Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Accentuate the positive....

That's what I'm going to do now! We've had yet another setback with my husband's office and the continued bad state of his industry and economy. While it scares me to death, I frankly cannot do a damn thing to change it other than choosing optimism and finding positive outlets for stress relief. We've got the ball rolling on as many other belt-tightening and income drawing opportunities as possible so I'm just going to take this chance to move on to better subjects.

So, that 5K I raced over the weekend-I FINALLY managed to put together good course conditions, good weather, and running at an optimal point in training (taper madness!) for a race effort that pleased me very much. I know that 5K times do not directly correspond to marathon performance, and are frankly not good predictors for marathons, but I got a great psychological boost from hanging in there and not running my typical massive positive split that has occurred each time I've run a 5K in the past year where I was not pacing one of my kids, and trying to go all out for myself.

There were about 75 people at this race-not as big by any stretch as other years, but between the fact that there was another 5K going on in town an hour later (a rarity in this rural city) and that it was just a week after Canyonlands, I think some people may have been elsewhere, or resting. Still, there was a rock solid group of men there who always figure into placements regionally, and the very same woman who took first at my last road 10K. In the old days, I used to get discouraged and freak out a bit over knowing that better runners were there, but totally the opposite now. I now think "oh, good! Let me see how long I can keep my eyes on her!"
It helped that I registered the day before and hadn't thought too hard about it, and honestly was just placing no expecatations on it because I had bad luck the last several times I tried to really hammer home a good 5K.

When they got to the point of counting down for the start, I was still all loosey-goosey and talking to an acquaintance. We turned around and focused on the start with just enough time to hear "three, two one" and then the gun. That group of men took off like a shot, and that other top dog Masters age group woman was immediately in the lead just behind them. I found myself boxed in right away by two women, with some man in front of me. I just decided this wasn't going to be a hang-back-and-play-it-conservative day so I swung wide out of the box, got around them, passed a young boy about two minutes later, and then found myself basically alone.

This was a hard, all-out effort for me, for sure, and for a change I was not looking at my Garmin every two seconds or trying to hold myself back. I was just watching the woman ahead of me (probably about 30-45 seconds ahead) and trying to not slip back any further from her. This was actually a FUN way for me to run the race. I knew she was out of my league-I've seen her at other races and she's much faster than me, period-but it was causing me to up my game while still running within myself. Every time I got that tired and fatigued feeling of an all-out 5K, I just told myself "how bad do you want it?" with the bug up my butt for a new 5K PR. It's such a short race that I was able to talk my way through it without letting up.

In the end, splits looked like this: 7:03, 6:53, 6:56, and last .1 (or .11 as measured by my Garmin) at a 7:14 pace...total time 21:40, a new PR by 1:26! I was thrilled. That top woman finished about a minute ahead of me, which is about the closest I'd ever been to her in any race. There was an outstanding local 60-64 age group man who was near her during the race and I was surprised and thrilled to be running anywhere near him. He's in better shape than a majority of men half his age so it felt great to actually be able to SEE his back during a race.

The next day, I went for what wound up being THE Kansas Simulation. I called other runs the Kansas simulation, but they were walks in the park compared to the ridiculous weather on Sunday. It was the kind of gusting wind where birds flapped their wings furiously, trying to move forward, but just floated in place or even a little bit backward. My running cap fits snugly but I was having to hold it, and my sunglasses, to keep them from flying away. It was insane.

When I came around one of the connected lakes, *I* was the one moving like the birds-fighting to move forward but hardly getting anywhere, and my cheek on the side that faced the headwind was actually flapping the way you see in those old military wind tunnel tests. The thought that came to mind was a scene from Spirit of the Marathon in which Deena Kastor said, following a windy training run, "This would be my worst nightmare in Chicago-don't say we didn't train in it, though!" That's about the truth of it for me, as well. I'd love for marathon day to only have some light winds (about a best-case scenario for Kansas....I know the air will not be still). If I get gusting winds, though, I feel as prepared as possibly could be for them. I was SO tired on Sunday and it was an ugly run, but there was still something extremely amusing and enjoyable about being out there and finishing the run.

So, we're in final preparation for the trip to Kansas. Because I am OCD about travel plans and making sure all ducks are in a row, I made sure our lodging was squared away, and also made a dinner reservation at the Brookville Hotel (oddly enough, no longer located in Brookville and now transplanted in Abilene) for the evening of marathon day. Our faculty advisor at the college newspaper advertising staff took us to the original location one time for dinner, and they were great! It'll be fun to go again, and not have to leave town for dinner.

I have been also googling and searching for articles about the marathon, since knowledge is power, and all the more important when I have never run the course before. Some of my runner friends have already heard this, but they asked for runner information for their race program with the registration. The whole town comes out to volunteer and support the runners, and they put information on the runners in the program so spectators know a little something about the people running past. It could be anything..biographical, racing history, why the runner chose this race-any interesting tidbit. The obvious choice for me was to mention my painfully close margin for missing the BQ last fall, and that I would be there to go for it again in Abilene.

Well, about a week ago when I was searching for race articles, I found one where they spoke to the local registration coordinator about all the people coming from far and wide for the marathon. There were a number of Marathon Maniacs coming, and several were mentioned by name. There were 50-State Club members who were doing the race to take care of Kansas. There was a New Yorker who like the appeal of midwestern hospitality, a top Masters female who was a prior winner of the marathon, and then there was MY name! I was the "trying to Boston qualify" girl. It was very cool that they were showcasing as many runners coming to town as they could but now I'm even more nervous! I suppose, though, that nervous pent-up energy is a very positive thing going in to the marathon, so I will choose to be optimistic that it'll help me on race day.

Friday, March 27, 2009

My Dream of Doing Nothing...The Sequel

No, running's going just fine and I really don't want to take up permanent residence on the famed Couch of Doom. It's just that after returning from Moab, having to do battle with a crappy seller on Ebay for the first time in six years on the site, and my annual business inspection (oh, HELLO! I was expecting and preparing for you.....NEXT week!), well, I just haven't felt like lifting a finger to blog for the past few days, or do anything else beyond what I HAVE to do. It's Friday, though-the week is almost over, and I think I've found my motivation again.

First things first-we had a great time in Moab. My daughter and I caught a ride down with my friend Suzanne, who was running the half, and we stayed in a condo with a bunch of people she knew (several were coworkers from her school). Although I normally would think "sleeping on air matress the night before a race? Thanks, but NO WAY," we all slept well after picking up our packets, and having some yummy enchiladas at a favorite Mexican place. I think that for me, I could have slept on a bed of nails and it still would have been kind of relaxing because I didn't have to keep track of all the kids. That, and the air mattress was actually far more comfortable than the bedding at many hotels. It wound up being well worth it to pay the money to stay in town the night before, and not get up at 4 a.m. on race day to get down there in time.

On the morning of the race, we got up fairly early, drank some coffee (the grown-ups, that is...don't let my 9-year-old do coffee), and shoveled a little bit of food in our pieholes. Then we drove down toward the city park and elementary school where the buses take you up the canyon to the 5-mile and half marathon starts. Although they encourage you to get on an early bus, we agreed that none of us were in a rush to ride the bus and wait at the top of the canyon. It was, how do we put this...miserably cold up there a year ago, so we decided we'd hang out IN the car and get on a later bus. You still have about an hour to wait before the start, even taking one of the last buses up there. So, we wound up doing do what we're going to label "people watching" (or, "doesn't that guy with the tights, shorts over the top, warmup suit, heavy gloves and hat realize it's gonna be 75 today?" -type commentary on every person that walked by. No, we're not proud of our snark....but it was actually a good way to distract ourselves before the race).

We finally took our separate buses to the start-or van, in the case of my daughter and I. That was amusing. There was a random 15 passenger van in the 5-mile loading area amidst all the school buses, and that's what was free when we came to the front of the line. Once at the top, we walked around, said hello to the few people we knew, and got warmed up on a dirt trail above the parking area. I'll get back to this later, but we saw a girl about a foot shorter than my daughter (okay...not quite. But as short as my kid is tall) go slinking past with the sidelong look of "the COMPETITION." Alexis noticed her too, and it was so funny....they were doing that whole thing from the movie Swingers of trying to check out the other person without being noticed.

This is one of those things that I think is good-getting ready for the race and being aware of other competitors, but focusing first and foremost on your own race. I reminded her to just run for herself since she can't control what anyone else does. When you run within yourself and are trying to do your own personal best, it's usually better than gauging how you're doing against another person. They could be having a crappy day, or their best day ever, and so it's best not to focus much on their success or failure. That's my outlook, anyway-so just run on how YOU feel.

We lined up a few rows back from the front runners but in what is probably a good place for us. I'd categorize the 5-miler as more of a middle-to-back-of-packer event where you certainly have some fast racers (particularly the team that comes from Dine College in New Mexico every year), but a majority are there to have fun getting some exercise with family and friends. It's a nice combination because you get to do your own thing while following behind some amazing athletes. During this time, we realized that the handheld water bottle I was going to carry for her to use during the race was in our gear bag...in the gear truck. Whoops. I assured her it would be okay and that she could just use the aid stations if she needed to do so.

We had a whole family right behind us from Salt Lake City. Among the family was a goofy boy around Alexis's age, and he regaled me with tales of how many races they'd run (including one called "The Toughest 10K." When he said he'd run the toughest 10K, I asked what it was called and he replied "The Toughest 10K." Whoops, I walked right into that one. He also told me how incredibly fast his embarrassed looking sister, standing behind him, was. As they made the final countdown to the start after the lone wheelchair participant started (a woman with full use of only one arm), we wished them luck and off we went.

We go out a little fast for what she's done before but I don't say anything. It's not so fast that she'd totally collapse later and she looks like she's in the "I'm gonna do this" mindset.

Mile 1: 8:40

The second mile starts rolling some and she slows down a bit. I think it's around the end of the second mile, though, where we see and hear the women's drumming group-a true highlight of both of the half races in Moab. Alexis smiles at them and continues to run tall.

Mile 2: 9:25

More rolling up and down the canyon. She's slowing down more but isn't giving in to negative think. I'm really proud of her here that she's already figuring out that it's SO worth it to keep pushing and not give up when you're doing something that challenges you.

Mile 3: 9:54

Toughest mile here....you come out of the canyon on to the highway into Moab with most of the road open to traffic and the sun beating down. This is where it seemed like the wheels might come off. She suddenly stopped to walk, said she needed water, and I thought we might be done. We had a short conversation that we giggled about later in which I told her I didn't have a secret stash of water on me (what I actually said was "I don't have any water hidden up my butt"), our other water was in the truck, and her best method to get to water fast was RUN. ;) We got going again, but had another short walk break. Again she's improved at not giving in and giving up when things get tough, so once she started the second time, she never stopped again.

Mile 4: 10:32.

I thought there was only one water stop on the 5-miler for some reason, but lo and behold, there was a water stop right after the four mile point. Yay! She runs up, grabs water, pinches the cup like a pro and drinks as she jogs through the aid station area. The "one mile left" mindset kicks in and she starts being able to pick it up.

A few people along the finish route have hoses. She runs under the water. I think we may be pushing 75 degrees, no clouds, at this point-so you know what that feels like running a race-and looks like she's shaken off the icky mile four. It's all uphill to the finish but the time clock is visible so it's just go-go-go to the finish.

Final mile: 9:10, Garmin measured a little more, .8 miles on an 8:24 pace into the finish.

Clock time: 48:23 Chip time: 48:19, so roughly a 40 second PR for her, good enough for third in her age group, in which the winning 11 and under girl ran even 8:00's! She had a fleeting moment of slight disappointment about the move from second to third place, but that was short lived with the satisfaction of the PR. When we looked up full results later, too, we learned that if she hadn't hung tough and picked herself up in the fourth mile, she wouldn't have held on to third-we could see by the times that nearly the entire AG was on a "run the whole thing" pace.

A year ago, the second through fifth place finishers in each age group received these rainbow-colored ribbons. It's not about the awards, of course, but they were fairly unremarkable last year. This year, we were surprised to find out that they had actual medals for AG runners up! They were very nice, and engraved with the placement on the back.

Oh, and that girl who looked like age group competition? We had the link for photos and results e-mailed to us a few days later, and of course we had to look up the other top finishers in the age group. She was nowhere to be found. I was sure she'd finished ahead of Alexis. Maybe she was older? Nah-couldn't be, I thought. For giggles, we looked up photos for the top girls in 12-15, and there she was! The girl was 13 years old! Ha. She won't be in the same age group with this girl for a LONG time.

So, now I'm been back to reality for the week. It's been one of those weeks, as I mentioned at the start of the post. There are two local 5K's taking place tomorrow, and I'd originally planned to skip both and just train as usual for the marathon. I've been dogged by never feeling quite right in a 5K and being 0 for 4 in the past year at running a sub 23:00 5K, and this was my PR race from last year. I registered about an hour ago as a spur of the moment decision, and am going to race tomorrow, moving my long run to Sunday. I'm antsy and hoping it'll be a good chance to put this week behind me. After that, there will be a mere TWO WEEKS to go before the Eisenhower Marathon! I can't believe it's almost time to climb right back in that saddle, and take another crack at a BQ.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Off to Moab!

I'm presently procrastinating, and not packing up my things for Moab. It's okay, though-there's not really much to get together for a 24-hour getaway.

I was happy to sign up for this race with my daughter this year-we are running the 5-miler together instead of last year's divide-and-conquer, in which she ran the 5-miler and I ran the half. Earlier on, I expected to feel a bit bummed out to not run the half. After all, it's a PR-worthy course that is flat-ish with a gentle downhill roll. My most "recent" (last June) half was a total disaster, and Canyonlands 08 still stands as my half marathon PR, and I surely would have been looking at dropping several minutes now that I'm averaging 50-55 miles per week, and not the 30-40 from a year ago. It's now just three weeks before my marathon, though, and this morning I am feeling excellent about not racing a half tomorrow. If anything, it helps me build mojo for the marathon, and get that good antsy feeling that will hopefully have me bouncing off walls by April 11.

I also look forward to helping Alexis reach her running goals, and talking her through if and when she needs it. The girl who won the 10 and under age group last year ran just about even 8:00 miles and I really don't think A will be able to reach that-but I have thought similarly at other races where she just lights up and does things I've never seen her do in training-so never say never! I know that ultimately she'll be happy with a PR, since you can only control your own performance-so that will be goal number one. (Of course, ssssssssh- she's said she WANTS to go for that Kokopelli trophy that the winner gets several times.....so if I see that she's feeling really good, I'm going to very quietly push the pace without telling her or having her stress over it).

The weather forecast looks fabulous-er-HOT. We shivered our butts off before last year's races, though-so it makes pre-race a little nicer, and better weather for strolling around Moab after. Can't wait to hit the road!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Free Beer Friday!

No, I hate to disappoint you. I'm not giving away free beer. Instead, I get to drink free beer later.

I had a client do something forgetful and inconsiderate that had me working very, very late the other day-so late that my outdoor run I'd dreamed of all day did not happen, and I wound up doing the hamster wheel thing by the time I was finally free to run. I was honestly pretty cranky about the whole thing, which is not my usual disposition-I'm the "let it roll off your back" girl.

They were full of profuse apologies yesterday, though, and imagine my surprise when one of the parents showed up today with a six pack of very good quality Belgian-style beer! Wow! These are the same people who gave me a gift certificate for the best massage I've ever had as a Christmas present, and these yummy chocolatey truffle things when I took the lead on something else they were struggling with, and were relieved to have someone else start working on. So, I'm right back to "all is forgiven-life is good" with them now.

I did indeed get outdoors for a run yesterday that I've dubbed "the Kansas simulation." I gently roll downhill from my home to my regular river trail haunt, do a short loop, and return the way I came (gently uphill). It's frequently breezy on this route, and the gently rolling nature of the route is very close to how I've heard the course for the Eisenhower Marathon described. I just don't want to be in a position again of squeaking by on a Boston qualifying attempt, and I think that repeatedly doing this run with that last little uphill stretch on this run should give me a little bit of "umph" late in the race.

Oh, and speaking of marathons-well, here's where things get strange in my neck of the woods. In the ten years I have lived here, there has never been a marathon in or around the city. We have a number of smaller races, and used to have a long distance run of a unique distance that went gate to gate over one of our most scenic mountain park drives. That race recently met its end at the old distance, and will be run as a marathon for the first time this fall.

So, we suddenly had a new marathon on the calendar. But I digress. I was reading a new running blog appearing in the daily newspaper, and saw mention of something called the Grand Valley Marathon.

Oh? What's this? They can't mean here....or any time soon. My running club is small. This sort of thing is always in the newsletter. And, well...they'd publicize it six months or more ahead of time, right? Because people don't just sign up for a marathon two months out. They start thinking about their spring race right after running their fall marathon or other goal race.

I do a little bit of clicking around and find out that yes indeed...there is in fact a marathon taking place here! I chat with another local runner who also had no clue about what isn't just a marathon but an apparent festival of races, including a marathon, 1/2 marathon, 10K and 5K. Did I mention they're also tying it in with some big cycling event the same weekend? While I am excited that we suddenly have not one, but two marathons, I'm a bit disappointed that I am just hearing about it now. From what I can tell, they just announced it now-it's not that it's been out there all along and I just missed it.

Had I known in advance (and in light of our tightened budget), I would have at least thought about this marathon. That said, another runner pointed out to me that I really don't want to gamble all my training on the inaugural running of four plus events going on at the same time. She's right, too. Though any measured marathon course is good for a BQ attempt, I can't even assume that they've done that. I can't tell who exactly the race direction company is.....their website is very cryptic and says that they're three race directors and a crew of volunteers.

That said, they are involved with two other big races, so they might have their stuff together. It's too late now for me to think of doing their marathon, though. Four weeks isn't enough recovery for my old bones to try another marathon, and I just registered for the Bolder Boulder 10K, which is on Memorial Day. My body would be trashed by then.

As it is now, I'm making final preparations for traveling to Abilene in a month. My husband and I have our hotel in Denver for the Thursday night before the race, and we'll get up early on Friday to make it the rest of the way to central Kansas. It's almost time to go mad with taper-which last time manifested itself endless "how's the weather going to be?" discussions with fellow MCM-ers, and numerous last-minute running purchases for any and everything I might possibly need before, during or after the marathon.

This time, with it being a very small marathon, I don't personally know others running the same event for mindless banter and course dissection. This means my poor husband gets to sit, nod, and go "sure, dear" as I endlessly prattle on about the race. Maybe I'd better not keep those beers to myself, and pop a cold one or two open for him instead.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Don't Like The Weather? Wait Five Minutes

I know everybody says that....but it ought to be the Colorado state motto. It's been all over the place this week-we've seen everything and anything. I've kind of felt off and all over the place in the same way. I haven't much felt like nonchalantly blogging between things other people have gone through this week, and other difficulties (though small in comparison) we've been hit with on the homefront.

Like many others who "know" Mickey and Cody, I've felt really sad about his loss even though it's not my child, and in a way I don't feel like I've got the right to be upset about it. Still-it really has hit close to home. My middle daughter is six years old and it just reminds you that this could happen to any of us. From reading his blog, seeing the photos and videos....it's obvious that they're a fun, fantastic family to begin with. It stirs up a ton of negative emotions that something like this could happen to them.

At the same time-and knowing that they'd rather be coming together to meet at a race, or at a restaurant for a beer-it was heartwarming to know that several forumites in the region made it to the trip for the wake and funeral. There were many parents from Cody's school who brought their children to say goodbye. It's a positive reminder that in this fast-moving, technology-based society, people really do still care for one another on a human level, and will slow down or take breaks from their daily life to be there for others when they need it most.

And, what a testament to Mickey's courage and strength that he signed up for the New York City marathon shortly after Cody passed, or that he got out for his first run in awhile. I truly wish for peace and healing for Mickey and Diane-they've worked so hard to care for all their children and to make Cody's days on earth meaningful. Because they shared their wonderful son with all of us, his memory will be alive for years to come. I look forward to plugging Mickey's bib number into the marathon tracker for NYC, and celebrating his run that day.

Back here at my house, we are dealing with yet another reduction in my husband's work hours. Our local economy has been better here than other parts of the country, but we don't live on an island so it's caught up a bit here. We've almost always been able to work and figure our way out of tight spots in the past but it honestly could not have come at a worse time this time around. Still, we're choosing optimism and the "work the problem" approach, as aspoused in Apollo 13.

As much as I would have liked to stay in the class, I immediately withdrew from my ballet class. That's easy money to save. With my marathon a month off, it is likely I would have skipped classes in the taper and recovery anyway in order to avoid any stupid non-running injuries. The studio director also has some extra odd jobs and tasks we can do that will essentially zero out the cost of the kids' classes, so that helps. We've got several other possible solutions in the works, so I am going to have faith that at least one of them will work out. It is again an odd blessing that everyone's hours have been cut at the office. The alternative is layoffs, and nobody at their small company can really afford to be out of work right now. We're just going to have to hope that things pick up in the spring, and that everyone keeps their jobs.

On the running front, the theme has been "never the same." One of my running friends came up from her city, about forty-five minutes south of here, so that we could put in a 20-miler together. Her long run route features unleashed and wild animals, sketchy drunks, and roads with fast moving traffic and no shoulder. We figured that this time she could come up here, where I've got a safe and scenic route, and that next time, I could head down there so she doesn't have to do her sketchy route alone.

The forecast was for rain and snow, so she came up early because it usually gets worse as the day goes on around here. It was a nice change for me to not have the iPod ear buds stuck in my ear, and get to chat about everything from family to running to our younger days of mayhem and debauchery.

We did get some rain and snow. It wound up being that pleasant, refreshing variety where it was not frigid or windy. We also tested out a new variation of my 20-miler route, and lo and behold it was the first one that never covered the same trail twice. We both agreed that it was like splitting one long run up into several shorter runs-definitely a keeper.

Once I got the run out of the way, expecting the weather to just get worse-well, the clouds moved out and it was crisp, sunny and in the upper fifties by late afternoon. When Sunday rolled around, my lucky husband and daughter got a perfect, sunny sixty degree day for their run. Of course, Monday rolled around, and we had a windstorm. Giant tumbleweeds flying down the block, and my house feeling like it would blow over as we slept Monday night.

This was not before I got in a fun speed work session in the new evening daylight hours, outdoors. Hey-great practice for Kansas, right? It's going to be somewhere between a little windy and gale force winds so I'd better be prepared. It was actually a lot easier to do the intervals outdoors...the wind challenged me and brought on this feeling of "bring it on!" And being off the treadmill...it was great. I'd get up to what felt like 5K pace, check my Garmin to make sure I was there, then just look up and keep my eyes on some landmark down the trail. Fun stuff. Then, last night brought eleven miles on a treadmill. I'd planned to go hybrid and start outdoors, then come inside to the mill of dread when it got dark. I had a surprise dumped on me late in the day, though-so it was pretty much a choice of treadmill, or treadmill. Oh well. I put in the miles, so I guess it doesn't matter where.

So, that's my gigantic mixed bag for the week. My apologies to the couple of people who visit that I'm all over the place in the post-I'll strive for brevity and better clarity next time. Sometimes life happens, and in this case it's been a lot more like weather in the mountains than a well-scripted reality program.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Rest In Peace, Sweet Cody

If any of you have followed Mickey's blog, or have not to this point, but want to offer the family support, please visit today's entry to leave a message. My heart is just breaking for them right now. I know, though, that it's nothing compared to what they're going through, and will go through in the future. If you pray or meditate, please consider including Cody's family and friends on this most difficult of days.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


My only son is currently with my husband, on his way up to do the mandatory observation in the kindergarten class at the school he'll attend next year. It's a school-of-choice (lottery, magnet) program, but his older sisters are there so he's grandfathered in. I just cannot believe this boy is about to turn five in April, and old enough to go to "big school!"

This was Carter back in 2004....

And here's the big boy more recently....playing with Floam, one of those things that I think some parent must have invented to use with OR without their child. It's fun stuff.

He's my boy who, goofy and silly as he acts on a daily basis, is also my deepest thinking child at this age. The questions are nonstop, and he just loves to soak up experiences and information. I never though of myself as a "homeschooly" type of mom...I just don't have that kind of patience-but Carter LOVES that sort of thing. So, on top of preschool, we've been doing short daily lessons. Nothing to structured or complex, but I'll help him with little books where he does an illustration (usually quite elaborate), he describes the action in the scene to me, and then we come up with a few words to describe the scene. If I want twenty minutes of silence, too, he's always up for the alphabet practice at Starfall. This is stuff that caused me to pull out my hair with my, er, headstrong middle daughter, and sent me into a panic about how she'd do at kindergarten....it's a relief and a new feeling to have none of that worry, but also bittersweet that the past almost-five-years have flown by. It goes by too quickly.

As my kiddos change, it seems like the seasons are REALLY changing in a hurry in western Colorado. I had the most amazing run last night, which was a result of good weather and good timing coming together. I had two children in my care besides my own, and they were both picked up in the early-to-on-time range. The weather was unseasonably warm, but not too warm. I had eight miles to do, and was tired from the weekend. The treadmill would have been the kiss of death and just sucked the life out of me, so instead I took the chance to do a very brisk general aerobic run outdoors.

I knew it would be dark in the last mile, but I knew that as long as I was off our river trail path by dark it would be fine because the return route is along a well-lit, very public street with a sidewalk. It was one of those great sensory experiences-the sun was setting and the sky was a marbled pink and blue, and the smells of dinner cooking at homes above the river trail wafted down, and had a smell very reminiscent of a good campfire meal. What would have been a mentally draining run indoors was invigorating outside-I had that little bit of extra adrenaline going because of the safety issue of getting out of the woods while it was still light, which just made for a great quality run. This is the beginning of one of my favorite times of year here when those of us who love the outdoors get to have our cake and eat it too. We're not at the point where you have to get the workout in by 9 a.m. because it's too hot, but we can leave cold weather gear behind and bust out the shorts. I love it.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Another Trip Down a Red Dirt Road....

I'm enjoying a nice Black Butte Porter right now, errands and chores for the weekend finished, after what turned out to be a fantastic weekend of running.

I was not thinking that things would shake out well running-wise this weekend. After last weekend's road race, a long run where I just felt icky for ten miles, and then being tired and lifeless in the legs all week, I was sort of wondering what compelled me to register for 10K's on back-to-back weekends. I know the answer to that, of course...we just don't have tons of races in the area when we live "four hours from nowhere," as my dad says. That's not to say we don't have races, but it's not like bigger cities where you have multiple options every single weekend. There are very few 10K's in our region, and it's a nice measuring stick distance for someone in marathon training that doesn't leave you absolutely trashed and exhausted for weeks. So, I caught a ride down to Gateway with my neighbors Carl and Jo Ann again, where we would also be running with our friend Jen from Delta (about forty-five minutes south of Junction).

This is a race I ran last year, and where I ran the trail 5K last month. It's a no-frills deal, no awards but tons of schwag and refreshments. The atmosphere at this race is casual and inviting. The race directors are genuinely happy to have runners down there, and it's an incredibly scenic setting where the weather's always terrific. I was third overall last year, in something like 51:30 on a sloppy, muddy course. After the 10K last weekend, I was again planning to show up and race, and come in faster than last year.

There was a top female mountain runner there (as in...sponsored, has won a number of major races) and I know very realistically that I can't run her pace on my best day so it was both a stress-reliever and also a cool chance to play "how long can I keep her in my sight?"

I got in a warm up with Jen, lined up with the other runners shortly before 11 a.m. and off we went. (all photos courtesy of Carl, who was doing a photo essay/run day)

I felt quite yucky on the way out and was kind of thinking "why did I decide to do both 10K's this month?" Things sorted of pretty quickly, and after passing a few people during the first mile, I pretty much settled in to a position where I was a good distance behind the #2 female and some other guy. It was pretty windy out there going out on the out-and-back course and I just went into "buck up, sister" mode, trying to keep moving forward over the rolling hills without a big pace dropoff.

Mile 1: 7:19

Mile 2: 7:42

Mile 3: 7:46

The red dirt road was very muddy in spots last year, but the route was bone dry this time. I don't remember it being quite that windy, though.

I thought the return trip was kind of going to suck, but the wind was sort of to my back and I had a bit of a boost doing an out and back, knowing that I was on the "back" portion. I tried to make up ground on that #2 female but she just too far ahead. Every time I tried surging, it seemed like she was surging too, and a little harder and faster. It almost felt like a tempo run-I was all by myself so I just tried to keep my pace from slipping, and finish strong. It flattens out in the homestretch, and I tried to kick it in.

Carl got a photo of me (wearing my K-State tech shirt), and then Jen about a minute later, as he was heading out and we were returning to the finish.

Mile 4: 7:29

Mile 5: 7:26

Mile 6: 7:29

Last .2 1:53 (measured by Garmin as .27 miles on a 7:01 pace).

Total time, 47:04. Official race time that was e-mailed to me a few hours ago lists my time as 47:03, about 1:15 behind second female, and a bit over six minutes behind the winner. Same finishing position as last year, third female, but a big course PR for me-and I was excited that I was able to keep the sponsored runner in my sight for a bit in the beginning (she finished in 40:XX, huge new course record).

I had a nice lunch with Carl, Jo Ann, Jen, her mom and daughter, and then we hit the road back home. I wish I'd felt more with it in the beginning but I'm always happy to chip away and work to finish strong. It's nice to have a new course PR, too! Jen wins the prize for biggest course PR, though...she ran this a year ago as a relatively new runner, in roughly 1:01. This year, she came in at 48:XX, and was fourth female overall-a huge improvement from the year before, and she also did the road 10K last week, as well as having to contend with sick kiddos at home. She rocked it on a day when she was NOT rested and unstressed, and I have no doubt she's going to have every chance in the world to make her four hour goal at her next marathon, barring any unusual weather conditions or injuries.

Today was my scheduled long run day. As this was "phantom week" where I just made something up to get me back on the correct week on my training schedule, and give me a chance to have a little down time between races, I decided seventeen miles would be good for today. I expected to be pretty dead-legged, but surprisingly had that eager anticipation to get out this morning.

I'm not sure if closely spaced races with a mostly routine training schedule is toughening me up, or if it helped that yesterday's race was a forgiving surface. Getting out there, though-it was one of those glorious "it's almost spring in Colorado!" weather days and I felt pretty good right from the beginning. Well, scratch that....my legs were fairly tight at first. Not PAIN, but rather that gimpy tightness where you see your shadow and realize you look tight and hobbly (not a word, I know....but that's how I looked).

I took it rather easy at first, and the legs started loosening up. I knew that with the daily schedule, I wasn't totally crunched for time, and was moving a little faster than the week before. I said "what the hey....I feel good. We'll just do two loops. Eighteen miles." And then I just went ahead for a nice, zoned out, bird and nature observation run. It was great-sunshine on my face (and, whoops...I'm getting a bit of afterburn here....mandatory sunscreen time!), and real enjoyment today while I got in my long run.

In a hilarious side note from the 5K trail race in Gateway last month-when I returned home from the 10K, my local running club newsletter was waiting. You have to understand about our club....they do their very best, and it's nice to get the newsletter, but sometimes they just get results from the race website, or via secondhand information.

So, anyway...this was the tiny 5K where I was the first female finisher. I KNOW my place in the running universe and am not a regular in the overall stats at races. I'm there for the enjoyment and to do the best I can for myself at races. Still, I pulled open the newsletter to see if I'd see my name in print. I will admit it...it's fun to occasionally see my name in the newsletter, or my daughter's name in the newsletter, if we had a good day here and there. I still know there will always be lots of people ahead of me so it's cool to get the occasional mention in race results.

Well, there it is-page seven of the newsletter. A little blurb about the race. First, they mention the first, second and third place men. Then, I kid you not....it says very officially "Women's Winner Was.....Shiva X, (from GJ, in 22:XX)? The editor assumes that 'Shiva' is not male."

I got confused for a minute. It was a very small field. I'd seen the results previously. I knew there were no women ahead of me. I had to dig up the results again to determine that the "female" who was "first" was a "CANINE." It was a man who was a little over a minute ahead of me, running with his best friend. Who happened to be a dog named Shiva.

Yes....apparently women and dogs compete in the same category. They didn't list any other female finishers, just Shiva the dog, as the female top dog in the newsletter. Literally-the top dog. I guess they were confused because all entered dogs had their owner/parent's last name-and, I guess Shiva could very well be a woman. Still-there was a big "C" for canine in the results, as opposed to the self-explanatory "M" and "F." Anyway...it's one of the funniest things I've seen in awhile-we've been getting a good laugh in our house over losing to a dog.