beer Corral for our complimentary race beer. Nancy and Josh met up with us and bestowed on us the magic of Advil. After about 20 minutes, I was feeling fantastic.

Holding it right side facing out this time. Pained face before magic elixir known as Summit’s Octoberfest lager
Am i really this short or is everyone else just really tall?
If anyone tells you marathons are easy, they have never actually completed one or they are lying to you. Because marathons are not easy. It’s like someone telling you that childbirth is easy. And yes, as many have said before, childbirth is pretty much the perfect metaphor for the marathon. In some ways, the training/pregnancy is tougher than the actual race/giving birth. Though, to be fair, I have never actually looked FORWARD to the childbirth part; I just knew I could get through it. Regardless of how that kiddo enters the world or how you finish the race, it’s going to hurt at some point. And it’s not easy. Never let anyone diminish your achievement in covering 26.2 miles by the power of your own legs.

So while I didn’t hit my A goal, I’m okay with it. I do think I have a faster marathon in me. Just how fast? I don’t know. I do know that this recap is already too long and that I’ll be back next year.

Twin Cities will always be my favorite marathon, and every year when I consider running something else, I can’t imagine missing it. Also, I’ll hold my medal the right side facing out next time. 

Bonus Marathon! Marquette 2015

I should talk about the Marquette Marathon before I forget all the details.

First, the hours leading up to it were a bit of a clusterfuck, as is usually the case when my family travels anywhere. Races are no exception. We left late. I was anxious that I would miss the packet pickup – it’s roughly a two hour drive – and the anxiety made me feel like my husband was driving as slow as humanly possible. The kids were being…kids trapped in a small vehicle. We had the dogs with us. As it goes.

But eventually, with about ten minutes to spare, we rolled into the parking lot. Grabbed my bib and briefly considered buying an overpriced additional race shirt (passed).

Bib eventually secured
Bib finally secured

Then dinner needed to be secured, and since we promised The Eldest we’d get her spaghetti and since it was getting really fucking late, we settled for Big Boy. Carry out, of course. Crabbiness ensued but food was secured.

Got to the hotel, checked in, fed children, laid out gear for the morning, went to bed too late. Even though this is not an ideal pre-marathon situation, let it be said that before my last long run I ate a hamburger, and just the fact that I did not cave and just go through the McD’s drive-thru for a burger is a huge win for my pre-race prep.

Morning of the race was again a bit of a cluster; Scott needed to put in some miles before dropping me off at the starting line; Marquette is a point-to-point race and our hotel was located closer to the finish than the start.

On our way. At least someone was smiling.
On our way. At least someone was smiling.

But I got there with ten minutes to spare, found my friends who were also running the full, and made hydration pack adjustments between the National Anthem and the starting gun.

I had a pretty solid plan of keeping this as a training run as far as pace was concerned, which took a lot of the pressure off to perform at any particular standard. If I’d gone in wanting to race or PR, the prior 12 hours would have really thrown me off. Despite being moderately annoyed that I’d brought my family to this race, I was feeling pretty relaxed at the start. It was warm but not overwhelmingly so, and the fog and clouds were still much preferred over blazing sun.

I managed to maintain a pretty steady pace between 11-11:30ish for the first half. Podcasts were playing. I was not suffering any apparent ill effects from eating greasy diner food the night before. I really can’t complain.

After my bathroom stop at 10 (Just. Couldn’t. Take. It. Anymore.) I felt pretty good and miles 12-18 were sub-11:00, just to see if I could do it. There was also a Bacon and Beer aid station (Mile 13 or 14?) and while I passed on the pig, I went for a swig of beer. Blackrocks Coconut Brown. It was delicious.


The rest of the race was pretty uneventful. It’s definitely a downward slope from the start to the city of Marquette. The path is sometimes paved, sometimes gravel, and very runner friendly. I didn’t really start to feel like I didn’t want to run anymore until I got past mile 20. That’s pretty awesome in itself, and I was surprised at how decent my legs still felt. There was some walking during one of the final miles in Presque Isle park (uphill) but I managed to run the entire thing with only a few walking breaks that were never longer than minute or two. I’d never done that in any marathon I’ve ever run, with possibly my first as an exception. I am completely thrilled with the AMR training plan I used this time around. I have never felt more prepared for a marathon. Ever.

Presque Isle Park, one of my favorite points of the course
Presque Isle Park, one of my favorite points of the course
Finish captured by buddy Kara!
Finish captured by buddy Kara!
Medal that doubles as a bottle opener. Marquette wins.
Medal that doubles as a bottle opener. Marquette wins.

Official finish time was 4:53:11, and since I was aiming for something between 5-5:30, I’m pretty darn happy with that.

I’d run this race again, no question. The course is fantastic, the post-race food tent kicked the ass of every other marathon post-race food spread I’ve ever experienced, and it’s somewhat close to home.

When I signed up for Twin Cities, I hadn’t planned on doing this race. So in some ways, it feels like I’ve opened the Christmas gift before Christmas Day. Then again, I’m looking forward to doing another full, even if it’s just three weeks away. I know what to expect from the TCM course. I’m also adjusting my goals going in. At first, I wanted to see if I could run a 4:30. While that would be nice, and it’s possible my legs might be up to it by then, I know that running a slower race this time left me with legs that were not completely trashed. Sure, I was a little sore and stiff, but nothing like I’ve experienced before. I was even able to drive back home and head directly to a wedding for some friends. I’d much rather finish TCM feeling great, not wrecked and in a heap. I also need to decide if I will do a true taper before Oct 4 or continue to ramp up for the 50K (which is what I should really do). In that case, I will most definitely not be gunning for a particular time in St. Paul.

Plenty to think about before Oct 4. But for my last race in the 35-39 year old female category? Not too shabby. Bring on 40.

Extra miles

I’m taking my blog post inspiration from Dimity today and “The Real Daily Mile” and that running app that kept spitting tweets in my Twitter feed and making me scratch my head. (Brenda ran XX miles and felt great?)

This would be my entry today:

Amy ran 0 miles and while it felt slightly odd that she wasn’t getting up to run in the dark, she enjoyed sleeping in and not setting an alarm. This was all easier to take when she reminded herself that in 24 hours she’d be RUNNING A MARATHON as her last long “training run” before Twin Cities in October. Amy sat up in bed and the slight twinge in her right thigh reminded her of that fucking stupid mountain bike ride she did last week, the ride she now regrets, because the twinge isn’t going away. Amy then vowed that if the twinge ended up completely fucking up her running goals for the remainder of the year, that she would drop her mountain bike off a cliff, all the while muttering under her breath, this is what I get for trying to get in cross-training.

First, let me back up: I’ve done two 20 milers so far. This weekend was scheduled to be my third of this training plan. I’ve never done more than one, so just the fact that I’ve made it through two of these fuckers is pretty amazing to me.

But back in July I had a moment of vulnerability and signed up for the Marquette Marathon, a race I’ve wanted to do but am typically not in town for, with this year being an exception. I had to run 20 miles anyway, so why not do it on a course with support? My long runs have all been at a slow recovery-ish pace, so I’d keep the same strategy for this one, despite the temptation to run it faster. And what was six more miles anyway? Right?

So I signed up. And I gave it a little thought but got wrapped up in the month that is August and work headaches, sick kids, sick me, and my oldest daughter being away in Detroit with her grandparents for two and a half weeks, which is the longest we’ve ever been apart. Ever.

As you can see, she was in tears every day we were apart.
As you can see, she was in tears every day we were apart.

Then work got crazier and it really hit today. And now the nerves are setting in, along with the thoughts of what the hell were you thinking signing up for an “extra” marathon? It isn’t helping that this is not my typical marathon regimen. Since we are creatures of habit and have run the same race for almost ten years, there is a set weekend plan we always follow. The most important part of that is we always have a day between travel and race, because the race is usually on a Sunday. This Saturday marathon thing? It’s kind of messing me up.

We will roll into town tonight sometime around dinnertime (hopefully) and I will do my best to not have dinner consist of something from a place that starts with Mc and ends in D’s.

I will do my best to not forget any gear. I will strap on the number and just keep in mind that this is training. It’s not a race. It’s okay to walk. It’s okay to not try to run fast AT ALL.

Most of all, I’ll do my best to just enjoy myself. But I do think I’m staying off my mountain bike for awhile.

That time I did a bike race and survived to blog about it

Okay, maybe it’s a little past the mid-way point – it’s August after all, and the stores are filling up with shelves of school supplies and I just saw a sign for Halloween stuff. For real. But in my world, it feels like the heart of summer and more like June than a month before Autumn. This might be partially due to the fact that it’s finally warm in the U.P.

Speaking of the U.P., my apologies for the grave error in the AMR podcast a few weeks ago calling the Mackinac Bridge the Ambassador Bridge. I feel like I’ve failed my Detroit and Yooper homies with that one. Nerves, people. Talking makes me nervous.

That bike race I mentioned last time?

Ready to roll at the start. With one glove. Just call me Michael.

I rode the shorter 28(ish) mile course and went in having no idea what to expect. I’d watched a few home videos on YouTube of riders with cameras attached to their bikes, but after awhile I had to just close the laptop and walk away – these guys were maniacs and it was making me more crazy than calm.

Without going into a huge race report ABOUT BIKES, my impressions:

  • Bikers, like runners, are their own brand of crazy. It’s definitely its own culture and I think feels more intimidating to break into as an outsider. Even though I’ve ridden bikes for most of my life, I feel like I don’t really belong. I’m interested in the gear and love to ogle pretty bikes, but as my life has changed with the addition of children, I don’t have the time anymore to sit and tinker with mechanics. I’m interested in it working and not falling apart when I’m flying down a rocky descent at 27mph (THANK GOD IT DIDN’T FALL APART).
  • I was really nervous in the weeks leading up to this thing. I had put in rides on my bike but they were just 15 mile commutes so that I could get some time in the saddle and reacquaint myself with mountain gearing. I know I didn’t put in enough miles to say “I trained,” but the few I did helped.

But to my surprise, it went really well. Not only did I survive (and emerge mostly unscathed), but I had a freaking blast. After getting over the pre-race jitters and the fact that I only had one glove with me – I had four pairs of shorts in my car but one. stinking. glove. – the gun went off, we rolled out and I just did my thing: ride the bike, pace myself, smile at people, and have fun.

Crossing the finish line and feeling pretty much done, but happy.
Crossing the finish line and feeling pretty much done, but happy.

The course wasn’t nearly as technical as I imagined, though it wasn’t easy. I think anyone considering it would be well served to spend some time on the bike on varied terrain. I’m really glad I didn’t bite off more than I was capable of chewing, i.e., the 48-mile hard rock course, because this was just enough for it to be a challenge yet not be completely soul-sucking hard. I wasn’t looking for the marathon equivalent of a bike race. So yeah, it was kind of like running a half. (A little more than) Half the distance, twice the fun.

Post-race I grabbed a beer from the beer garden and sat to wait on my friends. I gave myself a look: my legs were caked in mud. There was mud on my face, a little road rash on my leg (missed a turn and bit it when I went to make a course correction), and dirt in my bra (how it got there I’m not quite sure). It was one of the best feelings I’ve had in a long time: That feeling you get when you’ve done something you didn’t know you could do. I hadn’t had that feeling in a running race in years.

Like I mentioned, I did have one mishap; I missed a turn right near mile 20, made a sharp turn on gravel to correct my course and wiped out, landing on my left side. I’ve got a few nice bruises on my legs from where my bike hit my thigh and where my knee hit the ground. I sat there for a few minutes, first worried that I’d broken something. Second, feeling like a complete dumb ass. The knee was pretty tender for a few days but feels good now, but I’m pretty sure I bruised some ribs on my left side; I still have a little discomfort that feels like a bad muscle strain. But seeing that there were a few riders who suffered worse injuries than I did (I passed a huge pile up on a part of the course called “Clavicle Hill,” if that gives you an idea), I feel pretty lucky.

In all, a good experience a fair substitute for missing a 17 miler scheduled for that day. And now it’s back to my regularly scheduled running training, which is going quite well. Second 20-miler happens this Saturday (!); I put the first in the weekend before the bike race, and I’m actually looking forward to doing something I have never done in the 10+ years I’ve been training for marathons: run more than one 20-miler in a training plan. It also does not hurt that I get to test out this lovely hydration vest, thanks to the super sweet folks at Ultimate Direction.

Ultra Vesta by Ultimate Direction.

Jenny Jurek designed this with the UD peeps. Jenny is married to Scott Jurek the ultra runner. You may have heard of him.

I’m not an ultra runner (yet), but I’m hoping some of that Jurek mojo manifests itself in me this weekend.

I just want to avoid being run over during the rollout.

That bike race I signed up for is tomorrow.

I remember the nerves from my first marathon. The excitement of the expo, the sleeplessness the night before. But I had run races, so I knew what it was like to show up for a race, pin on a number, and line up with other people who always looked more like runners than I did.

The last bike race I did was in 2006, and it was the first time I’d ever signed up for a bike race. I remember all the awkwardness of that morning. Standing around with my bike. Not knowing that it was probably a faux pas to  wear the jersey they’d given me in my swag bag to the race (but not having another jersey to wear and desperately wanting to look like I fit in).

The rollout was probably not even half of what it will be tomorrow in terms of number of riders. Most of them will be half my age and twice as fast.  I am mostly worried about getting run over at the starting line.

I’m also a little bummed out that I’ll be missing my long run this weekend, since I have not missed a single workout for ten weeks. Missing this one run is not going to make or break my marathon, and while I might be batting 1.000 right now as far as training plans go, it’s not like I do in any other area of my life. So why sweat it, right?

Adding to my anxiety is the fact that I’ll be driving to Marquette solo, which was not the original plan but has come to be because of kid activities, i.e., Sophie’s first soccer practice. And I know she shouldn’t miss it. And in some ways it will be easier to not have to worry about getting three kids and a husband into the car at 5AM for a two-hour car ride. But it adds some stress of me having to navigate on my own (worst navigator ever) and deal with parking/shuttling/bike picking up-ing after the race is over. And being prudent during post-race festivities in order to make it home in one piece. In other words: not drink all the beer.

In some ways, this is good. It’s good to put yourself out there for things that aren’t easy, that aren’t givens. This is not a given by any means. And even though I signed up for this race in the throes of finally getting back some semblance of myself after having the baby (and a little jacked up on hormones), the reason for doing so hasn’t changed. I want to continually challenge myself and experience new things. I don’t want to just say “one day I’ll do that.” I’d rather say, “Yeah. I did that, and it was incredibly hard/fun/scary and totally worth it.”

This is from this week's commute but is essentially what I'll look like tomorrow.
This is from this week’s commute but is essentially what I’ll look like tomorrow. With a helmet. And full body armor. (Kidding about the body armor.)


Creating Workouts in Garmin Connect

I wrote up this brief tutorial on creating workouts on and syncing them to Garmin devices. Your mileage may vary. Enjoy.

Creating workouts in Garmin Connect

I have rekindled my love with the stored workout feature on my GPS watch. I’ve used it in the past but sometimes just have enough mental capacity to find shoes, bra, shorts, hat and get out the door.

There are probably multiple ways to do this but this is what works for me. You can also create workouts directly on the watch but I find it to be an exercise in profanity.

Things you’ll need for this tutorial:

  • A Garmin device capable of storing workout
  • An account at Garmin Connect where all the data is stored. If you use a Garmin device, you probably have one of these. If not, it’s free. Go to
  • The USB ANT+ dongle that came with your Garmin, or if you have one of the fancy schmancy ones that doesn’t need the dongle, then lucky you! 🙂
  • Patience and more than a few minutes. Don’t try to do this five minutes before you’re leaving the house for your run or you’ll most likely get frustrated and curse my name.

Logging in, saving a workout

Garmin uses “workout” to refer to an activity that isn’t just strapping on the watch and hitting start at the beginning and stop at the end of your run. There are also some simple “workouts” programmed into your watch (interval, running for a particular distance or time, etc.). When I use my Forerunner 410 (one of the older models), I find my stored workout under the “Advanced” menu item (Settings > Workouts > Advanced). You’ll want to check the manual for your particular model to see where to find these.

  1. Log in at
    Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 1.52.52 PM
  2. Navigate to “Workouts” in the fancy slide out side menu (it’s at the bottom).
    Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 1.54.00 PM
  3. You’ll see any workouts you’ve already created. To create a new one, select the workout type (Run, Bike, Custom) and click “Create a Workout.”
    Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 3.04.41 PM
  4. Garmin has prepopulated a few things for you to make it easier – warm up, run, and cool down. You can use these or delete them and add your own (delete by clicking on the x at the right side of each “step.”
    Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 1.55.26 PM
  5. Clicking the pencil next to the Workout title lets you edit. I recommend this. Ten “Run Workouts” might get confusing after awhile.
    Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 3.06.11 PM
  6. Hovering over the vertical lines at the left side of each block and dragging with your mouse will let you move the workout steps and change the order.
    Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 3.06.52 PM
  7. Add a Step: Use this to add items to your workout. You can set them for time, distance, speed, etc.
    Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 3.07.40 PM
  8. Here’s where it can get tricky: adding the repeats. Click on “Add a Repeat” INSTEAD of adding the run step and recovery step as individual items.
    Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 3.08.01 PM
  9. Garmin will add that new block and you can see that the steps within that block will be repeated as many as you indicate.Your choices are as they are in step 7: Warm up, Run, Recover, Rest, etc. (see 7a)Duration: Do you want to run for time? Distance? Speed?
    Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 3.08.48 PM“Add more” lets you set an intensity level. You can indicate which training zone you’d like to aim for on a given step. For my workout this morning, I wanted my miles to land me within the 75-85% range of my max heart rate, so I added a custom zone.
    Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 3.09.08 PMSo for each repeat, I will run 1 mile in my target HR zone, follow with a .25 mile recovery, and then repeat for a total of four times before my cool down mile.
  10. When you’re finished adding your steps and repeats, rename your workout (if you haven’t already done so) and click on “Save Workout.”
    Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 3.10.07 PMThe green confirmation message will pop up so you know it worked.
  11. Now it’s time to sync this bad boy to your Garmin device. See the blue text under “Save Workout”? Click on “Send to Device.” A window will pop up.
    Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 3.10.37 PM
  12. Yes! Send Now! Click the button.
  13. You may get another message like the following, and if you’re like me you’ll just click through because it gets into a level of detail that you’re not too concerned with.
    Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 3.11.13 PMThe reason I don’t are is that I don’t use power durations and don’t care if only one workout is stored on my watch at any given time. Newer units might be able to hold more than one kind of workout.
  14. Herr Garmin (Adrienne Martini) will now do its thing, syncing the workout from the computer through the magic of Bluetooth.

I hope this works for you or at least gets you headed in the right direction. I don’t use workouts very often but when I have something on my calendar like a tempo run or interval session, I find it’s best to let the technology do its thing and take some of the mental load off me so I can just focus on one thing: getting it done.

Happy programmed running!