Friday, July 31, 2015

Mt. Princeton & Independence Pass

With all of the road running I've been doing, I have barely gotten into the mountains this summer, which, let's face it, is just NOT OKAY with me! I spend all winter and spring looking forward to this time of year and here I've been wasting it. So when my friend Kellee asked if I wanted to meet her in the mountains (we live on opposite sides of the state) to hike a 14er, I of course, jumped at it - especially since I didn't have any solidified plans for the weekend.

Our plan was to camp near Buena Vista and hike Mt. Princeton on Saturday - which would be my 8th fourteener. I also hadn't really ever spent much time in the Buena Vista area, so was excited to experience a new mountain town and see what it had to offer. The town was super cute, and although Buena Vista is a bit of a drive for me (about 3 hours, 40 minutes), it is kind of a cool location - as I can get there by way of 3 different routes, all taking roughly the same time frame. Since I drive I-70 all the time when I go to Denver, I decided to mix it up this weekend and take a few different routes: on the way there I drove Highway 50 south to Montrose, then east to Gunnison, over Monarch Pass and then turned north on 285 into town. On the way home, I went up towards Leadville and took Independence Pass home - a drive I have wanted to do FOREVER, but it always seems to be out of the way (and thus, adds HOURS onto a drive). However, from Buena Vista - it was perfectly "on-the-way" for once, and so I knew I just had to drive it! And I am so glad that I did, because it was, to put it simply, AMAZING! I ended up leaving fairly early on Sunday morning and just took the drive nice and leisurely, stopping to take TONS of pictures - something else I haven't done in awhile - which I've missed! So overall, it was an awesome weekend in the mountains for me! I can only hope to get a few more amazing mountain weekends in before the summer once again slips away from me.

So anyways, I will start with the hike recap, and then I'll get into the drive (which will mostly just be pictures).

PART 1: Mt. Princeton (Hike)

I'm going to be honest, this wasn't my favorite hike - a little more technical than I like, BUT it was gorgeous nonetheless and it's always good for me to step out of my comfort zone a little, right? And the views from the top are always worth it in the end. We started at the lower/main trailhead, which is fine, but makes for a VERY long hike - so if you have a good 4WD SUV, use it! We started just before dawn and got some sunrise views, although the tree's were mostly blocking them:

At about the 3 mile mark is a radio tower and where most of the SUV's start to park so we started to see lots of other people starting their hike. We took a quick break shortly after this section to enjoy these views:

We hiked up the road for another 2-3 miles before finally getting to the actual trail (we also missed the trail the first time around - which probably added an extra 1/2-1 mile or so - still not sure how this happened). But, by missing it, we got to this area with a neat cross:

Once we realized we missed the trail, we headed back down a little until we got onto the trail. There's about 1/4 mile of nice trail and then it's all rock. For the entire remainder of the hike. I was not prepared for this. I knew from the pictures that it was going to be rocky - but I guess I just didn't expect the entire remaining 3 miles and 2000'+ feet of gain to be all rock. And most of the rock was giant boulders that required watching every single step you took to make sure you didn't misstep and break an ankle. So when I say 3 miles, you really need to think in terms of time - with this kind of rock, we were moving about 1 mile per hour...! And we're marathon runners here! Haha, but sometimes, it's more about experience I guess - as despite passing a bunch of people on the dirt road, we were the ones getting passed on this section. It was mostly my fault - I'm not good at the rocky stuff. At all.

This puts the size of the rocks into perspective!
Despite the rocks, the views were incredible!
So, essentially is was just rocks and rock and rocks. Not much to talk about, but it took a really long time. The actual "trail section" (once you got off the 4WD road) consisted of about a mile of going over the boulders without gaining much elevation, followed by a mile or two to the summit that was tons of boulders PLUS tons of elevation. That was the slowest by far.

And then FINALLY, after what felt like forever, we made it to the summit:

LOVE this picture! Look at the green up high on the peak out there! And talk about "Purple Mountains Majesty"!
Made it!!!
Kellee made it too (let's hope)! ;)
Looking in the other direction.
Kellee and I!
This is why I hike!
Panoramic at the Summit!

We stayed at the summit for about 20 minutes or so before heading back. It was absolutely gorgeous weather on top - which is not very common for fourteeners (I mean - Kellee is wearing a TANK TOP for crying out loud!). We would have stayed and enjoyed it for a longer amount of time except we knew it was going to be just as slow going back down as it was going up due to the rocks. So we headed back down, and it did take a very long time!

Also, while we were at the summit, a girl started having REALLY bad altitude sickness. To an extent that I had never seen before - it was pretty scary. The girls boyfriend ended up asking for help from other hikers to get her down the mountain because she was so out of it. About a mile or so down the trail, I caught up to them and Kellee and I gave them our trekking poles so they could try to make a stretcher. I'm not sure whatever happened to them, but I hope she was okay. It was one of those moments that I won't forget - I now know how serious Altitude Sickness can be. So here's a little friendly PSA: don't take Altitude Sickness lightly. If you feel the affects, or see someone you're with affected, don't keep going up and be sure to drink and eat!

After several more hours heading back down, we were almost to the dirt road when we finally saw Search and Rescue on their way up to help the girl.

We kept heading down the road and ended up catching up with a guy who we had leap-frogged with a few times on the trail. He had asked for some water for his dog, and Kellee luckily had enough to give him some (I ran out - of 100oz of water!!! That tells you how hot it was!). In return he offered to give us a ride back down to the main trailhead once we finally reached his car - saving us about 2-3 miles and probably an hour of hiking time (so THANK YOU random stranger with a very cute Wheaten Terrier named Wrigley).

We ended up finishing the hike in about 9 hours. Now - that was our total time and not moving time, but still - 9 HOURS for 13 miles. Thank goodness that the weather was amazing (there were like 2 clouds in the sky all day) - as we were above treeline fairly late in the day, which can be prime time for thunderstorms. We ended up ascending 5547' total feet, topping out at 14,197'!

Needless to say, by the time we got back to camp, we were exhausted! And thank goodness our campsite had showers! After our showers, we headed into Buena Vista for dinner and then spent the rest of the evening relaxing with Kellee's roommate Sarah who had came to camp, but didn't want to hike.

The next morning we got up around 7 and after we packed up camp, I stopped into town for a quick breakfast (Vanilla Chai Latte and a Cinnamon Roll = AMAZING) before heading out for my next big adventure: driving over Independence Pass.

PART 2: Independence Pass (Drive)

So, as I mentioned before, I've wanted to do this drive for quite sometime now. In addition to not having done it because it's out of the way, I'll admit, I've also been a little timid to do it - especially alone. You see - I had also been told that there were sections of the drive that were only one-lane - which kind of intimidated me. Thankfully I have my nice little tiny Subaru. However, that didn't stop me from worrying about other people and their giant trucks and RV's. Luckily - it was not as bad as I was afraid of. For one thing, the Leadville side is totally fine with 2 lanes all the way to the top. The Aspen side is where it gets a little tricky - but it was just 2 fairly short sections and I, thankfully, didn't come across anyone on my way down. So crisis averted - I survived to tell the tale, and even want to do it again sometime!

I ended up making several stops throughout the drive, including a pretty long stop (probably 45 minutes to an hour) at the top of the Pass to take lots of pictures and enjoy the scenery and being above treeline. I've said it before and I'll say it again - I just LOVE being above treeline where it's all green and beautiful. There wasn't much of that while hiking Princeton, so I was SO glad there was here - and even better - there were tons of gorgeous little alpine wildflowers. It was absolutely incredible. It is places like this that always lead me to wonder how people don't believe in God. It's like he's giving us glimpses into Heaven!

So without further ado, I'm just going to end this with pictures (and pictures, and pictures, and maybe even some MORE pictures) from the drive:

Before I headed up to Independence Pass, I did a little exploring to try and find a good place to get a picture of Mt. Princeton.
Mt. Princeton - 14,197'. We were at the top of that! (P.S. you can kind of see the trail to the left of the peak.

Made it!

I was trying to figure out if these were the Maroon Bells. Anyone know?

Does it get much better than this?
The Ghost Town of Independence. It was starting to rain, so I didn't go check it out. Next time!
This was at a campground closer to Aspen - it was gorgeous! Must camp here sometime!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Revel Rockies Marathon Race Recap

As many of you probably know by now, Revel Rockies Marathon was my goal race of the year. Unfortunately it did not go as planned. The marathon is a tricky distance. So many factors have to align to get the perfect race outcome - training, weather, fueling & hydration, mental toughness. Today was not that day. The weather was great, my training was pretty good (I'll get to more on that later - I do think I had a BQ time in me, but I also think mentally I didn't feel as prepared as I would have liked), but I had some serious hydration and fueling issues resulting in myself slowing significantly in the later miles and I did not have the mental toughness to come back from it. Am I disappointed? Yes. Am I devastated? No. There will be other races. Today was not my day. Boston 2016 will not be my race. And that's okay.

Last fall, I decided I would try for a BQ by running the Phoenix Marathon on 2/28, the Colorado Marathon on 5/3, and then Revel Rockies on 7/19. My strategy at the time had been to give myself plenty of chances to get the BQ. I have now learned, it was not the best strategy. But, as the famous Robert F. Kennedy once said:

"Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly."

Yes, I've failed in this attempt to qualify for Boston these past few months. But I am also still a relatively newbie runner and the more I run, and the more I set goals for running, the more I learn. You see, for a lot runners, especially those who run primarily for time goals, they only do 1-2 per year. Now, I kind of understood the logic behind it - running 26.2 miles - especially at "race pace" wears you down. You need serious training time to build up to it. You need recovery time. But, well I guess it was more that I was nervous to only give myself 1-2 chances per year to qualify. However, here I am, 7 months into the year with 3 chances and I failed at all of them. The only one I consider a real success is my 3:41:50 PR that I got at the Phoenix Marathon. It was my first of the year, and my first attempt at qualifying and yet I did my best. Why? Because I did a full 18 week training program and followed it to a T. Now that doesn't mean I didn't train for Revel. I did - long runs specifically and downhill runs to match the course. I put in 50 miles weeks. But I just didn't have the same motivation and dedication I had when I trained for Phoenix. And honestly - I think it all stemmed from the fact that I didn't give myself a true break after Phoenix. So I have now learned that running only 1-2 marathons at racing pace is not only for the physical aspect, but also, equally as important for the mental aspect.

Which is why I have decided not to attempt to qualify again until I can commit to a race and give it a full 16-18 weeks of dedicated training. I truly believe that is going to be necessary for me to achieve this goal. Not only will doing a full training plan with dedicated speed work and tempo runs get my body ready for a BQ, but it will get my mind much more ready as well. I had so much confidence going into Phoenix. I didn't have that here. And I truly believe that is half the battle - especially when the going gets tough. And oh how it got tough today! So without further ado, my race recap:

I had heard good things about Revel races (side note: I probably won't anymore - the Half Marathon ended up getting canceled at the last minute and people are VERY upset), so despite the insanely early bus pick-up time, I was okay with it and excited for this race! Having done a training run on the course, I also understood that it would take a long time to get to the start - Squaw Pass Road is very winding and steep after all! And I was right - I got on a bus at about 3:45 and didn't get to the start line until about 5:00. I met up with a friend from MyFitnessPal and we hung out while waiting for the start. At about 5:30 they announced that the race may be delayed by about 20 minutes because they were having some busing issues. I really wanted to start on time to avoid as much heat as possible as the day warmed up, so I was a little disappointed in this, but after hearing what happened later (the half marathon being cancelled and an entire bus of full marathoners not making it to the start line at all) - I'm just happy I ended up getting to run in the first place! Anyways, after making my way through the bathroom line and standing around for awhile, they finally announced at 6:00 that we would start at 6:10. Great! I threw my stuff in my drop bag and made my way to the start line - jogging a little just to warm-up. Before I knew it, we were off!

I ran the first 18 miles of the course in training, so I knew what to expect for those miles and as such I did go out a bit faster than goal pace for the first 11 or so. This is the steepest downhill of the course and I wanted to take advantage of it. And I don't regret it one bit nor do I think it effected my disastrous later miles - I went off of effort and felt great the whole time, running around a 7:45 pace on average.

At mile 11.5 the course turns onto Evergreen Parkway. This was the section I was most worried about because I knew it had some BIG hills. Overall though, I did okay on this section. I had some slower miles but I was prepared for that. It felt like it went a lot faster than it did in training - I guess because there were more people around. I started chatting with a guy named Matt and found out he was from Fruita (right near Grand Junction) which was cool. As we passed the half marathon point I mentioned something about how it would kind of suck to start the half on an uphill. That's when he told me the half marathon was cancelled. At first I thought he was joking - but apparently not. The busing company didn't provide about half of the buses they were supposed to (which now explained the late start), so Revel ended up canceling the half marathon the morning of!!! Pretty crazy!

Once I made it off of Evergreen Parkway, I thought I would be good to go - and this may have been part of my problem. I was expecting the course to continue to be downhill, but we ended up with some flat miles for awhile that I really struggled with. I also ended up getting a really bad side stitch at mile 17 - which ended up being the beginning of the end. I pushed through 17 & 18 - trying my hardest to run through the pain. I slowed by about a minute per mile, but I was still running. I still could have made up for it and had a shot at my BQ - but then at about 19 1/2 came the worst stomach pain ever - I just felt completely nauseous. I couldn't run through it - and slowed to a walk. I was hoping maybe I could throw up and recover (I know - sounds glorious!) but I couldn't, despite trying a few times. So I ran/walked the next 2 miles and watched my shot at a BQ slip away minute by minute. It was pretty depressing. At one point I ended up next to an Instagram friend who kind of helped me put things into perspective though. I told her I was so mad at myself and she just said, "Why? You're doing the best you can." So that helped me get over my immediate depression and just keep going. I came upon a big hill and decided to attempt to run down it. Well apparently that was what I needed to get myself to throw up because at the end of that hill, mile 22.5 - I did. It sounds awful and it was - but I actually felt WAY better afterwords. In fact, had I still had a shot of finishing in time, I think I could've found the strength to get back to a decent pace. But, since I knew it was over, I just decided to take the last 3 miles slowly and enjoy the scenery. With a mile left I realized I could MAYBE get a sub-4:00 time, so decided to pick up the pace and sure enough, I did squeeze by with a 3:59:10!

So, no I didn't get my sub-3:35 (by a lot), but I did get sub-4:00 at a race involving myself puking - so that's kind of a win after all, right? ;)

(more photo's to be uploaded once they're available - Revel offers free race photos - which is always a nice bonus!)

Location: Squaw Pass to Morrison, Colorado
Distance: 26.2 Miles (although my Garmin measured it at 26.6 - this was kind of a disappointment - it was off from the very first mile!)
Bib Number: 3039
Weather: PERFECT - ahh it was SO perfect. 40's at the start, 60's and overcast at the end.
Gun Time: 3:59:24
Chip/Official Time: 3:59:10
Average Pace: 9:07
8 Mile Split: 1:02:16 (7:47 pace!!!)
Starting Elevation: 10,563'
Ending Elevation: 5,781'
Overall Rank: 369 of 814
Gender Rank: 158 of 415
Age Division Rank (F25-29): 20 of 46
Garmin Splits: 7:36, 7:34, 7:36, 7:24, 7:34, 8:00, 7:44, 7:43, 7:36, 8:00, 7:53, 7:50, 8:17, 8:09, 8:21, 7:46, 8:00, 8:59, 8:47, 9:02, 12:43, 16:32, 12:32, 8:49, 10:17, 13:18, 8:39 (last .2)

Race Map
Elevation Profile
Beautiful sunrise as we waited for the start!
The starting line!
Probably around Mile 24.
Mile 25 maybe?
The Race Medals were pretty cool!
At the end of the day, I still ran a marathon and that is something to celebrate!

Overall thoughts on this race:

Honestly, I loved the course. I really did. It was downhill and very scenic ALL the way to end (as opposed to a lot of "scenic" courses where the last 6-10 are boring and awful...cough Colorado, Aspen Valley, and Phoenix). The Evergreen Hills are tough, but early enough that they're doable. It did flatten out a bit around 18-20 which was a little hard for me - but mostly just because I wasn't expecting it. I liked how the finish was right as you got into Morrison and didn't involve a lot of extra miles going through town like a lot of races do (see above coughing...) - although it does finish on an uphill - it's a short uphill, but I think that would have been tough if I was really pushing it hard at the end. From my perspective, I thought everything was organized well and put on well - however, as briefly mentioned earlier, apparently the half marathon ended up being a disaster - I really didn't get any details on that until later though, and the race has since announced that they will fully refund anyone effected by the busing issues. Therefore I think it's safe to say I would definitely run this one again sometime.

Thoughts on future racing plans:

Prior to this race, I had toyed with the idea of signing up for an early September marathon to give myself one more shot at Boston 2016, had I not gotten my BQ at Revel. But I have officially decided not to do that. As I've kind of explained above, I just really feel like I need to give myself a full training cycle before trying again. I also feel like I'm worn out and need a break from road racing. Here I am, late-July and have only been on mountain trails once. ONE TIME this summer. That is not okay for my sanity. So I will be spending the remaining summer and early fall months hiking and trail running! It is truly good for the soul! My plan as of now is to pick a winter or early spring race to attempt once more to BQ (open to suggestions - preferably in the February-April time frame). Yes it means pushing Boston off for another year, which I am bummed about, but I think it is the best thing in the end. 

And with that, I will leave you with some more quotes on Failure - just to make myself feel better :)

"Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a 
temporary detour, not a dead end." - Denis Waitley

"When you take risks you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be 
times when you fail, and both are equally important." -Ellen DeGeneres

"Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement." -C.S. Lewis

"Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist 
failure or use failure that often leads to greater success." - J.K. Rowling

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Trail Run: Cutler Creek & Baldy Trail Loop

I'd be lying if I didn't say I was having a bit of a hard time focusing on road running when it's prime season for trail running right now. So a few weeks ago, I was SO happy to be able to head down to Ouray for an awesome trail run - my first mountain run of the year.

I had posted on Facebook asking if anyone was interested in joining me for a trail run and was happy to hear that some of my friends from Montrose already had some plans going and allowed me to tag along! There was a fairly large group of us, but with some of us wanting to go different distances and paces so it worked out well that we ended up splitting into smaller groups as the day went on. The route we took was Cutler Creek Trail to Left Fork Cutler Creek Trail and then to Baldy Trail back to the trailhead. I have actually been on Badly Trail before - Scott and I hiked it the first summer we lived in Montrose, but the Cutler Creek section was new to me. Either way though, I was just happy to be in the incredible San Juan Mountains for the first time this summer. 

I'm going to keep this short, and mostly just share pictures, but we ended up going about 10 miles total (we were actually at about 9.5 when we got back to the trailhead, so me being me, had to add an extra half mile onto it to get to 10!) with about 3,000 feet of elevation gain. It was an absolutely gorgeous day and I hope to get many more of these after my next road marathon in 2 weeks (seriously - I am counting down the days until it's over - I'm just a little burned out from it - I want to spend my weekends frolicking in fields of wildflowers and groves of Aspen that so much to ask!?! I know it sounds cheesy but there is just something freeing about spending time in the mountains. It is good for the soul!

So without further ado, pictures:

Map of the trails in the area! We did Cutler Creek to Left Fort Cutler Creek to Baldy

One of the many water crossings!

So pretty!!

Chimney Rock and Courthouse Mountain!

The water crossings felt so nice - it was 85 degrees out!!

My picture doesn't do these poppies justice - they were HUGE and so pretty!

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...