Experiencing the Sandias (w/videos)

I’m in New Mexico for work this week and had an opportunity to check out the Sandia Mountains.  The views here are so beautiful.  I will let the pictures speak for themselves.  I had planned to get a rigorous long trail run in but it just wasn’t that kind of day.   To my dismay, I’m learning to accept that not every workout is going to be completely kick ass.  What’s important is forward drive and constant improvement.

Here are some videos and pictures for your enjoyment. 🙂

And this week’s weekly update from the weekend…because I forgot to post it here. 🙂

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Race Recap: Lebanon 10K Trail Race (with video)

The Lebanon 10K trail race is one of five races in the Endless Summer Trail Run Series (ESTRS) hosted by Twin Cities Running Company and Rocksteady Running.

Looking back and reviewing my thoughts on this race I realized that it gave me a lot of firsts for one little 10K run.

  1. This was my first race where it rained through the entire event.
  2. First race I’ve ever gone to completely solo.  Drove there myself.  Check in and packet pickup on my own.  Started running alone.  After party of one.  Drove home by myself.  There are pros and cons to this.  I had the freedom to do things on at my own pace and didn’t worry about where anyone else was or how to meet up or any of those coordination items.  That said, it was super lonely!  I don’t think I would go it alone again if I could avoid it.  The after party was especially lonely.  It was a great event with pizza and beer and I just didn’t have anyone to share it with and recount the race with.
  3. Not my first trail race but it was my first trail 10K!
  4. First 10K that was a 3 mile loop twice.
  5. First race on a Tuesday evening after work.
  6. First race while recording with a GoPro.

The night before was a Monday evening.  I packed everything I would need into my gym bag instead of laying it out as I would for other races simply because the race was after work and not my first item of the day.  I also knew it would probably be rainy so I brought my rain jacket, a plastic sandwich bag for my phone and a towel for after the race.

After work on Tuesday I drove over to Lebanon Hills Regional Park and parked in the overflow lot.  Check in was IMG_0376seamless.  I gave the volunteers my name and bib # and was good to go.  Race registration also included glassware from Solomon.  Since my car was at the overflow lot, it was raining, and I didn’t have anyone with me to hold my stuff I hid my glass by one of the picnic tables.  Felt very sneaky for doing this but it worked out fine and was waiting for me when I finished.

I have to give race directors a shout out for starting on time.  And I mean really on time.  Super punctual.  The race was scheduled to start at 6:30 and we started exactly at 6:30 pm.

The race started on asphalt and quickly progressed into the trail through the woods.  It had been raining for 4 days in the Minneapolis area prior to Tuesday.  The mud was out of control and it was very difficult to not slip and fall.  Great workout but made for some slow running.IMG_0386

The first 3 miles felt like they flew by.  I had turned off the voice notifications on my Map My Run app to avoid bothering anyone and I didn’t notice any mile markers.  If they were there, I didn’t see them.  The whole time I didn’t know how far I was which I think made the time seem to go by faster.  Aid station was great (back at the start/finish) with water, gels, and really supportive volunteers cheering.  The second loop felt like it went by more slowly.  I think this was because I knew I was repeating everything I had just run through, I was more tired, and more soaked by then.  (Disclaimer: It wasn’t pouring, just a heavy mist/drizzle.  If it had been an outright downpour I might not have stuck it out!)  The park trail was beautiful despite the weather.  Picture lots of green foliage with wood bridges throughout.

I finished in little under an hour and 17 minutes.  Not too shabby for me considering the muddy trail and rain!  It was a great workout and I am proud of my time.IMG_0385

Afterwards there was pizza and beer.  Pizza and lemonade for me since I was driving myself home.  I have to say though, it tasted like the best meal ever after running in the rain for an hour!  This was a very well organized race and I truly enjoyed myself.  The volunteers were so nice, helpful, and encouraging.  I would absolutely run another ESTRS race again.  Next time though, I’m bringing some friends! 🙂

Having it All vs. Doing it All

I’ve never no-showed a race.  In fact, I rarely ever no-show anything at all.  If I say I will do something, I do it.  If I say I will be somewhere, I’m there.  If I register for it, I show up and run.  Until this weekend.  A few months ago I registered for the Get in Gear 10k.  Later my husband let me know that our 8 year old would have a hockey tournament – we just didn’t know what time of day.  A couple weeks ago, in looking at my training plan realized that it called for an 8 mile run that day.  It doesn’t take a genius to realize that 6 miles is not quite 8 miles.  I decided to change my distance for Get in Gear to the half marathon.  A few days ago we found out my son had two big tournament games the day of Get in Gear (yesterday).  One at 8:15 am and another at 1:15 pm.  The race was scheduled for 9:00 am.  No way to do both.  I would be lying if I said I didn’t even consider skipping the hockey tournament.  It was extremely tempting.  I really enjoy race days, they are the best.  Sitting in a cold ice arena for hours is not always super fun.  It crossed my mind but in the end I knew I needed to be there for him.  When there’s a conflict – the Mom card trumps all.  I got my first Did Not Start (or DNS in the running world).  Kind of a bummer but I don’t regret it.  I didn’t skip it because I forgot or slept late or was feeling lazy.  I skipped it because my guy needed me.  And he did.  The first game of the tournament was a shut out, 0 to 10.  The second was another loss at 1 to 10.  He was super disapointed and I would have felt even worse if I hadn’t been there to give hugs and encouragement.

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Sometimes having it all doesn’t mean doing it all.  Sometimes the kitchen doesn’t get cleaned.  Sometimes that last minute email gets answered the next day.  Sometimes grad homework is turned in at the last minute (like this week!).  And sometimes a DNS happens.  That’s life as a parent.  We sacrifice our own wants for our kids’ well being and happiness and it’s okay (and encouraged!) to give ourselves room to do that guilt free.

But it doesn’t have to be a total sacrifice.  I skipped the race and am very glad I did.  I gave up the half marathon but didn’t give up my training.  It would have been easy to just say ‘oh well, that’s that, wasn’t meant to be’.  But I still had those 8 miles on my training 8 mile trail trainingplan so I cranked out them out on some trials.  (This trail stuff is growing on me although we ran into several harmless but startling snakes which I didn’t appreciate.)  Had a great workout with a good friend in spite of the scheduling issues.

Sidebar: Looking for some feedback!  I have been watching YouTube videos lately for running, workout and training tips.  Playing around with the idea of doing some video blogging of my own.  Thoughts?  Good idea?  Silly idea?  Have you tried it or have any tips?  Would welcome any comments. 🙂

Race Recap: Zumbro 17 Mile Trail Race

Friday night I didn’t have much to put together.  I had been picking my outfit out all week and lining things up.  Went to bed early and got a good night’s sleep.  Yesterday morning I woke up bright and early at 4:30 am.  Had plenty of time to take a shower get dressed, curl my hair, decide I wanted it braided instead, make breakfast, remember I needed sneakers, look for sneakers, forget my glasses, go back for glasses, and get to M’s house by 6:00 am.

A two hour drive from the cities to Theilman Minnesota later we arrived at the start of the Zumbro 17 mile trail race.  The race starts at the Zumbro River Bottoms campground area.  Here is info on the course and altitude for anyone interested.  The scene at the start was very laid back.  At packet pickup and check in we just gave them our names.  No scanning, no code, no ID necessary.  IMG_0076People were camping in tents with camp fires.  The weather was sunny and mild in the mid 50’s when we got there but was closer to 70 by the time we were done.  This race was the shortest distance of the event with 2 ultra marathon races already in progress.  50 miles (3 loops of the 17 mile course) and 100 miles (6 loops of the 17 mile course). 100 milers started 8:00 am the previous day and 50 milers had started at midnight on Friday.

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Just after the start, heading into the woods.

So now that the stage has been set, here’s how this thing went down and what I learned along the way.

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At the top of the first hill.

The race starts out with a brief flat straight away into the woods that immediately shoots straight up a massive incline which is the first of 4 major climbs on the course.  I don’t think I’ve ever been up something quite so steep.  I had looked at the elevation prior and realized I had 2 or 3 more of these to go.  The first couple miles M and I ran together.  She’s done plenty of these including a rim to rim to rim through the grand canyon and a major trail marathon.  This is a pretty good depiction of what I’m sure we would have looked like (picture M is Merlin and I’m the wolf):

After the first incline I was holding my own and felt pretty good but didn’t want to hold her back.  I was glad she continued on (and met her goal!).  Miles 2 through 3 were incredibly muddy.  And not a puddle here or there.  I’m talking about the super thick, sticks to your shoes nasty muck.  The course was full of giant rocks, leaves, roots.  Very different than the flat road races I’m used to.

Having just made it out of the mud and happy to be on dry land, mile 4 provided an extra special treat: SAND!  It was tough and slippery and I was happy to get out of the sand pits without breaking an ankle.

After the sand fiasco I picked up speed a little and cought up to some other racers.  I watched what they did, realizing this trail was definitely a different kind of race animal.  I walked as fast as I could up the hills.  Hydrated and took a short break at the top, jogged as fast as I could safely on the down hills.  Ran as fast as I could on any straight flat areas.

I also learned that trail racers are very chatty and super nice.  You can’t pass someone without having a conversation.  I tried once – it was super awkward I got a bunch of bad vibes.  You can talk about anything: the weather or the difficulty of the run or the nice scenery but you *have* to talk to each other and the pace is slow enough that this is doable.  I stuck with a pack of about 6 individuals (at least one was a 50 miler) from miles 6 to the finish.

Aid stations are weird.  People are super nice and helpful but it’s not the grab a cup of water or Gatorade and continue on.  There was a whole smorgasbord of snacks an beverage options.  Water, soda, candy, sandwiches, cookies, pretzels.  It all looked very tempting but I stuck to my nothing-new-on-race-day rule and skipped it all.  I only stopped at the last aid station at mile 14 for the porta-potty.  I probably could have skipped that one too but didn’t want to regret it on the next mile!

Speaking of regrets, my only true regret is not taking enough pictures.  As difficult as this race was, it was equally gorgeous.  I made the mistake of putting my phone in my jacket pocket.  When it got warmer I chucked the jacket in my hydration pack.  At the time, I was exhausted and it just felt like a hassle to get to it.

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Finished! With our wood medals, course map in the background.

The number one lesson I learned is that trail racing is NOT road racing.  At all.  I would actually call it a completely different sport.  Different crowd, different pace, different expectations, and a drastically different course.

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I finished the 16.86 miles in 4:35:40 with an average pace of 16:20.  I would have been extremely disappointed with that pace on a road race.  However, given the extreme conditions of the course, I’m damn proud of my finish at my first trail race.

Would I do it again?  You bet.

The Art of Not Freaking Out

I was blissfully going about my day yesterday when an email popped into my inbox.  This was the subject: “Welcome to the 2015 Zumbro Endurance Run”.  I immediately felt nauseous, sweaty and shaky.  I hadn’t forgotten about the race I registered for months ago.  Far from it.  I had been purposely not thinking about it (there’s a big difference).  Here’s what enters my brain every time I think about this race.

I’m in over my head.
I’m not this kind of runner.
I’ve never completed a trail race or run of any distance.
I’ve never completed a run or race of this distance.
I’m estimating it will take me about 4.5-5 hours.  I’ve never exercised for that long.  Ever.
And I don’t like mud.

And then there’s my distance running history to nag me as well: Here is how I’ve felt after my previous half marathons.
2013 Sioux Falls Half: I thought I was going to die. I honestly couldn’t believe I finished it. I cried in my husbands arms when it was over.  I was incredibly sore the rest of the day and for two days following.
2014 Sioux Falls Half: Ran fast and hard the whole way, set a PR 17 minutes faster than the same race last year.  Legs and lungs felt great but my feet were killing me.  I don’t think I could have taken another step solely (see what I did there?) due to foot pain.
2014 Monster Dash Half: Went out too fast.  Wound up taking walk breaks around mile 11.  Legs were just dog tired.  Finished 3 minutes slower than my PR the month before.
12.5 Mile Training Run (three weeks ago): Almost didn’t finish it.  I was just really tired.  No excuse either, ran the whole thing slow and easy.

I can’t imaging running another 4 miles (for me that’s 40-60 minutes) after any one of these.

I hate feeling anxious.  Anxiety just feels like poison coursing through my system and I won’t put myself through that for the next 4 days.  Since it’s this Saturday, I know not thinking about it is no longer an option. So I have two choices: 1.) Drop out and just decide to rain check until I feel more ready. Or 2.) Get over myself and find a way to not freak out about this for the next 4 days.

Well, I don’t quit.

Time for option 2.

Positive thoughts for consideration: 
My training has been solid the past couple months.  I have been running.  I’ve been running a lot.  I have in fact focused only on running and dropped the strength training completely (on Dr.’s orders).  Usually that has bummed me out but right now it’s my beacon of hope.

It’s fun to run somewhere new.

I will set a PR (for distance) no matter what, because I don’t quit (see above).  Even if I wind up walking/hiking most of it, it will be the farthest I’ve ever traveled on foot.

Most importantly, this is not the race.  It is a race.  This is a fun way to train on the way to the race.  I can’t get too hung up on races that are not my ultimate goal.  My goal is to finish the marathon in October.  And I know when I’m 4 days out from that thing, anxiety will be back in a very big way. At that point I will be able to remind myself how well I did on a little 17 mile trail race back in April. 🙂

Racing: How much is too much?

Only a month into winter and registrations for the spring race season are opening left and right.  I ran over 20 races in 2014 and it was one of the best years of my life.  I love racing!  The past two years I’ve taken the summers off of my grad studies to train, race and recover to my heart’s content. The thing is I’m also trying to finish a doctoral degree and the way the stars align, I can’t take this summer off of school.  Bummer right?  I told myself I was going to seriously cut back on racing this year and only do 2 half marathons in preparation for the full marathon in October.  That’s it.  And then the crazy sets in…Okay, maybe one 5k with my son because he’s really interested in it.  And this 17 mile trail race looks really cool.  And It might be fun to travel for a race or two and see another city.  I haven’t done any races at all since October.  I’m really itching to get out there.  Maybe next month, is there a race next month?  Just one?

So far here is what I’m registered for.

  1. Hot Dash – 10 mile
  2. Get in Gear – 10K
  3. Zumbro – 17 mile trail
  4. Rock & Roll – Half marathon

I feel like a little kid who was told “just 2 cookies” only to be found 15 minutes later in the cookie jar up to my elbows, face covered in chocolate.  And no, you’ll notice the actual marathon isn’t on that list.  The registration doesn’t open for that until next week.  And it’s a lottery (don’t worry I have a backup 26.2 if I don’t get in).  The 2nd half marathon for training isn’t on that list either.  Oops.  Or the 5k I want to race with my 6 year old. Oops again.  So, it looks like… I’m an addict.  Not sure what to do about it.  I see a race online and immediately start checking the calendar (can’t overlap with hockey!) and digging in my purse for my credit card.  I don’t care about the stuff, the swag, the medal.  I don’t care about the entertainment or the beer.  It all honestly doesn’t even matter.  If it’s a race within a 2 hour drive of my house, I want in.  I don’t know if there’s a cure for this but I am going to have to figure something out.  Or learn how to write a dissertation while jogging and chugging power aid.