Heading to Patagonia 

I am leaving on a jet plane!!!

Tomorrow Frank and I are heading to Patagonia for three weeks of crazy traveling through one of the most beautiful areas in the world. Patagonia is a large piece of land in southern Chile and Argentina that is filled with mountains, fjords, and penguins. We have a few friends meeting us down there and I expect this to be a wild and crazy adventure. Those of you who have been following me for a while know that I have been talking about this trip for a very long time. Well… it’s finally here! 

It’s penguins and mountains! What more could I ask for?!

I hope to run a little while I’m out there, but if I do end up with a long break, it won’t hurt. I’ve been having another flare up of sciatica from my herniated disc and it’s causing a lot of leg pain. When I get back, I’m going to address it with back strengthening exercises, but for now, I am just going to push through. My plan is to begin training for colfax again, but incorporate a lot more cross training into my program.

I’ve been in Florida for the past week, spending time with family for the holidays. My dad and I even managed to get some cool pictures of this owl. 

He’s pretty adorable, right?!

It’s been great to get away from the cold weather and be with family. I’ll be back in Florida for a few days on my way back to Kansas. 

I will try to post while I’m away, but if I don’t, I’ll see you when I return! 

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Weekend Adventures: Exploring the Kansas Underground

This weekend Frank and I did a little bit of everything! I paced a half marathon, we met up with the Kansas Speleological Society and went scouting for some caves on the Kansas Oklahoma boarder and went on a hike out at the Tallgrass Prairie. Basically, we had a great time.

Friday afternoon, Frank and I went straight down to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve for a 6-mile hike. The preserve is managed by the National Park Service and is probably some of the best hiking in Kansas. It has approximately 40 miles of marked trail where you can get rather far out into the Prairie. After Friday’s hike, we have officially covered all of the trails in the park!

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Nabbing the last trail at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

We got home in time to go on a bike ride with some friends and tried to hit the hay early. I had an early wake up the next morning for the Bill Snyder Highway Half Marathon!

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Bringing my group in to the finish line!

Saturday morning, I was up and ready to pace some people to their half marathon goals! I’ll write up a recap of the experience, but it was tons of fun!

After the race, Frank and I loaded up into the car for the Kansas Speleological Society (KSS) meeting in southern Kansas. We have done a lot of caving in the past, and really the only way to get access to new caves is to join one of these groups. Kansas isn’t known for good caving, but it has some stuff here or there. Luckily for me, I enjoy going into very small and tight caves, which is probably all that Kansas has. We spent Saturday afternoon out on a pasture, digging up sinkholes in hopes of finding new and unexplored caves. We found one with potential, but we still don’t know if it goes anywhere.

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Since I was the smallest of the group, I was sent in to see if the sinkhole lead to a cave.

In the evening, we camped out at a recreation and fishing area. Although Kansas is not overwhelmed in public land, it does have plenty of state recreation areas where there is free camping. We definitely take advantage of this Kansas perk.

The next morning, a few of the members of the KSS offered to take us to a cave on the Kansas-Oklahoma boarder. They were not too sure how far back it went and warned us that it was a wet and miserable crawl. We usually are not too picky about caves, so we took them up on the offer. This cave was a little deceiving. It had a big beautiful entrance, which lead to a tiny hole with flowing water. Frank and I loaded up with flashlights and kneepads and dove right in. I gotta say, this was probably the most miserable cave I’ve ever been in. I was face down and crawling in mud and water up to my elbows. Every time I thought “well, this can’t get any worse”, it actually would. There was even a section where we had to swim through cold and murky cave water. I always prefer dry caves, but I absolutely HATE swimming in a cave. The hole went about 1000 feet back and after an hour of army crawling through the miserable cave mud, we turned back. It’s always a joyful experience to see the literal light at the end of the tunnel when you’re in a wet cave.

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The entrance to the most miserable cave in the world.

When we got back to the car, we dried off and headed home. Overall, a successful weekend! Plus, after living in Kansas for a year, I finally made it back into a cave!!

How was your weekend? Any fun adventures?

By the way, I am going to be adding some more posts to my Weekend Adventures series including some “How tos” on backpacking, climbing, and caving.

Weekend Adventures!

Happy Monday Everyone!

I had a crazy fun weekend and a great week of training. I’ll update you on how the training went in my recap, but for now, I am going to tell you all about my weekend adventures. I figured that since Frank and I spend every weekend on some sort of adventure, I should start a blog series on what we do and where we go. This series will be very photo heavy interspersed with what we were up to!

Most weekends are spent backpacking, hiking, climbing, trail running, or some sort of outdoor activity. This weekend, we did a little bit of everything! Frank, our friend, Ben, and I took Friday off from work and drove out to Arkansas Thursday night for some sweet sport climbing and hiking in the Ozark Mountains.

We made it to Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in the AM and went straight out to some of the more popular climbing spots in the canyon. Now, before I was a distance runner, I was a climber. In fact, distance running was a way to get me in better shape for mountaineering. Soon, running became my main passion, but being able to climb all day is still pretty awesome.

Ben made it up his first climb EVER!! I was super happy to see him enjoy the climbs the way I do!

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After a full day of climbing, we went for a short hike through the Buffalo River Gorge. If you are ever in the southern Midwest, this is a place you HAVE to go!

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It doesn’t get much better than this!

We got back to the ranch just before dark, hung out with some goats (they had like 100 baby goats), and went to bed.

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The hills were covered in tents and dirtbag climbers.

Saturday morning and afternoon was filled with some of the tallest climbs I’ve ever done. These walls were about 85 feet tall and had some of the most fantastic views from the top. We climbed until our arms tired out and went back to the Buffalo River Gorge for the National Park Service Centennial Concert.

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This route went WAY higher than I am right there!

The concert was packed, and in such a beautiful place.

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Frank and I were making some faces at each other during the concert… also that guy behind us…
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Tons of people made it out for the concert!

Post concert, we packed up our backpacks and hiked into the woods a few miles to find a campsite. The Buffalo River Gorge is right up against a National Forest, where there is free camping all along the trail. All National Forests have free camping in the wilderness, so if you are ever in a pinch, it’s a good place to make an overnight stop.

We woke up Sunday morning with the sunlight coming in. I tried to stay asleep in my bivy, but Frank was not having it.

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To cut on weight and mass, I use a bivy instead of a tent. They are waterproof and super easy to set up and take down.

Before heading back to Manhattan, we went for a hike to a cave at the Lost Valley Trail. The Ozark Mountains are filled with great little spots, but this one was just fantastic. There were natural bridges, three caves (one had a waterfall inside), and a ton of scenic overlooks to view the valley.

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Crawling out of a cave.
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Frank and Ben beneath the Natural Bridge.

After the hike, we ate some lunch and made the 6 hour trip back to Manhattan, KS. Although we expected this to be a rather uneventful ride, as we got close to town, we heard on the radio that a tornado had touched down just west of town. The roads were quiet except for the occasional storm chaser vehicle driving by (good sign, right?). We stopped to overlook some of the crazy weather, but were advised that if we wanted to get back to Manhattan, that we should do so immediately. We made it back and into the basement, but the warning was lifted about 15 minutes later. Aside from some flooding, Manhattan made it through the storm untouched.

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Rather ominous looking clouds over Manhattan, KS.

So, we did a little bit of everything this weekend! I even managed to squeeze in some miles between our adventures. How was your weekend? Did you go on any adventures?

Colfax Marathon Training Week 14

Thanks everyone who listened to my complaining last week and gave me encouraging words as I was heading into a race week. I spent a lot of my training unsure if maybe something was wrong with my legs or if I was on the verge of an injury. I am still having the extreme soreness, but I think it’s getting better. I’ve been making a gentle yoga practice a real priority while also trying to cut back on my mileage a bit to give my legs a rest. I am under four weeks out from my first marathon and this next week is my peak mileage week.

This was my week:

M: Total Rest Day – did a lot of whining though

T: 6 miles – easy pace + yoga

W: 8 miles – 5 at goal MP tempo + strength training

T: 6 miles – easy pace + yoga

F: yoga

S: 13.1 trail race + biking

S: 10 miles hiking

Total Running: 33 miles + 10 hiking

Last week started with a lot of nervousness and hesitation. I was having a nerve-like pain going down the outside of both of my legs causing weakness that felt almost like my legs were going to buckle out. It was very strange and not anything I’d ever felt before. I was supposed to hit some pretty high mileage last week, but since I had a race, and this weird pain, I decided to cool it and air on the side of caution.

As usual, my easy days were a struggle and my tempo run was fantastic (why is easy so hard?!). Even though I was having the weird feeling in my legs, I still held the pace fine and without too much effort on my lungs. This gave me a lot of confidence that a 9:00/mi pace will be okay at Colfax. I started to wonder if this feeling in my legs is just mental (I’m still not entirely sure that it’s not).

On Thursday I went for my sports massage. I gotta say, that was an incredible experience. The massage therapist tortured my legs for a while, but at the end asked me if I knew that I tend to kick my right foot out to the side while I run (he could tell by the “imbalances” in my muscles on that leg). Of course, I did know all about this. I’ve seen it in pictures and video of my running. Basically, he made a total believer in me of sports massage and of his knowledge of anatomy. It definitely helped the weakness and pain in my legs a lot, but it didn’t take it completely away. While practicing yoga, I came out of a handstand a little funny and felt it again, so it’s not gone, but it certainly got better.

I took a day off heading into my race on Saturday and was feeling reasonably refreshed. The race was AWESOME and those of you who follow me on twitter already know what happened. I’ll save the story for my race recap. But I will leave you with this photo:

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So… that happened. 😉

Frank and I went biking after the race for a few hours and then camped at a state park close to the race. The next day I woke up pretty sore, so instead of running, we just hiked about 10 miles through some of the hilly grassland prairie.

This week is the peak of my training. I’ll see how many miles I get in, it really depends on how I am feeling and holding up. I’m getting very excited about the taper, but the last 20-miler is definitely sitting heavy on my mind. My goal is to make it through with healthy legs so I can taper and be ready for Colfax in less than 4 weeks (really?!?).

Congrats to everyone that ran Boston yesterday! I hope you had a great time!

How do you mentally prepare for really high mileage weeks? Do you look forward to the taper?

Heading West!

By the time you read this, I’ll be on my way to Utah!

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I promise to take pictures!

Lows throughout the week are in the teens, and since we are camping, I’m kinda expecting to spend my nights pretty cold. We should be in Moab by the end of the day Saturday and then the exploring begins!

My birthday is this coming Tuesday (Nov 24), but I celebrated it with my friends here in Manhattan a few nights ago. We went to my favorite hibachi place in town, where I knew they would throw a big celebration for my birthday. It was crazy fun and I even got this gift:

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Sometimes it’s kinda bad…

I thought this was the perfect coffee cup given my feelings about Kansas.

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All of us at the Hibachi Restaurant! I don’t really know all that many people here yet. 🙂

In less fun news, Frank fell off his bike and landed himself in the emergency room with a few stitches. He hit a curb, flew off his handlebars and landed right on his chin. The doctor said that the cut extended all the way to the bone. Honestly, just looking at the cut makes me kinda queasy (I am going to spare you any photos). He’s been taking it like a champ, though. He says it doesn’t hurt, but I’m really not sure that I believe him. He’s a little beat up on his left arm and leg. We’re just hoping he heals fast and that this doesn’t slow him down in Utah.

I am going to do my best to stay on top of blogging while I’m out in the desert, however, I don’t expect to always have internet access. So, if I kinda disappear for the week, have a great Thanksgiving! 

Rocky Mountain Half Marathon Race Recap

I tend to underestimate myself. I go into a race and I often limit what I can do, not because of my training or physical capabilities, but because of my mind. So, when I looked at the 1:52:01 half marathon cutoff for the first wave corrals at Chicago, I figured there was no way I could ever run that time. I mean… that’s 8:30/mi for 13 miles! I figured that there was just no way, especially at 7,500 feet. Well, I’m going to just cut to the chase.

I ran the Rocky Mountain Half Marathon in 1:51:44. That was a huge PR and I am now in the first wave at Chicago!

Pre-Race

We drove out to Boulder on Thursday evening and made it in time for me to get a quick run in and some dinner. The next morning, Frank and I woke up at 4 am to get to the national park and reserve a campsite for the next few days. We did a little bit of hiking and went to Estes Park to pick up my packet. We hiked a lot more and drove around for a while.

Cold before the race!
Cold before the race!

So, I did all the pre-race stuff wrong. I walked A LOT on Friday, I camped on the hard floor, I probably didn’t eat or sleep enough. I had to wake up at 4 am, and I woke up like 4-5 times during the night. I tried to scarf down some food at our campsite, but my stomach was giving me some trouble. We got to the race around 5:00 am and hung out at the starting line until the race started.

The elevation profile for the race. This was not exactly an easy course.
The elevation profile for the race. This was not exactly an easy course.

Miles 1-4

The gun went off at almost exactly 6 am. The race had a few thousand people, but they did a good job keeping the corral small so that we didn’t have to dodge around people once we were off the starting line. The first few miles were pretty chill, although I took them fast because I knew that miles 5-8 had a huge hill. I felt pretty comfortable averaging around an 8:30 mile on the rolling terrain and was surprised at how quick the miles were going by. I just kept telling myself that I am a lot faster than I think I am, and that seemed to work pretty well. I had a pretty good feeling by mile 4 that I was had a shot at a PR but I tried to hold myself back. I knew the hills in the race would eventually wear on me.

Splits for miles 1-4
Splits for miles 1-4

Miles 5-8

Mile 5 was the start of a pretty substantial hill. I knew it was coming, so I decided to play a little game with myself to pass the time. Each time I passed someone on the uphill, I gave myself a point and each time I was passed by a runner, I lost a point. So, I just started reeling people in. I’d get my eyes on a runner who looked kinda tired and just started creeping up on them. By the end of the uphill I had passed 22 people and had only been passed by 1 (that’s 21 points!!!). I managed to keep around a 9:00/mi pace. At the top of the hill I looked at my watch and was pretty amazed at how fast I had gone. I think I knew by this point that I was going to PR for sure.

Splits for miles 5-8
Splits for miles 5-8

Miles 9-13.1

At the top of the hill I could see the finish line and I knew that it was all downhill from here (ok… there were a few surprise hills, but nothing too terrible). I just coasted on down and even squeezed in a 7:34 minute mile in there. I figured that if I could keep an average of 8:00/mi, I would have a shot at getting under the 1:52:01 cutoff for the first wave at Chicago. I knew by this point that I was going to PR… but now I really wanted to be in that first wave. So, I pushed a little harder. The end of the race was close to a beautiful lake in the middle of Estes Park. As I got closer I started to hear the announcer call out names of people as they crossed the finish line. I kept pushing and eventually heard my name as I crossed. Frank was not even there because he wasn’t expecting me to finish for another 10 minutes.

The downhill miles!
The downhill miles! Check out that 7:34 minute mile!!!!

My official time was 1:51:44 and I placed 7th in my age group out of 137… which is pretty freaking good. There was close to 1000 feet of elevation gain throughout the race… so this wasn’t even an easy course. Honestly, I’m still in shock that I ran that well.

A well deserved medel. I was pretty exhausted after this race.
A well deserved medel. I was pretty exhausted after this race.

I learned a lot running this race. My biggest problem as a runner is that I set goals that are not outside of my comfort zone. I don’t let myself think that I can do something really crazy because I don’t want to be disappointed. From here on out, that’s gonna change.

Immediately after the race, Frank and I went back into Rocky Mountain National Park, picked up our friends and climbed up Hallett Peak. This was a 10-mile hike up a 12,713-foot mountain. Doing this hike got me 50% off entry into the Rocky Mountain Half Marathon for 2016… so the soreness was worth it. I am officially in the Continental Divide Club!

My friends and I at the top of Hallett Peak!
My friends and I at the top of Hallett Peak!

The race (and hike) was a huge success. But… now the Chicago Marathon countdown really begins.