Thursday, October 31, 2013

October: Chasing Numbers


In case you didn’t already know this, I’m a very competitive person – surprise!  I have found that while I enjoy just running for the sake of being outside and keeping myself sane, racing generally motivates me and I love (though I rarely speak to) being around like-minded running obsessed freaks soles. I enjoy running for more reasons than I can explain, but part of what I love is pushing myself and learning what my body’s and mind’s limits are. Races are at the core of helping me define this….I have probably raced over 500 races (which includes my high school and college racing career).  How do you take the racer out of the runner who’s taught herself over the course of 37 years that there’s no bigger high than crossing that start line of a race?  You can’t, not really.  But I am learning some valuable lessons....

  - October 6th I ran the Blue Sky Trail Marathon on the outskirts of Ft. Collins in Horsetooth Reservoir.  It was a beautiful Colorado bluebird sky morning as a total of 161 of us toed the line on this deceptively challenging course.



If you’re waiting for the part where I landed on the podium and smacked down a stellar race time, well, you’ll be waiting a long time.  This was not that race.  I could write out a handful of excuses why, but it just wasn’t in my heart to beat the crap out of my body on the trails.  I realized early on, when I saw a woman there whom I beat by over a half hour in Leadville take off and leave me in the dust, pretty much all my vertical uphill training I did for Leadville is a distant memory.  Being an active participant of Racers Anonymous for the past 37 years, it took me a solid 6 miles of stressing over my watch’s dismal display that I needed to take the damn thing off and just enjoy being back out in nature and not an have an existential meltdown by not meeting some irrational number I set upon myself – which was unrealistic in the first place since this race had about 3500’ of elevation gain and was more in the lines of 28 miles.  At mile 6, I decided it was time to turn the watch off and instead look for an endorphin bath, not an ag win!

The course was an eclectic mix of challenging terrain  But wow was it gorgeous!  I found a guy who I felt was “slow” but decided slow was what I needed if I wanted to finish strong, and I let him dictate our pace for about 9 miles - I stuck to him like glue. 
I'm sure he has now has a restraining order against me


We rarely spoke, but he was clearly aware of his pacing purpose; around mile 18 he told me he I was pushing him too hard and it was time to cut him loose. Argh!


For the next demanding few miles, I tiptoed over and around vertically slanted red sandstone, just trying to remain upright.  It was relentless, and taxing - but that's what I loved most about it.  At mile 22, as the rock outcrops abated and more dirt emerged, it was time to pick up the pace a bit - if I couldn't have a decent finish time, at least I was going to finish strong.  I started passing people a little here and there, which is hard to do in a very small race like this, but I was legitimately now in race mode and determined to run hard through the end.  At mile 25.5, it was apparent that this was not a "true" marathon distance race, despite what RD Nick Clark told us at the start (due to biblical rains we had the weeks prior, the course was re-rerouted adding 400' more climbing and lessened in length to now "about" 26.2 miles (love trail races), and I was nowhere near the finish. I slowed a tad because, truthfully, my overzealous past 4 miles left me cooked, but I marched on - and finished satisfied with my day. 

Time: 5:31
Distance: 18.11 miles
Vertical: 3429'
Overall: 101/161
AG (40-99): 11/18

- October 20th I embarked on my 4th Denver Rock and Roll Half Marathon. The half marathon is my favorite road race distance; the strategy of learning the perfect cocktail to hold onto that threshold of pain for that distance excites me.  And scares the crap out of me.  I've killed a half marathon (or 20) by going out too fast at the start, thinking I had it in me when I didn't.  This could be one if I wasn't careful.

I really didn't have any wild expectations for this race.  I had wishful thoughts when I registered in the spring that I could knock out a good race here considering I was killing most of my races back then.  But after Pikes Peak Marathon my running took a nosedive - or at least my desire to want it did (Leadville training completely consumed me and left me empty after....but more on that in another post).  I'm still running and loosely training for California International Marathon in 6 weeks, but I gave up the notion I could run this race "fast" and just prayed I could somehow squeak out a sub-1:50 - even if it was just barely.

I wanted to line up with the 1:50 pacer and let him do the work (the guy in the blue shirt from Blue Sky was nowhere to be found), but they were in the wave behind me, and good lord I wasn't going to move back a wave-  gasp.  So I just ran.  I know that sounds too simple, but that's all I really thought about - run, run your guts out, run hard, "careful" be damned.  I felt my effort more in the lines of a 10k, but I didn't really care.  Wasn't racing about learning what I had in me?  I had my fun at Blue Sky, now it was war.  The hills almost paralyzed me, but I trudged upward and was surprising happy when I reached the top of them all at mile 12 with tons of energy to spare.  I ran the last mile (1.33, actually) the fastest yet (7:35) and landed across the finish far better - and happier - than I hoped a mere 1 hour and 47 minutes earlier.
Time: 1:47:27
Distance: 13.33 miles
Female: 220/5722
AG (50-59): 4/295  (I'm kinda in awe over this one!)

- I've been running the vast majority of my longer runs on my treadmill for CIM, like 20 miles long.  I know that sounds gruelingly poke-your-eyes-out-with-the-nearest-sharp-object boring, but it's a mental challenge for me.  If I can stay on this damn thing for 3 hours then surely I have the strength to run 4 hours on the road at CIM.  Plus, it's teaching me to feel my pace effort without looking at my watch 5 billion times in a second. I just punch in the pace and pray I don't fall off.  I love the simplicity of it....bonus: I'm getting caught up on reading.  And if Emz can run 100% of her training on a treadmill and still land 8th overall at the hellacious Javelina 100 milers in 20-hours, then yeah, I can suck it up once a week for my measly 3 hours runs on the thing.  It is making me stronger, mentally.

- I have been getting outdoors, too.....
Last week I hooked up with Steve from Happy Trails for a little 17 mile jaunt around the Air Force Academy trails.  My legs were a bit trashed from the 17 hard marathon paced miles I did 2 days prior (on my treadmill :)), and I was slower than my normal trail turtle self, but Steve was gracious enough to wait for me (frequently) and the miles clicked by so fast.  That guy has a heart of gold and never once did he complain about my sloth-like pace (I almost chocked when he told me his MAF pace...um, mine's a good 2-minutes/mile slower!) and I deeply appreciated the company.  It's a rare treat when I get to run with someone, especially someone so kind and whose wife is dear to my heart. 

Steve waiting.  And waiting.  And waiting...
This past Monday, Ryan had a college visit with the track team coach at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction (it's all becoming so real - they're leaving me!  But he had a promising visit - yay).  Steve and Kathleen sent me a detailed map of some trails nearby the college, all color coded for the girl who can get lost on an 400m track.  Ryan and I dumped off Brendan and his friend on some trails 3 hours away for their 3-day backpacking adventure (that, in itself, is worthy of an entire blog post) and headed out on the trails.  

It was super windy when we arrived to the trail head; Ryan and I stood around contemplating whether we should go to the hotel and bag it or take on the wind.  Thankfully, the wind won.  

The desert trails, nestled on the eastern banks of the Colorado Plateau, are simply stunning as the Colorado River snakes it's way along the iron-enriched red sandstone, leaving some breathtaking cliffs.

I swear, Ryan smiled or laughed the entire time.  He was so lost in time and didn't care one iota about his pace nor the fact his coach had him doing x-amount of distance, which he clearly wasn't adhering to.  Time didn't matter here; Ryan was completely immersed in this adventuresome day and deemed it, "an awesome day." And me, I was just so happy to have him here, with me, doing what we both love so much - running. Together.  It's not lost on me that times spent with him like this are numbered, so I soaked up every drop and logged my mileage that day as "a lot" in the 3 hours we played on the trails.  
Ryan climbing up as some mountain bike was coming down (carrying his bike, thankfully)

omg, scared shitless of the 1000' drop below

Yeah, racing means a lot to me, but running doesn't always need to be about chasing those elusive numbers - sometimes it's just about being connected. I am pleased with my two races this month but I wouldn't trade those memories on the trails non racing for any race PR or glorious finish line time.  Running is the best therapy I've ever had...it gives me the awareness of strength and gives me the confidence to face the rest of my day, my week....and my heavy year ahead.

- October Numbers:
Total mileage: 241.15 
(that's a PR for the year, btw!  Thank you!)

Thank you for all your caring comments on my last post.  It's really hard for me to make big girl decisions that vastly affect the lives of my little ones - even if they are basically "adults."  It's hard stuff, but we're plugging away - together.


Run strong, my friends!

32 comments:

Karen said...

Beautiful pics as always! Love the story of your pacer that told you to cut him loose. Too much pressure being the pacer I suppose. LOL. I totally understand :)

Kandi said...

You are always up to so much! I love that you got to run some trails with your son. That last picture is priceless!

sllygrl said...

you and I are so much alike it scares me - someday we'll get together to run and discuss it ;). I however don't know how in the heck you could take off your watch - so maybe that's something you could teach me...

Black Knight said...

A very good month full of adventures.
Wonderful pics. Glad you can run with your son, mine is injured to play football. I keep on saying to him: "if you like a good sport play rugby, forget that sport with that strange ball.....".

Kate Geisen said...

My goodness you stay busy. I always think about you when I'm whining about our "hills"...I can only imagine how infinitesimal they would seem to you!

Your RnR time was seriously awesome! What a great feeling to push the whole time and then finish so strong...and with SUCH a great AG place! YOu rock.

Robin said...

This post cracked me up and I needed that. Love the photos. What spectacular places you have to run. Awesome. You've been running some great races this year! It's so great that you get to run with your son as well....run strong!

Teamarcia said...

I'm so glad running is going well when there are so many challenges surrounding you. It is therapeutic for sure. Love all the gorgeous pics, especially that last one of you and the kiddos.
Sounds like you made up for that slog I put you through at RnR last year. Next time I think I'll let you pull me in a wagon! ; )

Ana-Maria RunTriLive said...

Jill, you look amazing! All the running does you good:) Your face is glowing. And you are living a full life. Great to read about your adventures! Keep it up!

Mike said...

Gorgeous pictures! Awesome races and 4/295 is really impressive as is 220/5700+.

Impressive mileage in October too! Almost 3x my mileage.

Glad you are doing well. I thought of you this week when I was out to dinner with some co-workers and someone brought up meeting people you know from the Internet. It was funny seeing their reaction :-).

Colorado Gal said...

So. Many. Miles. You're my hero. Beautiful photos!

Paul Rodman said...

Wow...a BIG POST.

Lots of fun running and racing. Congrats on the fast half marathon!

Re CIM..I hope you have perfect weather. This morning was 43F..so hopefully it will be cold that day..so far the rains are a bit delayed....who knows.

I am running Surf City (feb 2) so CIM is a a no-go this year but hope to make it up to Sacto and cheer you on! (If I can spot you!) I love the CIM course..not scenic but fantastic terrain-wise. (and point-to-point is so much fun 8)

Cheers!
paul



Robert said...

Jill, you are simply an exceptional human being. I >love< reading your posts, so much inspiration.

Karen said...

I always love your posts! Perfect combination of humor and storytelling.

We should meet up before CIM! I'm running too, on what WILL be a beautiful perfect weather day. Right?

Johann said...

Lovely post Jill! You had a wonderful October. I agree with you about time on the trails with special people are the best and nothing beats that. EMZ blows my mind! Stay strong my friend, I think of you often.

CautiouslyAudacious said...

You always have the most beautiful pictures love that you get to run such awesome places! Awesome numbers too!!!

CautiouslyAudacious said...

You always have the most beautiful pictures love that you get to run such awesome places! Awesome numbers too!!!

ajh said...

You and your speed continue to amaze me. Love the gorgeous pics. Must have been great to run with Steve. All good things!!!

Raina said...

Jill, you have some AMAZING pictures. Every time I come here I start to get jealous of all the awesome places you get to race and train!

Super congrats on the VERY NICE half marathon! You look so STRONG in the photo.

I didn't know you were doing CIM! I will enjoy tracking you :D

Char said...

You've been doing some amazing running! Love your photos. Love your attitude to running and racing and life in general.

Beth said...

Wow, I can't believe that all happened in October! Your run with your son touched me the most, how amazing to share that time. Hope November is even better.

Jenny said...

Amazing month of running, as usual! Well done!! :D

petraruns said...

Girl - I have been a bad friend. I have only just been catching up on your blogs and I can see life has been tough. I'm sorry I wasn't there for you, but I'm here now. I'm astonished and amazed at what you're able to do while you're going through such tough stuff - your ability to MAKE yourself (dammit!) enjoy the amazing scenery, the wonderful racing and your friends is SO inspiring. Thank you Jillie - even when you're having a tough time you're giving help to us. Keep on keeping on girl because you are doing so very very well. I love you babes! xx

petraruns said...

Girl - I have been a bad friend. I have only just been catching up on your blogs and I can see life has been tough. I'm sorry I wasn't there for you, but I'm here now. I'm astonished and amazed at what you're able to do while you're going through such tough stuff - your ability to MAKE yourself (dammit!) enjoy the amazing scenery, the wonderful racing and your friends is SO inspiring. Thank you Jillie - even when you're having a tough time you're giving help to us. Keep on keeping on girl because you are doing so very very well. I love you babes! xx

Adrienne said...

I love being part of this large, tight group of obsessive competitive freaks. Happiness comes in all forms, but chasing the numbers seems to work for some of us:) great job in the monthly miles.

Liz said...

Sometimes you just need to relax and enjoy the view - and there are some incredible views for you to enjoy!

Great running at the half marathon - congrats on your age group placing!

Raina said...

Back again.. I don't know when you will post again, but I sure hope your CIM training is going well.

Molly said...

Wow, what an amazing month, congrats! The picture looking over the 1,000 foot drop made my stomach tickle. : )

I'm with you on doing the long ass runs on the treadmill, at that point it's all about the mental training!

Happy Weekend! : )

MILF Runner said...

I'ma comin' to yell at you in Sacramento. Better watch out :)

Raina R. said...

Ok.. funny how i come by here and on the third look through find the part about the restraining order! :D

How is training going? Top secret?!

bobbi said...

I am a terrible blog friend - catching up with you now (your posts are too awesome to read on my phone, where my old lady eyes get the best of me)...lots going on for you! I hope the good outweighs the difficult, and I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

You inspire the hell out of me girl...keep on keeping on...

One Crazy Penguin said...

I am always like 82 shades of green with envy whenever I see the pictures on your blog. I don't have anywhere near as pretty to run around here!

Happy belated Thanksgiving and hope all is well in your world :)

Raina R. said...

Did I ask you yet how CIM training is going? Oh yeah! Thanks for the email :))
Don't worry- either way, it's just another notch in the belt, right? :)