Running in a Small Town

This article was originally posted by Charlene at the original Blogs.

This is an uncomfortable post for me to write. But sometimes uncomfortable things should be talked about.

I live in a small town where very people run. I am known by strangers as, "The girl who runs." I am used to people asking me in the grocery store how far I run each day and that is something that I am sure you all encounter.

A few things though the last few months have started to trouble me. I have always felt safe running. My only worries for my own personal safety have only been about traffic or falling. Like I stated before people often use my running as a way to start a conversation or introduce them self to me. Usually those conversations are quite normal. But lately some of these conversations have been strange. Like people say things that they really should not. Like things that make me think that they might have a somewhat unhealthy interest in my running. I am not a person that is easily offended and as a long time regular of the dive bars in this town I have heard about everything and am quite used to the more suggestive comments that people sometimes make. Most of those comments are actually pretty normal considering the people that they come from. I have some friends in low places. Those type of comments or cat calls no matter how crude are not what I am writing about here.

People sometimes slip up and say more than they mean too. Sometimes this is just a small slip like instead of saying that they see me run they tell me that they watch me run. But then there was the lady in the van that stopped me one day and told me how worried she was about me as she she had been monitoring my weight and my running for years. She repeatedly asked me to get in the van with her. Perhaps she wanted to abduct me and fatten me up -JK. She was an odd one but harmless but the incident did cue me in to the fact that people that I did not know were taking more of a notice of my hobby than I was comfortable with. I think every runner struggles with feeling a little bit self conscious at times but as the years go by we would like to think that we just blend in.

I do a lot of my speed work at the HS track as there are very few safe places to run fast around here. Sometimes there are people there as the infield is used for various practices that do not involve the track. I go ahead and do my workout and just make sure that I stay out of the way and do not run down any small children. One night at a social function a man asked me if I run at the track to show off my body to the dads and the boys. This was the most offensive thing that anyone had ever said to me in my entire life. One other man recently asked me if I think about him when he drives by me. But he stated it in a way that indicated that he thought I ran to attract his attention. Both of these men are from the Dad practice group at the track and are of a profile (married, mid forties, ex jock, and giving off a certain vibe) that way back when I got boobs I decided should be avoided.

Obviously, I sense a lack of respect for female athletes behind these comments. I know that many people perceive women who train to be competitive with all having eating disorders but the whole running to attract male attention really threw me for a loop. That to me is an unhinged rationalization that reminds me of those stories of juries acquitting rapists because the victim was wearing a mini skirt. These comments also lead me to believe that perhaps I am watched more than I ever thought. Part of this is that commentary in general on my running has been increasing in frequency to the point that my friends notice and tell me how weird it is that so many people bring it up. I still feel safe in my little town but I got to admit this totally creeps me out.

Race report: Pike Lake Trail Run

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original Blogs.

I was looking for a race to test out my legs some but not worry about times or beat myself up too badly. When I saw this race on the calendar, I couldn’t resist. Times mean nothing when running at Pike Lake due to the extremely undulating terrain so I wouldn’t find myself worrying about running a certain time. No matter what time I run, it doesn’t matter. Further, I figured the trail aspect would save my legs a bit and, this time of the year and with the recent large amounts of rain we have had, ensure times would even mean less. So I signed up and was off to the races.

In the past week or so, I got to the point of expecting a very muddy course. As the race neared, I noted the forecast overnight temperatures in the 20s and decided a bigger concern may be ice. Still, a good reason to break out the cross country spikes either way. So that was my decision. With the cold forecast, I also made some race uniform changes. When I got to the race and felt the biting wind, it was settled. Tights and a long sleeve shirt over a short sleeve shirt. Add in a hat and gloves and I had my racing uniform set.

At warmup time, the temp was 25 and I don’t want to know what the wind chill was, given the strong wind coming off Pike Lake. The only saving grace was that most of the race would be in the wooded hills of the park so I’d be sheltered from the wind. It’s hard to warm up in that but I managed. Unfortunately, I believe the start was a little late so it was hard to keep warmed up but I managed with some additional strides and form drills.

As the race started, the 5K and 10K/half runners went different directions, which allowed me to at least figure out who was in the 5K. A couple of 10K/half runners jumped out in front of me and, while my legs weren’t too anxious to get off to a fast start, I didn’t want to lose contact so I hung with them. After a bit of time to loosen up, the legs decided to get going and I think the guys in front slowed down a bit and I took over the lead. Pretty quickly, the lead was growing to a fairly significant margin.

Then the start of the climb up to the top of Powder Hill. This is roughly a 450 foot climb from the start of the race to the top of the hill so we’re not talking a little climb. It also had a few downhills included so, while the net climb might be 450 feet, the gross climb was more than that. I began encountering 5K participants, some of whom even though they looked back and saw me coming did little or nothing to give me space to pass. Fortunately, it was on the mostly uphill portion of the course so I had more control and was able to work my way through with little to no trouble.

As we approached the top of the hill, we split from the 5K. They leveled off, relatively speaking, while we continued the climb to the top. As I was approaching the 55 foot observation tower near the top, I felt conflicted. The sign at the base of the tower said turn around. However, I remembered the course instructions from the website, specifically:

…towards powder hill tower, up tower, turn around, back down and out…

So what do I do? I have about 3 seconds to decide. I’m in the lead by a fairly significant margin. It’s still early enough in the race that, even if I lose the lead, I have time to gain it back. I don’t want to win partially by cutting the course. So I head up the tower. I start running but, on the first flight of 8 steps, I nearly trip because the steps are so small. So I walk the rest of the way, 2 steps at a time. On the way down, again because of the small steps, I walk down, 1 step at a time. As I’m going back down the tower, I see 6 runners turn around at the base of the tower. Either they missed the message I saw online or I chose to follow the wrong instructions. After the race, I asked the RD and he said we were not supposed to go up the tower but I didn’t know that at the time…obviously.

So now I gave up what I figure was at least 2-3 minutes, very possibly 4-5 minutes, and I went from a very solid lead to 7th place. I have time to make this up, though. So off I go to make it up. Right now, I’m somewhat mad at the guys who didn’t go up the tower because, remembering the very clear instructions online, I was sure we were supposed to go up the tower. I think I fed off that anger a bit and brought all 6 of them back in fairly quickly. Then I was back in the lead and extending it fairly quickly. Then the fun of the course began. I remember some snow and ice from the winter that hadn’t yet melted on the course somewhere but I can’t remember quite where. More fun than that, though, was the biggest "puddle" (more like a pond) on the course. We had already run through some mud spots and a couple of places where a boardwalk was laid out so we could avoid the mud pits. Now, though, I was staring at a small pond on the trail. It extended the full width of the trail and into the woods on each side. After the race, I was told there was a path around it with small flags signifying that was the path for us to take. I didn’t see it while out there, though, so through it I went.

This small pond had about 1/8 to 1/4 inch of ice on top from last night’s solid freeze and was nearly knee deep. When I first hit it, I didn’t know what I was going to hit. I knew it had ice on top but didn’t know if it was a thin film of ice or thick enough to trip me up. It turns out it was thick enough to trip me up. I crunched into the ice for about 2-3 steps at full speed, heard the guy behind me say fairly loudly "oh shit", then my foot got hung up on the ice. I kept my feet under me but I had to slow down to keep from tripping on the ice the rest of the way. By the time I got out, I was soaked from waist down and freezing. Fortunately, the freezing part only lasted about 1/4 mile.

From that point on, the worst was over. A few mud patches but nothing bad. A few hills but mostly downhill. As I had been doing whenever the opportunity presented itself, I opened up my stride whenever I could and tried hitting a nice race pace. I cruised through the remainder of the course, knowing I had a solid lead so not pushing to the full extent I could but at the same time trying to give an honest effort. I encountered some 5K participants along the way but they were spread out enough now that they weren’t too hard to navigate around. Essentially, other than one unmarked turn that I slowed a bit for before just taking a guess (and, fortunately, guessing right) it was a pretty uneventful last 1-2 miles. I cruised in with a pretty healthy lead for first place. I have no idea what my time was. Between the challenging course and adding on a fair amount of time climbing the tower, I honestly don’t care what my time was. I went there to race with no worries about time and that’s just what I did.

It was a good first effort of the year. It’s always nice to start off the year with a low key win and it’s nice to start off the year not having to truly redline it out there and without beating yourself up too badly.

While the race has some organizational challenges to improve upon, I love the course (and I now know it…as long as they don’t change it on me next year) and that to me overrides the problems. I’m never certain I’ll be going back to any race except Al’s Run but I’m reasonably certain that, barring scheduling problems, I’ll be back next year.

Sorry I don’t have any pictures. The mud I picked up on my back alone would have made for some classic images but it wasn’t meant to be I guess.

We will overcome

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original Blogs.


I know everyone is writing about this and I have no doubt some are far more eloquently than I will. Still, I can’t help but add my own thoughts.

Yesterday’s events at Boston have shaken the running community. There is no denying that. Never, as far as I can recall, has an act of terror so directly attacked the distance running community. There have been acts of terror targeting the Olympics and that, obviously, affects the running community but they weren’t directly targeted at a running event. They were targeted at an event that running is a part of. On top of that, this wasn’t an attack on just a running event. It was an attack on the longest-running annual marathon in the world. It was an attack on possibly the most famous marathon in the world (some might quibble with this but it is definitely among the top two or three).

At the same time, runners in general have interminable spirits. We don’t just pack it in when something goes wrong. Individually, we overcome and return from injuries. We come back from bad races with good races. When we fall down 9 times, we get up 10 times. Runners seem to be hardwired for that. Actually, I just think it’s a process of natural selection. Runners fall down. Those who don’t get back up don’t remain runners.

This time, it’s not an individual battle we have to overcome but an attack on our community as a whole. True, the attack probably wasn’t targeted at the running community as much as it was targeted at a high profile event in a major US city but the chosen target was a running event and, as such, the attacker picked a fight with the running community. I have no doubt that we, as a community, will get up again. That’s what we do individually and that’s what we will do as a community.

The individuals affected by this will have a long road back. By the latest count I’ve heard, three families are paying the ultimate sacrifice. Many others are suffering great loss themselves and have long roads to recovery. I have no doubt the running community will rally around all of those who are suffering physical and emotional scars that many of us can’t imagine. We may not be able to do everything for them but we will do all we can and we will not forget about them. They are now a part of our sport’s history.

In the meantime, those of us with less severe scars will come back. In a way, our sport has lost some of its innocence. Starting with London this coming Sunday, security at major events is never going to be the same again. That said, we will not give up. We will not give in. I fully plan to be out racing this Saturday and, in my own way, remembering those who have been so seriously affected by the events of yesterday and celebrating the resiliency of not just the participants of our great sport but of our great sport itself.

In the end, we will follow the lead of Bill Iffrig who, after being knocked down by the explosion, got back up and crossed the finish line.

Terrorist attack at Boston Marathon

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original Blogs.

I’m still catching up myself on what is going on in Boston right now. It appears two bombs detonated near the finish line. Initial pictures I’ve seen are not looking good. I won’t post pictures here for those who don’t want to see them. If you do want to see what seems to be the most commonly used photo, see the link below:

I’ll update here as I’m able and as I get updates. Mixed messages now but it sounds like runners are being rerouted away from the finish line. If anyone has more details or finds updates before I post them, please don’t hesitate to update in the comments. I’ll be doing the same.

A Tale of 2 Tempos

This article was originally posted by Charlene at the original Blogs.

I am excited for tomorrow morning as I get to track four friends racing Boston. This definitely brightens up what has been a very gray couple of weeks. All of them are prepared to run great races and I will be so happy to watch them do so from my computer screen. Plus I think that either Shalane or Kara will come through in a big way. Hopefully there will be lots of me cheering like a freak all morning.

Last week was a very good week of running with an excellent tempo run of 6 miles @ 6:32, a 5×1000 workout, and a 15 mile long run to total up to 60 miles for the week. I was feeling really good about the direction my fitness was going and excited enough to sign up for Crazy Legs for the first time ever. In the past I have not ran this race due to the lack of seeding for those who have not ran the race the previous year. This year it appears that they will seed the newbies so I can only hope I will not start behind a wall of walkers.

This week was a crappy week of running. It was a cutback week so I aqua jogged with a friend on Monday, ran easy the next 2 days, took Thursday off, ran a crappy tempo run on Friday, ran on the TM on Saturday, and was blown around like a kite today for a total of 41 miles (plus an hour of aqua jogging) This endless stretch of cold damp weather really makes me a bit depressed and achy. The tempo run was crappy as I just was missing a gear and could not run fast as I averaged 6:57 for 6 miles. I think the effort did feel much more like an aerobic threshold rather than a Lactate threshold. I was not hurting in any way but just could not speed up. I did think about lengthening it out from 6 to 8 miles but the cold drizzle just was not convincing me that I wanted to be outside any longer than the cool down home. I have not yet mastered dressing for cold rain/30 something degree weather. My outside layer is always soaked with rain and my inner layer is always soaked with sweat.

Today I am trying to keep down the negative thoughts that occur after a week of poor running. It is hard to be excited about an upcoming race after a workout fail. One bad workout does tricks on my head and even leads me to wonder if all the good workouts this year have been flukes. I also think that this cutback week just did not do what it should have for me. This may be because I always choose a certain week of the month for a cutback or because each day had the crappiest combination of weather possible. Give me a dry 20 degrees any day over 30s and rain. I read on a blog today about taking two consecutive days in a row off instead of a cutback week. I kind of like that idea so you will have to all weigh in and tell me what you think.

This next week is gonna be better though as I WILL get my groove back and my poor sister is now 41 weeks pregnant so that means that I will be visiting a new baby boy this week.

Doping with thyroid medication?

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original Blogs.

This Wall Street Journal article prompted a lot of discussion yesterday about whether or not our sport has a new doping problem in the form of thyroid medication.

It’s always tough when medication for a genuine medical condition can also be a performance enhancing medication, as some people think this thyroid medication could. As I began reading this, I instantly thought of the fact that asthma seems to stricken track and field athletes at higher rates than it occurs in the general population. Anti-doping agencies allow inhaled corticosteroids for athletes suffering asthma with a "Therapeutic Use Exception" (TUE), which basically means they are granted permission to use a normally prohibited drug due to a medical condition that requires the drug as a part of treatment. There is no doubt that some of the athletes do have asthma and need the corticosteroid. There is no doubt that others are skirting the rules in order to use a performance enhancing substance.

I get the sense that this is the next generation of that issue. As of now, the thyroid medications being used are NOT banned substances. However, should they be banned? Typically, the drug cheats are ahead of the curve in figuring out what works and what doesn’t. It would not surprise me at all if, in the near future, we discover that these drugs are in fact performance enhancing in otherwise healthy athletes.

The question is what happens when this occurs? There are certainly some athletes who truly have thyroid conditions and require the medication to function normally so I’m certain a TUE will exist for these drugs. It already appears elite athletes are suffering from these thyroid conditions at far higher rates than the general population. If this is found to be performance enhancing, what will be the requirement of proof that you need this? Will TUEs for thyroid conditions become popular?

One of my favorite sports science bloggers has already written about this and I generally agree with him. I think this should be a banned substance that is only allowed with a TUE. The concern would then become how to test for the need. The current "quick" test seems very questionable and sounds like it may turn up a lot of false positives. Steve Magness mentioned on Twitter that this test could be used as a preliminary test and there is a follow-up test that is available that, as I understand it, could determine whether abnormal hormone levels are due to a problem with thyroid function or are related to other non-medical factors, such as the hard training that all elite athletes perform. I think this follow-up test should be required in order to get the TUE.

This is a very sticky and still developing topic. Does anyone want to share their thoughts at this point?

Tragic story out of Sun Prairie, WI

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original Blogs.

Some of you have probably already heard about this story. In short, a woman named Maureen Mengelt from Sun Prairie was out on a training run Sunday afternoon when she was hit by a drunk driver. She was taken to a local hospital but died at the hospital.

I was informed this morning that she was a long-time runner who had run the well known Syttende Mai 20 miler in Stoughton (near Madison) over 20 times. I’m sure she will be deeply missed in the running community over there.

Fortunately, it looks like law enforcement is throwing the book at this driver. It seems too often like incidents of car vs. walker/runner/cyclist are not treated so seriously. Excuses are made for the drivers and charges are usually minimal, if anything more than a civil fine of sometimes less than $200, even in the case of serious injury or death.

I’m posting this for two reasons. First, if anyone wants to follow this story, I can post follow-ups in the comments. Second, please be careful out there. I hate intersections, especially freeway exits. Drivers don’t look out for anyone not in a car, if they do see you they often assume you will get out of the way even if you have the right of way and they are incredibly unpredictable at intersections.

Running by effort

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original Blogs.

I think I sometimes drive the runners I coach crazy talking about efforts. Easy, 10K effort, 5K effort, half marathon effort. These are common phrases in discussions.

Just this past week, I’ve had discussions with three runners I coach on what exactly these efforts mean and/or why I prefer training by effort over other methods, such as pace. I may explore this topic further in a future post but I’d like to share some high level thoughts on a few key points that I believe make training by effort the best way to train.

1) Training by effort helps you learn the correct effort to run a race at. You’re going to make a few mistakes when learning a new skill like running by effort. Would you rather make those mistakes and learn from them in a workout or in a race? Why is this skill important in racing? Read on…

2) Training and racing by effort allows you to adjust for variables on the fly. Once you’ve honed your skill to run by effort, you will naturally adjust for things like adverse (or more ideal than expected) weather conditions, course related factors such as hills or even factors such as the lack of sleep you got last night or the stress of a bad day at work. Running simply by pace won’t account for these factors and will leave you running a less than optimal pace/effort level. Running by heart rate may help you with some of these factors but it won’t do much when your legs are fatigued because you helped your friend move yesterday. Also, your heart rate doesn’t always respond to all stresses in an expected way and doesn’t always respond to your effort level instantly. If you fine tune your ability to feel your effort, you can know instantly when your effort level changes. Relying on heart rate may leave a delayed response. You’ll find out before disaster strikes but will you find out in time to adjust for an optimal performance?

3) Running by effort ensures you’re doing the workout you intend to do. When trying to stimulate a physiological response from our training, we need to hit a certain effort level. Depending on some of the factors mentioned above (weather, course factors, life factors leading to more or less stress than usual) a given pace may be too fast or too slow to best target the training stimulus we want to focus on. If you’re doing a workout that should target 5K pace/effort but you take the workout to the hills, you have to back off your pace. How much? Every hill is different. It’s hard to tell without going by effort.

4) Running by effort removes your succeptibility to technological glitches. Just last week, I had a run where my Garmin flaked out. It had me starting far from where I actually did start and reported a first mile of 3:31. No problem. I wasn’t relying on it so I just ignored it and figured it was just a stopwatch for that run. What if I was relying on it to set my pace? Would I have been lost until it locked into my location? What if this happened on race day and I was relying on it to set my race pace?

Effect of weight loss (dehydration) and muscle break down on performance

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original Blogs.


Writing about another study (I promise this blog won’t become all about reviewing studies but this will be a part of it). This time, a study of how weight loss as a proxy for dehydration and myoglobinuria as a proxy for muscle breakdown are related to reduction in muscle power. Essentially, the idea of this study is to determine what the correlation is between late race muscle fatigue and two commonly held explanations for that muscle fatigue.

In a break from commonly held assumptions, body mass loss (the proxy for dehydration) did not seem to affect muscle power output. Participants in the study ranged from gaining body mass to losing more than 4% of body mass (that would be 6 pounds for a 150 pound person) during a marathon but loss of power output was not correlated with body mass loss.

On the other hand, there is a quite strong correlation between myoglobinuria production (the proxy for muscle breakdown) and muscle fatigue.

What does this tell us? Well, I would still strongly suggest not ignoring fluids during a marathon, especially a warm weather marathon. However, don’t go to extremes. I recall a few individuals telling me that I should follow their hydration plans because they actually gained weight during marathons. Why should we believe that this is ideal? It’s been shown that the best marathoners tend to lose weight during marathons, typically in the range of 5% of body weight but some even more. Now, we have more evidence that this singular focus on hydration may not help.

Instead, we should be focused on not breaking down our muscles. So how do we do that? We train our muscles. Nothing all that new here. Lots of long runs, lots of volume at faster paces. In addition, though, I think this suggests again the importance of not going out too fast. If you go out too fast, your muscles are going to break down earlier. This will reduce their ability to keep performing at an optimal level earlier than if you go out on pace or even negative split a bit.

With Boston coming, here’s another thought. The early miles are downhill. Getting too carried away on early downhills will damage your muscles, especially the quads, even more. We all know (I hope) it’s important to not get too carried away early at Boston. This likely explains one reason for that. Your muscles will break down earlier and you’ll again lose your ability to perform at an optimal level earlier than if you play it safe on the early downhills.

Starting a running blog

This article was originally posted by Charlene at the original Blogs.

Yes, I have been drinking tonight and that has spurred my desire to start a running blog. I would never do this out in the blogosphere as I just don’t think I have thick enough skin to take some of the negativity or drama that I sometimes see targeted at some of the bloggers I follow. I really don’t want any of that in my life. As for the blog I just plan to post my weekly mileage and any random thoughts that I have about running or life in general. I am always trying to improve at both.

About my running; As of today I have 696 miles logged for 2013. Some were fast, many were slow, and a few 1k intervals were really fast. Way too many miles were on the treadmill due to the splendid ice accumulating conditions we had this year. I have a half marathon in May and I feel really good about where I am at right now in my training.

As for me; I am selectively compulsive and tend to take things to extremes but only about certain things like running, being on time, my shoes always being just right for my outfit, and clothes, shoes, and hair in general. Oddly though, I do not feel the same way about my running clothes and will wear them til they fall apart. I even raced a goal half marathon in a 5 year old dingy tech shirt with paint on the sleeve. When it comes to running it is all about the running and not at all about all those extra things that stylish runners need.

For a compulsive person though I do have a messy house. I just was not programmed to be tidy as much as I was programmed to get the miles in every day or shop for just the right pair of heels. A friend of mine told me that she cannot get out to exercise as she cannot bear to leave the house if there is a dirty dish in the sink. Entire kitchen can be trashed and I just see it as one more reason to leave for a run. You can always clean a kitchen to perfection even if the dishes were piled up by the sink for a week but your own body is not so forgiving if you do not work out. Not that I let my dishes pile up for a week. I learned long ago that the best cure for an untidy house is fewer possessions so I only have about a one day supply of dishes. And that last sentence is most likely the best advice I will ever offer on this blog.

My hobbies besides running are looking at red cowboy boots on E-Bay and trying to make sure that my kids grow up to be adults that are not annoying. Not that I am never ever annoying but you always hope for better for your children.