27 January 2013


“To hell with facts! We need stories!” - Ken Kesey
I read a lot of blogs.  I read articles on iRunFar.  I listen to Talk Ultra.  I don't do this primarily to gain more knowledge about ultra running, though I have learned a lot from each.  The real draw for me is the stories.  I'm inspired, delighted, moved and amused by the tales of ultra runners.  As I get to know them through their triumphs and tragedies, I feel a natural empathy through our shared experiences.  I see a bit of myself in each of them and I want to be a better me because of them.  So I keep reading and listening.
"Our stories are the tellers of us." - Chris Cleave

With my own story, I seem to break it down into five chapters, delineated by the places I have lived.  I bear the marks of each place, the sum of which have made me the person I am today.  
Alaska: Grown
I'm what you call an Alaskan Sourdough.  Born and raised in Anchorage, to an engineer and a secretary.  I get my critical thinking from Dad and my organized mind from Mom.  
Climbing at two years
Scrappy - on and off the court
I played a few sports growing up and started road running in high school.  My school didn't offer track or cross country, so I would run a mile down to Spenard Lake and back.  To make it harder, I threw ankle weights on, which rates high on the dumb scale, so don't do that at home.  It wasn't a passion, just an easy way to get the minimum amount of exercise each week.

Ohio: Educated

I had no desire to stay in Alaska -- I wanted to see the world!  So I started my global travel where so many do: Central Ohio.  Since I wasn't drawn to the mountains particularly, college in the cornfields was fine with me.  The change of scenery and new friends and experiences were really good for me.  I remember thinking it was awesome to be able to drive to another state in hours (instead of days!).  I suppose this is why I don't mind traveling long distances to do something fun.  The experience is worth it the time or money spent getting there.
Getting our rock star on.
Bilevels help with aerodynamics.
I continued running off and on and ran a handful of short-distance races, but it was mainly to counterbalance bad eating habits.  I was also an aerobics instructor back then so that was my main source of exercise.
Nashville: Discovered

My years in Music City were the most formative of my adult life.  It was a season of unearthing the real me.  My broad range of worldly-wise friends exposed me to a lot of wonderful things that I had missed growing up.  It's hard to know what lights your fire when you don't know what's out there!  The beauty of great music, books, theater and art and lifelong friendships have enriched my life ever since.  This awareness led to an appreciation of the artistry in nature which would be deepened in the years that followed.  
JJ Paloosa: Covering something folksy
Training for Marathon #2
I continued to run 5 & 10k races here and there and got inspired to run the Chicago Marathon, which was a fantastic experience.  Unfortunately, if I didn't have a race to train for, I wasn't likely to stick with it.  Music was more my passion back then, not running.
New England: Romanced

Moving to Maine, I was unprepared for the effect that a place could have on me.  The beauty of the vibrant fall colors, the foggy mornings that gave way to clear, blue skies, the old brownstone homes and cobblestone streets and the rocky coast where I spent countless hours was almost too much to bear.  I was in love.
Pemaquid Point
Two Lights State Park
Jordan Pond, Acadia NP
My transition to trail running occurred in 2003 after relocating to Boston.  I still remember that first run on the dirt trails at Horn Pond - over tree branches and rocks, up and down hills with only the sounds of the birds, my breath and footfalls.  I had generally enjoyed running, but trails brought it to a whole new level of fun.  Even though I ran only 3-6 miles at a time, I remained consistent with it.  I had a lot of competing interests -- the coast, the arts, my new husband and babies that followed -- but that was OK.   Life was good and full and trail running was a part of it.

Colorado: Adjusting

Now we live in Colorado.  The recession finally forced us to look for work outside of our beloved New England.  My husband found his dream job which he loves and the kids have adjusted well.  I have had a harder time with the move.  New England was the first place I lived that felt like home and there's a palatable ache for what I've left behind.  
My O2 deficit was at an all time high!
Running has been a salvation for me as I'm adjusting to this change of plans.  After moving here I decided that I would no longer be a mere trail runner, I would be a mountain runner.  As I journeyed up and around these mountains, I felt a happiness that had eluded me since leaving Boston.  I have experienced this joy at other times, but it sneaks up on me unexpectedly.  When I run, the doors just fly open to a peaceful state of mind.  Inspired by the mountains, the runners, Born to Run and Unbreakable, I'm going to pursue ultras as I continue to make a home on the Front Range.
Without these loves, life in the mountains would be lame.

"Whatever story you're telling, it will be more interesting if, at the end you add, "and then everything burst into flames." - Brian P. Cleary

Happy Trails,


19 January 2013

2013 Ponderous Posterior

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”  - C.S. Lewis

Today, I participated in an annual event put on by CRUD (Coloradans Running Ultra Distances), the Ponderous Posterior Fat Ass Run.  This type of run is often an ultramarathon, on trails with minimal or no on-course support.  It’s put on by runners and anyone interested can come and run as much of the course as they wish.  Usually these occur in winter giving runners an opportunity to meet up with friends (old and new) and enjoy the trails together.  The motto is No Fees, No Awards, No Whining.  

I was excited to participate as it would be my first time running 25 trail miles (20 was my max).  There would be more than 5,400 feet of vert to add to the challenge (yeah, baby!!) so I knew that this would be a fun event to be a part of.  Also, it would fit perfectly into my training schedule for The Red Hot 55k (34 miles, 4100 ft/vert), coming up in four weeks.

I hooked up with some of the women I've been running with recently and we brought a Denver newbie into our little group.  With a typical low-key start we were off to Red Rock Canyon with the 7 am wave which I estimate between 40-50 runners.
L-R: "Denver Jenn", Sandra, Lori, Lynne, Me & Rebekka
I managed to keep that silly grin on the entire run
Most of the ladies planned to take a little slower pace and do around 15 miles. So I ended up running with Rebekka and another group of runners that we caught up with about 4 miles in as we headed into Cheyenne CaƱon.  We all stuck together for the remainder of the course.  One of them, Paul DeWitt, is a former ultrarunner-turned-endurance coach with wins at Leadville 100, San Juan Solstice 50 and Red Hot 50k.  First micro-celebrity meeting of the day: check.  I enjoyed getting to know my new running friends and hope to run with some of them again soon.
Paul & the girls -- Holly, Laura, Dusty & Rebekka
Notice all the runners in shorts?  I had dressed expecting the weather to progress from 14° wind chill to 50°, per last night's forecast.  Imagine my surprise when I got to JT's and noticed that my car's thermometer read 40°!  My tights didn't end up being uncomfortable, especially since I had worn my Way2Cool Shirt as my base layer.  Best.Running.Top.Ever.  
Wrong attire for 90% of this run
On the Columbine Trail around 10 miles
The sole aid station at mile 12 was surprisingly well-stocked with soda, chips, cookies and other sundry goodies.  I got my handhelds refilled and met a couple more micro-celebs, Nick Clark, Nick Pedatella and ultrarunning's ambassador, Scott Jurek.  I enjoyed a brief chat with Sir Nick around the feed table, before taking off to finish the last half of the course.  
I ran with the fasties for two feet
As the elites went on by, we settled into our non-elite pace and got down to business.  My feet were hurting so I had no intention of lollygagging.

I have to say at this point that I'm officially banning my Mountain Masochists from any run over 15 miles.  There's not enough cushioning for the hours of pounding my feet are taking.  It's too bad because they have great stability and tread and most important, they are the coolest looking running shoes I've ever owned.  What's the point of running in cool clothes if your shoes don't look rad??  Sheesh.
Top of Section 16 - mile 21
Looking toward Garden of the Gods - mile 22
That little speck is me (Photo: Paul DeWitt)
The last half went like this: we hiked up and ran down, over and over until we finally ran down for good and ended back at JT's house.  Along the way, we ran into another group of young ultrarunners, a couple of which I recognized from all the blogs I read.  Would that make them nano-celebrities?  

I finished 25.3 miles in a run time of 5:48.  It was fun to be out there enjoying new trails and meeting new people that want to do crazy stuff like ultras.

Shout out to JT for hosting and to all the CRUDsters for a beautiful and well-marked course.  I'll be back next year, for sure.

This has nothing to do with today's blog, but it's been an earworm of mine, so I'll share the love.  You're welcome.
Happy Trails,


12 January 2013

Weather Report

I've lived in good climate, and it bores the hell out of me. I like weather rather than climate." - John Steinbeck 

It has been freakin' cold here the past two weekends as I’ve ventured out for my long runs.  Last Saturday, I ran 9 miles up the Barr Trail (5,500 ft of vert) starting at 10° wind chill and obviously by the time I was up above tree line, it was well below zero with the wind.  But the views were worthy of the 3.5 hr uphill slog.  I was pretty beat afterwards; between the cold and the altitude, I got a good spanking.
At the tree line
Chillaxin' for 30 seconds
Since I’ve been putting in tough 18 - 20 milers the past few weekends, I needed to give my legs a break.  I went up to a park in West Denver today that has 13 miles of trails and 2,900 ft of vert.  I was pleased to see that the trails were in good shape.  As on the Incline & the Barr, I saw many people in Yaktrax, but my Mountain Masochists have handled the snow just fine.  I used my spikes only when descending the upper portion of the Barr last week, where the terrain is steeper and there were a few icy patches.  

The temps today hovered between 5° and 10° and the only challenge I had was keeping my water tube from clogging with ice.  I stuffed it down my shirt and in 10 minutes the ice had thawed enough to drink.  The hubs offered another tip of holding the line up, opening up the valve and shaking it out.  He's smart, my guy. 
We were supposed to have clouds and snow 
Parmalee Transverse = windy
Devil's Elbow = not so windy
It would be nice to have the flexibility of scheduling my long runs on warmer days in the forecast, but I suppose that being forced to run when conditions are not ideal is better.  After all, isn't venturing for hours in the mountains supposed to be mysterious and unpredictable?  As someone who acts on life rather than waiting to react to it, it’s good training for adapting to unwanted and unavoidable situations, something that is very unnatural for me.  My hope is that I can learn to apply that same acceptance and grit in my non-running life that I do when facing similar situations in the mountains.  

At least this week I wasn't so tired that I couldn't enjoy a night out with my dude. We had another delicious six-course Moroccan meal at Tajine Alami followed by our customary trip to REI:
Shrimp Pel Pel and mint tea... so good.
I certainly couldn't dream of doing an ultra without the support of J-man.  I'm grateful to have a husband who values exercise as much as I do and encourages me as I pursue my dreams.  

In keeping with the weather theme, here's the great Jaco Pastorius on bass, circa 1978.  You're welcome.

Ever read Steinbeck's Travels with Charley?  Read it.  You'll love it.

Happy Trails,


01 January 2013

The Year of the Ultra

I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list. - Susan Sontag 
Welcome Gentle Reader, to yet one more ultrarunning blog.  I have at least 40 of them in my Google Reader, so I know you have many to choose from.  You'll see a roll of some of my favorites on the right.  In the meantime, thanks for peeking at mine.

Since 2013 is the Year of the Ultra for me, I thought it fitting to chronicle the journey of moving from recreational trail running with a 10k base to running up, down and around mountains for 3+ hours to racing 50k and higher.  This can be quite challenging with two kidlets (ages 2 and 5) and a FT job that requires a 90 min 
daily commute.  My weekly training pretty much caps out at 30 miles.    

Until last fall, I assumed that ultras were out of reach for me.  However, where there is a strong will there is a way.  (My parents & hubs will vouch that I possess one of these.)  I've found that with smart, efficient training it is indeed possible to take 25-30 miles each week and prepare for an ultra.  Maybe there's a mom out there that has dreamed of the same thing... I hope this is a place where they can find inspiration.

I don't intend to bore anyone with the details of my training each week.  I'll stick to the highlights and share what I'm learning on this journey.  

So what did I do today, the first day of 2013?

Well, I repeated my Thanksgiving escapade of doing the Double Incline Double Barr (DIDB) and in doing so completed the iRunFar Holiday Run Challenge of running 50 miles between Dec 24th and Jan 1.  Since we were traveling back from Moab on the 24th and I had to work every weekday other than Christmas and today, I made a plan for the week to get this done.  Here's how I did it:

  • 7 miler on Christmas between a lazy morning and dinner plans in the afternoon
  • 4 mile speed sessions during lunch break (4 total) 
  • 20 miler on Saturday 
  • 7 miler today doing the DIDB (and smashed my PR to boot!)
Total: 50 miles

That's certainly the most running I've done in one week, and the cool thing is that it didn't feel at all like I was overdoing it.  I'd credit this to the increase to my base to around 15 miles during the past couple of months and eating better during recovery.

Are you familiar with the Manitou Incline?  It's 2,000 feet of vert in less than a mile. The average grade is 41%.  It's the Thing To Do here in the Springs, along with hiking up the Barr trail to the summit of Pikes Peak (13 mi).  For a good climbing workout, I like to go up the Incline and catch the Barr trail for some fun downhillin'.  Now that I can do two passes in 2 1/2 hours, I suppose I'll have to up the ante and make it a triple next time.  Boogity Boogity!     

Here's a few pictures from the day:
Pretty Christmas tree at the top
View from the top
Blessed solitude on the Barr trail


Happy Trails,