Monday, May 25, 2015

I'm still alive

It's been almost two months since my last blog post. Every day that goes by I feel overwhelmed thinking that I have so much to write about and I don't even know where to begin. So I'm not going to go into detail rehashing the last two months. The last thing I wrote about was how burned out I was feeling, and, rest assured, I'm not feeling burned out anymore.

We had just mounted the Tepui Tent on top of our car and gotten in our first good weekend of camping when Colorado got slammed with rain and gray skies like I've never seen here before. We've come to expect that the weather could change at any minute, which is why it was so odd that it stayed the same for so long. The same angry, bland sky devoid of any sun. It's become tedious even talking about the weather because it's old news and everyone is over it.

In the meantime I found a new appreciation for road running and hiking. I got a new pair of road shoes, the Pearl Izumi Road N3 and they are simply the best road shoes I have ever owned - and I'm not exaggerating! I used to dread pounding the pavement but the last few weeks I actually looked forward to strapping on my N3s. The other thing I usually dread is waking up early and, with a new-found running buddy named Courtney who is up for any adventure, I've come to really enjoy dawn patrol. I've made it my goal to do Mt. Morrison once a week in preparation for The Rut 50k and Morrison has got 2,000 feet of elevation gain in two miles. It's a lot easier to wake up at 4am when you have someone to run/hike with.

The other week, Courtney and I were talking and I was thinking about the kind of person I used to be. When I think back to the person I was in high school, I really don't like that girl. I remember going to bed and thinking that I hated the person I was but didn't have a clue who I wanted to become. At some point I snapped out of it and became determined to live every day as the person I wanted to be. I decided not to be controlled by regret: to stop worrying about things that had passed and to start dreaming about what was in the future.

In April when I wrote about feeling burned out, a lot of well-meaning friends tried to encourage me by saying, "It will pass," or, "It's just the winter blues." And they were right. Sometimes, though, I think it's important to take stock of why you are feeling certain things instead of trying to push them away and just get over it. When things feel forced and you spend every day feeling like you are doing battle, sometimes you need to reassess what your goals are. Are your current actions taking you to a place you want to be?

If my goals include wanting to push my legs to their physical limit, wanting to see and enjoy as many beautiful trails as possible, and overall spending as much time outside as I can manage, then racing early and often is maybe not the best approach. For example, it is a beautiful Memorial Day and I am lucky enough to have the day off. Am I outside running and exploring? No, because I have a race next weekend and I am tapering. I'm really excited to challenge myself at that race but it comes with consequences.

I'll still race next year but I am trying to commit to not doing any races between January and April. This means that our winter can be spent snowshoeing or doing fun runs with friends instead of having a certain number of miles to get in on any given day. I hope this prevents the Spring burnout from happening again. I'll also try to do less racing to free up more weekends to camp and explore the high country in the summer months. Maybe we'll finally get to knock off the Gore Range Trail and do some of the traverses we have been charting but won't have enough time to fit in between racing.

I've learned to embrace being in a funk. Some would call these periods "valleys." I've decided that I like going uphill. And hopefully this will be the last of the emotional posts of the year and I'll be sharing lots more race reports and adventures.


Mapping adventures

Lots of rain

And a few good sunrises

Friday, April 3, 2015


March was not the easiest month. It started off with a bad illness. Then I got lost at a race and quit. It's been rough getting back into the swing of things. Most days I don't feel like running and, honestly, there are days that I've thought that maybe I don't want to run at all anymore, ever. Most days I still push myself to get out there but instead of doing 60-70 mile per week like I have planned, I'm doing 30-40.

I've been spending a lot of time in my head lately. I know, it's a dangerous place to be. I keep coming back to this idea. It comes from a verse in the Bible. "Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands." I feel like that is very contrary to the way we are pressured to live on a daily basis. Fill your calendar, have places to go and people to meet, get promoted, fight for a raise, get little sleep. Essentially never settle and never be content with what you have.

I feel it in my running too. Throughout February I would wake up before sunrise and get 4-5 miles of roads in before work in the freezing cold. Then I would run after work, too. It was all about squeezing the miles in. I was determined that if I could build up to 70 miles per week I would have the breakout race I was hoping for. But you know what I learned? I hate junk miles. I'm tired of dragging myself out there and for what? So I can be a marginally faster mid-pack runner? I'm never going to make a name or a place for myself in running.

I'm not trying to have a pity party here... it's just the reality and even if I did have some big improvements I'm not sure I would want to be a recognized runner. Take Anton Krupicka for example. If someone caught him taking a walk break on his run up Green Mountain they would probably judge him a little. The guy can't run a race for fun without having to tune out social media. Once you get to that level, you have to prove yourself every day. You can't just have an easy run without having to justify it with an injury or illness. I don't want that.

I keep watching the new Salomon Trail Running TV episode on YouTube about Fell Running in the UK. There is a quote where Billy Bland, fell running legend, says, "You just pulled your shorts on and did what you thought was right." This guy gets it. We run our best and love it the most when we mind our own business and live a quiet life. Click here for a link to the video.

Looking at the next couple of months I'm intimidated by the things I have planned. A tough 50k followed by arguably the hardest 50 miler in the US. Then three US skyrunning ultras. I'm fearful that I'm not going to get the drive back that I once had in my training. But I think I'm just going to have to change my training. I need to put the adventure back in my running. There are times to push limits but right now I need to focus on enjoying the simple and ordinary things that make up my life. The cold air stinging my cheeks in the morning. The sudden warmth of the sun in the afternoon. Flowers along the trail that weren't there a few days ago. Springtime birds stretching out their vocal cords.

Here is a final thought. It's not that it is bad to grasp for something more, it's just that at some point you need to stop and look around you and say, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is." It was Vonnegut who suggested that, by the way.

Here are some pictures from my short and slow run this morning on Green Mountain.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Salida Run Through Time Marathon 2015

This is the third year I have shown up for this event and it never fails to be a great weekend. I'll cut to the chase here: I didn't finish the race this weekend. I still got in lots of miles on some of my favorite trails and got to hang out with a lot of my favorite people. Sometimes your race doesn't go as planned, but that's not a reason to scrap the weekend and pout about it. On the other hand I did wake up at 5am this morning to the sound of Mayla dog throwing up and after cleaning that up I laid awake in bed thinking about what I could have done different to not get lost on the course.

My goals going into this race were ambitious. I wanted to run a time in the range of 4:30 to 4:45 which would be a big improvement from last year's 4:52. Unfortunately I got really sick two weeks ago, sicker than I've been in years! I called in sick to work for the first time in my working life and actually went to urgent care to get meds. This girl rarely takes ibuprofen so seeking medical advice was an achievement. When it came around to race weekend I wasn't feeling 100% but I was able-bodied enough to run.

The weather was perfect on race day with highs forecasted to be in the 60s, but the word was that there was a good bit of snow on the upper part of the course. As we gathered at the starting line my friend, Amanda, and I started chatting and suddenly people started moving. We didn't even have time to get nervous. I tried not to run the first 8 or so miles too fast and saved enough energy to run the relentless uphill dirt road to the turnaround point. I let myself look at my watch for the first time at the turnaround and was excited to see that 2:15 had elapsed... a 10 minute improvement over last year. I figured the snow in the next section would slow me down but would put me on track to finish around 4:45.

The turnaround is always the high point of the race for me because you get to see your friends that are within a mile ahead of or behind you. Getting to cheer people on always gives me energy. I think I was within the top 10 women or so but there were a lot of strong-looking women close behind me. I had been using Tailwind and had put down about 300 calories so my energy levels were where they needed to be. I was a little nauseous but after being on antibiotics all week and being at 9,000+ feet for the first time in a while, this was to be expected.

After the turnaround the course heads back down just short of a mile and hits another dirt road. This road was super muddy and slushy. I ran this road in a thin layer of snow two years ago and that was definitely easier than these conditions. There was a lot of staring at my feet trying to get good footing and I just got used to following the two girls ahead of me. After trudging on for a bit, the girl ahead of me stops, turns around, and in a panicked voice starts telling me that she hasn't seen the girl ahead of her in a while and that the intersection in front of us didn't have any flags.

Sure enough, we were at a Y-intersection with no clear way to go. In denial she starts to insist that there was no way we could have gotten off course and that surely they didn't mark it. She thought we should go right. I knew what she was feeling and I had insisted the same thing at the Dead Horse 50k last fall in Moab. That experience taught me that sometimes you just have to accept that you made a mistake and turn around.

We had no idea how far we had come since the last course marking and I was full of hope that we hadn't gone that far and that I had a chance to make up the time by speeding up. Full of panic/rage I started running as fast as I could and stopped drinking or eating. We had come almost 1.5 miles off course for a grand total of 2.5-3 extra miles (out and back) with some decent hills and a good 40 minutes (since we stopped to talk about our options and to pick up another lost girl on our way back).

When we saw where we went off, I got angry: angry at myself for getting lost on a course that I've been on TWICE! There were two flags veering off sharply to the side but I had been looking at the ground and the back of the girl in front of me. Since then I've been thinking of all the "if only" scenarios. If only I had been ahead of her I would have been looking around more. If only the flags on the hairpin turn had been in my peripheral. If only there had been someone behind us who would have seen us and called out to us. I could go on forever but when you sign up for a race in the mountains, you sign up for a little bit of route-finding.

I was pretty cranky when I considered my options. I could continue on and get in 29 miles and a seemingly slow time or call it a day at the next aid station. I started thinking about a conversation I had with Justin Ricks when he told me about a time he dropped out at a race. When he arrived at the aid station he planned to drop at, the volunteers kept trying to get him going and one volunteered to walk it in with him. But he didn't come to the race to walk it in. He knew he could finish, but he came to win.

That line of thinking made sense to me. I didn't come to just slog out the race. I came to get a PR and to be as competitive as possible. After I DNFed my first road marathon, it was really important to me to finish the next trail marathon attempt no matter what. But I've already finished the Run Through Time twice and I didn't have anything to prove to myself just by finishing. After having the flu for the last two weeks it wasn't worth trashing my body early in the season just to have another finish under my belt.

After I made the decision to quit I still had another 3-4 miles to the aid station so I chatted with the people around me. They were so encouraging telling me that I looked great and that I should try to finish. I smiled, thanked them, and tried my hardest not to let my negative energy wear off on them. At the aid station, the volunteers told me that I had tons of time before the cut off and I should sit and think about if I really wanted to DNF. Again, I smiled, thanked them, and asked the shortest way to get down the mountain. I walked myself out and got picked up on the jeep road by some nice strangers heading to the finish to cheer on their daughter.

The finish line of this race is always fun regardless of if you raced or not. Talking with a lot of friends it seemed that a lot of people either did a double-take at that tricky intersection or went briefly off course themselves. A group of guys did the same thing and back tracked to find Amanda, who thankfully only added about a mile and still managed to take 5th place. At the end of the day, I can only blame myself for not noticing the flags. And that's what kills me the most. I should have known better. I'm trying to take solace in the fact that I got in some speedy miles with lots of gain and ended up with about 25 miles for the day even though they weren't the miles I was supposed to do.

Congrats to everyone who toughed it out on a challenging course. And I'm especially proud of my honey who isn't happy with his race but still managed to take 17th place despite being sleep deprived from grad-school midterms and a full-time job.

The clouds hid the Collegiates when we came into town on Friday

Photo bombed the Runner's Roost guys photo with Bill Dooper

After the race we grabbed some Amica's Pizza and headed up S-Mountain for a picnic with a view

The view just before sunrise this morning

We hiked part of the Mt. Princeton jeep road today before heading home

Cory and the pups

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Living the dream

I'm going to be honest. Most of the month of February I feel like this:

But a girl's got to function in the world even when the sun isn't shining. The other difficulty I've had with trying to get anything accomplished at home is that any time I sit down this happens:

Or this:

Adorable distractions aside, I've gotten pretty good at managing my brain's horrible response to the month of February and I try to think of all the great things that make up the reality of my life. For example, I live in my dream place. I have miles of trails right in my back yard. I have an amazing husband and two adorable dogs. Why should I let the weather get me down when I have the life I've always dreamed of?

A lot of people have commented on pictures that I post on Facebook or on posts I've left on this blog that they wish they lived here or that my life looks awesome. If I know you and you live in another state, chances are I've tried to convince you to move to Colorado. I'm a pretty good sales person. Just ask Cory, if he doesn't agree with me then I won't back down until I've convinced him that I'm right.

We didn't just accidentally end up in Colorado. It wasn't some happy occurrence. We lived in Pittsburgh. We picked up all our stakes and, with help from my parents, moved our possessions to Colorado into an apartment that we had never seen until we moved into it. We were unemployed and had to start from scratch with very few connections. There were times that we were living from paycheck to paycheck. Not a day goes by that I remind myself never to take this place for granted.

Moving is hard and I knew the longer we spent time in a place that was not Colorado, the harder it was going to be to pick up and move. I firmly believe that you should not live in a way where you are always waiting for something better to come along. If you want something, take tangible steps to make it happen. It's made me curious what it is that holds people back from achieving the things they want, what keeps them from making their dreams or goals a reality. I genuinely want to know! Please comment, even if you are reading this and I've never met you before.

If there's one thing I've learned while working through Seasonal Affective Disorder it's that having a plan with both short term and long term goals makes every day easier to endure. As you see yourself get closer to where you want to be, it's no longer a matter of endurance, you are able to joyfully relish the last few steps to your finish line.

Here's some pictures from our winter adventures this last month:

Cadi retrieved multiple deer parts at Mt. Falcon for me

We found this fresh mountain lion kill a mile up from the parking lot at Apex

A close up of the mountain lion print... no claw marks and a three-lobed back pad

Cousin Bailey taking 10th at CC junior nationals in Boulder

View of Mt. Evans wilderness from the Chicago Lakes Trail

Happy pups!

Entering Mt. Evans wilderness... did not need the snowshoes

A chilly sunset on top of Green Mt before heading to Arizona for my best friend's wedding

Sunset run at Pass Mountain with dad

The one bright "star" in the sky is Venus

Sunrise view of Lost Dutchmen from Cat Peaks summit

I'm never wearing booty shorts again... too much wedgie 

Playing among the cacti with dad

The dad guy

I was talking on my phone in the campground and this rattler jumped out at me

Got to take some fun pictures at this couple's wedding!

Mayla's favorite winter sport is napping 

Cadi's favorite winter sport is being disobedient and feeling no shame

Family hibernation

Cory got some great pictures of me tripping on today's run

This is my "I hate the winter" face

Friday, January 23, 2015

For the Joy

I remember reading Killian's book, Run or Die, last year and one particular part has stuck with me. I would quote it directly but I lent the book to a friend, who will remain nameless, who has not returned it (Laura!). Kidding, keep it as long as you need to, Laura. Back on track. The part of the book I remember most is when Killian recalls coming home from a run and recounting the day's adventures to his now ex-girlfriend. As he animatedly wraps up his story and finishes showing off his photos, he asks his lady friend about her adventures and she cries and says that it was wonderful but that there was no way to fully get someone to share in the feeling and thrill of the day.

I've felt this feeling so many times. No many how many pictures I share on Facebook, no matter how detailed my blog posts are, even if I personally sit with you and talk about my adventures there is no way to pass on the Joy that I feel when I'm out exploring. At my core, I am a "feeler" and though I can use my words to get others to know things, I'm always caught in a paradox of not feeling understood until someone feels what I am feeling. Getting someone to feel what you feel is very different than getting someone to know how you feel. Some writers have a unique ability to do this. If you don't know what I'm talking about read Jenn Hughes' piece from Trail Runner magazine about the Hardrock 100 here.

Lately I've been unhappy with my blog and I think it's because I've spent so much time writing about things instead of capturing the essence of the thing itself, instead of extracting the emotion I felt in an experience and impressing that feeling upon you, the reader. Normally what happens when I start monologuing about this is I stop right about here and hold the backspace key for a long time. Not this day. I'm no Jenn Hughes, though, so don't expect me to make you feel any great emotion. What I want to do is ask a question. People often ask themselves why they run. Regardless of the details, I think most people run because it gives them a Joy that they are otherwise unable to attain in daily life. The question I've been thinking about is what about running gives you the Joy?

The reason I've been mulling over this is because I have a lot of running friends who seem to get frustrated by certain things in their running that are taking away the Joy. For example, Cory has been angry after every run lately because his Garmin is not uploading his run data to Strava. Data can be useful in training and can bring you Joy as you see gains over time, but I had to "ground" myself indefinitely from Strava. If every run wasn't faster than the last or if I didn't get a "Queen of the Mountain," I became dissatisfied with my run. I knew if I was approaching a popular "segment" I would gun it (which is kind of like interval training), but the reason I was doing it was to show others that I was the fastest. Strava was taking away my Joy.

On my quest to shed all the things that diminish the Joy, I keep thinking about a blog entry that I wrote around this time last year about sponsorship. I've thought many times over about deleting it because if any sponsor read it, they would incorrectly assume that I never want to be sponsored. But this blog post has been one of my most popular reads and to delete it would be to hide something important that I thought was controversial. If I'm about anything, I'm about authenticity. So it remains... and if you're curious you can read it here.

Now I find myself in a seemingly hypocritical place on the Pearl Izumi Champions Run Team. It's not a sponsorship, it's more of an ambassadorship. I get a pair of free shoes and a singlet and in turn I continue to tell everyone how much I love Pearl Izumi's gear. The reason why I don't feel like a hypocrite is because I was doing these things anyway: complimenting people's PI shoes at races, writing PI shoe reviews on my blog, wearing PI shoes until they were dead, and using my decrepit shoes to pot plants in. This company's gear enhances my Joy so why not get some kickbacks from it and make it official?

Have you ever noticed that the harder the thing is, the more Joy you feel in the end? Easy things leave a taste in your mouth like black licorice, not horrible but not exactly satisfying. In search of Joy we went on a little winter running vacation this weekend. We were exhausted before we left and camping with two dogs in our rooftop tent for three days with lows in the teens and highs in the 40s sounded by no means "easy." Somehow we came back more recharged than if we had stayed in our comfortable home doing runs on our backyard mountain. In a futile attempt to share my Joy, here are some pictures.

At Kenosha Pass

South Park puppy pick-up

Old girl still has the moves

Chalk cliffs on the way to Salida

Salida Sunset

The view from our tent

Plenty of room in this tent

On the Rainbow Trail

Little pup tries to herd me

Got snowed out just a mile further up

Dry trails in Salida

Sweet Collegiates

Lots of snow in Leadville

Running around Turquoise Lake


Closest thing I have to digitally capturing the Joy