Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Race Day...Hiccups

First off, for those interested, I do still plan to post about our Gore-Tex TransRockies Run experience. There is just so much I want to say.
On another note though, I LOVE running marathons! One of the cool things about marathons is that you can prepare, train, visualize,  organize and study profile maps prior to race day; but come race day, anything can happen prior to or during the race.

Ben and I ran another marathon on Labor Day (I will review the race in another post). We felt pretty prepared for it after coming off of such high mileage during the TransRockies only a few weeks before. We packed up with all our gear (and some extra to be prepared) and headed to Colorado Springs. Needless to say, my allergy meds, which I rely heavily on (especially as seasons change), conveniently jumped their way out of my bag prior to leaving. I added some Benadryl to my bag of electrolyte tabs and mentally psyched myself out of thinking anything could be wrong.
We arrived at the pickup spot on time. However, the buses ended up leaving a few minutes late which caused a time crunch at the start line. Conveniently, at the start line location, there were too many runners for the porta potties that had been provided. As the announcer was making the five minute call, I decided to skip the line and head to the bushes. I found the prime spot, took care of business, and headed out of the bushes to meet Ben near the start chute.

 I felt something weird on my shin and when I looked down, I thought I had mud on my shin. As I wiped some away into the grass, I quickly realized the smell was much more reminiscent of poop that it was of mud, and I started to panic as the announcer was counting down the minutes to start. Ben sprayed water from his hydration pack onto my leg as I frantically wiped it away and stifled a gag. When we got to the chute, it occurred to me that I had more than just a unique runner smell… I smelled like crap. What a great way to start a race.
The race started without another hitch and no one did ever comment on me smelling like crap, which was a really good thing. That said, throughout the entire race, I had to be so very conscious of not using my hand to wipe sweat off of my face or high five people as I ran by. I was so relieved to finally have clean hands as soon as we were done!

I will continue to embrace the unknown of the marathon, but I can tell you that from now on, I will always look before I squat!!!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Things I look forward to as a second time Gore-Tex TransRockies runner

For those of you who do not know me very well, I should start by saying that I can be a little on the rigid side (ok, sometimes rigid is an understatement). I like to have facts, data, info, control; especially pertaining to what will directly impact the flow of my day. Last year, when Ben and I prepared for the Gore- Tex TransRockies Run, my biggest fear was not wondering if I would finish, even though I started with a nagging foot injury. My biggest fear was not feeling like I knew all of the logistics, which caused me to feel a little out of control. I remember having so many questions prior to starting and trying so hard to let them go.

As it goes, everything turned out wonderfully last year (ok, except for the fact that Ben got some nasty bug on day 4). This year, as I prepare for Gore-Tex, I come at it with a new sense of peace and excitement. I feel like I am able to relax quite a bit more, knowing that there will still be unknowns, but also knowing what I came away with last year. I am downright excited. I know most of you reading this won’t be doing the race, but I feel the need to share what I learned last year and what I am excited about. Here are just a few of these things.

·         Anything can happen in this race. Last year, Ben and I had awesome training and he got sick on day 4. We still finished, together, and had an awesome time. This year, we had good training with fewer miles, but I know we are both stronger runners overall.

·         It is important to have fun, especially if you are not running as a competitive runner. Take time to soak in the views, laugh all the way through the creek, talk with people you run next to, and remember to savor and enjoy the present moment.

·         The shower trucks are amazing.

·         It is easy to gain weight during this race. Strange, considering you run 120 miles in six days, but the food (and the beer) is just that good.

·         The volunteers are amazing!

·         There is nothing like the nervous excitement at the start line in Buena Vista. I mean, who would not be excited to run 120 miles in the mountains and then camp with a bunch of random people?

·         Recovery is so important. Getting into the frigid streams is tough, but oh so helpful.

·         The food on the night of day five is amazingly good. Don’t miss out!

·         During stage one, the first aid station is almost like a mirage in the dessert. Take advantage and enjoy the volunteers!

·         It is ok to look like a nerd in spandex pants and compression socks under your shorts. Everyone else will be doing it by day two.

·         There is no water late at night or early in the morning, so if you like to wash your face first thing, face wipes are the way to go!

·         The first night can be a tough night of sleep with all the different noises coming from the tents around you. Bring ear plugs if necessary. By night two, the sleep is so much better!

·         Don’t be afraid to stop and help a fellow runner. Everyone is trying to get to the finish! Last year when Ben got sick, we collected at least 3 different remedies from friendly runners trying to help out.

·         Day six is especially tough. You are so close but so far. The sounds of the finish line from the top of the mountain are well worth the climb.

·         There is nothing quite like being off the grid almost completely. Apart from sending updates to my family and checking on them, it is so nice to have next to no communication with the rest of the world!

·         The people that run this race are some of the coolest, hardest working people in the world. Have fun making new friends!

·         Take advantage of the PT’s who set up shop at the camp. Even if it is something as minor as a blister needing to be popped and disinfected, they’ve got the goods.

·         Spending five nights in a tent with your running partner/husband, sharing the views, pushing hard together, and crossing the line together is so worth the work!

Here  is to an awesome 2012 Gore Tex TransRockies Run!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Running with purpose

It is really easy for me to find reasons to run. I know I usually run because: I love to, it is good for me, it keeps me balanced, I sleep better, I love to, and the list goes on and on.
Sometimes, it is also really easy to forget that there are other reasons to run. Recently, my community, the one in which I live, work, play, and run, was traumatized by a tragic shooting at a movie theater nearby. In these situations, it is often easy to feel overwhelmed and at times, helpless. Well, I know that there are two things that usually help me refocus and find joy: prayer and running.
That said, I found myself wondering how to use running as a way to support those affected by the recent shooting. Last night, the Boulder Running Company in Greenwood Village (if you have never been to this specific store, I would strongly recommend it… they are awesome!!)  hosted their weekly pub run. Instead of just getting together to run and enjoy beer and food afterwards, Adidas decided to pay $3 per mile, up to three miles for every person who ran to a fund for the shooting victims. Fifty-five people showed up to run. As I watched people filter in, I was struck by the fact that most of us don’t know each other and many of us were probably not directly impacted by the shooting. The one thing we all had in common was that we could gather to do the one thing we enjoy to serve a greater purpose. How cool is that?
So, if the next time you start to wonder why you run, I would challenge you to look around and see if there is some greater purpose you could be running for.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

You know you are a distance runner when...

I know there are a number of these lists floating around, however, I decided I would make one of my own, so here goes…

You know you are a distance runner when:

*        Body Glide is a normal part of your daily routine, similar to deodorant

*        You often have fewer than 10 toe nails

*        You continuously scrub your ankles and your elbow pits (cubital fossa is the correct phrase) thinking they are dirty, but alas, those are tan lines

*        Weekend plans are determined around mileage, not the other way around

*        An eight mile run no longer feels like a “long run” and four miles goes by really fast

*        An eight mile has become “just eight”

*        You start to plan your vacations and visits with family around races

*        Compression gear is a normal part of your attire and you wear it around shamelessly

*        Fuel for runs gets its own line item in the budget, just like groceries and gas

*        You own more running shorts than you do casual shorts and you can’t wait to buy the next pair

*        Chaffing in strange places is almost expected

*        You find people starring at you in public (such as in line at the grocery store) as you realize you look like a contortionist as you stretch those sore muscles

*        You spend more on running shoes than any other shoe in your wardrobe

*        Snot rockets don’t phase you

*        You watch for updates on the WS 100

*        You know what the WS 100 is

*        Cotton t-shirts given at races might prevent you from signing up… who wears cotton any more anyways?

*        You know what a fartlek is

*        A foam roller has a special spot in the house

*        Life celebrations start to involve a run of some sort

*        There is no better smell than the smell of a brand new pair of running shoes

*        A taper with runs no longer then 4-6 miles in incredibly painful

*        The USA marathon and track and field Olympic trials have made it onto your calendar as events to track

*        You know who Gordy Ansleigh is

*        You could lick salt off of a cracker without ever worrying about eating the cracker

*        Your coworkers comment on the amount of water you drink and you find yourself wondering why they don’t drink more

*        You know precisely how many miles are on your current pair of running shoes

*        The second half always hurts so good…and often feels easier than the first half

*        Being called a “jogger” hurts a little

What are your “you know you are a runner when…” moments?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Race Day Lessons

It has been a while since I have run and not set another PR. Just over a week ago, I fell while trail running and banged up my knee. Considering that I had a half marathon four days later (review to follow), this felt like a bit of a set back to me as I realized the possibility of setting a PR was almost decidedly out the window.

The race came on Saturday and my knee was incredibly stiff in the morning. Over the race course, 2,000 feet of elevation are lost. I tried to relax on the downhill and not fight it, while attempting to maintain form on the uphill (which actually hurt more). I had one of my toughest races physically on Saturday! Because this was not my end goal with training, I knew that I needed to be somewhat conservative and not overdo it, but if you are a runner and even the slightest bit competitive, you know how hard that is.

When I crossed the line, I realized that although it was not a PR, it was definitely not my slowest half marathon. Initially, I was bummed with my performance. As I processed through this, I realized that not all races will come with PR’s and that is not what running is all about. I had a wise person remind me that running is about challenging yourself and pushing with all you currently have.

Racing at the non-professional leve is about so much more than a PR or a place in your age division. It is about seeing how far you can go despite all of the extenuating circumstances. It is about talking with a girl at the start line that you met at last year’s race about her running over the last year. It is about meeting a woman on the course who, after having two children, is feeling stronger than ever and it trying to PR. It is about realizing that your running partner, who has been on the injured list, is now running right beside you. It is about looking up as you descend that hill and seeing the glorious view of the mountains and the sun peeking over the top. It is about the sound of feet and heavy breathing running down a mountain road.  It is about the race shirt and the excitement of checking the goody bag. It is about crossing the finish line, knowing that another chance will come and still feeling that joy of being exhausted, knowing you pushed hard regardless of what the clock says.

See what I mean? Racing truly is about so much more than a PR. What is it to you?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Another attempt...

Man, it has been way too long since I have blogged. I feel like I started out well, did ok for a little while, disappeared, came back, and disappeared again. Ahhh, life. If only someone wanted to pay me to blog…and run… and test gear… Anyone???

Anyways, a lot has happened with running in the last month, so here is my attempt at bringing you up to speed.
On May 6th, I ran the Colorado Marathon. If you remember, I was really nervous about it, as this would be my first full alone. Well, when I got to the start line, I met another girl who usually runs with her husband, but was also running alone as he was also suffering from an injury. We started talking about our pace, decided to run together, and stayed together for the first 23 miles. It was such a cool experience to with someone I had just met and was easy to talk to and who paced really well! We both ended up breaking 4 hours for the first time! (Nice job, Alicia!!) Ben also completed in the half marathon and did not PR but still had a great time.

I attempted to take the entire week following the marathon off of running (my goal was to make it until Saturday). Well, I caved and ended up running Tuesday and then Friday. Hard to keep me away for long! It just seems like it is in my blood!
Training for Gore-Tex Transrockies started officially for us the weekend the following weekend. Training for us for this race consists of increasing hill work, hitting the trails consistently, and having weekends of three long back to back runs. Already, we have been trying to hit the trails hard and we have done two beautiful runs in Rocky Mountain National Park and a few others in Evergreen and Douglas County. Last week, we were able to log 30 miles on trails, which is such a nice change from the road.  I addition to that, Ben had his highest mileage week last week since December… and still felt good at the end of the week!

Saturday, Ben and I raced in a local 5k sponsored by Boulder Running Company (have I ever told you I love those guys?) and both placed for our age divisions. It was a small, but really fun event to be able to participate in! We followed it up with a 9 mile run in 90 degree heat, which is a first for us this year! Time to get used to heat and full sun exposure.
This time of year is one of my favorites for running. The weather is great (except for tornado warnings and record high days) and it is common to see other runners out. Trail expeditions and races both increase during this time of year. What will you be doing this summer?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Race Day Jitters

I will be the first to admit I can get a little anxious sometimes (for those of you who know me well, feel free to laugh at this understatement). For example, I almost threw up on my drive to take my GRE’s when I was in undergrad. After graduating from grad school and studying practically all summer before taking my boards, I am pretty sure I sobbed all the way home thinking I had failed (good thing I passed!).

When I started running marathons, I would get super anxious beforehand and could not eat certain foods in the morning, purely because I would gag from the jitters. The jitters started to decrease, but returned right before my first trail marathon.
As I have raced more, I have learned that during racing, as with any run, the unexpected can always happen. With the right prep, you can be ready to tackle a race, even if the outcomes are not what you hope for. It has been several races since I have actually experienced these jitters (Gore-Tex Transrockies was the last time, but let’s face it, 6 days, 120 miles, 20,000 + elevation gain and the general unknown, who wouldn’t be somewhat nervous?).

That brings me to this week. Ben and I signed up to do the Colorado Marathon several months ago as a redo for me, since I was returning from an injury last year when we ran. This week, Ben decided he will not be doing the full and will be transferring his entry to a shorter race (still working out this nasty injury!). I am extremely saddened that he is still not 100 % and that we will not be completing this race together! We are running partners. Recently, while running in the evening together, we realized how well we run together. It has become easy to sense what the other person is about to do or how they are feeling without the use of words!
Even though I have done the bulk of my training alone, I was optimistically hopeful that Ben would run. Without him running, I will be racing alone. We have started all of our marathons together and have finished all but two together. This time, I will start, and finish alone. This time, I have the jitters! This time, I feel like there is even more unknown. No one will be by my side to push me when I struggle and vice versa. I won’t be able to share observations about the gorgeous scenery (we will be running in the Poudre Canyon. Sure, there will be other runners, but there will be no Ben!

While I prepare for this race with mixed emotions and am in fact, nervous, I am reminded that the “jitters” we experience are probably a good thing. If I don’t ever get nervous before racing, I am probably overly confident in my abilities or I am probably not prepared to push myself. The jitters might be present in full force but I hope to be at the start line on Sunday morning with peace and a smile on my face, excited to see what new heights can be reached!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Platte River Half Marathon- A Review

Around this time last year, I was rehabbing through an injury. I had a tough time walking, let alone running. I kid you not; it felt like my world was coming to an end! Ben and I had been signed up to do the Platte River Half Marathon when this injury occurred and even though I knew I would likely not be able to finish, I wanted to start and see how far I could go. I made it to the aid station at mile eight. At the risk of sounding insanely dramatic, at the time, making the decision to not finish was one of the toughest, gut wrenching decisions to make. Go figure, I did get back to running shortly thereafter and thankfully, my world did not really come to an end and I did get back into running!
I do not get the chance to run much on the Platte River Trail and have only run on certain sections during this specific race. I knew where this mile 8 aid station was on the trail but sometimes these things don’t translate out of the race course. Recently, however, I was driving between PT home visits and realized that I was driving right past this spot. I had very bittersweet memories! I decided at this point that I needed to do the Platte River Half once again to run past that spot and reminisce. I convinced some friends to do it with me (Ben could not due to scheduling) and signed up right away.
The race was held on April 15th. Packet pick up was the Friday and Saturday prior to the race. In the past years, packet pick up was at a local Runners Roost. This year, packet pick up location was moved to Arapahoe Community College, just down the street from the start line. This new location felt like a trek relative to past years! That said, the new location did allow for sponsors to be present with booths at pick up. When I arrived (right as it opened), I felt like pick up was set up strangely. Racers ID’s were checked and they were given bibs and chips, and then sent to a table to get ties and pins. Then they were routed to a spot to get bags and shirts. I think it would have been handy to have the shirt in the beginning, but no bigs. It was nice to see who some of the sponsors were for the race, but I did not feel like spending money (and I really needed a haircut, which I was scheduled for that afternoon) so I left pretty quickly.
The bibs this year had racers first names on them, which is nice for anyone wanting to cheer on a specific runner. That said, they were made relatively cheaply and mine ripped three separate times. The shirts on the other hand were fantastic. Long-sleeve tech shirts made by Brooks were provided. The logo was an attractive logo and these shirts tend to be in my top favs of long sleeve race shirts!
The start time for the race was 9 am, but we planned to get to the race super early to get good parking. Lucky us, we were one of the first cars in and were able to park close to the start and the metro. Race day temp was pretty cool (it has been cool for 2 of the last 3 years I have done this race) and it made it difficult to decide for sure what to wear. For the first two miles, I swear it warmed up, but in the end, it ended up cooling and I was glad I wore what I did.

The start line was in downtown Littleton. Here, the organizers had plenty of porta-potties for the crowd. Bag drop was also conveniently located and it was a breeze to drop my bag in the truck. The race start had some awesome energy. Because it has become such a large race, the organizers decided to start it in waves this year, which made the start actually feel a little less chaotic. I did not have to worry nearly as much around weaving in and out of people. The first two miles were through down town Littleton and then racers were dumped onto the Platte River Trail. The one drawback of the entry location to the trail is that runners immediately go under a bridge and then have to cross a narrow wooden foot bridge over the water. I knew this was coming and was prepared, but running is always slowed to a walk here and can add some time to your overall run time.
The rest of the course is along the Platte River and enters and exits several cities. Because this race is held in early spring, the course is generally pretty course. That said, there is one section of the course that runs right near a dump and is not what I would call a picturesque location. The course eventually ends up on 8th Avenue and runners are greeted with an overpass in the last mile, which seems daunting. At any other time, this hill would seem like a cinch, but it’s placement seems just evil. After the overpass, racers drop down and finish on Mariposa St. This year, to celebrate the 10th year anniversary, finishers were awarded with a medal at the finish line. This was a nice surprise and a fun addition to my collection!

Aid stations along the course seemed well placed and well manned. The volunteers were very helpful and even cheered the runners on! Porta potties were also available along the course. I guess I should add to that the organizers did a great job having enough porta potties for the crowd on the course, and at start and finish.
After finishing, runners were directed to bag pick up, which was easy to find and then down around a corner, past several sponsors (with food) to the post race party. The food itself was fantastic and featured foods from Wahoos, Ted’s, Garbanzo, the Buckhorn Exchange, and several other local restaurants. I was a little disappointed to not see the Melting Pot at the race this year! The beer garden was sponsored by Michelob this year. It is always great to have beer after a race, but let’s face it, I am kind of a beer snob and preferred when this race was sponsored by a local brewery!

Because it was freezing and windy after the race, we did not sick around long. Upon exiting the post-race party area, racers were given passes to the Light Rail (metro) to get back to cars. The race organizers did such a fantastic job with location that runners did not have to walk much at all to get to and from the metro (the party is basically at the entrance and the parking lots are about 2 blocks from the exit).
Overall, I really did enjoy this race and would do it again. After doing it three times, one can assume I would say that, right? The one thing to note, as with any spring races, is the weather can be very unpredictable and colder than hoped for!

Would I do this race again? Clearly
Would I recommend it to a friend? Absolutely (I even had two friends run it with me this year!). I think it is a great first half marathon as well for new runners.

Would I change anything? I would bring The Melting Pot back as a sponsor. Let’s face it. Who does not love fruit with chocolate dipping sauce. I would also bring back a local brewery for the post-race part. Michelob is… well… Michelob.

Is it worth the value? The shirt, the food, the race support all make it worth the value
Overall race experience: Great

Monday, April 16, 2012


Less than a year ago, my friend Beth, had a baby. About eight months ago, she said she would never do a half marathon. She even went so far as to say it was a stupid idea. Several months ago, she decided to start increasing her mileage to work up base mileage with the *potential* of doing a marathon in September. Less than two months ago, I convinced her to do the Platte River Half Marathon. Yesterday, she completed her first half marathon!

I love milestones. A huge part of what I do for work is focused around milestone accomplishment. Running with Ben and with other friends has been filled with literal and figurative milestones. In these last several months, I have been able to be a part of Beth meeting several of these milestones, including her first 5k run distance, her first 7 mile run, and her first half marathon.

It has been awesome to see the transformation from “what a stupid idea” to “I just ran my first half.” For those of you who have worked to increase your distance, you know this is not an easy transition. Runs can often be “ugly” during, yet leave you with a sense of accomplishment afterward. That increase in distance becomes an increase in so many things- joy, health, energy, and time with friends.

For those of you out there struggling to make it through each mile, remember, it is one foot in front of the other. You really can accomplish more than you think. Tuck your head and keep moving, but also remember to look around and enjoy the journey! You will get there!

And to Beth, nice work yesterday! Keep on running!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Boulder Spring Half Marathon

Ben and I ran the Boulder Spring Half on April 1st. For those of you who don’t know, it was my first race of the season and Ben’s longest run since his birthday run in December! I love spring racing and was a little nervous that Ben might not be able to participate, but he did and we did better than I expected! When we started the race, we both agreed to have a conservative pace, and I agreed to let Ben set the pace (plus, my GPS had gotten left behind so I could only be of limited help with the clock). The start was a little breezy and chilly, but I was glad I had opted to wear my warm weather gear, as it heated up fast and the course was almost fully exposed! For the first half, we really focused on having fun and taking in the sights.

Once we hit the turn around, Ben indicated that he was feeling good and wanted to push it a little harder for the last half. As a PT and his running partner, I was a little hesitant but decided to roll with it. The back half of the course is a little tough, as there are a few relatively long slow hills that you can see for an eternity before you even get to them, so I was not sure how this was going to turn out. With one mile left, we realized we would potentially be able to beat 2 hours (not near our PR, but still a good goal), but only if everything played out just right. Ben and I love hills (most of the time) and remained consistent with our pace as we climbed the last few, dropped into the reservoir, and made the final, smallish ascent to the finish line. Somehow, even with a very conservative start, we were able to finish in less than two hours, both feeling great!

Overall, I was extremely excited about our race. That said…I know right before this post I talked about pre-race prep. Well, let it be known that things do not always turn out how you think they will. For example, my GPS was ready to go and was accidentally placed into the wrong bag. I also decided to wear a black visor, which proved to be a problem with how hot it ended up being.

Now onto the dirty details… Races are one of my favorite things to do. They feel like mini vacations from reality. Races bring runners in the community together for one common goal. Let’s face it, unless you are trying to place, races are a time to challenge yourself, meet other runners, and have a good time. If I could afford to, I would race every weekend!

Needless to say, I had been looking forward to this race for a long time. We registered almost as soon as the race was open. Because we had both been race marshals for the full marathon in September, our entry fee was comp’ed.  I was disappointed that I was not able to go to packet pick up, but in reality, it turns out I am glad I did not get to! Packet pick up for the Boulder Spring Half occurs at the Fleet Feet Store in Boulder. The store itself is relatively small, so it truly is just packet pick-up and not an expo. Ben’s report of packet pick up was less than satisfactory. It took over an hour for him to retrieve three packets (his, mine, and one for a colleague of mine), not including drive time. It took a while for the volunteers to find Ben’s bib and then some additional time to rematch it to the correct timing chip. While the shirts were rather large, and Ben was originally given the wrong size, the glasses provided are always an added bonus of this race.

Parking on race day can sometimes be a little intimidating. The Boulder Spring Half, however, does a fantastic job with parking. Parking is available to runners in the reservoir, so your car is close to the start and finish and entry to the lot is quick and painless. Apart from parking, I am always worried about porta pottie access at the start line. There were abundant toilets in the parking lot and close the start/finish line, so the line was kept to a minimum.

The race was off without a hitch and some amazing weather. The course leaves from the Boulder Reservoir and runs through the “back roads” of Boulder. Some are paved while others are dirt. The roads provide an awesome view of the foothills on the way out and the reservoir on the way back. In addition, there are some pretty decent long hills and with the way the roads are set, you can see other runners plodding along before you even get to the hill! Most of the hills are rolling, however, be forewarned that there are two climbs in the last mile just prior to entering the reservoir that are not bad, but feel brutal because of their location. The finish is also on a slight incline- not enough to really matter during any other run, but enough to notice when you are pushing it out at the end! The one disadvantage of the course being on roads is the exposure. There is absolutely no shade on the course.

Aid stations were well manned and appeared to be well stocked and the volunteers were very friendly! The finish line was packed with spectators, which made arriving back at the reservoir so much better. The race had a variety of sponsors but food was primarily provided by Udi’s. Post race food included vegetarian burgers, bagels (with cream cheese, who doesn’t love cream cheese?!), oranges, energy drinks, and water. Beer was provided in abundance, (who doesn’t love post race beer?!) by the Boulder Beer Co. and could be enjoyed while soaking in the sun on picnic tables.

Overall, the race experience was a positive one. The volunteers are very helpful (they even exchanged Ben’s shirt on race day!). The course is a great course and the post-race party leaves little to be desired (maybe some shade?).

Would I do this race again? Absolutely! I would love to do the full in the fall as I think they do a great job with volunteer coordination.

Would I recommend it to a friend? I would… with the caveat that one needs to be prepared for a few hills!

Would I change anything? Packet pick up could have been a little more organized. Although the shirts were tech shirts and had a cool design, I am not a huge fan of the way shirts made by Leslie Jordan fit. They tend to be oversized and baggy.

Is it worth the value? You bet

Things to consider: Time of year can make weather unpredictable, the course is fully exposed

Overall race experience: Fantastic

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Race Day Preparations

So, Ben and I are running the Boulder Spring Half Marathon tomorrow morning. I love spring that spring racing is here. The weather is supposed to be perfect for race day. This will be my first race of the season and Ben’s longest run since beginning to recover from his injury (he is still not 100 % there yet but is making progress). Needless to say, we are not looking to PR tomorrow, rather, we are looking to finish and have a fun time while doing so.

I realized that there is a lot I think about going into race day and felt I would share this with you. Beginning a few days before the race, I start to monitor my water and food intake more closely. I also *try* to get more sleep leading up to the race. That being said, I have been completely off this week as I was preparing for and attending a conference, which puts a damper in hydration, nutrition, and sleep! Dinner the night before is usually a mix of protein and complex carbohydrate with some good veggies. Beer is usually included in this mix!

One of my favorite parts of the pre-race is packet pick-up. I love to get a taste of the race before the morning of. It is really cool to be around a lot of other runners and to feel the sense of nerves and excitement. At big races, the expos are a nice way to see a variety of vendors and get connected with some cool people. I like to try to get my packet prior to the morning of the race so that I can lay everything out, including my race bib, the night before. Unfortunately (and maybe not so… I will add this to the review of the race after it is completed) I was unable to attend packet pick up for this race, so Ben took care of it for me.

As I said before, I like to process through what I am going to need for the race the night before so I can make sure nothing is missing. Let’s work from the feet up.

Socks: I prefer to wear socks that are wicking and breathable. My favorite brands for distance runs are Smart Wool and Darn Tough. That said, for race day, I tend to lean toward wearing Smart Wool. I tend to blister less, if at all in these. I appreciate that they offer a variety of thicknesses and heights. On cooler mornings when I want to wear shorts, but still want to be a little warmer, I will wear the PhD Outdoor Mini (they are a bit taller). On warmer mornings, I will stick with the PhD Light Mirco. The verdict is still out for tomorrow.

Shoes: Shoe selection is based off of whether the race is road or trail. Tomorrow, the race is road, so I will be wearing my trusty road shoes. I love Brooks. I wear the Brooks Glycerine in a men’s style and have been very happy with the shoe and the company (I will write a review on them another time). I will never wear a brand new pair of shoes on race day as I think it is important to have some break in time.

Shorts/pants: Based on the weather forecast, I will be wearing a pair of running shorts. My two favorite brands (that I have tried) are Nike and Oiselle. The Oiselle tend to be a little on the short side, but I love the way they fit and move with me as I run.

Tops: Top selection is also based on weather. I like to wear either a wicking tank or a wicking short sleeve that is fitted. I will wear one light weight long sleeve shirt that is light enough to be tied around my waist or hooked onto my hydration system. With clothing, it is especially important to not wear something that you have not tried out on a long run before. For example, I once wore a tank top with a criss-cross back and my hydration pack for a marathon. I had never worn these two items together (in fact, I had never worn the tank before) and ended up completely blistering right in the middle of the criss-cross. It is important to know you will be comfortable and won’t be fighting shorts that rub the wrong way or shirts that ride up, etc.  

Gloves: For cooler mornings, I will wear a pair of cheap gloves that can be donated or discarded. Target makes great, cheap acrylic gloves that are some of my favorite to run in and are cheap enough to part with on the race course.

Hat: I am a fair skinned individual and will burn rather easily when out for prolonged periods of time. I like to wear a visor to shield my face from the sun, help keep the bugs out of my eyes, and allow my head to breathe a little more easily than a hat. That said, I will wear hats, but prefer these for trail runs that tend to not get as hot.

Skin: Body Glide has become my best friend. I tried it once under my hydration pack and have never looked back. On race days, I try to put it anywhere I could possibly chafe (even if I do not normally), which might be excessive but does give me a bit of peace of mind. I do have yet to find a good sunscreen for running but will make sure to be wearing it tomorrow!

Hydration: I am still up in the air about what I will be taking tomorrow. I have only run a few races without my own hydration system. I like to be able to drink on my schedule, even if there are supposed to be a fair number of aid stations (the race tomorrow should be well stocked). I find it to be easier to drink at regular intervals and not deal with the traffic of an aid station or the joy of figuring out how to pinch the cups just right while drinking the right amount and not inviting a side cramp. That said, I think I might have just convinced myself to run with my Nathan Intensity Pack (which I will also review later). It is nice to be able to have a place to store a phone (in case we are separated at the finish line), my fuel, and my ID!

Nutrition: For a half marathon, I am a little more flexible in my fuel options. I really like Hammer products, so the majority of what I use is Hammer. I will most likely use a mixture of the Hammer Heed product and Accelerade (a protein/carb blend) as Hammer’s carb/protein blend (Perpetuem) just does not agree with my stomach. The Heed and Accelerade can be mixed with water in a bottle and is much easier to ingest while running that the Hammer gel packs.

Watch: I started using a Garmin GPS just over two years ago. It has revolutionized the way I train. I will make sure it is charged up and ready to go. I have it set to beep at the mile but also really like to have a 7 min timer to cue us to take in fluids. I have yet to figure out how to do this on the Garmin. Any ideas if this is possible?

Bag check: For the race tomorrow, the parking is close enough to the finish and the after party that it is not really necessary to check a bag, in the literal sense. I will still prepare a bag with post-race essentials. This will include: more sunscreen (I tend to sweat a ton and it seems to all come off prior to the post-race party), a dry long sleeve and short sleeve shirt as I tend to get chilled easily after running, a water bottle to make sure I am staying hydrated, flip-flops, a camera, and my post-recovery drink (also a Hammer product- Recoverite in the chocolate variety).

I know this seems like a long list and it will change depending on the weather and the distance of the race, but it includes the essence of what I feel is necessary.

What do you find to be vital in your race day preparation??

Now, it is time to go prep and look forward to race day! Look for a review of the Boulder Spring Marathon later!

Saturday, March 17, 2012


It has been a long time since I have been on this blog and updated anything! Life has been exceptionally busy and considering I am not paid to blog or run (which would be so awesome), other things get in the way. I often create a list of blog ideas in my head while I am out on a run, write them all down, and then never get to them. Since it has been so long, I figured I should do a little update of what has been going on this year so far.

Ben has started to run again. For those who do not know, Ben, my husband and running partner, was injured for a long time. This was a huge challenge in many ways. He is not back to 100 % but he is slowly increasing his mileage and we are figuring ways to incorporate his mileage with my mileage. Oh, and that speed I thought I had been gaining while he was out… yeah… somehow, for short runs, he has gained speed too (maybe he was secretly running?). It is amazing to have him running again!

Training for me continues, and I am increasing my mileage (and have had to replace my shoes already) in preparation for a list of races. The race calendar is not complete yet, as I still need to figure out a few, including a 50 miler, but I do have several races coming up (two halves in April and a full in May). Look for reviews of the race after each one!  

I have had the opportunity to run with a friend who is relatively new to running. In this, I have been able to be a part of her hitting several new milestones in her running. She will even be doing a half with me in April! I have also been able to run a couple of times with a coworker who is also a runner and appreciate experiencing running with a variety of people.

Running continues to be a source of joy and an outlet for me and I hope to continue to share this with you! I do not promise to blog every day, but especially as racing season approaches, I hope to be more consistent in my blogging. Who doesn’t want to share running ;) ?

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Sunday mornings often come way too early for me. Sunday is one of my long run days and I try really hard to get my run in before church so Ben and I can have the afternoon doing fun things (or work, homework, and taxes). This morning, the last thing I wanted to do was get out of bed when the alarm clock went off, especially after doing a long run yesterday. I snoozed for 20 minutes before rolling out of bed. Ben ran the first two miles with me and then I set off to do nine more miles on my own.
After about three quarters of a mile, I stopped briefly to stretch my calves. When I turned around, I was reminded of yet another reason I love running. The sunrise was amazing! I took longer to stretch just so I could take it in. It is in these moments that I am so thankful I rolled out of bed before most of the rest of the world is even awake to get a run in!

Sunday, January 29, 2012


People are motivated to run (and keep running) for a variety of reasons. Even though I am currently training with a goal in mind, each days motivation can be slightly different for me. Often, running is an outlet. It is often a time where I spend a lot of the best time in prayer and in thought. It is also a time where I do not have to think at all and can be completely silent. It is amazing where my mind goes.
On Friday morning, my grandfather, Anthony (Tony) Baal passed away. Although I knew he was declining rapidly, it happened much more quickly than I expected. He was an awesome grandfather who lived a life of service to his family and his country.
Many tears were shed at the fact that he is gone from this world forever. I spent a good portion of the day between my visits on the phone with various family members. At the end of the day, I was still in a funk (who wouldn’t be?), so I decided to go on a run. For some reason (probably because it was cold and dark and I was running alone), I decided to treadmill it up.
I went to the gym for a five mile run. When I got back to the locker room, it struck me that my grandfather is gone, but what had I thought about for the last 50 minutes? To be honest, I had thought about nothing at all, which is exactly what I needed to do. I was more at peace after that run.
Today, I went for another long run alone and outside. My mind went somewhere completely different. Memories of my grandfather came back to me (these often go hand in hand with memories of my grandma, who passed away last year). He preferred to be called Grumpa instead of Grandpa and for a period of time, that was all I remember him responding to.  He is the only person (apart from my grandma) who has gotten away with calling me Becky.
Grumpa owned a choose and cut Christmas tree farm. During the summers, we would go out and help plant trees and place fertilizer. In the winter, we would head up to the property on the weekends and help sell trees. He always smelled like dirt, not in a bad way, but in a way that was unique. His cheeks were always rosey. Grumpa had a very unique walk as a result of two knee replacements and years of damage to them. When he chose to talk about his time in the military during World War II, you knew you had better listen because he always had a great story to tell and you were not sure when or if he would talk about it again.
Grumpa used to get stuck on the couch at the end of the day. At least, he would pretend he was stuck so he could challenge two of the grand kids to pull him up to standing. I don’t think we ever succeeded. Grumpa always had a fire going in his pot bellied stove during the winter and during the summer, he would set up the hammock in the front yard.
Grumpa loved to speak German whenever he had the chance and loved to roll his R’s. The older he got, the more stubborn he became. I remember visiting one time with the whole family, and noticing he had taken his hearing aids out. When I asked about this, he informed me that he sometimes preferred to take his ears out and just watch. He was the best patient (so he said) and would always talk about the beautiful nurses he met.
I remember hearing stories of the trips to the mountains Grumpa would take with my mom and aunts and uncle and hearing about his love of the outdoors. I never did get to go on one of those trips, but I do think of him often when I look at the mountains.
Again, it is amazing where my mind goes when running. I did not get to say good-bye but these memories are worth having and worth being reminded of. Grumpa Baal, may you rest in peace.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Shorts… in January

Today in Denver the weather was an amazingly sunny 60 degrees. Because of work schedules, I have been unable to take advantage of other good weather days this week. When I saw the forecast last night, I decided to “attempt” to run before a memorial service for a friend this morning, but in all honesty, knew I could not resist running in the afternoon.
Running in shorts is incredible. During the winter months, it feels like getting ready takes forever with checking the forecast, figuring out the layers, figuring out the order of the layers, and then finally getting dressed. It is also so easy to forget what my legs actually look like. Needless to say, today, I dressed in under three minutes for my 12 mile run after choosing a pair of shorts and a short sleeved tech shirt.
It is amazing how a pair of shorts and a little warm weather with sunshine can make a twelve mile run alone seem so glorious! I know that tomorrow will likely be back to the layers (I do think we are forecasted for a snow dusting), but for today, I will revel in the remembrance of what my legs look like and will continue to long for and appreciate the all too timely arrival of spring!

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Ordinary

So, it has been a while since I last posted. I have been trying to think about what to write about as life in my running world has been pretty uneventful. Ben is still injured and we had to withdraw from a marathon this weekend for many reasons, including the injury (turns out, it is good we are in town this weekend as there is a memorial service for a friend of ours tomorrow!). I continue to train for the next race (half marathon in April, full in May). We have been looking at 50 milers and trying to make a decision about which one to do. Apart from that, there is not a whole lot new going on.
As I was thinking about this last night during my dark run home from meeting a friend to do a few miles with her, I could not help but think about how much beauty is in the ordinary of every day running. It can be easy to get bored when working towards a goal that seems so far off, but it is in these silent moments that I am reminded me that there is nothing wrong with ordinary!  The fact that I get to put on running shoes and just go is amazing and extraordinary. The exhilaration after most runs (we all have our bad days!) is simply incredible. It is in the ordinary that we see results and are reminded of why we run. It can be so easy to focus on goals that we forget the days where we try to slow down and consistently being faster than normal. There is nothing ordinary in getting home from a run with the dog and seeing him almost instantly go to sleep. It is extraordinary to continue to see friends motivated to run, even when life gets tough.
It is in the ordinary, simple, nothing huge runs that makes us stronger as runners and as people. So, even though running might seem boring or ordinary, I will keep on going and will continue to find joy in the little things and in the time of growth.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Speed work

Speed work
I was a distance runner and water polo player in high school. Let me clarify, I loved racing the two mile in track. One year in high school, one of my track coaches (who clearly did not know me very well), decided I should be a sprinter, or at least run mid-distance.  I will never forget the time I got back from a training run and he looked at me and said something like “How was the run? Ready for 800 mile repeats? Good!” and sent me off to do what felt like an endless number of reps after I had already completed my workout. It became so bad that I started to strategically place my bag outside of the track fence so that I could return from my run, grab my bag, and wait for my ride in the parking lot. I was always hiding from him! He suggested once that I run the 800m at a race and I cannot remember my exact reaction, but I made it very clear that it was not happening.
When Ben started to run with me, we would occasionally do fartleks. My favorite runs have always been long distance runs. To this day, I need a good several miles to warm up (sometimes 10-12) and then I settle into a groove. Weird, I know. A few training cycles ago, we decided to modify our training plan and use an adapted Hansons-Brooks plan, which, go figure, does include speed work. We decided to do our first speed workout at one of the local tracks. Oh, how inadequate I felt running with Ben (and unhappy my legs were!)! We continued to do speed work and somehow was getting faster and stronger (we also added plyometrics about this time). After several of these dreaded yet successful work outs, including one in which I had some of the most dreadful shin splints I have ever experienced, I ended up injured and side lined for what felt like a very long time!
I never have been able to figure out what exactly caused my injury and have wondered if something I did that night may have at least contributed to my injury. Needless to say, there has been a fear associated with doing speed work specifically. Since coming back from my injury, I have started to notice a general increased speed in the majority of my runs.
This week we started another training cycle and again are using an adapted and slightly different version of the same plan. And yes, it does still include speed work. Ben is still injured, which of course, means speed work on my own for now… which also means I have to push myself. Well, tonight was the first night of speed work, so I looked up my 10k race pace and decided to try to go a little faster than that for my intervals. I debated about using a treadmill or just going outside and opted to run at a park that has 1.5 mile loops.
The run started out a little rough, with some guy mumbling as I ran past (this of course, increased my warm up pace) but turned into an awesome run. I cannot remember the last time four miles went by that fast. I know I have a lot of work to do in terms of speed, but I had such a fun time tonight and even had to slow myself on a couple of the intervals to stay within range. Awesome!
Well, speed work and I might slowly be becoming friends. I am excited to see how this might pay off in the long run and look forward to the next speed workout with less fear (although some still exists) and more excitement. I guess training ones weak areas might not be such a bad thing after all.