Monday, September 30, 2013

Glenwood Springs Getaway

This past weekend I met up with Lauren and Chere for a Girl's Weekend in Glenwood Springs. We hung out at the hot springs, went for a hike, and ate too much. All the signs of a good weekend!

I've been wanting to hike to Hanging Lake for over a year now but it's pretty far away from home, so when we decided on Glenwood for our getaway, I asked if they wanted to hike it too...and luckily they agreed! I've heard it's a beautiful hike and it's not very long so it was perfect to squeeze into Saturday afternoon.

Hike: Hanging Lake
Location: Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Date: September 28, 2013
Round Trip Length: Approximately 3 miles (including the paved portion)
Elevation Gain: 1,020 feet

I just loved this "stepping stone" portion of the trail!
Lauren, Chere and I - almost to the top!
Hanging Lake - isn't it gorgeous!?

Overall the hike was definitely worth it! It was extremely beautiful, however, don't expect to have much peace and quiet to enjoy the surroundings. The websites I read were not lying when they said to expect crowds. It was not even peak season and the parking lot was just about full! There were only 1 or 2 parking spots available when we got there at around 2:45pm. But we had fun nevertheless, and I think I annoyed Lauren and Chere just as much as I annoy my husband by spending way too long taking a million photos!

I decided to run the way down (it was fun!), which meant I had a little time to spare waiting for Chere and I jogged an extra mile along the Glenwood Canyon bike trail:

How gorgeous is this? Doesn't it just make you want to go for a run!?
And then I ran under I-70 for a bit...not quite as serene as the above photo.
On Saturday night we went back to the hot springs, slept in on Sunday, and then went to a late breakfast before heading our separate ways home. I decided to take the scenic route along McClure Pass in hopes of seeing some fall foliage:

Mt. Sopris - 12,965'
Fall is seriously the most beautiful time of year!
I decided to go check out the town of Marble, and stopped at this beautiful lake for a quick photo.
The weather was incredible! It was a beautiful 70 degree day!

There was still a bit of green so I'm thinking next weekend will be just perfect (not that this isn't gorgeous).

The south side of McClure Pass had barely started changing colors. It was strange considering how colorful the north side was!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Marathon Training Weeks 1-2

What is that saying - when one doors closes, another opens? Well it happened perfectly with my big races this summer. Just by chance, the Monday after Imogene Pass Run marked exactly 18 weeks out from the Walt Disney World Marathon, which meant marathon training was officially starting!

I honestly can't believe how quickly the past 5 months have gone by since I registered! It seemed so far away and yet here I am starting to "officially" train! I honestly can't wait. I knew I wanted to run my first marathon at Disney, but it's been hard to wait this long. I would've been ready to run a late summer or early fall marathon if there had been one. But overall I am very happy that I waited to do Disney. Had I done an earlier marathon I probably never would've done Imogene Pass Run, and thus never gotten into mountain running. Now I know I can do both road and trail running!

Plus of course, I get to run my first marathon at the most magical place on earth, and get a pretty sweet finishers medal! These were just posted on the RunDisney facebook page today (definitely the fanciest medal I've seen yet):

The official 2014 finisher's medal!
I seriously can't wait to have this around my neck! I might have to wear it around Disney World all week!

I've decided to do the Hal Higdon Intermediate 1 training plan. It's 18 weeks long and consists of running 5 days per week, cross-training 1 day per week, and 1 rest day per week. So far I like it, but it actually starts out with lower mileage than I'm used to. I've been trying to use this as a chance to get more strength training and stretching in. I tried out a "BodyFlow" class at Gold's Gym which I really like. It's a mix between yoga, pilates, and tai chi. I'm hoping to make this a weekly thing, along with Yoga on Thursdays. What I also "want" to do, but can't ever manage to get myself to do is more core work. We'll see how that works (I just can't manage to get myself addicted to core work like I can running - I wonder why?).

So anyways, this is my training schedule (AKA my life) for the next several months:

Weeks 1 and 2 went okay, but with a race the first week and a trip to Denver the second week, it was a little hard to follow the mileage exactly:

Marathon Training Week 1:
Day 1, Monday 9/9
Cross Train
Cross Train (50 minute Spin Class)
Day 2, Tuesday 9/10
3 Miles
3 Mile Interval Treadmill Run + .5 warm up & cool-down
Day 3, Wednesday 9/11
5 Miles
8.11 miles (went to my speedwork group and we did a bit more)
Day 4, Thursday 9/12
3 Miles
3 Mile Interval Treadmill Run
Day 5, Friday 9/13
Day 6, Saturday 9/14
5 Miles
Grand Mesa Bear Chase Half Marathon (13.1 Miles)
Day 7, Sunday 9/15
8 Miles
8 Miles with the hubby
24 Miles
35.7 Miles (quite a bit over)

Marathon Training Week 2:
Day 8, Monday 9/16
Cross Train
Cross Train (50 minute Spin Class)
Day 9, Tuesday 9/17
3 Miles
3 Mile Interval Treadmill Run + .6 cool-down
+ Body Flow class
Day 10, Wednesday 9/18
5 Miles
2 Treadmill Miles + 3 Elliptical Miles (stomach wasn’t feeling very well)
Day 11, Thursday 9/19
3 Miles
3 Mile Interval Treadmill Run + .25 cool-down
Day 12, Friday 9/20
Day 13, Saturday 9/21
5 Miles
Broomfield Days 5K Race (3.1 Miles)
Day 14, Sunday 9/22
9 Miles
2.6 (I blame the weather, although I know I could’ve sucked it up if I wanted to)
25 Miles
14.55 (17.55 if you count the 3 elliptical miles)

2 weeks back into a structured training plan I have found it's more difficult than I thought to get back into the swing of things! I ended up going way over miles week 1, and way under week 2. The Half Marathon was mostly at fault for the extra miles during week 1. For week 2, I drove over to Denver for the weekend which put a damper in my weekend running. I was planning to do my 9 mile run in Denver on Sunday morning, but then I heard the mountains were supposed to get quite a bit of rain, so at the last minute I ended up driving back home early, with the intention to run in the afternoon. Well I started my run, and then it started raining. And it was COLD rain. And for some reason I just wasn't in the mood, so I did something I really don't do that often - I gave up. I did go for a semi-long run (7 miles) the next day to try and make up for it.

So there you have my first 2 weeks of training. It is definitely going to be a process! But I know as fall and winter roll in my weekends are going to free up more which should make getting my miles in easier.

On another note, I have decided that I want to use my marathon and marathon training to benefit a good cause. I will be running in honor of my Grandmother who passed away in August 2011 to Alzheimer's. I have signed up to join the Alzheimer's Association ALZ Stars program to help fund raise. My goal is to raise $1,026.20.

I want to run not just for me, but to benefit others as well! If you would like to donate to the cause, please check out my fundraising page by clicking here! I appreciate any and all support, no matter the amount.

My plan is to update my blog on a fairly regular basis this winter with my marathon training, so feel free to check back every few weeks for updates.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Grand Mesa Bear Chase

On Saturday I ran in the Grand Mesa Bear Chase - a small, local race put on by the Grand Mesa 100 race directors, and a fundraiser for a local boy scout troop. I heard about it back when I helped pace at the Grand Mesa 100, and then decided to sign up when I saw it again advertised in the newspaper. I decided to do it as more of a fun/training event, rather than an actual "race".

The course consists of a loop a little over 4 miles in length atop the Grand Mesa at 10,800 feet. Racers had the choice of doing 4 miles (1 loop), 8 miles (2 loops), or a Half Marathon (3 loops). Since I've been running long distances all summer, I of course, signed up for the Half Marathon. It's not very often that you can find races this distance for an affordable price, so I couldn't really pass it up (it was $35.00 - typically half marathon's are at least $50, if not closer to $100).

As much as I was looking forward to it when I signed up, by the time Friday rolled around I honestly wasn't even in the mood to race. Now this is kind of weird for me because I'm so often wishing I could race more. I think I was feeling worn out from having had such a big race the weekend before. And when I say "worn out", I more mean mentally worn out as opposed to physically. I had just put so much time, thoughts, and emotions into Imogene that the thought of another race just made me tired. Even if I was just doing it for "fun." But because it wasn't until 10 am, I could at least partially sleep in, so I told myself that I still needed to go show up. Once i got started, if I really wasn't feeling it, I could always drop out or switch to a shorter distance. I might as well go, get my t-shirt and scope it out.

So, on Saturday morning I was up at 6:30, got dressed, ate breakfast, and was on my way slightly before 8:00. Only a few minutes into my hour and a half drive and it started pouring down rain. And not to mention the fact that I couldn't even see the Grand Mesa due to clouds.

"Should I turn around?" was all I could think...

I had just worked my butt off all summer for Imogene, I was not in the mood to run 13 miles in the freezing cold rain, on trails that were going to be wet and muddy...I'm supposed to be done with this...

But, I once again told myself that I needed to at least show up. I still had almost 2 hours until the race started. Who knows what the weather will be doing in 2 hours anyways!

So I continued on in the pouring rain. I stopped in Delta to get gas, and by this point, the rain had lightened up a bit. But the Grand Mesa was still covered in clouds. I headed out of Delta, turned onto highway 65 and started the ascent up the Grand Mesa. Into the clouds...

Overall the drive didn't actually end up being too bad. I could see clouds and fog, but I wasn't driving through any of it. As an added bonus, I passed three spots along the road where the trees had begun to change. This made me feel a little better about going. I've been fairly anxious to catch some fall foliage, so at least I was going to get a little of that. It was interesting though how it was just a couple areas that had changed, and then it was back to boring old green trees.

At about 9:20 am I made it to the parking area near the race start. I went and checked in, got my race bib, t-shirt, and goody bag, and then headed back to my car to warm up before the race started. By this point the rain had stopped, but it looked like it could start up again at any point. Oh and did I also mention that it was only 40 degrees out?! Yep...I think I went from summer to winter in a matter of hours.

At 9:45 I got out of my car and headed to the start. I saw Gary and Shannon, a couple I had met while doing a few training runs this summer (IPR training and the GM100 pacing). They were both doing the Half Marathon too, so that was nice to know someone. The race directors briefly described the course, and then we were off!

I started running at a nice steady pace with about 5 or so runners in front of me. In a way it was kind of nice that it was 3 laps because I was able to follow people for the first lap, and then by the second and third lap I, for the most part, knew where I was going. The first lap went pretty quickly. Around mile 3 is where it got really wet. Leading up to this point I was able to maneuver around any big puddles, but not really anymore. The entire area just got swampy. So I just had to go through it. I was submerged to about half way up my calves. It's always hard the first time, but after that it gets easier (although this was the first time I had ever run through water when it was also cold out). By the time I got through all the muddy and wet areas I was almost done with my first lap. I ran back to the starting point, checked in, had some water, and then headed back out for my second lap.

The second lap went the opposite direction (clockwise instead of counterclockwise). On one hand, this was nice because my feet were still wet, so I might as well just get them wet again before they dry. On the other hand, the clockwise direction was a little harder to follow. You wouldn't think it would be difficult to remember since I had just done it from the opposite direction...and yet somehow it was. Around mile 2 I missed a turn. Luckily there is an aid station nearby and they saw me miss it and shouted over at me. I probably should have just backtracked, but instead I decided to cut across a field. This wasn't the greatest idea. The so called "field" was basically another swamp. I was almost knee deep in muddy grass water. Oh well, it was an adventure for sure! Once I got back on track, I was good to go for the remainder of the loop. The rain was still holding out for me, but It had gotten pretty foggy by this point. I actually kind of enjoyed the fog though. I had never ran in fog before. It was very ominous and yet peaceful at the time same time.

I finished my second lap and headed back to the starting line again to check in for the final time, get some more water and a snack, and then I was off for my last lap. This one was counterclockwise again, which I felt more comfortable with, so I was ready to rock this last lap! And then it started raining... I know I'm probably being a wimp, but I'm just not a big fan of running in the rain. Maybe it's the flashbacks to my rainy, freezing night pacing at the Grand Mesa 100, but I just don't enjoy it. Plus there's the fact that I wear glasses and when it rains I can't see anything. So anyways, the rain was a bit of a set back. But I continued on through it. I did my best to keep running. I did walk a couple times, but I would always get myself going again. By this point I was pretty sure I was the first place women for the half marathon (it wasn't a very big race), so I tried to push myself, so that I didn't let anyone pass me. I didn't see anyone close behind me, but I didn't want to lose out on a place just because I was being a slow poke. Because honestly I was feeling pretty good. Other than the rain. So I kept pushing through, kept running. Eventually I got to the swampy area. This meant I didn't have much further to go. I ran right through it. Cold, muddy, wet. And then I kept going. And finally I was just about there! I sped up and crossed the finish line in 2:29 (according to my Garmin; 2:26 according to them). 

Turns out I was third place overall, which meant I got a prize! A cute little bear with a tag stating my place! I was technically also the first place women, but since it was a small race they weren't doing gender ranking. Even though I almost didn't go, I'm really glad I did. Small races like this are not only fun, but they're also a good ego booster! I know running and racing for me isn't about winning, but it's still nice to be able to win something every once in awhile. And even if I hadn't won, I still had a good time, and I am glad I didn't bail out on it. Running in fog was a new experience for me and I really liked it. I could have done without the rain, but at least it didn't show up until the final lap! Other than the mud and water, I actually really liked the course. It was definitely a "trail run", but it was still very run-able. I ran almost the entire thing, which felt good. Because of all the rain that the mesa has been getting, the ground was also nice and soft so I had a lot of fun going fast on the downhill sections.

A few pictures from the race:

Bib and T-Shirt
Before we started. Note the giant mud muddle off to the left...
All finished (with my award)!
"It's a major award!"
Just a little muddy!
Distance: 13.12 Miles
Bib Number: 86
Recorded Time: 2:26
Garmin Time: 2:29:27
Average Pace: 11:24
Overall Rank: 3/6
Gender Rank: 1/3
Minimum Elevation: 10,740 feet
Maximum Elevation: 10,852 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 301 feet
Total Elevation Loss: 224 feet
Garmin Splits: 11:12, 11:32, 11:06, 10:57, 12:06, 10:17, 11:55, 10:51, 12:04, 11:10, 11:39, 11:26, 11:52

On my way home I had to make a couple stops to get a few pictures of the pretty fall leaves. The fog was still looming and it made for some neat photos:

This part of the Mesa hadn't changed colors at all yet.

I only had my iPhone camera with me, but I did my best to capture this beautiful leaf that had already fallen.
I think this is my new favorite picture!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Imogene Pass Run

Well after months of training (and maybe a little obsessing), Imogene Pass Run came and went...

I did okay. 4:22:48.

I wasn't amazed with my time, but at the same time it was my first Imogene Pass Run, and my first real "mountain run." I guess the only thing I'm disappointed in is that I think I ran better on my training run back in July.

I think I've determined I kind of wore myself out this summer. For June and most of July I was really motivated. Running almost every day, a mountain run every Saturday, hiking almost every Sunday, plus hill runs during the week. Then August came around and I just felt burnt out. I'm not really sure what I would do differently next time. I guess cut back a little on the weekends and get more rest? It's tough though because I always have so many goals during the summer...but I know I need to keep this in mind in the future.

Anyways - I'm getting ahead of myself here. Back to Imogene.

For anyone who didn't read my previous posts where I described it, Imogene Pass Run is a 17.1 mile race beginning in Ouray, Colorado (approx. 7800' elevation) and ending in Telluride, Colorado (approx. 8700' elevation), by way of 13,114' Imogene Pass. It takes 10 miles of climbing to reach the pass followed by 7.1 miles of descent. Registration takes place on June 1st and sells out within hours. The race is held on the Saturday after Labor Day every September.

On Friday night I drove down to Ouray with another local racer, Hollis and his fiancee Jen, and we picked up our race packets and listened to the orientation. It was presented by Rick Trujillo - the "founder" of the race (and runner mentioned in Scott Jurek's book Eat and Run - he ran the Hardrock 100 on Oreo's). He first ran over Imogene Pass in the 1970's as a training run for the Pikes Peak Ascent. It was helpful to see pictures and fun to hear his stories about past races. I found out that the course actually takes a few shortcuts as opposed to the full route I ran in training.

I got home around 8:30 Friday night, got all of my stuff ready to go for the morning and then attempted to get some sleep.

The sleeping didn't go all that well.

After a restless night, I woke up at 4:30am, showered, got ready, and ate breakfast before driving to Looney Bean Coffee in Montrose to meet up with 2 other runners, Joan and John, who I was carpooling with. We left Looney Bean around 5:40am and made it into Ouray by 6:30 (the others had not registered yet - so they wanted to be early enough to do that). We hung out in the community center for awhile, while I nervously debated with myself over what exactly to bring with me in my pack.

At about 7:15, we headed outside and walked over to the starting line. I was getting more nervous at this point, but at the same time it was a beautiful day and I had done the course before. I knew I could finish (I just didn't know how fast).

Right at 7:30 the gun went off. And we were off. We ran out of Ouray to Camp Bird Road where the climbing began! The first 5 miles to Lower Camp Bird (second aid station), went well. Nothing different than my training runs. I did a combination of running and power hiking. At the aid station I grabbed a handful of gummy bears and peanut M&M's and kept going while munching on them.

Lower Camp Bird to Upper Camp Bird (5 miles to 7.6 miles), was fairly slow moving. It's almost all climbing, but I did my best to keep power hiking. When I was probably at about 7 miles, I overheard a girl mention that the farthest she had run this summer was 8 miles...that made me feel real great, as she passed me! I tried to remember - this isn't about anyone else - it's about me and accomplishing new goals I once never dreamed possible.

Approaching Upper Camp Bird Aid Station
I did the same thing at Upper Camp Bird as I did at the lower - grabbed a handful of candy and continued on without really stopping. Upper Camp Bird was the first time cut off - you have to reach it in 2 1/2 hours or be disqualified. I made it in about 1:56.

As steep as lower portions seemed, they're nothing compared to the last 2.4 miles to the summit. This is when it gets real slow. I didn't run any of it. I wasn't really planning to though. The 20%+ grade combined with the altitude (you're above tree line by this point - at about 12,000 feet), just leave you without much energy to run. But I had planned for this, and was okay not running, so long as I kept moving. As long as I didn't stop. And I didn't. I kept moving, despite how slow I might have been.

With about a mile to go, you could finally see the summit of Imogene Pass. And not only that, you could actually hear the volunteers at the summit. Shouting, cheering, and ringing cow bells. It was encouraging and yet discouraging at the same time. They sounded so close. And yet I would look up and it was still so far. But I did what I do best - I just kept moving. I may not be fast, but I keep going.

If you look really closely you can see the tiny dots of people at the summit of Imogene Pass.
Eventually, I made it to the trail that breaks off from the dirt road, and cuts a switchback. This was a relief. It was steep, but it meant I really was almost there! And the coolest part, is that they have volunteers right at the end of that steep section to help give you a hand up. That was an awesome feeling. They also had another volunteer counting off the women. I think (can't remember exactly) that I was the 196th women to the top! After they help you up off the trail and back onto the road, I had a very short run and then I was at the summit and 4th aid station! I made it in 2:52:39.

Approaching the summit!

I hadn't stopped at any of the other aid stations, so I knew I wanted to stop at this one and really make sure I fueled up. I was 10 miles in, 7.1 to go. I had some chicken broth, Gatorade, and M&M's. I think I was at the top for about 3-5 minutes (and the weather was beautiful!), before starting my ascent down.

Overall I was really happy with my pace to the top. I had wanted to make it in under 3 hours and I beat that by over 7 minutes! At this point in the race I thought for sure I could get a 4:10 finish. Well I don't know if thinking this jinxed me or what, because the downhill didn't go very well at all!

I started the downhill section very slowly. I had just drank a good amount of Gatorade and soup, and wanted to let it settle a bit. So I just jogged slowly for the first half mile or so. This is the steepest section anyways, so I didn't mind. After I felt I had given it enough time I tried to pick up my pace. My goal was to run 10 minute miles on the downhill.

Well several things kept me from doing this - for starters I don't think I prepared enough on rough downhill terrain. I had done several training runs on downhill sections, but none were this rocky. Even the training run I did on the same road back in July wasn't as rocky as it was now. I guess they've been getting a lot of rain lately and it just caused a lot of rock slides and made the roads more rough than usual. So because of this, I was spending a lot more time thinking through my foot placement, and just going slower than I wanted. Plus, I'm just not a very good downhill runner. It is definitely my weak spot. I get scared and timid and don't want to go too fast for risk of falling (and lots of people do fall!).

Pair this with the fact that I started getting side stitches (I was afraid of this), my calves almost cramped up a couple times (forcing me to stop and stretch them for a minute), and then with about 3 miles still to go, the outside of my left knee started to really bug me. Mentally I really wanted to run faster, but I just wasn't feeling great. I know, I know, I could push through the pain. And I probably should've. But I didn't. I stopped and walked a few times. Each time hoping once I started again I would feel better. No such luck. Finally, with 1 mile to go, I said screw it, I'm running through this pain, and I'm going to go fast (fast for me anyways). And I did. I got my one single sub-10 minute mile on the very last mile! 9:31 pace.

I think seeing the last mile marker just really motivated me. I knew I was almost there. Obviously the issues I was having were going to continue no matter what, so I might as well finish strong. Plus with all of the people who had passed me already, I figured I should try and at least see if I could pass a couple of them back!

And I did. I'm not sure how many, but a few. And then I hit pavement for the first time since Ouray and knew I was just about there. I sped up to a sprint and crossed the finish line in 4:22:48!

It felt good to cross the finish line, but I have to say it was a little anticlimactic not having anyone there to meet me. I was a little exhausted at this point, and they had a nice little "recovery" zone area for runners where I could just sit and fuel up with Gatorade and water. I think I sat there for about 15 minutes. A lady next to me and I toasted each other which was nice, and then I left the area to attempt to find the people I came up with (and find my gear bag so I could change out of my shoes).

I changed my shoes and then looked for my group. They were across the street in the park area enjoying some lunch. Jan, who's ran Imogene for years, had packed the best lunch. Delicious turkey sandwiches (and these were seriously like gourmet - not your wonder bread/lunch meat turkey sandwich). It was very tasty after a long run. We also had chips, zucchini bread, and Fat Tire (going to school in Fort Collins, I've of course tried Fat Tire before, and remember not liking it all that much. I don't know if my taste buds have changed, or just the fact that I had ran so much - but it was amazing! Must get myself some more Fat Tire from now on!). We waited around for the awards ceremony (Jan had won her age group), and then I headed back on the bus with Joan, so we could get from Telluride to my car in Ouray and then head back to Montrose.

Overall, it was a beautiful race and definitely one I hope to do again. I don't know if I'll be an "annual" runner, mostly due to cost (and wanting to try out other races), but I do hope to do it again sometime. I do think if I had kept up with my hill repeats during the week, that it would've made a difference (because I had been doing that religiously for the first half of the summer, but then got lazy for the second half) in terms of my endurance. But I am glad I signed up for this and did it. In early May last year I hadn't even considered it. I thought it was something out of my league and only for really "hardcore mountain runners". But this made me realize that anything is attainable if you set your mind to it!

Imogene gave me the motivation to try out mountain and trail running. And because of it, I have found a new love for running and decided on more crazy goals for the coming years. I really want to run Mount Evans Ascent, the Leadville Trail Marathon, and the Pikes Peak Ascent now. I'm not sure when I'll get all of them done (hopefully at least one next summer), but definitely someday!

Distance: 17.1 Miles
Bib Number: 295
Gun Time: 4:22:59
Chip Time: 4:22:48
Average Pace: 15:22
Overall Rank: 679/1209 (1241 including DNF's)
Gender Rank: 264/582 (601 including DNF's)
Division Rank (Females 25-29): 44/86 (88 including DNF's)
Summit Time: 2:52:39 (summit place: 518 overall / 176 gender / 33 division - this really shows how my downhill really set me back)
Total Elevation Gain: 5794 feet
Total Elevation Loss: 4831 feet
Garmin Splits:
Miles 1-5: 12:49, 12:17, 11:15, 15:26, 15:23
Miles 6-10: 15:47, 20:32, 23:03, 26:11, 27:56
Miles 11-15: 13:28, 15:16, 11:54, 12:34, 12:37
Miles 16-17: 10:52, 9:31

I know I posted this on my last post but I felt it fitting to have it on this one too!

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...