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.