Sunday, December 15, 2013

Moab Winter Sun 10K

After realizing I had run 11 races so far in 2013, I knew I had to find one last race for the year to make it an even 12 (and average of 1 per month). So I signed up for the Moab Winter Sun 10K, on December 7th. It's put on by the same people who put on my first Half Marathon (Canyonlands Half Marathon), so I knew it would be a great race.

I also know a few people who had done it last year and they had great weather. Naturally, because I was expecting good weather again this year, we had anything but! However, considering I've always seemed to have great weather for most of my races, I guess it was about time I experienced racing in sub-par conditions. The high in Moab was supposed to be in the low 20's. Nevertheless, I was still looking forward to it and hoping for a PR (personal record). My current PR was 54:30 - which was actually a split time from Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon in August. I knew I could run at least that pace, and hopefully a little faster.

I carpooled with another runner from the San Juan Mountain Runner's run club. We left Montrose at the lovely time of 5:30am and made our way to Moab. The roads were pretty good up until we hit the Utah border, and then they were just okay. Not terrible, but not ideal. The left passing lanes were snow covered. Luckily we had left early enough to allow some room for slow driving, and we ended up making it into Moab just barely after 8:30. We got our race packets (which had a really nice long sleeve tech shirt along with a few goodies), and chatted until hopping on the bus around 9:20. The bus took us about 6 miles out of town to the Golf Course, where the race started. They had hot chocolate and fire pits to help keep runners warm (which was a life saver!).

At this point is was around 18 degrees and absolutely no sun at all (so much for being called the "Winter Sun 10K"). I took my gloves off for a few minutes to snap a couple of pictures, and they about froze off. I couldn't stop shivering after that, so I had some hot chocolate and squeezed my way near one of the fire pits to warm up.

Finally, it was almost time to start, so we all lined up near the starting line (although, not close enough in my opinion - it was so cold I could've used the body heat). The gun went off, and we were off! Because of the cold, I knew I needed to warm up a little before I picked up my pace, so I just started off nice and easy. I think it did take the whole first mile before I warmed up enough to feel comfortable (or slightly comfortable I should say). The first few miles were actually a little more hilly than I was expecting as well. I had heard a lot of people say this was a fast course, so I expected it to all be downhill. But overall I seemed to be keeping an okay pace.

Into the second mile I started picking it up and passing people. And then the third mile hit. For the first 1/4 mile it was a fairly steep uphill, so I lost some ground, but managed to keep running. Once I was over that hill though I picked it back up and continued on at around a low 8-minute mile. I definitely felt pretty good, especially as I continued to pass people.

For the last couple miles, it was all downhill (for real this time), which was great. I kept my pace up, and with a mile to go, knew I was going to get my PR! The last 1/4 mile of the race is actually on the high school track, so when I reached it, I told myself I was just doing speed work and went into an all-out-sprint. I passed 2 or 3 people and finished in a time of 51:25 -3 whole minutes faster than my PR! Honestly, with the weather, I wasn't sure what to expect, so I was pretty happy with this time! It was a great race and a great way to finish off my 2013 racing season!

By the end of the race it was snowing pretty badly (the snow started at the beginning of the race and just kept on coming the entire time), so I quickly snapped a few pictures, grabbed my gear bag and headed into the high school gym where they had the post-race snacks, awards, and raffle.

Unfortunately I didn't win anything in the raffle, but overall this was a great race. Other then the fact that the distance was a lot shorter, I felt like this race was a better bang for your buck then the Half Marathon's they put on. For only $38, you get the bus transportation to the start, a long sleeve tech shirt, and reusable bag with a couple Clif bar products, a photographer (although you do have to pay for the images), and the opportunity to win a lot of great prizes in the raffle. I was a little surprised that it wasn't chip timed, but that definitely isn't a deal breaker for me.

Distance: 6.2 Miles (although my Garmin put it at 6.35 - making my average time a bit faster)
Bib Number: 465
Garmin Time: 51:24
Official Time: 51:25:9
Average Pace: Garmin - 8:06; Official - 8:17
Overall Rank: 92/365
Division Rank (F 20-29): 5/42
Garmin Splits: 8:39, 7:53, 8:36, 8:01, 8:07, 7:54, 6:27 (for the last .35)


Starting line
Views from the starting line

The Golf Course
All finished and with a PR!
The finish line
 Professional Pictures:


Grand Mesa Nordic Adventures

I love hiking in the summer, but it's a long 6+ months when the trails are snow covered to go without some time spent in the mountains. So for awhile now I've been wanting to try out some winter mountain activities. And preferably activities that don't cost too much - ruling out downhill skiing.

So when a friend from the local run club told me about the Western Slope Adventures - a group on "meet-up" that organizes various outdoor activities in the area, I decided to sign up! My first event would be a day on the Grand Mesa with the option to Cross Country Ski or Snowshoe. My first thought was to snowshoe, solely because I was less intimidated by it, however it turned out that everyone else going was going to be cross-country skiing. So I decided to give it a whirl. After all, my whole motto this year has pretty much been to step out of my comfort zone and try new things!

The Grand Mesa is a great place for both cross country skiing and snowshoeing. The "Grand Mesa Nordic Council" manages and grooms the trails, as well as provides updates on weather conditions online. So on November 22nd, I set out with some new acquaintances for my first Nordic adventure on the Grand Mesa.

Our drive up was snowy, snowy, and more snowy. I was a little worried that I was going to freeze my butt off. On the bright side though, the Mesa looked beautiful. It truly was a winter wonderland! It's amazing how much snow they get up there. Luckily when we arrived the snow had stopped. We got ready and waited for a few others to join us (coming from the Grand Junction side), and then we got started.

It was a little more nerve wracking getting back into skis (for the first time since high school) then I imagined. Pair that with the fact that cross country skiing is very different than downhill skiing, and stopping on a downhill can be a little scary! One of the guys with us took some time to show me some techniques which was really helpful. After that, I felt a little better, and was sort-of able to keep up with everyone.

I really enjoyed the flats and the gently sloping hills. The bigger hills - not so much (both going up or down!). But the more I went, the easier it became. We did two large loops around the ski area - and even now, looking at the map, I still can't quite figure out where we went (and I swear, I'm usually pretty good at reading maps), or how far we went. But it was fun, and the weather ended up being great. We even had blue sky's for an hour or so.

On the second loop, after we had been going for several hours, we stopped at a scenic overlook where you could see for miles. Someone had brought wine, and we all shared snacks. It was great!


The inversion (looks like a lake!)
I loved how snow covered all of the trees were!

Blue Sky's!

Snack time at the overlook!
Scenic Overlook

Not quite a week after my first time cross-country skiing, I decided to try out snowshoeing. Now, technically, I have been snowshoeing once before. But I think I was only like 8 years old or something. So I was ready to try it again! My family was in town for Thanksgiving, and every time they come, I like to take them somewhere new. They had yet to drive up on the Grand Mesa before, so I thought it would be perfect!

We set out Friday morning, drove into Cedaredge to rent snowshoes, and then headed up to the County Line ski area. The week before I had been at the Skyway Trail, so I figured I should try something new - plus the fact that I wanted to bring Argie, and dogs are not permitted at Skyway (also - County Line is where the Grand Mesa Half Marathon I did last September was - looks a little different when it's covered in several feet of snow!).

Overall, the County Line trails we were at (mostly the dog loops) seemed more flat than Skyway. I definitely think I would enjoy cross country skiing here. Argie had a lot of fun, although I do want to get him boots if I take him again. He got a lot of snow and ice stuck in his paws. One thing I don't like about dogs being allowed - is that people let their dogs off the leash, and then because of this, don't see them do their business - meaning there's big piles of dog poop on the trail. Kind of annoying to us dog owners who DO actually clean up after their dog. I'm all for not having your dog on a leash (if it's well behaved), but you still need to stay in sight of your dog, WATCH them, and clean up after them - especially if it's right in the middle of the trail.

But overall, despite the dog poop, we had a good time. It was a beautiful day (in fact, it was during the "inversion" - so it was warmer on top of the mesa then it was when we stopped for lunch back down). We had blue sky's, lots of sun, and glittering snow! A great way to start the Christmas season. On our way back home, we stopped for lunch, and then at Drost's Chocolates in Eckert.


Attempting to capture the "sparkle" in the snow

The inversion still going on!
Overall, I really enjoyed both the cross country skiing and the snowshoeing. I'd like to get a pair of one or the other, so I don't have to rent every time, but am still not sure of which. I'm definitely leaning more towards snowshoes just because I feel like they will be much more versatile. I can use them on more types of trails, plus I can bring Argie with me (I know I can bring him on skiis - but he'd have to be off-leash, and I'm just not comfortable with that). So we will see what I end up doing (or if I even end up getting any - I'm going to try and be much more frugal starting in 2014, so I may just fore go it altogether unless I can find a good used pair somewhere). I definitely want to do the Black Canyon Rim Romp though - it's a 10 mile cross country ski, or 5 mile snowshoe at the Black Canyon put on by the San Juan Mountain Runners. I wish I had stepped out of my comfort zone and did it last year - because they actually have a "triple crown" award for doing all 3 of the Black Canyon races - and that was the only one I didn't do! So this year I am determined to do it (and that brings up another cool thing - once they get enough snow, you can go snowshoeing and cross country skiing at the rim of the Black Canyon - only 15 minutes away!).

Friday, December 13, 2013

Marathon Training Weeks 9-13

I've been so bad about blogging lately...but here I finally am, covering the past 5 weeks all in one post.

For starters, choosing a winter marathon is proving to be a little more difficult than I was expecting. I thought about the cold weather when signing up for it. What I didn't think about, was the daylight...or lack thereof, I should say.

I am doing my best to get into the habit of treadmill running (aka hamster wheel running). It's going okay, but I still refuse to do any long runs on it. 8 miles is my max thus far (and I hope it stays that way!). And let me just say trying to get 8 miles in pre-work is pretty miserable. It means getting up at 4:30am...yuck. 5:00 is early enough!

Other than the cold, early mornings, training has been going pretty well. Had a couple of Nordic adventures and one last race of 2013, which I will briefly touch on below, but my plan is to do a whole blog post about them later (soon hopefully, so I don't get too far behind).

So without further ado, Marathon Training Weeks 9 thru 13 (only 5 to go!):

Week 9: November 4th-10th

This week went okay, except I skipped my long run over the weekend, and did 2 short runs instead. It was a step back week, so I'm okay with it. Sunday's run would probably be the highlight - a trail run up to Devil's Thumb with Jen (who goes to some of the run club events) and our pups. We got the idea from another runner (also named Jen actually). Unfortunately we never really could find the trail, so it was more of a cross country trek. It worked out, except Argie stepped on a few cacti which he wasn't a fan of.

Views from the Thumb
If you look closely you'll see Argie and I at the bottom of this picture!

Day 57, Monday 11/4
Cross Train
Cross Train – 6.8 Miles on the bike and rowing machine
Day 58, Tuesday 11/5
4 Miles
4.3 Miles on the treadmill
Day 59, Wednesday 11/6
5 Miles
Split – 3.06 mile lunch run followed by 2.75 miles at the track after work
Day 60, Thursday 11/7
4 Miles
4.26 miles on the treadmill
Day 61, Friday 11/8
Day 62, Saturday 11/9
6 Mile run with Scott
Day 63, Sunday 11/10
Half Marathon (race)
4 Mile trail run with Argie
26 Miles
24.37 Miles 

Week 10: November 11th-17th

Nothing too exciting during week 10. Another lunch run on Wednesday - I'm kind of liking these - I know I could never do it in the summer because I sweat too much, but it's been great in the cooler weather and allows me to get some daylight running in during the week! I also went to the Saturday morning group run, where we ran over to the track for some speed work.

Confluence Park as seen on my "lunch run"
Day 64, Monday 11/11
Cross Train
Cross Train – Stairmaster and some strength training
Day 65, Tuesday 11/12
4 Miles
4.23 cold and dark morning miles outside
Day 66, Wednesday 11/13
8 Miles
Split again this week – 4.51 lunch run then 3.5 miles at the track after work
Day 67, Thursday 11/14
4 Miles
1.5 miles on the treadmill followed by ½ mile on the elliptical. Wasn’t feeling good so called it quits after this.
Day 68, Friday 11/15
Day 69, Saturday 11/16
8 Miles
8 Miles at the Saturday “fun run” put on by the San Juan Mountain Runners
Day 70, Sunday 11/17
17 Miles
17 Miles around town
41 Miles
39.24 Miles

Week 11: November 18th - 24th

Week 11 was great. I got all of my weekly miles in, tried out Cross County Skiing for the first time, and got my long run of 18 miles in!

The cross country skiing was through a group called "Western Slope Adventures". They put on various outdoor activities around the Western Slope. I had really been wanting to try some winter activities this year, so I was glad to tag along on Saturday. I originally wanted to snowshoe, but all of the people I was going with were going to be cross country skiing, so I figured I would give it a shot. And it was actually quite fun! I really enjoyed the flats and slight uphill sections. The downhill sections scared me a bit - I felt like I couldn't stop without falling over. But I was starting to get the hang of it by the end.

Oh and the weather was perfect. I was afraid I was going to freeze my butt off, as it was snowing on the way up. But it ended up snowing off and on, never for too long - just enough to really enjoy it! It really was like being in a winter wonderland! It's amazing how much snow they get up on the Grand Mesa.

The 18 mile run went pretty well. It was a good thing I did an out-and-back because it started raining around mile 8, which then turned to snow around miles 10-11, and kept snowing (right into my face) for another 6 miles or so. If I had been closer to home I probably would've called it quits. But I pushed through, and it ended up stopping with about a mile and a half to go. So I finished all 18 miles which felt really good!

Foggy start to my 18 mile run!

Day 71, Monday 11/18
Cross Train
Cross Train – 5.6 Miles on the bike and rowing machine
Day 72, Tuesday 11/19
5 Miles
5.25 miles on the treadmill
Day 73, Wednesday 11/20
8 Miles
8.22 cold and dark morning miles outside
Day 74, Thursday 11/21
5 Miles
5.2 mile lunch run
Day 75, Friday 11/22
Day 76, Saturday 11/23
8 Miles
5ish?? Miles of cross country skiing!
Day 77, Sunday 11/24
18 Miles
18.05 Miles around town (got rained and snowed on!)
44 Miles
36.72 miles ran (but 47.32 with my cross training activities)

Week 12: November 25th - December 1st

Thanksgiving Week! I don't know what is with the holidays, but it automatically seems to give me an excuse to forego a bunch of miles. Skipped Monday's cross training and Tuesday's 5 miler. Almost skipped Wednesday, but did get a few miles in on my lunch break.

I finally picked things up at the end of the week (which seems strange considering that was actually the "holiday" portion of the week). Thursday, I got my family to all participate in the Turkey Trot again this year. I think they had fun. Scott had fun beating me! I started up front, and he started back with my family, so I didn't see him the whole race, and at the last second, right before the finish line he comes sprinting past me.

After the Turkey Trot

Thanksgiving Table!
Friday I took my family snowshoeing up on the Grand Mesa. We went to the County Line Ski Area this week (last weekend we were at the Skyway Trail), along with Argie. I think he had fun, but I definitely want to get him booties if I plan on taking him out for longer. His paws had a lot of snow stuck in them and I think it bothered him a lot. I think my family also had fun. I enjoyed it as well and I'm thinking I want to get myself a pair. I think snowshoes will be more versatile than cross county skis (plus I can take Argie).

Not running related, but - Scott and I's Christmas Card Picture for 2013
Views from the way up to the Mesa
The "inversion" that the Western Slope was having - from the Grand Mesa looking down

Then Sunday, I did manage to run a semi-long run of 13 miles. It was fairly cold out the entire time, so I was happy when I was finished.

Day 78, Monday 11/25
Cross Train
Day 79, Tuesday 11/26
5 Miles
Day 80, Wednesday 11/27
5 Miles
3.47 mile lunch run
Day 81, Thursday 11/28
5 Miles
4.3 mile Turkey Trot
Day 82, Friday 11/29
2 miles Snowshoeing
Day 83, Saturday 11/30
8 Miles
6.07 mile run
Day 84, Sunday 12/1
13 Miles
13.1 mile run
36 Miles
26.94 (28.94 total)

Week 13: December 2nd - 8th

Week 13 went GREAT...until Sunday came around. I was on a roll - for the first time in what seems like forever, I got ALL of my weekday workouts in before work! Then on Saturday I had my last race of the year (the Moab Winter Sun 10K) where I got a new 10K personal record with a time of 51:25 (over 2 minutes faster than my previous PR), and placed 5th in my age category (out of 42 - so a decent amount of people).

Moab in the Snow

Not a bad picture for once (although only because I saw the photographer ahead of time!)
And then Sunday...well I don't know what happened on Sunday. I lost all motivation. Although most of it had to do with the cold and snowy weather (we got a foot of snow on Wednesday). I about froze my butt of during Saturday's 10K, and it was supposed to be even colder on Sunday. 18 degrees was the high, and NO SUN. I mean come on, this is Colorado - where was the sun?!

So after much self deliberating, I decided to skip my long run. Now I know this sounds like a bad plan. BUT, the one nice thing about my training plan is that it has "step back weeks", where I get a nice I decided to just swap weekends and post pone my 20 miles until next weekend (which is a step back week). I checked the forecast, and while it's not going to magically turn into a perfect 50 degree day, it should be a little more bearable - in the upper 20's and 30's. Plus hopefully some sun, and, finger's crossed, clear, non-icy sidewalks!

Day 85, Monday 12/2
Cross Train
6 Miles on the bike + Strength Training (Jillian Michaels Ripped in 30 DVD - I'm trying to do this all December)
Day 86, Tuesday 12/3
5 Miles
5.5 Miles on the treadmill
Day 87, Wednesday 12/4
8 Miles
8 Miles on the treadmill in the morning; Ri30 DVD in the evening
Day 88, Thursday 12/5
5 Miles
5.25 Miles on the treadmill
Day 89, Friday 12/6
Day 90, Saturday 12/7
5 Miles
Moab Winter Sun 10K
Day 91, Sunday 12/8
20 Miles
Nothing :(
36 Miles
24.95 (30.95 w/ the bike)

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...