Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Slacker Half Marathon - My Most REAL Race

Since I started racing a mere 3 years ago (my 3-year runiversary is on 7/14 by the way!), I've now done about 50 races! So when I was asked to write about my most REAL race experience for Skirt Sports, I was having some serious trouble deciding which one to go with. Of course all of my "firsts" come to mind - my first 5K, my first Half, my first Full. And then there's the really hard ones - Imogene Pass Run, Pikes Peak, my 50 Miler. But nothing specific was really sticking out. Until last weekend. On Saturday, I ran the Slacker Half Marathon - and it was quite the experience, that's for sure! I think I went through every emotion known to man during this race - nerves, stress, frustration, pure and total exhaustion, excitement, and joy to name a few!

You see, I had this goal to try and run this race in less than 1 hour and 40 minutes. That's a 7:37 pace. That's a pretty lofty goal for me. I still run a 9:30 easy pace...8:00 pace is still hard for me on flat ground. However, I knew this course was mostly* downhill (hence the name slacker), and I've been training on a lot of downhill courses lately to get ready for my downhill marathon next month (less than 3 weeks until go-time by the way!! How did that happen!?). I also ran a 1:41:50 last month at the Mountain to Valley Half. So I decided to just go for it. Could I do it? Maybe, Maybe Not. We would soon find out!

(*definitely not ALL downhill)

So, race day came. I was staying at my parents house, so it was about an hour drive to the start line. The plan was to leave at 5:30am, to make it to the start around 6:30 with plenty of time to use the restroom and catch the bus before the 8:00am start. I even had grand plans of doing a long warm-up pre-race to add a few miles to my day, since this was technically "peak week" of marathon training.

Unfortunately things didn't quite go as planned, and this was definitely not a leisurely morning with plenty of time (by a long shot). We left a few minutes late - not a big deal though I thought. We stopped at Starbucks on the way out of town so I could get a bagel for breakfast...yeah that ended up taking WAY longer than it should have. So now we were about 20 minutes behind schedule. Oh well, the buses run until 7:15 I thought, I'll be fine! And then we got to the Georgetown exit off of I-70. Uh-oh. I might not be so "fine" after all. It was way backed up with a huge line just to exit the highway.

Since parking was really backed up, I had my mom just drop me off rather than park. My first stop was at the check-in/packet pick up area to try and fix my bib (I picked my bib up the night before and realized I had accidentally signed up with my birth year as 1998 instead of 1988). It took a little bit of waiting, but that got fixed fairly quickly and I headed over to the bus and bathrooms. The line for both was pretty crazy... so now came the big question:

1. Do I get in line for the bus so I'm there earlier, and then use the bathroom at the start?
2. Do I get in line for the bathroom, and then get on a late bus, but I won't have to worry about using the restroom at the top?

I decided to go with option 2. The lines were seriously insane and I had a feeling this would be my only chance to use the bathroom. So I waited in that line for about 20 minutes. Once I made it through there, it was probably about 7:20am. 40 minutes until race start...and the bus line was still seriously INSANE. They had been busing people, but not very quickly at all. So to the back of the line I went. And I waited, and waited. 7:30. 7:40. 7:50....and still waiting for the bus. I tried to remain calm, I mean surely they wouldn't start the race without everyone getting to the top. But what if they did? I'm so used to having plenty of time at all of my races, this was really not settling and not calming my nerves in the slightest. How in the world was I going to pull off a PR when I'm a nervous wreck?!?

Finally, a little after 7:50, a few more buses show up (they didn't have enough to take everyone up at once - and had to make trips - hence why it was so backed up), and I FINALLY got on one! As we were heading up to the start I look at my watch. 8:01. Awesome.

The main piece of advice I had received from people who had done this race before was that it really bottlenecks in the beginning and can contribute to a very slow first mile if you don't' start far enough up. So after we FINALLY made it to the top around 8:08 (and luckily, they had not started yet!!), I dropped my extra gear off at the drop bag area as fast as I could and ran over to the start line so I could squeeze my way towards the front. About 2 minutes later, the gun went off (yeah...so much for my relaxing pre-race warm-up I wanted)!

PART 1: MILES 1-6 (7:42, 7:38, 7:28, 7:14, 7:19, 7:44)

Since I was near the front, there's a good chance that I might have gotten a little caught up in the speediness of all the other people starting in front (AKA the REALLY fast runners) and gone out a teeny, tiny bit too fast. And by "teeny, tiny", I mean, WAY too fast. The first 1/2 mile or so was on this real rocky dirt road section and there was some nice slope to it. I honestly was afraid I was going to wipe out because of how fast I started out. I guess that's the one negative part of starting at the front.

Finally, about 1/2 mile in, the course turned onto a paved bike path. This allowed me to settle down a little, but by this point I was already breathing pretty heavily from starting out as fast as I did. Especially because, I just remembered..."oh hey, yeah I'm at 10,800' elevation." That's no joke. So, the next mile or so consisted of me freaking out to myself that I had "ruined" my race in the first 1/2 mile by going out WAY too fast. Oh and I started getting a side stitch... This was going to be a GREAT race...

Luckily, once you're on the bike path, the course is a very run-able downhill and, despite my stress and worry, I was able to settle into a nice consistent pace with some fairly fast miles through mile 6. This whole section meanders through soaring pine trees and it was truly gorgeous. Because of the trees and the curving of the course, it was in-and-out of shade and I knew it was going to be a hot one later in the race, especially if the course became fully exposed later on (spoiler alert: it did). If there's anything my last few long runs have taught me, it's that, the heat is probably going to be my biggest downfall in summer races. I am just not a good hot-weather runner. But I decided to save the worrying of that until later on.

So, to prove how "REAL" this race was, quick little emotion recap from miles 1-6:

Stress from getting to the start line so late
Worry that I was going to kill myself (or a little less dramatic - risk injury) during the rocky first 1/4 mile
Frustration at myself for going out to fast
Thankfulness once I had finally settled into a nice pace and could enjoy the incredible views (because they truly are - and this is why I run, after all)!

PART 2: MILES 7-9 (7:49, 7:55, 7:48)

This race also had a 3 person relay, and so it actually kind of works out nicely to break the race up into those 3 sections. Right around Mile 6, is where the first set of Relay runners handed off their batons (or whatever they handed off - I didn't actually see if they were carrying anything). This also meant lots of cheering and crowds at these points which was nice. Honestly, the first 6 miles went pretty fast for me, so I was surprised to hit this point. I continued past the small crowd and started what would be the biggest hill of the day. Now, it's really not that bad. The main reason I know that now, is that I still managed a sub-8:00 mile. If this hill had been anything significant, I would have slowed MUCH more than that. But emotionally, it did feel like a HUGE hill. And it didn't help that it was completely exposed. No more nice tall trees. No more shade. I trudged up the hill as best as I could until FINALLY it was done, and I got some downhill again. Although, honestly, it felt to me like miles 6-9 were the flattest of the entire course, especially because all 3 of them were my slowest of the day (but looking at the elevation profile, I'm not sure why I remember it this way - it definitely was downhill).

Around Mile 8, the 1:40 pacer passed me with a group of about 6 other runners. My first thought, was, "no problem, I'll just keep up with him from hereon out". Well that always seems to be easier said than done. I wasn't able to (surprise, surprise). I'm not sure what was with me in this section, I know it didn't seem "as downhill" as before, but I was really slowing A LOT. I think the lack of shade must have been a pretty big factor in this. However, I had remembered from studying the elevation profile that the last 3 or so miles before town (emphasis on before) looked like they were a steeper slope than the rest, so I was counting down the miles until I hit that section!

Miles 7-9 Emotions:

Exhaustion during that hill
Doubt during this entire section. There was NO WAY I was going to get sub-1:40. A PR was even a long shot at this point.

PART 3: MILES 10-13.1 (7:33, 7:33, 7:00, 7:31)

Finally, shortly after passing the next relay start (this was also the 4-miler start), I realized, IT DID EXIST! The steep downhill I had thought I had seen on the elevation profile - it was here! I was finally able to get my speed up again! Maybe, just MAYBE I could do it. Although, I still had yet to catch up with the 1:40 pacer. Either way, I could potentially still PR, even if I didn't get under 1:40. So I kept at it as fast as I could. Only 4 miles left. 3 miles, 2 miles.

Around 2 miles to go is when I saw the 1:40 pacer again! I really tried to speed up to get to him. I looked at my watch during one of the really steep sections and I was running a 6:30 pace... WHAT!? That didn't last long, but I did manage a 7:00 mile for #12 - pretty good considering how hot it was (and that this was MILE 12!!). About 1.5 to go, I was ALMOST to the pacer. He had lost all of his group, but turned back and yelled to people to hurry it up if they wanted to get in before 1:40. I sped up as much as I could, trying SO hard to catch up with him.

And then we got into town. And that hope I had of catching up with him. Yeah, it left. I was trying to keep my pace up, but the course just completely leveled at 12 1/2 and I slowed significantly. I tried to tell myself to just keep going - it's not even ONE mile. You can do this! I tried...but I kept slowing. The pacer was getting further and further in front of me. I kept at it as much as I could though because I did realize by this point that I could for sure at least PR (I needed under 1:41:50 to PR).

Then the very last section was rocky and uphill - I pushed as much as I could, but just couldn't keep my pace up. I just kept getting slower and slower until FINALLY, I crested the last hill, got ready to turn the corner to the finish and saw the clock. Hope was not lost! It read 1:39-something. And thank goodness it was a short finishers chute. I could do it! I literally found strength I didn't know I had left and sprinted it out to finish in 1:39:44!!!

Miles 10-13.1 Emotions (SO MANY):

Relief when the downhill picked up and I was able to pick up my pace
Uncertainty as to whether I could pull this off or not (but I kept trying despite it)
Excitement as I started to catch up to the pacer
Pure and Total Exhaustion in the last 1//2 mile. This was seriously, the MOST worn out I have EVER felt in a race.
Disappointment in watching the pacer slip away in the last 1/2 mile
Disbelief in seeing the clock and realizing all hope was not lost
Strength that I didn't know I had, as I sprinted it out to the finish
So much JOY as I realized, I DID IT! I achieved this goal that had seemed SO lofty when I originally committed to it
Proud that I managed to keep running strong and finish this race despite all of the frustrations leading up to during the race.
Confident about my upcoming marathon (the BIG one, where I'll be gutting it out, attempting to BQ)

So there you have it, my most REAL race experience! All races leave me with a lot of emotions, but this one by far left me with the most, which is why I thought it would be perfect for this blog post (and not to mention, convenient since I needed to recap this one anyways ;)! Not every race is perfect, not every race is enjoyable, but they all teach me something, which is what makes them real. Honestly, I had every excuse in the book prepared to give had I not achieved this goal. Which is why I was so happy with myself that I managed to pull through despite all of that and not give up. This race also taught me that I am capable of running faster and harder than I ever thought possible. I still have no idea where that last bit of strength came from that allowed me to sprint the last tenth of mile, but it was a pretty cool experience that I will never forget. I definitely won't be giving up hope easily in races anymore - you just never know what you can achieve until you're out there, pushing yourself past what you thought was your breaking point!


Starting Line at the Loveland Ski Area (10,800'!)
Starting! Can you spot me?
Since I didn't take any pictures on the course, I stole this from
Skirt Sports Ambassador, Lisa's Blog. Check her post out here
Also taken from Lisa's blog. Running under the railroad!
A few miles from the race finish.
Finishing completely exhausted...no smiles for this
one (until after I caught my breath 5 minutes later)!

Race: Slacker Half Marathon
Location; Loveland Ski Area to Georgetown, Colorado
Distance: 13.1 Miles (Garmin measured it at 3.18)
Bib Number: 165
Weather: 50's and Sunny at the start, at least 60's by the end? (the sun was intense though and it felt SO, SO hot)
Gun Time: 1:39:48
Chip/Official Time: 1:39:44
Average Pace: 7:36 min/mile
Starting Elevation: 10,836'
Ending Elevation: 8,504'
Elevation Gain/Loss: 190 Gain / 2519 Loss
Overall Rank: 114 of 1470
Gender Rank: 31 of 1028 (that means this race had significantly more women then men! Kind of crazy!)
Age Division Rank: 5 of 144
Garmin Splits: 7:42, 7:38, 7:28, 7:14, 7:19, 7:44, 7:49, 7:55, 7:48, 7:33, 7:33, 7:00, 7:31

Course Map
Elevation Profile - see there's definitely some hills in there!

After the race, I met and chatted with some fellow Skirt Sports Ambassadors and waited around for part of the post-race raffle. I didn't win anything, but they had a lot of food, and it was neat how the entire main downtown street of Georgetown was blocked off for the event.


Post-Race Festivities in Downtown Georgetown
With Skirt Sports Ambassador and Team Beef member Dawn - we wore the
exact same outfits without realizing it!
With Skirt Sports Ambassador Lisa!
Race shirt and finisher's medal.
The results were available right away and printed out for
you which was cool. Except, they were unofficial, so I got
bumped to 5th place because someone ran a faster chip time,
but with a slower "gun time".
With my mom at the finish line! She's my biggest supporter and comes to almost
all of my races, but I always forget to get a picture with her!!! Not this time!

Oh and I almost forgot to do the post-race review questions:

  • Beautiful, scenic course (although you can hear the traffic from I-70 for most of the race, but you only see it occasionally)
  • Great price point - $45 for early bird registration
  • Lots of aid stations (no gels though - just water and Gatorade)
  • Great post race - lots of food and drink, fun atmosphere.
  • Nice long sleeve shirts, reusable bags, and they had finishers medals which was nice, although they were small

  • Waiting around for the buses was just madness. They either need more buses, or they need to start the loading time significantly earlier.
  • So HOT!!! It's light by 5:00am this time of year, so they could easily start an hour or two earlier.


Yes, but probably not every year, since it is a bit of a drive for me.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Mountain To Valley Half Marathon

I signed up for the Mountain To Valley Half Marathon in March after a friend mentioned it and I looked it up. It was mostly downhill, and I'm in serious downhill training right now, so I figured this would be a good training run, and a good opportunity to test how my speed is coming along on a downhill course. Truth be told, while it WAS downhill, there were some nice hills mixed in, that may have looked tiny on the elevation profile, but did not feel tiny when running them. This race was fairly small, so not quite as organized as I would like, but overall it was a fun event.

Three years ago (can't believe it's been that long), my mom and I met up in Glenwood Springs for a girls weekend, and we've been talking about doing it again ever since, so I decided this race would be the perfect excuse! They also had a 4 mile option that my mom could walk, so it worked out perfectly! We both got our excercise in and then were able to spend the rest of the weekend relaxing at the hot springs and eating good food!

I had left work early the week before to drive to Denver, so I figured I should probably stay until 5:00 before heading to Glenwood. My mom left early enough to get there around 5:30 and pick up our packets, and then I met her at the hotel around 6:30 when I got in. We stayed at the Glenwood Suites - which is on the west side of town. It was pretty nice and allowed me to figure out some of the back roads around Glenwood. We ended up just having dinner at Subway (per my request because I'm picky before my races), checking out where we needed to be for the race the next morning and then calling it a night.

My Flat Runner ready for race day!

We got up around 5:30 on Saturday, got ready and then grabbed some breakfast before driving over to the park the race was at. We got there with a little extra time before I needed to get on the bus, so I decided to stand in line for the bathroom - which I am SOOO glad I did (there was only 1 porta-potty at the start line...for 200 racers!?!). I then made my way over to the bus and found Heather - a friend of mine who was racing as well, so we rode the bus up together.

The bus ride was LONG (they always are on those back mountain roads). Despite leaving at 7, we didn't make it to the start line until about 7:40. Once we got off the bus we found my other friend Cheryl and her friend, so we stood in line for the bathroom with them (which was a very long line, again with only 1 bathroom...I had a feeling this wasn't going to go over well for most people - thankfully I didn't have to go). Around 7:45, I did a little bit of a warm-up while they were still in line. Around 7:55, everyone in the bathroom line ended up wilder peeing and then we all jogged over to the start line, which was a ways up the road. The event was not chipped timed, so Cheryl convinced me to start at the front eventhough there were sure to be some faster people than us (but it was a small enough race, so it did work out - and I'm glad I did this, since their time was already slower than my Garmin).

The race was set to start at 8:00, but we ended up starting a little late. They had a group of runners participating who pushed individuals with disabilities, which was pretty cool, so they started first, and then we started about a minute behind of them. The race starts out with a gentle downhill, so I started at a moderate, steady pace. The course gradually got steeper over these first few miles until turning onto a dirt road just before mile 4 where there was an aid station followed by the first and toughest hill of the day. I skipped the aid station since I had my handheld and powered up the hill as best as I could, slowing a bit, but still getting in an 8:45 mile (my slowest of the day).

(Picture from the Mountain to Valley Half Facebook Page)

 After the big hill, the course becomes rolling hills for the remainder of the dirt road section (about 5 miles). Despite still being overall downhill, I really had to power down the "downs" to make up for the "ups." Overall though, I was happy with how I was handling the uphill sections.

(Picture from the Mountain to Valley Half Facebook Page)

Shortly after mile 9, the course turns onto "Four Mile Road" - taking us back onto pavement where the 4 Milers started. From here until we exited this road was all downhill other than 1 short but steep hill at mile 11. I did my best to really try to make up for some of my slower miles here, picking up my pace by quite a bit and passing quite a few people.

(Picture from the Mountain to Valley Half Facebook Page)

Around mile 12.5, you exit 4-Mile Road and run towards the park where the finish is. I had been soaring downhill up to this point, so when I got on this road and it turned to flat road, I really struggled. Thankfully it wasn't too much further and I was able to finish with a 2 1/2 minute PR and third place in my age group!

(Picture from the Mountain to Valley Half Facebook Page)

My mom and I post-race in our Skirt Sports!
Results! (I've never seen them post it like this, so I thought it was neat).

With my award for finishing 3rd in my age group!

Race: Mountain to Valley Half Marathon
Location: Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Distance: 13.1 Miles (Garmin measured it slightly short at 13.04)
Date: May 30, 2015
Bib Number: 1015
Weather: 45 and sunny at the start (60's at the end?)
Official Time: 1:41:50
Garmin Time: 1:41:34
Average Pace: 7:46 Per Mile
Elevation Gain/Loss: 157' Gain / 2,059' Loss
Overall Rank: 35 of 189
Gender Rank: 14 of 121
Age Division Rank: 3 of 21 (!!!)
Garmin Splits: 7:29, 7:48, 7:23, 7:59, 8:45 (HILL), 8:04, 7:41, 7:54, 7:52, 7:36, 7:27, 7:55, 7:28

Overall Thoughts:
This was a nice, fairly close to home race on a beautiful course (FYI - I didn't get any photos on the course since I was running for time so all of the course photos I posted were taken from the race's Facebook page). I feel like I ran a really well executed race - I was able to pick up my pace a lot in the last few miles (with the exception of the last 1/2 mile when I started to slow) and get a pretty good PR - leaving me feeling a little more confident about my next half marathon in June and slightly more so for my goal full marathon in July.

Likes & What Worked:
  • Beautiful course
  • Great weather (slightly hot at the end, but overall, it was great)
  • Great price ($40 for early registration, $45 through race-day)
  • Downhill course (but don't be fooled - those "ups" get tiring)
  • Lots of finish line food (the race had various snacks and then a local church was giving out free hot dogs)
  • My amphipod handheld water bottle - I've determined it's the perfect size for a half marathon 
  • For a good cause - it's always nice to know my registration fee is going to a good cause!
  • I didn't get a picture of them, but the race shirts are very nice - gender specific, tech.

Dislikes & What Didn't Work:

  • Not the most organized - the start wasn't very "official", and they needed WAY more porta-potties than they had (they had 2 at the finish line and 1 at the start).
  • I've gotten spoiled with all the races I've been doing...I wanted a finisher's medal, and this race didn't have them (thankfully I got a cool wine glass for placing in my age group though).
  • I wasn't in the mood for one, so this didn't effect me, but supposedly they ran out of beer for the beer garden.
  • My Garmin measured the course slightly short (13.04) which I always hate because I feel like I can't count it as a true PR. However, they manually timed this and they said my time was about 20 seconds slower than my Garmin. I know I started and stopped my Garmin on time, if not a couple seconds early/late, so I've decided to call it a wash.

Would I Run This Again?
Maybe. It's a beautiful course and fairly close, so I could definitely see running it again - but only if it fit into the schedule nicely. I wouldn't go out of my way to run it again.

The Rest of the Weekend...

After the race, my mom and I headed to the hot springs for several hours that afternoon followed by dinner downtown and then back to the hot springs that evening. We didn't have much planned for Sunday, so we ended up doing a last minute trip down to Aspen to see the Maroon Bells (this was a great time of year to go because the road going to the Bells was open to the public, but only for a few more weeks! It was a great trip and I definitely want to try and make it an annual thing (whether or not running a race is involved).

We took this same photo 3 years ago! Now if only I could find it... 

The Maroon Bells really are breathtaking! 
I just love this photo! :)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Skirt Sports 13er and the #13Daysof13er Challenge!

Skirt Sports had their 13er (Half Marathon) this past weekend! They had both a local race in Colorado and a virtual race that you could run on your own and still get all of the great swag. It would've been a lot of fun running it local (and I saw all of my fellow ambassador's photos - it seriously looked like a blast!!!), but the timing was just not good for me - I had a pretty crazy weekend in two different states - the first half of the weekend I was in Kansas City for my grandparent-in-law's 60th wedding anniversary party (60 years - how cool is that!?!), and then early on Sunday morning I flew to Chicago for a work trip Sunday night thru today. It was very busy and I got very little sleep - but it was all a lot of fun and worth it!

Despite the craziness, I did manage to have an extra few hours on Sunday, so I could squeeze in my Skirt Sports 13er! I made the best out of it by using the time to explore Chicago, which was pretty cool (there's a good chance that I literally took a million pictures). I'll be recapping that in a bit, but before that, I wanted to also share my posts for the #13Daysof13er Instagram Challenge. Since the 13er was on the 14th of the month - Skirt Sports came up with this cool challenge to share pictures and posts in the 13 days leading up to race day! I ended up having a lot of fun with it, so I thought I'd just share it on my blog as well for anyone not on Instagram (although - you really should be - it's only the best form of social media out there ;).

So without further ado, The 13 Days of 13er Instagram Challenge:

Day 1 of the @SkirtSports #13DaysOf13er challenge: What do you LOVE about YOU?"
I love how dedicated I am! When I commit to something, I am determined to do it and will do whatever it takes to get there! Whether it was running my first 5K, which then became a Half Marathon, followed by a Full Marathon (and then some Ultras, Imogene Pass Run, and Pikes Peak). I signed up for those races, committed, put in the training and accomplished what I set out to do! Which is why I have no doubt in my mind that I WILL someday qualify for Boston. I don't necessarily know when, but it will happen! It's not too late to join in on the countdown too! What do you love about you?! #REALwomenmove

Day 2 of the @SkirtSports #13DaysOf13er challenge: Who is your role model? 
My running role model is @ShalaneFlanagan! I think it's so cool that she isn't afraid to share her goals and dreams very openly and publicly!!! Whether it be going for the win at Boston or going for records, it's very inspiring to hear about them beforehand and watch her go after them! It is equally inspiring to see her pick herself up and keep setting new goals even after she doesn't reach some of them. I was so impressed that she keep going at this years Boston Marathon and finished despite losing the lead pack miles before the finish line. Definitely someone to look up to! #REALwomenmove 
(P.S. Shalane Flanagan ACTUALLY commented back on my post!!!!)

Day 3 of the @SkirtSports #13DaysOf13er challenge: "What is your hardest workout?"
Today's question is actually very fitting because I had speedwork on the schedule for today! Speedwork is BY FAR the toughest workout for me, especially in the mental sense. Honestly, I don't like running fast! AT ALL. I've determined there are two types of runners out there: those who would prefer to be in a lot of pain for a short amount of time, or those who would prefer to be in a little bit of pain for a long amount of time. I am definitely the latter! I would run a marathon over "racing" a 5K any day of the week! The short, fast stuff is very tough for me mentally. Thankfully, it does tend to pay off. Since I started doing consistent speedwork once a week, my overall speed has improved drastically. I have PR'd in every race distance from 5K to 26.2 since I started doing speedwork last November. So while I dread it every week and complain about it while I'm doing it, I know it's good for me and I get through it! What doesn't kill me makes me stronger, or so I've been told! #REALwomenmove #NationalRunningDay

Day 4 of the @SkirtSports #13DaysOf13er challenge: "Who is your Best Running Friend?"
This is a tough one because I've met SO many awesome people since I started running! So I'm just going to give a shout out to all my running friends! From my best childhood friend Amy who unintentionally inspired me to start running long distance in the first place (in the summer and fall of 2012, we were both getting into running and because she was naturally much faster than me, I turned to distance running for the first time in an effort to be good at something "of my own"), to my friend @kelleelyn who I met on Instagram and have since stayed at her house (having only met online prior) and traveled to Phoenix with, to all of the lovely local ladies I've met both here and in Montrose, and finally to all the awesome people I've met through #MyFitnessPal - you guys all rock! Thank you for continually inspiring me with all of your Bad Ass-ness!!! (and sorry, I don't have pictures of everyone, but there are only so many pictures you can fit into a 2"x 2" square!) #REALwomenmove 

Day 5 of the @SkirtSports #13DaysOf13er challenge: "Who do you wish was waiting for you at the finish line?"
My hubby! We works most weekends and so isn't able to make it to a lot of my races anymore (and especially now since I do SO many) but it just makes it all the more special when he can be there! This picture was right after I finished my first 50 mile Ultra Marathon last September! It was SUCH a long day, I was so happy to have him there to celebrate this huge accomplishment with me! #REALwomenmove 

Day 6 of the @SkirtSports #13DaysOf13er challenge: "Toughest Race Ever?" 
While I've ran more challenging and longer courses than this, The Desert RATS Trail Marathon last year was the toughest race for me mentally, by far. What is normally a beautiful trail close to home, was, that day, a rainy, muddy (SO muddy) nightmare! Those were the longest 26 miles of my life! It was a long, slow day and I wanted to quit so many times! But despite the never ending mud constantly caked to my shoes, and a lot of mental battles about why I even run, I EVENTUALLY finished (and with a smile on my face - although that was mostly because the sun finally came out for the last mile) and I couldn't have been prouder of myself for sticking with it and not quitting! Not every race will be a perfect, joyous occasion - but that's what makes things interesting and leaves you with some great stories to tell! #REALwomenmove 

Day 7 of the @SkirtSports #13DaysOf13er challenge: "What Inspires You Most?" 
Honestly there are so many things that inspire me to run - other runners, seeing myself improve, setting goals...but I think I am most inspired by the incredible scenery I get to witness when I run! I have lived in Colorado almost my entire life, and had no idea how lucky I was to live here until I started hiking and running. There are so many beautiful places right outside my front door! Running to these views always puts me in such a good mood and reminds me of why I run! #REALwomenmove

Day 8 of the @SkirtSports #13DaysOf13er challenge: "What Is Your Favorite Cross Training Activity?" 
My favorite cross training activity is...drum roll please...Hiking!!! I actually fell in love with hiking before I even started running, so it will always have a special place in my heart. I just LOVE the glorious places hiking has taken me - I have climbed some of the tallest mountains in the continental United States, been to some of the most beautiful, pristine alpine lakes, seen a sunrise from 12,000', hiked over fields of snow in July, and gotten caught in rain and hail storms with miles still to go! As challenging as it can sometimes be, every hike I do turns out to be an incredible adventure and is so worth it! Today's picture is my hubby and I at the summit of Torrey's Peak - the third 14er we climbed in 2011 - the first summer I got into hiking. It is still one of my favorite hikes to this day! #REALwomenmove

Day 9 of the @SkirtSports #13DaysOf13er challenge: "Flat Kate" / What's your favorite race outfit?
I've actually got two favorite race outfits these days! When I'm running for #TeamBeef, I love how my red team jersey matches with my @SkirtSports arya print gym girl ultra skirt! When I'm not, I'm in love with my new @skirtsports electric tank and the vixen skirt! Both outfits always with a @sparklysoulinc headband and my trusty @brooksrunning Ravenna's! #REALwomenmove 

Day 10 of the @SkirtSports #13DaysOf13er challenge: "What has been your most fun race ever?" 
That's an easy one: The #WaltDisneyWorldMarathon! I don't do a whole lot of out-of-state traveling for races, but when I decided I was ready to attempt my first full marathon, I knew it had to be at #Disney! I went there several times growing up and it's just SO much fun and magical, I thought it would be PERFECT for my first marathon. And it totally was. As much as I cringe at the pricing of Disney Races, they seriously know how to put on a great race and a great experience! The whole race was a blast - running through the different Disney parks and past all of the characters. The race is huge (20,000 racers), so there's always tons of people on the course and lots of crowd support. This was my first marathon, so I ran it conservatively, but it was also my best executed marathon to date - I felt good the entire time and never had that, "why am I doing this" thought. I was even able to speed up over the last 6 miles and finish at a faster per mile pace than I had ran the first 20 in. It was just pure and total FUN!!! Plus, what better way to recover after a marathon than by spending a week at #WaltDisneyWorld!? It truly was a great experience and I can't wait to go back someday to complete the #DopeyChallenge. #REALwomenmove

Day 11 of the @SkirtSports #13DaysOf13er challenge: "What goes through your mind at mile 10 of a 13er?" 
I always group mileage together to help get through runs mentally (ex. "1/4 of the way there", "5 miles to go", "single digits", etc.), so my first thought at mile 10, is "ONLY a 5K to go!" And since I've been in full marathon training mode for 6+ months now, the word "ONLY" is actually pretty applicable! #REALwomenmove #skirtsports (P.S. the photo above was from my most recent half marathon 2 weeks ago, and I'm pretty sure it was right around 10 miles! I busted out a 2 1/2 minute PR running it in 1:41:50!)

Day 12 of the @SkirtSports #13DaysOf13er challenge: "What is your favorite post-race treat?" 
Very fitting since I'm on #TeamBeef, my favorite post-race treat is a burger and fries (several hours post-race that is)!!! I also enjoy chocolate chip cookies, so I had photoshop those in as well! #REALwomenmove (and eat) #skirtsports

Day 13 of the @SkirtSports #13DaysOf13er challenge: "Show us your finish line smile!" #NoDescriptionNeeded #REALwomenmove #skirtsports

Day 14 of the @SkirtSports #13Daysof13er challenge: Run a 13er! 
There wasn't an official post for the 14th day, but I thought it would be fun to finish it off with this! I also ended up taking a TON of pictures along the route, including 13 Selfies for 13 Miles - something I came up with while I was running. I'm not even a huge selfie person, but after I had taken a couple, I decided it would be fun to go for it and try to get as many well known landmarks and areas as I could! So here those are:

The Chicago River Walk
Navy Pier

The Lakefront Trail
This path extends from the Lakefront Trail out along Lake Michigan around the Planetarium.
Adler Planetarium
Shedd Aquarium
The Field Museum
The Skyline, about to head into Grant Park

These Gardens were right by the Art Institute
The Art Institute
Up close selfie with "The Bean"
Far away selfie with "The Bean"
Ohio Street Beach

After finishing my 13er, I grabbed lunch and then headed to the condo we were staying at. It had SPECTACULAR views, so I sat out on the balcony enjoying the views, the weather and my new finisher's skirt (it is SO comfy)!

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...