I think it's the watch

You'll be proud of me: today I called my husband mid-day to say that I was tired. I was really saying "I really don't want to do this 16 mile run today". We haven't slept much this week, so I really was tired... and that definitely affects my motivation to get outside. Not to mention that and the fact that it was 10 degrees with wind of 15-20 mph. Feels like -2 to -5. Great.

I ask Nate what I should do. His response... pause... "Well, you can do whatever you'd like". Ha!

Sooo... I get myself out the door. I'm determined to be determined about this whole running thing now. I look a little funny -- I lost my warm balaclava, so instead I'm wearing a thin one with two headbands around my neck. Against the wind, I pulled the headbands up over my nose. It actually worked great! There was space between those and the balaclava where my breath could escape, so nothing really froze solid. Looked a little funny, though, since the main headband was a bright yellow 1980s Swix one. Imagine driving down the highway seeing me, tied to a dog, chugging along. I'm sure I looked like a lunatic.

I start off down "the hill". 6 miles to the bottom. HR around 172 or so. Back up to the top. Even though the constant up and up gets a little old after a few miles, this route is great. Little traffic, not much ice or snow on the road. The next 8 miles uphill my HR was really odd -- 217, 226, 211, 209, 222, 226, 208, 211. Ok, so I know I have a high heart rate, but this is on the riduculous side of high. I'm not even running hard! When I'd stop to adjust clothing, I would notice my heart beating harder than it normally does. Weird.

I honestly think it's my watch. After the uphill miles, it went back to around 185. Higher than ideal, but I believe readings like that. So, next workout I'm going to try to run with Nate's Suunto HR monitor. Guess whatevere my HRs are doesn't really matter as long as I'm going by feel, but it'd just like to know where my zones really are.

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Left in the dust

Nate and I went out on Sunday for a run together. We decided to put a few hard miles into the middle of our run, up Flower Valley Road. If you happen to run all the way down that road, it ends up to be a 4.75 mile run back up it... ALL uphill... quite the training route! We head partway down and started the threshold.

I struggled to keep up from the beginning. At first, I told myself, "ah, he's just starting off too quickly. Can't wait for a mile to click by & then I can show him". But, that mile went by -- and I wasn't showing anyone anything. At 1.5 miles, I gasped that I'd only be able to make it another 1/2 mile. He agreed.

With that, he took off. I tried to go with him, but I couldn't. At 1.75 miles, I looked up at him in front of me and just stopped. I'm gasping for breath, much harder than I have in a long time. I look down at Ellie, who is disturbed that not only is Nate running and we're not, but we're BEHIND! I had to start again. I made it the last .25 miles up the hill, but it wasn't pretty.

Nate headed home after the threshold & I continued on to get a few more miles in me (he did about 7.5, I went on for 13). It's been a long time since Nate's been able to crush me on a long hard workout!! Not good!! :)

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Rebuilding "marathon" legs

I have a LOT of work to do! Yesterday was the first day I had run in... well, a long time. I did a whole 4 miles on the treadmill yesterday. I wanted to start out conservatively -- there's nothing worse than getting healthy and then taking a step back.

Today I woke up and my legs were a little sore. Wow. :) It's amazing how fast you lose your strength! To think... just 3-4 months ago I was doing about 13 miles a day, without any hint of soreness.

Today I did two runs... the first, just 3 miles. I started out on my run mid-day (yeah for short Fridays at work). I had actually intended to do 7, but Nate called and said he'd be home in an hour. Wow! A chance to run with him in the daylight! So, I told him I'd head back home and we'd go out for a run together later (he wanted to go 6 miles). I figured a double of 3 and 6 was better than just one run of 7. The second run was a lot of fun. We went a lot faster than I would have if I would have run alone, so that was good.

Tonight my legs are sore :). Odd feeling, actually... I usually don't let myself take enough time off of running to ever get "sore". I think this break had been a good thing... it gave me time to ski and also to re-motivate me to run/race fast.

So, Game on! Let's see what I can do in the next month :)

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Cough, Cough

How frustrating! I've been sick for 2.5 weeks now. The first week I took off 3 days from training to try to kick it in the butt quickly. Then went back to running/skiing (mostly skiing, actaully) moderately -- definitely not doing as much or as hard as I normally do. I started to get better until Friday last week. That's when the "cough" came on.

Cough, cough, cough... Nights were especially bad. Yuck. Nate hasn't slept in the same room as me since it came on. The ski race on Sunday didn't help matters. After that night's coughing escapade, I took the next three days off.

Last night was the first night where I only woke up once to cough (and I wasn't even up for an hour! yeah!). Finally, progress!

Needless to say, the last 2.5 weeks of training have been terrible. I've gained 5.5 pounds (no joke) and I'm a little nervous about my running base - I hadn't been doing as much as I'd wanted to already, and now I'm WAY behind. Great feeling. I think I'll be able to start running tonight (PRAYING that won't set me back) -- just easy miles to start out with. New resolution: get back up to speed! and quickly!

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Boulder Lake Race

Boulder is one of my favorite races: flat and wide. I'm still pretty timid with downhills and am terrible at finding room to pass people, so this type of race suits me well :).

I started in the 2nd wave (of 3). I placed myself behind the first line of people. The gun went off - quick, double pole! Wait -- not that quick :(. Of course I had started behind someone that wasn't very quick. Bummer. As we funneled into the trail, I was about 1/2 way back in that wave. How do you get around someone like that at the start of the race? Passing is so much more complicated in a ski race.

Although I started too far back, I had trouble finding my tempo to be able to pass people. It honestly took about 8k before I felt like I was really moving. Before that I had several times where I thought I was going to fall backward (why is that?) and was fighting balance and very tired shin muscles. Note to self: Maybe I should try to warm up fast? It seems I always spend the first 1/4 of a race just re-learning how to ski/race.

After about 8k I felt much better. Nate had given me tips the night before on trying to race fast: be aggressive on the crests of hills, free skate the slight downhills. That's all I'm thinking about when I'm skiing now: c'mon, Nichole -- let's go faster! Let's actually try to race today!! I was also wearing a HR monitor so I could see where that's at when I'm ski racing. During the first half of the race, I thought: gee, I'm hardly tired. More motivation to go faster: I want to get that HR up.

Problem is, I can't really go faster. Hmm. So, I just cruise along at my pace, passing people here and there. On the third lap I catch Odd Osland. We're usually very close in races, but today I pass him pretty quickly. I'm still trying to go faster, as I don't really think I'm racing all-out. Wish I could get to that "can't breathe any harder" point on skis. That'll be a lot of fun :)

I finished the race in 1:48 (31k). I know you can't compare ski times year over year, but I still want to note that Sunday was 20 minutes faster than last year. Yeah! At least I'm moving in the right direction! I finished about 4 minutes behind Katie Splan, one of the Vakava teammates, and 6 minutes behind Mel (another teammate). It's the first time that I've been that close to them! I was encouraged by the results, but also can't wait to improve. I know I can do much better!

What I learned:
I put over a minute on Odd Osland the last 6k or so. I know I'm a better finisher than most because I'm just generally strong & fit, but that seems a little skewed. I should change two things: 1. Learn how to get around people quickly at the start (or start farther up, one of the two) 2. Before next race, warm up fast (or do whatever I need to do so that I'm not struggling to stay on my skis the first part of the race). I'm honestly not "racing" until 25 minutes into a race.

Overall, a fun day. Helps to have temps in the low 30s! :)

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HR Averaged 216 for last mile...

Wow! I haven't seen a reading that high since I bought & started using my HR monitor. Granted, I don't run with my it all the time, but I've raced in it several times and done quite a few hard workouts with it.

My HR is abnormally high. My previous "high" at a race was something like 212. My typical max during a really long, all-out workout is around 208.

Today I did 10 miles total: 4 warm up, 3 relatively hard miles, and 3 cool down. I was going to do 4 at threshold, but backed down after seeing my HR. Workout as follows: I started the warmup and felt pretty good. HR around 170 or so. Then started the hard stuff. First mile HR around 194. Great. 2nd one just a little higher than that. Then my watch clicks to start monitoring the 3rd mile. 210? I give it a quarter mile and re-look. Maybe something's wrong. I'm not actually breathing that hard. My legs are pretty dead so I'm straining pretty hard for my push-off, and I am doing these all uphill, but other than that -- this doesn't feel like a 210 effort! The average continues to creep up, ending at 216 average for that last mile. WEIRD. Guess it's just 8 or so beats higher/minute than I'd expect... but it's just that I've never seen a reading this high before (especially never on a workout).

I'm not really sure what that means. Either 1) I'm not in that good of threshold or VO2 max shape (VERY likely, I've done very little hard work this winter, mostly just base) or 2) I'm still getting over my cold (does that affect your HR?) or 3) the HR monitor wasn't working properly.

Oh well -- just a hard workout, which is exactly what I needed. I'm also going to remember to run with my HR monitor all the time. It's just nice to compare HR over different workouts during different parts of the year.

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Can't kick this cold!

Argh, I've had a cold since last Monday. It wasn't anything bad, either -- why can't I just get OVER colds like a normal individual? It always seems to take me 2-3 times longer to get healthy. So, that cut into my running and skiing last week a bit. Only 6 hours of training :(, 3 days off. The first few days that I came back and ran/skied, I sort of regretted it -- just felt sicker afterwards -- but decided that was better than not doing anything. If I'm going to take 8 days to get over a cold, might as well have it take 9 or 10 days.

I did more skiing last week because I thought it was easier on my lungs. Who knows. Friday-Sunday I got in over 4 1/2 hours of skate skiing, which is a record for me (I think... I don't really keep track). Wa-hoo for records. I think it helped a lot. Mel commented that my form looked really good on Sunday when we saw her at Green Acres. I wasn't fighting my glide as much (normally I'm so concerned about toppling over that I don't allow for any/much glide), and felt like I was using my legs more -- and getting somewhere with all of it! Yeah! So, I actually had a good time :). About time!

Got me to thinking that it might be fun to concentrate a little more on skiing, I might pick it up faster and actually be able to race well sooner. I do think it'd be a lot of fun to be a fast skier. I don't need to be my running equivalent on skis. Just able to ski & enjoy it.

I am going to make minor tweaks to my training now that we're a few weeks into the new year. I know I'm not nearly as in-shape as I was last year at this time (last year in late Jan I ran Houston in 3:03). That's scary for me to think about... to be behind where I was, especially since I have much higher goals now. But, the end goal is not to run fast now, but in a Fall 2010 and ultimately 2011 marathon. So, with that in mind, maybe I'm still on track. I'll start throwing in a little more threshold stuff and VO2 max stuff now -- all on foot. I think at least once a week now, and potentially twice a week. I think I'll substitute more of my base training hours to skis now (especially if I'm actually having fun like this weekend). I'll still try to do some hard stuff on skis, but the reality is that I'm never actually going that hard... so it probably won't translate to much in terms of my running training.

Nate and I will be going up to Boulder this Sunday for a ski race. Hope the weather is nice and the trails are in good condition!!! I like this race because it's flat and wide :)

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Hoping for warmer weather!

My long run last weekend went really well! It ended up to be 19.25 miles. Between my Yaktracks (BEST thing ever invented for winter running -- those with trail shoes = great traction!) and my head-to-toe clothing coverings, I survived both the 0 degree temps and the trecherous icy roads.

My legs held up really well, which surprised me. I haven't been good about getting long runs in this winter, so I expected to struggle through the last 2-3 miles. Not the case! I finished strong & definitely could have gone longer. Maybe there isn't as much pounding when you're running on ice -- usually that tears up your legs on a long run. Either that, or my body could tell I was taking it slower (8:15 pace). Guess it could be that I haven't lost as much "long run strength" as I thought I had... which I guess could be the case... I'm just a little skeptical.

Training this week hasn't been as great as I had hoped. After a 65 mile week last week (plus a few hours skiing), I came down with a cold this week that I haven't been able to kick. Grr. Hate those. I tried to run yesterday on the treadmill for the first time and stopped after 2.5 miles. Felt dizzy and a little sick to my stomach. Nate put Ellie on as I was trying to recover, she ran for just over 2.5 miles. She's making me look bad!!

I'm hoping today to get out on the Red Wing trails. First time this winter that I'll get out on the ski trail by myself! I usually only go when Nate's going -- getting out there by myself is true dedication! I just feel pretty behind, I haven't skied in a long time. We might do the Green Acres 5k this weekend & are driving to Duluth to do Boulder next weekend. Crazy that Boulder is next week already.

On another topic = one of my best running partners at GAC (also happened to win the National XC Championship as a junior) recently had surgery to repair a tendon in her knee. We've been in touch often, excited about the possibility of training and/or racing together again. I would absolutely LOVE that -- we work off of each other so well (crazy how that works out with certain people). She wrote me yesterday to say that it isn't healing as well as they had hoped; she still has the same pain in that area. What crushing news. She was excited to get back into the racing thing again, and she would have a legitimate shot at crushing that Olympic Trials qualifying time. I'm still hoping that it'll turn around, but from the sound of her last note, she's counted herself out. Funny how dreams can be crushed so easily...

Alright, I'm just rambling -- I'll sign off, hoping that this weekend brings warmer temps!!

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Back on the train...

It took me a bit, but I'm back to following my plan. I do love the challenge of following a plan... for example: HOW am I going to fit in a 17 mile run this weekend? I've skipped a couple (or shortened) of my last few long runs, so feel the need to get out and do this one. Problem is, the high tomorrow is 0 degrees with higher winds. That makes for a "feels like" temp of -20. That's just not even fair. Mother nature's testing my determination.

I could run inside on a treadmill... but that doesn't sound like fun at all :(.

Sunday looks a little better, high of 8 and winds of just 5 mph. I think I'll do the long run then -- and it turns out that running from the in-laws (where I'm staying) to Theo Wirth park (where Nathan will be racing on Sunday) is 17.4 miles on foot. Coincidence? I think that'd make the run fun -- give me a purpose -- if I don't get to the park with him, I don't have a ride back home to Red Wing! Plus, destination runs are always fun. Might be a little harder to carry/read the map I'll bring along, since I'm sure I'll have my balaclava pulled up as close to my eyes as possible and my hands will have big clunky mitts on, but hey -- it all makes for more of an adventure, right?

Skiing has been going better lately, I think. I feel fairly natural striding (although I often wonder if I'm just "running" on skis) and yesterday while skate skiing I felt like I could V2 pretty well. Nate said I'm committing to my skis better than I have, and I think I can feel that. It's hard to tell. One breakthrough lately: I skated for an hour this week, then ran for 10 miles. I tested my HR during both, and my average skiing HR was 5 beats higher than on the run! WOW! Granted, I was running about 8:45 mile pace, nice and easy, worrying about footing & the cold... but still! This is a really big breakthrough for me, knowing that I can finally get my HR to where I would be running. Wonder if I could do a threshold workout the same on skis now? I'll have to see! (This sounds insignificant, but for 3 years I've struggled with calling skiing a workout because I couldn't ski well enough/fast enough. It's been really frustrating, and has resulted in a lot of 7-8 mile runs AFTER long skis so I could feel like I actually "did" something)
YEAH!! Little successes :)

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