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Fall is my favorite time of year, but it creates a challenge for exercising, at least during the week. The days get shorter, the temperatures cooler and the kids after-school activities more frequent, which leaves less time for biking or running.

Yesterday I left work a little early. The temperature was right, the winds negligible and the sunlight still beaming. I hopped on my bike and took off down the road. My muscles complained a bit with the unfamiliar movement since I’d been doing more running and less biking lately.

The right combination of layers and windproof gloves kept me warm, except for my ears, which were uncovered. Gradually I found my rhythm and even though it wasn’t my usual speed, it still felt good. I checked my watch and the sky. The sun was starting
to lower itself on the horizon. My bright pink vests increases visibility, but I still didn’t want to get caught in the dark.

I made the turn for home and increased my pace. So did the sun. It was a race, who would reach their destination first?  I made it
home as the shadows grew longer and the air cooler but still a bit of light in the sky.

Today, I beat the daylight but soon it will be no match. Even though I plan to run outside during the winter, the shorter days and challenging winter weather means much of my exercise time will be spent inside.

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Training for the 35th Grandma’s Marathon has been going well for me. This is the first time in 33 years that I have trained through the winter following a marathon season. In the past, it was busy-ness that was my excuse as the training miles disappeared during harvest.
This winter went well for me. I had tapered off in November and December, running about 10-15 miles/week. I resumed marathon training miles the last week in December, a week ahead of schedule.
Having kept a decent log of my miles and times last year, I am able to compare and contrast. So far in 2011, I am running a few more miles, but more importantly, my workout times are usually running about 30 seconds/mile faster than last year. So with this in mind, I was looking for a challenge.
I got that challenge with Team Ortho’s Get Lucky Triple 7k (half marathon). This race was held on Shepard Road in St Paul just above the Mississippi River last Saturday. A chilly day, it was 27 degrees at the start, with a slight head wind. My goal was to not get psyched out by the pace I was running, but to run hard and see what I could do.
This was an out and back race, and I was within a mile of the leader at the turn around. Even more impressive, he had about a 2 minute gap on the rest of the field, and there were less than 20 ahead of me. While it was mostly uphill on the way back, I just kept chugging away. I finished with a PR 1:25:56 time, about a 6:34 mile pace, that was good enough for 15th overall, 3rd masters and 1st in my age group. Even more satisfying was looking at my mile split times and seeing the consistency in times, only 16 seconds spread over the race (except first and last miles).
5 days later, I feel mostly recovered. I will try a tempo run tomorrow, and should be back on the training schedule, now that I have used that extra week I had started with. Keep running!

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle

The other day Dale and I went for an easy 2 mile run. Well, it was an easy run for him and a little more work for me. “Oh, it’s a little windier than I thought”, Dale exclaimed as we headed down the driveway and on to the road. Great, not exactly what I wanted to hear. This was really my first winter run in quite a long time. I had the right running gear to stay warm and protect against the wind and oh yes, I had Dale’s Yak Trax on my shoes to help me keep from slipping.

It was a great run. Dale commented that my stride was shorter, which is a good thing and that I was stronger going up the hill. Yes, my winter workout routine must be paying off. When we got back home I felt like I should have run further. So that will be my goal for next time…run farther and perhaps stronger and faster

As 2011 stretches out before me, I’m curious as to what it holds.  One thing I’ve been contemplating is whether this is the year to run my first marathon.  I’ve been a runner for many years and have slowly increased my mileage and races.  I’ve run three half marathons and have really enjoyed that length of race.  Just recently I’ve felt “the itch” to try something more.  Taking the leap is a little scary, though, considering I have a few reservations.

First of all, the training is a huge time committment.  Is it fair to my family to spend so much time running?  Secondly, will my body hold up to the high mileage?  I’ve had minor injuries over the past couple years and wonder whether they will worsen with overuse.  Thirdly, I don’t have a partner to train with.  I’ve never trained for a race alone.  I’m a pretty motivated person, but it always helps to know someone else is counting on you being at the trail at 5:30am.

Running Snowshoes

 I’m weighing both options carefully and leaning towards going for it.  Running in the winter itself can be a challenge.  After spending some time walking the halls in our high school, I just knew I needed to get back outside.  Our gravel road that runs by our home is often icy, so that is rarely a good option for running.  What I’m trying this year is snowshoeing.  I bought snowshoes that I can run in.  Now that the snow is packed, I can go out our backdoor, hop over the electric fence, and go for miles out in our pasture.  Whew!  Running with snowshoes is a workout!  I’m planning to build my mileage base on the snow.  We’ll see how that goes.

In the past as the weather grew cooler, my workouts would move indoors to the treadmill. This year, with Dale’s help, I’ve purchased some cold weather clothing so that I can continue to run outdoors. I have a 1/4 zip mock t-shirt that has long sleeves and a slit to put my thumb through so that my hands stay warm. I’ve worn that shirt a couple of times for both running and biking and it’s worked really well. I also have a pair of wind resistant pants and a jacket. The prairie winds continue to blow, no matter what time of year.

The temperature has been in the low 30’s when I’ve ran, so it’s not terrible cold and in reality, I was overdressed. In effort not to be cold, I underestimated how much heat I would generate by running. I must say that I really enjoyed running. Even though I probably won’t run in as cold or extreme weather as Dale, it still provides a nice alternative to the treadmill. I admit my distances aren’t much to brag about, just 2-3 miles, but it’s more than I did last year, so I consider that progress. It also fits into my original goal that I started with this Pork Power blog, to challenge myself and to try some activities I hadn’t done for a while. So far, so good.