Friday, December 21, 2012

Running as a mode of Transportation

This past week I explored a new motivation to run: getting to where you need to go. This week I'm working 6 days in a row and often I lack to drive to get out of a warm bed to run before sun rise. Once I get home after along day of customer service and being on my feet I don't exactly want to go out into the dark either. With a snow storm upon us, I decided to run to and from work. The roads were pretty nasty and my road bike slips around a bit on snow and, beside, there's nothing better than running in fresh powder. It wasn't like I was going to be sweating much in the sub-10 degree temps.

There is something liberating about relying on human powered transportation. I first started thinking about it at camp when I noticed my good friend Matthew, though not a runner, running EVERYWHERE. When people asked him about it, he said it just got him to where he was going faster. In college I would occasionally walk to class with a friend who would always tell me to walk slower because she was getting sweaty. I thought this was ridiculous. What a waste of time.

Even when I'm biking to work I'm one of those people who gets ultra-competitive and if there is someone in front of me, I have to pass them. If it is a man wearing bike clothes with some sort of club or sponsorship printed on them, I feel an even greater need to pass them. All they see is a braid, a dress, and a blue road bike whizzing past. Sometimes it's fun when they recognize the challenge and try to race me. The beauty of working at Title Nine is that it doesn't matter if I'm a little bit sweaty when I get there.

When it comes down to it, though, you can't beat the simplicity of running (or walking) to and from work. Even when I have my bike, I frequently need to stop and replace a tube or do other routine maintenance. When I run, all I need to worry about is putting enough calories in my system and keeping warm enough. And the rewards are great. The other night when I was running home in the dark I saw a fox prance out of the woods and we stood and took each other in for a moment. It was serene.

The reason why I'm writing about this all today is that supposedly, according the Mayan calendar, the world was supposed to end today. Clearly that didn't happen. But in light of the recent shooting in Connecticut and ensuing talks about gun control at work, I've been thinking about how instead of preparing for a doomsday scenario by amassing weapons and hoarding food and possessions, I like to make myself more mobile. In the event of a "Red Dawn" scenario I have the ability to transport myself using my own two feet for many miles. And I have the gear and lightweight food to sustain me for quite some time. I have built up both the mental and physical toughness to do it.

Furthermore, I have surrounded myself with people who are also able to do that with me. While the masses tough it out in the city, my husband, dog and friends will be long gone toughing it out in the backcountry having the time of our lives... as long as it isn't winter. I have a down jacket for that scenario.

Monday, December 17, 2012

"Fast" is relative

This weekend I got three days off of work in a row! So how did I celebrate? Hard runs every day! On Friday I did a longish tempo run on flat terrain and felt fast for the first time in a while. I ran sub-8s which is good for me and focused on my form. My runs tend to be long, slow, meditative wilderness runs. This run was fast,  urban, and headphones driven. I managed to almost keep up with a dawdling girl on a bicycle and I felt like multiple people did double-takes when they saw me whiz by. Clearly this was mostly a figment of my imagination, but it felt good.

The next day I went out for a longer, hilly trail run. I ran more of the hills that I typically walk. I thought less about mountain lions. I passed some mountain bikers. And one hiker's dog deserted his owner to follow me. I ran the whole loop faster than I've ever run it before.

On Sunday we went to Boulder to hang out with a friend. Cory and him went for a hike while I ran up and down the Gregory Canyon trail. It was steep and rocky and I felt tired and slow. And just when I would start to feel discouraged thinking about pro runners who bound up this trail like there's no gravity, I would hear some hikers ahead. Even the most gussied-up and intense-looking  hikers were slower than my methodical plod and would look at me like I was crazy. But "fast" is a relative term, my friends, and though I'll never be the fastest, I choose to remind myself that I'm not that slow.

Looking ahead to this week, I'm tired. I am working the next 6 days in a row and I'm supposed to start officially training for next season. Then on Monday I'm flying to Wisconsin for a little bit of Christmas and a lot of trail running with dad. It's a good life.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Apex Park... my chocolate run

In the past few weeks I've been enjoy a well deserved rest and it has been quite freeing. By "rest" I don't mean that I'm not running; I just don't currently have any structure to my running. I haven't done any soul-killing filler runs. I call those shorter, bread-and-butter, squeeze-in-before/after-work-but-don't-really-look-forward-to-them runs "filler runs." Instead I've just been running when I feel like it and going to some of my favorite destinations for longer runs. I don't plan out the mileage, I just bring enough food and water for a couple of hours and see how I feel.

While running today at Apex Park in Golden I was thinking about how this style of running is like eating an all-chocolate diet. And if you don't like chocolate it's like eating only tenderloin. And if you are a vegan it's like eating a lot of fruit? I really don't know what vegans look forward to. At any rate, I've been enjoying it immensely and relishing it because I know I can't live on chocolate alone. I've already got my training schedule mapped out for my first 50k in June and it looks overwhelming. I've got a lot of miles ahead of me and a lot of filler runs.

Today, though, I finally started feeling excited about the upcoming structured schedule instead of feeling overwhelmed. My body surprised me and though I had a lot of stomach distress I managed to run farther and faster than I thought I could. Going in to this season I am a lot tougher both mentally and physically than this time last year. Last year I was preparing for a road marathon that I was not excited to run. This year I'm preparing for a few challenging races on some of my favorite trails.

And as I ran at Apex Park I realized that I will never grow weary of these trails. If we moved to Golden and these runs became my filler runs, I would be the happiest girl in the world. In Apex Park you can find relief from the relentless sun and blistering heat of the lower parks. You get to experience rocky climbs, pretty pine forests, and trickling creeks. And you get a lot less of those crusty dusty boogers that form from running in the more exposed, dry parks. 

The only downside for me is that sometimes I get nervous about mountain lions. The first time I explored Apex I didn't even think about it, but then when I went running there with Kristen before Thanksgiving we saw a mountain biker whiz past with a readied knife. The only explanation I could think of is that there must be mountain lions in the area. Even if that isn't the explanation, I can't stop thinking about mountain lions when I'm running in the more wooded sections. Since my trusty dog hates trails, I can't bring her on longs runs. Embarrassingly today I brought a knife. Maybe it was a false sense of security that surged through my veins, but it was security nonetheless. 

Confession: at one point I realized that having the knife was not enough. If I actually got attacked I wouldn't be able to get it out in time to fight off the lion. So I got it out, opened it, and ran with it in my hand. When I heard a rustling up the trail I felt a shot of adrenaline only to realize that it was just a woman hurtling down the trail towards me. I tried to shut the blade in time but once it's open it locks into place and takes a few seconds to figure out. After that I decided that running with an open knife was more likely to hurt me than any mountain lion.

Here are some pictures:

Funny looking deer friend.

This is December, folks.

The only snow I've seen in a while.

I must have seen at least 30 deer throughout the day. If I was a mountain lion I know where I'd be.

View of the city.

Green Mountain in the distance where we often run.

Monday, November 19, 2012

This is not a dog blog

I'm going to try my very hardest to not let this blog be dominated by dog-heavy posts. Right now, though, our pup is a dominate force in our life and so I find myself constantly talking about her. Cory says I need to tone down the Mayla stories because people aren't that interested, but I find myself unable to think about much else. We've only had her for a week and she already feels like part of the family.

Yesterday, though, I wasn't very happy with her. I've been taking her on a few short runs (3-4 miles) on the nearby bike trails and I've noticed that if she has the choice between pavement and dirt, she always chooses pavement. So when we pulled up at the trailhead yesterday she was enthusiastically sniffing coyote poop, but as soon as I started to run she lagged behind. We were going to do a 6.5 mile loop that has one big climb but has become relatively easy for me. It should have taken me no more than an hour and fifteen minutes but with her it took an extra half hour.

I'm not sure why she hated it so much. She dragged as much in the first mile as she did in the last mile so it wasn't that she tired out.  When I would walk and let her catch up she would energetically take the lead but as soon as she heard me running, she would slow down and eventually I would have to pull her. I experimented with dog booties on and off with no change in performance. I gave her water and treats but nothing gave her any more pep.

You can imagine my disappointment as the dog I love so much seems to hate the activity that I love so much. All week at work fellow cattle dog owners were telling me fantastical stories about how many miles their dog could run. One former elite marathoner told me her dog would run 20 miles with her. Another told me that she would take her dog for a run, hand it off to a friend to run with, who would hand it off to another friend so that they would all feel protected from mountain lions while on the trails.

I'm hoping she gets better and for now I'll dismiss it as post-traumatic stress from her previous days ordeals. I took her to a nearby field to play ball and on the way we met a guy and a kid with two dogs. One was the same breed as her but slightly larger and much more aggressive. I wanted her to socialize with others dogs better and so I let her check them out. Everything was going well until suddenly the dog bit her face. They followed us to the field and the owner assured me everything would be fine if they all played together. I did not believe him. I took her to a nearby tennis court and, though she acted fine, I checked her feet after 10 minutes of pavement pounding. Bloody toenails. Shelter must have trimmed them too short.

I really hope she learns to love trail running. After all, if I took a sedentary middle-aged person on the loop we did yesterday, they wouldn't have liked it very much either.

She doesn't like the socks much but they keep her from constantly licking her paws.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Mayla... the best distraction from running

Last Friday we got a dog!! She is a seven-year-old Australian Cattle Dog mix from a shelter down the street from us. We've been going to the shelter once or twice a week looking for the right dog and when we saw her we knew. She's cute and she can catch a ball like nobody's business. She has a high pain tolerance and the first time she went out to catch the ball she got a thorn in her foot. She was so excited about the ball that she didn't start limping until she had been playing for a half hour. I tried taking her on a run with me, but she would have none of it. I guess we'll have to wait for her to heal up a bit. This morning when I took her out she just sat on the cold pavement and started licking her feet. I guess she's a sensitive one. We bought her dog booties but they come off when she starts running.

At any rate, I'm not sure what kind of trail adventures we will be having in the short term. We're hoping she will show some more enthusiasm to running soon. I mean, what kind of cattle dog doesn't like to run? Our pup has been through some trauma these past few days and we want to give her time to settle in now that she's home from the shelter.

Ready and willing once she heals up.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Nostalgia on the Rainbow Trail

What do you do when you live in Colorado and you have two weekdays off of work? You go skiing. Is that what we do? No. It's not because we are too cool to go skiing. It is because we suck at skiing. So on Tuesday we drove 3 hours south to the Sangre de Cristos to run for two days on the Rainbow Trail. The Rainbow Trail is special to us because it runs out the back door from the camp where Cory and I met.

One time on the Rainbow Trail, I started to experience hypothermia when sunny conditions gave way to driving rain, which detiorated into hail. Unfortunately that was an introductory backpacking trip and I was supposed to be the group leader. That night the camp director got me out of there and let me sleep back at camp. What I never admitted was that it was actually far worse sleeping in a large, empty dormitory by myself. I kept the light on the whole night.

Later this trail is where Cory and I started to fall for each other. We had hiked Horn Peak with a group of other counselors and once we reached the Rainbow Trail, I asked if anyone wanted to run with me. Cory was the only one who said yes. As we blazed down the trail, I tried to convince myself to stay away from him. I already had a boyfriend.  Later this trail became Cory's escape after I told him I couldn't date him.

And here we were, years later and married. We parked at the Horn Creek Trailhead right behind camp and ran north on Tuesday afternoon. That night we camped (like a bunch of creeps) in sight of camp where we once took campers to do fort building. It was cold (25 degrees) and the coyotes serenaded us all night long. On Wednesday we woke up and ran south towards Humboldt.

It seems that we tend to argue a lot on the Rainbow Trail and this trip was no exception. I hate to be the weaker runner. I wish I was as fast as Cory, but I'm not. Therefore I tend to get left behind. Ordinarily this is fine, but I was not comfortable being left alone for the entire day when I knew I would be more likely to encounter a large predator than another person. I'm really not exaggerating. We did not see another soul on the trail, but in the past we have seen multiple bears (4 between the two of us) and we've also seen mountain lion tracks.

I really wanted to be able to push aside any fear. I recently read that 0.2 people die from mountain lion attacks every year while 16 people die from dog attacks. Trust me, I've tried to coax myself with every rational line of thinking. After arguing for the first 35 minutes, I told Cory to go ahead without me. Then I secretly decided that I would turn around early and wait at the car.  Then 15 minutes later, I saw him coming back for me. He said he didn't want to spend the whole run worrying about me. For the next 3 hours he would run ahead 15 minutes and then come back to me. What a great husband.

After we got back to the car, we drove into Westcliffe for a post-run tradition: enormous cinnamon rolls at the Sugar & Spice Mountain Bakery. If you are ever driving through Westcliffe you must stop there. You will be greeted by the most wonderfully awkward Mennonite woman who will provide you with huge servings for unusually reasonable prices.

Here are pictures:

View of the Sangres from the road to camp. Horn Peak is directly under the sun.

Cory heading north on the Rainbow Trail. He wants to set an FKT (Fastest Known Time) and run all 105 miles of it.

A familiar trail intersection.

We think the Sangres are greener than the other ranges.

Horn Peak and its darned false peak. Many a camper was left in despair after realizing how much farther it was to the top.

Snowy trails.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Never have I ever put a bumper sticker on my car

But if I did ever put a bumper sticker on my car it would say, "We love Jeffco Parks!" And just so you know "Never have I ever" is a drinking game. If you've ever put a bumper sticker on your car. Take a drink. Today we saw a guy with a bumper sticker that said, "Does this ass make my car look big?" and it had a picture of Obama's face. Never have I ever wanted to flick someone off more than today.

Back on track. Jefferson County has an amazing park system. Technically Jeffco has 26 Parks and Open Spaces but this is deceiving because sprinkled in between are many city-operated parks. The foothills are covered with trails and the best part is that you can get the same kind of elevation that you would get if you were starting from some cozy mountain town, except you are at a lower elevation. For example, you still get 1,000 foot climbs but you are starting at 6,000 feet instead of 10,000 feet.

Literally the beginning of the Rocky Mountains. They start here, folks.

We started at William Frederick Hayden Park on Green Mountain. I'm not sure who thought of that name but it is a mouthful. And if you are an Arrested Development fan then that should have triggered a Tobias quote and you can find a delightful montage here. Most people just call the park Green Mountain, but the problem is that there are a ton of "Green Mountains" including a much more well known one that I have blogged about here. The other problem is that the Green Mountain that we ran today is never really green. In fact it is totally exposed with only a few spotty shrubs and cacti.

Despite the egregiously long name and the lack of foliage, I love Green Mountain. You can find a link to a map here. We ran up and over the mountain, scraped the mud off of our shoes, and headed up Dinosaur Ridge. Dino Ridge is beautiful and actually has trees. The terrain is more technical and the views are more stunning. Unfortunately, it is very narrow like a Stegosaurus' backbone (though I think the ridge is actually named for the smaller fin-like rocks you can find on the trail) so you are up and over it in no time. But all you have to do is scamper across the street and you are in Matthew Winters Park.

Matthews Winters is also awesome and well-maintained. No need to tinkle behind a bush because there are fantastic year-round facilities! You can find a map of the park here. There are some rolling trails and then you  have the option to head up Morrison Slide or skirt around the mountain on the Red Rocks trail.

View of Green Mountain from Morrison Slide

If you are feeling expeditious you can keep following the trail to Red Rocks and go laugh at the people doing stadium workouts in the ampitheatre. I have not gone that far yet. On my way back I played tag with some mountain bikers on Dinosaur Ridge. I would pass them on the way up and they would pass me on the way down. It was a little frustrating but in the end it pushed me to go faster and take less uphill walk breaks. I did feel pretty good about myself when I realized that I could run faster than these guys could bike.

Enjoying a rolling section in Matthews Winters.

This feeling of pride quickly eroded after I headed back up Green Mountain. Even though I passed two more mountain bikers, my legs felt like lead. I saw some strange coyote poop and a girl being pulled by a dog. She had tied a rope to her waist and connected her large dog to it. May be advantageous on the uphill, not sure about the down hills. At the top I decided to try a new gel for the first time. It was called Chocolate #9 and it was disgusting. Tasted like a mash of those nasty calcium chews that moms and doctors try to convince teenage girls to eat.

When I got back to the car I was almost as tired as when I ran my marathon. I think that's a good sign. We went to Chipotle for post-run burritos and they were playing a Bollywood version of "Man of Constant Sorrow." Confusingly wonderful.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Where does the motivation come from?

These past two weeks since my marathon, I've had a few conversations that have made me question why it is that I love to run. It started with a phone conversation with my mom. After I told her about the race she said something like, "I don't know why you and your dad like to do these crazy running adventures. There's nothing wrong with a little walk or a run, but I don't think I would ever want to do something that painful. What kind of enjoyment do you get out of it?" This was a very valid point and I didn't have a good answer for her.

Throughout the week customers at the store would notice me hobbling around and I would tell them not to mind my slowness because I had just run a trail marathon. Every time I offer information about my running to a customer I secretly hope that they will exclaim, "I'm a long-distance trail runner as well! Let's be running buddies and bff's and we'll conquer the mountains together. Girl power! Do you like dogs? And beer? And do you promise to never talk about politics?" But alas, that never happens. All I got was, "You ran a marathon? Did you do the Rock N' Roll Marathon?" And then I realized what it must feel like for ultra-runners who tell people they are going to Europe for a race and that race isn't UTMB. That's what you get for loving obscure sports.

Then, last Sunday, my husband and I went for a long run at Golden Gate Canyon State Park (we both want to do a 50k race there in June). We got back, showered, rushed off to church, rushed off to a friend's place to watch the Packer game and came home late. Cory brought up the very valid argument that now that we are done with our racing seasons we should actually rest. He said that we shouldn't just keep going off for all-day running adventures every weekend. Though I now see the wisdom in his point, I reacted defensively. But then I had to take a moment to examine why I am so possessive over my "right to run."

Obviously people all run for different reasons, but I think long-distance trail runners tend to run for similar reasons. If you are reading this and you are a runner (long, short, trail, road, treadmill) and you understand your own running motivations, I would love to see your comments. I don't think there is a right or a wrong reason to run and I don't want it to come across that my motivations are better than others'.

Whatever my motivation is to run, I know that it has pushed me to abandon road-racing and that I now hate running on pavement at all. I know that if I were to ever do a 5k or 10k again it would have to be pretty cheap (why pay $35 for a 5k when a trail marathon costs around $80?). I know that I would be reluctant to do a race with a big field where you have to wait for all-eternity to use a port-a-potty and where you are stampeded as you try to grab a cup of water from a race volunteer. I know that I have no interest in doing a color run, zombie run, warrior dash, etc. though I think that those races are great because they attract people who are motivated by other things. Cory loves orienteering races where you use a map to navigate a wilderness area and find the greatest number of checkpoints within a time limit. I have no desire to do those events.

So now that I know these things, what is there to deduce about my running motivations? Sometimes it's easier to realize what doesn't motivate you. I am not a social runner (though I am a social person) and large races with an overwhelming sense of camaraderie just make me anxious (read: I will never run Boston). I'm not motivated by a need to pursue a PR otherwise I would be more attracted to flatter road races. I do not need distractions like paint, costumes, or mud pits to take my mind off of the pain because I like the pain. I am not motivated by a need to "master" something because after I complete a distance I usually want to take on something more challenging.

Alright so I guess it's time to figure out what I am motivated by. I have a few ideas that don't totally mesh together, but here we go. The greatest thing that motivates me is a need to feel connected to creation. Your not going to get preached at here, but I think that I was designed by a creator and when I'm out in creation I feel content. Confession: When I'm running back to my house I have to head east and sometimes I run backwards so that I can look at the mountains. Something stirs in my heart when I am surrounded by natural beauty and I feel overwhelmed by a peace that transcends understanding.

But it's not all butterflies and cute,fuzzy marmots. I'm also motivated by a desire to feel pain. I don't really know how to explore this. There are a lot of psychologists that have theories on these types of things but I don't want to over-analyze what happened in my childhood or what's going on in my brain. One thing I do know is that mastering your pain gives you an overwhelming sense of control. And when there's not a lot you can control in your life, it's nice to know that physical pain doesn't have a hold on you. The idea of constant, unending pain sounds like hell, but in a race situation your pain has parameters. You know roughly what kind of pain it will be, when it will end, and how to manage it.

And the motivation that I struggle with the most is the need to better myself. I hate to admit, but my running is a selfish activity. I don't help make the world a better place through my running. I'm never going to be a running icon and I'm never going to inspire people with my physical feats. I'm pretty average. But when it comes down to it, we all want to be special.  When I'm out running miles of trail I'm doing something that most people cannot do. The average person could complete a 5k. Therefore, 5ks do not interest me. To take this thought a little further, when I completed my first half-marathon I was doing something that I could not previously do. Maybe it wasn't super-human, but it was super-self. Someday when I finish my first 100 miler I will have accomplished something that I cannot currently do now.

So that's all I got. If you are still reading, I guess I'm wondering what motivated you to make it to the end. I would love to know more about others so please comment. Dad, I know you have something to say. My marathon report got 79 views not including my own so I guess I'm wondering if Blogger is lying to me.

Me leaving my other love (my road bike) to go for a run in Cherry Creek SP

The view from the top of the Coyote trail in Golden Gate Canyon SP

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A lot can change in a year

A year ago from today I ran my first half marathon, the Buffalo Creek Half Marathon in Pennsylvania. It was an incredibly easy net-downhill half marathon on a crushed gravel rails-to-trails path. I was pretty happy to finish in 1:50, but on the drive home I told Cory that I didn't think I could ever run a mile more than what I had just raced. I was certain that I never wanted to do a full marathon. And here I am a year later with a trail marathon under my belt.

One thing's for sure, training for and running a marathon wasn't doubly as hard as a half marathon. After finishing my marathon I said to Cory again that I don't think I could possibly run more than 26 miles. But now I've been thinking that the same principle should apply to running a 50 miler. It shouldn't be doubly as hard, right? As of now I'm thinking of sticking to some 50k races...

Hopefully I'll be back in Wisconsin running the Ice Age Trail during the North Face Endurance Challenge.

Monday, October 8, 2012

What's Done is Done: Blue Sky Marathon Race Report

This morning when I got out of bed I was unable to move but felt oh-so-relieved that I had finished my race. On Saturday I insisted that we camp at Horsetooth Reservoir so that we would be near the trailhead for my marathon on Sunday. From the get-go Cory didn't think this was a good idea and gently questioned my reasoning without telling me "no." My thought was that I would rather wake up at 5 am, get dressed, and check in with enough time to hit up the port-a-potty line than to wake up at 3 am, drive two hours, stress out about parking and experience an overall state of "flusteration."

In theory my reasoning might have been good, but I can be stubborn and when the forecast called for night-time temperatures in the mid 20s and a 26-degree race start, I didn't want to be dissuaded from my plan. I came up with excuses like, "We have good down sleeping bags," or, "It will be easier to get going if we wake up in a frozen tent instead of in our warm bed." So on our way to Fort Collins as we were driving through snow flurries, I kept my mouth shut. I didn't want to admit that maybe my plan was a mistake.

As I fell asleep that night with my contact lenses stowed away in my pants pocket so that they wouldn't freeze, I pushed away the regret and reminded myself, "What's done is done." I couldn't let myself start conjuring up excuses for poor race performance. That night we woke up many more times than we would if we were sleeping in our own bed and various horror movie trailers that we had seen before the movie "Looper" started playing through my head. But morning came and I stripped off my two pairs of pants and 3 shirts and got ready for the race.

When we arrived at the race parking lot, we were informed that it was a 1.2 mile walk down to the race start. This didn't bother me because the walk would help us warm up (we were already frozen from the night before). After picking up my race bib, I realized how much of a mistake it was to arrive early. There were no buildings to warm up in. All around us were race volunteers and runners who had carpooled together staying warm in their cars. Apparently if we had one more person in our car we would have been allowed to park there. I tried to stand by peoples cars and give them my most plaintive cold face but no one invited me in to their roomy SUVs. Race start neared and I figured, "What's done is done." No excuses.

By the time the race got going I could not feel my feet, a problem that I thought would be remedied in the first mile or two. Wrong. Finally after 3 miles, I could feel a few of my toes. Unfortunately this warming process was excruciatingly painful. For a long time I thought that my second and third toe on my right foot were crossed. I kept reasoning with myself that there was no way that that could actually happen, but this began a day strangely filled with mind games. Later on in a hot and sunny stretch I thought that a rock was a mountain lion and that I was carrying my water bottle upside-down and panicked because I thought all of the water had spilled out (it was right-side up the whole time).

The first 5 miles of the course are supposedly the hardest. Between miles 3 and 5 we climbed almost 1,000 feet. After we started the descent I ran with a guy named Mike who had run a ton of marathons and a couple of 50 milers. He said that he has a tendency to go out too strong in the beginning of races and that he thought I was running the perfect pace. In exchange for my "pacing," he regaled me with stories of rattlesnakes and mountain lions on his races in Utah and told me about the time he got stuck between a moose and her calf.  We swapped over-use injury stories. This was probably my favorite part of the race; the miles ticked by quickly. Most of all, this just really made me miss running with my dad who's always been my best running buddy.

Unfortunately during these miles I started feeling stomach discomfort. I had only eaten one gel but I felt like I was going to throw up. By the end of the day I wish that I had thrown up instead of what really happened. The most important lesson I learned is that you should always make sure your crew has an extra pair of underwear for you. I'll let you fill in the blanks. All together I spent 5 minutes on a pit toilet and 5 minutes behind a cactus. And as I was running I began thinking about how unjust it is that a runner can say at the end of a race, "I threw up on the side of the trail and it threw my whole race off, " and everyone nods understandingly and asks if they've replenished their electrolytes, etc. If you have issues on the other end and you started talking about it, people would cut you off saying "TMI!" and make an effort to never talk to you or read your blog again.

Moving on... overall my day was characterized by running with "old" men. I prefer to call it "running with the masters." One guy from Wyoming told me about how grueling the Quad Rock race was and kept making jokes about there being couches and potato chip mirages on the trail. Sadly this guy started to slow down and I soon realized that I was towards the back half of the pack. This was a very disconcerting thought for me and I pondered it for the next 10 miles. Instead of beating myself up I thought about the type of people who are drawn to rugged trail marathons.

If I had run the Denver Rock N Roll Marathon two weeks ago I probably would have been in the top third of women finishers. If I had run the half marathon, there would have been a large pack of slower women behind me. But at this race, where women composed less than 40% of the overall field, those "weekend warriors" weren't drawn to the crowd. All of the women running this race were tough and experienced. Therefore, I'm forcing myself not to feel too bad about how I placed. Interestingly posted an article by Ellie Greenwood about female participation in ultramarathons that you can read here.

Finally I began the switchbacks over the last small mountain/ large hill. Just after I crested the top my last gel fell out of my vest. At this point I was so tired and so frustrated with my vest that I decided that there was no way in hell I was going to take any more uphill steps than necessary and I left the gel where it lay. Now I mention this in order to segue to how unhappy I was with how the Mountain Hardwear Fluid race vest performed for me. Gels fell out of the vest three times during the race and the first time was within the first mile when everyone is running close together like a stampede. The pockets in the vest just aren't deep enough to hold anything. The worst problem was that there was a hook on the back of the vest that kept catching on my hair. Since I didn't want to stop and take off the vest I had to grab my braid and rip my hair. By the end of the race I had an enormous hair ball attached to my vest and my scalp was aching. Male runners seem to love this vest but I don't think I will ever wear it again.

But this is not a gear review, it is a race report. The last 5 miles were torturous. Nothing prepares you for the pain that you will experience at the end of a race. The pain you feel doing interval training or hill repeats is different; I consider that pain a tolerable and somehow pleasant burn. The pain at the end of a long race is overwhelming. It forces you to change your stride because certain muscles stop working altogether. Finally when I reached the finish line I started tearing up (fortunately I was wearing sunglasses). The emotion wasn't because of the pain, it was because I didn't truly know if I was capable of enduring to the finish.

I realized at mile 22 that I wasn't going to make my time goal of 5:30 in order to qualify for the Pikes Peak marathon. Again I reminded myself that what's done is done. My revised goal was to break 6 hours and I made that goal with 30 seconds to spare. Strangely I'm not all that upset about my time. I'm just so happy to be done.

Photo by Erin Bibeau Photography

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Adversity: A condition marked with misfortune, calamity, or distress

Today my husband told me that he's not sure that he wants to race anymore. I am 99% sure that when he wakes up in the morning he will start thinking about his next race. And then when he's crewing for me during my race next Sunday he will be methodically thinking about his race that he suffered through today trying to figure out how to make improvements next time. I can already picture him making notes in his little black moleskin journal that he brings everywhere.

This morning we woke up at 4 am and headed out to Lakewood for the Bear Chase Race. After parking, we hopped on a bus to be shuttled to the start along with a crew of sleepy athletes. As we rode along in the dark, one flustered man sitting behind us got on the phone with his significant other and started ranting about how he forgot his race belt back at the car. Everyone started looking uncomfortably at each other as his conversation escalated. Finally he asked the bus driver to pull over at a gas station and let him out. Then he proceeded to pace back and forth on the bus until he finished his phone conversation and gathered his belongings. As soon as he got off the bus there were a few snickers and the girl next to us make quite a funny joke that I will not repeat.

Anyway, as the bus resumed course Cory realized that he forgot his hand held water bottle in the car. Seeing that I am not a morning person I did not handle the situation gracefully. I ended up taking the bus back to the car while Cory made pre-race preparations. It was a good thing because the extremely friendly lady driving the bus did not know how to get back to the parking lot where she was supposed to pick up more runners. When we finally got to the pitch-black parking lot I played a wonderful game of hide and go seek with our black car because Cory had the headlamp. Fun times.

The sun rose and the runners were off (and Cory was very happy to have his water bottle). We had discussed Cory's race plan in depth so that he would not run his typical race... which is run fast until you don't have anything left. He was aiming to be between 7-12th place in the first half of the race and move up steadily from there. Additionally he had set time goals for each lap. This year was a little more competitive than previous years and so he was pulled into running 4 minutes under his goal pace for the first lap. By the second lap he had slowed up a bit and hit his goal pace.

Hamiltons (I'm assuming brothers) burning through their second lap on their way to a record setting finish.

There is really only one climb on this relatively flat course. On his last lap I met him at the bottom of the climb  at mile 24 because he wasn't looking so happy at mile 19. Shortly after this point the vomiting began. Unaware of his GI distress, I was panicking at the finish line because an hour and twenty minutes after his projected finish he still wasn't in. I wanted so badly for him to have a successful race to cap off the season. With help from aid station volunteers who forced him to take electrolytes and liquids, he somehow managed to get himself to the finish line.

Shortly before throwing up.

We are still not sure what brought on this "adverse" situation. He got good sleep, ate a good breakfast, and kept a consistent eating schedule during the race. I'm betting my money on the expired Clif Shots that he insists we keep (He's napping right now so I should probably sneak off and throw them out). At any rate, I'm proud of my guy and I'm going to be thinking of him next Sunday when I'm racing. If he was able to drag himself through those horrible miles, then I can't think of any excuse that should stop me.

To be honest, though, I am really nervous. I've felt so successful at other distances, but my last marathon experience left me in a funk. Quitting at mile 18 from nerve pain in my hip, left me feeling incredibly depressed. You invest so much time into marathon training that when you drop out all you can think about is all of those Saturday or Sunday mornings that you were out running instead of spending quality time with other people and how you spent the rest of those days feeling post-run nausea. Why do we do it? Why is it so addictive?

Personally, I think I do it because I want to see how much pain I can handle. Some people say that they trail run because they want to enjoy the scenery, but I think that's just an excuse to cover for some sort of masochism. If you just wanted to enjoy the scenery you would go backpacking or hiking instead and wouldn't do the same punishing routes over and over again. The scenery is a bonus, but I think I want to show myself that I am capable of something extraordinary. Let's face it, I'm not going to be the first woman President or discover the cure to cancer. There is nothing about me that proclaims greatness. I'm never going to change the world. This isn't meant to sound depressing; I am ok with this reality. I just want to live a humble life where day by day I push my own physical and mental limits.

And I think this comes back to why I am so nervous for my upcoming race. I've dropped out of a marathon once. If I drop out again does this mean that I've reached my physical limit? I don't want to know what my physical limit is. I don't want to be cut short in my 20s. I don't want to tell my kids about how, back in the day, I tried to run marathons but was never successful. Damned sure I'm not going to let that happen.

So even if I throw up, even if I have shooting nerve pain down my hamstring, even if there is record October heat, I'm going to get myself to that finish line. After witnessing Cory's extraordinary effort to persevere through his race, I'm not going to let myself do any less.

Need inspiration? Here's Jeanne Cooper breaking the women's record by 28 minutes.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Long run ordeals

Sometimes long runs can be empowering therapeutic sessions that can sustain you through the next few days, weeks, or even the month. I have had long runs where I receive surprising mental clarity and peace of mind. After these runs I rest well, sleep hard, and wake up refreshed and motivated for days to come. I have not had a long run like this in a long time.

Yesterday I was supposed to get in my last 20 miler before my trail marathon in 3 weeks. This run was really important because I've been forced to skimp on some long runs lately. Last weekend we ran in Indian Peaks, but different factors forced us to turn back early cutting our run down to 11 miles. The weekend before I was supposed to do 19 miles in Fort Collins where my race is going to be, but again I had to turn back early because I started experiencing heat exhaustion (not a shred of shade on Devil's Backbone or the Blue Sky Trail to take refuge in). Obviously I had high expectations for my long run this past weekend.

Things started out fine. The weather was sunny but cool and Cory and I got an early enough start. I brought extra food and water because I was determined that nothing would make me turn back. I ran familiar trails at Bear Creek Lake Park. Nothing could go wrong, right? About 6 miles in I started noticing red signs with arrows and started hypothesizing that some sort of race was in progress. I didn't see anyone around so I kept trying to make myself believe that some crew had just come through to set up markers for an event in the future. The markers followed my predetermined route for the next 2.5 miles and I came across an unmanned aid station but still no racers. Finally I came upon a crowd of spectators and asked what was going on: an off-road triathlon.

Right as I got my response a mountain biker whizzed by and headed on to the trail I was about to run. Determined not to be discouraged, I plunged in after him and got quite a few dirty looks from the spectators who obviously thought the trails should be shut down to the public. In ordinary circumstances I would agree with them. I already felt sick to my stomach from the run (mostly because I had eaten pizza the night before despite my lactose-intolerance), but knowing that I had mountain bikers behind me made it even worse. I could blend in with runners but I knew the mountain bikers would be annoyed with me and possibly aggressive. Which they were. I soon fell in to a routine of looking over my shoulder every thirty seconds, twisting my ankle, getting yelled at by a biker and stumbling off the single-track trail.

By mile 10 I was discouraged. I had only been followed up by the mountain bikers for 1.5 miles but the constant stepping on and off the trail made it take forever and it was impossible for me to get into a rhythm. If I continued on my route, the bikers would  behind me for 7 of the last 10 miles. Abort mission. For me running is much more a mental game than a physical one. When I get discouraged and angry, embarrassing tears start to sting my eyes, my legs become lead, and my throat starts to close off. When competing in the Kentucky Derby Marathon this last April, sciatic back pain made every step after mile 17 excruciatingly painful. Soon I felt overwhelmed and had to quite because of my stupid tears.

Well I was determined to make sure that I didn't let myself induce an asthma attack on this run. I changed my route to avoid the bikers as best as possible. It meant that I would only be able to squeeze in 17 miles, 1 more mile with bikers and 6 miles without. As I started back around I felt fear creeping in. I started to worry that not getting in 20 miles meant that I wouldn't be able to finish my race in October. I haven't had a single good long run this training cycle. I started beating myself up and telling myself how I'm a failure. I see other people finish marathons like it's no big deal. This past year I watched my sister-in-law post a 3:24 marathon debut on little training. I met a co-worker and friend who runs 3-4 road marathons a year without injury. I met a 65-year-old man hiking Pikes Peak with his family even though he had just run the marathon the day before. I watched numerous people less fit than I pass me crying on the side of the road when I dropped out of the Derby Marathon.

I'm not a quitter. But lately it seems that I keep falling short of my goals. I'm not sure what the solution is. Should I make easier goals for myself? How do we determine what is realistic and what is not? This past weekend was the Run Rabbit Run 100 mile race in Steamboat Springs. Before the race I was reading's preview and it mentioned that "Despite his experience, Karl [Meltzer] ain’t gonna add this year’s Run Rabbit Run to his list of 30+ 100 mile victories." I read that and agreed. Karl is getting older and there were a lot of stellar young runners competing in the event. Guess who won the race? So I guess I gleaned from that lesson that you can't even let other people tell you what you are capable of.

Maybe this is why I'm so drawn to distance-running. It's unpredictable. It's one of the few sports where you can surprise other people and you can even surprise yourself. I didn't get my 20 miler in but I've been through a lot of suffering this race cycle. I can guarantee that I'm going to endure a lot of suffering during my trail marathon. Maybe I've gotten everything I needed out of my training. Physically I know I can go the distance and getting in an easy breezy long run wouldn't have helped. Instead I faced heat exhaustion, dehydration, GI issues, unexpected route failures, foot and back pain, "woman pains", and other obstacles. If I've been able to endure all this then I'm going to be able to endure what ever race day dishes out.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I blame it on the Hunger Games

I've been a writing delinquent these past two weeks and I'm sorry. My only excuse is those darn good Hunger Games books. My life has been working, running, and reading. I should never be allowed to read fiction because my mind gets too carried away and I end up dwelling on how I wish my life had as much purpose as someone struggling to bring down a dystopian governmental system while keeping all of her loved ones alive. In order to get my head out of the fog I had a few adventures of my own.

1. Cory at the Breck Crest Marathon
To be honest I spent most of the day reading book two. I kept shaking all day and I couldn't figure out if it was because the book was so riveting or if it was race excitement. Normally I try to meet Cory at multiple points during a race to give him food, water, and encouragement but this course is difficult to spectate from. The aid stations are remote and so I waited anxiously at the start/finish line. Cory has a tendency to start fast. After a lot of road racing and training, it's hard to know how to pace yourself on trails. He held third place for the beginning of the race and gradually slipped back to seventh by the end. Considering that we haven't been doing a lot of climbing during training runs, I'd say he did pretty well. Notably first place Nick Pedatella finished at least 15 minutes ahead of the next competitor.
Cory keeping it together at the finish.

2. Long run in the Indian Peaks Wilderness
Cory's sister Kristen came to visit and we took her out for a little mountain running. Apparently Linfield's don't need time to acclimate because based on her ability you would think that Ohio must be at 9,000 feet elevation.  Still trying to convince her to move.
This guy is only happy in the mountains.

I guess I'm pretty happy, too.

It's starting to look like fall in the mountains.

Kristen doesn't get many hills in Ohio.

Up by Devils Thumb lake... thinking about lunch.

3. Climbing at Ampitheatre Rock in Boulder
Until yesterday, all the climbing experience I had was at indoor gyms. Now that I've had my first outdoor experience, I think that I could easily get hooked on climbing. It's strange to realize this, but I think I honestly enjoy being in pain. I tend to day dream a lot but pain keeps me in the moment. It helps me focus and motivates me to pursue tangible goals. When you are climbing there is a simple goal... to reach the top. I'm very goal-oriented and I like to get things done, but lately I've felt very confused about what I'm supposed to be striving towards in life. It was so refreshing to climb, see where my goal was, and to feel tangible and motivating pain along the way. After coming back to the ground I would relish those brief moments of accomplishment before entering back into reality. We only did two climbs. Cory's uncle Roger has decades of climbing experience took us to a popular location in Boulder. After showing us how to set up a top rope he had us warm up on a class 4 crack. We found that pretty easy and tackled a 5.6 climb next. It took us a while but we all got it done. Linfields aren't quitters.
Cory taking on the Class 4 climb

Roger happy to have an active nephew to belay.

Kristen warming up on the Class 4 crack.

Cory at the crux of the 5.6 climb.
Taking some time to focus on my second attempt.

I learned that I'm one of those swear-under-your-breath climbers.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Quest for the Perfect Hydration System

Here I will review and compare two great hydration vests that have served me well: The Nathan HPL #020 and the Mountain Hardwear Fluid Race Vest. Everyone has different hydration preferences for endurance activities and for a while I've been trying to figure out what the best system is for me. In a race scenario where you have aided support every few miles, sometimes a vest is unnecessary. During long training runs, though, I almost always need more water than what I can carry in my hands. Some people prefer having a bladder with a tube running over their shoulder that they can drink from, but I prefer to at least have one handheld. If the water is not in my hand, I will forget to drink regularly and my thirst will soon catch up to me.  For most of my longs runs I carry a ~20 oz handheld bottle and a vest with anywhere from 1 to 2 liters. After my handheld runs out I transfer some water from my bladder into my bottle. I know that the method I currently use is not the most time efficient but I have yet to find a better solution. I find that sucking water from a tube tends to leave my mouth more dry, which makes me think that I'm thirstier than I really am. So without further rambling, here are my reviews.

Nathan HPL #020
The Lowdown
This vest technology seems to be the current standard. It is well designed, highly adjustable, roomy enough for almost any size/shape bladder and additional nutrition. The fabrics are very lightweight but compared to newer models and alternatives produced by other brands, this vest would be on the "heavier" end. This vest has one main zippered compartment for a bladder with a smaller zippered compartment for nutrition, etc. There are two adjustable side straps that bring the load closer to the body and one adjustable sternum strap that can slide to varying heights. The right front pocket has a drawstring and is big enough for an additional bottle (I sometimes use it for my camera). The left pocket features a small zippered compartment with an open elastic pocket over the top of it.

The Specs
Weight: 10 oz.
Total capacity: 400 cu. in. (6.55L)

The Opinion
This vest is well suited to the needs that I have. Though sweatier men might find this vest too heavy, I do not mind the thicker back compartment. As my hydration bladder starts to give off condensation, none of that moisture tends to leak through to my skin. Additionally, the enclosed and zippered compartment keeps my water cooler for longer. I often run home from work and so the 3 zippered compartment options give me enough room to securely store the odds and ends I need to bring home from work (keys, phone, sunglasses, an extra layer). When I'm hit with an afternoon shower, I know that my stuff will stay relatively dry for a few miles until I make it home. Out on the trail I usually bring a map because I tend to get lost and the front pockets give me enough space to keep a map, my small camera, and my next gel handy. The feature that I would praise the most about this vest is the adjustability. This vest fits my husband perfectly but I can still cinch it down to fit me, though it wouldn't fit someone much smaller than me (a 32 band size), though Nathan offers a women-specific version. Because there are 3 places where the straps can be adjusted, no one strap becomes too long and flappy - a problem I run into with the Fluid vest. Straps take a little bit of time to adjust but once straps are situated there will be no slippage. Overall this vest is extremely handy and dependable, and, though it's roominess can be a little much for races, it's versatility makes it an excellent investment.

Mountain Hardwear Fluid Race Vest
The Lowdown
This lightweight vest is designed for racing (as the name points out) so as expected, the features are minimal and users should not expect to fit the kitchen sink in this vest. The mesh back panel puts a thin layer between a hydration bladder and your back and an even thinner mesh panel overlaid with a quick-draw elastic lacing system that holds everything secure. There are no adjustable side straps and there are two sternum straps that can tighten and also adjust up and down (though this takes a minute). The right front pocket has a thin mesh compartment and the left front pocket has a small zippered pouch with an overlaid mesh compartment.

The Specs
Weight: 6 oz.
Capacity: 1 L

The Opinion
This vest is lightweight and forces you to bring only the necessities. In a racing situation where you have aid relatively close by, all you need is the necessities. Most people don't need more than 1L of water to get to the next aid station in a race scenario, but during a long training run more water is often required. If your water is cooled at the beginning of your run, then the condensation can pass through the mesh fabric to your back... this can be either annoying or refreshing. The quick-draw elastic strap on the back panel allows you to securely attach an extra layer. This vest didn't work well for me on a commuting run home from work because there was no secure pockets to store my valuables. The small zippered pockets work well for keys but when I stored my small phone in the right front pocket it fell out on the sidewalk. I stored a gel in the left front pocket and that fell out once as well. The pockets are a great feature but they aren't very deep. Additionally when I got stuck in a thunderstorm everything in my vest immediately got soaked. In a race situation you probably wouldn't be carrying anything more valuable than a small car key and so this wouldn't be an issue. This vest fits my husband perfectly but is too large for me to get a great fit. Hopefully down the road Mountain Hardwear will offer a model designed for women. The only adjustable straps are the sternum straps and I have to pull those as tight as possible. As a result I have dangly straps flapping in the wind. To fix this, my husband added some thin nylon cord to hold the straps together (see picture below). The fabric is very quick-drying and lightweight but I found that when I wore a sleeveless shirt or just ran in a sports bra, the vest chafed around my neck and arms. The chafing was pretty minor and felt no more scratchy than a fine merino wool fabric. In the end, this vest is excellent for what it was designed for - a minimal racing vest that will get you to your crew within 10 miles down the trail.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Pikes Peak Marathon Report

It has been an exciting weekend for trail running with the Waldo 100k, Leadville 100, and Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon all happening in the course of 48 hours. Waldo had an exciting finish with a late surge from Timothy Olson to nab the first place spot. Leadville was an exciting race with lots of ups and downs between the stacked men's and women's fields. More on that from Cory when he gets home. He was at the OB aid station most of the day and paced someone all night long. The Pikes Peak Ascent on Saturday was very exciting as a new women's course record was set by Kim Dobson. But what I'm really here to talk about is the marathon.

This year, the Pikes Peak Marathon was a can't miss event. Though the PPM is one of the country's oldest marathons, it has lived in a bit of obscurity. It's a grueling event as the first 13 miles are entirely uphill with the last 3ish miles resting above tree line where the air is thin and the stomachs grow weak. Runners can be great at the ascending miles but if their bodies don't deal well with the altitude, then performance will suffer. This is what makes the event so exciting and unpredictable. Additionally, runners must be efficient on the quad-killing descent.

Matt Carpenter's name will always be tied to the event. Since the late 80s he has been a force in either the Ascent, Marathon, or in both races (referred to as "doubling"). This weekend his course records for the PPM and the Leadville 100 were under threat. I'm kind of happy that neither of these records were broken, because Matt's accomplishments at both events are something that us young runners should revere and respect. Last year, Matt did not even plan to start the race until he woke up that morning. One of our friends, Dave Corsten, ran the race last year and said that everyone was theorizing about whether he would start the race. Two minutes before the gun went off Matt toed the line and blew away the competition.

Since Matt was so unsure about racing last year, it's no surprise that he declined to race this year. He would have had to face the insanely talented Killian Jornet who, at 24, is in his running prime and it wouldn't have been a fair fight since Matt first started doing this race the year that Killian was born. Over the years, a few of the nation's top athletes have taken on Matt only to be beat in the end. But what made this year different was the depth of talent in the men's field. Top runners Max King, Dave Mackey, Greg Vollet, and others who are equally as talented but perhaps lesser known (at least by me) started the race. It could have been anyone's day. The real question was whether Matt's record would be taken down.

Just in case, I showed up at the finish with enough time to catch any record breakers. I am a big fan of Killian Jornet and I find his ventures very inspirational. Ask any young trail runner who inspires them and Killian's name will probably be at the top of the list. But on this particular day, I hoped that he would be slightly off of Matt's record. I really wanted him to win, but Matt's record is a legacy and to me it symbolizes how hard work and determination can pay off. The man has given a large part of his life to this race series. I was nervous that Killian would come in and bust that up like it was no big deal.

Killian did dominate field today setting a new age-group descent record. He was 24 minutes off of Matt's course record (showing what a beast Matt was in his prime). Though second place was close behind him at the summit, he stretched his lead over Alex Nichols to seven minutes by the finish line. Funny story about Killian's finish... I was about a quarter mile from the finish line so that I could get some good pictures. Near me was a woman with a radio and her job was to call in the numbers of runners so that the announcer could say their names over the loudspeaker at the finish. She must have been stressed about her job because she started yelling at Killian since he had taken his shirt off and she couldn't see his number. Killian was startled by the beratement so I started yelling "Go Killian!" until others caught on.  C'mon, we don't need to see his number to know who he is.

Max King (U.S. Mountain Running team member and champion) was just 3 minutes behind Nichols to round out the podium. Notably, perennial power-house Dave Mackey finished in 7th place and looked like he had just come in from a relaxing afternoon of fly-fishing (see picture below). The women's race was even more exciting because Emelie Forsberg was third to the summit but had moved to the lead on the descent and Kasie Enman was within a few seconds of her until the finish. Third-place Mireia Varela from Spain was just four minutes back. Shows the importance of being a good down-hiller.

The real question of the day is how Solomon can afford to sponsor so many athletes.

Killian Jornet making it look easy.

Alex Nichols looking fresh with windswept hair.

Max King showing off the quads of an uphill world champion.

J Marshall Thomson trying to make a point to Killian that you can run well with lots of clothes on.

Greg Vollet thinking about how the French Alps are prettier than Pikes Peak.

Oscar Casal representing the awesome and tiny country of Andorra.

Dave Mackey smiling like a champ. He passed 3 people on the downhill.

Emilie Forsberg leading the women and almost making it into the top 10. 

Kasie Enman showing that you can be a mom, live/train in the east, and still be awesome.

Spain's Mireia Varela shooting down the home stretch and ensuring that only Team Solomon athletes round out the women's podium. She was too fast for me to catch on camera close up.