adventures of a mere mortal in fitness and life

Posts tagged ‘trail running’

race recap: Run Through Time 1/2 Marathon

(Note: While the title says 1/2 marathon, I want to put out there that my GPS said 13.9 miles.  Just saying.)

No snow or ice or freezing temperatures was going to stop Mr. Prepared, my lovely husband, from participating in the Run Through Time Marathon yesterday in Salida, CO, and *encouraging* me to come along with him for the half.  I have been preparing for it; however, in my mind, my race had been on a sunny, warm day with clear views of the Collegiate Peaks, the longest string of 14ers in the lower 48.  In reality, after this picture, the mountains got socked in with a storm and we couldn’t see much.  Which was probably OK for me since I wasn’t exactly there doing a lot of sightseeing.

reality bites.

Collegiates at Sunrise

Coach Evil Genius said in my log that I needed to come up with a mantra for my race.  Mantras or sayings to repeat to yourself can help you to focus on something important you need to remember about technique or something positive about yourself.  Additionally, mantras help you avoid focus on the wrong things, like how much pain you are in.  Many runners and athletes use mantras to dispel boredom, and many of you may know the value of mantras from your yoga practice.

Being the overachiever that I am, I came up with them in spades yesterday.  My first mantra of the morning was “Please don’t snow. Please don’t snow...” which when we arrived in Salida, it wasn’t. Bonus! Clearly, the mantra thing was really working.  Taylor started his race an hour before mine.  All too soon, it was time for me to start.  I felt good for the first 2 miles, 1 up, 1 down, and soon we started climbing a pretty rocky, technical single track.  This climb was a little tricky because the field wasn’t that spread out yet.  There was still quite a bit of traffic jamming going on in that climb, and I wasn’t helping things because I kept tripping.  At one point I fell and dive rolled on the trail.  At this point, I took off my one headphone because I felt I needed to concentrate on my running.  My mantra became, I am a mountain goat. I am a mountain goat.”  which was pretty farcical since I felt more like a damn dinosaur than a mountain goat.  However, I managed to stay upright from miles 4-7 with little event.  On a side note, the trails around Salida, while very rocky (limestone and granite) are absolutely beautiful even without the views.  The results of rock bruising on my feet still remain to be seen, although I can feel a few things going on in my feet this morning as I sit here.

At Mile 7 we began a steep climb up an old jeep road that left most people in my view hiking, including me.  My mantra became “I am a good hiker,” which was actually pretty true.  I passed a lot of people in this part of the course because the road was wide and apparently, I can hike pretty fast.  Not Mr. Prepared fast, but you get the picture.  Miles 8 was steep and technical downhill, at which point I employed my mountain goat mantra again with success.  It was slow going though, as my general life mantra is always to “Arrive alive”.  Miles 9-10 were fairly lovely, and the trail was the least technical at this point, but I was starting to tire a bit and the snow was picking up.  I put one headphone on again at this point.  The first marathoners were re-joining the route at this point,  so I knew we were not that far out from the end.

At Mile 10ish, the snow began in earnest, completely covering my glasses and dampening my morale.  Since I carry my phone as my HR monitor and music in my sleeve, I consider calling someone for a little support, but I decided I could do it on my own, plus I think it would be weird to call someone in the middle of a “race”.  I heard the tick of 11 miles through my headphones, so I was a little disappointed when the last aid station lady said, “2.5 miles to go!” since the math didn’t quite add up (and even she was not quite right either!)  Either way, the last mantra I used to pound down the last bit was “The faster I run, the sooner I’m done!”.  Dirt road turned to technical switchback and the fatigue slowed me in some points so as not to trip and break my nose.  I knew my pace was a little slower than I had wanted, but I felt proud that I had run a decent first race for a trail run, considering I was unfamiliar with the terrain and the weather conditions were less than ideal.  I finished up in 2:43:12, a respectable 98th place.

I waited for Taylor, who finished up within 10 minutes of his expected arrival (of course).  Overall, a pretty excellent day and a big thanks to Grandma Jeni and Grandpa Tom who played with the children all day yesterday and made us a big welcome home dinner last night.  I knocked one of my New Year’s resolutions off the list, so that makes me happy.  Now it’s time to get back to work on my New Year’s mantra.



getting comfortable with discomfort

Ahh….a day off.  I mean, a day off in which I am completely disinfecting the house after a close brush with death flu and both of the children are running around since they are “feeling better”.

It’s been a while since I posted last, since I have been attempting to drink from a fire hose balancing a new position at work, family, and training.  You remember, training? For a trail half marathon I felt quite confident would be no problem way back in November when I suggested it to Mr. Prepared.  The new position at work has really been challenging, as it is a really busy time of year with the start of a new semester at the college.  In addition, just learning the day to day of who to call about what and what to do has been slightly overwhelming.  It has definitely put me out of my comfort zone.  Enough that I have found myself throwing some mental temper tantrums with a few bouts of tears thrown in, but you know what?  It’s good for me.

It’s a good idea to get uncomfortable in life.  Nothing ever changes if you’re always comfortable.  And I was getting pretty darn comfortable, I guess. I mean work was pretty dialed in, I had set some pretty serious but achievable racing goals for myself this season, and the kids were settled into a routine we have been doing for a while now.

Getting uncomfortable means that you have to expand  your “solutions playbook” and keep adjusting to what life is throwing at you.  More than a few times these past few weeks I have said that I think this new situation is too hard and I no longer wanted to continue.  But whether or not I wanted to, I had to keep pushing on.  As I push on, it gets easier- the new position, the training, finding balance between life and work.  And the opportunity to become a new, stronger, better version of myself has emerged.

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone

Today I ran a new lactate threshold test on the treadmill with my “poor man’s Garmin”- a HR monitor strap and a piece of paper.  I ran faster and was able to hold a higher heart rate than the last test I did at the beginning of August last year.  I couldn’t imagine I might be in better shape than I was in the beginning of August- particularly after taking time off and not doing any consistent training.  But I guess I could be at a new base level of fitness that I didn’t have last winter.  As I ran the Boneyard last week in the snow, I remembered that I had just started trail running last March with Mr. Prepared.  I remember how uncomfortable that experience was the first time I ever did it.  And while trail running can certainly get uncomfortable, I know how lucky I am to be able to continue doing that, and it’s still as enjoyable as ever to push myself up the hill and be alone, singing out loud in the sunshine.

Lastly, if you think I am just plain nuts after this post, I messaged Swim Bike Mom about how one could possibly stand riding 3 hours on a bike trainer.  Her message?  Get comfortable with the pain.   So I guess if I am crazy, at least I have some good company.

10K @ 10,000′ Trail Run

Well,I may have walked some hills (I prefer the term power hike), but I did my first 10K last weekend and I am pretty proud! Still, sometimes when I look at pictures of me now, I don’t even recognize myself! I never thought that I could even be where I am at physically and mentally today. And I am running a trail race! Happy days!

lessons from leadville

Some of you may know that my husband, Mr. Prepared, went to run the Leadville Trail 100 Run this weekend.  He has been working his tail off since January training for this weekend, which was also to be his first 100 mile race.  He has completed many 50 mile races, and he thought it was time for a new challenge.  His season so far has been excellent, knocking an hour off his 25 mile time in April and 45 minutes of last year’s San Juan Solstice 50 time in June.

Mr. Prepared meticulously completed and tracked his training, and I have been running a pretty tight ship since January, making sure we both make use of the time available to train allotted by the Almighty Schedule.  Consequently, when Mr. Prepared said to me on the drive up to Leadville, “I know I have done everything that I can to prepare for this race.  Everything that is in my control I have done,”  I kind of started to assume that we had this one in the bag.  As a matter of fact, I had assumed that from waaaayy back when.  Mr. Prepared is one of the mentally toughest people I know.  He holds firm belief that “anyone” can “gut out” a marathon.  I think he doesn’t live in the same mental solar system as “anyone”, but I don’t argue.  Too much.

Fast forward to Saturday (I will save my color commentary on Leadville for another post, but believe me, there is A LOT of color, and it deserves commentary).  Anyways, there were many lessons to be taken away from this weekend, regardless of any result of any runner.  Mr. Prepared didn’t make it to Mile 100, or the belt buckle, a result of injury and under the strongly worded advice of medical personnel.  He made it to Mile 60 (or 63, depending on if you count the “newer, less dusty” section of trail as you know, actual mileage).  Up and over Hope Pass twice, which is an accomplishment in itself.  I couldn’t be more amazed or proud, but I am a little emotionally raw from a full day of watching this race.  Nevertheless, I picked up a few things to absorb as nuggets of wisdom:

1. You can do more than you think you can.  This is the motto of the LT100, along with “Commit not to quit.”  I saw some amazing feats out there- many mere mortals trying to achieve a goal they set for themselves.  Some had more ambition than skill, and some had the skill and the ambition.  Some we like to call “triumphs of will and spirit” in our house.  All are admirable, no matter what, and this race is a live-action show of people doing more than they ever thought they could, or at least more than they ever attempted before.

2. Running 100 miles is f’in hard.  I said to Taylor as we were driving on Friday, “You know what will be great about doing this race?  When people tell you they have read Born to Run and ask if you’ve ‘done Leadville’, you can now say yes and leave it at that.”  But running 100 miles is not just something you “do”, like taking up kickboxing.  Most people cannot conceive how difficult this is, not just physically but mentally.  I watched grown men vomiting, shaking, and crying, and that was just at mile 50 (BTW, the women just crumple in a heap if they’re suffering, not quite as loud as men…).  Your body and your mind have to be of iron will to finish a race like this, and there are HARDER 100 mile events out there than LT100.  Many people say, “I just can’t imagine…” and believe me, you can’t.  If you would like to see a slice of humanity without traveling to a 3rd world country, you should really check out a 100 mile race sometime.

3.  Human beings need each other.  So many, many amazing people were not only out on course yesterday, but on the sidelines.  While this race has somewhat less of a “community” feel than other ultras, there were so many amazing teams of support out there.  There were T-shirt wearing support teams (Go Team Texaho!), costume-wearing teams (the gold spandex bodysuit girl and the guy in the banana suit are a firm tie), and cause-supporting teams.  In any form, most of these runners could not do what they did without their crew and pacers.  In the lowest moments, someone else can spur you on.  I know that the guy who was crying out, “Momma, Momma!”  certainly needed his momma.  STAT.

4. It is all about the journey.  So Mr. Prepared didn’t get a belt buckle.  Neither did most of the people who started that race.  Yes, I said MOST, but that’s commentary for someone else’s blog.  But ALL of the people there started on a journey that I imagine changed their lives forever.  Some will try again, if not LT100, then somewhere else.  Some will remember it fondly as making good on a New Year’s resolution, or a bet, or whatever, but all will be affected by the experience.  And that is what they really came for- not the buckle.  Runners who have been afflicted with “buckle-itis” are doing it for the hardware to display, not the lessons learned along the way.

If you are living the motto “You can do more than you think you can” you are going to have to embrace the journey at some point because a life worth living is not only running the red carpet and belt buckles.  Goals accomplished only become truly sweet if we experience eating dirt and the disappointment that comes with DNFs, because DNFs are just temporary placeholders until you finish what you set out to do.

year view mirror

I got to spend the weekend in a beautiful spot in Colorado.  Nope, not the sidewalk of the local “Flight Days” parade, but secluded, pristine Lake City, CO, home to the annual San Juan Solstice 50 Mile Endurance Run.  The hubby was running the race, which is about my favorite of the whole season.  This event is homegrown, for a charitable cause, a lot of fun (to spectate, I can’t speak for the running part, although I’m told it’s good if you like that sort of thing), and we get to stay at a cute little cabin in an RV resort in town–if we remember to make our reservations 9 months in advance.  Of course, our stay last year was quite memorable to us, and apparently it was to others too.  Upon arriving, Lloyd, the owner, stopped chatting and remarked, “Hey, aren’t you the people who forgot their kid’s diapers last year?”

Me: “Yes! That was us! How do you remember that?”
Lloyd: “I know when someone comes knocking on my door at 9:30 PM at night that it can’t be good news.”
Me: “Oh.  Did we do that?  Sorry.”

I apparently ordered my husband to hunt around the campground and disturb other campers to see if they had diapers last year.  A lovely mom named Tanya remembered the incident too.  Oops.

What a difference a year makes.

Most people raise their eyebrows in surprise when I tell them my husband runs ultramarathons.  I usually make some joke about his insanity or something like that, but the truth is, I can kind of see his point of view (well, without the running an ultramarathon part, anyway).  I like the runs because they are very casual, natural, generally family-oriented affairs.  There were gaggles of children playing around at the RV campground and the town park, which was the finish line.  There is a sense of community where total strangers are at ease looking after your kids for 5 minutes while you go to the bathroom.  Spouses of runners keep tabs on other runners and report back in case someone missed their person at an aid station.  Not to mention, most of these races take place in beautiful surroundings.  I took the kids fishing, we saw a moose, and we went for a hike along the lakes.

good little moosey…

Can you think of a better way to spend a weekend?  Neither can I.  Fortunately, I don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn, pound a trail for 50 miles through lovely but smoky surroundings, up and down, and up and down, and up again.  My husband remarked that at 30 miles in this race, you feel like you should be done.

Mile 40 @ Slumgullion (yea, I said it) Aid Station

What a difference a year makes.

Last year, I was still filled with bitterness and resentment about the amount of time ultrarunning demanded from the hubby’s life.  I realize now that running makes him a better person when he comes home, and our time is about quality, not quantity.  I am able to see that because I feel the same way about exercise and competition as he does.  It’s something that makes me a better person to be around- happier, calmer, and more capable of tackling problems head on instead of stressing out and feeling overwhelmed.  A year ago, I just didn’t know it.

I know that many people say they are too busy to work out, or to tackle a difficult or worthwhile goal (which may or may not be competition-related), but fulfilling ourselves makes us better people for our kids and our significant others. I am inspired by those that rise at ridiculous hours or my husband, who runs late into the night after the kids go to bed. You can make it happen, and for those that make it happen, I want to know: How do you find time to accomplish your goals or fit in that extra hour for working out?

a few of my favorite things…

The before picture. I’m a little nervous.

Yesterday was my husband’s birthday, which I had been trying to celebrate every day this weekend so as to assuage my guilt for going to work last night.  I talked with the kids to make a list of “Dad’s favorite things” to give him or do with him all weekend.  Their list was pretty much what you would expect from a 3 and 5 year old- they came up with “The Muppets” and “breakfast in bed”.  So Friday night’s dinner was followed by The Great Muppet Caper (he was actually thrilled) and Sunday was breakfast in bed (not as thrilled).

Monday night we headed out for a date, which I concocted from what I know are 3 of his favorite things: running, tacos, and beer.  I agreed to run a trail he frequents on the west side of town.  Personally, I have found my comfort zone on the Boneyard section of trail on the other side of town, and I have been reluctant to get lost, I mean explore, the side we were headed to.

The threatening weather held just fine, with the cloud cover actually giving us some relief from the day’s hot temperatures.  The trail was dusty but in OK condition as we wound through the sage, pinyon pines, up and over School House Rock and into Hockett Gulch.  Taylor billed it as a “recreational run”, which meant he was bounding ahead like a gazelle and I was huffing and puffing to try to keep up.  It was fun and beautiful when we got to the high point (don’t ask me where).  At the top, I did a little happy dance that I had mostly survived.

Being out there reminded me of when we were younger and we used to hike and camp as many weekends as we could.  I love to be alone and outdoors with my best friend in the world.  As I grew heavier and older, we did those kinds of activities less and less.  I could come up with a hundred excuses for why I wouldn’t go for a hike or spend the weekend backpacking.  Today, I feel so grateful to have the opportunity to do these kind of things with my husband again.  It doesn’t matter if it’s just for an hour instead of a whole weekend, I value the time more than I ever did when my time was my own and fairly limitless.

I know that one of the reasons that I wanted to lose weight was so that I could go out and hike, backpack, and do things like that again without feeling tired or strained by it.  I don’t think I ever imagined that I could hop onto a trail and run for 5 miles, or that I would be so happy doing it.  But I do know that feeling like I could take on any physical challenge again has probably been my favorite thing about losing weight.  And I know that I will not take anything for granted this time.  Plus, tacos and beer taste just a little bit better when you know you have already burned them off.

Amazing! The after photo!

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