Training and Mountains to Climb

I had a really good week of training! I hit about 6000 feet of vert over 40 miles of running and 8 miles of cross country skiing. It felt good and it was awesome to get out and ski a bit. Despite the rather mild winter we’ve been having, it was a really great time!

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Skiing in the Uinta Mountains

I am not a particularly good skier, and spent a substantial amount of time on my butt. Most of the first 4 miles were uphill, which meant the 4 miles back were all downhill. I took a few good falls (by a few, I mean like 10), but check out this video of me really owning that downhill!

I got a long run in of just 12 miles. I am still working up to the longer mileages for this training cycle. The real problem I am facing is that in order to get the vertical gain I need, I have to run on trails. And that just takes so much longer. While heading up some of the bigger peaks around here, I end up hitting 25-30 minute miles. It’s just impossible to get really long runs in like that. I may have to start doing the longer days on road.

This week my goal is to hit 10,000 feet of vertical gain. In order to get that done, today I went up Mt Wire, a rather knarly peak on the north side of town.

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Mountain running is tiring business.

It was definitely a difficult trek. I clocked over 2000 feet of gain in the first 1.8 miles of the run. It was hard and my calves burned, but the view at the top was certainly worth it.

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My playground!

From the peak, my friend, Dan, and I ran along the ridge to another peak called Red Butte. I always struggle with ridges and I get pretty scared on the thinner ones. We took it slow and steady.

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Ridge running along Red Butte

As we were coming down, we got some cool sunset views. When it comes to scenery, Utah doesn’t disappoint.

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Beautiful sunsets

So far so good for the week.

Also, I am officially signed up for Squaw 50-miler, which has 14000 feet of gain, so I better get to it! I am certainly getting nervous about this race. Luckily I still have over 5 months of training to go. I’m really not sure what to expect or how to train for it. Honestly, my main goal is to just get to the start line with no injuries.

Oh and here’s a selfie with Elly!

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We love each other.

Have you ever hiked/ran up a mountain? Do you like trail running or road running (I love both)?

A skipped run but a good night

Tuesdays are usually a pretty good day for me to get a good run on trails in. I start work at 6:00 am, so I get out of the clinic pretty early. Generally, I like to hit the trail right after work, but this week I was just too exhausted. The toll of waking up at 4:30 am and upping my mileage is catching up with me. I decided to head home to eat and found myself falling asleep on the couch. I was sore and just not really feeling it, so I decided to just skip my run.

I’ve always been a bit of an injury prone runner, so I try to listen to my body and stop before injury starts. When I’m tired or overworked, I don’t get too bent out of shape over skipping a run here or there. Although today made sense for a nice run in the mountains, it simply was not the right thing for my body. If I lack the motivation to get out the door, I try to take that as a sign that maybe I’m a little overtrained or that I need a rest day. Today was definitely one of those days.

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Elly and I had some much needed cuddle time.

Instead, Frank and I used our new projector to watch Planet Earth II. We don’t have a TV and have always walked movies on the computer. However, we thought it would be nice to get a projector and watch movies and shows on the wall. Turns out it works great! Even Elly found watching movies on the big screen to be quite an improvement.

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Elly is very interested in the animals of the jungles of Brazil.

Frank and I are pretty big nerds about our TV watching. We’re in the middle of The West by Ken Burns right now. It’s a series of documentaries about American colonization and immigration to the west. It’s a pretty slow show, but I’m always excited to hear about Utah and how Salt Lake City came to be. So far Brigham Young and his followers have only been mentioned once, but I expect that there will be a whole episode about the Mormon pioneers. Utah has a rather fascinating (and brutal) history.

After watching Netflix on our new projector, I did some photo editing and read a bit before heading to bed. I’ve been in the middle of a book about the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park. It’s a fascinating story of management and biology and I feel like I’ve gotten a much better appreciation for the hard work the Department of the Interior has put into keeping our parks as pristine as possible. If you’re interested here is the link to the book. And yes, I am very obsessed with National Parks and the West.

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I took this shot last weekend just after a storm passed through the mountains.

Despite a skipped workout, I still had a good night. I have 8 miles on trail up for tomorrow and hopefully my legs will be feeling much more up for the job.

Do you ever skip workouts/runs because you are tired or overtrained? What shows and books are you into right now? Have you ever sat through a Ken Burns documentary? 

2018 is the Year of Ultra!!

It has been a while… Almost 6 months actually.

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Since you last heard from me, a lot has happened. I ran the St. George Marathon with a 15 minute negative split and a 10 minute PR and I ran the Antelope Island 50K and came in 7th for women. It was a good year for racing, but not always a good year for running. I was hurt on and off and went through PT for both Piriformis Syndrome and my right ankle. It made me inconsistent and although I ran PRs and raced well, I certainly didn’t live up to my potential.

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I’m hoping that this year will be different. I have a lot of plans and I’m ready for some really really big things. Actually, one super big thing. After years of talking about getting my name in the Western States Lottery, my goal for 2018 is to actually do it. This means I have some serious training to do and a lot of mountains to run up. I am also still absolutely petrified of the distance. With a few other races before the big one, I am hoping that I’ll toe the line of the Never Summer 100K without too much fear.

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These days, I’ve become less of a road runner and more of a mountain runner. I spend my runs trying to get 2000+ feet of vertical gain and I do a lot of power hiking. I still sometimes do tempo runs and track workouts, but my goals have changed a lot. The track doesn’t get you ready for 13,000 feet of gain in a single race… only mountains can do that. Luckily for me, living in Salt Lake City, I have an abundance of mountains.

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I have 5 races on my calendar for 2018 and I’ll blog as I train for them.

Antelope Island 50K – March 24
Salt Lake City Marathon – April 21
Squaw Peak 50-miler – June 2
Never Summer 100K – July 28
St. George Marathon – Oct 6

Join me as I train, race, hike, and get myself ready to run 64.2 miles in one day. It’s going to be a journey for sure!

Also, Elly is doing great, too! She’s not quite as excited for my ultramarathons. It means less cuddle time.

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Do you have any big goals? What running goals scare you the most?

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.

I am an Ultramarathon Runner!

Yesterday was the day after my first ultramarathon, and I kind of felt like I got hit by a bus. Seriously, even my arms were hurting, which is pretty amazing given that I ran on my legs. I guess that’s to be expected. I did run nearly 32 miles. There were certainly moments that made finishing feel impossible, but I pushed through those and finished the race 25 minutes faster than my goal time. Honestly, towards the end I was only running because I wanted it to be done sooner. But the great thing about trails is that today, I am actually not sore. Like at all. The pounding on the legs is much less and the recovery is so much faster than a road race.

Oh and I got these sweet medals!

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I’m gonna be honest here, ultramarathons are hard… like crazy impossibly hard. I had rough patches that lasted miles, cramps that never seemed to end, and pain just about everywhere. This race made Colfax seem like a nice stroll through Denver. There is something crazy about seeing the marathon mark go by on your watch and know that you still have six miles to go. But it’s over and now I can officially say that I am an ultramarathon runner. I did it.

Once the race pictures are posted I will write a full recap of the race, but for now, I am basking in the glory of finishing such a big goal. I did some active recovery yesterday and went for a long walk with Frank around our neighborhood. Fall has fully set in, so we had some beautiful trees to gaze at.

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My goal walking into GOATZ was to finish the race, but not beat up my legs too bad, and I really feel like I achieved that. Today I am going to do an easy run and some yoga. I am less than a month out from Route 66, so I’m working on a quick recovery.

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)?

First Vlog Ever (special appearance by Elly)

Hey everyone!!!

I did my first vlog entry!! I went ahead and answered Kristina’s Running Vlog Survey. I also want to give a shout out to Meg for doing the survey as well. Elly is featured on here and stayed on my lap for the entire video. Watch it and let me know in the comments what you think. Also, go ahead and answer one of the questions or do a vlog of your own!

  1. What was your first race ever?
  2. What is your favorite race?
  3. Do you like to run with a pace group?
  4. What is your dream race?
  5. Who is your favorite runner?

Kristina, you and I are totally going to Western States one day! You’re definitely going to head up my crew. Meg also volunteered to be my pacer! 🙂

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.