Wednesday, April 9, 2014

February, March, and a Race!

"Anyone can give up, it's the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that's true strength." unknown 

~ mile 2 of the Salida's A Run Through Time Trail Half Marathon
Oh, yes, I do have a blog...

Let's just pick up where I left off last, in January, when I was beginning to turn things around after inhaling enormous amounts of glistening sugar cookies in December....

February:  Set my mind to training like I’ve never trained before, and February laughed in my face, then pretty much gave me the finger.   My training  took one step forward and three steps back when I was hit with some pretty emotional "life stuff", and other things I couldn't control (and things I could, but chose not to, because it was just too hard).  The highlights (lowlights):  The Polar Vortex (!!!!!); a severe case of the bubonic plague (I swear I had it!); an icy trail run that was more skateable than runnable - confirmed by a PR of most falls ever in one run (5), a broken Garmin, and a banged up palm which still causes severe pain when I attempt a pushup umpteen weeks later.  Then there was simply sheer laziness brought on by the stress of life.  I've found I have a hard time training well when I have a lot of emotional garbage on my mind; I end up spending too much time with my toxic thoughts under my flannel sheets.  I got tired of trying to run through it all, truthfully, and became utterly lazy; low days turned into stale weeks and eventually the entire month of February became depressing.  I ended the month with ~149 miles, none of which amounted to anything in double digits runs, and only 11k of vertical.  Pathetic, considering I had an upcoming very hilly trail marathon in mid-March with a pretty stringent cutoff time (at least in my sorry state).

March:  First order of business with the flip of the calendar was to email the race director of abundant hills marathon and ask if I could please bump down to the half marathon distance. Injury seems to gather more sympathetic embraces than general laziness for lack of proper training, so I did what any healthy runner would do - I lied that something hurt in my body.   I forget what ailment I forged, but whatever - mission accomplished.

With my new down-graded race, I then started my solid half marathon training plan with 10 5 days to go before Salida's A Run Through Time Trail Half Marathon.  I was excited for the race - it was my first in about 3 months and I was itching to get back out there, even though the chance of a heart-attach climbing the first hill was inevitable.  I just love the feel of a race, love the atmosphere, love the community.  I've missed it; I've needed it.

My daughter came with me to Salida.  We left the night before the race for the what should be 3-hour drive.  3-hours turned into 5-hours thanks to rush hour traffic, and then a little glitch in hotel reservations, making us drive an additional 30 minutes to another town, and leaving us eating "dinner" at the Loaf and Jug in God Forsaken Nowhere.  Our schedules so rarely sync and we have to plan so far in advance to make a date together, so it's actually sort of nice when there's a hitch in the plans - it makes the memories together more everlasting.  Sure, a couple days soaking up rays on the beach in Mexico sounds like a better mother-daughter bonding time, but these days I take what I can get.

The race was only 13.1 miles, with 2200' of climbing and starting about 3000' higher than I live.  Should have been a piece-o-cake, but in the back of my mind, I knew it was going to be a doozie - considering that bastard, February.

In my current state of craptastic fitness, it was HARD, guys.  I mean by-mile-9-I-desperately-wanted-to-lie-down-right-then-and-there-and-take-a-nap hard.  I have never felt like that in a race.  Never!  And it wasn't really a "hard" course - it's just that stupid February's fault!

Mountains.  Hills.  Up, down, again and again.  And again and again.  Rocks I had to sidestep down, because in my hiatus of running hills, I've reverted back to being a big 'ol chicken on them (and a still screaming palm to remind me what a klutz I am).  At two points during the later part of the race I thought I was lost as there was no one around me within eyesight, so I backtracked my steps until someone come along.  I walked.  A lot.  More than I needed to - simply because it was easier and I wasn't in the mood to exert too much energy fighting this thing.   Even the downhills - my love and joy - were difficult on untrained quads.

I deserved exactly what I got out of that race, considering what I put in it to get there.  But I was secretly disappointed; I had lost far more fitness than I thought, and this race slapped me a pretty high dose of reality.  A few months ago a 50 mile race in some serious altitude with some kickass climbing yielded better results than this 13.1 (13.4 if we want to be specific, and we do!) mile race which caused me to reach the pinnacle of my physical limits within a couple hours.

Miles: 13.41
Vertical: 2141'
Time: 2:55.01

But I loved being out there; back on the trails, back racing.  And I'm glad I did it, even though I wanted to lay down and die at mile 9.  I always say no experience in life is without value!  No setback means anything about your character as long as you don't accept it as your destiny.  I came home from that race feeling a lot more energized and some much needed motivation about getting my hiney back out there running, especially when those dark, sad days where the strength to crawl out of my flannel sheets to get a drink of  water takes all my willpower hit me.

It seems as if human nature dictates that we make necessary improvements primarily in the wake (up) of loss.  At least it does for me, and I'm excited to get back out there.  With the trees budding and my daffodils blooming (and my allergies screaming!), the season's changing....perfect time for a season of change for this girl.

173.41 miles
13,839' vertical

Oh, and guys, my race team shirts and jacket arrived the other day....sweet!  Truly honored to be part of Runners Roost Mountain/Ultra race team!

Next up: C.U.R.E 50k (or 20k, depends how I feel :)) on April 19th.   A little ill-trained 51st birthday treat to me! :)

Run strong, my friends!

Friday, January 31, 2014

What's Cookin', 2014

Top of Lookout Mt., January 1st
Hello, 2014.   My blog's just late to the New Year's resolutions and goals bandwagon but that's  par for the course.   Keeping this blog updated in a timely manner thankfully isn't on the list of things to tidy up about myself in 2014 :).

After CIM, I spent December with no sense of structure to my running, and I enjoyed it - probably a little too much, as I ran little and consumed thousands of glistening sugar coated sugar cookies.  My body is weak now, which I am reminded with each and every run I do.  Recovery takes a million gazillion years whenever I push it beyond it's threshold. I'm trying to re-learn the word 'patience' and not beat myself up when I sit here stiff and sore and totally cooked after a measly 13 mile run.   I'm learning adaptation is no longer a month-long process but the body is slowly responding well (mostly) to the training I'm throwing at it.

I have some races on my 2014 calendar, but in all honestly, I can't really say they're 'goals' races but more so accomplishment races - some cool things to do.  I spent many long hours in December glancing at so many races, trying to find some - even ONE - that tugged at me where I could put my heart and soul it like I did Silver Rush last year.  I wrote out lists of races I was drawn to, only to scratch some off, then rewrite them back in the next day .... and the next they were removed again.   The weirdest thing has happened.....I  suddenly feel completely fulfilled racing.  Not burnt, no, but more a sense of culmination where everything just feels complete.  With the exception of possibly doing a 100k and a 100-mile race one day, I feel thoroughly satisfied with what I have accomplished.  It's been quite a collection, which has left me nothing but utmost pride.

That doesn't mean I'm not racing this year.  But oodles of speedy road race days are (mostly) behind me; I've done what I can do there and I'm not going to get faster.  I'm drawn to the trails now, which are kinder to my aging body and where I walk away with a feeling like I've just been on a little mini adventure and being an intrinsic part of nature.  They also challenge me more and leave me with a grander sense of achievement.  I've registered for a grand total of 4 races this year (which I will expand as the year progresses), that will carry me to the middle of June:
The last 3 are wow-o-wow hard for someone like me.  I need to train for those suckers, I know this. And I will.  And I am.  But I'm discovering after pretty much killing myself training last year that I am tired of, well, killing myself.  And missing some of the joy of running.  I believe I can still do these beastly races and not train AS HARD as I did for Silver Rush, which I'm sure will thus mean my finish time will be much slower.  And I am completely OKAY with that. 

I'm allowing myself to be at peace with whatever these races throw at me and if I have to drop to a lesser distance, well okay.  I have so much on my plate right now and life isn't as comfy and cozy as it was last spring training for Silver Rush; I don't have the freedom nor the luxury to arrange work around training, and Mother Nature isn't  exactly being kind this winter and allowing me on the trails when I do have some free time.  After a particularly rough start to this week, my daughter taped this cheesy quote on my steering wheel; I think it fits my life perfectly right now.

I'm going to loosely follow a 50 mile race on 50 miles with 5000' a week plan (already failed that in January.  Go me).  Give or take some miles.  Or feet.  That's mostly just to give me some markers for my long runs and a minimums for my mileage and climbing.  I'm no longer instilling the use of a coach, but I do have someone who has offered to give me some weekly guidance and insights to my training - and I am so grateful to have him there for me!  He's an incredible vertical trail runner and knows WAY more than I do (he needs to start kicking my ass a bit more, though! :)). And, of course, I have some annoying amazing friends whom I'm sure will keep me in line when my whining becomes too extreme, or severe doubts set in (like now, because January hasn't been too kind with it's weather unlike last year).   Racing is still important to me; it allows me to be around a community I still desperately need, and a means to keep me motivated to keep myself fit. 

I'm excited to start the new year off with some new adventures I've never done before. 

Here we go, 2014!

A few January highlights:
New Year's Day, a group of us went up Lookout Mt.  in Golden.  Lookout Mt. is a road that is about a 1300' climb in 4.5 miles and is very popular with road cyclists (Buffalo Bill's gravesite sits at the top).  It was an eerie morning socked in a cloud, a rare treat for us Coloradoans.  I actually managed to run a great deal of this road, even if I came in dead last (I'm sure I'll be in therapy for months recovering from the humility!).

Chick power!
A few days later, a large group from the track team went up the Manitou Incline.  "The Incline" (as we locals like to call it) is a trail that is the remains of a once railway to bring supplies to the top of Pikes Peak.  It's about 2000' in about 9/10 of a mile with some sections reaching a 68% grade.  Guys, that's like entering the jaws of death steep.  I was stoked I wasn't dead last like up Lookout and more so, that my time up (47:20) is the 2nd fastest I've done up this tower of  vertical pain.

Speeding up the trail in my Ferrari-esque 50 min/mile pace

Coming back down on Barr Trail with the summit of Pikes Peak as our backdrop
I FINALLY meet a blog friend - live - for a run together in hurricane-esque winds up Green Mt.  Sandra was instrumental with her guidance and knowledge getting me to Silver Rush; I bet we shared hundreds of emails before the actual event, without ever having actually met.  Even in 5000 mph winds and sloth place, we had a great time with some good vertical (I just wish I could have heard half our conversation) and were blessed with the most spectacular sunset.

Two weeks ago, Brendan and I, along with a group of crazy 14er climbers, scaled Mt. Quandary (14,265').  I'm not a fan of cold, so I stressed about what to wear for a week and ended up wearing most of Ryan's stuff - but it sufficed.  The snow was deep below tree-line and beings I forgot snowshoes in my overly obsessive state of what to bring, we did a lot of post-holing (falling into the snow, waist deep).

But the day couldn't have been more perfect as we made our way to the summit.....

Yep, that's me!
It was slow-going after clawing our way out of the snow so often, but once we got above tree-line, the snow wasn't as taxing, it was just the altitude and the OMGI'mSoOutOfShape that slowed me to a crawl.  Once at the top, we were rewarded with Mother Nature's party.

Brendan in green jacket, me red.  Friends in the boring colors.
I have been up Quandary a few times now (this was my first winter 14er, though) and every time on this same edge, I always see two mountain goats.  Not sure if they are the same guys each year, but regardless, they are incredible creatures to see in their natural backdrop.  I'm always in awe! 

Almost 8 hours later, and exhaustion and achiness beyond compare, we made it down.  Days later, I couldn't move a muscle without wincing, but it was a wonderful day spent with this kid of mine - so grateful for the opportunity as I know these moments will be gone soon.  LOVED THIS DAY!

January miles: 167.53

January Vertical: 17,403'
Swim: 3 miles
Weights: 4x
14ers scaled: 1

Run strong, my friends (I'm heeding this advise myself for February :)).