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…