Friday, May 31, 2013

Sage Burner 25K

Last Monday I competed in my first 25K and my first trail run!

I say competed, but my main goal was simply to finish. Normally I would've liked to have had a little more time to prepare for something of this length and difficulty, but it was kind of a last minute decision. As I mentioned a few posts ago, I'm contemplating my sanity...that is contemplating doing the Imogene Pass Run on September 7th. What does that have to do with Mondays race you may ask? Well, I wanted to get more of a feel for trail running, running at higher elevations, and running for longer distances, so I signed up for the Sage Burner semi-last minute (I believe it was about 2 week out). 

Now as a few runners from the area have told me, the Sage Burner is really nothing like Imogene Pass Run (IPR). This being the fact that Sage Burner is up, down, up down, etc., whereas the IPR is a constant uphill for the first 10 miles followed by constant downhill for the last 7 miles. However, despite their differences, I still think it was really beneficial to me, and I'm very glad I did it! For starters, it helped to see, in-person that trail running is really more about "power-hiking" the steep uphill sections and running the flats and downhills. Other trail runners had told me this, but it helped to be in the race setting and actually see it happening! I also enjoyed how the miles seemed to go by more quickly. I think it was the change of elevation and scenery. It's a lot different than just staring at the same road for miles on end. I was truly enjoying the whole experience! Last, this run truly tested my endurance level! I had ran up to 15 miles prior to this race, but only on a road. 15 road-ran miles takes me about 2 1/2 hours. This run (which is 25K, or 15.5 miles - although my garmin measured it at over 16 miles) took me 3 1/2 hours. That's a lot of time to be constantly moving. I know I've hiked for longer than that, but that usually involved breaks and lots of snacks. Now don't get me wrong, this course had aid stations with food, but when the clock is ticking I don't want to stop and rest. I'll get into a bit more detail later, but I just wanted to make the point that trail running is definitely more about endurance, and this race was a great way to get a little taste of that!

So, without further ado, below are my stats and an account of the race:

Distance: 25K/15.5 Miles (my Garmin clocked it at 16.8 miles, and another runner I know clocked it at 6.4 - so who knows - it was long though! Also, my avg. pace, elevation and split times are all based off of my Garmin)
Time: 3:27:53
Average Pace: 12:21 minutes/mile
Elevation Gain: 2,087 feet
Elevation Loss: 2,103 feet
Overall Rank: 62 out of 77
Gender Rank: 26 out of 35
Age Division Rank (Females 21-30): 6 out of 6 (not going to lie, I was a little bummed about being last!)
Bib Number: 63
Splits: 15:37, 12:53, 12:34, 13:17, 11:30, 9:24, 10:32, 12:11, 10:48, 12:36, 10:57, 13:53, 13:05, 11:42, 14:29, 13:30 (+8:57 for the last .8 miles)

The steepest hill was definitely the first, and as you can probably see from my split times, I walked most of it. It felt funny to walk at the very beginning of the race, but most everyone else was and it was still congested at that point anyways. I did jog a bit right when the gun went off, and then a few more times when it flattened out a little. After that first tough one, the course became more "rolling", as in small uphill sections followed by small downhill sections. Miles two and three passed by pretty quickly. Around mile three I was starting to get pretty hot in my jacket (it was approx. 35 degrees at the start), so I kept hoping for an aid station so I could drop it (they offered to bring clothing back to the start - so nice - a lot of races don't do that). The aid station finally came around mile 4, which was also about the time that the race really leveled out. Miles 5 and 6 were amazing! I felt like I could've ran forever. They were almost all just slightly downhill. Mile 6 gave me my one and only sub-10 minute mile for the course which was awesome! This was actually the point where I literally couldn't believe I was already 6 miles in! I felt awesome, I felt like I could run forever.

Well that feeling was fairly short lived, although it did last mostly through mile 7. There was an aid station shortly after mile 7 where I enjoyed some chocolate (yum! and no problems with it- I'll have to remember this for training runs, who needs expensive not-so-tasty gels, when you can just bring some peanut M&M's along with you!) and water and then went on my way. Unfortunately mile 7 marked the  the last of the gently sloping, constant downhill for the race.

Starting at mile 8, it was back to lots of uphill with a bit of downhill sections. Surprisingly I ended up passing quite a few people over the next few miles which was nice. Overall I was feeling pretty good at this point considering. The final aid station came at around mile 11, which was perfect because I had just eaten a terrible flavor of Clif Shot Block (black cherry - not buying that one again). I had some more chocolate and was on my way again. However, this last aid station kind of marked my energy threshold. The last 4-5 miles were TOUGH! I'm surprised my mileage times weren't slower. There was a lot of uphill and a lot of walking on my part. I was definitely getting burned out. But, I knew I had to finish one way or another, so I kept going despite my slowness!

Probably about 1 mile, maybe a little more, from the finish line we reached the top of a ridge line which was really neat! It overlooked Gunnison and was really pretty. The best part about it, was knowing that we didn't have too much uphill left! After this it was mostly all downhill to the end. There were a few really steep sections, which were good for me to "face my fears" so to speak. For some reason I always tend to get a little freaked out at going downhill on steep trails, especially if they have loose rock. But I did it! Finally, 16 or so miles later, I crossed the finish line! It felt good to not only set a new distance record, but to know I had set it doing a whole different kind of running! 

Map of the course - it's kind of crazy to compare the route to the size of Gunnison!
Elevation Profile
Pretty views at the start of the race (looking away from the course).
The first hill!
We had beautiful weather!
Views looking over the ridge line towards the end.
The trail! This end part was tough because I kept seeing people ahead and thinking I could catch up - but because of all the switchbacks, they were a lot farther ahead that me.
Trail along the ridge line.
Action shot.
My dog was waiting for me at the finish line!
Family Photo!
The results weren't posted online until the next day, and as I briefly mentioned above, I was a little disappointed when I found out how close to last I was. I guess I've been blessed to almost always be in the top half of races, so this was just a slight blow to my ego. However, I know trail running really is a whole different animal from road running and it'll take some adjusting! The fact that I had fun and pushed myself to new limits is what matters most!

Now, about Imogene Pass Run...registration is tomorrow, so you'll have to wait and see what I decide to do (because I still can't decide myself, gulp!).

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Black Canyon Ascent

I first heard about the Black Canyon Ascent in April 2012. At the time I wasn't running, well atleast not consistantly and not anything over, maybe a mile? I thought, that might be fun to walk (and there are actually a lot of walkers - at least half of the people who do it). Well of course, I didn't follow through and walk it last year, but I had it in the back of my mind - what it was and when it was.

So when I got serious about running, I knew I had to do it. I'll be honest - it didn't sound fun AT ALL, but it seemed like a really good workout and a great challenge for me. Plus, lets face it, Montrose doesn't have very many "local" races. This is the first race I've done in Montrose, and it was quite nice to not have to wake up 4 hours before the race, or stress out about trying to find a hotel nearby etc.

To the many that ask - no, you're not running from the bottom of the Canyon to the top. That would be pretty epic - but getting to the bottom of the canyon takes some serious climbing - especially the part of the canyon where the park is (after all the Black Canyon is one of the deepest canyons for it's width - at only 40 feet across in parts). If you want to go into the Canyon (and are a regular, non-climbing folk like me), the best way to do it is further north, in the Gunnison Gorge Conservation area. Part of this area with some nice hiking trails is called the "red rock canyon" - that you have to win a lottery to get permission to enter (I believe because it's partially on privately owned land - luckily, Scott and I won a spot in the lottery for this year, and will be hiking it during late July)! But, back to my point - the race starts at the corner of Highway 50 and Highway 347 - kind of as your heading out of Montrose and towards Gunnison. It's the same road that you would drive up to get into the South side of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. It follows Hwy 347 into the park and ends at the Ampitheatre within the park. So it's not a trail race - it's on paved roads and while it does have some gorgeous views of the San Juan Mountains, you don't actually even see the canyon until the end.

Now, despite the fact that you aren't running in the canyon, there is still some serious elevation gain! I haven't found an official elevation amount anywhere, but it's between 1700 and 2000 feet. When I ran the course in training 2 weeks ago, it came in at 1918 ft, however, when I ran it on race day, it was only 1798 ft - so I'm not sure what exactly it is - but needless to say it's a lot! As you can see from the image below, it doesn't let up AT ALL! Theres a tiny section about a mile and a half in where the grade drops a little (probably to around 1-2%), which makes for a nice recovery, but after that you're back to a steady climb until the end. I was talking to a another runner who said it's an average of a 6% grade the entire way! So before you go judging my pace, keep that in mind!

Distance: 6 Miles (my Garmin clocked it at 6.13)
Gun Time: 1:09:32
Chip Time: 1:09:27
Average Pace: 11:35 minute/mile
Overall Rank: 37 out of 163
Gender Rank: 14 out of 113
Age Division Rank (Females 20-29): 5 out of 22
Bib Number: 1204
Splits: 11:38, 11:20, 12:02, 12:00, 11:45, 10:02

Overall I felt like the race went really well. When I ran it during training, I was running at 12-13 minute miles, so to average at 11:35 was awesome for me! And even better, was that I got faster towards the end! According my Garmin, mile 5 is the steepest, and I ran it faster than miles 3 & 4! I actually started passing people during that 5th mile, and then really passing people in the last mile. It felt pretty great!

Here's the elevation profile and a picture of me afterwards:


Friday, May 10, 2013

Monuments, Marathons, and who am I?

Is it really already mid-May? I swear time gets faster as I get older!

Several things have happened since my last post. I left off right after finishing my very first Half-Marathon...and I am now officially signed up to run a FULL marathon in January! That is 26 point freaking 2 miles that I will be running in none other than the most magical place on earth - yep, you guessed it - Disney World!

Many people keep asking me, "Why, Disney World?" - especially since we don't have any kids yet. Well the reason is this - for starters, Disney World, in my opinion, will be way less stressful and much more relaxing without kids, and more importantly, I wanted to make a big deal out of this. I mean a year ago, I wouldn't have thought running a marathon was anything I would EVER do, and now I'm actually looking forward to it! I'm honestly wishing it wasn't so far away (9 whole months!). So to celebrate what a transformation I've made in the past year, I wanted to make this extra special. So, hubby and I will be spending a little over a week (Yes, I said OVER a week - I haven't taken that long of a vacation since who knows when, and never with Scott yet). Needless to say, I am very excited. We're officially registered for the race and our plane tickets have been purchased (courtesy of my Dad's frequent flyer miles as an early Birthday gift - thank you!). All that's left now is booking a hotel and purchasing park tickets!

Meanwhile, I wanted to take a moment and reflect on that so called "transformation" I touched on in the last paragraph. I keep having moments where I literally stop and think, "who am I?" I honestly feel like I have changed SO much in the past year. I went from this overweight (technically it's been 2.5 years since I was overweight, but you get the idea), lazy couch potato, to someone who runs 25-40 miles per week! And I actually ENJOY it! It's so hard to explain, but it literally has changed my life. I love the feeling of running distances I've never ran before and pushing myself to limits I never used to think were possible. I've said this before to most people, but I used to *think* I hated running, but the truth is, I just never gave it a chance, which is why I beg you to forgive me if I keep mentioning how wonderful it is and how you should try it. I just can't help it, I'm in love! I've never considered myself athletic by any means, which is why this is all so new to me and why I still surprise myself!

Speaking of surprising myself, I am actually considering signing up for the Imogene Pass Run on September 7, 2013. This is a 17.1 mile run that goes from Ouray to Telluride by way of 13,114' Imogene Pass. Starting elevation in Ouray is 7,810 feet, and ending elevation in Telluride is 8,750 feet! Needless to say, it's pretty intense! I had heard about it a few months ago, but wasn't really considering it until chatting with a fellow runner at a Saturday morning group run a few weeks ago. He's done it a few years in a row now and said that the local running club puts on training runs throughout the summer to help you prepare. So that's what got me thinking about it. I've got to decide by June 1, when registration opens, because it sells out within hours!

In addition to the Imogene Pass Run and my Marathon, I'm hoping to do several more races this year. I honestly wish I could race more often, but the cost just really adds up (many being $60+ per race)! I just love being in that race setting, I feel like I push myself more than I do in training runs.

Here's what my racing schedule looks like for the remainder of this year:
(The "hopefully" means I haven't officially registered yet)

May 18th - Black Canyon Ascent 6 Mile Run (~2000 feet elevation gain)
May 27th (Hopefully) - Sage Burner 25K Trail Run (I'm thinking this will be a great trial to see if I really do want to do Imogene - it's long at about 15.5 miles, but not nearly as much elevation gain)
July 13th (Hopefully) - Komen For the Cure Aspen 10K (this one I really want to do for sentimental reasons - if I hadn't signed up for last years 5K, I honestly don't know if I would be running today!)
August 10th - Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon (with the hubby!)
September 7th (Hopefully) - Imogene Pass Run 17.1 Mile Run
October 13th (Hopefully) - Black Canyon North Rim 20K (did the 8K last year)
January 12, 2014 - Walt Disney World Marathon (also with the hubby!)

For now, my training isn't too structured, other than going to a Speedwork group on Wednesday nights (this has been an awesome addition to my training and I'm so glad that I'm starting to meet fellow runners in both Delta and Montrose!), and group runs on Tuesdays and sometimes Saturdays (if it doesn't conflict with my long runs). Once my marathon date gets closer though, I'm going to have to do some research to find a good, professional, structured training plan.

Well - I honestly was not expecting to go into that much detail about running, but there it was! And I didn't even touch on the 5K I did in Westminster on April 6th - it was my first timed 5K since my first ever 5K (Komen Aspen last year). I beat my time by over 10 minutes and was the first place female finisher (although it was a small race, only 30ish women ran it, but it was very exciting nonetheless)! Here are a few photo's:

Myself, Amy, and Chere after the race!

With my "major award" for being the first place female.
Amy was the 4th place female!

Last, onto a "non-running" note (finally) - Scott and I went our first hike of the season last Sunday! We went and hiked the Colorado National Monument. Here are the stats, a brief description, and some pictures:

Trail: Lower Monument Canyon Trail to Rim Rock Drive
Date: Sunday, May 4, 2013
Location: Grand Junction, Colorado
Round Trip Distance: 12 Miles
Net Elevation Gain: 1,440 Feet

Overall this was a great hike to kick of the season with. It was long, but not too challenging elevation wise. There were definitely a few areas with a good climb, but overall considering the length, nothing too bad. My feet were getting tired by the end, but physically I wasn't too tired at all. I guess all of the running has been helping!

We started at around 6:00am, caught a little bit of a sunrise, and were able to enjoy mostly cool temperatures for the first few hours. With the exception of one lonesome hiker, we had the trail to ourselves until about 5 1/2 miles in. After that, we would pass hikers every so often, although not as many as I expected considering the close proximity to Grand Junction. It was a beautiful hike though, quite similar to Moab. I'm honestly itching to do a Mountain hike above treeline, but the mountains have just been getting dumped on with snow, so I'm not sure how soon that will be!

Here are a few more pictures from the day:

Flattop Mountain & Hallett Peak

I've been wanting to hike to the top of Hallett Peak ever since I found out it was the gorgeous mountain towering above Dream and Emera...