Friday, December 19, 2014

2014 miles in 2014

On December 6th I ran my 2014th mile for the year...in the midst of a 14-miler...funny how that worked out.  (As of today I'm up to 2115).

I started Pfitzinger's Advanced Marathoning 18-week program this week to get my Boston on.  I have been doing a nice slow build-up since the Ultra I ran in October and am feeling pretty good. Somehow I had a little time to set up my tree....and Sentry has posed for about a billion-and-a-half photos since that day.

Sentry also enjoys his post-run cuddles on the sofa.  92-pounds is kinda of a lot for a "lap dog."

The current Newton rotation.  I have always been a Gravity girl until I tried the Distance for racing.  Then I decided to try the new Fate for recovery.  I'm loving this rotation!!!!

Christmas is full of big concerts.  Here are all "my" kiddos at our performance at the Festival of Trees.

And a fun one of me with my favorite students, my sweet nephews. They are 6 and 10. 

So, that's the happy parts of the last month or so.  November was a month that rocked my soul to the core with sadness and darkness.  I lost some people close to me. Two of my students lost their brothers and my students are all extended families and so my entire studio was in a rough place (and still is).  I also lost one of my neighbors...a sweet woman who disappeared without a trace. I had to play my violin at the funeral of one of the kiddos, a 14 year old boy who accidentally took his own life.  By far, the hardest thing I have ever had to do.  I felt as if I had an outer-body experience...while I played, I was calm and strong and played well...the moment I was done playing I completely fell apart emotionally.  Throughout the month, I ran to find solace in the Earth and my life.  I ran for comfort. I ran to cry it out.  And it helped.  I welcome 2015 with open arms. I am thankful for my Sentry who cuddled with me when all I could do was cry and who ran with me when all I could do was run. I am thankful for wonderful friends. I am thankful for the greatest parents I could have ever been blessed with. I am thankful for amazing siblings and all that they do for me.  I am overwhelmingly thankful for the greatest guy on Earth that chose me to spend his life with.

Do what you love.
Stop at never.
Hold on to those you love.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Canyon de Chelly 55k Ultra RR

I have lived my entire life in the Southwest.  I have lived most of those years just a few miles from the edge of the Navajo Reservation.  When I discovered that there was a new Ultra through Canyon de Chelly in Arizona, I knew I wanted to do it (even though I have sworn many times that I would not run an ultra). The canyon is about 2 1/2 hours away and it's known for it's beauty but I'd never been there.

My preparation was worse than crappy. I have been nursing an angry TFL since February and spent my time since Colfax Marathon in May trying to help it recover. After cutting back mileage, then cutting back days, seeing a sports therapist, massage therapist, chiropractor, I gave up. I was entered in a Half Marathon already so I decided to run it and see how it went. Depending on how the hip was I would decide to run the first Ultra I had signed up for (8 weeks after the Half) or give up my spot to a waiting list runner.  (The October race opened for entry in February for 150 runners...it filled in 52 minutes).  I ran the Half and paced my running buddy to her best time by 5 minutes. I left her in the last mile and managed to finish only 3 minutes off my best time (not bad since I had been only doing easy runs for months).  1:38:21.  Sore as ever the next day!!!! There was a lot of steep downhill mixed into some good climbs so my quads were ruined!

I managed to get a 16, 18 and 20 mile long run in preparation for my first ultra.  Yep...that's it...I've done a heck of a lot more for every marathon I've ever run but I was concerned about adding too much mileage and getting a real injury or just plain being exhausted when I arrived at the starting line.  So, I just chilled and worked more on my strategy of what I was going to have to do to be successful (fuel, gear, etc.).

Driving the 2.5 hours from our home in New Mexico past Shiprock and around the Chuska Mountains of Northeast Arizona, we had amazing views. The open landscape, red mesas and gorgeous blue skies were only preparing us for what we'd see the next day.  We arrived at packet pickup and Shaun Martin (Navajo runner, coach, and race director) greeted us.  We got our bibs and waited for the evening ceremony to begin.

Other runners chatted with us about the race (some had done it the year before).  At one point, another runner asked what other trail races I'd done....um....crap....really....{as I frantically scan my library of races in my head sure that there is a trail run in there somewhere....but there isn't} .....um....I finally answer "None. This is my first trail race."  Her response: "Oh....well, what other Ultras have you run? Any around here?"  Me: "Uh......no this is my first Ultra too."  She looked dumbfounded (and I'm pretty sure I did too).  What was I thinking??? I'm going to go run 8 miles further than I ever have, on less training than I ever have, through sand.  Good idea. Ok. Let's do it tomorrow. I actually wasn't questioning myself...seemed totally logical.

Weeks ago my brother had given me the best advice when I was discussing my concern in my lack of training and prep for this event.  He said "You could run a lot further if you had to."  He was right. I could.

Shaun told us the story of how the race came about. He discussed the Navajo culture of waking up before sunrise and running towards the east every morning. He told us about a day where he ran through Canyon de Chelly with a lot on his mind and was accompanied by a group of wild horses that ran with him for many miles.  The entire experience was so overwhelming to him that he decided he wanted to put on an Ultra in that canyon and a few years later he did. He had tears in his eyes as he described the whole experience.  The Canyon is sacred land and cannot be entered by non-Navajo without a permit and a Navajo guide and even then it's a jeep/truck tour where you rarely get out to put your feet on the ground.  This was a rare opportunity for a bunch of white folks and their fancy running shoes to go prancing through this land. Shaun was a wonderful story teller; funny and personable and natural in front of the crowd. His father in law dressed in the native clothing and discussed more about the culture and sang some Navajo songs for us. I felt like I learned more about the Navajo culture that night than I had my entire life.

We stopped for some ice cream on the way back to our hotel and headed off to bed. I slept like total crap even though I wasn't nervous. I really wasn't. I was definitely excited to see the canyon but I wasn't concerned or stressed like I get before a marathon.

Up early, we had some oatmeal and bananas and made sure everything was ready to wear and that our drop bags were loaded with whatever you're supposed to put in one of those things????? I had a bag of my favorite potato chips (Boulder Avacado Oil), and an extra pair of shoes and socks, plus extra Tailwind.

We got to the start in time for the Navajo blessings facing east.  The words were soft as they sang towards the rising sun.  The sunrise was beautiful.  We stood quietly listening for probably 15-20 minutes. Humbling and empowering.  I was ready to see the canyon. We were encouraged to yell as we entered the canyon and to yell whenever we felt like it to announce ourselves to the spirits.

We stood in a giant wash...I mean GIANT.  Shaun counted down 3-2-1 and off we went, all yelling.  As we "ran" up this wash for the next few miles, the red canyon walls began to appear growing around us...starting at 6 inches high, and then growing.  The cottonwoods in the canyon were beginning to yellow and against the red rock walls, they glowed in the sunrise. Around mile 4, we got to witness the wild horses. They were grazing under the cottonwoods and as we ran by, they decided to join us...only for a few hundred yards but they were beautiful and after hearing Shaun's story the night before, it was a special moment in the canyon.  When we arrived at the first aid station (mile 5.5), Shaun was there waiting for us.  By this time, the canyon walls were probably 500 feet high and I exclaimed how beautiful it was.  Shaun told me to just wait...that they'd get at least twice as high.  We ran and ran, and around every new corner I found myself saying "Wow" or "Beautiful" or "Amazing" or "This place is captivating" or "I feel so lucky to be seeing this". Our feet were still dry and we were mostly running on two-lane jeep road now where we frequently crossed the wash. Around mile 11 my left knee started to hurt...no idea.  I have never had knee pain before. It wasn't debilitating, just annoying, so it didn't really slow us down. Shortly after the second aid station (mile 12ish), the water crossings began.  I think there were about 12 in the next 4 miles. We rounded a corner and ran towards the famous Spider Rock....a very tall rock spire.  Gorgeous. When we reached mile 15ish, we turned onto a single track and began our 1200 foot climb (in less than a mile) out of the canyon and onto the rim.  It was pretty technical...loose rocks and many deep grooves from the fall rainstorms.  We began to see the race leaders coming down the climb, headed back to the start/finish.  One of them said as he ran by: "Best view in ultra running is straight ahead." When we reached the top, there was Shaun waiting for every runner.  He told Ryan and I that we looked relaxed and fresh.  I felt relaxed and fresh. The view was spectacular. You could see the canyon stretching with its long arms both directions (at this point we were about halfway into the canyon so we were in the middle of a "spider" of canyons). I changed my socks but kept the wet shoes on as I liked that pair better and they were going to get wet again in a mile anyway.  My socks had gotten super fine mud in them on one of the water crossings and thought with 17 miles to go I should probably try to get rid of that.  I ate about 25 of my favorite chips and then left the bag for others to enjoy.  Down the climb was really aggravating the knee.  The big down-steps and jumps were getting painful. Finally we reached the bottom and were able to start running again.  Based on all the people we had seen before and after us, we'd determined we were around 50 or 60th place (not that we really cared). We got through all the water crossings again and passed some runners.  As we neared the mile 23 aid station, things began to ache.  My mind and body were fully aware that we were entering the zone of being on our feet for longer than ever before, that my training was...well....not much, and that we still had more than 10 miles to go.  Still, I found myself with my jaw dropping open in awe at the beauty of this place. About a mile before the aid station at 28.5, we both ran out of water. It was getting hot. My knee was still aching but wasn't getting worse; just annoying. We made it to the aid station and filled our bottles multiple times.  The cross country team from Chinle was running the aid station and they were nice kids...chatting with us and helping us with what we needed. We started having some walk breaks with about 5 miles to go. We'd allow only a quarter mile at a time and then made ourselves run at least .75 of a mile.  Ryan said he thought I was doing better than he was. I loved having him through this entire thing. To share the beauty of this place with someone; to share this experience with my favorite person in the entire world. He ran a PR in a marathon only 3 weeks before so I imagine his body wasn't fully recovered for this type of event.  We were passing the 6 hour mark and knew what we had to do to stay under 7 hours (my goal). We pushed on as the canyon walls got lower and the sun grew warm.  Some cloud cover was creeping in and we had some good shade for the last few miles when we were in the thick of the sandy wash. We finally round the last corner and could see the finish line, we ran it in. Finish time: 6 hours 44 minutes. 52nd and 53rd place. As we crossed, Shaun gave us both a hug and decorated us with Navajo turquoise necklaces all hand-beaded by him and his family.  By far, the most special finisher's medal I will ever receive.

So much community went into this race. The melons at every aid station were grown by one of Shaun's friends on a hillside right next to the canyon. The awards were all made locally (jewelry, moccasins and rugs).  The volunteers on the course were all runners or friends and were so helpful and genuine.  This RR is lame...I can't explain so much of this experience and why it moved me so much. Every step of the journey made me love running more and made me want to run more to celebrate life. I know that this run made me a better runner and a better person. It was refreshing to step onto a course with such history and meaning for the love of this sport. I feel so honored to have had this experience...words just can't express.

In my swimming days, as a sprinter, I couldn't believe anyone would run a marathon (I didn't even know how far a marathon was) and swore I'd never do anything like that.  I read Born to Run and that changed me.  After my first marathon, I swore I'd never do an Ultra, but from the moment I read about Canyon de Chelly, I knew I had to try.  I told Ryan for months before this race that this would be the only one.  Turns out, if you go back a second year, you get a coral necklace....I love coral.
saw this printed on the inside of Ryan's asics jacket pocket during the evening ceremony...thought it'd be great on my arm for the race.

the wash...

the start of the cliffs


Ryan running in the cottonwood carriageways...loved this part!!

me!!!


me and Spider Rock

red cliffs and cottonwood...and southwest blue sky!



a short video from mile 30...just to remind myself that we were still running

towards the end of the wash. Canyon walls getting smaller and the clouds coming in.

Our sweet gaiters! I'd never worn them before but I was sure glad I did for all this sand! Totally worth the $20.

most treasured finisher's medal


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Colfax Marathon RR

My 6th marathon:
Goals: Break 3:20. Place in the top 15 women. Place in my age group.

Not sure where to start or end this thing.....
Weather...low of 52 and high of 84.  52 is a pretty warm marathon start in my opinion. I was a little worried but the forecast ended up calling for mostly cloudy which it was until the last 8 or so miles.  Weather ended up fine. I was never hot and never cold.  Pretty comfortable after all.
Things with my body were ok but not perfect.  A few little things weren't right and my legs just didn't feel fresh from the start. I also didn't have my "normal" breakfast.  I ALWAYS have milk with breakfast as it keeps my stomach settled and I love my dairy all the time.  And like an idiot at the grocery store the night before I bought OJ and bananas and bagels...but NO MILK!  Idiot.  So I had OJ for breakfast and I was burping up acid all day.  My stomach is NOT used to no milk....literally it's been years since I have gone a morning with no milk.  At the grocery store I accidentally dropped one of the OJs and had to go to the deli to call for a clean-up and in the drama I forgot to get milk.  For the first 10 miles I was breathing too hard and it just didn't seem as "easy" as it should have been. My legs just didn't have the usual "pop" of race day.  Maybe they would have the next day, or the day before; but they were working so I just went with it (not like I had a choice).  I was holding back on some miles but on other miles I was having to work in order to stay at 7:40s.  
The Plan: 
miles 1-6 hold steady at 7:40s on the downhill
miles 7-10 hold steady at 7:40s around the flat lake
miles 11-16 push a little to hold 7:40s on the UPhill
miles 17-20 let it rip....7:20 or faster....downhill
miles 21-26.2 fight with whatever I have left. Leave it all on the course for this 10k....mostly UPhill
This should put me around a 3:18 (allowing for some error).  Previous best time 3:26. 

I did pretty much as planned for the first 16 miles even though it seemed harder than it should have been. I don't usually breathe very hard for the first 10ish miles. Remember 10-16 is all uphill:
17:36.31.007:36
27:37.41.007:37
37:36.61.007:37
47:44.41.007:44
57:38.91.007:39
67:37.71.007:38
77:50.21.007:50
87:36.21.007:36
97:32.91.007:33
107:34.91.007:35
117:41.11.007:41
127:41.61.007:42
137:41.01.007:41
147:44.11.007:44
157:42.01.007:42
167:34.21.007:34

 The downhill started to get tough. I had managed to stomach gels at 7 and at 14 so I felt like I had some energy but my legs just weren't under me. I was aiming for UNDER 7:20 on the downhill.  Just couldn't get it going.  After 19 I had to have a little talk with myself.  I actually walked through the aid station, took my gel and took TWO cups of water and drank both of them.  I told myself I'd gone too far to stop or give up or settle. I had to push the last 10k as planned even though the downhill hadn't been what I wanted.
177:22.41.007:22
187:27.81.007:28
197:35.41.007:35
207:31.11.007:31

When I reached mile 23, my soul was crushing.  I wanted it so bad but my legs just didn't have the kick.  The last 6 miles are mostly uphill...slow grade but enough to make the wheels fall off.  We had cloudy skies up to this point and the weather had remained pretty nice. I wasn't hot at all....why couldn't I go?  
The buildings mess up the splits and the read on the garmin because of all the mirrored skyscrapers.  
217:40.11.007:40
227:34.81.007:35
236:54.51.006:55
247:01.71.007:02
258:08.41.008:08
267:59.91.008:00
273:59.90.547:23
Mile 23 was probably 7:55-8:05....felt that way.
Mile 24 was probably 8:00 or so.

I got a total surprise shortly after 23, two of my old violin students that live in Denver now were on the course to cheer me on.  I almost cried. I hadn't expected them (or anyone) at this point in the race.  My head was hanging low as I rounded a corner in downtown and then I heard my name and looked up to see them.  I gave high fives and told them how awesome they were for being there.  I headed up the hill...pushing...using my arms to try and add more thrust. Their mom snapped a picture in my moment of happiness:

Finally out of downtown I had 1.5 to go.  I had walked this street the day before and I thought we would NEVER get to the turn onto Vine Street.  Felt like MILES!!!!  Finally we got to the turn and I worked to pass as many 10-mile racers as possible. I was so done. I had nothing.  I started to beat myself up and say mean things. Why wasn't it working?  I was doing the math....was it even possible for me to break 3:20 anymore?  Would I have to run a 5 minute mile to do it?  No...just a 6:30. I tried.  I "sprinted".  I looked down....8:04 pace.  Seriously.  That's it legs? That's all you got.  I round the corner to turn into City Park for the final mile.  My parents are there and 4 of my brother's friends yelling and screaming.  I'm shaking my head and almost in tears.  (My parents account was that I was smiling and looked great....ha!)  I go and go and go and go until I finally see the start (I think it's the finish)...it's not....no one is there...it's empty. Why is it empty?  Where is everyone? WHERE IS THE FINISH???  I keep looking around the corner and there it is. I look at my watch. 3:20 has passed. My heart breaks.  I keep pushing anyway. I cross the finish and stop to rest my hand on my knees. 3:21:45  A medic pats me on the back and asks nicely if I'm ok.  I tell him I'm fine and that I just need a minute.  He said to let him know if I needed anything and congratulated me.  I got my medal and got waters.  I had to ask people with nothing in their hands to open the waters. I couldn't do it. I couldn't really walk either. My legs were shot.  I finally made my way over to the side of the finish chute and held on tight, lowered myself into a deep squat to rest my quads and stretch my calves.  I immediately started to cry...sob really. I was so disappointed.  I was hiding under my visor crying for like 5 seconds when a girl tapped my shoulder (she was wearing a 13.1 medal) and asked if I was ok...if I wanted to use her phone to call someone or anything.  I told her I just needed to cry for a minute because once I found people I knew I wouldn't be able to.  She giggled and gave me a little hug and told me congratulations. I got up (after crying for like 3 more seconds) and got some food.  When I got out of the chute I couldn't find anyone. No Thomas (my brother). No Ryan (my husband). No parents.  I stopped by a tree to drink some more water and sit down. As I leaned on the tree, I saw my brother through the crowd and he saw me.  He came over to me and we hugged. He had gone 3:03 (he went 2:59 in January 2013).  And let me know that he had passed Ryan around mile 20 and he hadn't seen him.  This worried me since Ryan had trained so hard and was set-up so well to be 2:55. We finally found him.  His stomach had been rough. He couldn't take any gels after mile 6.  At 20 things fell apart.  His arms and back were cramping and his pace slowed into the 9s. Not a great day for him. Ended up 3:11 (he was 3:01 in November).
Another friend of mine who has been a runner since 3rd grade and done probably 20 Halfs ran her first marathon.  We love running together since we are both very competitive and love setting training and racing goals.  She crossed in 3:41...a Boston cut as she will be turning 40 this fall. So extremely proud of her!!!
We walked back to our place and eventually found out that I had won my age group and gotten 8th place woman and 68th overall.  I was so mad I didn't stay for awards...would've been so cool to go on the podium/stage they had set-up. I am happy, but humble.  I left it all on that course.  I couldn't have run faster (although it only would've taken 4 seconds per mile).  I have to be satisfied because when I wanted to give up and slow down, I pushed harder....all the way to the finish.  And I really can't be upset about a 5-minute PR.  
What a day.  What a race.

So, that's it in a nutshell. I think it's all a testament to Pfitzinger's program. My stomach wasn't happy, my legs didn't feel great and I still pulled off a huge PR on a medium-tough course.  Another testament to this program is that in the last 6 weeks I have run PRs in the following distances:
1 mile
5k
10k
Half-Marathon
Marathon
....yep. For real. A PR in every race distance in the last 6 weeks.  This Pfitzinger thing works for me like a very lucky charm.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Who needs taper? Albuquerque Half RR

So 2 weeks ago I raced myself at a 10k and went a PR by 2 minutes.

I haven't run a half marathon race since August 2012.  (1:40:18)
In November I ran my best half during the first half of a full marathon (1:39ish)
Last weekend I had a long run with 14 miles at goal Marathon Pace (Colfax Marathon-Denver is in 4 weeks) and the 13.1 within was 1:38.
6 days later (TODAY) was Albuquerque Half Marathon.....

I am finishing many 60+ mile weeks in a row and have never felt so good. Taper starts in one more week and I am SO excited.

The race was great in so many ways.
I live 180 miles from Albuquerque but have spent quite a bit of time in this city.
On the way to the race, there were hot air balloons flying...if you don't know about Albuquerque's HUGE Balloon Fiesta....it's amazing (in October every year).  But even on non-balloon fiesta weekends, the balloons fly.  Basically there are balloons flying on calm mornings all year around.  I loved seeing them as we arrived at the race site.
After being part of one of the STUPIDEST race starts ever (I won't go into the details of the ridiculous set-up), I kept looking at my watch thinking that I should be more tired, or breathing harder, or slowing down.  Kept holding in the 7:15 range without having to strain myself.  And let me just say that when I started running only 3 years ago, I NEVER thought I'd be holding under 8s for more than a mile, or two.  The last couple marathons have been JUST barely under (7:59 or 7:58 averages). I kept remembering the post about running in a tutu from Lady Capulet...how running relaxed and having fun is key and to "let it go".  I didn't have a tutu but I wore my cutest Athleta running skirt that has pleats in the back with a little ruffle (so kind of like a "tech" tutu).  I kept smiling and reminding myself that this is what I train for and that the race shouldn't be about pressure, it should be about doing my best today...whatever that is in the middle of all this training.  I had high expectations from the training runs I have been throwing down because Mr. Pfitzinger Advanced Marathon Training is AMAZING SPECTACULAR HARD-CORE THRILLING and FABULOUS.  It has me in the best shape ever and my endurance is more than I ever thought possible.  I finally "felt" like I'd had a 60 mile week when I got to mile 11, which was a 7:13 split so must have been mental.  I followed that up with another 7:13.

Finish time: 1:35:30.  So so so happy.  I had told my dad that I was going to be VERY happy to break 1:37 but that I'd be happy just breaking 1:38 since I just ran the 1:38 only 6 days ago....so I was SUPER thrilled to break 1:36.

Managed 1st place in my age group (35-39) and something like the 8th woman overall. (The results were hard to see).  AND I negative split.  So happy!

Who needs taper to PR?  Not me; thanks to Mr. Pfitzinger.
Although, I gotta say, I am ready for taper mentally.  And I'm sure my legs will enjoy it also.  One more week and then it begins.

I love the medal from today: