Running, Goals, and Some Unknowns

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Hey Everyone!

It’s been a long time since I’ve been running hard and training for anything specific. My last race, the Route 66 Marathon, was a bit of a flop largely because I walked to the starting line severely undertrained and a bit burnt out from my ultra. I am once again back on my feet and I am determined to get to a May marathon with some better training under my belt.

You may notice that I have not really committed to a specific marathon yet. Unfortunately, I will likely be unable to for a while. Frank and I are looking to move from Kansas and we are not really sure where we will be come May, but I am training to run a race on May 21, the day of the Colfax marathon. I will plan to run Colfax if I am still in Kansas, or if I am driving distance from Denver. I want to run a half marathon some time in March, but unfortunately, I am unable to say where or when it will be yet. It’s hard training without specifics, and it’s very hard living with so many unknowns in my future. I feel like I cannot commit to anything beyond about two weeks since we could hear back from somewhere at any time and we would have to be ready to go.

One thing is for sure, we are looking to move out west. I have spent my entire life in the flatlands of the US, and we have been looking to get to the mountains. The western half of the US is huge, so I feel confident (and hopeful) that something will turn up soon.

Looking ahead into the unknown of 2017, I do have a few goals that I believe are attainable.

  • PR my marathon

I honestly don’t care if it’s by 2 freaking seconds, I just want a PR. I will train for a 3:50 time, but come race day, I will be happy with anything that is a PR.

  • Run a sub 1:45 half marathon

Ok, this one is a little more specific. My last half was 1:47 and it was very comfortable. I was in one of my favorite places in the world, Estes Park, and I hope to go back there for that sub-1:45 in August. I definitely think this is within my abilities, but I will need to work for it.

  • Run a 50-miler

Last year I ran a 50K, and I can honestly tell you that it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. However, those last few miles made everything worth it. I ran through the trails of Omaha with a giant smile of my face, so excited to be an ultra runner. Well, my new goal is to run a 50-miler, which I am hoping to do in the fall.

This week I will be getting back to my usual training updates, yoga posts, and random other things that make there way on to my blog. Thanks for being patient and waiting for me to be ready to train hard again.

And of course, here’s a picture of my favorite fur-ball.

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How do you deal with unknowns? Does change stress you out (it stresses me out)?

 

How not to run a marathon: My Route 66 Marathon Recap

On November 20, I ran the Route 66 Marathon and to say that it was a disaster is an understatement. I made a lot of mistakes, both in my control and out of my control, that lead to a bad race. Here, I am going to tell you how NOT to run a marathon. It’ll serve as my race recap, and by the end, you’ll have a pretty good feel for what happened during my race. If you want to run a really good race, don’t do these six things.

Step 1: Run a 50K four weeks before your goal marathon

Exactly 4 weeks before Route 66, I ran my first ultramarathon. It was a pretty amazing experience, but it was not one that set me up for a good marathon in the weeks to come. Although I did bounce back rather quickly, the “fast” was zapped right out of my legs. I didn’t feel sore or injured, but I just couldn’t get myself moving at the paces I could before the race. I continued to push and gave myself only a two week taper heading into Route 66 after weeks of 45 and 50 miles per week (following the ultra). I remained positive and figured this wouldn’t hurt me too bad.

Step 2: Get super depressed that Donald Trump was elected president and just stop running

I had a lot of stressors heading into the race. There was a flood in my apartment, which booted Frank and I (and Elly and Sydney) out of our apartment for about a week. I didn’t have access to my stuff and felt generally unsettled. THEN TRUMP WAS ELECTED. I was depressed and couldn’t find the will to run. In fact, given what the world was coming to, I didn’t feel like running was all that important. So, I just stopped. I ran a total of 8 miles heading into the last two weeks before the race. This caused me to lose a lot of fitness and be in the wrong headspace for Route 66.

Step 3: Get your period the day before the race

This was totally out of my control. Unfortunately, with my period, I also get some mild intestinal distress. This time, it wasn’t so mild. I couldn’t eat too well, I was having trouble with liquids (they would go right through me, TMI, I know). I probably spent the day pretty dehydrated, but there really wasn’t much I could do. Note: I did know this was going to happen, but it usually doesn’t affect me this much.

Step 4: Run hard even though you are not really feeling it

I knew at the starting line that things were not looking bright for a PR. I thought about maybe just trying to run even splits for a 4:00 marathon. I figured that would be within my reach, and I still think it was. This would allow me to feel good and not be defeated by the distance. Instead, I ran at the pace I had decided weeks before the race and go for a sub 3:50 marathon (even though I realistically knew that was not going to happen). So, for the first 18 miles, that was the pace I ran at.

Step 5: Don’t slow down when your body is saying “this is too much”

I saw Frank at mile 14, and he jumped out on the course and ran with me for about a half mile. He gave me some water and asked how I was feeling. I thought about it for a moment and said “Tired. I am too tired for mile 14 right now”. I knew it at this point that I was headed for a massive disaster. Instead of slowing down, I thought maybe I should try to catch up to the 3:50 pace group. I figured they could help me through some rough patches. Frank told me that they were just a little ahead of me, so I pushed harder. I tried to ignore the tired and the sick feeling in my stomach and push forward. I never did catch up with them.

Step 6: Stop at EVERY port-a-potty from mile 18 to the end of the race

At mile 18, everything caught up with me. I didn’t hit the usual glucose wall, I hit the poop wall. My stomach flipped out. I stopped visualizing the end of the race, but was instead just looking forward to bathrooms. I ended up at every single port-a-potty until the end of the race. When I ran, I was keeping about an 8:45-8:50 pace, but I was spending 5 minutes at a time in the bathroom, so my 8:50/mi pace slowed to 10/mi and then 11/mi and eventually to 13/mi. I felt like crap (pun intended).

So, if you are running a marathon, don’t do what I did. I think I learned a lot during the race, but it was an overall disappointing performance. My final time (with pooping episodes) was 4:06:37, almost 10 minutes slower than Colfax. I felt pretty bad about it, and took 2 full weeks off from anything running related. Even after returning back, I was having trouble. I wasn’t feeling the usual burn or push. Then, last night, after a short 3-mile run, I came home and was talking all about PRing my half and running Colfax again this year. For the first time since the race, I was feeling like myself again, loving running, the process and all of the ups and downs. In reality, not every race can be a Colfax. Sometimes, they are a poop/bonk fest. Those races are important too.

There are no photos of the race, because I was very sad and crying, so I guess Frank didn’t feel compelled to record that. So, instead here is a photo of Sydney (my cat) sitting on her favorite window sill.

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She’s very cute.

Important Note: I did make it to the port-a-potty every time, so I did succeed in not pooping my pants in a race. Go me!

What’s your worst race? Have you ever had stomach problems on a race course?

 

Why do you run?

Why do you run? I was asked that question after I finished my ultra last week. They had free massages, and of course I took advantage of that! I asked the masseuse if she ran, she said no and asked why I felt the need to run so far. Was it an addiction? I thought for a moment (while she was digging her elbow into my shoulder), it really isn’t an addiction. When I don’t run, I don’t feel like I NEED to run. I mean, I could stop. I don’t want to, but I could. So that just made me think… why do I run?

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The thing is, I feel most confident about myself when I am running. I feel even more confident when I am running far. When I was young, I used to look at my thick thighs and wish they were smaller. Now I look at them and thank them for carrying me 32 miles in less than 6 hours. Like seriously… how could I not be thankful and love my body when it can do something so amazingly cool.

Women have so much pressure to be skinny, or strong, or whatever. We are constantly being bombarded by advertising that is telling us that we need to be something different from what we are. In order to be liked, we have a set of rules to follow and our bodies must fit into a certain set of categories. We also must be able to identify the parts of our body we want to “work on” to make our butts perky, our breasts big, and our bellies flat. That way, we can go to the gym and do targeted workouts to make ourselves fit into society’s definition of perfect.

But many women have tiny breasts, or butts with cellulite, or thighs that jiggle. Whether anyone else notices it, we all have something that makes us self-conscious. In the last few miles of that ultra, I was not self-conscious at all. I was awesome. Every cell in my body… it was f*cking perfect. My poor posture, jiggly thighs, flabby arms and tiny boobs, they were all exactly how I wanted them to be. That body got me 32 miles and I felt amazing for it. When I run, I’m reminded that I have the body I want to have. My body is healthy, strong, and beautiful and I don’t need to work on anything. I just want my body to keep doing what it’s doing.

So, that’s what I answered with. Why do I run? Because it makes me feel confident and really good about my body.

The masseuse answered, “That’s definitely something I can jive with. Maybe I should try running.”

I hope she does.

On the Eve of an Ultra

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If all goes well, by the end of this weekend I will be an ultramarathon runner, a title I’ve thought about for a long time. It’s been years since Western States hasn’t gone through my head nearly daily. I’ve done a lot to bring myself inches closer to that goal, but on Sunday, I will be getting 31.5 miles closer. On Sunday, I am taking the largest step forward I possibly can in making my goal my reality. Normally, I’d assume this would make me nervous… but it’s not. I don’t feel nervous at all. This feels like the natural progression of things, as if this is clearly what needs to happen.

For Colfax, I knew what my goals were, I knew how to play it and what I needed to do to have a great day. This time, things are a little less clear. I have no time goal. I feel like 6-hours is probably a pretty good estimate, but I won’t know much until I get to the trail. The race is made of three 10.5 mile loops, each of which has about 2000 feet of vertical gain. That is a lot more than I am used to covering here in Kansas and I don’t really know what will feel like a comfortable pace. This race is truly a wait and see. My only time goal is to go for a negative split, something I’ve never been able to do in a trail race.

I’ve gotten my gear together, my drop bags, food, and everything that I will need to cover the distance. All that’s left is a few slow miles and two nights of sleep before I toe the line in Omaha. Am I scared? Yeah, a little. But I am not nervous. I know I can do this and every time I think I can’t, I’ll remind myself of why I am here. This is the beginning of my journey to Squaw Valley. However Sunday goes, this is just the first step. I’ve always found that the hardest part of a run is simply getting out the door. Well, here I am, getting out that door.

Getting Ready to go Ultra

Thanks everyone for all of the supportive comments last week after my update. I am in the final week before my race, and to say that I am nervous is an understatement. Running 31.5 miles wont be easy or pretty, but I think I can get it done. I still have some last minute details to get through, and I am not entirely sure what I am going to eat on the course (I know, a little late, right?). Most things I’ve tried, besides GU packets, bother my stomach and I really don’t see myself being able to down GU for 6+ hours.

Last week, my iPod shuffle kicked the bucket on a run. It’s been my running partner for some time now and I was quite devastated when I realized that my sweat had killed it. Fortunately for me, AudioFlood makes an awesome waterproof version of the shuffle. It came in yesterday, just in time to have some music during my race! I’ve been downloading music from the library and itunes to make sure that I have plenty to listen to for the many hours that I will be running in Omaha this weekend.

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So, now I’m pretty feeling ready! At least as ready as one feels before they take on their first ultra marathon…

And since you haven’t seen how Elly is doing for a while, here’s a beautiful pic of her from yesterday.

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Do you run with music? What player do you use? Any song suggestions for my race?

Long time, no see!

It’s been a while… hasn’t it! I hope everyone has been doing well during my absence. I’ve been reading blogs here and there, but I really haven’t had the urge to write, until now. I don’t know if I am back back, but I am relatively back. A lot has changed since the last time I wrote, so I’ll let you know what’s up.

Last you heard from me, I was fresh off a new half marathon PR and was about to run Chicago. I was prepping a 10K and was gearing up for a marathon PR attempt.

Well, I PRed that 10K! I got an age group win and even my picture in the newspaper!

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I, unfortunately, didn’t run Chicago, though. I know that may come as a surprise. I was certainly ready for the race, and was not injured, but I was just not feeling it. I didn’t have a real passion for the race and I knew that the overall cost of going out there was going to be huge. I just didn’t see the point in heading out to a race that I wasn’t terribly passionate about.

So, what am I doing? A lot of trail running. 

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Hanging out with turkeys on the trail
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Running in the Adirondacks in NY
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Stopping at waterfalls in Colorado

As most of you know, I am hoping to get into the ultra running scene with the intention of one day running the Western States 100. Crazy plans, I know. And up until recently, it’s just been this thing that I talk about (to everyone) and never actually make any moves towards doing it. I became frustrated with that model and started looking up Western States qualifying races. It turns out that you need to run a 50K to sign up for most 100K’s. So, that’s what I am doing. On Oct 23, I will be running the GOATZ 50K in Omaha. Frank will be there to help “crew” me, although I doubt I’ll need much crewing for a 50K. My only goal is to finish the race, which qualifies me for many of the WS qualifying 100K’s. I haven’t picked out a race yet, but I do have a few in mind. Finally, I feel like I can actually say that I have made a step towards running my dream race. I want to make Western States a reality, and I actually feel like I am actually doing it (or at least trying).

As crazy as that sounds, I have more planned. I have been putting a lot of work and training into running a road marathon. I also know that there is a PR in me somewhere, so I am going to go for it. I’ll be headed to Tulsa on Nov. 20 for the Route 66 Marathon. Because I will want to PR and run hard at that race, I will keep GOATZ easy (and try really really hard not to get competitive). To qualify for most 100K’s, you only need to finish a 50K. Needless to say, there will be a lot of walking in Omaha in order to not trash my legs. I already have a few 20-milers under my belt, and I have one more before I start the taper for Route 66. I feel pretty ready to hit the roads to race.

That’s what’s new for me! What’s new with you? Any big races coming up (or just over)?

Chicago Training Update

I hate writing training recaps, so I am going to make this one short and sweet. Training for Chicago has been really up and down for me. Unlike the near linear progression I had during Colfax, Chicago has been one step forward, two steps back. Although the training has been hard, I did have a breakthrough race last week (more about that in my recap post later).

I’ve really had a hard time finding motivation and inspiration for this race, but I’ve kind of made a decision. I have been trying to fit myself into a new category, a 6-day-per-week runner, and I am simply not that. So, I have basically abandoned the Hanson’s plan and I am going back to what I did for Colfax… because you know what, it worked. Training is about finding what works for you and sticking with it. I know what works for me and I am going back to that.

Well… this week I took things pretty chill. I was recovering from my races and Longs Peak Summit from the week before. I took a few days off and did some nice slow running.

M: Rest

T: Rest – was still really sore

W: 8 Miles Easy

T: Another Rest Day

F: Worst Track Workout Ever (4×800)

S: 10 mile Long Run

S: 6.5 miles easy

Total: 30.7 miles

Not bad for a first week back after a wild and crazy weekend. My track workout was supposed to be 6 x 800, but I just couldn’t finish it. I felt like absolute crap and called it quits. Usually track workouts are a real confidence booster for me, but unfortunately, this one was just a drag. The long run the next day was pretty great, so I guess that made up for it.

This week I am going to step it up a notch. I only have 6 more training weeks before the taper, so I’m gonna make the best of it. Things are shifting over to more marathon specific work, including a lot more time at marathon pace. I’m pretty excited to hone things down a bit and get myself feeling ready for Chicago.

I didn’t take a whole lot of pictures, so here is a pic from our paddle this weekend:

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And of course, here is a pic of the cutest cat in the whole world:

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How was your training? What is your next goal race?

A bump in the road to Chicago

Did anyone watch Olympic trials last night for the women’s 800 m? It was insane! A crazy fall resulted in a wild shake-up and an unlikely champion. If you haven’t seen it, you should watch the video!

So… my training…

A lot has happened this past week and I should probably go back to my Colfax training to describe the whole story.

While I was training for Colfax, I started having a weird pain and weakness on the outside of my right leg. I thought it was IT-band syndrome or maybe a strained muscle, but this just felt different. I continued to run on it and tried to put it out of my mind. It worked! I ended up making it to Colfax feeling good and healthy, and never felt the pain once during the race. I ended up taking some time off to recover and everything seemed to be fine… so I just forgot about the pain and moved forward figuring that it had healed itself.

Fast forward to my first 45-mile week of Chicago training…

I started to feel the pain again, but this time in my left leg (strange, right?). I again, choked it up to some IT band pain, since it ran on the outside of the leg. However, I was concerned that it was switching sides and causing a lot of weakness below my knee. Last week it got so bad that I was having trouble running. I figured it was time to see someone about this. I mentioned it to a friend and she suggested that I see a chiropractor, since it was likely in my back (the whole switching sides thing).

On Friday morning I made a trip to a chiropractor. I described the pain and he agreed, it was likely my back. He felt around, poked me on my spine and SI-joint and used some weird hammer thing to push things back into place. His conclusion: I probably have a herniated disc on the L5 joint. Ugh!! He didn’t think it is a running injury at all, but does think that running brings out the symptoms. Probably if I were not a runner, I would go along with my herniated disc as if nothing were wrong and never even notice it.

So… what now?

Well, I am going to see the chiropractor for a few visits to try to get everything back into place. He said that he felt optimistic that this would be a relatively easy fix and that I wont need to take time off from running. If he can’t make the pain in my legs stop, I need to go get an MRI to see if the herniation is really bad or if there is some stenosis (narrowing of the spinal chord… something I very much don’t want as a 29 year old). He did tell me to cool it a bit with the mileage until we get this under control and to go back to 5 days of running per week instead of 6. Since speed work isn’t typically what hurts, I can still do that, but I need to stop if I am in pain.

What does this mean for Chicago? Well… I am not sure. I am going to take these next few weeks pretty chill, since the most important thing is making my back healthy. I might need to rethink my goals a little, and that’s okay with me. At the moment, nothing is changing, but that doesn’t mean that nothing will change a few weeks from now. I am going to take things day-by-day and hope for the best.

I did some trail running yesterday and didn’t feel the pain at all and I am going to do a nice easy workout tonight. Assuming that the pain is not there, I’ll go ahead and do my track workout tomorrow. I’m not too upset about this, since I am confident that it will be under control in the next few weeks or so. Timing wise, I feel like this isn’t too terrible. I am still many weeks away from Chicago and have plenty of time to train.

Long story short, I have no idea what is going on, but I’ll let you know when I know!

How as your July 4th? Any fun adventures over the weekend? I’ll post about mine soon.

When Mountains Call

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I was sitting on the side of Grand Teton, with a heavy pack, hurt knee, and a generally tired body when a thin, wiry blonde woman ran by me at record speed. She had a tiny pack with only water and food and she made getting up that mountain look effortless. I had been a competitive runner in another life, but was then just another hiker, defeated by a mountain I would not climb. The girl bounced away and all I could think about was how I wanted that to be me… that one day, I would run the trails, up the mountains, with that same ease.

This was my first introduction to trail running, and distance running in general. I had always been a sprinter and had confined myself to the 400 & 800 m distances. After high school, I had stopped running and it would be years before I would return. In reality, I only made it back because climbing mountains is hard and you need to be in wildly good shape to do it.

I returned home from my failure on Grand Teton and read all that I could about trail running. I read Born to Run, and Eat and Run and was convinced. Eventually… one day… no matter how long it would take me… I vowed to run trails and ultras. For years, I followed the ultra running scene, never partaking, but just as an idle spectator. As I watched, I would run further and further. The evolution from sprinter to marathoner happens slowly and I took my time. I would sign up for trail runs here or there and usually do really well. My heart was in it and it was where I really felt free. As I ran my first trail half marathon, for the first time I felt like that girl, bouncing down the trails, light on her feet without a care in the world.

I ran my first marathon and walked away feeling great. I loved everything about it… the lifetime’s worth of emotions in less than four hours, the real ownership of the race, the fact that it was not easy and I had to work hard to get there. Road marathons are fun, exciting, exhausting, and so many other things… but really, they are not enough. There is something truly special about running through the woods, over hills, while pushing your body as far as you possibly can and maybe even a little further. Trail runs are so solitary, yet you feel so completely connected to nature. That is exactly where I should be.

Four years ago, sitting on the side of Grand Teton, I knew that I could run high and far… but I also knew that it would take time. I have been patient, slowly upping my mileage and base and pushing myself to my edge, never passing it. But I will be an idle watcher no more. I have finally decided to put that fire beneath my feet.

If the world could go exactly as I want it to, this post would be the beginning of an eventual quest towards the Western States 100, the granddaddy of ultramarathons. I can’t tell you that it will go that way, since they have a lottery process that is tough and I may never get picked. Also, it is 100 miles and I don’t know that I could train up to that. I will tell you that this post will be the beginning of a quest towards a 50K and maybe even a 50-miler. After Chicago, I will transition towards running on trail and on hills. I’ve finally grown tired of watching from the sidelines.

So, there it is. I have put it out into the universe. A goal. A dream. It’s a scary one to speak, but really, would it be worth doing if I weren’t scared?

Probably not.

Chicago Marathon Training: Week 3

Alright guys… I have just been a horrible blogger lately. This week, my goal is to remedy that a bit. Despite my lack of blogging about running, I have been running a lot. Maybe even a little too much (IT band made itself known yesterday, so I am backing off). But, even with some squirrelliness in my leg, my runs last week were solid and training is going great. I’ve also made a successful transition to morning running. As soon as the sun comes up, the temps begin to approach 95-110 degrees, so morning running is really the only answer. This means waking up at 5 am (ouch) to be out the door before 6 and off the roads by 8. As my long runs get a little longer, I may have to be out there even earlier. I’ll worry about that when I get there.

I am using the Hanson’s Advanced Marathon Training Plan with a goal time of 3:45. These are my paces:

Goal Marathon Time: 3:45
Goal MP: 8:35
Strength: 8:25
Speed: 7:33 – 7:52
Easy: 9:35 – 10:35
LSD: 9:05 – 10:35

This was my training for the week:

M: 6 miles GMP 4 miles GMP + WU & CD (it was 97 degrees out… give me a break)

T: Easy 6 Miles (9:45/mi)

W: Track Workout – 8 x 600 + 400 Recovery lap + WU & CD (2:34, 2:39, 2:35, 2:35, 2:29, 2:47, 2:40, 2:38)

T: Easy 8 Miles (9:22/mi) – oops…

F: 10 Miles LSD (9:12/mi)

S: Rest (actually, hiking)

S: Easy 6 Miles (9:47/mi)

Total Mileage: 44 Miles

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Beautiful morning for some 600 repeats!

In addition to the running, I also did yoga and body weight strength workouts each day. As you can see, a few of my paces were taken just too fast. I think this lead to my IT band making itself known towards the end of the week. The track workouts were supposed to be between 2:49-2:56, which not a single repeat was. I am having some trouble with not taking track workouts fast. To ward off potential injury, I am taking a week off from track work and taking an extra rest day. I definitely don’t think my IT band is injured, but I could feel it coming on, so I am not going to play around. This needs to be nipped in the bud now.

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I’m seriously not kidding about these temps. 

Last week was also the first back-to-back long run. For the rest of training, my longest easy run is the day before my long run, which contributes to the cumulative fatigue you get through this plan. I gotta say, I liked it! The long run felt natural, but I was definitely more tired than I typically am during a 10 mile run. Also, the long runs are taken quite a bit faster than I am used to. It was nice to go a little faster.

Over the weekend, Frank and I did some hiking and camping with some friends. During the campout, we tried to see if both of us could fit in our friend’s kayak. Success!!

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I think I was trying to wiggle away as he squeezed me a little too hard. 🙂

Next week is going to be a little chiller than usual. I am cutting out a track workout and cutting back the mileage a little to give my IT band a break. I’m going to keep up with my yoga and body weight strength training, but I am going to cut out squats and lunges. During the weekend, I’ll be out in Arkansas with a few friends to climb some routes at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch again. Should be a great time!

I know, I owe you a race recap still…I’ll get that out some time this week.

How was your week? How has your training been going? Any plans for 4th of July weekend?