I’m Back!!!!

I’m back!!! After two epic weeks in Europe, and a whole lot of flights, I am finally back in Manhattan, KS and slowing returning to my normal life. I look forward to catching up on all of your blogs and training, but I am still exhausted and it may take me some time to get back to the grind.

In Europe, my mom and I went to London, Liverpool, Krakow (Poland), and Paris. It was a ton of fun AND I even nabbed a tiny new half marathon PR in Liverpool (post about that to come). Here is a few photos of all of our fun:

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Thai food in London
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Post half marathon nap
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The streets of Krakow
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In front of the Arc de Triumph
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Big Ben

What’s next? I start training for Chicago… like now! I took a few weeks to run slow and infrequently as I recovered from my several weeks of wild running. However, the break is over and it’s time to get back into marathon training. I’ll be posting soon about my training plan and goals.

Hope you all had a great few weeks! How is your training going? Are you traveling this summer?

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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.

Life After Colfax

My race photos are in!!!!

This one is pretty good. I look unbelievably tired, but I think this was taken at like Mile 21 or 22.

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Not the best running form, but still holding up!

Oh, and they caught the high-5 between Dan and I at the end.

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Dan and I at the bottom of the screen high-fiving!

Colfax is done… so what now?

Well, I don’t really have the post-race blues. I didn’t really give myself the chance to. On Saturday I am pacing the Bill Snyder Half Marathon and helping the 2:25 group reach their goals. It’s always fun to pick up your next race packet while you are still sore from your previous race.

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My pacer stick and shirt!! Bringing people to their PR’s!

I am leaving for London with my mom next week and I’ll be pacing her for a 5K in Liverpool and the next day I’ll be running the Rock and Roll Half Marathon. I don’t really know what my goals are for this race, but more than anything, I am just excited to race internationally.

I am kind of taking running not too seriously until I begin training for Chicago in a few weeks. Luckily, the soreness is mostly gone from my legs and I actually feel pretty good. I’ve been sleeping A LOT and trying to stay very hydrated. I’m hoping that I can get back to some relaxed running either today or tomorrow. Elly has also been keeping me company during recovery.

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Elly only lays on her back when she is REALLY passed out. So cute. 

I am likely going to be using the Hanson’s plan for Chicago, which will begin the 2nd week of June. I am going to dedicate an entire post to goals, but I’ll warn you that they are pretty big. Colfax went really well and I never felt like I was pushing myself or reaching my edge. In Chicago, I might push things a little harder. I learned a ton and one thing that I am going to take into racing from now on is to eat a lot more during races. I was always very stingy about gel use, but not anymore. I really believe having a gel every 45 minutes basically saved me from hitting the infamous marathon wall. I’m hoping that I can have a repeat performance at Chicago.

I’m pretty excited about my several weeks of “run whenever I damn well please” instead of running because I have to. It won’t last too long, but I’ll enjoy it while it does.

Do you have a goal race coming up soon? What do you do between training cycles?

Free State Trail Race Recap

On Saturday, I ran the Free State Trail Race Half Marathon. It was a pretty tough and technical trail race in Clinton State Park with tons of rocks just waiting to take out some ankles, knees, and anything else you can fall on. Luckily for me, I did not fall! This race was everything I could have hoped for.

The night before the race, I outlined my goals in my Believe training journal. I had some secrets that I was keeping:

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I dream big.

I usually place pretty well at trail races. I’m generally not afraid of the downhills, so I take them hard, and I am good at technical running. Although I don’t usually place, even in local 10Ks, I usually make a good go at trail races. So I went in to this race like it was a race.

The starting line was pretty chill. There were definitely a good amount of people, but I wasn’t sure who was for the marathon and who was running the half marathon. I decided to just try to get towards the front and latch on to the leading girls. The race began on about a mile of road, so we took it pretty quick. I felt comfortable, and I knew that I had to stick with the leading girls if I wanted to place. The second mile took us through a hilly grassland that had good footing and was pretty easy to keep a fast pace. We were holding around a 7:40/mi pace and I was running with a pack of about 5 girls. We were chatting and laughing about how hard the 100k must be (there was also a 100k going on at the same time).

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The race quickly made it to some pretty rocky single track trail. I reiterated my ultimate goal in my head a few times that I needed to keep my ankles healthy to get to the start of Colfax, so I let 4 girls go ahead of me while I slowed a bit to get better footing. The trails were beautiful and were relatively flat, but so rocky that it was not always possible to run.

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I made it to the first (of 2) aid stations in 4th place. I stopped, got my water bottle filled and took off as quick as I could. At the aid station two girls passed me, so I pushed hard to catch up. It didn’t take too long, but I passed them both on a downhill and pushed hard to get out of sight. Once I knew they were gone, I held back a bit and did some easier running.

About 8 miles into the race, I came to a beautiful section of trail with giant rocks along the reservoir. The sun was coming out from the clouds and it was just a fantastic sight. The trail, however, was totally not runnable. I worried about taking a bad fall or turning my ankle, so I just walked. This went on for about a half mile as I tried to power hike through these sections. Finally, the trail lead to a rather steep (for Kansas) uphill and to a water station at mile 9. I knew at this point I was in 4th place, but there was a girl who was right behind me. The aid station was packed and there was talk about people falling on a few rocks and being pretty badly cut up. As they said this, a guy came running up with his knees covered in blood. It was a pretty gruesome sight and I was quite thankful that I decided to walk that rocky section.

I left the aid station and one girl had gone ahead of me. Now I was in 5th place with around 3 miles to go. I stayed back far enough to keep the 4th place girl in sight, but wasn’t feeling ready to make my move yet. At this point, I didn’t think placing in the top 3 was possible, so I was just conserving energy to get through the race and get back to training for Colfax. At mile 11, the 4th place girl slowed up a bit, and let me pass her. I figured at this point that I was going to finish in 4th place and was pretty happy about that.

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Well into the 12th mile, I saw the 3rd place girl running and looking pretty tired. I tried to calm my excitement and stayed a bit behind her so I could gather my energy. I saw a particularly wide downhill and figured that was my chance and I blew by her and sprinted away. I wanted to make sure that I looked strong and got out of sight fast, since I really didn’t want to sprint into the finish line.

I started to see a lot of people around, so I figured I was getting to the end. There was a final uphill spot and then I saw the finish line. I pushed through, tried to look slightly decent for the finish line pic (cause I always look like a crumpled mess) and finished the race in 2:08:45.

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Definitely a personal worst (by over 10 minutes) on a very tough single track course. As I crossed the finish line, someone handed me a medal and a sweet little trophy for getting 3rd place female. There was no podium or anything, and I gotta say, I was a little bummed about that. Unfortunately, Frank was in the bathroom when I came in, so he didn’t see me cross the finish line. He was pretty excited to see my trophy though! Oh, and I definitely hit my “A” goal!

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Overall, this was a great race. The race was put on by a trail running group called Psycho Wyco based out of Kansas City. They had a cute T-shirt and medal and I thought the no frills attitude to the race was pretty nice.  Also, the pictures were FREE!!! I love that! I would have rather had more aid stations, since there were a few times that I wanted water, but there was none available. Most people brought larger water bottles than me, so that might explain the lack of support (there were no water cups on the course). I am definitely going to sign up for more races by this group.

I had a ton of fun actually racing! Usually, I am just racing my previous times, but it is fun to go out there and actually race other people. I think you will see me doing a lot more trail races in the future, since I do have a ton of fun at them. I am super happy that I did this race without too much trouble, without tapering, and without a hiccup in my training for Colfax. I think I gained a lot of confidence at this race and I feel ready to coast right on over to my first marathon!