Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Best Laid Plans/Under The Milky Way Tonight: The 24 Hours of Moab Race Report, Part 2

When I last left off, the Dirty Girls were up, running, and had made it through the batting order one time, finding ourselves in a dead heat for the lead with team Monkey Love in the Open (6-10 person) division. We didn't come in with a ton of killer instinct to make mincemeat of the competition, but we are definitely competitors. This was good motivation to really hammer out our afternoon laps, and stay on the ball with smooth baton handoffs. It was a great time of day to spectate the laps of our teammates, and I did wander over for several of the exchanges. Jen passed cleanly off to Nick...

And then, in 45 minutes or so, I was NOT in the tent doing the sunscreen-I was waiting right there for the baton, no search party required to locate me. The baton was handed off with a dramatic flourish, and off I went again. This time, the heart rate was down a bit since I didn't have the hurry-up start, and even though I'd done the equivalent of a speed/hill workout combo in the morning, the body felt great and loose. I POSED my way up the slick rock, and noticed a weird trickle of fluid up ahead. Looking up, I see that the dude 20 feet ahead is actually taking a leak WHILE running. Seriously? Yuck. Pull off to the side, man-you're not going to save any time over the course of 24 hours by peeing on yourself and on the course.

When I turned back downhill, I was really flying, but continued to focus on running the tangents across the slickrock, and just staying mentally sharp. It's neither smooth nor flat, and that surface is pretty damn hard if you go down. I made it down to the winding dirt trail feeling strong, and just enjoyed this pretty, secluded section of trail that moved along a wash before climbing back up to the road for home. When I came back in, I was pleased to stop my Garmin a smidge earlier than on the first loop at around 49:50 before handing off to Julie again.

We were now at a really mellow part of the day. Some of the Mad Dogs and Dirty Girls hung out in chairs around camp, telling stories about snakes, other adventure races (all I can say is WOW to a certain story about a famous "White Horse" who figures in prominently to that barefoot running book that Chris McDougall wrote), and randomness.

Many took this as an opportunity for a midday snooze. I am not much of a napper or long sleeper, so I wandered around to catch my slumbering teammates. During this stretch of time, I also took a trip into town with Jen and Nick, just to grab a few random items and to get a slight change of scenery. Upon our return, we fueled up on chili with our teammates, and started discussing the night runs. Now, I run regularly in the wee morning hours with a head lamp. Currently, I'm out twice a week at 4:50, and last summer and fall, I was averaging three to four early mornings a week because there are just more runners in the nice weather months willing to get up at the butt-crack of dawn to run. That said-most of it was on paved surfaces-road, bike trail/path-not true trail running in pitch darkness. Still, I felt pretty confident that I could slow myself down just a little bit and get through it safely.

Mike suggested that we try running with a flashlight in hand along with wearing the head lamp. One of my sometime-running partners actually prefers to run with just a flashlight if he needs anything at all during an early morning or evening run-doesn't even own a headlamp-and never has issues. Seemed like a good thing to try out even though I normally don't run that way. The sun was setting as Nick was out for his third lap, and this meant I was going to be the first person on the team doing a loop through the darkness. I was a little nervous, but also excited at the prosect. There's something freeing about running in the dark, and I almost feel like I expend less effort and go a little faster that way. I don't's just very zen.

When I began my lap, I was very conscious of lifting my knees so as to not catch my toe on a rock and take a digger. I remained relaxed, though-a key to staying upright. Just after the first mile, I got a little bit off-course into some brushy stuff and had to momentarily stop. Soon, though, I saw one of the green glow sticks being used to mark the way. Moving to the slick rock, I had to start looking for the white hash marks to find my way. This was a bit tougher, and I was kind of weaving and not running the tangents so well. At one point going uphill, I did stumble and tip over but I wouldn't even call it a fall. I sort of caught myself, stood up and kept going.

Coming back down, Audra from the Mad Dogs came up alongside me, said hello, and moved just a little bit ahead. I tried to pick up the pace just a bit to see if I could stay with her, and it felt good. This actually made for a much brighter path, too, with both of our head lamps and my flashlight. The flashlight was working out fabulously-I could use it to spot the white hash marks or glow sticks without really having to turn my body. I finished up this lap at 9:30 pm and in about 57 minutes-a time I thought was pretty decent for total darkness, and not trying to run fast and stupid. There were updated standings posted by now, and we now had a miniscule lead over the Love Monkey team. I did my first night watch shift, which involved just hanging out and waking up the person two ahead of me in the rotation when it was about 15 minutes out from their run time. Then, I headed over to Shannon's van of awesomeness. I would be napping on the padded bench/couch in there (did I mention the van had HEAT?), and when I curled up in there it felt like a five star hotel. Of course, I was pretty grubby for a five star hotel after three cycles of run-sweat like a pig, dry off, repeat. Still, it was nice to have relative luxury at this point when I was kind of tired and needed a decent nap.

At around 2 am, Jen woke me up for my last loop. I was SO nice and cozy and had a bit of trouble getting up at first. Once I sat up, though, I realized I did feel pretty good. A little coffee at the aid tent while I was waiting really helped too. There, I wound up standing right next to former national cross country champion Melody Fairchild, who was there with one of the ultrarunning training groups. That's something I love about this sport-you don't get to stand side-by-side with greatness in many other sports.

As the time for my turn grew closer, I was standing around truly disturbed by some of the Spice Girls and other tunes coming from the radio-and thinking wow, I'm getting ready to run in the dark at 2:30 a.m. It was just cool to see bobbing lights moving down the road in the dark, and just waiting until the runners got to be about ten feet away before they took recognizable form. When Nick made it back in, it was finally time for me to go for what would be my last lap of the race. I was off to a great start this time. I anticipated the spot where I wandered off into the brush on the first night lap, and made it through without steering off-course. Right on.

As I moved up the slick rock, I did notice that my breathing was great, I felt alert and relaxed, but wow, the legs were kind of gooey and tired. I paid special attention to moving safely and lifting my knees, but the ankles were a little loose and rolly. Coming to the halfway point, I noticed several runners who were steering off-course and just getting plain lost momentarily before rejoining the trail. I turned to the downhill section and thought this is it...just 2.5 miles or so and I'll be at 22 miles for my team.

Probably about three miles in, though, my glitch for the mission happened. I was running, and then without warning I rolled my left ankle REALLY hard, and down I went. The pain in that instant was agonizing; I have never fallen and felt anything like that before. It felt broken, and I thought s#it, there goes Boston. There goes my team winning or placing. I pulled myself up slowly and tried hobble-limping. This hurt tremendously BUT I could move on it. So, maybe it wasn't broken. As I kept moving, it still hurt a lot but it seemed like I could get away with a hobble-jog. I soon was able to get back up to a slow run and it seemed like my ankle was pretty well numbed up by now. Nobody is going to come to rescue you out here so regardless, I pretty much needed to put on the big girl panties and finish this lap off.

My Garmin died somewhere late in this lap so I really don't know my time. I think it was probably about an hour and fifteen minutes with my fall, and time on the ground, walking, and slow shuffling. Still, I was SO glad to be able to make it in and not have a huge impact in the big scheme of things. I chowed on a grilled cheese sandwich and potato soup at the tent during my watch time, and then took a three hour nap after waking Shannon, who filled in for Sara to be the only person on the team to get in a fifth lap. This wound up being the last official lap, as there was maybe forty minutes left in the race. Jen decided to go do a lap just for fun since she was up anyway, and we all started making our way to the aid tent, knowing that we were going to place. We just were not sure which position.

Soon, they were going through the different categories of the race, and finally they arrived on Open Co-Ed. Third was announced...not Dirty Girls. Second...not Dirty Girls. First place...with 134-odd miles...DIRTY GIRLS! We were ecstatic, jumped up and down like little kids, and collected our medals. Soon, we were taking photos and high fiving...until the race director got on the mic. There was a scoring error, he said. Another team actually had one more lap than us, so we would need to give back our medals and exchange them for second place. Now...we'd seen a runner come in at 7:02 from that team. The race ended at 7:00am. It seemed that the winning team may have lobbied for that lap to count. We were kind of perturbed, but whadaya gonna do? We had run our asses off, had supported one another throughout, worked well as a team and basically couldn't have had a better experience together as a team. Almost everyone was sick, a little injured (or, if you're me, became a little injured). Still, we got out there, and gave it our best shot for the good of the team. Sounds corny but we felt like winners even if the results didn't officially reflect this. The Mad Dogs also had a stellar showing, finishing third in the Extreme Team division with their three member team, and against larger and "known" teams (winning team from Eagle/Vail included Western States 100 champ Anita Ortiz). It was a good day for our motley crew.

We got some nice team shots, and then headed back to strike the camp and roll out of town. The weekend seemed to have flown by in a blur, and like childbirth, I didn't even remember the painful parts, like wiping out, or that I reeked of campfire and sweat. No, this was a really special weekend and I kind of didn't want it to end. We all had to go back to the real world, though, so after saying good-byes, Jen and I headed to breakfast at the Jailhouse Cafe (I LOVE their breakfasts, but they never seem to be open when I'm in Moab for races), then headed east to Colorado.

Back in town, that ankle has become more than just a passing tweak. By Sunday night, I couldn't bear weight on it. The thing looked like someone had taken a bike pump and inflated it. By the next morning, though, it looked better and I thought that if I skipped my morning run, I could get away with doing a greatly modified ballet class. WRONG. Made it halfway through, and pulled what we call the "adult card." Ironically, we talk about it a lot but rarely play it. Tonight, I knew something was messed up, and quit when I saw it puffing up literally as class went on.

I did make it to the doctor, and got what was initially devastating news to me. She told me it was so swollen she couldn't even do a proper exam, ordered an xray, anti-inflammatories and pain meds, got me a walking cast/boot, and said that the Boston Marathon was probably out even if it was not a broken ankle or other bone. I was crushed. I'd been running well, was focused, and just had a tired body when I fell. When the x-ray came back, though, the doctor's office called to tell me that there was no fracture, and that she wanted to see me in a week, not two, and "talk about getting you to that race." I don't know for sure, but I foresee a LOT of time with a bike on the bike trainer I won as a door prize at that New Year's Day ski race. And that's okay. I'm thrilled and relieved that Boston is still probably going to happen.

I absolutely loved my experience in Moab, even with the ankle debacle. You just can't go through life never doing anything because there's a possibility of getting hurt, or because it's a little scary or out of your element. This really pushed me out of that comfort zone in many ways, but there was also this great group of people there for it all, having one another's backs and being there for one another. We loved the experience so much that there's already talk of doing "Dirty Girls II-The Laramie Project," and running the same event in Laramie, Wyoming in June. If I don't get hit by a bus between now and then, I'm there with bells on, and trail dirt on my shoes. I am a Dirty Girl, after all.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Best Laid Plans of Mad Dogs and Dirty Girls: The 24 Hours of Moab Race Report, Part One

It's sort of impossible to give this weekend justice in the form of written word and some pictures. I'll do my best, though, rather than what I did this fall with no blogging or sharing about great people and places that were part of a somewhat magical racing season. If anything, it'll be another tribute to Moab, and to the wonderful people who were my teammates last weekend. I'm also splitting the whole thing into two parts. There's a lot I'd like to share, and as I've been writing, something that happened in one of the later laps has gone from being a seemingly minor concern to something that has more serious ramifications than I first thought.

The day finally came when the six members of our team-me, Jen, Sara, Julie, Nick, and Shannon-were all due to convene 16 miles north of Moab for our 7am Saturday to 7am Sunday running relay adventure. Nick, coming the furthest (from Wyoming) had successfully made it to Grand Junction the day prior, and I'd already gotten to run with him at the Tabeguache for the Striders Thursday evening group run. He was coughing up a lung and not sounding healthy at all, but excited and ready to go nonetheless. Nick planned to caravan down with Jen and I, but when Jen ran a little behind schedule to my house, he decided to go ahead and scout out the staging area where we'd be camping. Jen showed up right after Nick hit the road, so about two hours later we did make it down uneventfully. All of the teammates but Shannon were there, along with Julie's husband Mike who was running for our "sister team" (brother team? other team?), the Mad Dogs, in the Extreme Team or 3-5 person division.

We got our camp pieced together little by little, and soon we had our home sweet home for the weekend set up. Runners bring all kinds of stuff along to races, and the variety seemed to be times ten for a weekend-long relay. This was one of my two personal favorites: Julie, modeling the product, Kick Ass Sinus, says it really is advertised, too. I will have to remember that the next time I get a sinus infection. Once everyone who was coming Friday night had arrived (Shannon would be arriving early Saturday morning), we visited Eddie McStiff's in town for a nice meal and an adult beverage or two. After that, it was a quick trip to City Market for a few supplies, and back to camp, which was surprisingly quiet even though it wasn't all that late. The quiet along with the clear, starry night skies made it feel like we were on sacred, hallowed ground, and I think maybe we were this night.
After a very cold night during which I did not really sleep, but did have good quiet rest time, it was time to get the party started. We settled on a running order (I would run fifth, with Nick and Julie at #4 and #6 in the rotation, and awaited the arrival of Shannon. Shortly before the 7am start, a large camper van parted the crowd and I comment that it would be funny if that was Shannon. Oh, is! With all teammates now present and accounted for, and the start time approaching, we gathered near the aid tent/station/check-in point. It was pretty well stocked with coffee, cocoa, and hot water for tea along with some other munchies. Runners and crew milled about nervously, building mojo for a big day ahead. Soon, the moment arrived when our first Mad Dog, Mike, and Dirty Girl, Sara, were officially up on deck and toeing the line to kick off the 24 Hours of Moab. Along with relay teams ranging from three to ten members, there were also individual and duo 6, 12, and 24 hour competitors, and individual 100-mile competitors, who had 30 hours to get it done. And here they are...first on deck:

On your mark...get set...GO!

They got off to a brisk start, with Sara already near the front of the pack of the first lap from the get-go. This did not surprise me...she'd kind done the playing down "I'm not an ultrarunner" thing, but I'd heard about her Imogene Pass times, and how strong and fast she was. With that, there was now nothing to do but hang out-and hang out we did, back at our campsite and around the grounds.

As we made our way through the first rotation, Sara flew through lickety-split for anyone, let alone someone with a knee issue like she had. Moving on to Shannon (we'd nominated her to go first in her absence, but wound up putting Sara first so there was time to settle in and get ready), things kept moving along swimmingly. Jen was third in the rotation, and even though she's been sick a lot in the past year, she was one of our healthiest today and cranked out a great first lap. Then, Nick set off on his lap and I thought I had his finish time guesstimated pretty well. He was sick as a dog but still pretty speedy-so speedy, in fact, that I was at my tent applying sunscreen when I heard "Karah?" Whoops. Talk about a jump start to your first lap.

I grabbed the baton and bolted accross the lot. We probably lost three minutes with my being MIA, so I really tried to haul buns once I was officially on the course. Laps on the trail were to alternate between clockwise and counterclockwise, and I would be moving around the clock once I reached the end of the stick on this lollipop course. Once off the dirt road, I meandered over sand, more dirt, and then up a steep section of slick rock. The views were just amazing. I've been down here a million times but the beauty of this place gets me every time. I practiced my POSE running uphill, and then had to switch into downhill form at about 2.5 miles in. This is probably the hardest part of POSE to me but I think I did okay. Doing it right kind of leaves you feeling like you're going to pitch forward onto your face all the time, but I never did, thankfully. After moving down slickrock for another mile or so, I moved onto a dirt trail, meandered for awhile and climbed upward to the dirt road that would take me back home. My first 5.37 mile lap was finished in roughly 50:10. Not terrible for dropping the ball and just not being prepared when Nick came in. I passed off to Julie, and she went out to do her thing, completing her lap solidly. For being kind of the Bad News Bears newbie hodge-podge crew, we rocked the first rotation even with a bad handoff or two.

Now there was nothing to do but hang out and kill time again. This was actually kind of nice-when do you ever get to just sit around and hang out without any obligations or responsibilities? There were a lot of random stories told, and it sure seemed like we did a lot of diving into the food and snacks. Okay...maybe that was just me. At least I also did some hopping around and being silly in addition to the running to burn it off. We had a ton, though, as did the race, and I just wasn't saying no to any of it.

At some point, the race director announced that current standings were posted by the tent. A few of us wandered over, and lo and behold, the 5 woman, 1 man Dirty Girls were just a little bit behind a team called Monkey Love that was made up of 10 runners and a 50/50 gender split. One of them looked at the standings next to me, and said quite seriously, "Last year some whippersnapper snuck in and beat us for first. NOT THIS YEAR!" Um, okay, then. Beyond that, there was another team in third that was already a good 20 minutes back from us, with all the other teams a lap behind or more. That's how standings are figured-total number of laps, and if it comes down to a tie in the end-the team that reached the end of a lap the earliest. It's all-or-nothing, too...if you don't complete the lap in its entirety, or don't make it through by the ending of the race, it does not count. OR....should I say-is not supposed to count. More on that in part two. We were pleasantly surprised at where we stood, considering that we came in to run with friends, and not with "kill kill kill-win win win!" Going in to the second rotation, this was great motivation to kick it up a notch and run hard. More of the race report and ensuing fun coming up soon.

TO BE CONTINUED.....( I have to finish what I started rather than never getting it going.)

Friday, March 25, 2011


Just a quickie as I am approximately three hours away from heading out of town once again to a very familiar place-Moab-but for something that is going to be a new and unfamiliar experience.

The website Urban Dictionary has the following definition listed for vu-ja-de:

"Opposite of deja vu. (1) It's when you know you have never been there before. (2)An experience nothing like you have seen or felt before. (3)Never have imagined living in the moment.

I'm pretty sure that the 24 Hours of Moab running relay qualifies as vu ja de. I'd wanted to participate in a relay event for a long time, but it's one of those things that is hard to coordinate when multiple people and busy lives are involved. Somehow, though, we've managed to pull together a team from a tri-county area here in Western Colorado, with two of us from Grand Junction, one apiece from Olathe, Montrose and Delta, and the "Pimp Daddy" of the Dirty Girls relay team, Nick (check out his blog here...lots of great random stuff from his wandering and traveling), who lived here at one point but now lives and works at his park interpreter/naturalist/ranger gig in the Tetons of Wyoming.

Our geeked out-ness over the race has built to a frenzy as the week has progressed-lots of chatter with teammates on our Facebook group, and a little bit of fun smack talk with the Mad Dogs, another team going down for the event. None of us has run such a thing before, and we're kind of like little kids on Christmas Eve with our excitement. We're too inexperienced with something like this to have any fear or concerns. This could be very, very awesome, or we could find ourselves asking "What are we doing out here?" at 4 a.m. on Sunday morning. Maybe both.

Either way, I'm stoked. Really stoked. I am actually chomping at the bit to turn in some good laps when it's my turn after my craptacular Canyonlands run. I'm stubborn, and little setbacks just fire me up to come back swinging. I have no idea what I will be reporting after this weekend of totally unfamiliar activity, and after being wide awake for most of the weekend (that could be some funny stuff if I blog right after). I do know that I've got an excellent team-people who really embody the meaning of the word team. Therefore, it's going to be a good time no matter what. Looking forward to this new adventure, and discovering what adventures are in store for us this weekend.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

More Sights and Sounds From the 2011 Canyonlands Half Marathon

My actual race was covered ad nauseum a few days ago, so fear not, there will be no deep contemplation or navel gazing here today. This is sort of my behind-the-scenes edition of the race. It includes classic bits like "Karah and Ilana bitch about the wind," and other great extras like Neon Man, and flopping on the grass to talk about the wind some more post-race.

This is perhaps the best audio of the wind as Ilana and I left the Gonzo. I was showing her the video camera on my itty bitty iPod that I've been having way too much fun with lately.

(Yep, 'tis true what they say about denial.)

Later on, I let the camera roll again while surveying the scene from above, perched on a rock. I find the sound of the theme to Rocky echoing down the canyon delightfully bizarre. I was having trouble stopping the video with my gloved butterfingers-I beg for a little bit of slack as I am not a professional videographer...just a runner girl who likes to remember this stuff later.

Now we're moving along with the masses to the starting line, reflecting on the awesomeness of our walking pace, and talking about that stink blowing up the canyon. Again. Man, I almost got it right with holding the iPod in the correct direction every time. Sorry guys. Consider this the poor man's chiropractic adjustment as you turn your head 90 degrees to the left. You can kind of see here how this is a nice bombs-away variety first mile of the race.

Another thing I've always found peculiar at races is the whole costume thing. That just seems like an added factor I don't want to deal with on race day-whether or not my wig is attached to my head, or if my tutu is properly adjusted. There's even a guy who runs from the A Wave (the fastest of the seeded waves) at the Bolder Boulder every year in a gorilla suit. I have a tough enough time on that course when it's just me in my shorts or skirt, and running shoes. I did really like this guy, though. The 1980's neon really goes with the canyon walls-and why have a boring black camera when electric lime green is an option? (He's wearing "my" socks, by the way, and I did see more of them on the course in one day than the sum of pink socks combined at all my other races.)

There was some more general milling around pre-race as well. I kind of like the nervous/excited energy from many of the runners. Taper madness has hit a fevered pitch.

One more from up on the rocks:

There were also the good times of being supreme beings of leisure after making it down the canyon and up the highway into town-lots of relaxed, relieved smiles, no matter how great or awful each runner's individual performance happened to be. After being on your feet for two hours with the heart rate way up, the grass felt pretty good. You know those age group medals Kevin and Ilana are sporting have to be horribly heavy.

This lady, Paige, was running right behind me for a majority of the race. She came up to me afterward and asked if I'd like to get a picture together to submit to the Running Skirts Facebook page. I really like our "consistently clashing" look with both of us sporting compression socks and Newton racing shoes along with our skirts. Guess I can't really say much about Neon Man, can I?

All in all, this weekend really felt like the point in time that marked the arrival of spring, and breeze aside, it sure was nice to take it in in such a beautiful place.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

"This Wind Blows"-The 2011 Canyonlands Half Marathon Race Report

Full credit to Eric, AKA Teamcam, for the on-course declaration that sums things up in a nutshell. This was one for the books in terms of unusual weather.

I started my Canyonlands weekend with my road-less-traveled route, past the ghost town of Cisco, the historic Dewey Bridge, and on down Highway 128 along the courses for The Other Half Marathon and Canyonlands Half. "They" say it takes longer to go this way, but I must have a lead foot because it still seems to take me two hours either way, even when I'm lollygagging and pulling out the camera as I did this time.

I made stops to pay homage to the old Dewey Bridge, which holds special memories from my very first half marathon, the 2007 Other Half. I can still picture my warmup, running across the suspension bridge over the river and back. The next year, it was just a shell of its former self, destroyed by a child from my city who was camping with his family and playing with matches.

From there, I made my way down the canyon and just soaked up the positive energy Moab gives off. Out-of-state and out-of-country runner friends, the pictures just aren't a substitute for being here and traveling it on foot, but this is why you should come for a running vacation. It never looks quite the same here depending on the weather and time of year, and today it was a little hazy from the burning season. Still beautiful, though.

Packet pickup was a breeze-no pun intended-this year. There were no timing tags or chips to pick up this time, with a timing strip now attached to the back of the bibs. This "expo" really doesn't have much to it, which is nice if you just want to get in and out in a hurry. The temperature felt great, but when I met everybody for dinner, all the talk was of the weather forecast-wind, wind, and more wind. Still, we put that out of our heads for the most part, and our big group of runners and assorted family had a great time kicking back and hanging out. As I expected, they gave us the entire back of Miguel's, which was probably good since we were a lively bunch. Some of squeezed together for a shot of the merrymaking.

From left to right, we've got Richard, Kevin F, Kevin O'B, me, Ilana, and Eric. We had several other runners who were at other tables or who floated in later. Everyone in this group is a Boston veteran with several of us returning this year, so it was fun to talk training and goals with Patriots Day just a month away.

After the meal, I got to do a nice soak in the outdoor hot tub with Ilana and Kevin O'B, who was staying a building over in the same hotel. My night of sleep was the best I'd had in weeks-this seemed to bode well for the day. Kevin had traveled with his own coffeemaker and good coffee, and invited us over for some steaming hot caffeine and Irish soda bread on race morning. It was already pretty warm out when we walked over to his room, and sure enough, it was, ah....breezy out there. We tried to pretend this wasn't the case as we rode up on the buses to the start. There was no denying, though-the wind blowing up the canyon would be a factor today.

The Canyonlands Half and other assorted races have always been VERY organized and well scheduled, but part of this is getting the runners up the canyon a good 1-2 hours before the start. Hence, we had a lot of time to just wander around, make multiple port-a-potty stops, climb the rocks, talk to random folks we knew, and making acquaintances of some of the strangers.
(That's the start...waaaaay up the hill there. If you squint...that's a race banner being twisted in circles by the wind.)

That's Ilana chilling just below me, rocking her magic tiara and visor. She wound up having to carry the visor the entire race because it just would not stay on her head in the gusting winds. Yeah, it was that bad.

I had to laugh a little when I saw Tom, the guy who directed the ski race last week, right away in the crowd. We visited with him for a few minutes, and again later before the start. There's that Mojo Nixon song "Elvis is Everywhere."-might as well be Tom E. is everywhere. I see him running/racing, mountain biking, skiing, you name it.

When it was finally time to warm up shortly before the race, I think the temperature had dropped a little and the winds had really picked up. Ilana and I huddled together in line for one last port-a-john stop before doing a bit of a warm-up well behind the starting line, and hurried to make our way up to just behind the 7:00/mile pace sign. I was not feeling awesome, but didn't obsess. I've had some great races that happened after feeling *meh*, getting bad nights of sleep and other factors. Right on schedule, the starting gun went off at 10:00am. Here we go, into the wind.

The first mile is a total bombs-away mile. With the road closed, we weren't packed in totally like sardines, but there was not a ton of room for shifting around. I found myself doing a lot of squeezing past people but never stumbled. Getting to the end of the first mile, I thought I was in pretty good shape. I did not feel spectacular but wasn't suffering from the get-go. Maybe the start of a great race.

Mile 1: 7:23

The crowd had already thinned out going into mile two, but I couldn't seem to push any faster than what I'd done in the first mile. My legs felt kind of dead, and my breathing-usually my saving grace and something that stays very even-felt a bit off. I don't know if this was a random quirk for the day, had anything to do with the wind, or was a byproduct of my illness the week before. I've dealt with stress pretty well in the past and have always been able to channel it through my running, but maybe everything on my plate at the moment was finally impacting the running somewhat. Whatever it was, I found myself already focusing hard on POSE running and getting into what my friend and running partner who taught it to me refers to as "zero gear." I was concentrating on relaxed compression when I landed on one foot and lightly lifting with the other, kind of getting that "figure four" with the legs. This was a good distraction from how I was feeling, but not a good sign this early.

Mile 2: 7:24
Mile 3: 7:42

Wowza. I was just trying to stay relaxed and increase my turnover in that zero gear-not flying down the downhills and just using that zero gear uphill like I'd wanted to do. Beyond not feeling the magical pixie dust today, that wind really did blow. Hard. It just kept coming, too...never changing direction or giving us a break with a tail or side wind.

Mile 4: 7:50
Mile 5: 7:57

I knew I was losing speed but that mile five split was pretty disheartening. That was essentially my pace at the Rim Rock Marathon with the 2000 foot elevation change. Not being able to go faster than that on a slight downhill course was not where I wanted or expected to be-even in a worst case scenario. One thing I do know about myself, though-I'm about as mentally tough as they come while racing. I refocused on picking up the pace and not dwelling on the fact that any possibility of a 1:35 day was just about out the window already. I split a little faster in the next mile, but not by much, and it really took every little bit of conserving energy in that zero gear to feel like I'd have enough to get through today.

Mile 6: 7:52

Yay! A small step in the right direction. Not anywhere near where I should have been, but I was going to run the mile I was in and draw on small gains. I tried to increase turnover but it seemed like I was moving in slow-mo with that relentless, brutal wind.

Mile 7: 7:58
Mile 8: 7:55

Now I was starting to get tuckered out. Not good with the turn out of the canyon and onto the highway still awaiting us. I've never run that section quite right, and I'd gone back and forth pre-race between wanting to bank some time, and playing it conservatively with good recovery here and there. Turns out this was a non-issue at this point. I had NO juice and was spending all of my time focusing on POSE-ing and zero-gearing it through, bent on not having a complete collapse. I talked to a woman for a little bit who was also going to be running Boston, and this was a nice diversion from how I was feeling. Normally, though, I can talk a little bit and not have it kill me. Today, it was a no-go after a minute of light chit-chat.

Mile 9: 7:54

Well, if I was sucking, I was certainly sucking consistently. I was getting passed by a number of people, something I don't typically experience at this point in a half. On a great day, I'd be holding my ground and passing occasionally, and on an average day my position would be more or less unchanged. I was the proverbial red headed stepchild today. I passed the Taiko Dan drummers-a true highlight of any Moab race-and was able to pick it up a little going past them, but couldn't hang on to my pace at all. Suckage.

Mile 10: 8:17

I had now turned in a mile that was slower than my marathon pace in my last three marathons, and was turning onto what I call the "New Jersey Turnpike" portion of the Canyonlands course. It's a reference to the movie "Being John Malkovich," in which you get to have an amazing time living in John Malkovich's brain (the canyon portion of the race course), and then are spit out of his head onto the side of the New Jersey turnpike (the highway into Moab-road open, exhaust fumes, going flat to slightly uphill). I couldn't believe how lame I was today. Yeah, it was windy, but I should have been able to hang in better than this. My breathing, for lack of a better description, was just weird and unnatural feeling. My legs had the sensation of approaching glycogen depletion, something you might experience late in a marathon but certainly not in a distance as short as a half. C'mon, c'mon, I told myself....toughen up, girl. Incessant forward motion. The next split confirmed, though, that I was mucking up this race big and bad.

Mile 11: 8:23

What the...? I was mad and trying to fuel off of that but just kept slowing down. Oh, I don't have many of these races, but when I do, it's never halfway. I felt like I was running through quicksand. It was all zero gear all the time by now but it didn't matter much anymore. People were dotting the side of the road now, and I would frequently hear the biggest lie you'll ever hear in a race..."Almost There!"

Mile 12: 8:38

Okay, so this stuff would not stand. I was waaaaaay off my half marathon PR, and a good three minutes off of my race PR from the year before. I had nothing left in me but sucked up a little something from somewhere, and started breaking the course down into tiny increments. The long uphill finish chute was too much to think about right now, so I wasn't going to think about it. It was just a matter of getting to the next street light...the next side street...the next kid waiting for a high five. I made that final turn for home-AKA, the longest finish chute in the world. At least it seemed that way today. Did I mention that it's uphill five city blocks? I drew out anything I could, still getting passed.

Mile 13: 8:23

And there it was...the last timing mat and finish line. I could see my former neighbor and regular finish line announcer Jeff up on the tower by the finish, and heard him announce me on the mic as I was approaching the end of the race. C'mon, finish strong, if you don't do anything else right today.

Last .18 miles on the Garmin, 1:23, or a pace of 7:48. Final Garmin time, 1:45:00, chip time, 1:44:47. This put me at 15th out of 386 in my age group, and 77 out of 2021 among women. While I'm aware of where that put me relative to most other runners, I'd be lying if I say it was not disappointing to fall so short of my expectations. I can run better than that, and have run better than that in recent times. For whatever reason-maybe a combination of factors-it was just not my day out there, and I ran a bad race. No excuses. I was shaking my head and honestly pissed at myself coming out of the finish chute-not how I'd planned this race or finish to turn out.

If I had my little moment of pity partying, at least I can say I got over it fast. Joining some of my fellow runners in Swanny City Park, I found out that Ilana and Kevin O had placed in their age groups, and Eric had actually run a PR on this craptastic weather day. Richard had sort of a *meh* day out there, but was taking it with the "whadaya gonna do" mindset that I already found myself adopting. I also heard from Kevin that my friend Marty (host of "running in the New Year" with the running club, and another Runners World alcohol study participant) had claimed the men's Masters title, and finished sixth overall. It was cool to hear that someone local had represented so well in Moab-always puts me in a good mood when folks I know have great days, even when it wasn't the case for me. It was nice out, and it felt good to just flop on the grass and be glad to have gotten through the run.

Everyone was talking about that wind, and it did seem that many people ran several minutes slower than they typically would on this course. Still-I think I'm going to put in a special effort to really kill this race next year regardless of conditions. I was a good eight minutes off my magical pixie dust run at The Other Half last fall, and three minutes off my time here last year. On the upside...for a bad day, at 15th in my age group, I suppose I must've done something kind of right, and managed the conditions and my lack of mojo as best I could. I still love running here, and everyone who was lucky enough to get a lottery slot or guaranteed entry is pretty excited to be here too. Ranna (the race director), her crew, and volunteers do a great job with this race, and it makes it special no matter what.

With that, I've now got a mere four weeks to go until Boston. It's time to take a lesson from Canyonlands, and make the most of my time between now and then. My plan is two good hard weeks of training consistently, then two week taper. I've done three-week marathon tapers before, but with recovery from the ultra followed by illness, I want to just focus on consistent running for a bit. I do have the 24 Hours of Moab next weekend, and I think that will be a great training exercise disguised as fun. I look forward to seeing the rest of my Dirty Girls teammates-including long-lost Nick (okay, he's not really lost), our male Dirty Girl who moved off to do his park ranger thing in the Tetons.

In the next few weeks, I also want to trim off that five pounds to hit racing weight. I do think that while it was hardly the full story of my day, it was certainly part of everything going right at The Other Half last fall. I'll have a much better shot of going sub-3:29 in Boston if I am at my best weight for racing. I'm also going to avoid any activities that don't really lend themselves to that goal. I may do a local race as a tune-up, but nothing wild and crazy. First and foremost, though-I'm not going to let a bad race get to me. If anything, I'm glad that the bad race was here, and not Boston. Okay-so I hate having bad races, period. But-it could always be worse, and sucking my way through a marathon is definitely worse than sucking for 13.1.

Like last fall with Imogene Pass, I'm going to use this race as a springboard to better subsequent races. We all race poorly from time to time. I could take the "I suck" approach, but I'm going to go with "I can only go up from here" instead. Beyond that, no weekend in Moab with friends, family and margaritas is ever bad. I'll take that kind of "bad" weekend any time.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

May The Road Rise To Meet You

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

-Traditional Gaelic Blessing

It's almost time again for a familiar rite of spring...heading down to the Canyonlands Half Marathon and 5-mile run in Moab, Utah this Saturday. This will mark my fourth trip to this race, and third time running the half. Only seven more times, and I get lifetime guaranteed entry-yahoo! I am starting to get into racing mode, prepared to attack the course and fight for a podium spot in my age group. (I have another crazy, unattainable time in the back of my head-just like the one I had for The Other Half. Cue the evil laughter.) The worst of my stint as Captain Infecto last week seems to be behind me, and just in time. Obviously, I'm looking forward to the racing, but just as much, I look forward to time with friends and fellow runners.
I don't get to see these people all the time. Many of us come from different parts of the state and region for the bigger races, and heck, I have a hard time sometimes coordinating and getting on the same page with local runners with everyone busy. It's great every time we can convene, hang out, and get our race on. While we may talk smack just a little, in the end I think we're a very supportive bunch, cheering the PR's and having a lot of empathy when it's just not someone's day on the race course.

Somehow, I always wind up being the "tour director" for this stuff, which is kind of funny because I don't see myself as a natural planner. It doesn't matter, though-I don't mind doing it. It does get a little amusing, though, when I am on the phone for the third time with Miguel's, our favorite pre-race fueling spot in Moab, to tell them that my group is pretty much taking over the back of their narrow restaurant. We're set, though-and I can't wait to sit down for enchiladas, rice, beans, and the all-important house margarita on the rocks. Then, it'll be time to do the traditional outdoor hot tub soak at the Gonzo with Ilana, and our traditional obsessing about race day clothes/gear/weather. Creatures of habit, we are, and it's great to have a partner in crime for the action.

Speaking of tasty adult beverages-I mentioned in the last blog post that I spoke with the writer/coordinator of the Runner's World alcohol study I participated in last summer here at our college's human performance lab. The article is officially set to run in the not-too-distant future, likely appearing in the August or September issue, but going to press some time in June. She'll be getting back in touch with me for an exit interview of sorts, asking what I thought of the study, what I learned, and of course, if I have any good alcohol and running related stories or anecdotes. I'm a little nervous yet excited to read whatever runs. I love the idea that the study was borne out of two running scientists jumping through a ring of fire at the end of a challenging race (the Garfield Grumble, five miles up and over Mt. Garfield..check out the people hiking), having a post-race beer, and essentially saying "think we could prove wrong the people who say you should never ever drink and race?" These are the people in my neighborhood, and they're good neighboors.

In other news this week, it's been a time of good changes and transitions for many around me, first and foremost being this twirling girl below:

Yep, I just took my youngest daughter to do visit the school attended by her three older siblings, and where she will begin kindergarten just five months from now. One might expect me to be bittersweet, and I am a bit, about the youngest heading off to school. This girl is SO ready, though. I wish I could take credit for her enthusiasm to learn, and how readily she makes friends, but I think it's just who she is, coupled with being the youngest of four. I joke that when you come at that position in the birth order, they tell you "Good luck-RUN!"...none of that first-child, undivided one-on-one time with inexperienced parents thing. It makes a parent feel guilty on one hand, but on the other, I see a kid who goes with the flow, hangs well with other human beings, and who can stand up for herself when necessary. It's going to be exciting watching her make the big leap to "big school," and see her branch out, learn, and make friends. It's true, your kids do make you nuts and drive you up a wall sometimes-but this was one of many times I have been reminded to appreciate how lucky I am to get to have this mama gig every day.

Among lots of other good news 'round these parts, I am also thrilled to congratulate friend and fellow blogger Suzanne over at SimonSaysRun on the news that she will be taking a brief hiatus from serious training...and be returning to it in the fall pushing a BOB stroller. We've done a number of races together over the past few years, and have both been closely involved with Girls on the Run (me as a Team Tiara/Solemates fundraiser and mom, Suzanne as GOTR coordinator for her county and coach). When I asked if she wanted to join our 24 Hours of Moab relay team, I was a little surprised that she said no because she'd expressed interest in doing a relay in the past. It then truly made my week to learn why, and that her dream of becoming a mom is really happening now. We'll miss her at the races in the short term, but what an awesome new marathon for her to beginning running.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Mesa Meltdown 5K..Scratch That..20K (Nordic) Race Report

Or, alternately titled....When Sick, Sidelined Runners Get Better, And Think They Can Do Anything. Let me explain.

The first half of this week consisted of very little running, I am sad to say. After being healthy all winter, and the person reminding my sickly friends to rest, hydrate, and "See a doctor and get rid of it" (thanks, The Jerk-one of my all time favorite movies), I was hit hard with some kind of nasty funk. I'll spare the gory details but the lungs, nasal passages, throat, and really everything else in the body up and revolted on me. I managed one short run at o-dark-thirty with my running partner on Monday that I probably shouldn't have attempted, and that was about it.

I made it to the doctor early Thursday and got that lovely Z-Pak to knock out the crud that was overtaking my system. I swear the PA at that office sees me like clockwork as the seasons change, typically 1-2 weeks out from my fall and spring halves. By Friday evening, I thought I was bulletproof compared to earlier in the week. I was ready to rock and roll, and get out for some fresh air.

Backing up a bit....on New Year's Eve, I went to a this fun little shindig with the running club and ran in 2011 at midnight with a handful of similarly likeminded running freakazoids. We had a great time-even had some "fans" watching us as we ran from our host's home and did laps around Sherwood Park in downtown Grand Junction. Then, because it seemed like a good idea at the time, I got up bright and early to do a little nordic ski race just for giggles up on the Grand Mesa. It was a hard core crowd and it was Fa-REE-zing, but I had a blast and even managed to beat a few people and score a few points in the Nordic Council race series. Not bad for a runner girl out of her element. Add hot soup, door prizes and great camaraderie to the mix and it was a sweet way to kick off the year.

I thought I'd go up for the next race in January, but it was a no-go with my schedule. This weekend, though, was the last event of the season, and I thought it would be good to go up for the 5K, the shorter race of the two that would be starting at the same time. This was my plan until about an hour before the race. As I was driving up, though, this nagging thought entered my brain. An hour each direction for just 5K? Ten bucks entry whether I go 5 or 20K? Why not challenge myself with 20K? This was the gorgeous Colorado morning I was enjoying on the drive up that was only adding to my "ski long" brain worm:

I also made the mistake of checking the point series-I guess there hadn't been a lot of repeat racers, and by being one of the few out on that cold New Year's Day, I was in the top-10 ladies for points. Go figure. So now I was motivated to get a few more points (only the 20K scored points today) and maybe hold that spot. Never mind the fact that I WOULD most certainly be the last one out there. I knew I could easily ski the 5K, would probably finish midpack, have my chili and go home.

Once the thought crept in my head it wouldn't leave, though. It would be GREAT cross training, but I'd never skiied that long with no breaks before. When I showed up to the registration table I asked the race director (a guy who is on the boards of both the nordic council and running club) to talk me out of the longer race. He went the other way and said "you can do the 20K!" Wrong answer, Tom. Or right. "But just because I can RUN 20K, it doesn't mean I can SKI 20K!" I insisted. I got Tom's sly grin and he again casually repeated "You can do the 20K!" The friendly elderly lady also working the table said "Do the 20K! You'll be so proud of yourself for finishing." Okay then. Hook, line, sinker. Put me down for 20K. This, by the way, was the scene when I arrived (sorry for the shaky iPod action):

Waiting to start, I chatted with my old running acquaintance D. Yes, that's her name. Okay-I think it might actually be Denise but nobody calls her that. When I was brand new runner and I was sort of intimidated by all fast, serious looking ladies attending a Girls on the Run charity running team info meeting, D was this funny, relaxed woman who caused me to chill out and not feel intimidated. The first time I ever ran the Mary's Loop trail that year, she was the one who offered to lead our small group of first-timers before she took off for a longer three hour trail run. She learned last year that she had a congenital birth defect that prevents her from running anything more than a few miles, but she can do other stuff like bicycling and skate skiing without her leg swelling up. It was great to catch up with D, and true to her nature she told me "no wimping out for the shorter race!" Thanks, D. Nothing like knowing you'll get heckled for changing races midstream.

Soon it was time to go. I was having serious misgivings but figured what the hey...just suck up your pride, don't get a complex about how far back you are, and take on the challenge. We were counted down and off we went. I instantly dropped to the back of the pack but knew I'd be here. Most of these folks had been skiing for decades, but they truly don't bite, or heckle the lesser skiiers among them. Still, I was WAAAAY back there. It was VERY warm out there. I was sweating bullets and could have worn shorts. Pretty quickly, I was by myself, save for a handful of 5K skiiers. I just relaxed, though, and reminded myself it was just about me pushing myself through this, not competing against people with decades of this under their belts.

As I made my way out on the course, I was enjoying getting to see a section of the ski area I'd never used before. It was bright and sunny, and somehow the skiing was easier seeing a section of trail that was brand new to me. I must admit that I got a teeny weeny bit of a complex when I approached the turnoff to circle around a lake out there, and already saw the first skiiers coming back. I was getting lapped! I got smiles from each of them, though, and a "Hey Karah!" from Christie, the Nordic Council president who is also writing the Runner's World alcohol study piece I'll be in later this year. I got over myself in a hurry and just kept moving along.

Making my way around the loop, I couldn't believe how warm it was. Two weeks ago, I'd skiied with my friend in blizzard conditions and it was still winter up there. This was spring skiing for sure. I was pleased as I watched my Garmin tick off at the 10K distance, and realize that I reached this distance about ten minutes faster than on New Year's Day. I kept going and made my way back toward the tree-lined trails where I'd go out for a different loop before coming back to the finish. Every now and then I'd pass recreational skiiers and snowshoers but it was a nice, uncrowded route for the woman who was the caboose of the race.

With about two miles to go, I was feeling jello-y in the legs, my arms were sore, but thank you running-my breathing was great thanks to the old runner cardio. I was a bit concerned about not making the course closure time earlier in the thing, but I could see that barring disaster, I'd make it through with time to spare. Of course, I felt a little funny about knowing there was a race timer waiting on me and only me-but hey, that's why they say the course is open until 1:30. With the wax job on my skis today, I glided nicely over the slippery snow, but didn't have much kick. This made the couple of hills late in the course pretty tough. Still, I pushed on and soon found myself at the bottom of the last hill before the finish.

There I saw Tom, waiting at the top if the hill with the timing device. He woot-woot-wooted me in, and as I crossed the finish for my very first DFL finish, ten minutes behind the second-to-last skiier. I laughed and said "That was HARD!" Tom nodded and smiled, saying, "Yeah, that's hard, eh? GOOD JOB. Great training there." If I was going to feel like a bit of a schmo for being so slow, this was exactly what I needed to hear to not feel that way. I always tell newer or slower runners to NEVER avoid a race out fear of being last, and that nobody will mock or laugh at them. It is really different, though, when you are THAT GUY. I definitely have a lot of empathy for folks who hesitate a little bit to participate in a race knowing there's a possibility of being the course sweeper. Tom informed me that I'd won a door prize-some organic peach jam from the farm his family owns (SWEET! I won a door prize-a bike trainer-at the other race, too), and told me to head over for some chili.

Now, I was not pleased after finishing the RedHot that the soup had already been finished and supplies packed away with three hours of open course time. I was very appreciative and thankful to the volunteers today for sticking around for me, as well as for the last few folks out there. Heck, they were offering us hot beverages and grub with a smile, not remotely hurried to pack up and leave.

I chatted with folks for awhile and had some of the chili (delicious homemade stuff, not just big cans of warehouse club stuff). I was surprised to be asked about the upcoming 24 Hours of Moab relay, and was thinking to myself that word sure does travel fast in a small town among the people who like to do that kind of thing. Tom said he'd be down there for another event, and planned to come out to spectate during the night running portion of the race. Excellent-someone to cheer us on.

When it was time to go and I started driving back to town, I was feeling pretty good about what was a mediocre finish time but solid effort in going outside my comfort zone and not dooming myself to fail without giving it a try. Now it's time to turn my focus to running again. Next stop, the Canyonlands Half Marathon. We'll see if all this nonconventional, no-plan-but-fun plan training is still paying off.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

RIP Sally Meyerhoff

It's tragic when we lose anyone involved with our sport, but I was especially saddened to learn of marathon runner Sally Meyerhoff's passing in a collision with a truck while training on her bicycle yesterday. I enjoyed her columns in Running Times magazine, and I could relate quite well to a taller, bigger-than-a-waif distance running chick who apparently dressed a little bit more "fun" at races than most of her elite counterparts, even rocking running skirts and what are also my favorite compression socks. More importantly, when she had a disappointing race, she didn't just quit the sport, she changed things up and rediscovered her love for the sport. That's a girl after my own heart. As dedicated as she was to her training, she also came across as very down to earth and fun off-road(check out some of her travels on her blog here. I especially enjoyed the January 17th recap of her Rock and Roll Arizona win, and I find it particularly interesting that she had no hard workouts leading up to that race.) She had a great career ahead of her and endless possibilities, also dabbling in trail racing and Ironman triathlons, and it's just a shame that this is not to be now.

Please take this as a reminder, folks, to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings whenever running, cycling, or doing anything that may bring you in close contact with two ton vehicles. It just takes a moment of lapsed concentration of either party for an accident to take place. RIP Sally-you were a bright light that a lot of us could look up to and emulate.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Slippery Slope

Two weeks after my first ultra, I find myself wrapping up my traditional block of down time after a big race. This has been marked by lots of eating (and eating, and eating, and eating....), sleeping a bunch, and only a little bit of running. When I do run, it isn't for more than about an hour, and has been almost entirely on trails so that the legs can continue to recover well from the experience of over seven hours of running and power hiking. Oh, and I've been able to say "a drink out with the girls? Sure! I don't have to run tomorrow!" when I'd normally pick and choose around my running schedule. I do usually swing up 5-7 pounds during this time, and it's no exception now. As easy as it would be to obsess about this, and not being near race weight a month before Boston, I think it's actually the healthy place to be at the moment with plenty of time to trim it back off in the coming weeks.

The other activity that almost always occurs during this down time? Signing up for more races, of course. It's one of those things that really allows me to enjoy this down time-knowing that I will refocus on quality training and working hard again once I'm fully recovered. Despite the fact that I reached the end of 34 miles thinking "man, I don't know how people go longer than this," I've been bitten by the ultra bug and am scaling up to my first 50-miler this fall. Last week, I registered for a race called Run Rabbit Run. Part of me says "What the hell did I just do?", especially when I read passage like this on the race website:

"Runners Beware. Word of warning: This is not a beginner's run. You might find the uphills and downhills fairly steep. You will spend a lot of time at an altitude of nearly two miles. There may be snow. There may be rain. It may be wet, or windy, or then again, it may be hot. There may be wild animals out there, some of them a lot bigger and scarier than a rabbit."

I do remember feeling this way about the RedHot as well when I signed up, though. I survived that-heck, I didn't just survive, I really enjoyed it. I have no fantasies or delusions of this being a cake walk I can just will my way through, and know this is a tougher event with more extreme terrain (oh, and that extra 16 miles), but I also know I'm the only one limiting my success if I doom myself to fail at it before I even begin training. My thought is that with six months until the race, I have time to log the long, slow miles that will allow me to get through 50 miles.

This race is kind of special in that the late Jenna Gruben (my friends and I met this talented ultrarunner, and her friends from Steamboat the day she passed in a car accident on her return trip from the 2010 RedHot) was closely involved as a volunteer and winner of this event. I love the idea of running to keep her memory alive, and celebrate being out there to run because I can. My friend Jen, who also ran the 2010 RedHot, will be running as well so it will be fun to plan and plot as the event gets closer.

I've also registered for the Steamworks Half Marathon, a June race in Durango I've run twice before. (See race reports here and here.) The course is very rolly with an uphill finish, but there's a great pool party with local microwbrews and real food (not just bananas) awaiting runners at the finish who choose to take on this race.

I'll stay with my regional race roommate Ilana again, and am sort of hoping I can pull together a small group of Grand Junction runners to come down for this race. We have a lot of local people who travel all over the state for races, and I'm surprised this one isn't quite on the radar yet. The registration fee is a relative bargain if they gave you nothing, but the small field (300 runners), pretty yet challenging course and post-race extras make it a no-brainer for me.

Finally, I signed up for my fourth running of The Other Half Marathon in October. I have a special love for this race-it was my very first "long" race in 2007 as an adult onset runner and noob to the racing thing. Last year, it was my breakthrough race during which everything came together for me, nailing a challenging goal time on a beautiful day, and getting to share it with running friends who knew what a big deal that was for me. I don't know if I'll have another magic pixie dust day again like that, but this course definitely inspires and brings out the best in me.

So, the wallet's a lot lighter now. (Thank goodness that my local running club's events tend to be just a few dollars for members!) Nothing left to do but get out there and resume regular training in another week or two. The rest of my spring racing schedule awaits, with two trips to Moab this month, and some little road race in Massachusetts that they've been throwing for, oh, 115 years now. For now, though, it's been fun to kick back, relax, and enjoy the afterglow for a bit.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Where I Run Wednesday

I can't say if I'll make this a recurring theme, but we'll try it out this week. I invite fellow runners to post your photos and video links here of your local running haunts-that shared enthusiasm for cool running routes is part of what unites us as a community.

This is the Tabeguache Trail, just minutes from my front door. It's part of what is known as the "Lunch Loop" area, and as the name suggests, is popular with mountain bikers and others who like to come out for a little play at lunchtime. In the summer, the parking lot/staging area is like a three ring circus in the evening, with groups of people gathering for beverages and conversation after enjoying time on the trail.

The video was initially taken on my iPod for one of my cousins (originally from Michigan) to show that we've actually got an entirely different season occurring down in town, below the area where I skiied last week.

The wind seems to appear wherever I run lately...this is just a few minutes later.

It's a beautiful place, so close to civilization distance-wise with the feel of being a million miles away once one has run, hiked or mountain biked just a few minutes out on the trail.