Monday, July 21, 2014

Aspen Valley Marathon

Considering I went into Aspen Valley Marathon without a ton of expectations, I'd say it went well. I hadn't done a long road run since the Ridgway 10 Miler back in June, and that wasn't even that long compared to the marathon distance. But I've been run/hiking enough miles for Pikes Peak training these days, that I knew I could at the very least finish the marathon, and maybe at the very most PR (get a new "personal record") since it is a net downhill course.

With the amount of races and traveling I've also been doing this year, I didn't really want to spend any more money on a hotel either, especially with Aspen being somewhat close (2 hours). So despite the incredibly early start time (6:00am), I decided I would just drive up the morning of. It really helped when I found out that Scott had the day off, and offered to drive me (seriously can't thank him enough!!!). This meant getting everything I needed ready on Friday night so there wasn't any scrambling the next morning as we left by 3:00am to get into Aspen by 5:00am, so that I had a decent amount of time for packet pick up and a restroom stop before the start.

We ended up getting to the starting line at about 5:15. The only parking we could find was a loading zone, which worked out okay since Scott was basically just dropping me off. While he stayed in the car, I went and got my race packet, bib and timing chip and circled through the restroom line before heading back to the car to get everything ready (shoes on, hair up, bib pinned, etc). Even though it was a small race and time/crowds/etc. wasn't an issue, I found myself nervous I wasn't going to get everything done! But alas I did and left Scott and Argie with about 15 minutes to spare.

I walked over to the start line, circled through the bathroom line one more time and then gathered with the crowds. I saw a few Team Beef members and TONS of Marathon Maniacs (oh yes - not sure I mentioned that yet - I qualified for and joined the Marathon Maniacs by running 3 marathons within 3 months!). I wished I had some Marathon Maniac clothing so I could fit in with them - alas, someday (it's a bit on the pricey side - although so is everything running related - must learn to get over that!).

Anyways after taking a few pictures and standing around, I ran into David Knapp - who I mentioned in a previous post - he's the ALZ Star running 50 marathon's this year to raise $50,000 for the Alzheimer's Association (Click here to donate to his cause) - this was marathon #30 for this year! We been friends on facebook for awhile, but finally just met in person for the first time! We stood around chatting for a few minutes until the the official start.

The starting line.

It was a much smaller crowd of people than I expected, so I crossed the starting line almost immediately. It was nice and cool out at this point (too bad it wouldn't stay like this all morning). I hadn't decided on any set pace that I wanted to run, so I just flipped my watch to the regular "watch mode" rather than running mode, and focused on what felt comfortable. The first mile weaves through town and over to the same park that I ran my first 5K in just barely over 2 years ago (kind of cool to be running part of the same course, but in a Marathon, 2 years later - just shows how far I've come in a pretty short amount of time), before getting onto the Rio Grande Trail (which is more of a bike path than a "trail") which eventually leads out of town and towards Basalt.

Running through the town of Aspen!
I got a nice little surprise when I saw Scott and Argie at the park! Apparently he had driven over there to let Argie out for a bit and realized the race went right by, so decided to stake out a nice place to get some pictures:

I was apparently very excited to see them! Also - that's Michelle next to me - who I ended up chatting with for about half the race.

Shortly after running through the park, I started chatting with a nice lady, who I'm guessing was in her 40's. Her name was Michelle and she was using this race as part of training for an Iron Man in September. We ended up chatting for awhile about all things running/Iron Man related for quite some time. We talked a little about our pace goals as well. Like me, she wasn't dead set on a certain time, but had thought it would be nice if she could get a 3:55 - which would be a Boston Qualifying time for her. We were several miles in by this time, and so I kind of, without high hopes, decided perhaps I could potentially break a 4:00 marathon. Of course, I knew it was too early to really push for it, but I was running some upper 8 and low 9 minute miles pretty easily and while still being able to talk, to I thought it was atleast possible.


I was literally taking these while running, so they're a bit blurry!
We kept chatting until around mile 6 when she decided she was going to pick up the pace a little. I continued on at a comfortable pace. Shortly after the mile 7 aid station, I saw all of the Half-Marathoner's lined up, just about to start. They would be joining us on the same course until Mile 17 when they split off from us (and only had 3 miles to go, while we still had 9!). Not too long after that, all of the speedy Half-er's were passing me, making me feel like a slow poke (despite actually running consistently at a good pace for me). I chatted with a guy from North Dakota for a bit. He was running his first marathon.

Around mile 11, I heard Michelle catch up with me. Apparently she had stopped to use the restroom and so I had passed her without realizing it. It was nice to have the company and we started up our conversation again. It really was helping pass the miles! Before I knew it we had hit 13 miles. There weren't any official split/timing mats, so I was keeping an eye on my Garmin to see what my time was going to be at the half way point - it was 1:56:22 - just 15 seconds under my PR from the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon last year (which was 1:56:35). This was exciting (also, clearly I need to run a Half again sometime, so I can beat that PR! If I can do it in the first half of a marathon, I know I can do it even more so in real life!).

The shady spots like this were few and far between as we got further on in the course!
We continued on. Despite the course being a net downhill course, it didn't feel like it was "that downhill". There definitely were parts that did, but there were also some uphills as well. As the miles wore on, I could definitely start to feel myself getting tired. However, I was still running a pretty good pace. Shortly after mile 16 was the first aid station with food. I stopped for awhile at this one and had a couple of Clif Shot Blocks and some pretzels. The pretzels were amazing. After all the typical sweet stuff, the salty pretzels were a nice, unexpected change. Unfortunately, trying to eat them and run slowed me down a little, and I had my first mile that was over 10 minutes (10:05).

There was another aid station at around mile 19 where I grabbed another few shot blocks, then we went over this really neat looking bridge. Shortly after this is when Michelle decided she needed to walk a little, so I continued on without her and unfortunately lost her for the rest of the race (I hope she did okay!). Mile 19.7 was an aid station at the Basalt High School that I thought I might see Scott and Argie at. The race packet I had printed mentioned it as a good spot for spectators, so he was going to go there if he could find it. Unfortunately he wasn't there when I passed by. I told him I would probably be there around the 3 hour mark, but I passed through at bout 2:55 so I actually called him (while running) to check and see if perhaps I had just missed him. He said he hadn't been able to find it and that he'd be at the finish line.

The awesome bridge we went over - and the last picture I took because I started to feel like death shortly after this.
After I got off the phone with Scott, I was just about a 20 miles in and was definitely feeling tired, but was doing okay at keeping my pace up. My watch said I was at just barely over 3 hours (literally "just" - 3:00:xx) - that meant I really just needed to run the last 10K in under an hour. Doable at the pace I was running. All of a sudden, I actually felt hope that I could MAYBE break 4 hours!?
I don't know if it was the high hopes I got there, or what, but the last 10K did not go as planned. I knew I was getting tired, but I didn't realize how much I would start hurting as the last 6 miles continued on. It also didn't help that the course kind of turned to blah at this point. I believe it was around mile 21 that the course left the bike path/walking trail and went onto roads. We had our first bit of longer uphill (it wasn't anything terrible, but after 20 miles of nice gradual downhill, it felt like death), and I knew my pace was slowing. I told myself, just keep 9:30's. You can make sub-4 if you run 9:30's. And I tried. And I did a 9:27 for mile 22...and then it all went to hell in a hand basket. It had been hot for awhile now, but I swear the temperature jumped 10 degrees over the last 4 miles. My right hamstring had been fairly tight for awhile now, but now both of them were bothering me. And getting worse. And did I mention how hot it was??

Mile 23 - 9:55

I told myself not to waste time by stopping at any more aid stations, as I had my handheld water bottle - but I couldn't help it. I atleast stopped for a second and grabbed water at each one. I even starting pouring water on my head at a few of them.

Mile 24 - 10:30

This was the point in the race where you can really start to tell who paced themselves well and who was hurting. I passed a lot of people, but I also got passed by a lot of people. And oh how my pace slowed. So much for my 9:30's I needed. I told myself it was going to hurt no matter how fast I ran - so just keep my pace up and get it done! But it was SO much easier said that done. I just couldn't do it.

I did at the very least make myself keep running. No walking. I knew I would be mad at myself if I walked.

Mile 25 - 10:52

Finally somewhere around mile 25, we FINALLY went through the tunnel that goes under the highway. This was a relief because I knew it meant I really was almost done! I tried to pick up my pace. Didn't really happen much, but I tried.

Mile 26 - 10:49

Finally, I hit the 26 mile mark! Only .2 to go - I picked up my pace. I went over a bridge and saw Scott and Argie!!! They got some pictures of me! I smiled and really actually do think I picked up my pace this time, went a little farther, rounded a corner and there was finally the finish line. And I crossed it in 4:03:10. Missed my sub-4 by 3:10. Totally would've had it if only I could've done the 9:30's like I told myself. It was a bummer, BUT, looking on the bright side, this was still a HUGE PR over my last marathon time of 4:18:17. I had taken 15 minutes of my time. That is a pretty significant chunk of time. As much as beating the 4 hour mark appealed to me, I know I'm improving a lot. To be able to hold 8:40-9:10 minute miles for 20 miles is a pretty big achievement for me.

Only .2 to go!!!
I don't look like total death??? Although I definitely felt like it at this point.

Date: July 19, 2014
Distance: 26.2 Miles
Bib Number: 14
Gun Time: 4:03:21
Chip Time: 4:03:10
Average Pace: 9:16 minutes/mile
Overall Rank: 86 of 230
Gender Rank: 30 of 113
Division Rank (F20-29): 8 of 23
Elevation Gain/Loss: 688 Ft. Gain / 2,002 Loss
Minimum Elevation: 6,502 Feet
Maximum Elevation: 7,950 Feet
Half Marathon Split: 1:56:22 (Unofficial PR!)
Garmin Splits:
Miles 1-10: 9:12, 8:47, 8:42, 8:49, 9:02, 9:12, 8:51, 8:40, 8:46, 8:34
Miles 11-20: 8:52, 9:02, 9:02, 8:59, 8:50, 9:05, 10:05, 9:11, 9:55, 9:07
Miles 21-26.2: 9:18, 9:27, 9:55, 10:30, 10:52, 10:49, 9:46 (last .2)  (Boo - miles 24-26 were the 3 minutes I needed!!!)

LIKES / What Worked:
  • Overall this was a good course in terms of run-ability. It was net downhill for the most part, and very scenic (for the first 20 miles anyways).
  • I felt like this race was a good size. There were 230 marathon finishers and about the same amount of half marathon finishers - putting about 600 out on the course. Plenty of people to always have a few around, but not so many that you have to worry about congestion.
  • Pretty good post-race stuff. Free beer and food without a huge line.
  • The finishers medal was an Aspen Leaf - super cute (although I feel like it should've been gold??)
  • Once again my Skirt Sports Gym Girl Ultra - I swear I am not paid by them to say this, but I LOVE this skirt - perfect for marathons with it's 2 leg pockets - easy access to get my phone out and shoot pictures while running.
  • Amphipod Handheld Water bottle - I wasn't sure if I wanted to carry a handheld or not, and it did kind of bother me at the beginning, BUT I really liked having it towards the end, especially as the temperature rose.

DISLIKES / What Didn't Work:
  • The last 6 miles of this course are BLAH. It's hot, you leave the nice pretty bike path and go on boring roads with some uphill (after SO many miles of downhill), and you have to make this weird loop, just to get the miles in.
  • Did I mention how hot the last few miles were?
  • No food aid stations until Mile 16. I carried my own stuff so this wasn't a huge deal, but I just don't understand what's with all these races that don't have much fuel - don't they know you're supposed to start fueling early!?
  • My hamstrings were seriously killing me at the end. There's a slight possibility this was partly because I went to BodyPump the Thursday before - will try to remember not to do that next time and see if it makes a difference...

A few more pictures and course map / elevation profile:

Finisher's Medal!
I survived!
Course Map
Detail of the terrible, not so good, very bad last 6 miles... See the annoying loop at the end - blah!
Elevation profile - it felt WAY more gradual than this makes it look.
We wore Argie out with all of the excitement!

Still a work in progress, but my "running wall"! All of the stuff on the shelf are things I've gotten from races!
Sunday's Project (still not sure if I'll ever do a 100 - but I figured I'd put it on just in case...)

And some awesome pictures that Scott took of flowers in Basalt while he was waiting for me:


As scary as it still seems, I have officially decided that I would like to try and Boston Qualify in 2015 (which would mean actually running Boston in 2016). I know it's going to be a lot of work, but I also know I've been improving a lot just from experience (I've now taken over 20 minutes off from my first marathon). I hope a combination of dedicated training and speed work, combined with the experience of multiple marathons will hopefully get me there. I know it may take several attempts, but I do believe it is possible! Stay tuned for more details on this (the plan right now is to shoot for a spring marathon - so I won't officially start training until late fall or early winter probably).

Monday, July 14, 2014

Uncompahgre Peak

Uncompahgre Peak has been on my to-do list since we first moved to the western slope almost three years ago! Not only is the highest peak in the San Juan Mountains and 6th highest in the state of Colorado, but it's just a gorgeous mountain in general (I know I'm weird, I'm attracted to mountains... :).  Unfortunately accessing the trail is a bit of a drive (you have to go to Lake City - over 2 hours from Montrose, 3+ from Grand Junction), so I kept putting it off, until finally deciding it was a must for this year! Therefore when Scott and I both had a Saturday free this summer, I decided it was finally time to hike this beauty!

It's a 3 1/2 hour drive to Lake City, so we decided we would drive up Friday night and car camp at the base of Nellie Creek Road - the 4WD road that goes up to the main trail head. We both had to work that afternoon, so didn't end up leaving until almost 6, meaning we didn't make it into Lake City until after dark. I believe it was almost 10 by the time we actually got there! It was pouring down rain, but we tried as best as we could to get some sleep before getting up at around 4:30 the next morning.

The hike is about 7 miles round trip from the trail head, however if you don't have a high clearance 4WD vehicle, you have to hike an extra 4 miles one-way (so 8 roundtrip!), making the total hike around 15 miles. This was going to be a long day - especially if the weather didn't hold out (it was looking sketchy). Luckily, about a mile up the road a lady in a jeep passed us and offered us a ride to the trail head. I could've used the mileage for training, but at the same time, with the iffy forecast, I knew it would be better overall if we summitted early. So we took the ride and got to skip the remaining 3 miles up the dirt road.

We made it the trail head around 6am and quickly started our hike. The trail head is already at 11,000 feet, so it wasn't long until we got above treeline. It was absolutely gorgeous. Beautiful, bright green grass all around with tons a little wildflowers! It always amazes me what can grow this high!

The first several miles were pretty straight forward - a steady uphill with a few occasional snow crossings. You could see the peak for almost the entire hike, which was neat. Once we got about 3 miles in was the only tricky part - a short section where you just had to scramble up the side of the mountain. Once I got over that section, it was another nice trail to the summit! And the summit was AMAZING! It was a large summit, but had multiple cliffs/drop offs, which made it pretty neat, and of course, the views of the San Juan's were incredible!

We had beautiful weather at the top. Chilly once we stopped moving, but barely windy at all (which is a surprise for a 14er). We stayed at the summit for about a half hour or so while I took tons of pictures and just enjoyed it, before starting the descent back down. We heard thunder a couple times on the way back down and the sky started to look ominous, so when the same lady as before offered us a ride back down the 4WD road again, we accepted.

Overall this hike DID NOT disappoint! I loved this hike, in fact, it would probably rank as my favorite 14er thus far! The views were incredible and I had fun trying to name the various peaks and landmarks within the San Juans! I definitely recommend this...but don't take my word for it - I took about a million pictures that will hopefully sell it more than my words do!

Hike: Uncompahgre Peak from the Nellie Creek Trailhead
Date: July 12, 2014
Weather: Warm (50's and 60's maybe), nice all morning, but could hear thunder on our way back down
Round Trip Distance: 7.25 from main trail head, 15.25 from the 2WD road (we did about 8.5 with the extra mile before hitching a ride up the 4WD road)
Summit Elevation: 14,309'
Trailhead Elevation: 11,400'
Elevation Gain: 3,000 feet (5,505 from 2WD road)

So without further ado, TONS of pictures:
(To purchase any of these prints, please visit my website:
The Beautiful Uncompahgre Peak - 14,309'

There were still several large patches of snow to cross.

Love this one!

Right before the "scramble" section.
The scramble (up along the side of this).
Reached the summit!
Views from the Top! (AMAZING!!!)
I just loved the clouds in this!

Wetterhorn Peak - 14,015' (note Mt. Sneffels - 14,150' is the high point just to the top right of Wetterhorn)

On top of the world!

I love it up here!
These little flowers were growing all around the top of the peak!

On the way back down.

I'm pretty sure this is Matterhorn Peak - 13,596'

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...