Monday, December 31, 2012

2012's Running Top Ten, err Fourteen

First things first: 2012 numbers:
25 (yes, that's right - 25)
Total raced miles: 279.15
Marathon - 2
Half Marathon - 11
5 Miler - 1
7K - 1
5k - 6
Leadville Heavy Half - 1 (15.7 miles)
Mt. Evans Ascent - 1 (14.5 miles)
Sprint Triathlon - 1
Attempted, yet failed, 50k (24.5 miles)
(notice I didn't run any 10ks.  There's a reason for that :)).

Miles (rounding to nearest mile, so you don't think I'm obsessive compulsive or anything):
Running: 1820
Biking: 569
Swimming: 49

I'm not going to rehash each and every race or run, but I did want to touch on a few highlights in a year what I consider a big pile of garbage miles.  Most of you won't agree with this self-imposed assessment of mine, but I know my abilities and I'll call it what it is - yet the year was sprinkled with some memorable moments here and there, so here we go .....

1. Carlsbad Marathon, January 22nd
This was my first marathon in two years due to the whole foot fiasco I endured from from 2010 - 2011.  When I finally got that nightmare fixed and started back running, I thought Carlsbad would be an ideal fit into the time frame I had to work with and I could run a great race.  Not so much.  My personal life had a different plan and I never got my act together to train for Carlsbad properly.  So I went into the race with high hopes of just having fun on the course, spending some great quality time with friends, and the race being a starting point to turn my running around.  2 out of 3 isn't bad, I guess!  I never got my crap together all year and turned my running around, but I had a blast of a weekend!  It was my first 'ultra' of sorts when I missed a turn and ended up running an extra mile :), running along the ocean was so beautiful and I got to hang out with some amazing running friends.
Meg, Irene, me, Tara, Marcia, Mary
Slurpees on the beach post marathon with great friends = heaven!
My favorite medal of all this year!
2. Boulder Running Company Race Team
I never would believe someone like me could be part of a race team, but when a friend told me a local running store was looking for runners of every ability to be part of their racing team, I instantly applied and never thought I would hear from them again.  I can apparently BS a pretty mean resume if I want and somehow I miraculously was selected.
A few of the 30 race teammates I ran with
(still waiting for the return of my favorite blue jacket...anyone??!!)
Running 25 races is crazy insane (no one ever said I was sane, especially me) and this number is a racing PR, even for a raceaholic like me, but I never could have done this many without the team supporting a vast majority of them.  The team was a wild mix of every ability out there from professional runners/triathletes to the newbie just starting up, and I loved each and every one of their stories.  That said, as crazy as this may sound, I did not sign up to be part of the team next year.  The reason has nothing to do with the team; it's more personal and what my goals are for next year (more next post, maybe :)).

3.  Hawkeye 50k (the 50k that wasn't), March 17th
For a race that was my first DNF (ever!!), it will definitely go down as one of the most memorable races, and not because I didn't get to finish.  Going back home to my Iowa roots and race my first ultra meant more to me than any ultra I could do here in Colorado.  A friend I went to high school with puts on this race and the timing fit well into my calendar so home I went. I got to hang out with some dear high school friends who I still have a very close bond to....

Look, Meg - you made the blog again :)!
And my friend, Tom, came from Nebraska to run the entire race with me, despite the fact he could have finished a good couple hours faster. THAT'S a good friend!  Tom and I had some great conversations along those trails in Iowa City, but it was hotter than hell for mid-March and the humidity was equally oppressive.  By the time Tom and I hit mile 24.5, an angry park ranger called the race and that was that, it was done.  Bummed about that for sure, but I'll make it back one day to finish it - I have no doubt!
Lake McBride.  The calm before the storm.
3. Pi Mile 5k, April 22nd
This was my worst 5k of the year.  Per usual Jill 5k race tactics (really, any Jill race tactics - ha), I started out super fast and died the last mile.  But what science geek doesn't what a pi race shirt and this shirt wins best shirt of the year....
Later, after the race, I ran some great trail miles at White Mountain Ranch with my old running partner, Dennis.  It's been a really, really long time since I've enjoyed the company of Dennis and his speedy legs, so it was a great day for the soul, despite the worst 5k I've run - ever - earlier that day.
White Mountain Ranch
4. Colorado Half Marathon, May 5th
This was, by far, the only half marathon I ran this year were I was actually happy with my time.  I raced smart and finished strong and far exceeded my expectations.  The course is gorgeous....

And I got to hang out with my favorite girl for the weekend in Ft. Collins.  Fun, fun weekend!

5. Women's Classic 5k. May 13th
From worst 5k ever at the Pi Mile to my best 5k for the year in the course of 3 weeks - and somehow managed to break 24 minutes in the race AND place 5th overall.  Best yet, I won a cake!  Can it get any sweeter than that? :)

6. Mt. Evans Ascent, June 16th
I love, love, love this race.  It's 14.5 miles with an elevation gain of 4000' to 14,130'- all on a road (America's highest road race!).  Because I'm a sucky hill climber, this race always is a big challenge for me on a good day and, well, an even tougher challenge when I'm out of shape (the sanity issue into play here - again!).  I did exactly ONE training run for the race with a few friends the weekend before the actual race.  I thought I was going to die!!  Seriously coughed and wheezed the entire time up and pretty much thought I'd bail on the race the following week.

But I didn't bail, and I finished far better than I thought I would, even though it was my worst finish time of all years I've raced it prior.  The scenery along the way sort of helps you momentarily forget the pain and that you can't breathe...

And seeing Kathy at the last aid station really lifted my spirits and I finished feeling pretty damn good!

A massive storm rolled in just as I finished the race.  I will forever remember the ride down the mountain in the backseat of two Indian tourists sedan - on wet and icy roads conditions.  Runners were still coming up; cyclist going up and down; cars going both ways; a helicopter landing the road while looking for a fallen climber...all on a road barely wide enough for one car in certain spots.  The Indians were beside themselves with all the melee and asked me if this was "normal."  I closed my eyes the whole way down and prayed for my life.  At the bottom, I jumped out of the car, thanked the Indians repeatedly, and celebrated the fact I was alive with a beer and a cupcake.

7. Leadville Heavy Half, June 30th
This race has been on my bucket list for years.  Not that I have a real list or anything but it's something that I've drooled over ever for a long time - because it's totally badass tough.  It is all run at 10,000' and above, topping out at Mosquito Pass at 13,186' with a total elevation gain (and loss) of 3033'.  It's a little intimidating for someone like me, to say the least.

But I signed up for it in February, when registration was cheapest, in hopes I'd actually get to train for it.  I knew I had 8 hours to finish it so I wasn't too worried about the cutoff time, but my training was crap (by now you're noticing the theme for the year: race, but don't train!!) and I went into Leadville feeling pretty freaked.

This race pic makes me laugh every time I look at it! 
Though the course is badass, I wasn't.  I wasn't prepared for how demoralizing a 19% incline at almost 13,000' would be, and somewhere going up Mosquito Pass I developed this intercostal rib pain whenever I'd take a breath in; my rib felt like it was going to explode.  Somehow I got to the top, spent about a half minute up there looking around at the amazingly gorgeous Colorado day, and then stumbled back down.  And stumbled I did because I don't know how to run downhill on loose gravel and rock.  But I loved every single second I was out there - even that 34 minute/mile, and nearly falling on my face several times.  Somewhere I found enough in me to run the last 3 downhill miles at a pace in the 8s on super dead legs.  I was smiling big when I crossed that finish line (and vowed I'd never run it again in such horrible fitness; my rib still hurts whenever I think about that painful mile!).

8. Aquaman Swim Races, July
In an attempt to prep for an upcoming triathlon, I decided to do a series of open water swim races at the reservoir near my house.  I am a swimmer, by nature, but I've never opened water swam before, at least not in a competitive race environment, and I was a nervous wreck about all the kicks and hits to the face and body you repeatedly read about in triathlon race reports.

My first race was in high water chop and freezing water temps, but I popped right in that water, quickly found my groove, and instantly found a new love.

9. Tri for the Cure, August 5th
Ahhh, Tri for the Cure, my first triathlon in 23 years!!  I'm not even sure words can describe the emotions I felt when I crossed that finish line - I was a blubbering mess.  I saw my friend,Tara, cheering me on just as I crossed and then my son, Brendan, waiting for me at the end with a big hug, and yep, tears! I was disappointed in my run time and how miserable I felt running but I had an absolute blast swimming and even cycling...and so incredibly grateful for the amazing experience.  I'm definitely hooked on the triathlon again, a sport I once was so passionate about - 23 years prior.
Audrey, Katie and I post-race.  Their wisdom and support were invaluable to me!
10. Denver Rock and Roll Marathon, Sept 20th
My dear friend, and fellow blogger, Marcia, came into town to run the half marathon and a embark on a little 'Thelma and Louise' adventurous weekend together.  Once again, I was severely under-trained for this race (thanks to that awesome inner ankle sprain and torn ligaments in July) so I just stuck with flatlander Marcia the whole way, who was having some breathing issues running at 6000'.  Never in my life have I had so much fun laughing while bitching and moaning with Marcia about how much fitness we both had lost this year.  Good times for sure!
New mom, Tara, came down to cheer myself and Marcia on
11.  Ryan and coaching 

I love this kid!  He works like hell, especially running with asthma, and never ever misses a practice or has an excuse not to run.  He made it known in the summer he was going to be a top point scorer for the team and he worked hard to be one.  He may not ever have the gift the top runners will have, but I love his tenacity and passion for the sport and love spending time with him at the few races we get to do together. I have enjoyed every single second I spent helping him and the entire cross country team this year and already have symptoms of sadness whenever I think about my coaching gig ending next fall.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  I'm also truly thankful for the few soles I coach on the side; their journey brings me a great deal of joy and I am so happy to be a big part of it.

12. Chicago Marathon, October 5th
And just like that, crossing the finish line in Chicago changed my view with my running and made me realize I can still do -and want - more!!  Before I even got home from Chicago, I emailed the coach I had been briefly talking to beforehand, and signed on to make me a better runner again.  My cup is STILL so full from this race and I smile whenever I think about how magical it was.

I can't thank Marcia (and Mr. Pumpkin) enough for her generous hospitality and enormous support

13. Rock Canyon Half Marathon
Since this race was heavily reported in my last post, I won't spew out a lot of words about this race, other  than to say I'm so grateful that I am re-discovering my passion for running again.  I felt fantastic during this race and I can say with 100% certainty that I felt better finishing this race than I have any of the other 24 I did this entire year; it gives me a great deal of hope of all the possibilities that lie in my future.
Of course I love running with this guy, too!!!
14. NYE Waterton Canyon run
Finally, one must never close a year without a NYE run - and blog about it :).  I had the perfect run today with my friend, Dennis.  I hadn't run with him since April so we chose today to toast the end of the year by running about 12.5 miles up Waterton Canyon, a trail on the SW part of Denver.  A bit frosty out and I nearly froze to death on the way back down when we headed into a strong wind, but I had a blast and I couldn't think of any better run to end the year.

Saw this guy early on

I could sit and write a ton of emotions flowing through me right now as I close the book on the year and embark on what I hope will be a much, much better one.  But I'm trying to keep this sort-ish so will just wrap this up and say thank you so much for sharing the miles with me this year, it means a lot; it's been memorable for sure.

Happy New Year!  Run strong!


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Training, Racing, and Knees

Whoa....words spewing out on the computer from my finger tips - that can only mean one thing: being coached hasn't killed me.  Yet.

Nor have I been fired.  Yet.

I'm off work today and thought it'd be a great opportunity to catch up on all things blog. Never mind that my Christmas tree has been standing tall in my family room naked for two weeks; crap spewed all over my entire downstairs from one twin's Blue Knight's weekend workshop and the other twin's ski trip (envision a bomb explosion of 100 articles of nasty, smelly teenage boys' clothing - ick); nor that I have 15 family members arriving in a few days for Christmas dinner and have no earthly idea what we're eating.  For the one family member who reads my blog, toast and cereal is okay for Christmas dinner, right? Priorities, priorities.

I'm now a couple months into this slow Maffetone training with the coach and you're probably excited yawning and want to know how it's going.  So in typical Jill-esque style, let me ramble on incessantly....

Actually, the coach thing has been going well.  I've tried to contain my questions to a maximum of 200/week but I'm sure I get a lot of behind the screen eye rolls with some of the things I ask :) I know he doesn't have a limit of questions or emails I can send (NOT a fan of coaches who do!), but I can type a meaty paragraph - or 5 - if need be you're shocked, I know! My goal is to grow and expand my knowledge so I know what makes my aging body tick to run well again and if I have to be annoying to do so, then annoying it is.  I'm learning a lot, but I know this isn't particularly easy - on either end.

For such a complete obsessive compulsive data freak who loves graphs and charts and all data pertaining to pace and mileage and anything that has a number associated with progression, it's taking a crap load of willpower to not do anything other than look at my heart rate (HR) and give the coach my PE (perceived exertion) each week.  My data, or lack thereof, is based nowadays on HR, run time, and PE.  I don't know if I'm getting faster, I haven't done any testing to tell nor any work to warrant any speed, but I'm building my endurance and I am starting to get excited about this running thing again.  I can't believe I'm even typing this, but I actually like the MAF training more than I thought, especially since I'm no longer briskly walking to sustain my low HR.  Shhh, don't tell the coach I said that!  Apparently, over time, you get faster at the same HR without even doing any speed work (that will be for later), so I am enjoying just putting in the mileage and not obsessing over my watch - right now that matters most.  I had a fantastic 1/2 marathon a few weeks ago (more below) and the coach thought it was a big stepping block for me, so I'm going to take that as a big positive and keep chipping away with this thing.

I know this may be hard to believe, but I've run 3 races since Chicago a bit over 2 months ago.
Okay, 4 if you count the XL's virtual Jingle Bell from Hell - and hell it was!

First: I ran a 5k in frigid temps in late October with some teammates from the race team I run for (I'm not racing for them next year...more on that in the next post - which I promise will be before April).  Note I have a yellow bib indicating I'm a wuss and only ran the 5k whereas my rockstar teammates all ran the 10k.  The race was miraculously not a PW for the year, but it was pretty damn close.  But more important than a suck-ass finish time, I ran each mile consistently instead of increasing each mile by about 2 minutes, per usual 5k Jill tactics.  Major score there!  And, I somehow managed to place first in my age group gotta love small races!

Second:  I ran another 5k on Thanksgiving.  As a girl who loathes 5ks, I sure seem to have done my share of them this year - for some illogical reasons.  But it just wouldn't seem right not to race a little local turkey trot on Thanksgiving with my favorite running guy, Ryan.  Well, I don't really run "with" him as he's a good 500 yds ahead of me before I even get to the start line - whatever!  But I enjoy every microsecond I get to spend with this kid doing the one thing we both love so much.  And who doesn't need to burn a few hundred calories before inhaling half a pumpkin pie later? This 5k was a tad faster than the one above, which admittedly made me happy, but what I loved most about it was that again, my miles were consistently paced and at the end, when I really wanted to slow down and start crawling you know, like I did every other race all year, I didn't and pushed the last mile hard and finished pretty damn strong.
If anyone happened to have stolen borrowed my favorite blue jacket pictured above,please return asap.
Just leave on my doorstep, no questions asked!
Third: This RR will be lengthy 'cuz I have so much to share -- you've been warned!  Two weekends ago, Ryan and I ran our annual Rock Canyon Trail Half Marathon together again, not together, but you get the drift by now.  "Annual" meaning it is now our 2nd year :).  For the 3 people who still read this boring as hell blog from last year, you may remember this race being a wee-bit on the chilly side (aka: freaking blizzard!).  Here's a few reminders of the glorious conditions in case you forgot (or in the off-chance I have a new reader!):

Road condition from Denver to Pueblo - Driving 2 and a half hours in this
made me truly question my sanity!  But the sanity's questioned pretty much daily!
Race start.  Loving that vertically blown flag.  Nothing like 30 mph
winds to go with 15 degree temps and snow and ice to make race day exciting!
Official race pic of me ice skating.....and cursing
the fact I just cut my bangs.
Fast forward one year....
Road conditions.  Drive time this year 1 hour 20 minutes, including a potty break!
Race Start: all the royal blue shirts are Air Force Academy
track runners.  I'm pretty sure they soaked up the top
30 places!  Note: no one in tights this year!
Official race pic.  Like the painted red smile?  :)
So the coachy guy probably wasn't all too thrilled I was running this race, evident by the fact I was told I had to run the thing at my MAF training heart rate plus a few beats (basically, below 150) for the first 7 miles.  After that, it was game-on and I was free to do whatever the legs had in them provided I kept my HR below 170.  Hahah...okay.  I hadn't run more than 10 miles training, and those were all in the 135-145 HR range, so I had little confidence I could finish this thing running, let alone pick up the pace at mile 7.  But whatevs.  I wasn't here to race, I was here to learn!  So, I tried to keep the HR below 150 for the first 7, and I'm not going to lie and say it was easy to hold back.  Because it wasn't.  At all.  But I did .... and all I can say is that the coach may actually been right on this one :) because these first-miles-slower-than-snot plan actually saved my race!!

I absolutely love this race when it's not run in Arctic temps with blowing horizontal snow; it's mostly run on trails along the Arkansas River on one side and beautiful sandstone cliffs on the other.

Then through a wooded area on single track....

 Then by the dam and reservoir....

You have lots of time to stop and take pictures when your HR needs
to stay in a super low place
Once we circle the reservoir, we head back to the trails we started on to the finish.  My HR was starting to rise to the mid to high 150s opps but I think this was in part due to the headwind I was slightly fighting and not my pace, per se, though really it doesn't matter - extended elevated HR is what kills your race eventually.  I waited until mile 8 to attack the race instead of mile 7 as the coach said, simply because I thought 5 miles of an increased HR was much more manageable than 6.

At mile 8, I stuck my camera/phone in my shorts and off I went.  I quickly saw my HR raising into the mid 160s and I was pretty sure I was going to crash in a couple miles.  But I didn't really care.   My pace was in the mid 8s, and though once upon a time 8s would have been in the pathetic range, I hadn't seen 8s on my watch in what feels like a decade so I was thrilled Oh how far I have declined :(.  BUT, I felt absolutely incredible and I suddenly was overcome with that really warm feeling of just how much I LOVE to run - and race!  It's been a very long time since I've felt that runner's high I used to get so this was pretty damn exciting.  At one point, an elderly guy told me I looked fantastic when I passed him and asked if he could run with me.  He lasted a mile until he fell back :).  I kept my increased pace up and honest to God, I must have passed about 30-40 people - and not one single person passed me.  It didn't  matter what my finish time was at this point, I just felt so amazing to have so much strength left in me; I was entering a place in my head - and my legs - that I haven't felt in ages and THIS is what I have missed so much this year racing!  At mile 12, I started to fatigue slightly; my HR was hovering around 172, a bit above where I was told not to go, but I wasn't going to slow down for this last mile to get it down below 170 - no way.  There is a giant hill in the last quarter mile and I simply walked up it because I knew I'd have more strength to finish stronger than if I ran it...and the couple people that passed me on the hill, well, I just re-passed them once we got to the top and picked off a few others along with them.  I sprinted to the end and I can't even express how utterly emotionally happy I was to finish this race feeling so incredibly strong.  Man it's been a really long time since I could say that.

My overall time wasn't anything impressive, but the fact I executed this race exactly well, almost :) as planned, and came out on the positive side, is way more important right now to me than anything a clock can say.  When I told the coach about my incredible day, I think the man of few words was actually pretty pleased, and this meant a lot to me :).  Definitely dusted off a couple of cobwebs from the thousands covering the confidence section of my brain.

Now on to the Forth, in case you haven't fallen asleep yet: XL from Taking It On, hosted her annual Jingle Bell From Hell virtual race.  Now, I'm not one to usually participate in virtual races - I have enough I've paid for or my team paid for :) right here in my own backyard which have been pretty much hell all year - no need to add any more.   But I like XL; she's funny and there were prizes at stake here - who doesn't want to win some long lost Hostess donuts?  So I was in!  I figured a little 5k in my neighborhood in my slowacious MAF zone is pretty much hell enough so winning this thing would be easy peasy.  But oh no, I can up the hellacious ante a notch by producing a bloody nose at mile 1.5, full of blood clumps and endless dripping Thank you Colorado's incredibly dry winter!  I tried to get it to stop by holding my nose.....I even tried to run some 20" strides, but blood was draining down my throat making me pretty nauseous...and running strides without the use of both arms pumping is a little ineffective, so I ended my 5k at 2.12 miles and figured I have the hell part in the bag.  I hope I won!

Knee and lower leg:
What kind of year would it be without ending with a little, um, problem.  You know, because the torn foot ligaments which hindered me for 3 months and actually still bothers me on some days wouldn't be quite enough.  Monday I went for a "long" run 12 miles in a god-forsaken wind tunnel.  Mid-way, I feel this twinge running down the outside of my lower leg and then my knee becoming really stiff.  Now, I've had problems with this stiff knee in the past; most recently after Chicago when the thing swelled up to the size of a grapefruit.  This time, there is no swelling but it's so incredibly stiff and I can barely bend the thing.  I had planned to go to see my old bud today, Mr. PT-man, but Mother Nature had other plans and decided Denver finally needed some much needed moisture smack in the middle of morning rush hour traffic.  After producing a mile in 35 minutes and no way I was going to make it on time, PT was going to have to wait and thus I still don't have an answer to what's aggravating my outer knee and leg.  I know the stiffness will be gone in a couple days and I can resume running, but I'd really like to know what this thing is. I'm a girl who needs answers!

Well, my tree is calling and there's processed carbohydrates and refined sugar to be baked so it's time for the endless chatter to cease.  Considering it takes me about 3 weeks to write a blog post these days, I'm certain there won't be another post up before Christmas You're welcome! so while I could go on and on (I do plan to do an year-end wrap up post though... 25 races this year needs some sort of formal closure, I know you can't wait), I'll simply close by wishing everyone who has ever touched my life via this blog a very happy holiday.  You mean a lot!  I am truly blessed!!!

With much holiday love,