Tuesday, December 22, 2015

2015 Racing Recap

I honestly cannot believe ANOTHER year has come and gone. I've officially been running for 3 full years now, the last 2 of which have been FILLED with races. It's always tough to recap the year because there were so many awesome experiences (I mean, I did 22 races this year alone!), so I've decided to narrow it down to some "favorites" and "bests" of the year...

Ah, Golden Leaf Half. This tops my racing for the year because it was one of those races where my time didn't matter, I simply enjoyed it. A race that reminds me what it is exactly that I love about running. The trails, the scenery, that feeling of being alive. Simply Stunning. All of it. It's a PERFECT time to be in Aspen. Seriously - if you have a chance to run this race, Do.

Best Overall Experience: PHOENIX MARATHON [3:41:35]
Number two on my list of top races of the year would be the Phoenix Marathon. It was, by far, my most well trained, well executed race this year. It's funny that it happened to be so early in the year. My goal this year was to qualify for Boston. Had I known this would still be my PR 10 months later, I definitely would've been slightly more aggressive in this race, but I am still 100% happy with how it went. I had trained my a$$ off, I was confident, I ran a solid race. I can only hope to do that again this next year. As an added bonus, I also had a lot of fun exploring the Phoenix area with my friend Kellee and meeting up with 2 online running friends, Amanda and Shirley!

Best Time / PR: SLACKER HALF MARATHON [1:39:44]
Slacker was another really well executed race of mine. I am thrilled with my time at this race - although given the fact that it was VERY downhill, I'm never as confident showing it off as my PR (I always have to say, "oh, but it was a downhill course"). However, I still ran this really well - holding my pace in those last few miles was one of the toughest things I've ever done. If there's one thing I've learned this year, it's that I need to work on my mental toughness: pushing through the pain, and just, in general, having more confidence going into a race.

Best Course (and most challenging): RIM ROCK MARATHON
Ah Rim Rock. I FINALLY got to run you! Since this was on my home turf, I'd ran bits and pieces, but never the whole thing. And boy was this tough. There are some people who can run this as fast as a flat Marathon. I am NOT one of those people. With over 2000 feet of elevation gain, the first half of this race left me SO incredibly worn out. It was seriously tough. Had the second half not been downhill, I honestly don't know if I could've ran this whole race. Thankfully..THE VIEWS. Stunning. This is why I run! (In addition to the views, I also consider this the "best course" because I just love the feeling of accomplishment after completing a tough course).

Best Amenities: ROUTE 66 MARATHON
What a fun race. Seriously. Me...drinking Beer at Mile 9 of a Marathon? Check! Mimosa's at 22 - why not? I loved not having a goal and simply having fun with this one. It forced me to talk to random other runners which was a blast (and I swear, I don't know what it is about running...I am so NOT talkative in real life, but I can find anything and everything to talk about on a run). This really is a great race to just have fun at (plus with all those hills - who wants to go for a PR anyways!?), especially if you're a Marathon Maniac or Half Fanatic - so many people to talk to and drink with and who knows what else!

Race that didn't go as planned: REVEL ROCKIES MARATHON
Oh Revel Rockies. You sweet, terrible, wonderful, cruel race. This was my #1 goal race of the year. Unfortunately the race had other plans for me. So well executed until Mile 17 when my race suddenly came crashing down on me as the stomach issues just kept rolling in. First it was side stitches for several miles, then I just felt completely sick. And finally Mile 22.5. Me. On the side of the road. Vomiting. Running can be SO lovely at times. But hey - we all have bad races. Unfortunately this was one of them, and unfortunately it ended my dreams of Boston 2016. It was tough to accept (it still is actually), but I have faith that my day will come eventually! But hey, the day wasn't a total loss. I got to meet Chris, another online running friend. He ran this as his first marathon in 3:32 and change....want to trade finish times?!.

I just wanted to note Mt. Sneffels because I love the race and it was extra special this year since I got to share it with my dad as he ran his first Half Marathon! Loveland Fall Classic was another noteworthy race because after several weeks of extremely rough training (or lack thereof), I was in a bad place mentally until I decided to leave the fate of this race up to God. I trusted him completely and he carried me to my second best executed marathon of the year which I really needed after bombing Revel Rockies. Scott was also able to be at the finish line for this one which was a nice surprise for me, and we went and spent a few days in Estes Park afterword.

Mileage (as of 12/22/2015): 2046 MILES COMPLETED
A big goal of mine that I had this year was to complete 2015 Miles in 2015. This counted anything done "on foot", which for me was running, hiking, walking, snowshoeing. 1909 of those alone were just running, so I'm pretty proud of that, especially considering my highest year before was only ever in the 1500-1600 range.

I had a blast being a Skirt Sports Ambassador this past year and meeting so many awesome other women! I absolutely LOVE the Skirt Sports ambassador motto: Real Women, Real Bodies, Real Inspiration! Before I started running, I was so timid and constantly telling myself I couldn't do things like I do now. That I wasn't Athletic enough. Fit enough. Skinny enough. Brave enough. Skirt Sports encourages all women, in all walks of life, to live a healthy and active lifestyle - which is just SO awesome to me! And last, I got to go to Chicago for work, but had a free afternoon where I was able to explore the city on my own two feet, by myself, and honestly, I LOVED it!

Winter Sun 10K 2015

Well my 2015 racing season is officially over. I ended it by running the Winter Sun 10K for the third year in a row. With all the speedwork I did in the first half of the year, I wanted to try and PR this race (it's a FAST course, making it great for a 10K PR), but unfortunately with the time I took off over the fall, it didn't happen. That being said, I did still manage a pretty good performance for myself and FINALLY managed to get myself on a podium (my first podium!!), so I'm overall happy with how this race went and intend to keep running it (plus I want to go for the Moab Half Marathon Series Triple Crown next year!).

Since we have such a large group of from Grand Junction that go every year, several runners decided to organize a bus to take a bunch of us down this year, and I was lucky enough to get in on the action. As soon as the idea was born, it quickly evolved into a "party bus" complete with goodie bags:

Needless to say, we rolled up in style. No seriously, we even got permission to have our specific bus take us directly to the start (and park there, so we could stay on the bus as long as we wanted before having to get off - unlike when you take their shuttles). It was pretty sweet.

Our party bus!

The weather was very tricky to dress for. I believe it was low 30's for the race but very sunny out (actually this was the first "Winter Sun" race that I'd actually seen sun at - last years race was overcast, and the year before was snowing!). So after much deliberation, I decided on a skirt and long sleeve shirt. However, at the very last minute, post warm-up (thankfully I did one), I took off the long sleeve and went in just the tank top I had one underneath.... Yes a tank top and skirt in 30 degree weather. But the sun really was nice and since I knew I was going to be racing this as fast as I could, I was okay with it.

Taken on my warm-up - the Moab Golf Course!

As I mentioned before, this is a FAST course. So I started out at a hard pace, and just did my best to hang on for the remainder of the race. Overall this was a pretty good strategy, especially since I knew when to expect the hills - there are a few small ones in the first 2 miles, and then a BIG one right after Mile 2. I always get passed by people on this, but can usually catch back up once I get over the hill and have a chance to recover.

Picture from the race website - it just does a great job showing the views!

After you get over the big hill, it is a really nice gentle downhill until the very end. I managed to keep a decent pace (with the exception of the Mile 3 hill, which resulted in my slowest mile) until the last mile when I definitely started to struggle. The race ends with a lap around the high school track, so I told myself I just had to make it to the track and then sprint it in. Unfortunately, I was dying by the time I got to the track, so I managed to sprint for about 10 seconds as I rounded the first curve, and then I was back to just running. However, I still managed to finish in 48:13 - my second fastest 10K time!

They didn't post the results anywhere, and since the competition for this race has always been very tough in previous years (my 46:29 from last year left me in 5th place) I wasn't expecting to place. Therefore I was pleasantly surprised when I got called up for 3rd place in my age group (women 20-29)! This was my first race I've placed at that had an ACTUAL podium, so I was pretty excited!

Race: Winter Sun 10K
Date: 12/5/2015'
Location: Moab, UT
Distance: 10K (6.2 Miles)
Bib Number: 57
Weather: 30's and Sunny (my first year the winter sun actually had sun!)
Official Time: 48:13
Average Pace: 7:46
Overall Rank: 83 of 406
Gender Rank: 21 of 249
Age Division Rank (F20-29): 3 of 27
Garmin Splits: 7:40, 7:39, 8:22 (the big hill mile), 7:30, 7:39, 8:00, 7:30 (last .2)

Course Map & Elevation

Our group stuck around for the awards and raffle, then went to lunch at the Moab Brewery before having one big Fireball Toast as we headed back home.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Turkey Tracks 5K

I've participated in some sort of Turkey Trot every year since I started running. It's become my new tradition in a way, so when I knew I was going to be in Oklahoma for Thanksgiving this year, I decided I had to find one there as well. Being a larger city, they had several options, but with help from an online running friend, I decided on the OKC Turkey Tracks 5K in downtown Oklahoma City, and was not disappointed (aside from the uphill against the wind section during Mile 3...).

As I've mentioned in about EVERY post since mid-fall (I know it's probably getting annoying), I knew I wasn't in "racing shape," and so didn't really know how this would go. I was HOPING, especially given that I was at 1000' elevation (as opposed to 4500' where I live), for Sub-24:00. That would be a 7:44 pace for those who can't do math in your head (like myself). My comfortable, no worries, no sweat (well maybe a little sweat) pace is about a 9:30-10:00. So 7:44 is stretching it a little, especially when I haven't been pushing my pace AT ALL lately... so I gave myself a B Goal of running a sub-8:00 average pace.

The weather leading up to the race was questionable at best. The forecast called for rain all day on Thanksgiving - although LUCKILY the temperatures were going to stay warm for the first half of the day. When we arrived downtown it was 60 degrees and drizzling with a bit of wind. We were pretty thankful we had opted for the downtown race given the wind (the other one we looked at was at Lake Hefner - which would've been VERY windy). At least the buildings would hopefully block some of the wind for us!

The race starts downtown at the Oklahoma City bombing memorial site, so my dad and I walked through the memorial while we waited. After that, I saw Jennifer - who I only knew from social media (I started following her on Instagram at the Walt Disney World Marathon in 2014) - so we met up and got a picture! It's always fun to meet online running friends - everyone is always so nice!

The Race Start/Finish
The Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial
Meeting my online running friend Jen in real life!

Finally, it was just about time to line up. This was by-far the biggest 5K I'd ever ran, and I knew I wanted to "race" it, so I opted to start pretty close to the front - where I snapped this picture looking at the crowds behind me:

Then pretty soon, the gun went off, and we were off! It was a lollipop course (and out-and-back with a loop connecting the beginning out from the end back), and the very beginning was slightly uphill. I knew this would be nice for the way-back! Unfortunately, about 1/2 mile in, once we turned to start the "loop" portion, it was all downhill - this would mean it was "up" on the way back! But - not much I could do about it, so I took advantage of the downhill as much as I could and ran my first mile the fastest in 7:38.

Mile 2 was slower, but not terrible in 7:44, but I could tell I wasn't going to be able to keep this up, especially since I knew I was going to have to make up for that downhill soon. Sure enough, the uphill came right into the first part of Mile 3...and of course, not only was it uphill, but we were also running against the wind. I tried my best to keep my pace up, but I knew the sub-24:00 wasn't happening. Finally with 1/2 mile to go, it was back to downhill and I managed an 8:17 third mile, picking up the pace as best as I could for the last .1, and finishing in a time of 24:33.

Not my A-goal, but managed my B-goal with an average pace of 7:55. Much to my surprise, this was also good enough for second in my age group, although they weren't actually giving out any awards to age group winners (which I actually decided was probably for the best, since I wouldn't have wanted to wait around for awards anyways - not only was it raining, but I wanted to get back to helping out with thanksgiving dinner).

So - overall this was a good race for me to get a feel for where I'm at right now. I have a lot of work to do to get back into marathon racing shape (aka "operation BQ"), but I know with hard work and commitment, I can get there!

Proof that I DO have some bad race photos! This was the least embarrassing out of 5!

Race: Oklahoma City Turkey Tracks 5K
Date: November 26, 2015
Location: Oklahoma City, OK
Distance: 5K (3.1 Miles)
Bib Number: 895
Weather: 60's and rainy (sprinkling)
Net Time: 24:36
Gun Time: 24:33
Average Pace: 7:55/mile
Overall Rank: 83 of 1193
Gender Rank: 17 of 707
Age Division Rank (F25-29): 2 of 108
Garmin Splits:7:36, 7:44, 8:17, 6:47 (last .1 - clearly I had a LITTLE left in me)

Not very many 5K's have Finishers Medals!
Elevation Profile - although this makes it look worse than it was.
Course Map
My Dad and I, post-race!

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...