Thursday, May 31, 2012

Action Packed Mountain Weekend

So when your 16-year old running son wants to join several other cross country kiddos for one hellaciously tough 25k trail run on Memorial Day in Gunnison - about 4 hours SW of Denver in the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains - what's a good great mom to do?

Road trip!

We set off on Saturday afternoon, giving us 2 days to play and explore before the race on Monday.  I instantly hit up fellow blogger, Cynthea (who, sadly, no longer blogs :( ), who lives in the area, to see if we could hook up while there.  She graciously offered to let us stay at her house, having never even met me.  I guess my charm and wit are irresistible :).  I promised I wasn't some ax murder and we gladly accepted her offer for one night (thanks again, Cynthea) and then hoteled it the second night with the rest of the track team in town.

When we set off on Saturday, the winds picked up to some insane gale-force strength and smoke from some monster fires in New Mexico filled the air and caused a thick haze to cloud our views along the way (and cause my eyes to itch like mad.  Bleh!)

Horrible smoke-filled haze constricting the normally gorgeous landscapes
When we stopped at the top of Monarch Pass, elevation 11,332', the winds were so strong and little rocks were whipping around, like a tornado picks up cars, and pounding them smack into my legs.  We didn't stay long to explore on the top of the pass, like I had hoped to.

Like the wind-blown hair in the face look?
Instead, we continued on into Gunnison and gave ourselves a little self-guided exploring of Western States University campus, home of the world's highest collegiate track and football field at 7700'.

I obviously have mastered the Steeplechase hurdle on my first attempt over
We had dinner on Saturday night with Cynthea and her son in the really cute town of Crested Butte (elevation 8909').

Sunday morning, a scrumptious breakfast of homemade buttermilk waffles ("scrumptious" would indicate I did not make them), Cynthea and her family drug my sorry butt 1000'  up the side of some mountain on a gorgeous trail near their house.

Our gracious hosts on top of whatever peak we climbed
Trail coming down
Wild Lupines
 Hike done, we said our goodbyes...but first a quick pic of the view from Cynthea's backyard,

I'm jealous!
then Ryan and I headed back to Crested Butte to do some sightseeing.

I'd like to own this house, please!  That baby cow was so funny, it keep mooing at me :).
House sided with old license plates (mostly Colorado ones)
Close up of some of the plates.  Pretty cool place, I thought
Springtime in the Rockies produces some awesome growing green things
Monday brought race day.  Not for me this round (thankfully), but for Ryan and several members of his cross country team.

The race was the Sage Burner Trail 25k and 50k, which is hosted by the university and is held at the Hartman Rocks Recreational Area on the outskirts of Gunnison, Colorado.  Hartman Rocks is a 160 acre "park" filled with a network of single track trails and dirt roads.  I'm not sure where or how the tradition began for our high schoolers to run this race - it's not like it's really convenient to home - but because freshman are not allowed, per unofficial written "rules" by the team, Ryan was chomping at the bit to run this race this year as it'd be his first (if I only had a dollar for every time I heard "Sage Burner" in the past year, I could buy that house above).

Ryan knew this race would be tough, but he had no idea how tough.  The area is a plethora of hills.  More hills.  And then topped off with just a few more, for good measure.

He was nervous when we got to the starting area.  It was a tropical 27 degrees at the start (yeah, 27 degrees) and he had layers on, then off, then back on, then off.  Last minute, he ditched his long-sleeved shirt, which eventually he was grateful to shed.  A few words from the race director before, and then they're off.
Lining up.  Probably about 150 participants, about 50 of them the 50kers.
Our kids are on the far left
Ryan, being rather nervous
There they go.
Since I had some time to kill waiting for Ryan, Cynthea came into town so we could run a little of the trails ourselves.

She wouldn't let me wear a watch (I actually left my Garmin back in Denver - I know, gasp!) and I was perfectly fine with that (though, admittedly, I wanted to know how far we went, but didn't care at all about our pace.  And I was a bit worried we'd miss some of the kids finish by not knowing what time it was).  We just ran.  And talked.  Then ran some more.....up and down and over and around and up some more then down and then up and up and up and upppppp.  Time passed so fast as we enjoyed the scenery together...

I only tripped and stumbled over rocks about 30 times, but remarkably didn't end up with any road rash (trail rash?).  I had so much fun wandering around on the trails with someone I so easily got along with; my heart was definitely resonating in the present with these playful moments on the trails.  I can't remember the last time I felt so free and liberated out on a run; 2 hours felt like about 10 minutes.  Maybe this casual pace works best for me.  Maybe I can go farther and enjoy more fully when I just let everything go, leaving the numbers planner in me at home.  I absolutely need more adventures like this!

We made it back just in the nick of time as the racers were starting to come in.  As we were heading down the last section of trail to the finish line area of the race, I saw the first of our high schoolers cross the finish line, coming in 4th overall.  Cynthea and I hurried down to the bottom to watch and cheer the remaining runners coming in.  I started to get a bit concerned to not see Ryan where he thought he might finish (he has horrible asthma, exacerbated by dust.  Dusty trails are not his best friend), but soon he was there and crossed a few seconds shy of 3-hours for his first 25k trail race (16.4 miles, actually :)).

His first words?  Oh my God, that was SO hard!!!  (repeated multiple times on our 4-hour drive home :)).

I just grinned.  I couldn't have been more proud.  I have a lump in my throat just sharing this moment with you.
Ryan looks like he'd rather be dead right now.  I look like I'm so grateful I didn't run that race!
Isn't it cool how some people can just astound us?  Even people we know as well as our own children.  That race was not easy for Ryan, he's never run anything over 13.1 miles before and never on terrain that tested his physical limits as well as his mental ones.  And he's only 16!!  Yet he was bound and determined to do it, and did it he did.

I've always believe that determination far out-weighs giftedness, his race was a classic example.

There is something about a little adventure that brings out the best in all of us and sets us free.  I can't wait to see what type of adventures Ryan turns to as he grows into the incredible runner he is becoming.  I have a feeling this won't be his last.

And it definitely won't be mine.

I'm heading out of town this weekend for a little R&B time (Race and Beach).  Ahhh, another adventure...but I'll probably bring my watch ;).

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"Great" Pacer I am not...

I have a friend I met last summer who means a lot to me!  I mean a WHOLE lot!!  Her family has done so much for me and my family when my life was really pretty bleak this past winter.  I owe her so so much.

A couple weeks ago when I ran the Colorado Half marathon and found myself ridiculously tired for a solid week after, I knew I would be an idiot to try to run the full Colfax Marathon this past weekend with no solid marathon training in my tank (like that's stopped me in the past :) ).  Even treated as a slow training run, as I originally intended to do, it wasn't worth it for me to suffer through the last 10 miles in a death march shuffle then take many weeks recovering.  I have too much on my plate to let a really crappy marathon ruin many weeks of future training.

At one time in my life (you know, before that *#$# heel fiasco), I was fit enough to throw myself into a marathon with a little tweak here and there, just to use as training; and if run slow enough, I'd always come out on the other side A-okay.  As much as I wish I am currently at that point with my running and my conditioning, I'm not.  Whaaaa!  

So when my friend, Janet, mentioned a few times how much she wanted to run a sub-2 hour half marathon (her current PR was a 2:03:30) but didn't know if she could do it, I knew I had the best thank you gift for her: I'd pace her to that illustrious first sub-2 hour marathon she so desperately seeked.

Well, you know... it all sounded good in theory, as all plans do.  I just ran a half two weeks ago with many minutes to spare to that 2-hour mark, surely I thought I could pull this little task off with ease.  All I needed to do was maintain a 9:09 pace.  Simple!

But simple it wasn't.  I think Janet should have asked for my pacing credentials before she agreed, because I really sucked at my job.

Race morning couldn't have been better race weather.  Seriously gorgeous blue skies and about 50 degrees.   We arrived early, like 5am early (for a 6am half marathon start...a bit overkill if you ask me, but surprisingly no one bothered to).  We did all the pre-race necessities, lined up in our corral, and off we go.

We didn't bother with a lot of small talk, I'm not good at multitasking the run/talk thing; the silence of good company around me is golden however.  I was so happy to be here.  Doing this with her.

Mistake 1:  I set my watch's 3 data fields to: 1) pace, 2) average pace, 3) time.  This was stupid.  I was going mental within the first mile not knowing exactly what our distance was.

I had a mission to know what my pace was at every mile, and I couldn't tell where I was.

I thought about changing one of the fields en route, but my wiser side (aka: less used side) thought stumbling with my watch while trying to maintain a pace and not trip or drop my watch in a sea of 5000 runners behind me was probably not a good idea.  My watch was set to auto lap so this would have to do.

Mistake 2: I knew I needed to bank some time at the start, in case things started to take a nose dive towards the end, but I may have started us off a bit too fast (  Too fast at the start?).

The first 6 miles are run along "colorful" Colfax Street.  Colfax is known for its vast array of ethnic restaurants, neon signed pawn shops, drug lords, and oh yeah.... prostitutes.  NICE!  Colfax Street was also really one long gradual 6 mile long incline which really added to the fun street decor.  But I was so busy looking at my watch, I missed out on a lot of the street's kaleidoscopic scenes.

Mistake 3: I was so fixated on that damn pace, I forgot to hydrate.  Whoops.

We finally get off of Colfax and wander around some of the neighborhoods and find our way to about mile 7.5 where we run through a fire station.  I mean, we run through the actual fire station.  As in run in one end and out the other.

All the firemen were standing along the side and high-fiving runners.  It was actually pretty cool and Janet was smiling (and thus not telling me her quads were sore and she was tired from our fast early miles pace) so I tried to just take it all in and momentarily stop obsessing with the watch.

But when we got back into our race pace preoccupation, I saw our once 8:56 overall pace slipped to a 9:01 .... and worse, I started to feel really icky.

As in I wanted to stop and walk and vomit and quit icky (see above: mistake #3).

But I couldn't stop.  I couldn't do that to her.  I absolutely couldn't, it was not allowed!!!   I started drinking more water and at mile 9,  I remembered Janet was carrying a gel of mine I brought and I downed that, despite knowing I had a 50/50 chance of having a major colon blow down the road due to the gel.  But with only 4 miles left, chances were good I'd made it to the end without an incident :).  Within a half mile, I started to miraculously feel much better!  The scenery changed to affluent tree-lined neighborhoods and I resumed concentration on the task at hand: don't fail!

Mistake 4:  This was the biggest.  I was so concerned with the little "overall pace" displayed and feeling pretty damn good this magical number was getting me out of doing a lot of mental math.....but I didn't take into account that the course was long.  It registered in my head it was long because my watch was beeping "lap" long before we hit the mile markers, but I wasn't logically computing how this issue was going to make our time longer and thus that little 9:01 displayed across my watch really didn't mean anything at all.  Crap.

Around mile 11, a woman came up on us who had a 2-hour bib pinned on her back.  Janet wanted to know if she was the 2-hour pacer; but she wasn't.  The pacer dude was carrying a pink neon sign, which I had spotted at the start line, and I was about 98% sure he hadn't passed I knew (ish) we were still good.

The last two miles seemed to drag on for eternity, as they always do.  There must be some sort of law about this: sign this wavier knowing that the last two miles in any half marathon will suck.  They will seem twice as long as they are; they will hurt; your legs will be filled with lead; and you will hate every single second.  Sign here please:______  I looked at my watch a least a hundred times and each time I did so Janet would ask me if we were "okay".  I was reassuring, always.  But secretly I was starting to get a little nervous.  What if this course grew longer by each mile, as they tend to do.  If so, we're so screwed.

We were so close.  One bad move and it was over.

The last mile Janet started to slow down so instead of running along side of her, as I had been, I moved slightly in front of her so she could keep me in sight and not fall back.  Our last mile was the slowest, but not drastically and as we passed the 12-mile marker and time clicked, I knew she could do it.

Janet has a wickedly strong kick.  She's a sprinter, by nature, and that sprinter inside her wanted to take off when we could see the finish line.  She wanted me to go with her, but I had nothing left and I told her she had to go.  And go she did.


Her smile says it all!!!

Thanks to her and her family's generosity, there is now gainful employment in our family; my son helps her daughter with trumpet lessons; and I found an occasional running partner and more importantly, someone I call a friend.  I don't have a lot of those, really...not enough locally anyway.

I'd gladly sacrifice a few minutes of a finish line time occasionally for the gift of learning, stumbling, encouragement and laughter to help someone reach their long-time goals.  I'm happier for her finish than I have was of my finishes this year.  That's a true statement!

I'm just not putting great race pacer down on my resume quite yet, but the job got done.

And I am smiling.  And Janet's still beaming.  There is nothing quit like being a part of someone you care about's sheer delight.

No race for me this weekend, if you can believe that.  Twin #1 is running a 25k trail race in the mountains so we are brewing a little road trip away for a few days, but I am not racing it myself.  I just want a race break.  I can't wait to share our adventure with you, though.

Until then....

Run Strong!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Two times the 5k fun

Last weekend was the weekend of 5ks; one each day.

Saturday's 5k didn't actually involved a lot of running, per se, but the distance was covered nonetheless, and it was an official I'm counting it as mileage :).

I may have mentioned some time back that I was selected to be a coach for Girls on the Run Girls on the Run is a 12-week program teaching self-respect and healthy lifestyles to pre-teen girls, and at the end of the 12-weeks, we run a 5k.  This program is pretty huge, spanning across the country in 173 cities.

It was an interesting 12-weeks, if I had to sum up the experience in one word.  I coached at a low income school...meaning, all the girls involved were on a scholarship and did not have to pay the $180 to be involved; the money was donated by a sponsor and none of us coaches knew who this was.  Not that that mattered, but when we wrote letters thanking our sponsor for the opportunity to participate, I just had them write "Dear Sponsor," and left it at that.  Hopefully the notes of thanks will end up in the right hands; the girls were truly grateful, once they knew how much the program cost.  But the season wasn't without it's challenges and I was reminded how appreciative I am to be DONE with pre-teen girls at my house ;).

Nevertheless, we overcame each obstacle unscathed and all but one of the girls who were involved in the program came out on a chilly Saturday morning to run the season-end 5k.
The entire Rocky Mountain Region Girls on the Run met early on Saturday morning in a park in Denver proper; there must have been about 1500 girls.  Nothing like a sea of swarming adolescent female hormones in one spot for a few hours to test one's patience :).  So each of us adults (if you want to call myself one - ha) ran with one girl from the team, and I got this sweet little 3rd grader:

I actually was a nervous wreck thinking I might lose her somewhere along the course; I tried to hold her hand as much as she'd let me and thankfully we stayed together the entire way.  Phew!

We started off with the masses and quickly found our "pace"...of about 6:30 min/mile.  As much as we tried to teach the girls the idea of running slow to run longer, the concept was pretty much non-existent.  They'll learn one day I suspect (unless they read all my past race reports reading, "I started out too fast", of course), so I just kept reeling her in and we were able to cover the first mile in about 10:30.  Not bad for a 9 year old who's never ran a solid mile before.  But we sort of fell apart when she found out there was no water station parked precisely on the 1-mile sign and we came to a screeching halt.  She was "out of energy", she stated, and firmly announced we'd walk until we found water.  Unfortunately, that didn't come until close to mile 2, and we pretty much did walk this whole way.

At first I was thinking, "WHAT????", the competitive freak I can be am took over and all I could see were hundreds of people passing us; race performance anxiety started to kick in.  Get a grip, Jill!!!   My little buddy did not care one iota who passed us, not even others from her school, and since this race was about her, not me (I know, *gasp*), I just tried to smother her with words of encouragement.  We finally got to the water stop and she inhaled about 4 cups of water (it was a balmy 40 degrees, you can see why she was so thirsty :)) and suddenly, we're back to our first mile tactics of 30-yard sprints followed by a 200-yard walk, with her new-found energy.  Worked for me, I'll take a bit of speedwork wherever I can get it.

We talked about a lot of things during our time on the road together and I got to learn a lot from her, like what an exceptional woman her mother is and how much adversity she has had to overcome in her very short 9-years of life.  I even figured out how to smile and have fun (even stopping to look at the ducks in the pond at one point - in a RACE - and I was A-okay with it!).  We crossed the finish line in 49:27 and I was actually a little choked-up.

I hoped she was moved in some way by the experience; she was a little distracted by post race chocolate chip pancakes and hot chocolate to get many comments about the race out of her afterwards....but as we were leaving for the day she told me, "I loved racing, I can't wait to do another one."  

My heart melted.....I found a new runner.  That is worth every single micro-second I spent with these girls during the past 12 weeks and I hope by completing this program and the big 5k race that they come away with a desire for a fit lifestyle and inspiration to take good care of their bodies through running or other forms of exercise.  I hope my little friend has many more 5ks and beyond  in her life (and I hope the race has plenty of water stops); I can't express in one blog post how good it feels to find a new member of our running community at such a young age.  If any of you have the opportunity to be a coach for such an incredible program and you find a little runner out of the process, I promise you it will change your life.

Moving on to 5k #2....

In my continued quest to find a little of my long-lost speed, I signed up for an all-women's 5k on Mother's Day.  How cool is that, lots of ladies doing what we love to do - run - on the one day of the year to celebrate women?!?  Well, celebrate moms, but moms are women so whatever.  I was all over that, but come race day morning, another chilly and drizzly day, I wondered if I should just sleep in and skip the thing....I was tired.  

But went I did.  I've never regretted any race I've ever done, even the worst of the worst ones, and I knew I wouldn't regret this one either....once I got out of my nice, warm covers.  Besides, I loved the shirt - a rarity for me - and I couldn't pass it up :).  I'm a huge fan of cotton women's cut t-shirts; they are my daily summer staple paired with my trusty Nike Tempo shorts.  What more does a girl need to wear!  And this one was so cool!
I don't think I've ever done an all-women's race.....if I have, it was back in the days before old age erased all those memories, so I was sort of looking forward to no testosterone tearing up the course.  I actually had a really bad week of running last week; my body did not recover quickly from that speedier-than-thought half marathon the weekend before so I had no idea what I was capable of and that worst-ever Pi-mile 5k a few weeks ago was still fairly fresh in my head.  I was a bit worried that the course had no water and I actually considered carrying my hand-held bottle...until I looked like dork central when no one else around me had one.  I quickly stashed it in the bushes by the start line and prayed I wouldn't pass out due to dehydration.  I thought maybe I should just run it casually so I wouldn't get so thirsty.

Hum....I believe it was only yesterday I was giving my little Girls on the Run girl the "No one NEEDS water in a 5k" pep talk.  Go, Jill!!!

This wasn't a big race by any normal Colorado race standards.  We here in the healthiest and fittest state in the country have some pretty spectacular speedy runners....none of which are me, and none of which were at this race.  In typical Jill 5k fashion, I took out too fast (duh!!!) but I really didn't care.  This was an out and back course so I could easily see my placement....and I found myself in uncharted territory: 5th place. I prayed I could hold on for dear life, but shortly after mile 2, I started to get the dreaded lead legs (duh!) and one runner passed me in my slow crawl to to the finish.  But, as we climbed the last small hill in the final quarter mile, I passed someone else and reclaimed my previous 5th place position and finished there with a 23:51.  Almost 2 minutes faster than the Pi-mile 5k a few weeks earlier.

Well, okay, the course was short, which is a miracle since every race I've done this year has been long (including the Carlsbad Marathon since I got lost and added an extra 3/4 of a mile) ... but even if I rounded the pace to the official 5k mark, I knocked off well over a minute. 

I like progress!

I took my 5th place overall medal, gift certificate to another race, and a mini bundt cake win home....

....and devoured every last drop of that cake.  Gluten and all.  All by myself.  A Happy Mother's Day weekend to me, indeed!

Run Strong, 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Colorado Half Marathon

When I first looked at this shirt, I thought it said "O C".  I knew Orange County
has/had a marathon recently so was a bit confused.  Did I make a wrong turn and end up
in Cali?  Took a few minutes for me tosee the "C M".  Ha.  See it?

Seems that it was half marathon race weekend in blogland.  I was no exception ... but I have a "race" almost every weekend in May and June so the fact that I was racing this weekend wasn't big news.

BTW, the reason I am signed up for so many races this spring/summer is because:
1) I'm on a racing team for one of the local running stores and we are required to run x-number of races.
2) I really lack the ability to tempo run on my own well so I wanted to use a variety of race distances as a little speed work.
3) I keep hoping they'll get me into some sort of shape.
So far, that's not really happening (#3), but I do feel I'm getting a wee-bit stronger.

This race was the Colorado Half Marathon (there was a full option, also) in Ft. Collins.  Ft. Collins is about an hour and 45 minutes north of where I live, so I opted to spend the night there since the race started at 7a.m. and it was mandatory you take the buses, which left between 5:00 and 5:30a.m., to the start line.  Call me crazy but I didn't relish the thought of getting up at 2:30a.m. to leave my house.

I don't think I've ever traveled to spend the night out of town to run a half before - aside from the three times I ran the Atlanta ING Half (this course is actually my current 1/2 PR of 1:44).  But the main reason behind the Atlanta race was for a little quality girlfriend time since I once used to live in Alabama and have a very dear friend there.  Fly down to see her, run a little race, and PR along the way - score!  Atlanta also happened to fit perfectly into the equation when I was training for Boston and I LOVE to use half marathons as training for a full.  So spending the night in Ft. Collins for a half marathon seemed really odd to me, and it sort of gave me the typical pre-race jitters that marathons do....since I've always traveled to all marathons I've done.  I almost felt like I was going to run the full marathon and I had to really talk myself down from the wig-session I was starting to have.

I've never run this race before, but I did pace the last 7 miles of this race in 2010 for my friend and fellow blogger, Tara, on her first marathon.
Tara, all smiles after finishing her first marathon - 2010
I also got to see, and run a bit, with SUAR on her first BQ race :).  So I knew the last half of the course and that it really only had one pretty major hill just before mile 7, and overall the course was a gradual downhill - and fast.

I like fast.

When I signed up for this crazy race in January - because it fills up fast and you have to jump on registration when it opens - I had hoped I'd have my training and weight under control and could race the thing hard.  But we all know about best laid plans sometimes.  I went into this race nowhere near where I had hoped in January so my expectations were simply enjoy the amazing scenery down the Poudre Canyon and enjoy the experience.  Nothing more.  Also, my inner ankle was really wonky after the 5-mile race and I wasn't sure how it was going to hold up so my plan was to have no plan.  My daughter was coming with me and I just was happy to be spending time with her, and getting in a little long speed work in.  Simple.

It was really cold when I stood in line at 5a.m. for the bus.  The air temp was about 38 degrees and the winds were wicked, which wasn't helping.  Driving to the start line and watching the "new mood" disappear over the mountains, though, was incredible, and took my mind momentarily off my panic of what to wear when the race started.

That calmness was short-lived when we arrived with an hour and 10 minutes until the start line....and it was freaking freezing.  The wind was so bad and my legs were so cold.  It never even crossed my mind to bring long pants to wear while we waited; it's been a long time since I've had to sit at the race start in the mountains for a long time beforehand.  I quickly found myself clustered in the middle of one small tent along with 1317 of my closest friends.
This is said tent, picture taken later in the day when I went back and drove the course. 1317  people
jammed in that thing.  But at least I was warm :)
I stood there a half hour and just listened to conversations around me.  Time actually clicked by more than I thought. I plowed through the masses at 6:30 to use the porta-potty since the lines were getting long there and then quickly hurried back to my spot in the tent.  Now it was what to wear panic time.  I got out of the tent about 6:45 and ran a teeny bit to see how warm it was going to be.  The sun was starting to come up in the canyon and I'm glad I opted to chuck the long sleeves and go short.  I wore some home-make from knee socks arm warmers and actually ended up chucking them about mile 4.

We all started down the road about a quarter mile from where the tent was to the start line.  I never heard anything officially starting the race, all of a sudden we were just running.

Miles 1-3: I didn't wear my iPod, I just took in the sounds around me and really tried to look at the gorgeous sights.  The suckiest thing about this section was the constant slant of the road, which caused you to run with a slant.  My ankles were not too thrilled.

Mile 4: I was feeling really good - and strong - and my pace was a bit faster than I anticipated.  This can be a bad thing, especially for taking-off-too-fast me, but I just thought that instead of pulling back to the 9 min/mile pace, where I secretly hoped I'd be able to maintain, I'd just keep up with the 8:40 pace I was running.  I knew there was a high possibility of crashing and burning but really I didn't care that much and I thought it was better to see where this would happen then to pull way back and coast in.  So I made up my mind here that I'd see what I had in the tank with my quicker-than-hoped pace.

Miles 5 - 8:  I had been hovering around yellow-socks guy for awhile and letting him hold the pace.  I'm a leech like that.  At mile 7 we hit the biggest of the hills and he was telling a girl beside him that we had to conserve on this hill so he pulled back some and I did the same.  I was shocked when I found I hit this mile in 8:39.  We were out of the canyon now and the views changed considerably.  At mile 8, the course ventured off the road and onto the bike trail for the last 5 miles.

Miles 9-13.18:  Coming off the top of the hill and back down was my fastest mile: 8:20.  I really tried to pull back here because I know the bike path was going to be very slightly rolling and my gradual downhill miles were gone.  Once we turned onto the bike path, the path was windy and crossed a bridge.  Running across the bridge always gives me a slightly queasy stomach, and I slowed a lot.  This was my slowest mile at 8:53.

Stolen off of Beth's blog.  Thanks, Beth.
I was definitely tiring and my pace was slowing slightly.  I really just tried to focus on my iPod (which I turned on at mile 4 when I decided to go for broke!) and the Poudre River along my side.  It was probably about 50 degrees, perfect racing weather, and I just didn't want to lose such an ideal day giving in to the fatigue and I picked up the pace slightly (oh so slightly!  :)).  The last mile, I was pretty sick of the bike path and knew I had about a quarter mile left in town after the path so I keep praying for the path to end.  Finally got off the thing and my watch beeped that I had just finished 13.1 miles.....yet I still had some distance to the finish.  HATE long courses :).  I absolutely gave up the last .08 long mile (evident by my 9:24 pace - ha!) and crossed:

1:53:31 official time (8:39 pace.  8:37 pace if you take use the 13.18 miles)
296 / 1317 finishers
15 / 100 in my age group

I was pretty happy.  That's a 4 minute and 23 second improvement over the Platte Half I did 3 weeks ago (sorry, I wrote 2 weeks on the date wrong).  Yes, it was a bit faster course, but the thing I am most happy about is that I just plain and simply felt much, much stronger than I did at the Platte and I didn't slow to a crawl like I did there.  I really thought I was going to be death marching again, but I didn't, not really, and that makes me smile.

I didn't stick around after the race long; I really just wanted to get back to the hotel, shower, and get Abbey to go wander around town before heading home.  Abbey and I drove back up the course and it was still pretty windy so we didn't linger too long, but we did have some fun....

We howled at this picture.  Abbey looks terrified and I'm just typical dorky looking.  And yes, her hair is
now reddish and short, for all those that knew her blonde and long.  

Glad I wasn't in this porta-potty when it had a little mishap
A little celebratory Diet Coke and lunch with my favorite girl....

A bit of shopping downtown, the site of the race finish...

And then headed home in the late afternoon.

Every once in a great "new moon" does a race weekend unfold so nicely for me.  I am still a very long way from where my racing paces were pre-heel fiasco, but I've accepted that and as long as I feel I'm making small dents in my fitness, then I'm going to be just fine with wherever this comeback lands me.

Until next time....

Run strong!