September 24, 2013

The Hail Mary Training Plan

I've started noticing, I think I'm one of the few runner bloggers who is not fast. One of the few back of the packers. Which is okay with me...someone has to be relatable and represent the turtles out there!

I'm here for you, slow people!!! Turtles UNITE!

I was googling some race reviews for the Blue Sky Trail Marathon I have coming up on Oct 6, and all of them were from people who almost won or placed pretty high for their age groups.

Then I googled another race and the same thing happened! I don't know if it's just that only fast people recapped those races or what...but it's suspicious.


On to my Hail Mary Training Plan. I feel like I've been here before. Maybe more than once. I'm a bit of an expert at fudging up my training plans and then having to scramble to somehow make things work so I can attempt to be ready to complete a race. That's a really bad thing.

So there it is. Readjusted for the millionth time. After this past weekend's awful long run, I decided that there is a slim chance I would be prepared to complete a 50K on Oct 19. So I pushed it back a week to Oct 25. Doing that allowed me to rearrange pretty much everything to bring me to the plan you see here. The Hail Mary.

I'm considering running the Rim Rock Marathon in the Grand Junction/Fruita, CO area Nov 9. It's about 13 miles all uphill and then 13 miles all downhill. Still deciding if it's worth the four hour drive out there...but the proximity to Colorado wine country is appealing, and it would be my last tune-up race-chance before the 50 miler.

And now to talk about that dreadful 17 mile torture fest I had on Saturday. I did some research online for Bear Creek Lake Park, things looked okay, and I decided to head out there early Saturday morning for my run. Big mistake. I got to the park around 7:30ish, paid, and once inside the park I realized that the main road I wanted was blocked off. Okay then...

I found myself parking in front of the archery range and decided to head out to where I saw people cycling and running. It was a short dirt path to a paved path. About a mile down the road I got to the visitors center. Shortly after that, the path was closed off. So I turned around and ran back to the car. I decided to run on the road around the park and see how far that got me. It was only about 3 miles around. Well, crap. I was hoping to get 20 miles in, and the idea of running a 3 mile loop over and over was not remotely appealing to me. I managed to get about six miles in when I finally found a different direction of path that appeared to be long in distance.

I went back to the car, refilled my water bottles, re-band-aided my blisters (bad shoes in Breckenridge...), and then ran down through this campground area to try to go 6.5 miles out and 6.5 back. It didn't work out that way. By then I was in pretty decent pain with the blisters but so determined to get these miles in that I just tried my best to ignore everything ailing me (knees were pretty shot too). I got to the top of Mt Carbon (??), which has a view on one side of a golf course and downtown Denver, and on the other side you can see the dam and the lake. The trail for the park ends though. It did split and continue on around the golf course, so I decided it was kinda my only option. At around mile 11, I decided to just turn around since I was by a different golf course now and heading towards a residential area. I was pretty far away from the park I planned on doing my entire run in.

The next 6 miles back were pretty uncomfortable and mostly consisted of walking. I don't think I'll be going back there this year...not until all of the trails and roads are back up and running. I just felt like I could have had a better time running around the neighborhood.

I'm scouting out new spots to run for the remaining weekends. Gotta get it done.

September 16, 2013

Still Learning As I Go

Well I finally hopped back on the horse! And by that I mean I finally started running again. I don't know why I didn't just say that...

And by 'I finally started running again' I really mean that I ran three times this week... haha. I have such a skewed definition!

REGARDLESS - here is my recap of the week. I decided to run after work on Tuesday since it was only about 70 degrees, but sunny with 64% humidity, and 11mph winds. I don't really know what got into me, if it was taking the last week off from running to completely heal my legs or what, but it was a great run! I ran all 4 miles nonstop (which I know to 99% of people sounds silly to be excited about)!

I'll explain why I'm so excited. All of August was pretty much one poo-poo run after the other, almost zero enjoyment (other than GTIS Half) and lots of walking, little running. Since I started running in 2010, I can count on one hand how many times I've run 4 miles nonstop. Sure, three miles I could do without much issue, but for some reason I never pushed over that and would walk/run anything farther than three. Every race I trained for consisted of the walk/run method because I didn't push myself hard enough and just didn't believe I could do it.

So back to that Tuesday run. Instead of planning on running 4 miles, I told myself I would run for 45 minutes (secretly hoping that would get me 4 miles anyway). I wasn't feeling great that first mile, as many runners can sympathize. The first mile is the hardest to convince yourself to keep going. I ran my usual route, which means the first half of the run is a gradual uphill almost the whole way. After I hit that one mile in 11:38 (UM that's FLYING for me haha), I convinced myself to run the next mile. That if I made it to mile two, I could have a walk break. I shuffled the second mile in 12:35 (the second mile is where 90% of the uphill takes place). I got to the turn around point where my watch blinked that I was 23 minutes in, paused for the briefest second, and told myself I would run the rest of the way home. Just make it to mile three. I ran the third mile in 12:20, and by then I felt so invigorated with myself that I ran back to the neighborhood, noticed how close I was to hitting 4 miles and just ran up and down the street until that ticker rolled over. Got the fourth mile in 12:21. At least I'm consistent!

I did a little jig in the middle of the road, that's how thrilled I was. My total time was 48 minutes and change. A slow go, but I did not stop. I would have been faster had it not been for the mini celebration after each mile and my constant air drumming (I can hear my crossfit coach saying 'If you can air drum, you aren't working hard enough', haha). I would air drum, then get winded and tell myself to knock it off and save that energy! I'm only a little ridiculous. But I was having fun!! FINALLY!

I actually felt pretty good after that run, not sore at all. I think my excitement took over any other feeling. So Wednesday after work, I was ready to try this whole running nonstop thing again. Now I knew I was capable of running the four, it was time to shoot for five. Well, not really. I was planning to run an hour nonstop, with enough time to hurry and shower before my PT appointment that evening.

I set out with a long sleeve and long capris on because it looked like rain could be rolling in. I cruised through the first mile in 11:59, slowed down for the second mile in 12:40 (really struggled a little to convince myself to keep moving). I got hot with the long sleeve on, but about 5 minutes later, go figure, it started raining. Just a little at first...kind of refreshing. I hit the turn around at about 2.5 and started my downhill run. I got the third mile done in 12:51, the fourth done in 12:32, and then it started POURING rain.

But I was SO close to running 5 nonstop! I could do it! There wasn't any lightning, so if I could just will myself on, I could get five and head home to dry off. I had to tack on a little extra to my normal route to get the five miles, so I took a different road into the neighborhood and just trotted up the street and back til I perfectly hit five miles. I could have cried with excitement. I have NEVER run that far nonstop. I was so proud of myself. I got the fifth mile done in 12:29,total run time of 1:02, knee pain and all. That last mile felt like I was dragging my leg behind me, but I knew I was seeing the PT a little later and he could fix it all.

I barely had time to dry off and change before heading to the miracle worker. He did his magic, and then we chatted about how maybe I should start going in every week until my race to stay on top of everything instead of playing catch up.

I took Thursday off thanks to the crazy rain and flooding and set myself up to run for 3.5 hours on Saturday. I only ended up running 3:10 because I thought I was running late for a thing with a friend, and honestly, my body felt pretty banged up anyway. I barely ate half a larabar, and set out for the day. I ran my normal weekday route on the way out, with an extra extension up the road before heading down the long stretch of road towards my gym. A couple miles out, I ran into my two lady friends who were running to the gym for the Saturday morning workout. We ran together for most of the remaining distance to the gym, at a faster clip than I can handle, but I enjoyed the company. I had a potty break and adjusted my water bottles for the second half of my run from the gym back through everything reverse. By the time I left the gym, I had already eaten the only two gels I brought with me and broke into a granola bar I had for back up. I was starving. I also made the mistake of putting an electrolyte tablet into my water bottle and it was just way too strong. It gave me major tummy aches.

The break down was as follows:

Mile 1: hurting, not convinced that this is actually going to happen, decided to do a walking warmup - 16:25
Mile 2: Had my pity party and decided to get over it. - 14:10
Mile 3: 13:23
Mile 4: 13:05
Mile 5: 12:00 (when I ran into the girls)
Mile 6: 12:31
Mile 7: 14:52 (starting the long gradual uphill, tummy aching)
Mile 8: 14:02
Mile 9: 15:11 (things are slowly starting to fall apart)
Mile 10: 15:49
Mile 11: 15:45
Mile 12: 17:33 (reeeallly bad aches)
Mile 13: 18:30 (walked home)

So the problems were not enough nutrition before or during, it was hot as balls and super humid (88% humidity), and I was wearing my Kinvaras (more minimal than what I usually long run - muscles not used to that sh$t). I was able to keep to my walk/run ratio until about mile 9. Then I tried to go by what my stomach could handle, but things definitely fell apart. And my legs are still hurting me from the switch in shoes. I can be so smart sometimes!

Anyway, I will be ready to go for a run on Tuesday for four miles, hopefully I can get the hour and fifteen minute run in on Wednesday before I head to Breck for a conference, try to run an hour and fifty out in Breck on Thursday, and then 4:45 Saturday and 1.5 hours on Sunday.

I'm staying optimistic!

**Also, I need to mention that I tried sports tape on my knee for the long run on Saturday, thinking there's no way this stuff works but LET ME TELL YOU! I really think it does work!!! That, or my PT did his usual and fixed the problems from Wednesday, haha.**

September 06, 2013

'Stronger Than Every Fear'

Kind of the best quote ever (taken from

"the real victory isn't the act of smashing through the tape and crossing the finish line; it's not seeing your name first on the list or standing on the highest step on the podium. this is not what makes your legs shake with fear and excitement. victory, the real victory, is what is deep down inside each one of us. it's what we can't believe will ever happen despite all the training and will on our part, and yet it is finally what happens. despite all the thinking and brandishing of calculators, after so many hours of preparation, after so many days of training, of telling ourselves that we can win - or simply finish the race - it is as if something in our unconscious is constantly telling us that it is impossible, that it would be too wonderful, too brilliant, too incredible for it to become reality. that what we want to achieve is only a dream. and when you cross the line, when you look behind and see that it is real, that you are flesh and blood, and that what seemed possible only in dreams has become real, you realize that that is the true victory"

-Killian Jornet (25 years old, amazing runner and athlete, and far wiser than I'll ever be)

Killian puts into words what I have not been able to comprehend myself.

The other day when I was recreating my training plan to reflect training by time instead of by miles, I got into this crazy zone of calculating paces and minimums and if I ran this fast for this many miles, I would build in this much cushion time before the cutoff....

You can seriously drive yourself crazy doing that.

And, while I thought I was helping myself at least feel like I could finish the race, as a friend told me and I couldn't quite see right away, I am actually hurting myself.

Even consciously, I seem to be constantly telling myself that this is impossible. It would be too wonderful to finally finish this distance. Too brilliant that my training and hard work would actually pay off. Too incredible for my body to accomplish this and have my dream of finishing a 50 miler become reality.

I'm struggling to have faith in myself (the irony of the blog title 'Diary of a Badass' is not lost on me at this moment...seeing as I usually cannot convince myself that I am actually a badass). I am notoriously hard on myself for workouts and bad running performances and I've kind of built in this negativity towards myself with fitness. 'I'm not strong enough. Oh sure, you sound impressed that I can do this distance, but let me detail to you how unimpressive it really is and how weak I actually am.' I'm SO good at that.

Someone will say, 'WOW! You did a 50K? That's a lot of K's!'

And I'll say in response, 'Yeah...well, I finished, but it took me 10 hours, and I wanted to quit the whole time. Actually, the only reason I finished was because I met this new friend and she pushed me to the finish line. I didn't really it's not that impressive. Anyone can walk that far...'

When someone pays me a compliment, in two seconds flat I am talking them out of it. Giving reasons and excuses as to why they shouldn't say that about me. It's one thing to be's another thing to be completely pessimistic about yourself. And unfortunately, I'm always the latter.

I often use the fact that I walk during my runs, or that I'm a back of the packer to justify my negative view of myself as a runner and athlete.

Yes, I run at a 12:30 pace, but I can carry myself through 31 miles. I should be proud of that.

Like they say:

I really love this one:

I say AMEN to that one. I think I need it poster size, hung up all over work and the house so I can have a constant reminder. I have had so many days/moments since starting my training for this fifty miler where I have just wanted to throw in the towel. It is not easy to train for a fifty mile trail race. It's made even harder when you have a constant bad attitude.

So, I need to let all my fears go about not being fast enough and missing a cutoff or my body falling apart. One of the great things about ultras is that they are unpredictable. You can do everything in your power to prepare, but you never know what the day will throw at you.

I'm going to stop beating myself up. I'm going to do my best. And it's going to be good enough for me.

After all...I just need to K.I.S.S.

(keep it simple, stupid). Running is just putting one foot in front of the other.

September 05, 2013

Black Squirrel Half Marathon Recap!

  • Start: Lory State Park, Fort Collins, CO.
  • Distance: 13.1 miles with close to 2,000 feet of vertical gain and descent
  • Terrain: Dirt, hills, rocks
  • Fauna: Black Abert squirrels, black bears, other more colorful animals
  • Mode of Transportation: Foot
  • Date: Saturday August 31, 2013, 8:00am
* Taken from the race website.

"The half marathon course offers a tour of the outer boundaries of Lory State Park, providing breathtaking views to the east of Horsetooth Reservoir, Fort Collins and the Great Plains; and to the West of the awe-inspiring Rocky Mountain swell.
The race covers a variety of terrain, all of which is highly runnable and largely non-technical (an opinion that is entirely subjective and perhaps open to interpretation). After a mile of dirt roads, the trail ascends a little under four miles and 1,500 feet to the apex of the course at 7,000 feet on Lory’s west ridge. The views are well worth the climb. A rapid and somewhat technical descent follows, leaving three and a half miles of beautiful, gently rolling hardpacked singletrack into the finish, where runners can start chowing down at the post-race barbecue."

Half marathon four of four in August. The most draining experience I've had in quite some time.

Spoiler alert in case you didn't already know, this ends in a DNF at mile 8.3.

My dad and step-mom came in town this past Thursday (my birthday!) and we hung out Thursday night and Friday (and through Tuesday but I'll get to all that). It was awesome. When S left work on Thursday, he had trouble starting his truck up. The battery was toast. So that threw a little wrench in the plans for Saturday. I had to leave the house by 5:30 to get to the race in time to pick up my packet and mentally prepare (it was an hour and a half away) and my parents didn't want to wake up (I don't blame them) that early to go out to a race that they wouldn't be able to spectate. And S had a fantasy football draft all day on Saturday. So we needed three cars. Good thing S has the motorcycle! But that left me driving the giant tank, and my parents got my little civic. After dinner on Friday, we went to Autozone to buy a new battery for the truck, and soon after that we were back in business!

On Friday we did the VIP tour of the Coors Brewery (thanks, Jack!) and had lunch at Pasta Jay's...I don't remember dinner but either way it wasn't prime day-before-the-race fuel. I prepped all of my stuff, as usual, and hit the hay for an early wake-up.

5am, up and at it, and out the door before I know it to make the one and a half drive to the park. It wasn't a bad drive, just long, but I was in the Ft. Collins area before I knew it. I picked up my packet, got my bib on and tried my best to shake off the desire to just sit in the car for a few hours until I needed to meet my parents at a friend's house in Ft. Collins.

We all lined up, and BOOM, we're off. Allllmost immediately it's uphill. I'm running and trying to keep myself from being swept up with the small crowd of runners. It became easier to do when we hit this semi-significant uphill. Mostly everyone was still running, which made me feel completely inadequate to be out there with all of these very strong runners.

So I knew from the race website that there would be a large chunk of climbing right out the gate for the race, and then it's supposed to level out. After the Mountain Chile Cha Cha slaughtered me the previous weekend, I was hoping to just survive this race. We were heading almost constantly up the switchbacks, with very short sections of flats that I wasn't able to even run because I was breathing so hard.

Quickly I found myself in the very, very back of the usual.

I'm heading up these switchbacks, hoping the uphill would end soon, rationing out my water again. You can look down the trail and see little specks that were the cars where we parked. We were already pretty high up...deceivingly. I thought maybe we were close to the top. Not so much.

The last of the pack caught up to me and passed me when we started to get to an even steeper section of switchbacks. As you can see from the elevation profile, the course basically goes uphill for about 6 miles...but they only really tell you it goes uphill for about four miles and change. At about mile 3.something, I seriously contemplated just turning around and heading back down the mountain. I was in severe pain, mentally in a bad place, emotional, and generally just convinced that this would be my last race ever.

I persevered. I have to thank the clean up crew for that. At my moment of complete darkness, *Charles came up behind me collecting the ribbons marking the course. I almost broke down in tears when I saw him. He asked me if I had enough water (I was completely empty and really thirsty even just at 3 miles and change into the race) and he filled up my water bottle with his. Bless his heart. He was my savior that day. He asked if he could follow behind me and I didn't see much of a choice, and we got to chatting a bit which helped take my mind off the pain, but also made it harder to breathe.

After what seemed like a lifetime, we finally came into the aid station. I was under the impression that the aid station marked the top of the climb and that I would finally get a substantial downhill leading into rolling hills to the finish.

They lied.

I roll out of the aid station leaving my new buddy behind (I think he was being polite and giving me a head start) and after a very short downhill, you hit a big uphill. Uhm, what?! I thought I was done with this for at least a couple miles...

Then I heard something pop in my knee.

That was the final straw holding me together. I hobbled a little until deciding that this was it, I needed to pull out from the race. I debated heading back uphill to the aid station, or if I should just continue on, or stay put and wait for *Charles to come around again and ask for his help.

I decided to wait. Luckily I didn't have to wait long until he came back around, this time with another guy, *Jeff. Unfortunately for me, they told me that the ranger at the aid station wouldn't be leaving for quite some time and the best way to get off the mountain was to continue on the race course. Balls.

On we went. I did make sure they were aware of my knee and how much pain I was in and that my race was over. AKA...don't rush me because it doesn't matter now. We were afforded amazing views during more of an uphill (actually this uphill was pretty steep). And FINALLY the section I was waiting for, a long downhill.

It's a shame I couldn't run any of it, but honestly parts of the downhill were a little too technical for me to run anyway. I had as great of a time as I could with the three of us heading down the mountain, listening to the two of them chat about 100s and Leadville, we talked about college, future races, and they tried to make me feel better about the 50 coming up in December. Truly I am so grateful that they were there.

The downhill seemed to take foreeeever and I was just wondering if we were ever going to get to the next aid station where I could officially drop out and catch a ride. The mile leading up to that aid station was one of the toughest because it became steep parts of downhill stairs/rocks which were really tough on my knees. I was in all kinds of pain.

We found ourselves by Arthur's Rock and going through a sort of meadow that soon opened up to the aid station. I loved this aid station. Once one woman saw me, she let the other four know that a runner was coming in and they all started cheering for me. There aren't many worse feelings in the running world that I've experienced than knowing that your race is over but being cheered into the station with hopeful volunteers thinking you will continue. It literally brought tears to my eyes. I could barely eek out the words that I was dropping.

I thanked my new friends for keeping my mind off things for the past 5 miles and after sitting at the aid station for a minute or two, hopped onto the park ranger golf cart for a ride back to the truck. Deflated and defeated. Battered and beaten to hell. The funny thing is, while at that aid station, the thought crossed my mind to just suck it up and finish the last 4.5 miles. It passed quickly.

I think I did the right thing by pulling myself out of the race, but man. It's tough to know you have made the decision to drop at mile 5 but you still have to suffer through more miles before you can be done.

Once I got to the truck, I cried. I cried for my body. I cried for quitting. I cried for fear that this really could be my last race (self imposed). I know it seems silly to cry over this. The fun of running has been gone since the GTIS Half and I'm not sure how to get it back.

So now I have changed my training plan and made it into a plan based on time instead of miles. I have both, but I'm going to see if maybe going by time will take some of the stress and pressure off, bring back some enjoyment. I won't keep my garmin visible. I'm going to do what I can and see how far that gets me. End of story.

September 04, 2013

Mountain Chile Cha Cha Half Mary Recap

On to the third recap of four half marathons this month: Mountain Chile Cha Cha Half Marathon in Pagosa Springs, CO - 7,200 ft elevation.

The boyfriend and I loaded the pups into the car and hit the road on Thursday after to work (22nd) to drive to Alamosa, CO. The pups were going to stay with his folks for the weekend while we enjoyed a tiny mini vacation in Pagosa. Seeing his hometown was great! The next morning we patted the dogs on the head and hopped in the car - Pagosa bound! It is an absolutely beautiful drive through the mountains, and I found several little towns that I would love to move to when I retire (or win the lottery...or actually both, don't think I can afford it without the lottery)!

We stopped at the scenic overlook by Treasure Falls and admired the view from the top. It's stunning out there.

We checked into our falsely advertised hotel, bought some wine, and spent some time at the pool and hot tub that we had all to ourselves after having a mexican dinner in town over looking the San Juan river! Run on sentences are my FAVORITE! Unlike the Mountain Chile Cha Cha Race! (See what I did there?!)

So onto the actual race.

We woke up and head to the parking lot with enough time to get ourselves together, I had time to complain and whimper about how I did NOT want to run the half, that I might see him in 45 min after I was done with the 5k, etc etc...then BOOM, we were off! Uphill almost fun!

Yeah right.

I told S to charge on ahead and have a great run and I stayed in the back of the pack and settled in for an extremely long day. I had to start walking pretty early on to try to maintain some level of breathing without hyperventilating. The course goes up, up, up, then finally levels out a little bit, then you get a small downhill, then a fake me out where you get to watch the 5K runners peel off to the finish while a volunteer tells you to head back UP the switchbacks.

So up, up, up I went again...trying to find some kind of groove (I didn't) and trying to enjoy being out with nature. I think I enjoyed this run for MAYBE a mile. Maybe.

I totally misunderstood the stated elevation gain and loss, because I thought the race claimed to have a net change of 2,300ft. Turns out, that's the amount for just the elevation GAIN. Ugh.

That elevation profile does not look like what my Garmin has. If I figure out how to put that on here I will. And you will see. It was harder than it looks.

So around some later point in the race (blurry), the runners split off from the 10k finishers (I had a slight thought of just ending my race there) and guess it, UP. AGAIN. Lord save me.

It was the most difficult of uphills I have encountered since Bear Mountain. I was on my way up the tiny little single track, which provides zero visibility as to if anyone is about to come barreling down from the top. That's about when all the front runners started their way down and I clung to the side of the trail for dear life for fear of plummeting to my death. At least it would have ended the race.

I have pictures somewhere. I'll have to upload them and then you can at least see the beautiful view I had from the top.

After you finally finish going uphill, it levels off briefly before you head on a pretty steadily steep downhill. Then you get to another mildly flat area, then an aid station for the turn around point. Then you get to go exactly where you just can from, so some brutally, unforgiving uphills. I about died for real. My stomach was sore from breathing so hard.

It started raining when I was up on the top of the mountain trying to pick my way back down. I feared that I would get struck by lightning and only one man was behind me in the race so I wouldn't be found right away. Not that it would matter I guess...luckily I didn't see any lightning.

I finally made it to the switchbacks from the beginning of the race, and I was finally running a bit. An older gentleman caught up to me and I was ready to just let him fly by, but he was going to have non of that. He badgered me that I couldn't let an old geezer beat me. Oh but I could. I was totally fine with that. I ran with him down the final switchbacks, and we could hear the music down at the festival. He was hauling ass. It seemed like we were running faster than my normal running speed. It took most of my remaining fibers to keep up with him.

We made it down to the final stretch and S was waiting with the camera ready. I (maybe) have never been so happy to be at the finish line. It was THE hardest half marathon I have ever run. And all I got was some chile pepper beads and socks that I probably won't wear.

And memories.

And very, very sore legs.

We went to the hot springs that night and I think it really helped my body deal with everything.

So there you have it. Half marathon three of four for August.

I would recommend it. But it is not for the faint of heart.

Here are some gems from the ride home.

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