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Cheyenne Mountain 50K

I have been really excited about this race from the get-go not only because it fits in perfectly with my training for Comrades, but because my friends, Andrea and Steve, were putting it on. Over the months I have got to witness them in their planning stages, research, give them feedback, help with a little design, etc. and so I was excited to be a part of the event and see it all come together for them.
Logo design. Not my strong suit, but I was happy with this one. :)
Even though Colorado Springs is only an hour away, we decided to make it a mini-vacay and have the whole family go. So Friday morning I woke up to Hunter in my face telling me HOW EXCITED he was to go to Colorado Springs. Friday afternoon it was off to CO Springs to pick up my packet, dinner at Rasta Pasta-- YUM, and then checking into/swimming the hotel.
The kids LOVE traveling with their suitcases. Even for a night.
Saturday morning we were up and off to the race at no other than-- Cheyenne Mountain! 
I figured this race would be a great race for my Comrades training due to the length (50K) and the climbing-- any race with "mountain" in the name is certain for some and this one did not disappoint.

The weather was a little on the chilly side, so we hung in the car till almost race time. Then it was time to go!
A little national anthem with the color guard. Very moving and patriotic.
Quick hug from Andrea-- friend and race director.
Ready to run-- so excited!
Off I go!
 We all took off and settled into a nice pace.  We were immediately winding up and while I told myself I would take it easy the first lap around, I was exerting a little more than I think was probably smart... but that is what I think racing will do to you sometimes.

The trail meandered up and up. The trail itself was nice. Not too technical but enough variety to keep you always aware. And... I can't help but say that I just love running out in nature. It's harder. It's slower. But it has its own rewards.

About 2.5 miles in we hit an aid station, fully stocked, but kept on running. The trail winds up some more, then down, then more up. It was constantly changing and that was nice. After winding up, you circle around and come back down, hitting the same aid station about mile 6.5.

While I was out and about on the trail, there were some other (equally as important) races starting down below. (1) the 25k, then (2) THE KIDS RACE.
Off they go!
Run, Hunter, Run!
Linc trying to catch his older bro!

Medals and certificates! Thanks for the fun times for my little men!
After making your way back down from the first section of the trail, you pass by the start/finish area around mile 8 (along with another aid station). I was happy to see Ross and the boys hanging out and playing.
I think my favorite picture from the day
 Then it is off to the second part of the first loop, another route up and around. As you headed out that way, the wind was brutal, but once you started climbing again, you were somewhat sheltered and the wind became less of an issue. Then, it started snowing. I tried to get a picture of this, but you can't see the flurries.
Windy, exposed part. Brutal, but beautiful.
 The second part of the loop you wind up, up (with a little rolling) till you reach the top of Tallyn's and then circle back around and down again. 
Winding my way up to Tallyn's.
More climbing-- yay
So after reaching the top of the second climb, it is mostly down to which my body, or rather my heart rate, said "thank you". Down, down, down. Mile 16.68 I passed by the start/finish again and off on the second loop.

The second loop was a pretty lonely loop in that I was nowhere near anyone. By this time, everyone had  spread out and evidently I wasn't doing anyone's pace. The good news is that I was doing better than most people thus far in that I was passing people without anyone passing me. My legs were doing ok, but I could tell by my pace that my nutrition was off. Real off. So I started playing with things till I found my Perpeteum solids and they seemed to be doing the job.

Before I knew it, I was on the top of the second climb and heading back to the finish. With only about 5 miles to go, I felt good... and fast. I think it is the only time all day that I saw some sub-8 paces on my Garmin... At the last aid station, about 2 miles from the finish, Beth was there with a walkie-talkie and I asked her to make sure Ross knew I was coming, so she did.

When I reached the end, the boys were there, waiting to run into the finish with me. 

I was happy to be done. The course measured a little long (33 miles vs. 31), but the longer run actually worked in even better for my training. And besides, it's not an ultra if it's measured accurately, right? It was a long day and I learned a lot-- basically about my nutrition, heart rate and climbing pace-- all of which I plan to focus on improving in the next 34 days.

The race itself was a HUGE success!!! It had an awesome trail and course, well-stocked aid stations, friendly volunteers, fun swag (did I mention the gloves and t-shirt I got!), plenty of activity for the spectators, just overall good day! I am so proud of my friends, Andrea and Steve, for putting it on and I look forward to many other great events by them.

Running America

I am not sure what has come over me. Ok, maybe it is fear. Nerves. Anxiety. A combination of all three? But I have turned to trying to soak in as much as I can about running, ultra-running, Comrades, everything. So when I was at Runners Roost the other day, I picked up an invite to a book launching/documentary screening on, you guessed it, ultra-running. The book is written by Marshall Ulrich and the documentary follows his and Charlie Engles journeys as they attempt to run from San Francisco to New York City-- very appropriately titled...

While what I was expecting in watching the documentary was another feel good story about running, how it is good for you and "look at what I can do"...this was not that movie. And I am glad it was not.

Set in Sept-November of 2008 (think Wall Street bailout, presidential debates, etc), the men were running across the country at a time when change (or the lack of) was affecting everyone. When movement forward was on the forefront of everyone's minds. While the runners themselves did not touch on these subjects, the film did in both dialogue and editing style.

Over the two hours that the saga played out, we watched beautifully composed running shot after beautifully composed running shot, juxtaposed against the hardships the runners faced along their route. Now here's the twist, the director threw in some very real and gritty commentary from fellow Americans. The interviews were not only skillfully art directed, but the subjects were carefully picked and the content of the conversation touched on elements that made you question things like what direction you want your life to take, what it you believe being an American means, is change always good and so much more.

At first I found a very large disconnect in the two storylines playing out, however the more I thought about it, the more I appreciated it. Too many running films talk about just that; running. That is it. Sometimes they will be focused on getting people more active, fighting childhood obesity, etc. but not often about some deeper seeded meanings.The movie itself asked you to ask more of yourself.  

I found the way the film was shot even lent itself to this theme in its cinematography. When you watch the film, you will see that the runner and/or interviewee is rarely the center of the screen. Rather, the subject will be slightly to severely off-center letting the surroundings take up the majority of the space. We are not in control of our environment, rather a product of it. How we move through it can and will make all the difference in the experience we take out of life. 

As Charlie and Marshall make their way across the U.S. you see them face their inner demons and battle through what they are going through. At the same time, you gain the perspective of a group of Americans (very different from Charlie and Marshall) and how they are choosing to navigate through life in tough economic and political times.

So as not to spoil anything, I won't give away the ending, but I will say that it tied the two storylines together. It completed the story, but at the same time, left me and Ross with plenty to talk and think about. I guess that is what I like in a movie.

For me, I think this documentary was a winner. I found it to be artfully directed with more than one meaning to the story. I like when you take something like a story about running and make it bigger than "a story about running". I think I like this because that is often what running is to people... to me. Yes, running is a form of exercise. But often enough it is so much more. A stress reliever. A release. A way to test your limits. A way to fight your inner demons. A means to achieve a goal. It can be a lot of things to a lot of people.
Ross and I with Marshall after he signed our books
Like the movie, I am hoping his book has a bigger meaning, too.

The Platte (Double) Half Marathon

It all started when Charley asked me if I would be up for running the Platte Half Marathon, then turning around and running back to the start line. HECK NO! I, mean, run away from food, friends and fun???  So I replied that if he thought I would benefit from running 26.2 that day, I would run from the finish to the start and then start with everyone to run back to the finish-- and the plan was on!

So yesterday morning it was up early (like almost always) and then down to the finish line. Thankfully, there are a number of factors that make the Platte pretty easy to run backwards:
  • It is a point-to-point
  • It is pretty much a straight shot along a river trail-- easy to navigate.
  • The course is open to the public-- many people hate this, but it worked for me yesterday.
  • The course goes "up" in elevation from the finish to the start, so the "harder" leg was first for me.
I started off running and around mile 3, Elizabeth met me. She had to get in a 20-miler, so she opted to run part of it with me. We continued on running, chatting, etc. E had warned me that she wasn't much of a talker, but that wasn't really the case. Chatted the whole way.

Before long, Charley was there, checking in on us. He did this twice just on the way up and three times on the way back-- thanks, Charley! We started passing aid stations that actually had volunteers setting up. We didn't see any other runners out on the course, so I am pretty sure we were the only ones doing the FULL marathon. ;) As we got to Littleton, Elizabeth navigated us through the town towards the start line. One volunteer shouted out that the race went the other way and she shouted back, "we're running it backwards!", like duh!

But we timed it perfectly. As we rolled into the start line the announcer announced that the race would start in 6 minutes. Elizabeth ran and filled our water bottles and I did a quick wardrobe change, dropped my drop bag (with everything I had been previously carrying) and then we were in the corral.
Not too bad for an relaxing 13.2 up to the start...
Ready to run the second half. Bye-bye camera!
So, the second half started and we were off. Getting running again, I felt like molasses. A lot of that is due in part that we had jumped in the corral ahead of our pace time, so everyone was flying out of there at 6 and 7-minute miles. The other part of that is probably due to the fact that my legs were tired.

On the way back, we (Elizabeth and I) didn't talk much. Early on, we set a pace of about 8:45/mile and I was much more concentrated on keeping that going. The aid stations were every two miles and all was well for awhile. Elizabeth had said she would keep with me for at least five miles, but she stuck with me till she got back to her car (10 miles). She told me to keep picking people off and I realized that, as slow as we had been going, I think that we were actually gaining some speed (not much), but some. The last three were on my own, and by that time, I just wanted to get through it. Around the last aid station, I saw both Charley and Sonja and it gave me a boost. Mile 12 is the only hill on the course and I was happy that I was gaining speed going up. At the top of the viaduct/hill you look to the left and there is a cool view of downtown Denver. I enjoyed it, then picked it up to get to the end.

Finished and happy, I ran into some friends from the RMTC and even more from the Roost. We all chatted about our race and I got to meet a Chris Sullivan, who had run Comrades last year. He had plenty of excellent info on the race and then I realized I had read an article by this guy! (Comrades article-- go to page 12-13)  I retrieved my drop bag and got my cell. Charley had texted "Protein. NOW!!! I looked back at the food line which, in the 1/2 hour I'd been chatting, had grown to be 3 blocks long. Serves me right for talking. I was STARVING, so I grabbed a beer, some MIX 1 (protein, right?) and headed home-- with a stop at Qdoba on the way! I figured I deserved it, right?

RMTC Moab Spring Training: Last Day

Today was our last day in Moab and my longest run. 3.5-4 hours and/or 20-22 miles. Either way, I was a tidge bit nervous as I had put my body and, more particular, my legs through a lot so far that weekend. On top of that, this was gonna be a climbing run and I had no one to run with-- everyone else had a shorter run. I knew I had to start early in order to get done in time to recover and get checked out of the hotel, so it was a 6 a.m. start time for me. 8:30 for the rest of the crew running.

I got up and got dressed and off I went. About 8 minutes in I heard my phone say I had a text. Who would be texting at 6:08 a.m.? So I stopped, got my phone from my pack to see it was Charley. "Anyone running this morning?" it said. I texted back I was already on the trail. I got off the trail and made my way up to the road. Sitting there at the road was Charley in his truck. Unbeknownst to me, Charley had been waiting in the hotel lobby for me. He checked in with me and, even though I had a headlamp on, he drove along slightly in front of me for awhile till the sun came up.
The moon as I headed up the canyon
The road snaked up and I ran along through the darkness, just trying to keep it steady. Around 5 miles, the road turned to gravel, the sun came up and Charley took on up the road to drop off some water.

Making my way up the canyon
 I continued running up the canyon. Shortly after, Charley came running back down and paced me up the rest of the climb, showed me where the water was and took off for the day.  Got to the top and then the rest of the run was down into and through the canyon. Once I dropped down inside, it was just as gorgeous as the sun came up. I ran along for about 4 miles, then turned around at the 11 mile mark.

Sun rising in the canyon

11-mile mark. Time to turn-around and head home... well, back to the hotel.

At the top of the canyon again, mile 15.5.
 From the top of the canyon, it was down, down, down-- with a little up. I guess I didn't realize that in the darkness on the way out. Oh well. I felt good. I was happy my legs were holding up after such a long weekend. As I got further down, I saw some of my fellow rmtc'ers heading out. That juiced me up and was fun to see-- even got some high fives. :) And I just kept heading back. It is funny. I find the longer the runs get, sometimes the *easier* (although never truly easy) the ends get. When you are doing 22, it is easier to think "only 3 to go", versus when you are doing, say, a 6-miler.

Getting back, I realized this run was a real confidence builder for me. I did it. With climbing. By myself. In the dark (with Charley's help). On tired legs. And I still held a decent pace considering.

Once back, it was all about recovery. A coupla Mix 1's and a great BIG breakfast at the Jailhouse Cafe. Perfect way to end a weekend of hard training.

It was an AWESOME weekend with the RMTC and I can't thank the officers enough for putting it on, everyone I rode with (Jen, in particular, for sticking with me), my roomie for tolerating me, HR for traveling with us and Charley for all of his help and guidance! What a weekend... followed by a high-mileage week. Gotta love the it.

RMTC Moab Spring Training: Day Three

Day three was BRICK day... although so was Day 2, sorta.

Everyone started out with a ride up to Deadhorse Point. Now, at first I didn't realize the significance of it, but then when I heard it was the place where Thelma & Louise drove off the cliff-- I was so excited!

I started out with my trusty riding partner (Jen) and Patty. We had a good ride up to Deadhorse Point and when I say up, I mean UP. It wasn't steep, but it was climb, climb, climbing up for about 15 miles.
Beginning of the ride- no climbing yet.
Being from Wisconsin, when I saw this sign, I didn't think anything of it.

Till I realized I would be sharing the road with them. No biggie, just had to move over a bit.

Somewhere along the way, the winds really picked up and I got chilled to the bone. When we were entering the park, Jen and I both commented we might turn around after the lookout just because we were both soooo cold. When we reached the lookout point, Patty decided to go on and Jen and I stopped for some pictures- GORGEOUS!!!

After the park, we were a little less chilled, so we decided to ride on. We made it to Canyonlands National Park, but since we only wanted to get about 60 miles in, opted to head back without entering the park.

On the way back, I was floored. I must have ridden up the first 15 miles without really looking around, cuz on the way back the views were BEAUTIFUL. I couldn't believe how much I missed. I even pulled over twice to stop and take pictures (and you know me... it's gotta be good for me to actually stop).

We got back to the car and it was off with the bike shoes and on with the running shoes. I had a 75 minute run and took off towards a dirt trail only to be stopped with a "PRIVATE PROPERTY- NO TRESPASSING" sign. Rats! Back on paved trail and went down a mile to see a nice dirt road running UP Gemini Bridges Road-- SWEET!

Again, instantly in heaven. I was running up, up, up the side of a mesa/mountain/whatever they call them out there. There was an adventure race going on at the same time, so as I was running up there were mountain bikers coming down. I had a blast just running up and looking around. Again, the views were just to die for. 

Adventure Racers- I cheered them on!

View from the top-- looking down.
 I made it to the top, there was some rolling terrain and then I dropped back down into the other side of the canyon.
After I ran down and into another canyon- my turnaround point.
 My watch hit 40 minutes and I knew it was time to book it back "home". I took one last picture and off I went, up the other side of the canyon and down, down, down Gemini Bridges road - fun - and then back to the car. The timing was perfect, as a bunch of other rmtc'ers had just finished their bricks and were recovering with some much needed fluids (work hard, play hard) and I was so happy to have found a trail to run. (Not suprisingly, I learned that it wasn't that hard out there.)

Another day in the books, we headed back to the hotel to recover. Later that night it was out to dinner at the Moab Brewery- yum! Where we all met up and had a delicious meal. Again, I was slacking on the picts, but we had a great time- all 30+ of us!