Monday, January 30, 2023



Both feet (barely) off the ground.

Photo: Evan Roberts

As January comes to a close, I like to think I followed my “master plan” for the month. The idea was to;

11  1) build mileage at the end of December and into the first week of January – I ended up with 38, 43 and 49 miles during that stretch.
2) take a down week and race on the 14th – backed off to 28 miles and ran a decent 5M race.
3) build mileage for the next 2 weeks before racing on the 29th – had back-to-back 7-day stretches of 47 and 54 miles (note: I say 7-day stretches because they were from Monday to Sunday, which isn’t my typical Sunday to Saturday “week”. I did race yesterday – more on that below.
4) backing off for a couple of weeks before jumping into marathon training – that’s where I’m at now.

I also tried to keep things fun by including 3 fat bike rides and 4 skis, along with 8 strength sessions. Overall, I’m happy with where I’m at and my plan moving forward. That plan being the Level 3 version from I originally downloaded their Level 2 plan, but then David Goggins was whispering in my ear, “Go big or go home.” In reality, I’ll probably have both plans side-by-side and try to follow a combination of both.

I feel like I need to caveat a lot of my posts with “back when I was more focused on road racing…” because it’s been so long that that has been my focus. But back when I was more focused on road racing, I always looked forward to winter running as a chance to put in a lot of miles and build a base heading into spring. During most winters, this base building phase included me running the Winter Carnival half marathon as a way to benchmark my progress. All those years the race started in downtown St. Paul and was basically an out-and-back on Shepard Road, which is a 4-lane road with clear surfaces (as long as it wasn’t snowing at the time) and rolling hills. In addition, there was also plenty of competition and people to run with.

This year’s race was held on at the State Fair grounds and you had the option of running 1 – 4 laps that were supposed to be 5K. I signed up for the 20K option with the hopes that the closed-off fair grounds would include dry pavement. That turned out not to be the case. Just walking across the parking lot was a challenge with all the glare ice. After picking up my bib I looked at the start/finish area and could tell that the roads were not plowed very well. I initially had my racing shoes on, but even prior to warming up I knew those wouldn’t be a wise choice. I switched to my trail shoes and changed my mindset from “racing” to just getting in a solid effort. It turned out that there were about 1 mile of clear roads during each loop. Otherwise, we were running on packed snow or ice covered in sand.

The 15K and 20K started together with 18 and 44 people running those respective events, with he 5K and 10K starting 5 minutes later. When the gun went off, I followed my latest strategy of running without looking at any splits. There was an 8-minute pacer just in front of me for the first lap, but he eventually gapped me. After about 1.5 laps we started lapping runners from the other events, so although it was a pretty boring course, there were a lot more people on it than you’d expect from such a small event.

There really isn’t a lot to report from the race itself. It was about -3 degrees at the start, so I was bundled up. I am curious how much that affects a runner’s performance. There are lots of conversion charts for things like altitude and heat, but I haven’t seen one for wearing 2 layers of pants, a shirt, vest, and jacket, 2 layers of glove/mitts + hand warmers, and so on. My guess is that it’s significant – at least that’s what I’m going with.

In my last race I had a guy pull away from me towards the end and he ended up winning our age group. During the last mile of this race, I caught 1 guy that was really struggling and was able to beat him to the finish line. As a result, I was the first 50–59-year-old and he was second. I won’t mention the fact that there was a 64-year-old about 8 minutes in front of me.

In the end, I was pleasantly surprised to finish in 1:35, which is 7:40 pace for 20K. That was until I saw that my watch only recorded 11.7 miles – and that I averaged 8:08 pace. Recently I mentioned that I’m now one of those runners that puts full stock into their watch. This is a prime example of why I do that now. Granted my watch might not be perfect, but it’s not .7 of a mile off. Honestly, being this far off is unacceptable. Maybe I’m too “Old School” but when I run a race I want 2 things; 1) an accurate distance and 2) accurate finish results. Heck, even #2 is debatable, because if I have #1, I can time myself.

I really don’t know who’s at fault here. Is it the Winter Carnival committee who probably came up with the route and said, “that’s close enough?” Or is it the timing company who probably just showed up and was told, “here’s the start and finish line, don’t worry, we’ve marked the course?” I hate to sound like an old curmudgeon, but around this area, all the classic races are disappearing and being replaced by charity events. There’s nothing wrong with having charity events, but they typically have much deeper pockets than the people putting on the classics. As a result, the price to host a race goes up and drives these people out of business. Then we’re left with race where the top priority is swag and a DJ.

It’s time to put an emphasis on races with certified courses – DJ’s be damned!

RECAP OF WEEK 1/15 – 1/21

Sunday – 7K classic ski
Monday – AM: Strength + 2 mile easy, PM: 6 miles easy
Tuesday – 6 miles
Wednesday – AM: 6 miles, NOON: 4M fat bike
Thursday – AM: Strength + 2 mile easy, PM: 6 miles easy
Friday – 7-mile run w/ Scott
Saturday – Day off
Summary: 35 miles of running, 4 miles of biking, 7K of skiing and 2 strength training


RECAP OF WEEK 1/22 – 1/28

Sunday – 12 miles w/ Scott and Derek
Monday – AM: Strength, PM: 8 miles easy
Tuesday – AM: 5 miles + strides, PM: 12K skate ski
Wednesday – 7.5 miles
Thursday – AM: Strength + 2 mile easy, PM: 6.5 miles w/ 6 x :30 hills
Friday – AM: 5.5 miles w/ Scott and Pat, PM: 2 miles easy
Saturday – AM: 5M fat bike, PM: 4 miles easy
Summary: 52 miles of running, 5 miles of biking, 12K of skiing and 2 strength training

Quote of the day;

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” - Chinese Proverb

Thursday, January 19, 2023


10-pt Scale of Perceived Effort


Zones and Paces that align with workout intensities from Run Like a Pro

Current and Goal Paces for different intensities

Paces and MPH for treadmill use


One thing I forgot to mention about Saturday’s race and running by feel vs. checking my splits is that my first mile was way too slow. I ran it in 7:19, which is just above my average pace for the race, however, we lost about 65’ of elevation during that mile. Of course, looking at my watch at mile 1 wouldn’t change that fact, but it may have planted the seed that I should be able to run harder for the remaining 4 miles. Or perhaps I could have checked what pace I was running prior to hitting the downhill stretch. But I don’t know how accurate the pace feature is either.

I will say that I could probably benefit from a more dynamic warmup routine, rather than just running 2 miles with a couple of high knees and butt kickers. Funny, being a mid-January race doesn’t really make one want to spend more time outside doing a full warmup.

Okay, today’s topic focuses on easy run pace. I hear it all the time, “most runners run too fast on their easy days and not fast enough on their hard days.” After reading Run Like a Pro and 80/20 Running I’ve been trying to put together a spreadsheet of the various terms and efforts for each training intensity and how they all relate to one another. Basically, I started with a 10-point Perceived Effort Scale that includes Rating, Description, and Internal Cues. From there I layered in Zone, Pace, Race Distance (that I could hold that pace for), and Workout Type (that I could run each pace at – i.e. is it steady-state, fartlek, 5k pace, etc.). Finally, I added Intensity (low, moderate, high) as outlined in the 80/20 program. I could also add in Heart Rate, but I don’t fully trust the measurements from my watch. For the paces I punched my recent race results into Tinman’s Pace Calculator. These results happen to correspond to a 3:30 marathon, so off to the side I also included the paces for each intensity if I improve to 3:25 or 3:20 shape.

After laying all this out I was really confused by what my easy run pace should be. Again, the concept of 80/20 Running says that 80% of your runs should be at a Low Intensity and the other 20% should be at a Moderate to High Intensity. In the book, Matt Fitzgerald says that for most runners the split is closer to 50/50. Prior to putting together the spreadsheet that I mentioned above, I assume for me a Low Intensity would be around 9:30 pace, which is like MP + 90 seconds per mile. However, as I re-read parts of the book it says “the boundary between low intensity and moderate intensity falls at the ventilatory threshold (VT), which is where the breathing rate abruptly deepens. This is slightly below the more familiar lactate threshold.” Again, in terms of my fitness, I could run as fast as 7:50 pace, which is :10 faster per mile than my MP.

I bring this all up because it was really confusing to me because NONE of my easy runs are EVER done faster than MP. I don’t understand how “most runners” are able to run 50% of their mileage faster than MP. My best guess is that maybe it’s a fitness thing and that this applies to newer runners. I’ve coached some new runners and their training runs were all faster than their MP. Or maybe it applies to younger runners. Perhaps when I was in my 20s I could hit those paces, but not in my 50s.

I was originally thinking this will be great, I’ve been running too fast on my easy days. I’ll slow down and then have more in the tank for my hard workouts. Now I’m like, “I can actually run faster on my easy days? Then would I have the energy for my hard days?” I guess my key take-away is that I don’t have to slug along at 9:30 pace on all my non-workout days. Also, listen to my body and do what it’s telling me.

Quote of the day;

“The process of becoming is better than the being.” – Unknown

Monday, January 16, 2023


The challenge of running back-to-back races of (essentially) the same distance is trying to evaluate them objectively. I’d love to say that after 7 weeks of building my mileage and doing 1-2 workouts per week that I crushed the pace I ran during my Thanksgiving 8K. However, Saturday’s 5-mile race was run at 7:18 pace or :06 per mile slower.

NOTE: I’m now one of those runners that uses what their watch tells them as gospel. There was a time when if I ran a race, I’d believe that the events were their advertised distance. But I now take the opposite approach and assume they’re just approximations. For example, after the 8K my watch said 4.89 miles, even though 8K = 4.97 miles. After running the 5-mile race my watch said 5.07 miles. Not that my watch is correct, but at least it was the same in both races. If I assume the courses were the correct length, then my 8K pace would’ve been overstated and my 5-mile pace would’ve been understated.

But let’s forget about the watch – for now. I’m happy with how I raced on Saturday. This was a fairly tough out-and-back course that started at the Guthrie and followed the River Road south before turning around. That means the first mile was downhill and most of the second mile was flat before climbing to the turn around point and repeating those hills in the opposite direction. Temps were just under 20 degrees and there was a slight first half headwind.

Another change I’ve adopted – in addition to believing my watch to be the gospel – is to just run by feel once the gun goes off. There was a time when I’d take my splits at every mile and then spend the next minute or two analyzing them and projecting my finish time. Now I try to stay more present and monitor things like my breathing, my pace, and how relaxed I am. Mentally, I like it a lot better, but if you have a specific goal in mind, you have no idea if you’re on pace or not. You don’t get that immediate feedback at the mile marks. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Perhaps you’d run the same exact time either way. I don’t know, I’ve never tested it.

Anyway, I said I’m happy with how I raced and that’s because I stayed engaged during the whole race. I was constantly monitoring the things I could control. It was a pretty small race with less than 300 people. I think after about 1.5 miles I was in the same place that I finished. I ran back and forth with one guy for a few miles. After being about 10-15 feet behind him at 3 miles I caught up to him in the next half mile. I think that woke him up a little as he pulled away and put 25 seconds on me the rest of the way. Of course, he ended up winning my age group and I was 2nd.  

Back to the watch. I’m currently using a COROS Pace 2, along with their app. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of data being tracked – things like running performance as a percentage, Load Impact, Fatigue, Base Fitness, etc. I’m still trying to get a feel for all of it. I constantly click on the little question marks that provide more information trying to understand what an “optimized” fatigue level off 44 means or an “excellent” Running Performance of 112%. Can I really trust when my watch says I’m above the recommended Load Impact range of 594-1081?

Getting back to using my watch to compare my 8K and 5-mile races. Here are a few of the key metrics that stood out to me.

Metric                               8K          5M

Avg Effort Pace                7:06       7:03

Running Performance    119%     112%

Training Load                   171        160

Elevation Gain                 164        266


Overall, the race served its purpose. It proved that Thanksgiving wasn’t a fluke and that I’m still on the right path and motivated to work towards my 2023 goals.

RECAP OF WEEK 1/8 – 1/14

Sunday – Day off

Monday – AM: Strength, PM: 4 miles easy

Tuesday – 16K skate ski

Wednesday – 6-mile fartlek (1/2/3/2/1/2/3/2/1:00 “on” w/ 1:00 “off”) 1:00 run at 5K, 2:00 run at 10K and 3:00 run at HMP

Thursday – AM: Strength, PM: 5 miles easy

Friday – 5-mile run w/ strides

Saturday – 8 miles total, including 5-mile race

Summary: 28 miles of running, 0 miles of biking, 16K of skiing and 2 strength training


Quote of the day;

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Unknown

Thursday, January 12, 2023

2023 RACE SCHEDULE (first half)

It’s funny that the winter that I decide to ramp up my running is the time that we have incredible snow. Just a week ago we received 16” of snow over a 48-hour period. I think that brings our total for the season up to 45”. It reminds me of when I was a kid, and we’d go to Michigan’s U.P. and snow would be piled over their mailboxes along the road. As Dave mentioned in a comment on my last post, lots of runners switch to skiing over the winter and get into great shape. I agree that it’s possible and I’ve done it myself. The hard part is, of course, you’re dependent on the snow. Now we have places that make snow, which is great. However, if you don’t receive any, or enough, natural snow, you’re stuck doing 2–3-mile loops over and over all winter long. That can get extremely monotonous. To have a really good ski season you have to start early – as soon as the first man-made loop is open, which is typically early December. Again, if you commit to that and don’t get natural snow, then you’re stuck with man-made loops. With all that in mind, this winter I’ve committed myself to focusing on running, while using the occasional ski (and bike) outing as cross training. The problem with that approach is skiing gets so much easier, and more fun, the more often you do it. Your form gets better, and you get stronger, making the whole process much easier.

I have 2 other “excuses” for not focusing on skiing this year; 1) I work from home 4 days per week now, so I no longer pass by ski trails on my way to work. Plus, our new office doesn’t have a shower like our previous location. That pretty much eliminates exercising before work on the one day that I do go to the office. 2) I’ll admit it, I’m a fair-weather skier. I just don’t enjoy skiing when it’s below about 10 degrees. And guess what, that happens a lot in Minnesota during the winter – especially in the mornings.

I guess all of this is my way to justify focusing on running when the footing has been terrible, but the ski trails are fabulous.

While my running motivation is high, I took the opportunity to sign up for a bunch of races. Here’s what my 2023 race schedule is looking like at the moment. The plan is to build fitness through increased mileage and workouts through 1/29 and then have 2 weeks before I’d start an 18-week build towards Grandma’s on 2/12.

1/14 Yukon 5-mile

1/29 Winter Carnival 15K or 20K

4/2 Goldy’s 10-mile

4/8 Zumbro 17-mile trail race

5/6 Human Powered Half Marathon

6/17 Grandma’s Marathon

This means I’m racing a 5 miler this Saturday. If you’ve been following closely, my last race was an 8k on Thanksgiving where I surprised myself by averaging 7:12 pace. I want to use this race to see where the last 7 weeks of hard training has taken me. But I also realize that the weather and road conditions will be vastly different than on November 24th.

One last topic before I recap the last couple of weeks of training. I like to read/listen to books and I’m already through 4 this year. I mentioned Matt Fitzgerald’s 80/20 Running previously. This covered a lot of the same themes from Run Like a Pro, which I read at the end of 2022. Next, I read the biography of Bill Squires, Born to Coach by Paul Clerici. I love the history of the sport and being the coach of Bill Rodgers, Alberto Salazar, Dick Beardsley, Greg Meyers – guys I looked up to as a kid – I really thought I’d like this book a lot. Unfortunately, it didn’t meet my expectations. I think the story could have been told in 100 fewer pages. There were lots of stats about runner’s results from each season – and many of these runners would only be known if you lived in the Boston area at the time.

The next 2 books I really liked, so I’m going to give them their own paragraphs.

I think most endurance athletes are familiar with David Goggins, the former Navy Seal that has done some mind-blowing endurance events that usually involve finishing after some setback that would cause most runners to DNF. He covered his back story a couple of years ago in his first book Can’t Hurt Me. Everything I read about his latest book, Never Finished, said it was even better, and I’d have to agree. While I think he can be a little much at times – pushing way passed bodily harm (or at least what I’d consider bodily harm) – he does have a way of motivated people and having them question their effort levels. It happens to be one of the reasons why I’ve been bumping my weekly mileage. I would recommend listening to the audio version of this book because after each chapter, he does a mini-podcast that provides additional insight.

I’m not sure if I’m mentioned it at all, but I took an assistant coaching job for cross country and track 3 years ago. I bring that up because it’s one of the reasons I read the next book, What Makes Maddy Run. It’s the story of an all-American girl that’s great at everything she does – until she gets to college. It’s about her struggles with mental illness – something no one saw coming, given how successful she was in high school. I would consider this a must-read for all parents, especially if their kids are in sports. As a coach it was very insightful, but it also scares the shit out of me. It’s much easier to come up with a weekly workout schedule than to monitor the mental health of my athletes and then try to have difficult conversation with them if I suspect anything. It’s even harder when that’s not the environment you grew up in and you’ve never had mental health issues yourself.

RECAP OF WEEK 12/25 – 12/31

Sunday – Day off - Christmas

Monday – Strength + 8 miles easy

Tuesday – AM: 2-mile shuffle, NOON: 4.5 miles easy

Wednesday – 6-mile progression run (steady-state pace to CV pace – 7:45 – 7:10)

Thursday – AM: Strength + 3-miles, PM: 2 miles easy

Friday – AM: 6-mile run, PM: 10K classic ski

Saturday – AM: 8 miles, PM 4 miles – poor footing led to sore hips in the morning, so I cut my long run short and added a 2nd run.

Summary: 43.5 miles of running, 0 miles of biking, 10K of skiing and 2 strength training


RECAP OF WEEK 1/1 – 1/7

Sunday – 9-mile fat bike ride – perfect conditions

Monday – AM: 2 miles, PM: 8 mile including :40 at steady-state pace (7:45) + strength

Tuesday – AM: 4+ miles easy, PM: 2+ miles easy

Wednesday – 6-mile run – lots of shoveling

Thursday – AM: 2.5 miles, PM: 5.5 miles – Fast Finish – last :10 at LT (7:25)

Friday – AM: 5 miles, PM: 7K classic ski

Saturday – 14 miles solo (2:18)

Summary: 49.5 miles of running, 9 miles of biking, 7K of skiing and 1 strength training

The last 3 weeks of 38, 43 and 49 miles of running have me looking forward to a cutback week. That will be a nice mini-taper leading up to Saturday’s race.


Quote of the day;

“You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously.” – Sophia Bush