Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Black Canyon Ascent 2016

Saturday marked my 4th year in a row of running the Black Canyon Ascent. It's one of the few races I have ran every year since I started running. I like it because no matter how fast or slow I am, it is a HARD race. The whole race is uphill, gaining nearly 2000 feet, and you have to work hard the entire time! So naturally, finishing always makes me feel like a bad a$$!

Every year I say I'm going to train specifically for this race, and of course I barely manage to get anything in. This year I essentially got NO hill specific training in. So I knew it wasn't going to be a "PR" year for me. My only real goal was not to get my slowest ever time. My times leading up this were: 1:09:27 (2013), 1:12:52 (2014), 1:03:05 (2015). I'm still not entirely sure HOW in the world I ran a 1:03 last year - it was probably because I was in marathon training mode and doing a lot of speedwork at the time, and it was cool out (VERY helpful, as most years it is HOT) - but it still seems unfathomable to me after running it again this year in 1:09:30 (I actually had no idea I was that close to my 2013 time). It's just HARD to run uphill for that long. Nevertheless, it's good to know I have the ability to run this fast - one of these years I REALLY want to try and actually train so I could maybe have a chance at winning my age group. I've come in 2nd twice now, but they don't give awards out deeper than 1st place. Since I have a medal for the other two Black Canyon series races, I want one for the Ascent SO bad (although in all honesty, I need to do it before I hit 30 - the competition gets much more fierce as the age groups increase!).

Anyways, I drove up to Montrose the morning of the race. It was a beautiful morning out and I enjoyed listening to Nicole DeBoom's podcast where she interviewed Gunhild Swanson - the oldest female finisher of the Western States 100. It left me feeling really pumped up and excited for this race (and my ultra marathons I have coming up in a few months!!). I arrived at the start around 6:45 am, got my packet and then sat in my car for awhile (it was VERY windy and chilly when I first got there).

Beautiful sunrise on the way there!
After waiting around for awhile and chatting, I decided to do a mile or so warm-up (which was VERY necessary after going to my first BodyPump in over a year 2 days before - my legs were SO sore) before it was time to start. That left me feeling a little better and ready to get going! The gun went off and I just settled into a maintainable pace. Slow and steady is how I like to go about this race. I ended up running Mile 1 in 11:17.

At about the 1.3 mile mark it flattens out slightly for 1/2 mile, so I always look forward to this so I can pick it up a little. However, it was already getting very hot out so I slowed a bit to grab some water from the aid station and I finished Mile 2 in 10:59.

Not my best race picture, but ohwell!
Miles 3-5 are the WORST. It's a constant uphill with no breaks. I always try to just tell myself to only think about one mile at a time and it somewhat helps me get through it. Hitting mile 3 means I'm halfway done (12:01). Then I look forward to the last Aid Station at Mile 4 (12:07). Mile 5 is the absolute worst - it's the steepest and you're exhausted by the time you get to it, so as usual it was my slowest this year (12:51) - although I also slowed to get some gatorade and pour water on the back of my neck because it was HOT.

Finally it's time for the last mile - my favorite mile of the race. In addition to MORE uphill, there are thankfully a few small downhill sections as well, so I always try to pick up the pace and make this my fastest mile. Today was no different - I ran into the National Park boundary, made the turn towards the campground and amphitheater (where the finish line is) before sprinting it in to finish my last mile in 10:06 with an overall time of 1:09:30. Not my fastest, but not my slowest, so I was content!

Race: Black Canyon Ascent
Location: Montrose, Colorado
Distance: 6 Miles
Date: May 14, 2016
Bib Number:
Weather: 60's and sunny (this felt so HOT running uphill and the sun beating down on me - oof)
Time: 1:09:30
Average Pace: 11:32
Starting Elevation: 6600'
Ending Elevation: 8414'
Overall Rank: 39 of 94
Gender Rank: Unknown
Division Rank (F20-29): 2 of 6
Garmin Splits: 11:17, 10:59, 12:01, 12:07, 12:51, 10:06

All finished!
We had a nice showing from the Runners Roost Race Team! Kim (second from left) set a new women's course record!!!

With my friends Randee and Rochelle!

Since I hadn't been to the Black Canyon since last year, I wanted to enjoy a little more of it (because you've really got to go further into the park for the best views), so I decided to check out some of the trails surrounding the visitors center and get some more miles in the for the day. I ended up running Oak Flat Loop Trail (note, this was not very flat), Rim Rock Trail and Uplands Trail. They're all fairly short, but in total I got about 4 more miles in, and these incredible views:

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Colorado Marathon 2016

Well, I had really hoped to end my road racing season on an exciting, over joyous note with a PR, but alas it was just not in the cards for me (once again). As embarrassing as this is to admit, for the first time finishing a race I actually cried...and not the good kind of tears. I was crying because of how disappointed I was in myself. I felt ridiculous - I mean there are so many more important things in life than running a PR in a marathon. But I had trained for months, put in the work, and I wanted to have something to show for it. So there I was pathetically crying at the finish line. But alas, sometimes God has other plans for you.

Before this race I was already planning to switch my focus over to trail running once it was over - but as I struggled through the last few miles it really hit me that it was the right decision. Running is supposed to be something that brings me joy. Not causes me to cry over running a 3:51 marathon instead of a 3:40 marathon (which is still a perfectly acceptable time - even my 3rd fastest marathon).

Now that the dust has settled, I'm still disappointed, but it doesn't feel as upsetting now. I mean it really is JUST running. My livelihood does not depend on running a certain time. I still got the same medal that the last place person got. So I am trying to find peace in it...and also get excited for my trail running season to ramp up! I'm planning to take the month of May somewhat easy - I still want to log a decent amount of miles, but not in an overly structured format. I also really want to start getting more strength and core work into my routine in a regular basis. So I have that to look forward to. June I'll start building up my mileage as I start to get back into Ultra's. I hope to do a self-supported unofficial "50K" sometime in the latter half of the month, and then July I've got Chase The Moon 12 Hour Endurance Run, followed by my, gulp, 100 miler in late August! I am really excited for all of this, but it's also scary! It's been awhile since I went for a new distance. I love the excitement and accomplishment that comes with that challenge though, so lets just hope it all works out well!!!

Anyways, back to the Colorado Marathon which is what I'm supposed to be talking about here. I was a bit of a mess in the week leading up to the race. The weather was super questionable. At first it wasn't going to be so bad - low in the 30's, high in the 50's with a 20% chance of rain. But as the week progressed the weather got more and more iffy - colder with significantly higher chances of rain or even snow. I've honestly never ran a road marathon in anything other than a skirt and t-shirt or tank and so I had NO IDEA what to wear. I finally settled on capri's and a long sleeve shirt with my Team Beef shirt over it (P.S. this race is normally NOT cold. Last year I actually complained about how HOT it was - you just never know what Colorado weather is going to do in the spring!).

Scott had the weekend off, so we drove to Fort Collins together on Saturday morning - arriving in the early afternoon. I was working the Skirt Sports Booth at the Expo from 3 to 8pm, so after making a quick drive around the CSU campus to see what had changed, he dropped me off at the Hilton where I picked up my bib and then worked it for awhile. It was fun to show people some of the new Skirt Sports items and of course I got a few for myself.

At 8, he picked me back up, we grabbed dinner and then headed back to the hotel where I took a quick shower and then tried to get some sleep. I got up at 3:45 the next morning so we could leave around 4-4:15 and make it to the bus drop off around 4:30. The line for the bus's was not very long (compared to last year!) so I quickly got on one and we headed to the start. As we started to make our way up Poudre Canyon I could see that it was snowing outside. This was going to be interesting...

Thankfully the race officials let us stay on the bus for quite awhile and I didn't have to get off until about 5:45 (the start was 6:30). Once I did get off, I circled through the restroom line and then found some Team Beef members to chat with for awhile. Once we had a few of us, we gathered for a team picture before heading over to the start line.

At 6:30 we were off! The surrounding mountains were snow covered and it was gently snowing, but the roads were just wet and thankfully not slippery (with the exception of 2 small bridges). It was one of the most beautiful scenes I've been able to run through and I really enjoyed the first 10 miles of this race. My plan was to run an 8:30 first mile, then in the 8:20's for a few more before easing into the teens. This is always easier said than done. I did run the first one right about on pace at 8:28, but the downhill felt so nice and smooth I had a few faster ones in the beginning (which maybe I shouldn't have done - it just feels so easy!) in the teens. Everything felt good though until mile 10.

Picture from The Coloradoan
Picture from The Coloradoan
Picture from The Coloradoan

Shortly after 10, despite not wanting to admit it I did feel like I was putting a little more effort into 8:20's then I should've been. I still felt okay though so I kept at it through about the 13-14 mile mark. Around 15 is when I really realized I was not going to be able to keep an 8:20 average going. All of a sudden I was running 8:45 pace with the same effort I was running 8:20's at earlier. I really don't know what it was - maybe I went out too fast, maybe it was my fueling, or maybe I just didn't have a PR time in me today. Nevertheless I knew it was way too early in the race to pick up my effort - I still had over 10 miles to go! So I told myself to hold back in the 8:45 range for a bit and see if I could pick it up later.

Unfortunately I was not able to pick it up later. I did manage high 8's through mile 20ish before slipping into mid-9's. Granted, part of slipping into the 9's may have also been myself just giving up since I knew a PR was out of reach. It's always tricky still giving it your all once you know you're not going to get that goal time you wanted. Especially when it hurts so bad...because it did. My quads were killing me by mile 22 from the downhill. I remembered this feeling back when I ran Phoenix last year. That one I did PR at, and had motivation to push through it. I did still try to push through this though and to help motivate me I gave myself another goal of 3:50. I did the best I could with this and had my garmin not measured the course long I, maybe, could've done it. But I finished in 3:51 on the dot. Still my third fastest marathon, but still a disappointment at the time. Looking back on it now, I try to tell myself - this is still an 8:48 average pace.. for 26 POINT 2 MILES! That's nothing to feel bad about. When I first started running, I couldn't even do 1 mile at 8:48 pace. Add to the the fact that my "easy" pace really is still 10 minute miles. To be able to push myself for that long is an accomplishment whether or not it felt that way at the time!

Around Mile 22

Race: The Colorado Marathon
Location: Fort Collins, Colorado
Distance: Marathon (26.2) - my garmin clocked it at 26.46
Date: May 1, 2016
Bib Number: 206
Weather: Mid-30's and snowy!
Gun Time: 3:51:24
Chip Time: 3:51:00
Average Pace: 8:48/mile
Overall Rank: 265 of 847
Gender Rank: 75 of 402
Division Rank (F25-29): 23 of 81
Garmin Splits: 8:28, 8:12, 8:15, 8:19, 8:26, 8:19, 8:24, 8:24, 8:16, 8:09, 8:18, 8:24, 8:16, 8:28, 8:34, 8:44, 9:01, 8:48, 8:57, 9:16, 8:59, 9:31, 9:22, 9:36, 9:46, 9:32

My parents came up for the race as well and afterwards we went to Beau Joe's for lunch before heading back home!

Course Map & Elevation Profile
The pups came too!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Salt Lake City Half Marathon

I'm a few weeks late in blogging about this one (surprise, surprise) - I was initially waiting for the race photo's to come out (because they were free downloads!), and then it just got overlooked. It was all for nothing though, as apparently there were NO race photos taken of me on this course (despite passing by several photographers on course and smiling as I ran by!). Anyways, without further ado, my race recap:

As some of you may remember, I signed up for The Salt Lake City Marathon MONTHS ago. I was going to use it as my goal spring marathon. However, the more I looked at the course profile, the more I realized that was a dumb idea since the course had some big hills in it (which are not my strong suit!). So, in mid-march I changed my mind and decided to run The Colorado Marathon instead, and drop to the half marathon at Salt Lake. It actually worked out nicely since Scott had the weekend off of work and we made a little trip out of it!

We hit the road after work on Friday and arrived in Salt Lake around 10:00pm. We stayed at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Salt Lake - which ended up being PERFECT. I picked it because the rates were good and they have an awesome dog policy (we brought the pups along), not realizing that it was also only about 2 blocks from the finish line and the train that I took to the start (seriously - it could not have been more perfect - I highly recommend staying here if you do this race!).

The Sheraton has complimentary dog beds!
My #FlatRunner!

Despite it being a very nice hotel, I didn't sleep super well as this was the dogs first time in a hotel and they were up pacing around all night (they were much better the next night thankfully!). The race start was at 7:00am, so I got up around 5, quickly got ready and then made the short walk to the train pick up. Thankfully there were other racers out, so I just followed some of them.

The train ride didn't take too long and I made it to the start just before 6:00 - in time to see the bike race start (they have a marathon-length bike race as well). This left me with an hour to wait around - I had hoped they would have coffee here as I didn't get a chance to make any at the hotel, but unfortunately they didn't (and it was COLD - would've been a nice perk). In general the race ended up being much colder than I was initially anticipating when I signed up - 30's, maybe low-40's at the finish. It was fine for racing weather, but chilly before and after. Finally it was time to shed my layers for gear check and head to the starting line. I had brought a mylar blanket from a previous race which worked well so I could keep it on after I shed layers, ditching it right as we started.

This race did have waves but they weren't heavily enforced (which was good, because when I switched from the full to the half they put me in the LAST wave without me realizing it). So I squeezed my way up so I was close to the 2:00 pacer. I didn't have a set goal (other than what my coach had prescribed which was to run easy through 9 and then pick it up for the last 4 - around 8:18 pace), but was hoping for under 2:00.

About to start the race!
I started the race at a nice easy pace, and right away there were a few hills through some gorgeous neighborhoods. I just keep things easy - running the up hills slow and the downhills just a little faster. Around mile 3 or so, we headed into a more rural/wooded area which a nice long downhill section which was a lot of fun (and gorgeous too!).

The fun downhill section!

After 5 we headed back into the city running by Memory Grove Park (beautiful) then back through more neighborhoods. It flattened out for these, so I slowed a little, but still just took it easy and enjoyed it. Once I hit mile 10, I picked up my pace like I had planned. The first fast mile always takes some time to ease into, but by 11 I felt good and was having fun passing people. Around 11 1/2 - 12 we ran by Liberty Park, which was just gorgeous, before finally heading into the last mile where I really picked things up finishing my last mile at a 7:47 pace!

The finish line area was awesome, although the weather made it a little hard to enjoy - it was sunny out, but low 40's, which after running is COLD. But they had pancakes (although the line was crazy, so I skipped this), photo areas, free massages (I did get one of these because the line hadn't gotten busy yet!), and I think a beer garden. Since Scott had the dogs, I just grabbed some snacks, my free massage, then headed over and we walked back to the hotel. Again since it was a COLD morning, I wasn't wanting to stick around too much.

Overall, I did like this race a lot (despite not getting any race photo's - I am still disappointed by this). It was well organized, they had great swag. If it wasn't so far, I would definitely do this one again!

Race: Salt Lake City Half Marathon
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Distance: Half Marathon (13.1 Miles) - my garmin clocked it at 13.34
Date: April 16, 2016
Bib Number: 4147
Weather: Chilly! Mid-30's at the start, maybe 40's at the finish.
Gun Time: 1:59:21
Chip Time: 1:56:42
Average pace: 8:55/mile
Overall Rank: 804 of 2992
Gender Rank: 340 of 1790
Division Rank (F25-29): 73 of 326
Garmin Splits: 9:24, 9:41, 8:37, 8:36, 8:44, 9:38, 9:30, 10:05, 9:14, 8:18, 8:13, 8:12, 7:47

Course Map & Elevation Profile
Trying to get a picture with the pups, post-race!

After the race, I grabbed some breakfast from McDonalds (it was across the street from the hotel), and then took a shower before we headed out to explore a little. We went and checked out the Great Salt Lake (it was SO windy and cold though) and then explored Mill Creek Canyon (I had wanted to check out Big Cottonwood Canyon, but it is a watershed, so the dogs wouldn't have been able to get out of the car) for a bit. The next day, we stopped in Spanish Fork on our way back home and hiked to the Fifth Water Hot Springs, which was really neat! Overall, this was a fun trip and I was really happy to spend it with Scott and the pups - this was actually our first trip all together since we adopted Loki in the fall!

The Great Salt Lake!
Family Picture!
On the hike up to Fifth Water Hot Springs the next day!

Two of the hot springs pools (there were TONS).

The dogs had a blast (as usual)!

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...