Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Year in Review

With the New Year practically here, I think it is a fair time to look back on the joys of the year. This year has been a pretty awesome year for us! A lot of really awesome things (and a few challenges) happened outside of running, but since this really is a blog focused on running, I will keep it there.
We have also had a really big year with running. We totaled over 330 miles in races alone this past year. Since the start of 2011, we have completed four marathons and three half marathons (ok, I completed two but set out to do three, more on that in a bit). We successfully crossed the Gore-Tex Transrockies finish line after covering 120 miles in 6 days… and we were still in one place. This month, we completed our first ever 30 mile run (and hit our 5th marathon distance this year). We set a half marathon PR. We also set a marathon PR at our first marathon of the year and beat it by quite a bit at our last marathon of the year. I also had the opportunity to complete a several races and runs with people who were setting firsts in their own running lives. A handful of our friends started running more consistently and have joined us for training runs, which has been a real joy!
Our training for all of our successes is where a lot of the adventure lies. This year, as part of our training program, we modified the type of lifting we do and added plyometrics, which led to some pretty awesome strength gains. During our marathon training, we added speed work and got back onto a track, which I have not done since high school. I took an entire month off of running and struggled through an injury of my own. That month was one of the most difficult times, yet I learned so much during that time.
A lot of our training runs were on trails this year. I maintain a love/hate relationship with trails as they have a tendency to kick my butt, yet I love the experience. Our trail running enabled us to see so many miles of beautiful Colorado back country. We even ran a 14er this year (as much as a 14er can be run)! We also got to see a lot of Denver as we explored new areas and revisited old areas. My balance was tested quite a bit this summer, as I did experience more falls this year than in my entire time running. Thankfully, none of these resulted in serious injuries!
With all of the joys and hardships, I learned a lot this past year. Through my experience of being injured, I was reminded that I cannot find all of my identity in running. I was constantly reminded to be grateful for things that we so often take for granted- legs with which to run, eyes with which to see, friends we meet along the way, etc. I learned that you can always give a little more than you ever thought to be possible. Runners are a unique bunch of people, trail runners appear to be even more unique. Based on my experience this past year, trail runners tend to be much more friendly and less inclined to leave you when you are down.
I also learned that sunscreen is beyond valuable and body glide really does come in handy. I learned that gaiters are an amazing piece of apparel to add to your gear, especially ones of the Dirty Girl variety. Hats are awesome, sunglasses a must when in the snow. Blisters are a way of life and I will likely never have a full set of toe nails, at least that last more than a month. Listen to people who give advice, especially prior to a race at which you are a newbie and they are not. This can be so valuable! Paying for running shoes at a specialty shoe store is well worth it in the long run. Avon makes an amazing insect repellant that does not sweat off or stink and is perfect on trail runs. Being injured sucks big time, but getting back into running comes with a new appreciation and perspective and is absolutely amazing! Smart wool socks are still my sock of preference. Running with poles on a trail probably takes someone with a little more coordination than I have. I think I have also finally figured out which combination of fuel is just right for me.
I also learned that I need a warm up time in just about everything. I really love long distance running and revel in what Ben has termed “the suck.” It is important to be flexible with schedules as they often change and life happens. Running at speeds that are not comfortable is a good thing to do every once in a while. Beer is still the best post-long run beverage out there. Running with other people is also a good thing to do and allows you to be challenged or you to do the challenging. It is important to remember to look around and enjoy your surrounding while you are running… things can so easily get missed.
Overall, this past year has been a great year for running. That being said, I look forward to welcoming the New Year and all of the new adventures that will be had. Happy New Year and keep on running!!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Jackets... for the furry creatures

When we got Brewer, our 70 pound weimaraner, we thought it was unusual that he had very little hair and would get so cold during the winter months. He was known to shiver at stop lights while running the first we had him. One of Ben’s regular customers heard about this and gave us a bomber jacket that her dog had once used. Yes, it even has the furry looking collar. I am sure we looked like quite a strange bunch while running with a dog in a bomber jacket! Runs were still miserable and people standing next to us at stop lights looked at us like we were abusing the poor guy as he whimpered the time away. We did recently find out that he has alopecia, which explains the general lack of hair.
Finally, we caved and decided to buy Brewer a winter jacket. Conveniently,, one of my favorite gear sites (and one that if you are not familiar with, I would suggest that you do so right now!) had a water/wind proof jacket for over 50 % off. We took a gamble with his size and ordered him a Ruffwear Cloud Chaser Soft Shell Jacket.
When it arrived, I could not help but feel that his jacket was cooler than any piece of gear I currently owned. The fit was just right and it does block water quite well. The underside covers enough of his body that he is not completely dirty when we get home. The jacket also has reflective piping that shows up quite nicely in the beam of car headlights as they drive by. The jacket has withstood much time and abuse and is still going strong. Brewer still does whine at stop lights (and when we stop to rest or take pictures when hiking) but it is significantly less!
For those of you looking for something to keep that poor pooch of yours warm during these winter months, this is a purchase neither of you will regret!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011


I used to run alone all of the time. In high school, our distance team on track was so small that it was not unusual for me to run with the guys or completely alone. During college, running was often my alternative work out when the rowing schedule allowed it. When I was in grad school, running was an outlet for me and Ben would only occasionally run with me.
In the last two years, Ben has become my running/work out partner. It is rare that we work out separately. We train together, we race together. It has been awesome to have this time together, especially since it is such a huge part of our lives. In the last several weeks, Ben has been dealing with an injury and has drastically cut back his running. This has been somewhat freeing as our lives our not dictated by a running schedule. Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely not cutting back my running, I just feel like I have a little more freedom to do what I want and I think it is good to take a step back and make sure that running is not the only thing that defines us.
All of that being said, not having a running partner has been…interesting. It is much more challenging to be motivated to run on days when the weather has been nasty. It has also been more difficult to go for long runs knowing that we usually spend that time together.  There is also a sense of guilt associated with leaving Ben behind. Brewer also does not get to come as often as I strongly dislike managing a dog in our neighborhood alone (lots of strays and no fun on ice/snow…plus he is a cold weather pansy).
On the other hand, being forced to run alone has been so good. This time has really forced me to re-evaluate my running and to make sure not look to someone else to motivate me or to get me through a run. It is so easy to focus on making sure Ben is ok when we are together, that I have had to focus more on listening to my body and being tuned in the entire time. I have had more quiet time, which is such an amazing aspect of running for me. During this time, I have been encouraged to run with other people with different strengths, which has been a good challenge for me.
In the end, this time alone has been a challenging, but good time for me. Enough already though, I am ready to have my running buddy back!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

30 for 30

It has been a little while since I have posted. Life has been crazy and even a little bit stressful but running continues to be a great outlet. Several months ago, Ben and I were talking about the fact that he is getting “old” and debated about how to celebrate it. We looked high and low for a 50k during the month of December, but had a really tough time finding one. Instead, I suggested that we do 30 miles together and invite friends to join us for parts of it.
We trained hard for months to prepare for this run and towards the middle/end of the training, Ben came face to face with an injury and decided to keep pushing through it. We spent lots of time creating and rerouting the course we were going to do and finally settled on a course that included a lot of firsts for Ben including his first ever 4.5 mile run, his first 14 mile run, his first marathon, and our most common training path.
As the day we had chosen approached, we anxiously watched the weather as a storm system developed over Denver. On the morning we had planned to run, we woke to a lot of snow and very cold weather. We decided to set out anyways and see what happened. After about 2 miles, we decided to call it for the day. Our hydration packs were freezing, which would have caused a lot of issues for hydration. Nothing had been plowed, which was fine for a short-mid distance run but would have created some very unhappy feet. Talk about a huge disappointment! It was a really really tough decision, but probably a good one in the end.
After much debate, we decided to try again the following weekend on Sunday after church. That day, Ben ended up getting sick and needing to postpone again. There was a fear that the run would never happen and that we were just going to tell people over and over that we were going to do it, only to postpone again. The week of Saturday December 17th, we checked the weather every single day, monitored Ben’s injury, and on Thursday decided to tell people we were going to run.
The weather was better than what we could have asked for. We ran into about a mile and a half of packed snow/ice and had the occasional ice patch, but the road conditions were fantastic. We had one friend (thanks Conor!) join us from mile 7 to 15, a friend from 21 to 30 (woohoo Jeremy!) and his wife join us from 27.5ish to the end (yay Beth!). The course was as we had planned and allowed us to finish in front of our house. Along the way, we shared memories of years of our life (1-2 years old from mile 1-2, etc) which made the miles just tick away.
The end of the run was met with tears and lots of celebrating! Despite some of the bumps along the way, we had just completed our seventh marathon distance and our longest run ever to celebrate 30 years of life. We also have some amazing friends and family to be so grateful for as they supported us and cheered us on (and even made cool race bibs followed by car decals for us)!  What a way to celebrate 30 years of a such an amazing person individual!! 30 miles for 30 years!! Congrats and happy birthday Ben!
Who knows what we will do for next years birthdays…

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Flexibility… and growth

No, contrary to what the title says, I will not be giving a perspective on flexibility in the way you are probably thinking. For starters, although I am a runner and a physical therapist, I am probably the last person you would want to hear from about flexibility because let’s face it, the length of my hamstrings (and most other muscle groups) is almost embarrassing!
On the other hand, I do think running forces an individual to become flexible in so many ways from expectations, routes, weather changes, etc. This is something I am constantly learning. Yesterday, Ben and I decided to try to get in a trail run before the weather changes drastically. I did not want any old trail run; rather, I was very particular about the location of where I hoped to go.
The day began with us leaving much later than we had anticipated or hoped (who knew I like to sleep in occasionally) and continued with us taking the wrong exit off of the freeway. We then had not anticipated fully how much time it would take to get to where we were going. How this even happened is beyond my comprehension. The trail I was hoping for requires one to travel from Denver, through the town of Lyons, then through Estes, to a small town on the other side of Estes. Because of time constraints, we opted to stop at a trail between Lyons and Estes Park. Needless to say, the drive was beautiful (as expected) but by the time we reached the trail head, it was a bit later than we had anticipated.
When we got out of the car, the trail description showed it to be much much shorter run than we had hoped for and there appeared to be some snow in the area. After looking at the map, we decided to give the trail a try and hope that it really did meet up with a jeep road eventually. As we headed down from the trailhead, I was very excited to be on a trail again. After about a quarter of a mile of downhill, we came to a small valley that was covered in snow. I am not sure why I did not expect this on November 26th in the Rocky Mountains, but I was quite surprised and to be honest, scared. I no longer knew what I was getting myself into!
Snow?? Ice?? You have to be crazy! I could not help but think that I had no idea how to run on that kind of terrain and I was so scared! As we picked our way along the trail, there were sections where Ben would wait patiently for me, as I tried to pansy my way through a stream crossing without getting wet or maintain my footing up a steep, slick slope. There were multiple times where I was inwardly cursing and then times where I found myself thinking “You just blogged about thankfulness and you are cranky about the snow!” There was even a time at which Ben turned around just in time to catch me seriously thinking about crab walking down a slick descent (I know, shameful) and say “Oh, common! You are bigger than that!”
My first reaction was to yell mean things at him, but I instantly realized that he was right. It really was just a short descent and what was the worst that would happen if I slipped, especially if I was expecting it? In the end, I came out with a few trips and only one fall, which is pretty good in general for me!
The trail turned out to be an awesome adventure and beautiful run. There were several stream crossings along the way and lots of rolling hills and varied terrains. At one point, the trail opened up to a mountain prairie, where the sun was shining warmly and the patches of snow were brilliant.  Just off the trail there were remnants of old homestead properties and placards telling the stories of the people who once lived in the area. What an amazing piece of history!
In the end, the trail run was one of the hardest I have ever done, largely because of the ice. The day and the run threw so many unexpected things at me that could very well have sidelined me if I had let it. Overall, the run turned out to be exactly what I need in many ways. It was such a good reminder that in running and in life, we will meet obstacles that are completely unexpected and almost impossible to be ready for, but if we are willing to take a risk, we might just come out stronger on the other side.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Thankfulness seems to be the buzz word this time of year. I really love Thanksgiving and I love the fact that it is such a reminder to take time out to be thankful, but I also really love that there are things I am thankful for every day, even if I do not realize it. Yes, I am thankful for the classic list of things: grace, forgiveness, love, family, friends, jobs, a house, food, and the list goes on. Don’t get me wrong, I am not downplaying the importance of anyone of these things we are thankful for, but I also want to take some time to be thankful for the little things that are so often taken for granted.
Ben and I went running yesterday morning and had the most amazing clear view of the front range of the Rocky Mountains for a good part of our run. I am so thankful that I have the eyes with which to see that awesome wonder. I am also so thankful that I have feet and legs that allow me to get outside and run, and not just to run, but to enjoy running. I am thankful that my body is healthy enough to work out on a regular basis. I am thankful for a running partner and I am Thankful for people who support us while we run.  I am thankful for good shoes and good gear. I am thankful for a gym membership on nasty days and weight lifting days. I am thankful for sunshine and warm rain. I am thankful for trails and new scenery. I am thankful for races and opportunities to meet new people. The list could go on around things I am thankful for related to running and fitness, but I will stop… for now.
While it can be very difficult this time of year to get up and work out, I challenge you (I need this too) to think of something related to being active you can be thankful for every time you are debating whether or not you should do that run,  head to the gym to lift, or do that work out. Being thankful for the little forgotten things can help put life into a new perspective.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Running with friends

I was a rower during undergrad and loved being involved in a team. There was a sense of belonging on this team. The transition to graduate school was difficult because I had no athletic team anymore. Although I continued to run on my own, there was nothing “team” about this. Don’t get me wrong, I do still enjoy running on my own every once in a while, but this has been replaced by something so much cooler.
After several years of inconsistently running with me, Ben signed up for a race with me in 2009 and has not stopped running since. Having a running partner has been an awesome experience for many reasons. We tend to balance each other out with different strengths. Ben likes to go for shorter, faster runs; I love longer runs and kick in after about a nine mile warm up. Ben is amazing at trail running as he is nimble and quick. I still prefer to run more than he does and will encourage us to run, but he balances us with a desire to rest and be around people. Running has also forced us to work on our communication as we work through our fears, goals, hopes, pains, and good and bad runs.
For a long time, none of our close friends ran much at all. Last year, a good friend of ours decided to run a half marathon and my heart beamed for her. As running has continued to be a big part of our lives, it has been fun to see how reactions of close friends have changed from “You ran how many miles?” to “I want to do a 5k.” Recently, both parties of a close couple we know have decided to increase mileage. It has been fun to be a part of the journey with them as they plan and increase mileage. It has also been a huge blessing to be there during some of their firsts… her first 5k distance, his first 8 mile run and then half marathon. They have also both joined us for different runs, where they help keep us accountable for going and also bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table. It has been a joy to be able to run with them and see their growth through life and running.
Several of our other friends have also become increasingly interested in running and it has been a blast to watch them get started as well. Because of this and our desire to build a sense of community, Ben and I have even decided to start a running club as a way to make friends and build community through an activity that is a huge part of our life.
Going through life requires the support of many people. If running can be seen as an analogy for life, why shouldn’t we also run together?

Friday, November 11, 2011

These little things called hand warmers

When Ben and I were preparing for the Gore-Tex Transrockies run, someone recommended to him that we buy hand warmers for this race. Ben immediately went to Costco and bought a huge box of hand warmers. While we did take several of them to Transrockies, we did not actually find a need for them then.
We have, however, begun to use them quite regularly and have discovered that these amazing little gems have so many uses. They are fantastic for stuffing into gloves for cold hands while running (where they keep the palms incredibly warm) or for holding (which then will also warm the fingers). They can also be strategically placed in your clothes to warm various parts of the body. The most amazing thing about them is that they last several hours, so once you have generously warmed one area of your body on a run, you can move onto another part. They also last long enough that they are still good when you return from shorter long runs. Considering how ridiculously cold I get after these runs, hand warmers are amazing!
To be quite honest, I would never have considered buying hand warmers prior to this individual’s suggestion. I can promise you though, we will continue to have a stash and I will recommend them to all who stay active during the really cold months of the year!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Marine Corps Marathon

On Sunday, 20,991 people completed the US Marine Corps Marathon in Arlington, VA. I was one of them. Prior to this marathon, the largest marathon I had completed in only had 2,438 finishers. What a shock to the system!
Our weekend began when we landed in Norfolk, VA on Thursday, close to where my in-laws live. Ben and I checked into our hotel and set out for an “easy” three mile run. Going from altitude to sea level is amazing and “easy” quickly turned into a “How fast are we going? Oh, that is too fast for an easy run. Ok, how about now? Nope, still too fast!” It was nice to run by the ocean, even if for a brief bit, but strange to feel the humidity difference between Denver and a coastal city. Anyways, we hung out with family on Thursday night and then Ben and I drove up to D.C. on Friday morning.
People had indicated that driving in D.C. is crazy. As a former southern Californian, I was very skeptical. Boy, was I wrong. After seeing the Air Force Memorial, Ben and I probably spent about 20 minutes driving around the Pentagon and Arlington Cemetery, trying desperately to get to one or the other. We eventually made it to the Arlington Cemetery and were just in time to see the changing of the guard and a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. It was so powerful. We then made our way towards the mall, found parking, and managed to see the White House and the majority of the other memorials in under three hours. It was a really cool thing to be able to finally experience these.
On Saturday morning, we woke to some pretty miserable weather. It was cold and raining (with some snow). We decided to try our luck at the subway and found that it was super easy to navigate. We had decided to meet up with Ben’s parents at the runners expo for race packet pick-up since Ben’s dad was also running the marathon. The race packets were ok. The organizers did an online race package with coupons and such to decrease waste. The shirts are this year are red, mock turtle neck, cotton t-shirts. The expo was at the Armory and was extremely crowded. There were some pretty cool booths at the expo and I would have like to stay longer to explore and meet Ryan Hall, but we had some more sights to see. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around D.C in the cold in between viewing some of the Smithsonians. After several hours on our feet, Ben and I decided to return to our hotel to thaw out and rest up for race day.
Our race day prep (outside of training) always feels like it takes forever, especially when we are not at home. The correct outfit has to be chosen based on the predicted weather, race bibs readied bladders have to be filled and place in our packs, and the appropriate amount of fuel needs to be prepared for each of us. We try to complete this process the night before so we can capitalize on sleep on the back end (especially when we are racing in a time zone that is two hours ahead… feels like 1:30 when the clock reads 3:30)!.
Anyways, race day arrived and Ben and I had a frantic morning checking out of the hotel, as there was unexpected ice and the windshield. We took the metro to the Pentagon, where we joined lots of other runners heading to the runner’s village. A couple of tents were set up for people to mingle in prior to the race. I was completely unprepared for how cold the morning was actually going to be and spent a good portion of the hour and a half leading up to the race shivering. I eventually opted to change into my ¾ length pants into my full length compression pants I had brought for after the race. It took until the end of the third mile for me to finally be able to feel my feet. At the runners village, I was a little bummed to find that there was no water. Porta-potties were, however, quite well supplied.
When it was time to line up for the start, Ben, his dad, and I lined up in what Ben and I anticipated our finish time to be. Someone had recommended that we try to get into a corral that was just faster than our expected time, but the crowds were too large to deal with. The pre-race ceremony was really cool (even though we observed most of it from the line for the porta-potties). Once the race started, it took about fifteen minutes for us to reach the start line.
The race started by the Pentagon and wound its way from Arlington into D.C. The start was a little slow and required much attention to foot placement as I tried to bob and weave around people. Pretty early in the course, we were met with a hill. It was at this moment that I really appreciate training in Denver with hills and felt really frustrated with people who do not train with hills. It became very challenging to run the hills, which was frustrating as the course was significantly hillier than we expected. We stayed with Ben’s dad until about mile three, when we decided to split and increase our speed a bit.  At one point, around mile seven, there is a hair pin turn that leads directly up a decently long hill. Here, people slowed way down and it became very difficult to weave in and out. At the top of the hill, we were met by a wall of people standing in line for the porta potties (the doors here were facing the wrong direction). I am pretty sure I have bruises from all the different elbows that came into contact with my arms. It was at this point in the race that Ben and I looked at each other and realized how much we appreciate small races.
During the course, we ran passed the Mall, several memorials, and the Capital. The toughest part of the course was towards the end, where you climb a long bridge as you run towards Crystal City. The course then winds down into Crystal City and as you see runners going the opposite direction, we realized we had to climb back out. It was at this point in the race that our GPS died, which we had been relying on pretty heavily. When we saw the sign for mile 26, the finish was still not visible. We rounded a turn and realized we had a short, steep hill to climb to get there. After crossing the line, we were met by another wall of people as we waited for our blankets and our hand shake and medal. We were then funneled out to the Iwogima Memorial where Marines were handing out foot. Once past here, the line kept going and led to the finish line festival where we got our clothes and warmed up. We met up with Ben’s parents and made sure to hit up the beer tent before heading back to Virginia Beahc.
Overall, Ben and I had a great race. We communicated well with each other. We both stayed hydrated and fueled really well. I did not fall (surprisingly). We ended up setting a PR by 17 minutes, which was so exhilarating.
The quick and dirty
So, I know I probably sounded a bit like Negative Nancy in my description, so let me say that overall, it truly was a fun race and there were a lot of cool things about it. The amount of spectators made the mileage go by so very quickly. It was amazing to see how many people came out to cheer for the crazies. I wish there were always that many spectators at our races.  It was also really awesome to be part of this event and to run in such a historical place. The race expo was filled with lots of interesting booths. The finish line party had the best food possible to feed that many people. There was plenty of beer at the beer tent. The Marines were extremely helpful with meeting needs of the runners. Access to the start and finish was really easy. The course itself is a fantastic and fun course.
To be honest though, I cannot say that this race is on my list of things to do again. Running with the amount of people that competed in the marathon made the experience itself very difficult. I felt like I had to constantly be more aware of where I was running and spent a lot of energy weaving through the crowds. I was disappointed in the start of the race and I think it would be a better start if waves were used based on previous times (the BolderBoulder does this successfully and it is a much larger race). In a race this large, when the ground is wet from weather the day before, handing out oranges with the peels on does not seem like the greatest idea to me. I am not sure what you could do instead, but peels on a wet ground made running treacherous at times.
Even with all of that, I am glad to have been a part of the Marine Corps Marathon. I am glad to have my sixth marathon done, with a pretty sweet PR. For now, it is back to training for 30 miles for Ben’s 30th birthday and our next marathon in January.


Would I do this race again? For the spectators and the experience, yes. For everything else, probably not.
Would I recommend it to a friend? Probably as a one time recommendation or to someone who really likes big crowds.
Would I change anything? Of course… the start, the direction of the porta potty doors at mile 7
Is it worth the value? The views, crew, and post-race party, and the experience made it worth the value
Overall race experience: Mixed

Thursday, October 27, 2011


I promise, I am still working on my review of Gore-Tex Trans Rockies run. I want it to be just right prior to posting and there was a lot to write about.
On another note, blisters have been a prevalent part of my existence for several years now. In high-school, I experienced the regular runner’s blisters on my feet. When I rowed in college, blisters were as common as eating breakfast. They formed on our hands, popped (or we popped them with needle and thread to dry them out), calloused, blistered, popped, and calloused again (you get the idea). With recreational running, blisters are common; however, now that my running consists of longer, more frequent training runs, blisters are more than common. It is not unusual for me to have only nine toe nails- a common result of under the nail blisters.

Recently, I added orthotics to my shoes to provide some support to an obnoxious injury. I then put them in a pair of shoes that did not fit right and developed massive blisters bilaterally on my arches. Gross. These blisters have followed the same path as all my others- blister, pop, roughen, peel, re-blister. During a long training run recently, I felt them go through a good portion of this cycle. Yesterday on my run, I realized how irritated my feet were, as they got ready to blister again.
In a weird way, I am proud of my blisters. They are battle wounds and tests of mental fortitude. They reflect hard work and perseverance. Each new blister brings a story that almost always involves a fight through the pain. It seems like blisters open communication between runners (probably while grossing out everyone else). Running through the pain of developing blister and pop takes a lot of focus and determination, especially when every step is met with pain. I do not complain about my blisters, rather, I boast about them because they were earned while doing something I love, something many think is weird.
I also found myself thinking about my dad.
I know, weird that blisters make me think of my dad. While growing up, any time I got a blister, my dad would become very concerned and would check to make sure I was taking care of it and preventing the possibility of infection. He told me his reaction is prompted by the fact that a president’s son died as the result of an inflected blister. Because of this concern, every time I blister, I think of my dad.
In addition to this, yesterday my thoughts went even deeper. With every step, I had pain in my right foot. My dad has a neuroendocrine cancer that is impacting his every day. Prognosis is questionable and there is really no great treatment. I realized that my blister pain is nothing compared to the discomfort my dad experiences because of his cancer. It is nothing compared to the pain people fighting cancer experience or compared to the pain experienced by family members of individuals with cancer. Blisters are my reminder to think of him and pray for him while running and when I feel the pain. Blisters are more than a sign of strength for me. Blisters will always serve as a reminder of my dad, while he is still here with us and one day (hopefully not soon) when he is gone.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Changing seasons

I love the beginning of the fall. Mornings are crisp, days are mild, and the changing leaves are eye catching. Mountains become snow capped, but I am not need to be bothered with it… yet. Don’t get me wrong, I really do enjoy having four seasons. After growing up in Los Angeles, it took me a while to adjust to true “cold weather.” Even after living in Spokane, WA four years and Denver for five years, I still battle the idea of layering.
I do understand the concept of base layers and building on these quite well; however, I tend to have such a difficult time being comfortable in changing weather. The change in seasons almost seems like the hardest time to dress for running because you just never know what you are going to get (especially with crazy weather patterns in Denver). I appreciate the simplicity of running in the spring and summer. All I need to know is that I will be wearing a pair of shorts and either a short sleeve shirt or tank top. I might carry a long sleeve shirt, just in case. It takes about three minutes to figure out what I am going to wear, I get dressed, and I run.
When the season starts to change, getting dressed for running becomes almost agonizing for me. I tend to run cold to begin with and find myself getting angry while running if I get too hot or too cold. Rather than taking 3 minutes to get dressed, it takes much longer. The layers come out, and copious notes need to be kept on what I was dressed in and how I felt in whatever degree weather with notes on wind, rain, sun, dark, etc.
Although I dread dressing for the cold months, I continue to do it (it is much better than running naked). There is something refreshing (and a little BA) about continuing to run outside regardless of what the weather is like. I mean, who really wants to be stuck on a treadmill for a 20 mile run?
So, regardless of how much I hate having to layer and waste time in the process, I know spring will come again and I will be back to running in a tank top and shorts. Hopefully my winter efforts will hopefully pay off and I will be back to complaining about planning for extra water for long runs on hot days. Until then, it is time to embrace being able to use all of my running gear as I run on!!
On a side note, I still do plan on writing about the Gore-Tex Transrockies Run...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Back Yard

Plyometric workouts have become a staple in my work out schedule. During the summer, Ben and I would use the playground at the local school for workouts. Here, we had quick access to a lawn, several steps and low pillars, monkey bars (and other bars ), uneven surfaces, a basketball court, and four square lines. The options were endless. The lawn is a great place for speed drills, any ab work requiring a soft surface, burpee jump variations, walking lunges, and a number of other things. The steps and pillars are great for any type of jumping activity including single and double leg forward and side jumps (jumping from a step into a soft surface on one leg is a very bad idea… I promise), incline and decline push-ups, decline lunges, and more abdominal work. On the bars, you can do abs and pull ups and the uneven surfaces make for a great place to do single leg balance work. The basketball court is awesome for running lines to work on speed and agility and the four square lines are great for single leg hopping activities.

Well, it is October and school is in session, so no more using the school for our work outs. Short of getting in the car and driving to a park, this has forced us to get real creative with our back yard. A lot of the same activities can still be done, with some modifications. For example, we now use the bricks in the patio for our single leg hopping activities and the fire pit as a forward jump location (maybe we should try it with a fire in it… I might jump a little higher). We also use a basketball for a number of the abdominal activities. Extra bricks that have not been used for landscaping make great obstacles for jumping.

My favorite addition since moving plyos into the back yard is the thera band. As a physical therapist, you always have a number of these on hand from conferences and such. Last week, Ben and I decided to try our own variation of running while pulling a tire. Let me tell you, trying to run down a side walk with a thera band around your waist that is being held firmly by your husband (who is heavier than you are- albeit not by much anymore- way to go Ben!) is hard work! Being the thera band holder while trying to resist Ben’s strength was also a great work out. Needless to say, I am really excited about the endless possibilities, but really think we should get a tire and strap go even out the weight thing a little.

There are disadvantages…ok, maybe just some down sides… to doing plyos in the back yard. I am sure the neighbors think we are freakish (especially when you pair that with us getting up at stupid o’clock to run). The dog also really likes to try to help us out when we do plyos, and although this is really sweet, he really just ends up getting in the way and accidentally kicked. The opportunities are endless, however, and you save time by not having to go anywhere! The best workouts in the back yard happen to be those that come together as Ben and I each fire off different activities and are then followed by incredibly sore abs and gluts.

So, if you are ever bored and are looking for a new type of work out, the options in your back yard may be just as endless!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Golden Leaf Half Marathon

On Saturday, I ran the Golden Leaf Half Marathon in Aspen with Ben. This was my first ever trail half-marathon. I know, weird, huh? Considering my first true trail race was the Leadville Marathon, which was followed by the Trans Rockies. Talk about big races and high expectations to compete with!!

I had never been to Aspen before this weekend and only really knew of it from pictures and of course, Dumb and Dumber. It is kind of an odd place to be quite honest. It is a mix between mountain and arid. At this time of year, it is beautiful! The colors are amazing to say the least.
Anyways, the Golden Leaf begins in Snowmass and ends in Aspen, after 981 feet of gain and 1712 feet of descent (so their website says). Packet pick up occurred at a hotel on the day of the race, with no option to pick up the night before. Thankfully, the start was just outside the door. The race was divided into waves that began five minutes apart in order to prevent too much clogging on the single track trails. Once we started, we were welcomed by a nice, long ascent in which you cover what feels like most of the 981 feet of elevation you will gain. For some reason, my lungs were screaming at me during most of the climb (turns out I may have been coming down with something).

At the top of the climb (roughly 1.5 miles), we were met with some amazing views! After the initial climb, the trail is mostly single track with several technical sections due to rocks or roots and climbs and descends throughout. There are also several stream crossings. The first one is at about 2.5 miles. The stream is not very deep or wide but the rocks are exceptionally slippery. For some reason (even in my smart wool socks), I thought I would try to tip toe over the rocks to cross. Needless to say, this was an awful idea and my knee ended up in a pretty big fight with a rock. (Based on the discoloration of my leg, I would like to think there is a big dent in the rock). After one more near miss crossing a stream in this stupid tip-toe manner, I realized I am better than that and decided to just go right through any remaining crossings.

At about five miles, the trail took another steep climb just prior to the six mile aid station. From here, the trail wound its way up and down through single track trails surrounded by changing aspens. At times, the trail became very technical with rocks and easy to miss roots. At times, it was easy to get caught in a long line of about 20-30 people going down a steep hill with no way to pass. Killer on the quads!! The last two miles of the race gave weary runners some rolling hills and lots of sun exposure, but being able to hear the cheering at the finish line made it all worth it. The finish line was positioned on a path that ran alongside a park in Aspen where supporters and runners greeted the finishers.

Personally, I had a very difficult race. My lungs were not happy with me from the get go (allergies, gunk, you know, the usual). Ben and I have our best ‘discussion’ while trail running and this race was not immune to that. We ended up separating for a period of time, which we try really hard not to do while running. It was a really good reminder that trail running is so much more fun when you are able to share the experience! Ben did wait for me after only a couple of miles, and we were able to cross the line together.

The race bag was small, but the race shirts fit well and are short sleeve technical tees (granted, this is my second purplish shirt of the year and purple is not really my thing). Overall, the course was more difficult than expected but with the single track trails, views, and aspens in the middle of changing colors it was an amazing course. In fact, the views made almost made it tough to pay attention to the course itself. In addition to the course, the aid stations were well stocked and volunteers were helpful. The trail was well marked and easy to follow. At the finish, the medical support was also fantastic and provided me with a clean wound and a nice big bag of ice. The post-race meal was different than most other races I have done, but still very good with pasta salad, sandwiches, brownies, and lemonade. The biggest disappointment was that there was no beer at the finish line!

The raffle at the finish line was worth staying for. All runners were entered automatically into the raffle. Prizes that were given away were incredible and ranged from Camelback lumbar packs, Arc’teryx jackets, technical shirts, Suunto heart rate monitors, and a three night stay at a nice hotel and more. Ok, so we did not actually win anything, but it was still a relaxing afternoon.
Some logistics...

We did not realize how far away Aspen is from us, so we scrambled the week of the race to find lodging. The night before the race, we stayed at the Snowmass Mountain Chalet, which was pretty close to the start line. We got a great rate, so it was no surprise that the bed was not exactly comfortable. The staff was exceptional and even offered to let us use their showers after checking out the next day and eat breakfast prior to finishing set up. On the way home, we stopped in Glenwood Springs and had lunch at Uncle Pizza. It was an unusual experience as the guy working went on several rants but the food was amazing!!

So now, it is back to road racing for a while and hoping my knee heals quickly!

Would I do this race again? Of course
Would I recommend it to a friend? Absolutely
Would I change anything? Of course… banging up the knee, crossing the stream like a pansy, and getting stuck behind a long line of people while running down hill.
Is it worth the value? The views, shirt, crew, and post-race party (yes, even without beer) made it worth the value
Overall race experience: Fantastic!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dirty Girl

It is not what you think…

I am like the princess and the pea when it comes to things in my shoes. My sock seams need to be just right and even the slightest bit of dirt in my shoe will drive me crazy. As we prepared for the Gore Tex Trans Rockies, Ben and I decided to research different gaiters. A lot of the brands have a strap that goes under the shoe, which I thought would be an invitation to break easily. One brand that kept coming up with very positive
reviews were Dirty Girl.

Dirty Girl gaiters come in a variety of color and design options. They are designed to Velcro to the back of your shoe (yes, they do come with extra Velcro) and hook to your shoe laces without a strap to go underneath. They are also reasonably priced ($20) and the maker offers a satisfaction guarantee. I decided they were well worth a try.

I have worn them for every trail run since purchase and am considering adding them to my road running attire. Not only do they add a bit of flair to already awkward looking outfits, they do an excellent job keeping unwanted debris out of my shoes. Even though they are not made out of tech material, they dry extremely quickly. Needless to say, I have been so happy with my Dirty Girls and have been scoping out other designs for when I am ready to add a second pair to my collection.

You will get weird looks. You may even get compliments on “your socks.” Regardless, don’t be ashamed to wear them with pride!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The other side

On Monday, I volunteered to help out with the Boulder Marathon (which; obviously took place in Boulder, CO). I have wanted to volunteer for a race but have either had schedule conflicts or have actually been running it. I was really impressed with the aid on and off the course last year when we ran it, so I was really excited when I saw the race was on Labor Day. Let me start out by saying that they really do take care of their volunteers and take even better care of their race marshals. For helping, we got the tech long sleeve t-shirt, the race glass, and a North Face jacket embroidered with the Boulder Marathon logo on it (super snazzy!). They also provide you with food and you get to partake in the post-race beer. Awesome!

On top of all of the cool swag, it was awesome to be on the other side of the fence during a race. It is so easy to get caught up in yourself when you are running and you forget that their might actually be people behind that floating cup as you run through an aid station. As a volunteer, I got to see firsthand that just as in racing; things do not always go as planned. Being a volunteer gave also me an opportunity to see how different people handle the challenges and joy of racing 26.2 miles. Throughout the race, I felt like I could relate with every runner at any given point on a run. Some look like they are running with ease, some are in agony, some are out having a lot of fun, others are focused, and still others are fighting so hard to resist the urge to throw in the towel.

Anyways, being able to watch as the elites come through and look effortless is almost mind blowing. It was also awesome got to hear stories from the runners, of past experiences and present endeavors (for example, one lady is trying to run a marathon in all 50 states four times). We got to see a new friend from the Trans Rockies run race in the marathon (and have a beer afterwards with him). The coolest part of the whole day was getting being at the finish line when the last runner came through, knowing that even had had just accomplished a huge feat.

Whether or not you are into running, I would highly recommend two things: 1. Run a marathon (or a race of any distance). It is such a cool feeling to cross that finish line. Oh, if you do decide to do this, give the volunteers some slack. Often, the unpredictable happens for them just as it will happen to you. 2. Support a marathon (or another such race) by volunteering or even cheering. Runners love it and cannot race without that support.

One last thing- the Boulder Marathon is a race I would recommend!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hills... and my first review

I used to be afraid of going downhill. Not just afraid… I hated it. I have been known to crab walk down steep sections of trail while hiking (hiking is even slower than running). I was becoming more accustomed to it and even beginning to kind of become comfortable with it when recently; Ben suggested I lead the pace on the downhill. Something happened on that run and I felt the need to just take off down the hill. Based on the way I now run down hills, one would never suspect (I hope) that I used to dread those bad boys.

I realized today that I am afraid of long uphills. Don’t get me wrong, I used to love doing hill repeats when I was in high school and am able to power through long uphills on the street. There is something different about running uphill on a trail (apart from being at a higher altitude). You never really know when it is going to end, you have to watch your footing, your legs start to scream louder and your lungs begin to burn more.

It was not until today that I realized I have this fear. We decided to do a short trail run today as part of our “recovery week” (yes, I use this term very lightly). The way out was almost completely uphill, which forced me to a point just short of a meltdown. Since running the Gore-Tex Transrockies Race, I have made a goal for myself that I want to be a much stronger runner on the hills. Well, today I fell very very short of my expectations. We were not even a mile in to the run when I realized that I was tired, my legs were tight, my foot was not happy, and I had a long uphill climb in front of me.

Ben kept reminding me that all runners have hard days. I have not had a crappy run in a long time and today’s run takes the prize for crappy. It was a good reminder to me that it is ok to have to come face to face with your strengths as well as with your weaknesses. I want to hold onto today’s run as an example of why I need to run more. Instead, I have decided to imprint today into my mind as a reminder that it is ok to have a difficult day every once in a while and that one tough day does not define me as a runner or as a person.

Running really is a metaphor for life. Ben tried something knew today and gave me little nudges as we ran uphill. He also was very supportive. As we ran down the hill together, I was reminded that there will be days when I have to rely on others for help or support and that there is nothing wrong with this. I cannot do it all on my own (Phil 4:13).

On another note, today we ran at Hall Ranch just outside of Lyons, CO. The trail is fairly well-maintained, singe track in some places and double track in others. It is very exposed and arid but offers beautiful views of the valley.

By the way, I am not sure that my toe nails will ever look the same if I keep this whole trail running thing up.

Georgetown to Idaho Springs
So, I will get to my review of Gore-Tex Transrockies Run, but I wanted to start with Georgetown to Idaho Springs. Ben and I first did this race two years ago. It was our second half marathon together. He ended up with a stomach bug the night before the race and probably should not have run, so the first time was pretty much a miserable race.

This year we decided to run as part of our taper. I am really glad we did! The race begins in Georgetown, CO and descends about 1,000 feet to Idaho Springs, CO. Within the first mile of the race, there is one short yet unexpected steep descent. Throughout the course, the majority of the race in on pavement; however, two short segments are on dirt. Just prior to the final descent to the finish line, there is a short climb into the neighborhood of Idaho Springs, which can take tired and unsuspecting legs by surprise.

Overall, the course itself is beautiful as it offers varying views of mountains and rivers. The support on the course is also very good (and offered by the local high school teams). The after party has a number of sponsors giving away freebies or offering raffle opportunities. The food is basic after race food (bananas, granola, bagel). The t-shirt is still a cotton t-shirt, however, the design is always unique. The one disappointment of the after party are the beverages. The only beer they offer is non-alcoholic. Really?! Why drink the calories in a non-alcoholic beer after running 13.1 miles?! If you are looking for beer in Idaho Springs, I would recommend hitting up
Tommy Knockers Brewery just down the street from the finish.

Would I do this race again? Yes
Would I recommend it to a friend? Yes (we had one join us for this race)
Is it worth the value? Despite the lack of alcoholic beer, the support and the course make it well worth it
Worth traveling for? If you want some altitude training and an opportunity to meet locals and view some awesome scenery
Overall experience: Great

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How it started

I had too many thoughts to wait until later to post...

I was never a runner until high school. My older sister did cross-country and track (and was quite good at it), so naturally, I needed to as well. I will never forget my first day of practice for cross-country. It was a few days before the school year began, so we met in the relative cool of the morning at our course, O’Melvaney Park. The course began with an easy, rolling, well shaded loop around a large grassy area. After the first loop, I was winded but still holding on. Then, I was introduced to The Hill. The Hill was steep enough that if you did not run up it just right, you would end up slipping backwards and could very well have to use your hands to get to the top (yes, I did eventually get to witness others doing this) and once at the top, you just had to let it all loose to make it safely to the bottom.

At the end of practice, I thought I was going to die. Obviously, I did not and I am pretty sure the running bug bit me… hard. I continued to run through high school and The Hill even got easier! When I got to college, I met the track coach but knew immediately I was not going to be fast enough to try out for the team without embarrassment. So, like all other reject athletes trying to make it in college, I decided to try rowing. There is nothing quite like the feel of being out early in the morning when all is quiet, the water is smooth, and the sound of oar blades cutting the water is all you hear. Although I loved rowing, it never did replace my love for running and my alternative work outs for training or extra work outs for stress were always running.

After college came a wedding, a move, and graduate school. This was a big undertaking in and of itself! I ran primarily as an outlet and to maintain fitness. Ben (my husband) would run occasionally just so we could spend some time together amid our busy schedules. He never did love running and was pretty overweight. Before I graduated from school, I told him my goal was to run a marathon within a year of graduating. I invited him to either come watch or join me. I graduated in May of 2009. Since then, we have raced in one 5k, two 10k’s, eight half marathons, five full marathons, and one 120 mile six-day staged race (and Ben has lost over 70 pounds).

Running is a big part of our life and Ben and I continue to train together (along with Brewer, our weimaraner). Running is an area where I find peace and often feel most connected to my Creator. It is a stress reliever and a challenge. Running brings me joy.

The beginning...

I have been thinking a lot lately about how to share my experiences of life, running and balance with others. Previously, I had been pretty anti-blogging because who really wants to read about my life? I realized, however, that I have been reading blogs a lot more lately for recipe ideas, work out ideas, reviews of races and so much more. After running the Gore-Tex Transrockies Race last week (more on this later) and wanting a way to summarize and share it, I have decided to start a blog. Often, running blogs and reviews come from runners who are "good" athletes. Well, I am not going to lie. I really do wish I could be "good" runner who has a sponsorship and could go really really fast (and look good while doing it). I have had to come to grips with the fact that this is not and never will be a reality, however, I do love running and will continue to do it as long as I am able.

My goal with this blog is to not only review races but to write about the experience of being an average person who runs for lots of different reasons but is, and realistically will continue to be, a mid-packer.