30 March 2013

The Age of Improvement

It's sad to grow old, but nice to ripen. - Brigitte Bardot
One of the things that gets me excited about my running is seeing measurable improvement. Physiologically, I have been on the slow downward spiral for 15 years at least, but as I've become smarter about my training, I'm becoming a better athlete.   

Back in my teens and 20's, I ran at a comfortable pace and relatively flat roads, never pushing myself too hard. I just wanted to finish whatever race I was running, be it a 10k or marathon. In my 30's, I cared a little more about speed and pushed myself on the trails and discovered that I got a bit faster without doing any real speed work. 

Case in point: 9 years after I ran my second marathon and had switched to trails I had an urge to run another one prior to getting pregnant with child #2.  With a base of one hour for my long run, I upped it to two hours on two consecutive weekends. The third weekend (Mother's Day weekend 2009) I mapped out a 26 mile looped course at my mother-in-law's house and ran my marathon in 4:45, beating my PR by 20 minutes. So much for the 4 months of training that I put in for my first two marathons...

It's cool to see myself run a 34 mile race and feel better than I did running road marathons. It's exciting to see my tempo runs knocking a full minute per mile off my average over a 10k distance. It gets me pumped to see just what my body can do after all these years. I'm inspired by the likes of Meghan Arbogast, Mike Morton, Speedgoat and other masters runners that are still posting really impressive wins. What they may be lacking physiologically they are making up in wisdom and maturity that comes from experience.

This week, I added hill repeats to my weekly training. This means going up the Incline and down the Barr, multiple times. Gonna get me some Hardrock legs!  On New Years, I did the double and realized that it was time to make it a triple. This week, I did the TITB and boy howdy, my hams felt it! But I beat my PR going up the Incline by 3 min on lap#1, and beat my PR doing the DIDB by 7 min. Cool!
TITB elevation profile
Sheila and I are in full-on spring training now with Friday-Saturday long runs. We got some sweet snaps this week retracing the Ponderous Posterior course: 
Sheila rock hopping at Red Rock Canyon
Fun on Cap't Jacks 
So this is my current training schedule, which mirrors Sheila's as she prepares for her Rocky Mountain Slam races:

Mon - hill repeats
Tues - 10k tempo run
Wed - long-ish run (2 1/2 - 3 hrs)
Thurs - rest
Fri - long run (5-6 hrs currently)
Sat - long run (3-4 hrs currently)
Sun - rest

It's Saturday night and I'm looking forward to Easter Sunday complete with church and egg hunt afterwards.  He is risen, indeed! 

Happy Trails,



26 March 2013

The New Normal

There are lives I can imagine without children 
but none of them have the same laughter & noise. 
- Brian Andreas

When I started this blog in January, I was a 40+ hour-a-week employee with a 90 min commute and two young kids trying to squeeze in 30 mi/wk of trail running to complete my first ultra. Now, I am an unemployed mom with one ultra done and a bunch more on the docket, enjoying two whole days of workweek fun with the kids while putting in 60+ mi/wk of training.

Everyone in the house is happier with me less stressed and not running around trying to get the bare minimum done to keep the household functioning (even with the huz's significant help). While I still have M-W-F to train and get household tasks completed while the kids are at pre(school), I'm now planning fun stuff with the kids on T-TH and getting in speed work after J gets home. Having time to be involved in a new church in Rockrimmon has been another upside. I'm doing music again and have had friends over for dinner every week since I left my job a month ago. Feels like old times, back when we were DINKS in Boston and potlucks at our house were the norm.

God - family - friends - running. These are the things that bring me joy and what I want to invest myself in. I'm grateful for the time and energy to do so. Even though having kids makes the running and racing more complicated, they add so much to my overall joy that I feel I have a richer life now than when I was childless. I wouldn't trade the freedom to do what-I-want-when-I-want over the necessary limitations and sacrifices required to take care of them.

I know that children aren't for everyone -- whether by choice or sadly, when it's not. All I'm saying is that I don't look wistfully at the runners who live out of their vehicles traveling from one amazing trail to another. If I'm tempted to feel jealous of that kind of carefree life, I just look at my kids and realize that being tied down to a home filled with love and laughter is a pretty sweet thing. I'll have my adventures, they just look a little different and the trail running ones come more sporadically.
My lovies
Now that my health is back, I'm ramping up the mileage in prep for the R2R2R. Winter hasn't loosened its grip yet as evidenced by the recent single digit temps and need for microspikes. I'm looking forward to a serious melt this week as temps head into the 50's and low 60's possibly.

Some snaps of my recent escapades:
Still sick, but stomped out a 6 miler at the Barr
Sheila at Palmer Lake Reservoir (before the 12 snowy miles)
Ute Valley after a blizzard
Testing my gear in 3° windchill
13 miler on the Falcon Trail
While their future as a touring band remains uncertain, The Civil Wars are recording again in follow up to their Grammy awarding winning debut album, Barton Hollow. I know MJ would be proud if he heard this. You're welcome.
Happy Trails,


18 March 2013

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

"The measure of anyone's freedom is what he can do without.”
- L.M. Montgomery


Let's start with the tragedy of the week. Ugly would describe my mood Saturday night when I realized that any hope of finding my Garmin was gone. I lost it after my Friday long run sometime between changing in the park restroom and putting my stuff into the car. I took it off because the battery was dead.  Somehow, everything else made it home, except for my most expensive piece of training gear. I didn't notice that it was missing until bedtime when I went to charge it. After a quick look around the house and car, I went to bed upset but hopeful it would turn up the next day with a more thorough search.  
Security blanket?
I spent the next day checking at the park and turning the house and car upside down, all to no avail. By the time evening rolled around, I was depressed and angry with myself for not keeping better track of it. It wasn't until I went to church Sunday morning that I got my thoughts and attitude adjusted and came to terms with the loss. Worshiping God does that for me and helps to put these kinds of disappointments in perspective.

I'm now back to using my intuition to train, rather than looking at a constant stream of data.  On the Myers-Briggs spectrum, I'm a sensing person, not an intuitive one, and having real-time feedback was something I loved.  But as noted previouslyI seem to embrace the suck while running but adapting to life's curveballs is something I'm still working on in my non-running life. 


I'm still contending with this damn crud I've had for two weeks now. I'm sure running Salida didn't help since we know the immune system is suppressed after a marathon. I took a few days off and ran some 5 - 13 mile runs later in the week, keeping the pace easy to moderate since I wasn't feeling 100% yet.  Maybe that 3 hour run at Cheyenne Mtn State Park and 3 miles up the Barr Trail set me back more than I realized.
NORAD's in there somewhere
I'm going to try and take the next several days off to kick this thing for good. I'm need to get my legs ready for the 40 miler I have coming up next month.  


My baby girl turned three today and we celebrated her with a party this weekend. I love her to pieces. She fills our lives with so much joy:
She's my little mountain lover -- shouts "mountains!" when she sees them and tells me that she is gonna run in them with me. That's my girl!

And shout out to my pal Meghan, who won the 3 Days of Syllamo stage race this weekend -- 95 miles over three days and 80 of them wearing her MdS pack. Way to go, Boss Lady!

We'll end with more good stuff. Thanks to John Standridge for showing me this amazing performance from the 2004 Hall of Fame inductions. Petty's vocals are perfectly suited for the cover and Prince's guitar solo is sublime. Reminded me of how much I loved his 2007 Superbowl halftime show. Time to turn on the Traveling Wilburys methinks...
Happy Trails,


13 March 2013

Random Acts of Gear and Inspiration

I'm still getting over this cold, but feeling better on a daily basis, so I expect to commence with Hardrock training starting on Friday. I've done a couple of easy 5-9 milers to get the joints limbered up, but taking a day off when my body seems to be telling me to. I don't want to extend this illness any longer (or make it worse) because I just had to train. The Coach has Sheila running long back to backs Friday and Saturday, so that's what I'll plan to do as well.

Yesterday, I got these babies in the mail... my first gear purchase specific to HR and those brutal climbs and descents it's so famous for:
Black Diamond Ultra Distance Z-Poles 
There's a lot of great reviews online (and I'm too lazy to do one), so you can google them yourself if you're in the market for some. I'll just say is that they are very light and easy to deploy/collapse. Didn't hurt to find them on sale at Backcountry Edge either. Booyah!

Just today, I saw this shirt and I'm thinking I should have one after I do the R2R2R next month:
I figure if my mtn biking hubs has jerseys from cool places like Alaska, I surely should have a shirt from my big adventure run, right? (Right, Honey?)  

My path to ultras started with this guy -- Kilian Jornet. I was following him via the Quest videos for years before the ultra bug finally bit. Here he is doing what he does best... inspire. You're welcome. 

Happy Trails,


10 March 2013

Salida Marathon

People forget how fast you did a job - but they remember how well you did it.      -Howard Newton

Distance: 26.2 miles 
Elevation: 4,750 ft
Time: 5:55 

I now know what it feels like to run a marathon with a head and chest cold. An easy, 13 min/mile average feels like a hard effort. I mean, this marathon took more out of me than last month's ultra. Within 20 minutes, I knew that my A goal of a 5-ish hour finish wouldn't happen and settled for my B goal of keeping it under 6 hours. (My C goal is always to beat the cutoffs, but that was never a concern.) 

The Salida "Run Through Time" Marathon was my first mountain marathon and I wasn't going to miss it on account of excess snot production. This particular virus has been wearing J-man down for almost two weeks. I got it a week ago and as a result, I ran exactly two times since then. Good thing I got it on a taper week. With Good Old War's Better Weather waking me up at 6am, I took some DayQuil to mask my misery and headed out.

Sheila joined me at the last minute to use it as a training run, which meant she needed to stay with me and not chase people down. Since I have no difficulty running my own race, she tucked in behind me and obeyed the pace setter like a good girl. It was great having her company for the trip.
This course starts at 7,000 feet and climbs to 9,000 feet at the highest point and includes snaking, sometimes technical singletrack, rocky jeep roads and a 5 mile dirt road that steadily climbs to the turnaround point. The course had snow at the higher elevations and with the storm that moved in about two hours into the race, we had some "weather" to contend with. It was actually quite beautiful and with the exception of the periodic gusts of sleet to the face, I didn't mind it at all.

After the first four miles we began hiking most of the climbs to save energy. I kept telling myself to just get to the half-way point so I could get some assistance from gravity. We then discovered that the descending trails were slippery and more technical, so there wasn't as much of a pace quickening as I'd hoped. At least we managed not to face plant but there were plenty of toe-catching near misses on the rocky descents.  

I continue to meet more cool ultrarunners at the races. Yesterday, I met and ran the first part with "Hawaiian Shirt" Ray who then ran on to finish in 5 hours. Bob Read made the long walk/jog up Road 175 more enjoyable with his company. Bob's paced several sections of the Hardrock course and will be running it himself this year, so we had plenty to chat about.  
Sheila and Ray at the Start
5 miles in before the blowing snow started
Miles of douche grade...
...made more pleasant with Bob's company
What I wasn't prepared for was that dang climb at the 20 mile mark. At that point, the difference in how I was feeling vs. how Sheila was feeling was evidenced by her giving me the full rundown of the Leadville course and aid stations while I hiked euro-style - hands on thighshyperventilating and feeling slightly woozy. I only retained about 20% of what she told me. It was all pretty amusing -- me on the verge of keeling over and Sheila jabbering away behind me like she's out for an easy walk.     

Once we got past that climb I just wanted to get it done, so I did my best to put the pedal down and start hammering the descents. We passed a bunch of runners and finished in 5:55, which ironically was only 50 minutes slower than my first marathon 15 year ago, on flat pavement. I'm slow, but faster than I used to be, folks. 
My only scenic picture of the day
Since we were finishing a good 2+ hours after the fasties, I wasn't expecting to see them at the end. However, a few nano-celebs were still hanging around so I had a quick chat with Slow Aaron (Faster-than-Shelby Aaron), Burch & Katie and Brendan Trimboli before heading back home. I'm looking forward to seeing some of them again at Quad Rock.
Recovery meal fail. Tasty nonetheless.
All in all a great day, despite less than stellar health. Sure beats any day sitting at home not running. The race is well organized and the aid stations and volunteers were awesome. I'll be back again to tackle this course and shoot for my A goal of sub-5 hours.

If you hear the following ringtone somewhere, it's probably my cell phone.  

Next up...the Big Ditch!   

Happy Trails,


06 March 2013

Reading Habits

I recall a few years ago, when I was just a 3-hour-a-week trail runner, picking up this magazine and thinking, "Cool, an alternative to Runners World for people like me".  

As I perused it, I felt a wave of disappointment because it appeared to be aimed at ultra-marathoners, not normal trail runners.  I mean, I wasn't planning to run no 100 miles!  Sheesh.

Contrast that with my excitement at seeing this issue in my mailbox this afternoon.  I'm looking at the table of contents to see who is contributing this month and what they're writing about and what amazing locales I can add to my bucket list of running adventures.  I couldn't wait to get the kiddos in bed so I could tear into this thing. 

Things have certainly changed with moving to Colorado...

Happy Trails,


02 March 2013

Change of Plans

It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step 
onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no 
knowing where you might be swept off to. - J.R.R. Tolkien
Grant Swamp Pass/Island Lake (Photo Credit: Klas Eklof)
When I posted my racing plan for the year on my Feb 9 post, I had no idea how much my plans would change in the coming weeks.  For starters, I met my new running partner Sheila, an experienced ultrarunner gunning for all five of the Rocky Mountain Slam this year.  Not only do I have the good fortune of having company on long runs, but now I have the opportunity to pace her at five of the big hundos in the US -- BighornHardrock, Leadville, Wasach and The Bear. This means I have to step up my training for the next few months.

Everything changes with Hardrock. I've read enough about the San Juans to know it's a land of extremes -- extreme climbs, extreme downhills, extreme weather changes, extreme beauty.  The course is both beautiful and brutal. Because long, steep climbs and downhills are part and parcel to this course, my training will mirror Sheila's as we begin doing hikes up and down 14'ers, eventually chaining them together.  Here's some of what we can expect:
Photo Credit: Steve Pero
Photo Credit: Steve Pero
Photo Credit: Steve Pero
Photo Credit: Steve Pero
But we get rewarded with views such as these:
Photo Credit: Klas Eklof
Photo Credit: Steve Pero
Photo Credit: Steve Pero
I'm excited for the opportunity to experience a piece of this epic course but I realize that pacing Sheila for the final 30 miles is a huge responsibility.  It's my job to get her to the finish when she has 70 miles of climbing and downhilling on her legs.  I respect these mountains and recognize the need to prepare myself to deal with whatever they throw at us.

That being said, my 25 miler in May has been bumped up to 50 miler to better prepare me for the summer pacing season.  As good as my 55k went last month, I know I can prepare for the additional 16 miles over the next couple of months. 

As if the 50 miler and pacing ops aren't enough, I've been invited to join a small group in April doing the #1 adventure run on my bucket list -- the 42 mile double rim crossing of the Grand Canyon, or the R2R2R.  It would be great warm up to the 50 miler the following month and if it doesn't conflict with J's mtn bike trip in the works, I'll be headed to the Big Ditch next month.

The only way I can take advantage of these incredible opportunities is if I remain unemployed for at least the next few months.  Talking this over with J, it's clear that I need to use my "free" days while the kids are in (pre)school to train so I can keep Saturdays free for family time as the weather warms up and we get them outside more.  So I have decided to suspend my job search until summer, in order to focus on the training needed to start pacing in June.

So 2013 is shaping up to be an epic year of ultrarunning.  As Meghan would say, "Bring on the awesome!".

Happy Trails,