No offense, but when I had the VERY rare opportunity to drag all my kids, and my achy post-race body to dinner the other night, after I had just run a brutally tough race where I conquered Mt. Everest (4 times),
I instantly found the Craigslist phone app when I asked my kids to pose for a "nice family photo" ....
Bless their hearts .... do you think they are in need of some sort of family therapy? Maybe I can find a group discount on Craigslist, I now have the app at finger's reach.
On to running, which isn't really as entertaining as my kids (after Leadville, I'm starting a "Stupid Things My Kids Do" blog)... unless I write about the brainless things I do running or cycling (I doubtlessly need to include myself in the new blog)...
I'm entering a phase in my training for Leadville where the miles and the vertical climbing need to get longer. Joyous. I run 99.999% of my long runs alone (all runs, basically, not just long. Cue the violins). I map out where I need to go, drive a long-ass way to get there, run, go home, crash. Ignore kids, dinner, mail, phone...repeat. This pretty much sums up my long run days. I know my body pretty well and how it responds to these long, solo plights; fun at first because it's exploring new stomping grounds and tackling more vertical miles in a month than I've probably done in my entire running career. I'm not complaining, I love that I'm embracing a world that has frightened me for so long and I haven't given up, I'm enjoying the rewards my body is reaping from the hill work - and more than happy not to hear any longer, "No offensive Honey, but you have a big butt....bless your heart." Hill work can have give the body some pretty impressive advantages!
But eventually, long vertical hours running alone can do some wild things to my headspace. Thoughts of wild animals peering behind rocks, creepy old men lurking around, songs on my iPod I never want to hear again - ever ever ever ever, podcasts that make me want to vomit they're so pointless, audiobooks I've missed whole chapters because I got sidetracked wondering if creepy old man was looking at me the wrong way.
So to offset a few of solitary long runs, I'm entering the world of The Trail Race.
I was brought up in a racing world where a time clock was held over my head and I ran laps repeatedly around a track based on a specific time (I watch Ryan go through this same scenario, daily). Races were time tests and the reward of those tedious laps, if all panned out well, was a personal best. You enter race, you performed your best. Period. But endurance trail running isn't like that, at least not for newbie trail runner me. I'm learning (and not the easy way, either) to chuck the watch and let my ego fly out the window because pace means basically nothing; all I need to really know is time and elevation. I thought as Leadville grew closer (Holy crap it's getting close!), I'd enter a few hilly trail races to use as long training runs. Get me away from creepster old dude. Put me in an environment where I am forced to keep moving forward ....no ...matter ....what. No more road racing here on out to Leadville (let's just not count the 5k I'm doing Sunday ;)), I'm entering the zone where every mile - on the trail - is really, really REALLY vital.
Since I know y'all stalk my blog daily (no offense, but the number of daily hits are dwindling rapidly. Actually, I don't follow my stats, I don't really care - It was just perfect timing to use "no offense" again :)). you've seen I had two trail races since my last post. Let's just do a quick recap, since you're chomping at the bit to hear all about the glorious triumphs (aka: I am still alive).
Cheyenne Mountain 25K, April 27th (15.44 miles, 1821' vertical)
I went down to Colorado Springs a couple months earlier to run some of the course with my friend, Kathleen (the .01% of the time I get to run with someone) so I had a little bit of an idea how challenging it was.
For some reasons only known to those who work for Garmin (no offense, but Garmin folks suck), my elevation profile display actually worked for once (normal display is flatlined, even if I run 3000', or more) so I get to share it. Starting on an incline was challenging and I worried about my pace and if my effort was too ambitious. Since the trail was a single track so for a good mile, my pace was at the mercy of those in front of me. But it soon thinned out eventually and I could do my own thing....but the problem was, I wasn't really sure where my "own thing" needed to be - this thing had to be run on effort, not pace, and I couldn't get a good reading of my body and what it needed to feel. I was running with my friend, Aimee (who I've never gotten the pleasure to run with before...an awesome triathlete who is the kindest, sweetest woman) and we were trading positions in front for the first 4 miles. When we got to the aid station at mile 4, I told her I was pulling back, I thought my effort was too hard, yet a half mile later, we came upon a sweet little descent (finally), and I felt my effort was too easy, so I took off and I left her. My "effort" was all over the map and I struggled to feel exactly I needed to be. Inexperience was evident.
|Myself and Aimee pre-race.|
When I got to mile 11, I stopped to take a salt tab and a guy passed me who told me to come with him. He looked strong and I knew he was my meal ticket to finishing the last 4 miles well, so I clipped in behind him and we shared a few laughs together how I was his wingman. He was all for it and so encouraging to me. We were flying down this mountain, and climbing strong the hilly parts - I was having a blast, finally, and my stupid head stopped playing mind games with my effort. With a little over a mile to go, we came to the last aid station and I grabbed some electrolytes (both calves cramped up a mile earlier like a total mother ..), gave my speedy pacer the thumbs-up (with a nod of approval from him) and off we went. It only took a minute before the finish line came into view ... and no offense, but I dropped my pacer like a once bad drug habit (not that I have any experience in that arena). I actually felt a little bad about using him to drag me to this point, but that thought only lasted a microsecond; he told me to gun it in if I had it in me, and somehow I did. I sprinted like it was the last lap of my old infamous mile races from eons before and I crossed - feeling pretty dang satisfied.
|Um, yeah...that's a podium 1st place 50-99 age group finish, thankyouverymuch|
Greenland 50K, May 4th (30.81 miles, 2198' vertical)
Ah, Greenland 50k, my first completed "ultra" distance and longest run I've done to date. It should be ranked up there as one of those greatest accomplishments in my running career, but I'm not sure it honestly was.
The website describes this race as:
"Colorado’s fastest 50K! With Pikes Peak as your backdrop, you’ll cruise over a soft dirt trail on your way to a new personal best. The entire course is run on dirt trails. With wide, smooth double track trails, the Greenland Trail 50K is a very fast course and also very beginner friendly."
Let's review that statement from my perspective and compare:
Pikes Peak was definitely my backdrop (gorgeous, blanketed entirely in white). I did not cruise, I felt lethargic from step one. The dirt wasn't exactly soft, the first 3.5 miles (times 4, because this was a 4 loop course of 7.75 miles each) mimicked something more like a walk along the beach in thick, heavy sand. It was absolutely not fast. And if this is a beginner friendly course, then I'm going to die in Leadville. I did get a personal best though (hard not to when it's a new race distance), so I'll walk away with at least one check mark in the positive category.
|At the start line, terrified|
|My friend, Bob, who I happened to run into before the race|
(he finished 23/238 place). Incredible runner
with an incredibly warm heart; he waited after his 25k race to help me
right after my 3rd lap
Lap 1: 1:14
Lap 2: 1:15
Lap 3: 1:19
Lap 4: 1:21
When I look at those stats I pulled from the website, they don't paint a picture as to what I actually experienced. I felt like I pretty much succumbed to the proverbial death march around mile 24 and could only muster a few runnable yards here and there as I climbed up - and up and up. I long ago turned the 'pace' display off my watch - I didn't want to look at that nauseating number; all I wanted to see was distance, and somehow try to get my head out of the bowl of mush it was swimming in. I started lap 4 trying to be cognizant of where I was in that moment and bare witness to all the glory that surrounded me instead the initial dread I was beginning to feel. I remember looking at the mountains and feeling so blessed to live in such a beautiful place. I remember hitting the last aid station, which just so happened to be placed precisely at the marathon mark, around 4:25:something and being pretty damn pleased. I remember climbing the last vertical climb of the day, smiling, that I still had the strength to do it.
They taught me that I do have a lot more physical strength in me when my feeble mind tells me otherwise and I am capable of so much more than I think I am.
|I won a gift certificate for coming in 3rd to a local running store :)|
I did it, I ran my first ultra....and honestly, it wasn't nearly as bad as I let my head think it was.
I have a lot to figure out about pacing and fueling and everything-ing before Leadville. But one thing I am not going to do is beat myself up further about is the pace. It is not my goal to cross the finish line of these lofty races with a specific pace; pace is a reward of the vertical work I still have yet to do. Instead, these races, and the hefty upcoming ones, are there to teach me all the things I need to learn to make Leadville a success. It's as simple as that - I just need to get word to my head to accept this. I am making significant gains in my training.....thank you, Tim.
Looking at those pictures of my kids above reminds me that training and racing isn't my whole life; it only enhances my life.
No offense, Jill's head, but she ran a pretty sweet first 50k. So shut the hell up and get her get on with Leadville training.
A last quick note: kuddos Ryan who just ran an incredible 1:58 anchor leg in the 4x800 and his whole team. His smile says it all (second from left).
|4x800 both girls and boys: New PRs and state qualifiers!|
"Fill all thy bones with aches."
-The Tempest's sorcerer-king Prospero