So far, I’ve run 49 half marathons in 47 states, one full marathon, and a few other random races including 5k’s, 10k’s, and a 10-miler. Since most of these races were half marathons in different states, I have a wide range of races to choose from when deciding which ones I liked best and least. It’s funny because when I hear other people asked, “What was your favorite race?” they usually stammer around and say things like they could never choose just one.
For me, the choice is clear, however, especially for my favorite race. Sure, that’s not to say I didn’t highly enjoy some other races or truly dislike other races, but there are two obvious choices for me. I’ll start with my favorite race ever: the Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon in South Dakota.
Never would I have imagined that a half marathon in a tiny town in South Dakota would end up being my favorite half marathon at this point in my life, but there was just so much to love about this race.
I’ll start with the beginning as all things should, which in this case is packet pickup. I consider myself a pretty efficient person and I can appreciate when other people are also efficient, as was the race director with packet pickup for this race. I simply drove up to the designated site, told the one person sitting out front my name, and was handed a race shirt and bib. Simple and efficient.
The race started promptly at 7 am at the top of the beautiful Spearfish Canyon in Savoy in the northernmost section of South Dakota’s Black Hills National Forest and finished at the bottom in Spearfish City Park. The course is net downhill with the start at around 5,000 feet above sea level and the finish around 1,300 feet. This didn’t feel so steep to me that my quads were aching but it did allow me to finish in my fastest time for a half marathon up to that point in my life.
Because the race is on quiet roads through the canyon, there were very few spectators and aid stations were on the light side, but still sufficient. For some people that thrive on crowds during a race they may find this a negative but for me I found the peace and quiet a definite positive for the race. As I was running I kept saying to myself how lucky I was to be able to run down the canyon and what a gift it was to do that. I can’t say I’ve thought that during many other races.
Now for my least favorite race. This wasn’t quite as easy to choose as my favorite but ultimately I have to choose the race that I described in my race report as a “death march through the desert,” the Laughlin Half Marathon in Nevada. I really hated just about everything about this race and only sheer will-power kept me going to the finish line.
The year that I ran the Laughlin Half Marathon, the race started at 8 am, which was entirely too late in the day considering it’s in the desert and quickly gets blazing hot (it’s since then been pushed to 7 am). It was already hot and steamy at the beginning of the race and being in the desert, there were no trees for shade, and not a cloud in the sky. The entire course was on packed dirt with loose gravel, making it difficult for me to get my footing. The course was out-and-back along a part of the Colorado River but pretty much all I could focus on was the stifling heat and loose gravel so I didn’t find it very scenic.
Even the post-race parts of this half marathon were disappointing. There were only bananas, oranges, and bagels in addition to water. The medals were just average at best and the shirts were white cotton t-shirts with the race logo. Based on the current website, changes have been made since I ran the race, but even so this is not a race I would ever recommend to anyone.
According to the website, https://runlaughlin.com/# the race director is attempting to hold a race December 4, 2021 but this is dependent on COVID numbers and state regulations. If you’re a true masochist, check it out! Honestly, the December date might help with the heat (I ran it in March). You can read my full race report here: Laughlin Half Marathon, Nevada-11th state.
What about you- what are your least favorite and favorite races so far? Have you run either of these races?
If you think this will be just another post about someone telling you that you should do strength training, think again.
When I was in my 20’s I barely did any strength training (or stretching, cross-training, or pretty much anything else other than just running). When I ran my first half marathon, it wasn’t my legs that were the most sore after the race, although they were also sore. However, my arms and shoulders were so sore and tired I could barely lift them over my head for days after the race. That’s when I knew I needed to start some strength training.
I’ve been hitting the gym regularly for the past 20-something years. I feel like strength training has become even more important now that I’m in my 40’s. Depending on what source you believe, you can lose from 3-8% of your muscle mass per decade beginning in your 30’s. Obviously, that can quickly add up to a significant loss of muscle mass if you do nothing about it.
So many runners I’ve known over the years have told me they don’t do strength training because they feel like running is enough to maintain their muscles. The sad truth is, running by itself is not enough to stop muscle loss. In fact, when you’re in your 40’s it’s even more important to not only lift weights but to lift heavy weights. In order to stimulate muscle growth, you need to challenge and stimulate your muscles so they break down and repair bigger and stronger. If you can lift a certain weight with a specific body part more than 10 times easily, it’s not heavy enough. Try to aim for a weight you can lift 8-10 times at the most, and that’s a struggle.
A good rule of thumb is to perform two or three sets of about 10 repetitions or less, and remember to make sure you have good form. When in doubt, ask a knowledgeable friend to show you or just watch yourself in a mirror. Try to fit strength training into your schedule once or twice a week. You also don’t need to spend hours at a time lifting weights and in fact shouldn’t spend that long on strength training if your primary interest is running. I can cover my full body in thirty minutes, sometimes a bit less than that depending on how busy the gym is and if I have to wait for a set of weights or a machine.
There are many, many opinions on what exercises are “best” for runners, but they’re just that- opinions. No one has undeniable proof that doing x, y, and z when it comes to strength training will help you improve as a runner. Exercises that tend to pop up more than others when you read articles about strength training for runners specifically are squats, lunges, and core-related exercises.
That’s not to say you should necessarily focus on these exercises or even do them at all, to be honest. Everyone is different in what their bodies can handle and for some people it would be too much strain on their legs to do lunges and squats two or three days a week on top of running, especially if you’re training for a long-distance event like a marathon and even more so if it’s your first. In fact, I would say if you’re training for your first marathon or looking to get a Boston-qualifying time, I wouldn’t recommend starting a strength training routine because it will likely be too much for your body. Save the weights for after your big goal race or even better in the months before you start training for your goal race.
My theory when it comes to strength training is try to mix things up. Like I mentioned earlier, I like to do exercises that work my full body by the time I’m done. One day you could do some row-type exercises for your lower and mid-back and chest fly exercises, some planks, and maybe some shoulder presses, bicep curls, and tricep extensions with some leg work like squats. The next time do some lat or upper back exercises, some chest presses, superman (for core), bridge pose, lunges, and push-ups.
Another important point is to make sure you run first before you do strength training if running is your priority. Ideally, it’s recommended to allow 2-3 hours between running and strength training, but I don’t think that’s feasible for most people so just do whatever you can. Make sure you’re not doing strength training on harder running days like speed workouts. I always go to the gym on days when I have an easy, shorter run. I’ll run easy for anywhere from 30-40 minutes depending on where I am in my half marathon training plan then drive to the gym, which may take 30 minutes. I also never start out with leg exercises right after I’ve run, but save them for later in my workout to allow them as much of a break as possible.
If all of this seems way too complicated to you and you don’t even know where to get started, I suggest joining a gym that offers one-on-one sessions with personal trainers if you can afford it or are able to given the current situation. You might be surprised at how affordable this can be, if you shop around. If that’s just not an option for you (especially now during the pandemic), there are some great resources online. Ones that offer videos are the best, so you can actually see the exercise being performed properly. Some of the ones I like are:
There are of course many others, but these offer a pretty nice array of exercises that you can easily do at home. You just need to pick up some free weights, kettle bells if possible, and resistance bands and you’re all set! If you’re truly a brand-new beginner to all of this, you can just use body weight to start and work your way up from there once the exercises feel easy to you. There are also apps for strength training but I’ve never used any of them nor do I know anyone who has, so I really can’t speak about those.
One of the biggest factors in strength training is actually doing it. Just like you set a schedule for running, put it in your calendar when you’ll be working out and you’ll be more likely to do it. You may find you actually look forward to your time doing strength training; I know I do!
Now to get to the part about my personal results. My gym was closed for six months due to the pandemic. While I have some weights, an exercise ball, and some resistance bands at home, I’ll be the first to admit I slacked off, especially as time wore on. You might think it would be the opposite and after months of not working out I would be craving more of it, but no; I did less. The one thing I didn’t slack off is core work, which I feel is huge for runners.
Finally after my gym re-opened, I was at first a bit hesitant about going back, but my fears were quickly put to ease when I saw how empty the gym was and how everyone was wearing masks and wiping down the equipment after use. Also the bathrooms were closed and there was hand sanitizer everywhere. Still, I didn’t want to over-do it and not be able to move so I was relatively conservative with the weights.
Do you want to know what I found out? The only part of me that was even a little sore was my chest. Even after not hitting the weights pretty hard like I used to for six months I was just slightly sore. That along with the fact that my running hadn’t suffered any while I wasn’t doing strength training changed my opinion a bit about the “importance” of strength training for runners. It doesn’t change my mind about the importance of strength training for everyone to help prevent muscle loss due to aging, however.
Looking back at my running stats those six months when I wasn’t going to the gym for strength training, my times weren’t any slower, even when the heat of summer hit. Honestly, I’m a bit surprised by my findings because I always firmly believed strength training was helping me be a faster, stronger runner. Now I question that. Not that I’m going to stop going to the gym now that it’s open again because again, the whole muscle loss thing.
And before you begin to lecture me, I realize this is a study of one and for a relatively short period. Also, I was starting with a firmly established base, as far as strength training goes, before my break from it. I have no doubt if I would have taken even longer, say a year, from strength training, I would have seen the effects not just in my running but in daily life as well.
What about you- do you regularly do strength training? Do you cycle strength training months with marathon or half marathon season(s)? Or do you hate strength training and avoid it at all costs? Did you stop going to the gym for strength training because of the pandemic and if so have you been back lately?
I have one child, a fourteen-year-old daughter who loves to hear the story about how she “ran” her first half marathon while in my tummy when I was pregnant. I had been running half marathons and other distances well before I was pregnant so when I told my ob/gyn doctor that I wanted to run a half marathon in my first trimester, she just said for me to take it easy and not push too hard. I had an uncomplicated pregnancy and not only ran that half marathon, I was able to continue to run until I was about 8 months pregnant, at which point the pressure on my bladder was too much so I switched to the elliptical trainer.
Once I got the green light to run again after my delivery, I noticed some changes in my body that had happened during pregnancy. I developed iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS), which is a common running injury, apparently because my ligaments had gotten looser when I was pregnant and we runners want relatively tight ligaments to hold everything in place. Despite the pain from ITBS and not really being able to run more than a few miles without excruciating pain in the side of my knee, I ran a half marathon in Ohio, my first postpartum race, when my daughter was almost 7 months old.
I had a jogging stroller that I used to run with my daughter as soon as she was able to sit and hold her head up on her own. If you’ve never pushed a child in a jogging stroller, let me tell you, it’s HARD! Not only is it hard to push the extra weight of the child plus the stroller, it’s hard to coordinate the pushing and running. Do you push with one hand, both hands, or do the push-off then do no-hands for a few steps? I ended up doing all three. Then there are the turns. Jogging strollers are different from regular baby strollers because they have three wheels instead of four, which makes it easier to maneuver them, but it’s still not easy. I ended up pushing my daughter in the jogging stroller until she was almost 2 years old. At that point she was done with strollers of all sorts and she would put up the biggest fuss you’ve ever seen when I tried to strap her into a stroller or a car seat too for that matter (but she still had to ride in the car seat for a few more years).
Being able to take your child with you on runs in a jogging stroller helps on a few different fronts. For one, it gives your spouse a break from having to take care of your child. For another, it gives you some special one-on-one time, as long as your child enjoys being in the stroller. Finally, many kids seem to enjoy being out in nature and seeing all of the new sights go by when they’re in a jogging stroller. For other kids, the rocking motion puts them to sleep. My daughter would just sit there and look around, taking it all in, so I believe she enjoyed the jogging stroller until she reached the point where she didn’t want to be strapped into anything.
When my daughter was still really little but too old for her jogging stroller, I remember how she would react when I would tell her I was going out for a run. She would always give me a big smile and when she was old enough to talk she would always say, “Have a great run, Momma!” Never did I get the push-back from her where she begged me not to go. It’s like it didn’t even occur to her to ask me not to go for a run. Seeing me go for a run was such an ingrained part of my family’s life that it was just normal to her.
Like any mother runner (or father runner) knows, it’s difficult to squeeze everything in. I’ve always worked full-time and have been running half-marathons since before my daughter was born, on average 3 or 4 races a year. My daughter has been what I would call fairly active in activities over the years such as swim lessons then swim team when she was older, gymnastics lessons, Girl Scouts, soccer teams, ballet lessons, piano lessons, art lessons, and on and on. Fortunately my husband and I were able to work together to coordinate all of this plus our work schedules but it hasn’t been easy. I would often run laps around the park or neighborhood where she had soccer practice or swim team practice. I would dress for a run, drop her off, then run as long as I possibly could until it was time to pick her up again. Sometimes it wasn’t as long as my training plan called for, but as mother runners, we do what we can.
As my daughter got older, she asked to run with me. At first, I was so thrilled and imagined the two of us chatting happily while we went for easy runs. Then the reality of that sunk in and the complaining began. She would whine, “Running is hard,” and “I can’t do it,” and “I need to walk,” sometimes only after being out a few minutes. I would always tell her she would be setting the pace and we would only go for about a half hour, walking when she needed to. However, the truth is, the whining and complaining were driving me crazy and after a while I couldn’t take it any more. We stopped running together.
Then I discovered Girls on the Run, a running support group aimed at girls in third through fifth grade that lasts 10-12 weeks and culminates with a 5k race at the end. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I could make for my daughter, although initially she wasn’t as big of a fan of the program as I was. The reason she didn’t care for the program is she thought it was too easy for her and wanted the coaches to push her harder, but I think it was great for her to be able to see what a great runner she was then and gain some confidence in herself. I fully believe that’s what turned things around for my daughter, and ultimately lead her to become the runner she is today. I wrote a post about her experience when she was going through it, which you can read here: Girls on the Run Interview.
Over the years, I’ve become a big fan of products from the store Trader Joe’s. If you don’t have one where you live, maybe there’s something like it with affordable and still healthy options. On many occasions, I’ve come home from work, changed into my running clothes then gone for a run, come home from my run, and made something from Trader Joe’s for dinner, like a pre-packaged stir-fry or cut up some chicken and cooked and sautéed that in an Indian sauce, with some naan and rice (all from Trader Joe’s) on the side. Sure, other stores have stir fries, sauces, and things like that, but Trader Joe’s products often have less processing and/or less preservatives and other stuff you don’t really want in your food. But I don’t want this to sound like an ad for Trader Joe’s. It’s really my way of saying it’s OK to make a quick meal for your family and you don’t need to feel guilty for doing so. Heck, show me any mother who works full-time and trains for long distance races and I’ll show you a woman who at least sometimes cooks quick meals for her family (unless she’ s lucky enough to have a husband who doesn’t run and does all of the cooking. Now wouldn’t that be a dream?).
As mothers we already feel so much guilt, right from the beginning. There’s guilt if you don’t breast-feed, guilt if you don’t use cloth diapers, guilt if you don’t stay home to raise your child, guilt if you don’t always cook organic, healthy home-cooked meals, guilt if you leave your child with a sitter, guilt if you don’t enroll your child in the “best” preschool, and on and on it goes. We don’t need to feel guilty if we’re doing the best we can and our children are taken care of. Truly, it’s OK to leave your child with your husband while you go for a run, even a long run for an hour or more.
My husband was always fully supportive of me, whether it was my decision to go back to work full-time after the birth of our daughter or my running when our daughter was young and he had to watch her. I know not all women have as supportive husbands, however, which is sad to me. The ability to get out to run is such a mental break for me and my husband was able to see that I’m happier when I’m able to run, and likewise, I’m a better mother to our daughter. If only all husbands could understand this, I believe they would also be more supportive. If you can’t rely on your husband to watch your kids, try trading off watching each other’s kids with another mother runner in your area, or ask a friend, co-worker, relative, or someone else you know and would trust your kids with.
So yes, being a mother is hard and being a mother runner is even harder, especially if you work full-time as well, but I’m here to tell you it can be done. What about work/life balance, you may ask? Honestly, it doesn’t exist, at least not in the perfect 50/50 balance. Some days you may feel like it’s a struggle just to keep your head afloat.
There will be days where you have to work late in the evening, you have to go into work late because your child had a doctor appointment, you have to leave work a little early to squeeze in a run, you skip lunch so you can get in a run, you have to set your alarm for a crazy hour in the morning so you can run before work, you have piles of laundry that have need folded for a week, your bathroom hasn’t been cleaned in over a month. Any of this sound familiar? If you’re a mother runner, I’m sure at least some of it does. We’ve all been there. And you know what? It’s OK. Now stop beating yourself up and get out there for a run!
Are you a mother runner? Do you or did you feel guilty for not being a “perfect” mother?
As you may at least partly guess from the title if you didn’t already know, I’ve had a goal for several years now to run a half marathon in all 50 states. I only had three states left before COVID-19 hit and the world pandemic began. Three stinking states. I was supposed to run my final states- New Mexico, Minnesota, and Iowa and finish on Labor Day weekend, 2020. Thanks to the pandemic, I haven’t been able to run a single race this year.
My half marathon in New Mexico was pushed back from April to November, so I suppose that could in theory still happen but I’m not holding my breath on that one. The race in Minnesota was also technically pushed back but the severe lack of communication from the race director made me never want to run that race ever. The race in Iowa was turned into a virtual race. Since my whole plan is to run a race in all 50 states, I’m not doing that one.
Believe it or not, I’m not feeling the least bit upset over the way my lack of races has panned out this year. Sure, initially I was sad and disappointed but I fully understand why these races couldn’t take place. At this point, I’ve come to the realization that like so many other things in my life, these races are completely out of my control.
Since I’ve started chasing this goal, it was a huge priority for me to run as many races as possible in a year and still spend some time in each state. I was limited both by time off at work and my budget. In the beginning that meant one state/half marathon in each season, so four races each year. When I had run all of the southern states, that mostly meant (there were one or two exceptions) I was down to running during the spring, summer, and fall because I had no desire to run a race in Minnesota or any other northern state in the winter.
I also made sure my daughter was able to go to each race, which meant finding a race during one of her school breaks so I didn’t have to pull her out of school. So far she’s been to every race with me since she was born. That will change if I’m able to run the race in New Mexico in November because she’ll be in school then and doesn’t want to have to make up the school work since she’s in high school and the course load is pretty intense. So far the only state she hasn’t been to other than my remaining three states is Pennsylvania. That may change to New Mexico and Pennsylvania, but as I said, we’ll see.
During these past few months of the pandemic I’ve had some major life changes made by someone else, not me, and I’ve had to roll with the punches. I felt like the rug was pulled out from underneath me and it has taken time to adapt. With time things have gotten better but I still have a long ways to go.
As a result of the pandemic and the changes in my life, I feel like my goal to run a half marathon in every state has evolved into something different. Not less important because I still very much want to finish this quest and it’s still a high priority but it’s just different now. Before the pandemic I felt like one of my top priorities was to make sure I found a half marathon that would fit in with my family’s schedule and to run at least three races a year. Now, however, I don’t feel such a burning pressure for that to happen.
I know in my heart that I will finish this quest and run in all 50 states but I’m letting go of some of that pressure to make sure I find a race during all of my daughter’s school breaks. For example, I won’t be running a half marathon during my daughter’s spring break next year. 2021 will be the first year I haven’t run a half marathon during my daughter’s spring break in as many years as she’s had a spring break (she’ll be a sophomore in high school starting next week).
Even though I tried, I was unable to find a half marathon in Minnesota or Iowa during her next spring break. Rather than spend countless hours searching for a race, I used a couple of vouchers I had won from a contest with an airline and booked us seats to Oregon during her spring break. I’ll find other half marathons to run and if I have to wait a bit longer to run them, so be it.
For years I thought 2020 would be the end of my big journey but now I know that’s not going to happen. Who knows when I’ll be able to finish running a half marathon in all 50 states? I know it will happen and when it does it will be all the sweeter. The pandemic has changed me in so many ways, some bad, some good, but with regard to this goal, it has just put some things into perspective a bit for me.
I realized the other night there’s something I need to fix here. I woke up from a dead sleep with the thought that I have done a disservice to South Dakota. I ran a half marathon there a few years ago and it was my 34th state as part of my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states in the US. You can read all about the Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon here. However, I only recently realized I never wrote up a proper blog on all of the things to do in South Dakota. Now I will fix that.
On my journey to run a half marathon in all 50 states, I visited North Dakota first. No offense if you live in North Dakota, but I didn’t care much for Bismarck and the surrounding areas when I was there. It all seemed drab, uninteresting, and everyone there that we talked to kept talking about how much they dreaded winter coming even though it was only September. Maybe there are “better” parts of North Dakota, but this was my experience.
When it came time to plan my race and vacation afterwards (or “racecation”) for South Dakota, I expected the area to be similar to North Dakota since they are adjoining states. I couldn’t have been more wrong. South Dakota seemed like a complete 180 degree difference from North Dakota to me. There’s only one national park in North Dakota, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, about a 2 hour drive from Bismarck, plus two national historic sites. However, there are two national parks plus four service sites in South Dakota: Badlands National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, Missouri National Recreational River, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, and Wind Cave National Park. That’s just the national parks and sites, too; there’s also the Crazy Horse Memorial, Custer State Park, and some fun wild-west towns.
If you want to choose one place as your home base and take day trips to see as many of these places as possible, Rapid City is a good choice. There are a multitude of hotels and restaurants and you won’t have to do hours on end of driving in a day. 37 miles (about a 45 minute drive) from Rapid City is the Crazy Horse Memorial. Crazy Horse is the world’s largest in-progress sculpture carving, as well as the longest ongoing, having begun in 1948. When the sculpture is complete it will not only feature the Oglala Lakota warrior known as Crazy Horse but also his horse and will be 27 feet taller than Mount Rushmore. There’s a restaurant on the grounds, gift shop, museum, cultural center, and more that you can read about on their website here.
After leaving the Crazy Horse Memorial, drive 16 miles to Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Keystone. There is free admission to Mount Rushmore but you will have to pay parking fees. Carvers’ Cafe is the only dining facility in the park and it serves food typical in a US national park (sandwiches, burgers, salads, soups, chicken meals, desserts, and drinks). I also recommend visiting the Lincoln Borglum Museum at the memorial. One special activity is park ranger talks that accompany the sculpture illumination every year starting the Friday before Memorial Day. Although the park ranger talks stop mid-September, the sculpture is illuminated after sunset all year.
For your next day trip, drive an hour south to visit Jewel Cave National Monument and Wind Cave National Park. If you go to Jewel Cave first and end with Wind Cave, the drive back to Rapid City is more direct. I highly recommend getting there early to make in-person reservations for a tour ahead of time at both places or you may get there only to be disappointed the tour you really wanted to do is booked for the day. You can only make online reservations for large groups and some tours sell out by 11 am. Surprisingly, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the busiest days so you actually might encounter smaller crowds on weekends. Although Jewel Cave is the third-longest cave on Earth, you definitely want to go to both caves because they are very different experiences. It’s also a good idea to bring a sweater even in the summer because Jewel Cave is a constant 40 degrees F year-round.
Custer State Park, about 45 minutes south of Rapid City, is the largest state park in South Dakota and is definitely worth a full day. The park is full of approximately 1,300 bison, bighorn sheep, burros, prairie dogs, and mule deer. Drive the scenic Wildlife Loop Road through the park but also get out and explore the park’s trails. On your way back to Rapid City, take Needles Highway (SD-87). This National Scenic Byway is gorgeous and you’ll see the famous Needles Eye Tunnel. Stop and look around at the panoramic views, and then find the trailhead for the Cathedral Spires Trail. It’s only 1.6 miles long but offers some incredible views.
About an hour from Rapid City is one of my favorite places in South Dakota, Badlands National Park. This national park is 244,000 acres and has one of the most unique landscapes I’ve seen. In addition to buffalo, pronghorn antelope, mule deer, prairie dogs and numerous birds that you’ll see in the park, fossil hunting is allowed as long as you leave everything where you found it, and there are of course many trails you can explore. The only lodging and restaurant in the park is Cedar Pass Lodge and Restaurant.
If you want to see a Wild West town, Deadwood is a fun place and is about an hour’s drive from Rapid City. You can go to the Black Hills Mining Museum, Adams Museum to learn about the history of the Black Hills, tour the Broken Boot Gold Mine, and go to the 1876 Dinner Theater. You can also find a casino, breweries and wineries, and many types of walking tours. Some people might think of the area as touristy and even cheesy but I found the museums interesting and worth checking out to learn more about the history of the area.
This is just a sampling of some places to visit and things to do in the western region of South Dakota. There’s also Bear Butte State Park in Sturgis, Roughlock Falls Nature Area in Lead, George S. Mickelson Trail in Lead, and Fort Meade Recreation Area in Sturgis for some other great outdoor places to visit. Amazingly, this is all just one section of South Dakota. There are also dozens of other state parks, recreation areas, forests, and nature areas in the central, northeast, and southeast regions of South Dakota, which you can find on this comprehensive website.
Have you been to South Dakota? If so, are there places you visited that I left off here?
I didn’t used to be a big fan of running in the rain unless it was summer time. Warm rain doesn’t bother me nearly as much as cold rain. In fact, I’ve always enjoyed the feeling of running in the rain on a hot summer day, feeling the rain drops wash away the sweat, jumping through puddles like a kid, and finding that rainbow when the rain stops. While I’m still not a huge fan of running in the rain during the spring or fall, I’ve found myself more likely to do so as I’ve gotten older.
Inevitably, it rains quite a bit where I live in the spring. I used to run on the treadmill if it was raining, particularly if it was raining hard. This spring, I’ve run in the rain so much I’ve strung a line in my backyard so I can hang my soaked running clothes to dry afterwards (assuming it’s stopped raining). They just don’t seem to dry out that quickly if I hang them over the bathroom shower, so outside they go now.
Recently, my daughter and I were running together and we were supposed to go for 7 miles. It was sprinkling but wasn’t coming down that hard when we were leaving the house. I put on a hat, my Aftershokz headphones, put my phone in my armband, and off we went. After about 3 miles, it started to downpour. Hard. So hard I was seriously concerned about my phone getting ruined and my headphones as well. I put the headphones under my hat, on top of my head, to give them a little more protection, but there was nothing I could do about my phone except hope it would stay dry in the zippered compartment it was in on my armband.
We were doing some speed work that day, which was comprised of five one-mile repeats after a warm-up and before a cool-down. There were deep puddles all over the sidewalk, road, and grass; literally everywhere we were stepping, there was no avoiding these puddles so we didn’t even try after a while. Our feet were long-ago soaked anyway so what did it matter at that point.
I had one of the best speed work sessions I’ve had in a long time on that day. Never would I have thought that pouring rain would be so conducive to a speedy run. It’s not like I was only out for a mile and sprinted home. This was also the type of rain where I had to look a few times to make sure my shorts hadn’t gotten pushed down (or up) from the sheer force of the rain since it was raining that hard.
My daughter has always enjoyed the rain, whether it’s been to walk in the rain with an umbrella, jump in puddles when she was younger, or to watch the dark storm clouds roll in. Since she’s become a regular runner, I’ve never once seen her shy away from a run in the rain, unless it’s a thunderstorm. So she certainly wasn’t going to say no to our recent run together in the rain. Running in the rain is probably one of her favorite running conditions. I was thinking about all of that when we were out running because I saw her mood change from cranky and irritable at the beginning to calm and happy after a couple of miles.
While I was running I was also thinking about how just going out and embracing the weather conditions helps with races. I don’t remember that many races where it was raining but there were a couple. One of the worst for me, the Run the Reagan Half Marathon just outside Atlanta, Georgia was absolutely miserable because it was a cold rain on top of the boring course. In fact, the only other race I can think of where it rained during the race was the Newport Half Marathon in Rhode Island but I actually liked that race, unlike the one in Georgia. The scenic course, filled with mansions, water views, and historic sites in Newport made all the difference. Plus I wasn’t freezing cold during the race in Rhode Island like I was in Georgia.
Back to my point about just sucking it up and running in poor weather conditions. If you never run in the rain and it rains on race day, you’ll be far less capable mentally of dealing with that than if you would have run in the rain while training for the race. Likewise with snow, heat, humidity, and windy days. If you don’t ever plan on running a race during the winter months, running in the snow shouldn’t be a concern, or if you don’t ever race during summer months, you don’t need to be concerned about running in hot, humid conditions. But if you have races planned for upcoming years during the summer or winter months, it’s best to mentally prepare yourself by running in those conditions beforehand.
You might find you enjoy running in conditions you thought you hated. Or you might find it’s not as bad as you thought it would be. The latter is the case for me when it comes to running in the rain and I’m even finding myself starting to enjoy it although I wouldn’t say I’m quite there yet.
What about you? Do you enjoy running in the rain or do you hate it? Have your feelings changed over the years when it comes to running in the rain?
Hey guys! Usually my posts aren’t of this nature, where I just chat about what’s going on with me, although I have historically posted some like this, usually a couple of weeks before an upcoming race. So, if you follow my blog, or maybe even if this is the very first post you’ve ever read of mine you may still be aware that I have a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states. I was supposed to run a half marathon in New Mexico in April, which would have been state number 48 but that was postponed until this fall.
Of course I was disappointed but then I realized it’s actually rescheduled on a weekend that I can go, assuming the pandemic is under control and people can fly for vacations again. So, hurray for some good news! Now that leaves my other remaining states of Minnesota and Iowa. As of right now when I’m typing this, neither of those races have been cancelled. The race in Minnesota is scheduled for Father’s Day and the one in Iowa is scheduled for Labor Day weekend.
My feeling at the moment is that anything can happen in a month. Look what happened between mid-March and mid-April. Not only states in the US but entire countries shut their borders, people were told to only go outside when it was absolutely necessary and some weren’t allowed to go outside even for a walk. Then around early-to-mid-May states and countries began opening back up gradually.
This begs the question, would I be willing to fly to Minnesota in June? Absolutely, without a doubt, YES! I have no fear of “catching” the virus, whether it’s from an airport, airplane, rental car, hotel room, etc. The way I feel, I could just as easily have someone cough or sneeze on me in a grocery store and get the virus then. In short, I am not living in fear of contracting this Coronavirus. I’ve been wearing a mask in public and taking all of the other necessary precautions to protect myself and others but I’m also not going to stay in my home forever because I’m afraid to go outside and live my life. The way I look at it, if I contract COVID-19, I’ll deal with it then. I’m still young and healthy and not immunocompromised nor do I live with anyone who is elderly or immunocompromised so this is easy for me to say. I’m sure if I were at risk or lived with someone who was, I would feel differently.
Back to running, though. Like I said, my half marathon that was scheduled for April was rescheduled, but by the time it was rescheduled, I was already well into my training plan. I continued “training” for the race even after it was rescheduled, but instead of running 13.1 miles on the date that was supposed to be race day, I just ran 10 miles, if I recall. After that, I took one week off running entirely, as I do after every race (I prefer to take two weeks off but in this case there wasn’t enough time) and jumped right into half marathon training for the race in Minnesota in June.
I’m in my peak training weeks now and to be honest, things couldn’t be going better for me. I was supposed to run 9 miles on a Tuesday last week, which wouldn’t have happened if I was at work (I’ve been working from home, like most people) because there wouldn’t have been enough time in the day with my commute and everything else. However, being at home meant for once I could actually complete the entire 9 mile training run, instead of cutting it short like I would have in the past.
Another thing I’ve been doing much more of since I’ve been working from home and only leaving my house once every couple of weeks to go to the grocery store is to run more with my daughter. She’s in high school and is also training for the half marathon in Minnesota. She’s been running for several years and has run a couple of half marathons before but I’ve seen her running times go through the roof these last couple of months. Whereas she used to struggle to maintain a 9-minute mile for more than a few miles, now her easy pace is more like 8:45-minute miles and she recently averaged that on a 12-mile run with me. Not only is she getting faster, she’s pushing me to get faster as well.
I’ve also been running more with my super-speedy dog, a lab-mix named Chile whose greatest joy in life is to run with me. When she realizes I’m getting her leash to take her on a run, she spins in circles and her happiness is palpable. I feel super guilty when I can’t take her with me, like the other day when I had gotten a couple of blood blisters on my fingers from a previous run with her (she saw a squirrel and darted for it, jarring my fingers) and I needed more time to heal. Usually by now in May it’s hotter than what it’s been, otherwise I would have had to have stopped running with her at least a couple of weeks ago due to the heat. Still, inevitably it’s going to get hot and stay hot in the next couple of weeks most likely so her days of running with me are limited.
One thing I’ve also been working on is my hip flexibility. I’ve been good about continuing to do yoga stretches regularly and once a week I’ll do a yoga session of about 45 minutes to an hour, which is what I used to do pre-pandemic, only it was at a gym with an instructor. BUT, now I can actually almost stack my bent legs on top of each other without the top knee at an embarrassingly high angle above the ground. Now the top knee is at a more reasonable angle and I look like most everyone else in my yoga class used to look when we’d do the pose in class. This is called double pigeon or fire log pose, if you do yoga. Here’s a link: Double pigeon (fire log pose). Most people probably would take one look at that and say, what’s the big deal? I can easily do that. For me, it seemed like a “pie in the sky” kind of dream to be able to do it because my hips have always been incredibly tight, even as a kid.
The final thing I’ve been working on that’s running-related is updating my blog. I went through each post for all of the half marathons I’ve run and corrected some of the spelling or other errors and made sure the links to races were still active links. I’m sure there are still things that need to be corrected but it’s as good as it’s going to get for now and is better than it was. It’s something that desperately needed done but honestly probably wouldn’t have happened if not for the pandemic, so I guess that’s one good thing to come out of all of this. I have a page with links to all of my half marathons that you can find by clicking here.
So, yeah, that’s about all I’ve been up to when it comes to all things running-related. For now, I’m continuing with the plan to run the half marathon in Minnesota next month. As I said earlier, I realize a lot can happen in a month, but all I can do in the meantime is continue to prepare for the race. One mantra I sometimes fall back on when things get tough during a run is “Just keep running” to the tune of Dory who kept saying, “Just keep swimming” in the movie Finding Nemo and that’s how I feel right now, I need to just keep running.
I know races everywhere have been cancelled or postponed but do you have a race you’re currently training for that you’re hoping you’ll actually be able to run in person (not a virtual race)?
If you’ve read Runner’s World magazine, you’ve most likely seen their spotlight on a runner on the last page called “How to Be a Runner.” Over the years, they’ve featured famous runners to everyday runners. I always like to read this section and I feel like it’s a fun way to get to know other runners, which is why I thought it would be fun to do here. The idea is to choose one of the word prompts that you feel best describe you. Some of the words are vague and others are more obvious. Here’s mine with the ones I chose highlighted in orange:
Heart Rate Feel (1)
PR Finish (2)
Gel Chews (3)
Hot (4) Cold
Low Socks Tall Socks
Shoe Store Online
5k Half Marathon
Stop (5) Go
Headphones Inner Voices (6)
Warm Up Cool Down
Distance (7) Time
Let me explain:
(1) I tried heart rate training before and just didn’t keep it up long enough to see results. (2) When you run enough races for as long as I have, you realize you can’t PR all the time. (3) I’ve tried a bunch of different gels and chews and the only ones I can stomach are by Honey Stinger, which I take on all of my long runs. (4) I do much better in hot weather than cold weather. (5) I stop at all stop signs, lights, and road crossings; there are far too many distracted drivers out there. (6) I like to run my long runs with my AfterShokz to listen to podcasts but the rest of the time I don’t listen to anything. (7) I like to run both by distance and time but if I had to choose one, I’d choose distance.
Have you read this section of Runner’s World? What do you think of it- a silly waste of time or fun? Feel free to do your own version of this.
I couldn’t sleep last night for some reason. After tossing and turning for a while, some random thoughts began running through my head. I began thinking about how many times I’ve been in the “pain cave.” The pain cave specifically refers to the physical and/or mental pain one pushes through at a particularly difficult race or when training for a race.
One of the most prominent memories of me spending time in the pain cave was during the only full marathon I ever ran, the Long Beach Marathon in California. It was unseasonably hot on that October day and runners were literally passing out from the heat all around me. I’m not sure how I didn’t pass out myself, although I did experience tunnel vision at one point during the race. I remember I kept telling myself to just look straight ahead and just keep moving because I knew if I stopped even for a second, I would never start up again and it would be a DNF for me. I was a young, inexperienced runner and yet somehow I found the courage to dig deep inside myself and keep on moving, despite the difficult race conditions.
Another time where I was physically in the pain cave was when I was having problems with my iliotibial band on one leg and had developed iliotibial band syndrome, or ITBS. When I was training for a half marathon in Columbus, Ohio, I was coming back from having a baby and all of my ligaments and joints were not in the condition they were pre-pregnancy. I had the typical pain on the side of my knee that goes along with ITBS, which I quickly determined was from my tight IT band. It was excruciating to run more than a few miles. Once the pain started, there was no running through it. I would have to stop running and walk back home. This is around the time when I discovered massage therapy and foam rolling. However, too much damage had been done to my IT band and I literally limped to the start of the Columbus Distance Classic. I was in the pain cave pretty much from the start of this race. This is a race I obviously should have never attempted and by the end I was barely walking and certainly not running. After the race, I limped around for several weeks and learned my lesson to never toe the line of a race when I’m injured again.
Similar to poor racing conditions at the Long Beach Marathon, I’ve had my share of other races with poor weather conditions on race day, and I spent my time in the pain cave at those races. There was the Gold Rush Half Marathon, which I described afterwards as pure torture. It was hilly (one of those races where you run uphill, turn a corner, and never get to run back down hill), hot, and humid. This was one of my first half marathons, too, so I learned at an early point in my running life to push through the pain cave. Then there was the Laughlin Half Marathon in Nevada, with extremely hot and windy conditions on a course made of loose gravel so I had trouble getting my footing. That was a race I was just happy to finish. Also there was the Covenant Health Knoxville Half Marathon in Tennessee with all of its insane hills and easily one of the hilliest half marathons I’ve run.
Outside of heat and hills, I’ve run races where it was cold and rainy, like the Run the Reagan Half Marathon near Atlanta, Georgia. Not only was the weather poor (cold and rainy), that race was entirely on a freeway closed off to traffic, so it was also one of the most boring courses I’ve ever run on. I had to dig deep mentally just to get through that race. Then there were all of the races I ran when I was anemic, some of which I hadn’t been diagnosed yet so I didn’t know why I was so much slower than I previously had been. When I was anemic, just walking up a flight of stairs would cause me to be out of breath, so how I managed to run multiple half marathons while I was anemic is truly beyond me. I guess it shows how I can push through when I’m in the pain cave.
But why can some people push through when they’re in the pain cave and others have more difficulty? Does it have to do with our previous experiences in life? Does it have to do with a person’s pain tolerance in general? I know for sure I have a high pain tolerance and have had one for as long as I can remember.
When I was seven years old, I broke my leg when riding my bicycle. I was by myself, riding around my neighborhood, when I made a turn too sharply and the bike and I fell to the ground. I still remember lying there on the street screaming out for help and crying loudly for what seemed like an eternity. One of my best friend’s moms even opened her back door, seemingly saw it was me, and shut her door back again. To this day I’ll never understand why she did that because it seemed obvious to me that I needed help. Maybe she was just making sure it wasn’t one of her kids or maybe she thought my mom would come and help me since I was in the cul-de-sac that our townhouse was on. Eventually I got up and hobbled home but I insisted to my mom that I was OK. For three days I limped around while I swore to my mom that my leg was not broken. Finally, despite my pleas to the contrary, my mom took me to the emergency room, where they promptly took x-rays then wrapped my leg in a heavy plaster cast from the tip of my thigh down to my toes. Yes, it was indeed broken but for some reason it didn’t hurt that much when I broke it so I thought it must not really be broken. Sure, I was crying when it happened but that was more to get someone to come and help me. The real pain came two months later when they finally took the cast off and I had to walk again.
I’ve been fortunate to have only broken one limb my entire life and have only had one sprain- my neck when I was in a car accident in high school and had whiplash. That was one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever had. Every little movement would send sharp, shooting pain through my neck, even if I just moved my foot or some other part of the body not even near my neck. I remember sitting at lunch at school with friends with my neck brace on one day after that happened and tears were streaming down my face from the pain. One of my friends told me I really needed to go and call my mom to have her pick me up and that I didn’t need to “be tough” and go through this at school. My mom picked me up and took me to the doctor who prescribed a muscle relaxer that only maybe numbed the pain a little. To this day I still have problems with my neck and most likely always will but that’s a pain I’ve just learned to live with.
Then we move on to childbirth and delivery. I decided when I was pregnant before I went into labor to skip the epidural and pain medicine. I had a good friend who had done that and I figured if she could do it, so could I. How did that go for me? Honestly, while it was intensely painful, it was nothing I didn’t feel like I couldn’t handle. I used my breathing techniques from yoga and ones I had learned in childbirth classes and I felt like my breath is what got me through the worst of it. When they stitched me up afterwards, that was painful and I agreed to let the nurse give me a Tylenol for the pain.
I don’t say all of this to sound like I’m bragging, because I certainly don’t feel like I’m a badass or anything. Like I said earlier, I just feel like I have a higher pain tolerance than some people do. Perhaps it’s because of my life experiences, or perhaps I was just born that way, who knows? I do believe my high pain tolerance makes it easier for me to deal when I’m in the pain cave, though. Maybe it’s true what they say about what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger.
How do you deal with it when you’re in the pain cave? When is a time when you were in the pain cave?
I swear I wrote up this post before COVID-19 was even a thing. I had planned all along to put up this post around this date, but it seems perhaps even a little more apropos with all of the recent news. Anyway, what I’m about to get into has absolutely nothing to do with Coronavirus. If you have that, you absolutely shouldn’t be running in a race or even leaving your house for that matter. That’s all I have to say about that. Now onto my original post.
We’ve all been there. It’s four days before your big race and you come down with a cold. Now what? There are some things you can do to help you feel better. But first, should you even still run? I’m not a doctor but everything I’ve ever read and heard about this subject says if your cold is in your head such as your sinuses, it’s OK to still run but if it’s in your chest or you have a fever or have aches in your muscles like what comes with the flu, you shouldn’t run. My knowledge is based on my scientific background including the pre-pharmacy classes I took before I decided pharmacy school wasn’t for me and switched my major to biology plus all of the immunology, physiology, and microbiology classes I had and scientific journals I’ve read over the years on this subject as a scientist. In other words, although I’m not a medical doctor, I have at least a decent amount of knowledge on health and illnesses.
Of course there are the over-the-counter (OTC) medications that don’t really make you “better” but merely treat your symptoms and sometimes help you feel a little better. However, sometimes using these medications can actually backfire and make you feel worse after using them for a few days. Some people don’t realize this but you will actually get over your cold quicker if you can wait it out and not use harsh over-the-counter treatments. The worst are nasal sprays like Afrin that can cause tissue damage over time. Other OTC medications can exacerbate your cold and lead to a sinus infection.
All of that being said, treating your cold with some good old fashioned remedies won’t hurt and some may actually help you feel better. Chicken soup has been recommended for people with colds for so many years for good reason. Consuming more liquids helps your body clear the infection easier and chicken broth is easy on the stomach as well. You can also flush out your sinuses with a saline spray or neti pot if you have congestion in your sinuses. Just make sure you use bottled water that has been distilled or sterilized if you choose to make your own saline solution. I’m also a fan of Nuun Immunity tablets, which have turmeric, elderberry extract, Echinacea, ginger, vitamin C, and other ingredients that will give your immune system a boost and help hydrate you. Wetting a washcloth and warming it in the microwave then putting that over your sinuses also helps temporarily relieve sinus pressure.
Honestly, the most important thing you can do if you get sick to help your body get better quicker is rest. Rest is so hugely important and effects literally everything we do in life, yet I feel like it’s often the first to be neglected when people get busy with life. If that means you have to skip a 40 minute run that you were supposed to do at 5 in the morning, but you’ve got a cold and your race is next week, you would be better off to skip that run and get some extra sleep instead.
What if you’ve gotten extra rest and hydration but you’re still sick and it’s race day? Like I said earlier, as long as you don’t have a fever and your cold is in your sinuses and not your chest and you don’t have body aches, you can go ahead and run. Just stuff some tissues in a pocket and realize it’s not going to be a PR for you, but try to make the best of it! I’ve run races with a cold before and while they weren’t exactly some of my most fun races ever, I was able to get through them and finish with a smile on my face.
Finally, you can do what Olympic athlete Clarence DeMar said and “Run like hell and get the agony over with.”
Have you run a race while sick? How did that go? Was it a bad decision or fine in the end?