Saturday, June 30, 2012

I'm going to miss you North Park

If you know me, you know that I love the mountains. I've never felt more free than when I'm in the mountains. Every time I drive west, after getting through the plains states I'm constantly scanning the horizon for the first glimpse of mountains. If you've driven with me we've probably had this dialogue:

Me: Look! There they are! You can finally see the mountains!
You: No, Allisa. Calm down. Those are just clouds.
(Repeat conversation at half hour intervals)

So it may come as no surprise that I'm am very excited to move to Denver with Cory two weeks from today. What has surprised me the most, though, is how nostalgic I've been feeling about Pennsylvania lately. Growing up in Wisconsin, I thought I knew the meaning of "lush" and "verdant" but being in Pittsburgh has redefined that for me. I know that in just two weeks I'm going to be missing the dense forests of Pennsylvania.

The other day I was working up at the equipment room and on the way home I stopped at North Park for a trail run.  Every time I go, I marvel at how many runners are on the roads. I used to be one of those runners when I was training for a road-marathon this past spring. I would run laps around the lake trying to beat my body into racing condition, but all I was doing was killing my spirit. I knew there were awesome trails surrounding me but I would try to forget them because my training plan said I needed to do 20 miles at a certain pace.

That didn't work out too well for me when it came around to race time and so I'm trying to be more spontaneous and free-spirited with my training. If I feel good then I should run longer, and if I'm feeling poorly then I should not feel that I need to force a workout. At the end of the week I make sure my mileage adds up. I went to North Park with the intention to run for at least 5 miles of trail, but brought enough with me to sustain me well beyond that. I was rewarded with the most life-giving trail run of the summer.

I started out at the Rachel Carson trail terminus and ran a 10 mile loop that was used in the Marshall Mangler 50k that Cory ran last fall. Most of the section is a rolling single-track mountain bike trail that weaves through awesome pine groves and through small patches of prairie. I saw 5 deer, including a fawn that was no bigger than a puppy (but could definitely run faster than I was running). I also startled a large group of wild turkeys. Maybe not too exciting since turkey and deer are pretty common, but I was filled with such joy. I tried to savor the run knowing that soon I will need to be more cautious about running into bears or mountain lions after we move to Colorado.

When I got back to my car I felt bad for the dozens of people out running the roads in the blazing sun. Most people don't even know about the great trail system North Park has to offer. I saw a total of 3 people out of the trails. Best kept secret of the Pittsburgh area. Next time I go out, I'll have to take some pictures.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Why Now?

I've been thinking about starting a running blog for about 5 months. I repeatedly come back to my favorite running blogs for inspiration when I'm feeling reluctant to get out the door, when I'm sidelined by injuries, and when I doubt my abilities as a runner. But since there are so many blogs out there written by amazing runners, I feel as if there is no place for me, a slightly-better-than-average runner. Someday, though, I hope to be a great runner and I think I have what it takes to make improvements in that direction.

Sometimes when I'm feeling especially discouraged about my abilities I go to the blogs of some of the runners who inspire me most and I look back at their first few entries hoping to see what they were thinking before they became well-known and successful. Do you know what I usually find? I find that they didn't start their blog until they were having success. So I'm hoping to start this blog off right with an honest first entry. I want people to look back through my posts and realize that they, too, can become great adventurers, obtaining their goals and pushing their physical limits.

Another reason why I'm starting this blog now is because my old blog called "More Than a Gear Guru" is about to end and I want my far-away friends and family to stay updated on my adventures. Previously I blogged about my experience as the Equipment Manager for a non-profit campus ministry that provides outdoor adventure experiences for college students. Jobs come and go, but my passion for running and thirst for experiencing the outdoors will continue until I'm in the ground. Now that my husband and I are moving to Colorado, we will have many more opportunities for adventure.

With all of this talk about honesty, here are a few honest assessments of where I'm at right now:

  • I started running competitively in middle school but quit cross-country and track in high school because pre-race anxiety would cause me to be too sick to run. I was on the varsity team my freshman year of high-school but couldn't deal with the pressure and expectations.
  • I kept running for pleasure throughout college at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and was most inspired by my freshman-year best friend and running-buddy, Ami Hutchinson. We went our separate ways but maybe someday I'll get to tell her. I guess I'll have to run The North Face 50k in Wisconsin to find her. She has won the race the two years she ran it.
  • Throughout college I constantly battled shin splints. After working at a summer-camp in Colorado, I got hooked on trail running and found that staying off the pavement took away a lot of pain.
  • My husband is a much better runner than me and I constantly have to remind myself to not make comparisons. I didn't realize how good he was until the weekend he planned his sneaky proposal. My dad and I were planning to run a local 5k and Cory had my dad secretly enter him in the race. I said yes and then Cory won the race the next morning. When he ran his debut marathon one month before our wedding, he was well ahead of the Boston-qualifying time.
  • Over the past 2 years, I've gradually worked up from 10k to marathon distance, battling sesmoiditis and sciatic back pain along the way. I've learned that even though I'm young, I can't neglect stretching, icing, and cross training.
  • My general outlook on road-running is that it's a necessary evil to improve overall fitness and to get faster for trail-running.
Some of my adventure goals:
  • Run the Pikes Peak Marathon in August 2013.
  • Run a 50 mile race before my best friend, Sara, comes back from working with the Peace Corps in the Gambia. That gives me two years.
  • Run a 100 mile race before I'm 30. That gives me a little less than 7 years.
  • Hike all of Colorado's 14ers with Cory before I'm 50. No need to rush it. I want to enjoy them slowly.