I’m Becoming a Mountain Runner!

It’s not every week that you have a really great training week, so when you do, you can’t take it for granted. This week was certainly a special one. I managed 56 miles of running/hiking and about 10,000 feet of vertical gain. I did every mile on trail and either in the Wasatch or at Antelope Island (a local state park out in the middle of the Great Salt Lake). My legs are exhausted, but in tact and I am thrilled with my progress.

Monday: Off – Chilled out. Watched The West by Ken Burns with Frank after work. 

Tuesday: 7.2 miles with over 2500 feet of vert

This was a fun run up a mountain north of town called Wire. My friend and I tackled it as fast as we could (it took us like 48 minutes to get to the top). It’s a brutal climb straight up about 1.8 miles to the top. Then you get to the best part, the gradual downhill that starts by climbing along a ridge and finally a single track path back to the car. It was a fun night!

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Awesome ridges! 

Wednesday: 13.2 miles with about 1400 feet of vert

I didn’t have time to get my long run done over the weekend, so I hit up Mill Creek Canyon after work. I took it slow and meant to only do 11 miles, but after some poor running math, I ended up doing a little over 12. I tacked some on at the end since I was so close to the half marathon mark.

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My mountains are so pretty!

Thursday: Off – More Ken Burns… Frank and I are an exciting bunch. 

Friday: 7 miles with 800 feet of vert

Frank and I decided to camp out at Antelope Island State Park. I love running out there since the trails are much more gradual and runable than most of the Wasatch. Frank came with me on his mountain bike and took some rad shots of me running as the sun was setting.

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Oh and there we bison too…

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Saturday: 15.7 (running and hiking) with 2000 feet of gain

I ran in the early morning about 6 miles on the Island again. I took it fast and hard and it felt great to really get my legs moving. Afterwards, I hiked with Frank and a few friends to Elephant Head. Basically, it was a perfect day.

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Sunday: 13.8 (running and hiking) with 2900 feet of vert

I got out early on the Pipeline Trail with my friend. We took it slow, since my legs basically felt like jello. Afterwards, Frank and I hiked into an icy canyon and turned back after 5ish miles. Then we watched more Ken Burns documentaries.

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Elly gets real comfortable when we watch movies.

This is the best week of running that I’ve had in a long time. I’m feeling tired, but strong and uninjured. I’m incredibly thrilled that I was able to take this kind of load and it gave me a lot of courage going into the next few months of training for Squaw 50. Mileage is usually not the problem for me, but maintaining that kind of vertical gain is ridiculously hard. But after this, I feel like I can really cut it as an ultra runner out here in Utah. Next week I am backing off considerably and taking it pretty easy. Recovery week, here I come!

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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)?

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?

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.