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 :)).

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013: What a (Helluva) Year

Scrap metal at it's finest!
I hang my medals on my closet doorknob until the last day of the year.  I then take each one, remember the day,
then put them in a large Ziplock and away in a box and start over.  Repeat each year.  The Mt. Evans rock (bottom center) and the age group mining pan win from Leadville - those will hang on my dresser mirror (along with my Boston medals).
If there is one thing I learned about myself in 2013 it's that I can do a shitload of really, really hard stuff...and, believe it or not, I'm not going to die. 

I know that sounds like I'm being a little melodramatic, and to a small extent I am, but up until I ran Leadville Silver Rush 50 in July and then 5 weeks later the Pikes Peak Marathon - two races that have been high on my list of races to run - I pretty much thought those types of things were for die-hard ultra trail-y types of people. I'm just a normal person, I can't do stuff like that.  Good Lord, it took me 4 registrations of the Pikes Peak Marathon over the course of 20 years (how many dollars lost?) before I actually had the courage to do this race this year.

Fear.  It constrained me for decades.  Tethered me to my past.  Forced me inside my comfort zone and at times, stopped me dead in my tracks and render me useless.

I think a lot of folks believe I ran the Leadville 50 because I turned 50.  A mile for each year - how cool is that?  While this is pretty cool, and does have a nice ring to it, it wasn't the true underlying reason.  I guess there could be plenty of smaller whys, but in my heart, I just felt it was time I just faced down my fears of the unknown and tackled these races that I have always admired from afar, but could never bring myself to do.  I spent 2012 trying to reestablish myself as a runner after the foot from hell fiasco and I just couldn't find the love that I knew was buried inside.  I ran a couple marathons - and felt no connection to them.  I raced several half marathons and none of them were even close to my abilities.  I threw in several other races because, well, just because.  I didn't really care about any of them, I had no attachment, and thus the training for them was non-existent...I just didn't love running much anymore and I wondered if my days of racing were completely over.  Was this all there was for me?  Just endless sucky road races where I got exponentially slower each year I grow older?  Gah, it wasn't even fun anymore.  I needed a change of scenery.  Literally.

I needed Leadville!!!!!

Since the day I registered for the Leadville Silver Rush 50-miler in late February (and a couple months before), I had one focus for 2013 and one focus only: train for the damn thing.  I can’t remember a day I slept past 5:30 AM.  I was typically in bed by 9:00 or 9:30 and up at 4:00 to drive countless hours to squeeze in 5-6 hours of running on trails that I had no idea where they lead.  

While I certainly trained hard for my road marathons in the past (some of them, anyway), I don’t know that the same level of drive was there as when I trained for Leadville, and I know the amount of time spent didn't even come close to the same.  Leadville was a huge unknown to me - a world I knew very little about.  I was a road and track junkie for 37 years.  Trails?  How does klutzoid me run on dirt and rock without falling (I learned you don't :))?   How do I run 50 miles - all at one time - when my longest run has ever only been 26.2 (Okay, 27 if you count Carlsbad Marathon when I made a wrong turn with the half marathoners and had to go back)?  I get lost on a 400m track, how the heck I am to navigate my weary body around on a 3' wide patch of dirt when race course markers are only positioned maybe every mile?  And the clincher...what if I can't finish what I start?  Egads!  The old adage of biting off more than I can chew really matters to me.

I hired an ultra coach (well, coaches - plural - if I'm truthful).  I spent countless hours in my car driving to the trails so I could get my weak climbing ass stronger.  I registered for countless races to use as training.  I spent days away from home at my aunt's condo in Breckenridge, a town nestled high in the Rockies, where I could get plenty of less oxygen into my lungs.  I got lost on trails in Leadville and had a complete tear-ridden melt-down when I got turned around and had no clue how to get back to my car.  Six weeks later, I fell hard on some other trails in Leadville and pulled a rib muscle; I was by myself and laid flat on the ground for a solid 15 minutes because it hurt so much to breathe when I moved.  It took me 2 hours to walk 2 miles, via a shortcut I prayed endlessly would lead me to my car (miraculously, it did).

Add in real-life stuff like work and just trying in general to not become some dirty, stinky-ass, half-stranger to your family, and some weeks became quite the juggling act.  I’d like to think I made it through without putting running first but more often than not, in reality, training for an ultra is a fairly selfish act.  If I was going to do it right (as in, if I was going to train at a level that would actually prepare me for the race), then I was going to have to make some sacrifices in other parts of my life. Truly, the running part of training for a 50 mile race is easy (and really fun).  It’s the logistics of putting in the time that’s hard.  All that mattered was the next step, the next stride to Leadville and my kids were left without me a lot.  Lucky for me, I have an understanding and supportive family who have always known how much running means to me….I think when they were little they assumed that the amount of running that their parents do is par for the course for ALL parents.  But my kids believed in me, in my quest, and I all I can do is hope that they take something deeper away from what it is I do out there when their own lives hit a snafu.

Anyway.... in the end, when I stood on the start line of Leadville, I felt an enormous sense of tranquility that I'd never experienced in a race before.  My work was done.  My fears were gone.  Yes, I CAN do the things these uber ultra trail-y runners do.  And I DIDN'T die!  I was now one of them.  

And I loved every second of it.

I guess it's the catch-22 of being a grown-up, simultaneously wanting certain things but being scared to death of them at the same time.  We have to own those fears and realize that until we are brave enough to acknowledge the desire, and fight like mad to get it, we will never ever have the opportunity to see it blossom in our lives.

I know it's just running, just a mere hobby.  I'm not a paid athlete nor heading to the Olympics.  I know that Leadville mining pan age group trophy in my bedroom and my name in Colorado Magazine's "Fastest Runners of the Year" aren't the most important things in the world, but they are tangible reminders of those hours, and the miles, I spent on those trails.  They remind me that yes, yes I can do these really hard ultra trail-y god, dreams really can come true. 

2013: it was a helluva year; the memories will forever be stored in my heart!  I know I won't be racing as much this year as I did in 2013 due to financial and logistical matters, and simply because I just want to spend more time with my kids before they venture out into the big ole world, but I do know that whatever I do in 2014, it's going to be pretty dang scary!  I can't wait.

2013 Numbers:
Mileage: 2103.22 miles 
Vertical: 144,038'
Races: 23 (two of those were pacing my friend, Katie)
     50-miler:  1 (Leadville, duh)
     50k:  2 (my first time at this distance)
     Marathons: 3 (two trail, one being Pikes Peak Marathon - got that monkey off my back)
     33k:  1 (trail)
     25k:  1 (trail)
     14.5 miler: 1 (Mt. Evans Ascent)
     Half Marathon:  7 (2 trail, the rest road)
     7k:  1
     4-miler:  1
     5k:  3
     Half Ironman Triathlon:  1
     Sprint Triathlon: 1
Race mileage: 391.95 miles (running, not included are the bike and swim from tris)
Race vertical: 42,931'

14-ers climbed: 9 (raced two: Mt. Evan and Pikes Peak) first flipagram.  I had a blast making it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I loved digging through all my memories making it (don't worry, it's only 30 seconds)...

Happy New Year, my friends.  As always, it has been a pleasure sharing the miles with you!