What I learned on Valentine’s Day

I’m obviously a little late with this, as Valentine’s Day was over a week ago…but who doesn’t want to extend the love for another week, right? I’ve never celebrated the day in its traditional sense, but I sure had fun last year making running-inspired, styrofoam Sweethearts candy replicas and throwing around fake snow in the window while everyone else made dinner plans. I had no reason not to come up with an equally fun display this year, and so I took a few minutes to find an idea, and suddenly a glittery masterpiece was underway. You know that saying about being distracted by shiny things? That phrase is actually about me. I am instantly drawn to glittery and shiny things; they make me so excited. Anyway, for the first part of this post, please enjoy the following photos from my Valentine’s Day store window, 2014 edition:

First, I constructed a giant cardboard heart. The concept was an oversized card, or love note to running. I had no clue what I was going to write on it.

20140130_191013I miraculously cut it out:

20140130_212007…posed with it:

20140130_211159…and proceeded to write notes like, “Meghan’s heart – do not touch/break” because…well, I was already making a giant love note to running out of cardboard, there was no harm in furthering the corniness of the ordeal.

The result:





20140131_19521120140131_195148For the record, these little scraps of confetti paper were way easier to clean up than the clingy styrofoam “snow” from last year! I’m not sure what to do with the giant “card” now, but I’ll figure something out….

…but back to what I learned

I learned more than the fact that our vacuum cleaner is so awful it doesn’t pick up loose glitter from a carpet. I learned a fundamental reason why I love running. As I mentioned in my last post, the week of Valentine’s Day wasn’t going so well. I was planning on doing a workout Wednesday night, and then I felt sick and needed to bail on that. Thursday it was dangerous to go outside with all the ice, snow, and wind, and I still felt kind of sick. I committed myself to getting up early Friday and doing a workout regardless of the road surface. That is, I was going to suck it up and join the rest of the world…on the treadmill. This was a huge deal for me. I hadn’t been on a treadmill other than to test shoes since 2008. I had never done a workout on a treadmill either. I was determined to have fun with it though; I was telling myself I’d get to play with the speed, I’d get to wear shorts and a tank top in the dead of winter for once, I’d get to listen to music. Things I normally don’t do. It would be fun (insert meme here?).

The plan: walk to the store. Get on the treadmill. Warm up two miles, switch into flats (another bonus point, I thought!). Run two miles at ~6:30, into one mile at ~7:00, into two more miles at 6:30. Cool down inside or outside. The warmup wasn’t too bad. I felt good and thought the hard segments would be fine. HOWEVER. I ran the hard two mile segment in around 13:10, with my pace faltering (meaning, I needed to hit the down arrow or I’d be at the back of the belt) as the end neared. I faced a mental battle, as well as a row of orange Nike shirts (the treadmill faces the wall now…). This was awful. How do so many people do this on a regular basis?! Props to all of you, seriously. Running on the treadmill takes a tougher person than running outside in the snow. I’m not sure if that is true or makes any sense, but that is what went through my mind that Friday morning. I jumped off after the two miles, feeling dizzy and dehydrated. I threw on a long sleeved shirt and gloves and ran outside.

I ran about four miles and loved every step of it, ice or not. The sun was as bright as it had been in days. The streets were slushy messes, but I felt so free. This was it, this is why I love running. No, I didn’t get in the rest of the workout. I wasn’t running a decent pace on this dangerous, uneven surface. But that was okay. Because for those four miles spent on the treadmill, especially those last two, I didn’t like running very much. I wasn’t having fun. I’m not saying I expect to have fun on every run, but I should at least feel like the run was my choice, and that I would rather be doing it than not. I didn’t feel that way on the treadmill, and the stark comparison of the post-treadmill run outdoors made me realize that I loved running in part because it makes me feel free.

When I run, I shatter the demeaning power of self-doubt and feel like my most confident self.

There’s no need to think of what others think of me when I run, because I’m doing what I enjoy most and that is all that matters in that moment. 

When I run, I can reach a mental and physical state not many others can understand, and that is something special.

I can run away from annoying things – whether they are people playing loud music, or taking up the entire sidewalk when they walk, or my own self feeling too tired to accomplish all I want to do, or thinking too much about one thing.

At one point, I realized I was wearing my favorite running shorts and shirt, like I planned it but I didn’t. I felt like I could run all day, conquering the world, at least my world, one street at a time. Eventually I headed back though, because I did have to work all day. What began as a bad experience with a treadmill, an overheated room, and legs that questioned my sanity for starting this thing in the first place ended with a renewed sense of passion for running…one could even say it was like the perfect Valentine’s date. 🙂




Training check-in between snowstorms

I started this post – okay, wrote the title and saved it as a draft – over a week ago. I was having a great week of training and finally felt like I was able to do workouts and runs that allowed me to assess where I stood in terms of fitness. The week that followed was quite the opposite. This pattern is leading me to believe that we may need “bad” weeks to appreciate or even have “good” weeks of training…at least, that’s what I’m telling myself. This in turn got me thinking about all the blog posts I read that mention such “bad” or “good” weeks, and the bigger picture…which totally deserves its own blog post, but I’m pretty sure when I publish two at once, one never gets read. Anyway.

The week of February 3rd…the “good week”:

Actually, take it back to the preceding weekend. I did a solo 15-miler on Saturday, and it was SHORTS WEATHER! This was glorious. I also think I was a bit dehydrated. When mid-forties gets you dehydrated…that just says the weather we have been having otherwise is just wrong. I found a new giant hill, and was loving life while running up it. Seriously. It was one of those awesome top-of-the-world kind of hills, with a view that only lasts a moment before you descend, but it stays in your mind for the rest of the run.

feb1hillsI averaged a little slower than I would have liked on the run for feeling so good (8:00 pace), but to be fair this was probably the hilliest loop so far, and I didn’t want to look at my watch much, just go by feel.

Monday was the first snowfall of the week…I went for a sloppy run once the snow stopped and some plows had made their way through town in the evening. It wasn’t horrible, but obviously pace went out the window with the footing I was dealing with. Oh, then I had this. I nearly forgot (man, that was a good week…):


It was worth the snowy trek. And here are some necessary snow pictures…for those of you jealous of us freezing, buried New Jerseyans! (Anyone, anyone?)


Tuesday was Intervals practice and I was really hoping our plan to improvise would work! You never know what is shoveled….We really lucked out, because we found a turf field that had been snow-blown. The perimeter of two lacrosse fields ended up being 0.27mi, so we went with that and did a down ladder workout of sorts. After, I ran right to the gym and did some lifting and abs…I can’t say my half-mile run home from the gym was very fast or pleasant, but it was an evening well spent, in every sense of the word. Wednesday was the day New Jersey turned into an ice skating rink, and I ended up working all day and that was it. I didn’t feel like myself at the end of the day – just sort of restless – and it was a reminder that a.) I’m getting used to more training, and b.) running and cross training is definitely not all physical. The latter is a simple concept, but I forget it too often.

This was taken by someone else who scoped out the possible workout locations a little early...no photos of the actual loop we did but it's inside the fence! The lights weren't on...but that was okay, snow makes quite a bright perimeter.
This was taken by someone else who scoped out the possible workout locations a little early…no photos of the actual loop we did but it’s inside the fence! The lights weren’t on…but that was okay, snow makes quite a bright perimeter.

Thursday I did a five-mile tempo in the middle of a nine mile loop. I was planning on going alone, but I ended up with a great partner/pacer at the last minute. We warmed up three miles (during which I forgot to start my watch at one point, so my perfectly-planned, mile-by-mile workout was kind of messed up before it started…oh well), all uphill…then did the next five of the loop at tempo pace. Going into this, I had no idea how any sort of pace in that range was going to feel, because I’ve only ran faster or slower than that since the Philly Half. I thought I’d aim for what felt like 6:50-7:00, but told myself I wouldn’t be discouraged if it was slightly over 7:00, because the route was rolling (and the shoulders were covered in ice…). I just wanted to see what my legs would decide “tempo pace” was on this day in early February. It was probably more downhill than uphill, but there was more elevation gain in the third mile for sure. My splits were: 6:46, 6:45, 7:03, 6:39, 6:37, giving me 33:50 for 5 miles (6:46 average). I was really pleased with this, because we were talking at times. Just a few words, but I didn’t feel like I was racing or anything. It was definitely a relief to know my tempo pace is 6:45 at this point in training. Pretty sure that was a 5 mile PR!

The week of February 10th…the “bad week”:

First, it wasn’t really a bad week. It would have been if the IT band soreness I felt after my long run Saturday had developed into anything remotely bothersome for longer than a day after. In my typical paranoia, I started the week by taking two days off of running completely, icing twice a day, and constantly assessing how I felt on stairs. Oh, and wondering if Boston was out the window. Let me emphasize that I actually had no pain, I’m just that paranoid. I skipped the Intervals workout Tuesday (hill repeats) and did an easy run to test out my leg instead. It was totally fine – no discomfort at all. PHEW. You must understand that with me, something can go from “bothersome” to full-on, season-ending “injury” in one simple run. So, I wasn’t hurting but that run was still awful. So tight, so tiring. Further proof that I want to take fewer days off than I used to feel comfortable with. I think I can handle it now, and I think it will help me, not hurt me.

The good thing about the long run though, was getting to meet Hollie in person! She, Greta, and I slid up and down hills (okay, I made it sound too easy there) for sixteen miles.

Photo credit: Hollie.
Photo credit: Hollie.

The rest of the week was a comical failure, honestly. I had a workout attempt just like this one from April, but I couldn’t try again because there was a snow and ice storm the next day. And I still felt sick. Ultimate combo of un-motivation and frustration. What did get me motivated for a 75-minute bike trainer ride in my shed?



I only wish I had stumbled upon it sooner so I wasn’t so behind everyone else as they’re starting the new season (released in full this past Friday)!

The ending (please let it be the ending!) to this sub-par training week deserves its own post, so up next: what I learned on Valentine’s Day. I’ll give you a hint: it has to do with treadmills dreadmills. There will also be glitter.

Dashing through the snow…and an epic fall.

I’m going to take a risk and commit a faux pas of mine: I’m writing about the weather. Something you all are aware of and can look up online at any time.That being said, it would be difficult to write about my last week of training without doing so! Here in New Jersey, we have gotten snowfalls more frequently than any previous year I can remember. They have not all been significant, but I hold the theory that to a runner, one huge snowfall a month is much preferred to bi-weekly medium-caliber snowfalls. The reason being, we can move around an important workout or long run according to the one huge snowfall, but it is much more difficult to constantly have your speed workouts become a project week after week. Easy runs in the snow are no problem, but when it comes to hitting specific paces…there’s ice, there’s packed snow, there’s loose snow, there are unplowed loops and unshoveled tracks…clearly, frequent snowfalls make it much more difficult to do the exact run you want to do, when you want to do it.

…it actually looks better on “paper.” You had to be there.

Snow #1 of the week was on Tuesday…the day of my interval workout. I had off work, so there was no point in waiting until 6:30pm, by which significant snow would have surely accumulated. After some running around in what was already lots of snow, I decided to do hill repeats in the middle of campus. The footing wasn’t ideal, but it was a good workout done by effort, and with less traffic than on a normal road. I was glad I did it instead of a normal run…but I’m still itching for some concrete, distance-based workouts. That might not be a bad feeling to have in January though.

Exercise on this snow day wasn’t over after the run. I somehow managed to do double workouts on a day it snowed all day. Kind of ironic. A friend came over and we set up shop in my shed/barn out back for a trainer ride. We rode for 50 minutes at a steady effort while chatting and sort of watching Without Limits (since he had never seen it). A trainer ride had never gone by so quickly, and I realized what people meant when they said it’s hard to make a trainer ride “easy.” There were tight quarters due to the temporary storage space this thing has become (if it was all mine I would totally make it a triathlete’s dream barn…if there is such a thing), but it worked. I also did a solo trainer ride here Monday night, and my view was something like this:

10 Things I Hate About You…so many quoteworthy lines.

On Wednesday morning I managed to find a running buddy and had a lovely, chill run through the snowy streets. There is something really fun about getting out on foot to see what it looks like after a snowfall that lasted the entire previous day.

Thursday I took off because I got up at 5:45am and proceeded to have a day that rivaled the entire past year in terms of productivity. Seriously, I may have figured out my whole life on Thursday. More on that soon.

Friday I ran with a friend before work, and unfortunately chose roads (hilly roads of course!) that had inadequately shoveled sidewalks, making the run pretty slow. I’m starting to realize I run slower when I run with most other people. Strange.

Saturday more snow was expected, so I decided to do my long run today (versus Sunday). I admit I should have started earlier than I did. The snow was coming down kind of hard when I started, and I immediately understood the purpose of running vests…I should really add that to my wardrobe one of these days. Today would have been the perfect day to wear one. Anyway, this run is probably worthy of its own post, but I’ll consolidate the highlights. Or rather, the most important episodes within it. I mapped a 15 mile loop on roads I usually run, with the exception of one unfamiliar corner, since it was a mile farther out than I usually go. Despite the bitter cold snow pelting me (and the salt-spreading trucks…oh, the salt-spreading trucks. Love ’em and hate ’em), I was feeling really good. I cruised at about 7:30 pace on every flat stretch that didn’t have a lot of snow cover, but made up for it on the hills that did. I found a new really steep hill during mile eight (reference elevation map to follow), so that was cool. Then the intersection came in the later part of mile ten. I knew these two roads were busier, but they have shoulders when there’s no snow (guess I overlooked this factor), and I was hardly on them for long. A car was coming so I moved over to run partially in a snowbank…when the road beneath said snowbank became really uneven (it dropped off onto the dirt but I couldn’t see it coming because of the snow). The next step was no better, and I lost my balance and wiped out. It was my first fall on a run since January 1, 2012, so it was a big deal! The snow gave me a soft landing on my hands, but my knees took a beating. The only answer was to get up and keep running like nothing happened, which was easy to do because any pain I felt was delayed until after I was no longer frozen….

A visual representation of the fall & its aftermath.
A visual representation of the fall & its aftermath.
These were my newest pair of Brooks Infiniti tights…and yes I will still be wearing them like this because a.) I no longer have a washer & dryer in my house and b.) I can’t budget for a replacement pair right now. Oh well.

As I discovered when I showered, the battle wounds actually look a lot worse underneath the tights – some swelling and bruising. I suppose it’s bound to happen to every runner someday – that little-kid-who-fell-off-her-bike look. I’ll be rocking it for awhile, but at least it’s winter. In other news, who would’ve thought to put Body Glide behind the knee? And only the left? Well, not me.

Weekly long run hill report…note that short & steep climb during mile 8!

To conclude, the random things I learned this week are plentiful:

1.) Don’t touch your eye after chopping hot peppers, even after two hand washes.

2.) Trainer rides are not easy, but they can be fun.

3.) The path to get where I want to be in life is actually there, contrary to previous doubts.

4.) Doing stupid things while running in the snow (like running on particular roads) does have consequences. Even for me. Shocker.

And no, the contact solution didn't help at all.
And no, the contact solution didn’t help at all.

Running as an alternative to breaking dishes

When we are young children, it seems perfectly normal to cry. I’m talking, to just let it all out and bawl in every sense of the word, even if someone else can see or hear. There were probably few and far between reasons for such crying when we were that young, but that’s besides the point. There comes a point, as a young adult, when we might call to mind this feeling of wanting to cry, and realize we feel that way again. But this time, we’re expected to hold it in. Maybe I’m not referring to just simply crying tears, but also to displaying anger, in whatever passive or aggressive, direct or indirect way we can. It’s easy to say to ourselves, this is the right way to handle this, so that is what I’ll do. It’s quite another challenge to live up to this standard we’ve set for ourselves just to preserve the present and future and make sure we don’t mess anything up. There comes a breaking point in our emotions every once in awhile (if you think you’re an exception I applaud you…but I think you may be lying), and more often than not we break these “rules” bestowed upon us to an extent, the rules of being a mature adult.

Here’s my guy Joseph Gordon-Levitt breaking plates: 

Breaking-plates-joseph-gordon-levitt-23309340-400-263I know what that feeling is, and so do you: the dude has got to go for a run.

This weekend, I needed to run so badly. It was the only thing I could think of that would somehow solve the problem, remedy all the stresses and frustrations and bad thoughts swirling in my head. Saturday, it was snowing. I ended up starting my run close to 2 PM. I hadn’t eaten anything since the night before but was hardly hungry. It was a run fueled entirely by emotions and adrenaline, and it felt like half its length. I came up with a general idea of where I wanted to run and went with it. It included a few big climbs, and was absolutely perfect. As the run went on it snowed more and more, but I grew warmer and warmer. Sometime during mile five everything became a little clearer, and I felt like I was in a bubble with no space or time. The ground and the air and the sky were all the same shade of white, and my pace was whatever my legs wanted to do. I wanted to stay within the run forever, and I also wanted the night to never come. But both the run and the daylight had to unfortunately end, in that order. I ended up running 11.5 miles and not ever getting tired or slowing down despite inadequate pre-run nutrition. Strange how that works sometimes.

Post-snow run.

Later that night when the emotional bandage the run had tried to provide had mostly fallen off, I turned to writing. I wrote a lot, with no plan exactly, and during that time, too, I felt heavy things lift off of me a little.

I know a run only puts us at ease so much. Emotional writing only gives us space to displace our feelings for a little while. Aren’t we lucky to have this though? Think of all the plates we’re saving. 

On an unrelated note (but from the same day), this is what happens when it is raining but it should really be snowing for the safety of everyone who dares to step outside…as evidenced by my umbrella:

THE ICE UMBRELLA. This was a first.

The in-between season (and Santa is real…)

I hardly ever have “in-between seasons” in terms of training. Why? Well, I’m usually injured, and that takes the place of an in-between season. So, I’m either “getting back” from an injury, training and training well, or I’m injured. After the New Jersey Marathon, I thought I would finally have an in-between season, when I could rest when I felt like it, and run when I wanted to. Less than three runs into this period, I hurt my IT band…so that was that. I’m back at that place again: my goal race is over (though I’ve done some speed workouts and raced a 5k since then…oops?), the next race on my plate will be the biggest of my life to date, and I want to do everything in my control to train 100% healthy for it, as I did throughout the fall and for my first marathon.

I’ll be the first to admit it: I don’t know how to have an in-between season. Or rather, I’m pretty bad at it. I had a plan to treat the Philly Half like it was a marathon, to ward off any injuries since I was doing so well in that department. Then, start running whenever I felt like it, and cross train. I only followed that plan for less than a week. Why?!?!

Well, here’s what I did instead that does not follow the plan at all, and why:

Helped pace a friend to a 10k PR

The Saturday following Philly, I went to a run at 7 AM with a group I normally don’t run with, just because it usually involves a lot of stopping, and slower running than I prefer even on easy days. When one member of the group announced he needed to do a tune-up “race” at around 7:20 pace, and others were joining him, I thought it would be a great opportunity to finally run with everyone. Why should I say no because I’d just done a half, when others who had ran the full (or three fulls this fall…guy is nuts) were going? Insert peer pressure, exhibit 1. The route he chose was pretty hilly, and I mainly just ran right with him, or slightly ahead of behind. When he kicked it in, I didn’t follow. So at least I was good about that. My legs were still tired and I had a “looking forward to actually recovering” mentality going on. Overall, it was fun to help a friend and I’m glad I did it.

Ran with a new, fast group

A friend sent me a message following the half, inviting me to join an “enclave” of runners in my area for runs. Since I had a friend coming to visit, I had off work, and I didn’t think the PI workout scheduled would help me prepare for the 5k Thursday, I decided to skip the PI workout and go to one of these runs at 3:30 the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. It was cold and rainy, and I ended up doing a nice 8.3-miler with one other girl from New Brunswick (who ran a 3:06 marathon debut in October). We had some good chats and warmed up to average a pace of 7:45, a pretty solid medium-length run with rolling hills. I think it will help me to run with fast runners as I train for Boston. More on this later, but I almost have an overwhelming amount of training-partner resources becoming available to me for the winter and spring right now….I definitely need to look at all my options when the time to set a plan gets closer and take advantage of every single one. Not many runners can say this, and I know I am lucky. Back to the run…I have no pictures from this run because my hands went numb. I will say that I wore my Oiselle Flyer Jacket from Hood to Coast…and it was the perfect weather for it.

Seattle-20130822-02376Insert peer pressure, exhibit 2: these runs are happening weekly, and everyone seems to be training hard despite having raced a marathon or half recently. How do I know if my body has truly adapted to training and won’t fail me like it used to on any random day? I don’t. I know it’s better to be careful until after the holidays, when I should start training for Boston (on fresh legs). It’s really cool to be invited to run with 3:0x marathoners and feel like our training paces are similar. It’s inspiring and motivating to think that maybe my body is finally making sense, and I can do what they do at last: reach 40 mpw, run more than one faster workout a week, etc. But if it’s not ready yet, I can’t risk it. I’m having trouble differentiating between listening to cues from history versus listening to cues from my body, and knowing what’s best in the long term to run as fast as possible. Perhaps in normal jargon this is the issue of overtraining vs. undertraining, on a personal basis?

Ran PI workouts + fast 300s

I went to the workout last Tuesday night. I thought about why I shouldn’t go: I should still be resting in the “in-between season.” I thought about why I should go: I wanted to. It was as simple as that. I missed it, and I’d rather be running fast around a track on a Tuesday night than anywhere else. So, I went. We did 4 x 2000m. I thought it would be a good goal to try to hit 8:00-8:07 for 2000m, or 6:24-6:30 pace. My first one was 8:14, bleh. I didn’t want to leave with a sub-par workout effort, post-“season” or not, so I managed to run 8:02, 8:02, and 7:56 for the remaining three intervals. That was better. The cooldown back to downtown was a peculiar experience, as I somehow got colder and colder as the two miles went on. Weird. Peer pressure, exhibit 3: running fast is fun. 

On Thursday, I wanted to run 4 x 300 very fast in preparation for the 6th Annual PI Mile (which is tonight!). It was warm-ish and humid, and after running about 4.5 miles as a warmup, I stopped at the track and ended up running the 300s in just a sports bra…in December. So humid. Anyway, I have hardly had good workouts on this particular track for whatever reason, but I was shooting for 60 seconds per 300. I gave myself as minute rest of walking/slow running. I felt very, very good on these 300s! As in, smooth and fast. I actually felt fast, like I wasn’t just a “marathoner.” I ended up running 60, 60, 58 high, 57 high/58 low. I considered running even more 300s, I was having so much fun, but I decided to save it and run back. The cooldown was slow and sluggish – funny how that works. Self pressure, exhibit 4: now I think I could be “fast.” Oh dear. 

Explored a new trail

It isn’t really “new,” but it’s improved. I checked out the Lawrenceville-Hopewell Trail on Saturday. I thought I’d get off the roads like I used to, during the “in-between season.” It was pretty fun, though I was tired and just didn’t feel like running a full 8 miles like I thought I would (so I didn’t; I ran 7.4), which almost never happens. I wrote all about the experience  (as well as some cool history about the area) on our store page on Run.com, so you can read about it here.

Ran in the first snowfall

It snowed for real in NJ on Sunday. I wanted to run in it! So I did. Back-to-back days of 7+ miles, not my normal schedule. I probably should have only done 3, but I started from a location from which I would need to run farther to run anywhere fun.

This brings me to today. The PI Mile is tonight. After the 300s, I think I’ve got it in me to go pretty fast. My goal is always a year-best time…since I hardly ever race a mile. This year, that would put me at sub-5:49, which I ran at TCNJ (a week before the marathon…) in April. I do think I have the potential to dip under 5:40, but we’ll see what happens. The first matter of business will be a non-traditional warmup…because you see, it currently looks something like this outside:

I have no idea how long it takes to shovel the entirety of lane one of a track, but that is what I’ll be attempting to do soon. I also brought spikes with me. Might as well do it right…. [My left foot is feeling slightly weird, as of yesterday (a day I didn’t actually run). Hoping, wishing, praying it’s not a stress fracture. I haven’t had any pain yet, or felt it running, but this is a glimpse into my paranoid mind, if you were wondering….]

*    *    *    *    *    *   *

Last but not least…this is entirely unrelated, but I should announce it as a follow-up to my last post: SOMETIMES, SANTA IS REAL. As you know, on Thursday night I had officially accepted the fact that I was unable to do Ironman 70.3 Princeton next September. I couldn’t spend $300 on it on December 16th; it just wasn’t practical. On Friday, something ridiculous happened. I was not expecting it at all. Thanks to the generosity of two friends, I now have the means (via a gift card) to register for the race. I was so surprised and happy I was practically crying. What an amazing gift. So, I still need to register and officially get into the race, but I am registering for the Princeton Half Ironman on Monday at noon. Scream with me. AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! I still can’t believe that happened.

Questions for you: Am I doing the “in-between season” all wrong? How do you handle running peer pressure? Should I run when I want to, or make myself hold back? Have you ever shoveled a track (wish me luck…)?