2018 Wrap-Up

Recently, I’ve felt like I left something unfinished. I had made blogging a consistent practice over the last two years. Then this fall it started to lose its fun for me. The writing felt like work — something I had to do in order to keep the blog going versus something I was excited to do. It was much easier to post a photo and a quick caption on social than to create long-form content here. So I stopped.

I hadn’t stopped the activities that I loved. I just needed to take a break from writing about them. Here’s how my season wrapped-up:

Twin Cities Marathon

I knew running a marathon would be tough. I just didn’t know how tough. Someone had told me there are two halves of a marathon — the first 20 miles and the last 6.2. I had shrugged-off that comment as cliche. But as I found out first-hand, they were not kidding.

The first 20 miles were somewhat of a breeze. My body felt good. My feet felt good. My lungs felt good. And my spirits were high. The course was lined with spectators, enthusiastically cheering for the full distance. It was amazing, and unlike any race atmosphere I’d experienced before. I can see why so may people love running this event. The longest training run I had completed was 18 miles, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect in the final miles.

The last 6.2 miles hit me hard. I first felt soreness in my knees and hips. Then my shoulders hurt. Why in the world were my shoulders hurting? Everything inside me was telling me to quit. But I didn’t run this far to give up now. Tough runs don’t last; tough runners do.

Crossing the finish line of my first marathon brought me a sense of pride I’d not yet experienced. I’d pushed myself harder that I’ve ever pushed before. I did it. My body was tired but my soul was wide awake.

  • Distance — 26.2 miles
  • Time — 03:32:36
  • Pace — 08:07/mile
  • Place — 1019/7144 overall

Minneapolis Halloween Half Marathon

So I probably shouldn’t have been running this race. It was three weeks after the Twin Cities Marathon. And my physical therapist recommended taking about a month off from running. Obviously the math doesn’t work there. I took about ten days off and started loosening-up for the Halloween Half.

My goal was to best last year’s half marathon time of 01:45:00. I was unsure if I could do it given my lack of full recovery. But I was still going to give it a try! I got a little to ambitious out of the gate and found myself running a sub-seven with the lead pack after the first mile. A half-mile later, my right knee became very unhappy. By mile three, I thought I may need to throw in the towel. I’d never thought I’d quit a race as much as I did in that moment. My knee felt like it was going to give out.

But giving-up was not something I was willing to do. All year I had been telling myself I wanted to experience suffering in a race atmosphere. If I was going to achieve some of the long distance goals I have for my future, I needed to push my brain. This was my chance. I could either quit or double-down and accept the challenge. I chose the latter. The pain returned in mile ten, but I kept focusing on positive thoughts and kept running my pace.

Crossing this finish line brought a new sense of accomplishment. It wasn’t the distance I was proud of. It was the not giving up that brought a smile to my face in a time when the rest of my body was frowning. Oh, and I crushed my goal too.

  • Distance — 13.1 miles
  • Time — 01:36:28
  • Pace — 07:22/mile
  • Place — 33/674 overall

What’s Next

Rest and recovery is my top priority right now. I’ve ran a few times in the last month, usually three to four miles at a time, and within a few hours afterwards, I feel like I ran a marathon. Both of my knees and right hip are just sore. I’m hopeful that it can all be chalked-up to overuse and that rest will be the remedy. I’ve committed to not run again until February. Let’s see if that sticks.

In regards to 2019 races, I have a few ideas, but am trying to rest on that as well. I put a lot of time, physically and mentally, into planning, training and racing in 2018. It kind of consumed me. I’m a little nervous about approaching a point where I take this all too seriously. I started pushing myself because it was fun. And I want it to stay fun. When the time is right, I’ll kick-off 2019 activity. But in the meantime, it feels pretty good to just chill.

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Marathon Training: Overcoming Overuse

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Gone are the days when I could run as far and as fast as I pleased without consequence. The invincibility that I knew would one day expire finally did just that. A substantial increase in mileage as I swiftly transitioned out of the triathlon season and into marathon training resulted in my first bout of running-related knee pain.

I had spent the entire summer splitting my training across three sports — a lot of swimming, not as much biking as I probably should’ve, and running about 24 miles per week. After wrapping-up my triathlon season at the USAT Triathlon Age Group National Championships in mid-August, and then taking a week off, I had about five weeks left to really focus on running before tackling my first ever marathon — the Twin Cities Marathon. The training plans I had looked at were set on a 18-week schedule. I had hoped all of my other training would provide a good base, so I plugged into a plan at week 15, made a couple modifications and hit the ground running from there.

More miles meant exploring new trails!

In the first 15 days, I logged 84.5 miles — about double the weekly mileage that my body had been used to. That included three long runs at 13, 16 and 18 miles respectively. The 18-miler was the one that did me in. Well, all of the summer’s mileage added-up to the pain that would occur, but it happened during the 18-miler. I felt a pain behind my right knee within the first mile that I’d never felt before. It was like there was a cable in the back of my leg that was being pulled as tight as it could be, with the tension right behind the knee. I kept running and after a few miles it kind of loosened-up. Kind-of. Then during the last eight miles, I felt a strain on the outside of that same knee. It started as a dull ache and intensified after taking off from a stoplight. This was also unlike anything I’d experienced before. I knew something wasn’t right.

I saw a physical therapist with a running specialty and was told I had a strained distal hamstring tendon and a strained IT band — both caused by overuse. I had probably ramped up a little too quickly in my training plan as I attempted to make-up for some lost ground. The good news was that they wanted me to keep running, just shorter distances and at a slower pace. Whew. What a relief that was to hear. I had to skip the 20-mile race I had signed-up for to complete what would’ve been the longest long run of the training plan, but the physical therapist said that if I had already built-up to 18 miles, I should be able to do the full 26.2 miles in a few weeks. Another relief to hear.

So for the last two weeks, I’ve stuck to a modified training plan, with long runs of 10.5 and 8 miles. I’ve been doing my assigned stretches and foam-rolling the heck out of my legs. Side-note: I’m new to foam-rolling but I love it. I never knew how tight some of the muscles in my legs have been until I pressed them into the foam. Leveraging my body weight to help massage my legs with the roller has already done wonders.

The best part about long runs? Replenishing the thousands of calories burned!

Overall, my knee is feeling much better. I’ve logged the majority of the miles I needed to during that last five weeks of that 18-week training plan. I’m rather relaxed about the challenge ahead. With only five days until toeing the start line, I’ve done about all I can do –minus the few remaining more short runs to stay loose, getting plenty of rest and executing a nutrition plan a few days before the race. I’m honestly just excited to get out and run the course that’s been dubbed the most beautiful urban marathon in the country.

Oh, what’s my goal? This has been a great question. The first answer is to finish. That’s the big thing. And since I’ve never ran the marathon distance before, I’m not totally sure how my body will respond in those later miles. Last fall, I finished my first half marathon with a time of 01:45:33. If I could keep that same pace across a full marathon, which I’m unsure of, that would put me at a 03:31:06 time. I averaged a 08:10/mi pace during the knee-pain inducing 18-miler a few weeks ago. Based on that, and accounting for the unknowns that could happen during the last 8 miles, especially with a knee that isn’t 100%, I’m setting a goal time at 03:38:00. It’s certainly achievable if all goes well, yet will challenge me to keep a 08:19/mi pace or better across all 26.2 miles.

The unknown is what excites me most about this race. This is something I’ve never done before. And the only way to find out is to try it. This reminds me of a quote: “Only those who will risk going too far can find out how far one can go.” Well, I’m going to find out!

You never know where you’ll find a reminder to smile on a run!

New Distances in 2018

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I kind of thought I’d have this year’s race schedule a little more locked-in by now, but with a few core races decided on and registered for, my 2018 season is starting to take shape.

The plan so far

Trinona | June 10, 2018 | I’ll be kicking-off my triathlon season at the race where it all began for me. Trinona has a special place in my heart and I’ll probably compete in it for as long as I’m able. It’s the first triathlon I ever competed in. It takes place in the beautiful bluff country and river valley of southeastern Minnesota where I grew up. And it’s a race that some of my good friends are competing in now as well, which makes it even more fun with banter before, during and after. This will be my third consecutive year competing at this race, and fourth time overall. In 2017, I missed the podium in my age group by 16 seconds. I’ve registered for the sprint distance once again, with a goal of making this my best Trinona finish yet.

Minneapolis Triathlon | July 14, 2018 | New distance alert. I’ve registered for the International / Olympic distance for this race, which is twice the distance of a sprint. I’ll be swimming 0.93 miles, biking 24.5 miles and running 6.2 miles. I’m pretty excited to be taking my triathlon career to the next level. And I’m even more excited to be doing it as part of Team Save the Children, raising awareness and funds to help support the amazing work they do for children around the world (I’d be honored if you visited my personal fundraising page here). This is sure to be a special race on many levels.

Twin Cities Marathon | October 7, 2018 | Another new distance. Last fall I ran my first half marathon. This fall I’ll be running my first marathon. Tackling this distance wasn’t on my radar until last year. As my overall triathlon goals began trending towards an Ironman within the next few years, I realized I needed to start increasing my distances and exposing myself to the physical and mental challenges that come with them. But exposure to suffering wasn’t the only reason I chose to run a marathon. I’ve heard so many great things about this race specifically from past participants. It’s been dubbed the most beautiful urban marathon in America. It’s well organized and has tremendous fan support. The atmosphere is sure to be electric, providing a spark right when runners need it most.

Yet to be planned

I’d like to get a few running races under the belt prior my first triathlon of the year in June. A few options include the Hot Dash and Goldy’s Run, which both offer 5k and 10-mile options, and the Get in Gear event, which offers a 5k, 10k and half marathon. I’ve raced the Get in Gear 5k the last two April’s, but given my goals for this year, I’d likely target the 10k distance. A ten-miler at the end of March or early April might be a way to start the season with a bang though!

The biggest gap in my schedule is the second half of July through August. I’d really like to do four triathlons again this summer. With two already registered for in the early part of summer, this late summer window is the place to add them. A few local options include the Chisago Lakes Triathlon at the end of July and the Maple Grove Triathlon at the end of August. Or it may be time to look into a long weekend trication.

I was disappointed in learning that Life Time Tri races moved away from being USA Triathlon sanctioned, meaning the Minneapolis Triathlon will no longer be the regional qualifier for USAT nationals in August. I was really hoping to make my first run at the International / Olympic distance as an effort to qualify. However, it’s been a race I’ve always enjoyed and coupled with my opportunity to leverage race efforts as a way to bring positive change for kids around the world through Save the Children, it’s still a race I’ll continue to prioritize.

While I still have some planning left to do, one thing has already become clear — 2018 is going to be a year of new distances and new challenges. It’s going to take me out of my comfort zone. It’s going to push me harder than I’ve trained and competed before. But it’s also going to provide opportunities to get faster, stronger and smarter. The comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there. I’m ready to see how much farther I can go. Cheers to goals, growth and new experiences in 2018!