Happy 2nd Birthday, Blog!

Timehop popped up with this for me today:
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I can’t believe that I’ve had this little piece of internet space for two full years! Admittedly, my little blog hasn’t grown like I hoped it would — but now that I know how much work it takes to make a blog grow, I’m completely fine with keeping mine little. Putting in the necessary time and effort for a bigger and better blog just isn’t high on my list of priorities right now.

That said, between the training recaps and the fluff, I have written a few decent posts over the last two years, so today, we’re taking a look back at some of my favorites, starting with the oldest. If you missed them the first time (or are wasting time at work and want to read them again… no judgment), enjoy!

7 Simple Rules for Driving Where I Run. Evidently, no one read this one the first time, because I still have these issues with drivers.

Farewell, Old Friend. Because I’m amused by myself.
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Life Lessons Learned from Marathoning. This was one of my most popular (read: still not very popular) early posts.

How to Shop Healthy When You Have to Shop Wal-Mart. Because Wal-Mart still sucks.

A Letter to My 16-Year-Old Self. I still wish I could send this to the past.

“You Smell Like Vacation.” One of the more creative things I’ve written. Some of the pictures don’t show up now, and I’m too lazy to fix them, but the words are still there.

Treat Your Marriage Like a Running Injury. I’m still not a marriage expert, but as we head toward our seventh anniversary (Sunday!) this advice is as applicable as ever.

Dear Americans: Stop Being Ignorant about Your Food. This was probably the most popular post I’ve written to date (it got, like, 4 shares!), and I believe it’s a message a LOT of people need to hear.

Readers: As this little blog enters year 3, what types of posts would you like to see more (or less) of? Any topics you want me to address?

In the comments, link to a favorite post from YOUR blog!

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Race Recap: Skirt Sports 13er

Ever since the lovely ladies at Skirt Sports and Sweat Pink reached out to me about running the Skirt Sports 13er (yes, I got the entry and gift certificate for free, but all the opinions here are my own), I intended to treat it as a training run. I knew that a month and a half after my last marathon, I’d be coming into the race with little to no speedwork. I also knew that I’d spend the week prior to the race running trails, which would leave my flatlander legs tired. So I really had no goals for this race, other than to have a good time. Spoiler alert: That’s exactly what happened!

The race started at 6:30 a.m. Yes, that’s early… but it’s Colorado in June on a course with no shade, so really, the early start time was fantastic. Jordan and I had stayed in Estes Park with his family the night before, so we were on the road by 4:30 and at the start at about a quarter to six. I picked up my bib and goodie bag with no trouble, did a warm-up mile, and hit the porta-potties (of which there were plenty, thank goodness… at a race this female-filled, we need a lot of them!).

The race started on the other side of an overpass from the expo/finish line. I guess that last year, racers had to run over the bridge, which caused bottlenecking, so the organizers moved the start line this year. As we headed up the bridge, Skirt Sports founder Nicole DeBoom (who is pretty much my hero) gave us all high-fives. photo 3 (14)

We received a few instructions and some encouragement at the start line, and soon we were off! Because I’m a chump, I got caught up in the start-line energy and set off WAY too fast for a training run. And then, at my too-fast pace, I fell in with a couple of super cool women, and we started chatting, and so I continued at that too-fast pace for a few miles. Whoops. By the time we hit a steep-ish hill at around mile 4, I caught my error and made myself slow down. I was not in race shape; I should not be racing. 

Once I slowed down, the group of women I’d been running with pulled ahead, and I was running on my own for quite some time. The course was gorgeous; I was kicking myself for not bringing my phone; since this was a training run,  I could’ve stopped to take some pictures. Instead, here’s one that Nicole sent me a while back to use for race promotion:

Image courtesy of Skirt Sports
Image courtesy of Skirt Sports

We had views of those mountains, plus cattle pastures and open spaces, pretty much the whole race.

At mile 7ish, the race heads up a massive hill (nicknamed “The Bad Relationship” — ha!). Confession: I walked a bit. I was being a baby and really had no reason to walk, but… I did. Then, the course turns into an open space for a little out-and-back. Races with those little out-and-backs bug me for some reason, but it wasn’t long.

From the open space on, the race is either flat or downhill, which was nice. I did run out of water in my handheld (totally my fault for not refilling it at the last aid station), and because it was getting warm, I started to get a little lightheaded and chose to walk again. Had I been racing, I probably would’ve just pushed through, as the next aid station was near, but again: being a baby.

The last couple of miles were uneventful but HOT: I was really glad the race started so early. I crossed the finish in 1:46:something — my slowest half ever. 

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And this is why I usually don’t do races as training runs: I was mad at myself. That’s dumb, and I know it, but sometimes my emotions get the best of me for a bit. The mad didn’t last long; I reminded myself that it was a training run, and that I had intended for it to be all along. I drank some chocolate milk and all was right with the world again.

Here’s a list of key points about this race. I was going to break it into pros and cons, but some things are subjective, so it’s all one big list. You can decide if you want to run it without me classifying things for you.

  • Girl-power vibe. The racers are almost all women, and everything from the pep talk at the start to the finisher skirts to the kick-start program participants was  women-centered and focused on making us all feel like badasses. I loved it. Plus, it’s always fun to see women as the overall winners, since that doesn’t happen in most races.
  • Awesome little expo. There was gluten-free cake (I heard it was amazing, but I was all hot and no food sounded good), EVOL burritos, chips, salsa, fruit, Two Moms in the Raw granola, kombucha, chocolate milk, Skratch … all sorts of tasty business. Plus, since Home Depot was a race sponsor (and the start and finish lines are in their parking lot), they had a booth set up where kids could make crafts while their moms ran. They also had a DIY race bib display project. I did not make one, because I don’t do crafts, but it’s cool for those that are crafty.
  • Finisher skirt. And bucket. I have about 12 million race t-shirts, so I LOVED getting a cute little skirt.

    (photo from 13er website. Obviously.)
    I also was pretty excited about the free Home Depot bucket, because with all the yard work we’re doing, we needed another one.
  • Hot, and no shade. It’s June, so of course it’s going to be hot. If you run this, be prepared. I was wishing I’d worn a hat and carried my bigger handheld.
  • Great aid station support. Carrying the small handheld wasn’t a big deal, because there were plenty of aid stations, and all the volunteers were super friendly and encouraging.
  • Well-marked and well-staffed. If you get lost on this course, you’ve got issues. Bonus: Every mile-marker/directional sign had an “I run for…” poster, each with a different picture under the “I run for…” headline.  Everything from margaritas to shirtless firemen was featured. The signs were funny and provided nice little pick-me-ups along the course.
  • Not many spectators. Aside from the aid stations, I saw only 3-4 groups of spectators along the course. That’s fine with me, but if you’re big on crowd support, you might have to recruit some friends to cheer along the course.
  • Beautiful and challenging course. This course is at the base of the foothills, so if you’re a flatlander like me, train for the hills — there are several, and that “Bad Relationship” is serious business.

I thought this was a great little race, and I’m planning to be back next year — racing it this time! I’m grateful to Skirt Sports and Sweat Pink for the opportunity. If you have a chance to do a Skirt Sports event, do it (even if you’re a dude)!

Can you do races as training runs, or do you get frustrated like I do?

What’s your favorite half marathon? 

A Few Days in My Happy Place: The Mountains

This is a picture-heavy, word-light post. Because mountains.

I was very fortunate to spend most of last week in the mountains, continuing my work on Operation Become a Trail  Runner and just enjoying my favorite place in general. From Monday afternoon to Thursday morning, J and I attended an education conference in Breckenridge. The conference was great, but the best part was spending an hour or so every morning running on the trails right behind our hotel.

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There was still quite a bit of snow up high, so this creek was flowing fast.

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I really hoped to see a deer or elk here, but nope… just a pretty park. Not complaining.

One morning, I decided to run up the ski-lift maintenance road. I  turned around about half a mile past this:

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And was rewarded with this view, to which my iPhone camera just couldn’t do justice:

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The final morning was cloudy and misty, but the mountains were stunners nonetheless.

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And I took a “runfie” because sometimes I remember I’m a blogger.

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I always look confused in selfies. Probably because I feel like a fool taking them.

We left Breckenridge at noon on Thursday and headed straight to Estes Park, where we met Jordan’s family for the weekend. We drove over Trail Ridge Road, which neither of us had ever done. It was stunningly beautiful; if you ever have the chance, drive it! Again, our iPhones couldn’t capture the breathtaking beauty of the mountains, but here’s a series of pictures from Trail Ridge to give you an idea.

photo 1 (20) photo 2 (18) photo 3 (12) photo 4 (7) photo 5 (5)

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We stopped at the Alpine Visitors Center, where I read this on a sign about the area’s history: “The Ute People believed the trails were living beings who held the community together.” I kinda love that.

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Friday morning, I woke up and drove a few minutes from where we were staying to Lily Lake, which is technically in Rocky Mountain National Park, but on the non-paying side of the entrance stations. I took a side trail and ran for a while, catching these foggy mountains from just above the lake

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Somehow, I got on the wrong trail and ended up on private property. Please don’t tell.

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(This time I look confused because I was…)

I fairly quickly made it back to where I meant to be (thanks to studying the map for a looong time the night before), and headed back in time to clean up and spend the day playing tourist in town with my in-laws.

Saturday, the whole family was heading into RMNP, so I decided just to hike instead of run. The whole clan walked around Bear Lake; then J and I took a side trail for a few extra miles before meeting back up with the group for lunch. I love getting off the super-popular trails and off to where it’s just me, Jordan, and the wildlife.

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We watched this guy for several minutes. He ignored us. That’s a good thing.

And here’s another fast-flowing stream. It was gorgeous. (And yes, I’m rocking my Skirt Sports).

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By the time we finished our sandwiches, afternoon thunderstorms were starting to brew, so we headed back into town.

Sunday morning, we were up at 4 and gone by 4:30, headed out of the mountains and down to Louisville for the Skirt Sports 13er, which I’ll recap soon!

The week was awesome and left me wanting more mountains. Luckily, I don’t have to wait too long, as we’re going camping in a couple of weeks for our anniversary!

What’s your favorite hiking/trail running spot?

Ever been to Breckenridge or Estes?

Why Women Need to Stop Saying “Just” and “Only”

At the Skirt Sports clinic the other night, Melody Fairchild discussed “a-ha” moments — the run that feels perfect, or that moment you think, YES! This is what I’m supposed to do. Melody described one of her a-ha moments, then asked the audience to share theirs. A fifth-grade girl told us that at her school’s field day, she ran the one-mile race and beat everyone –including the boys. Pretty sweet accomplishment, right? But she immediately downplayed her achievement, explaining that fifth-graders were allowed to run the two-mile, but she was “kind of lazy” and ran the one-mile race. When Melody praised her, the girl rolled her eyes, embarrassed, and said, “It was just the mile.”

At eleven years old, this girl has already learned an unspoken lesson that so many of us have mastered: As women, we can’t be proud of ourselves. We can’t brag about our accomplishments, or even discuss them without a disclaimer. Doing so makes us arrogant, conceited, “bitchy”… we think. So we preface any mention of achievement with the words “just” and “only.”

“It was just a 5k.”

“I’m only running the half.”

“I just run marathons. I could never do triathlons.”

And we do it with everything, not just athletics:

“It’s not a big deal. It’s only a small pay raise.”

“I just got promoted because no one else applied.”

“This is only a book review, published in a small journal” — (I said that one recently, instead of being thrilled to see my name in print in any form in any academic journal).

And probably the most common: “I’m just a mom.”

Why do we do this? Why do we brush off praise and deprecate ourselves? Because that type of response is what’s culturally acceptable, and we’ve been subtly trained, since we were the age of the girl at Skirt Sports, to stay painfully humble and rebuff praise any time it comes our way.

This culture is ingrained in us, but we can change it. When the young girls who look up to us see us dismissing our accomplishments, they learn the same lesson we did: women aren’t worthy of praise; our accomplishments aren’t worth much. Our job now is to stop this vicious cycle — not just for our own confidence and well-being, but for the next generation’s.

I’m as guilty as anyone of prefacing my accomplishments with “just” and “only,” and I cringe to think of how many times I’ve done it in front of my nieces and students. It’s time to break that habit. Join me in removing these words from our vocabularies as descriptors of accomplishments. Instead, let’s own our achievements.

It’s not “just” a 5k; it’s 3.1 miles that you ran as hard as you freaking could. It’s not “only” a small raise; it’s a recognition of your value to the company. And for heaven’s sake, you’re not “just” a mom. You’re spending your time nurturing the people who will one day run the world.

Be proud of who you are and what you’ve done. Let’s rewrite the culture of “not good enough.” Let’s change it to a culture of every woman taking pride in her accomplishments and no one feeling the need to belittle herself when she’s done something great. Let’s teach our daughters, nieces, students, and friends that women can accomplish great things, and most of all, let’s show them that confidence has just as much merit as humility.

Will you join me in eliminating “just” and “only”?

Let’s start now: What’s an accomplishment that you’re proud of?

Operation Become a Trail Runner

I’ve wanted to be a trail runner for a long time, but I just keep… not running trails. I live on the plains, of course, which makes trail running a challenge, and finding excuses to not venture out to the trails is far too easy, but I decided that this summer, I’m going to become a trail runner. Instead of whining about how I can never get to the trails, I’ve chosen to make a concentrated effort to run trails as many times as possible between now and October. I haven’t signed up for any races (though I’m eyeing this trail half in August), and I’m certainly not committing to an ultra (this year…), but I am running trails.

Operation Become a Trail Runner started back in April, when I bought trail running shoes and did one little trail run in Fort Collins.

Maxwell Open Space in Fort Collins
Maxwell Open Space in Fort Collins

Then, my trail adventures took a little hiatus, between the Lincoln Marathon and the end of the school year. Now that summer is in full swing, so is Operation Become a Trail Runner.

This Friday and Saturday, J had meetings (and thus a hotel room Friday night) in Denver, so I tagged along for two days of trail running… and I’m learning fast. I’ve learned that being in good road running shape doesn’t necessarily translate to being in good trail running shape, and on Friday, I learned that two miles from the trailhead is a loooong way when lightning and thunder move in.

Let’s back up. After I dropped J at his meeting Friday morning, I headed out to White Ranch Open Space in Golden (suggested by my trail running hero, Heidi).

White Ranch Open Space: Pretty and green, with not-so-sinister clouds at the start.
White Ranch Open Space: Pretty and green, with not-so-sinister clouds at the start.

When I got there, the skies were cloudy, and about five minutes into the run, rain started sprinkling around me. It stopped just a few minutes later, so I kept going. Then, when I was about 3 miles from the trailhead (I’m guessing, because I stopped my watch when I paused to take a picture and forgot to restart it for several minutes) it started raining in earnest. There was no lightning yet, but I knew storms can get serious fast around here, so I turned around (I’d planned a loop but was less than halfway) and started hustling. Of course, I’m not in great trail shape yet, so I had to do some hiking, but I was trying to move as quickly as possible.

We are CLOUDS and we are getting ANGRY. (Obviously I took this picture before the storm moved in. There's no way I'd stop for pictures mid-storm).
We are CLOUDS and we are getting ANGRY. (Obviously I took this picture before the storm moved in. There’s no way I’d stop for pictures mid-storm).

I wasn’t quick enough. Less than a mile after I turned around, thunder started rumbling, and soon lightning started flashing. Guess where I don’t want to be in a lightning storm? That’s right: the side of a mountain. I booked it, desperately racing the storm and saying fragmented prayers as I tried to fly down the trail without breaking my face.

Thank goodness, I made it back to the car in one non-lightning-stricken piece. I used a blanket to towel off, then did a baby-wipe-bath and changed out of my drenched clothes in the backseat. (Don’t worry; no one else was around). I’m guessing I went about six miles — forgetting to restart my Garmin means I don’t have exact mileage — and learned an important lesson: At the very first sign of a storm, turn your butt around. 

Saturday’s forecast said zero percent chance of storms in the morning, so I kept my original plan and headed back out the the trails  (with surprisingly dry shoes, thanks to Logan’s suggestion of stuffing them with paper). This time, I went out to Green Mountain in Lakewood. I’d run trails there before (according to Timehop, exactly a year ago!), so I knew that they were beginner-friendly and well-marked (a must when you’re hopeless at directions, as I am). Saturday started a little cloudy, but soon the sun was out in all its Colorado glory.

Cloudy start at Green Mountain
Cloudy start at Green Mountain

Thanks to the insane amount of rain we’ve gotten lately, the trails were muddy, but that just added to the adventure. I did a 6.5-mile loop on the Green Mountain Trail, but I wasn’t ready to quit, so I went back out until Green Mountain Trail met Rooney Valley (I think) Trail, then took it for a bit before turning around and backtracking to the car, ending with a total of 10 miles. I was pretty happy with that on my trail newb legs, but I still struggle with accepting the necessary slower pace of trails. But with views like this, who really cares?

I cut my face off on purpose, because the background is more fun to look at. :)
I cut off my face on purpose, because the background is more fun to look at. 🙂

I thoroughly enjoyed this run. The wildflowers were blooming like crazy, the sun was shining, and splashing through the puddles was a blast and made me feel like a kid again. photo 4 (4) photo 5 (2)

I’m declaring Operation Become a Trail Runner a success so far. I’m still getting into trail shape, and I’m hoping that soon I can run more and hike less, but trail running is fun regardless, and I’m excited to do more of it. Next week, I’ll get in some more trails, as we’re going to a conference (work-related, so I can’t just run all the time) in Breckenridge, then meeting J’s family in Estes Park for a few days. After that, I’ll be back to running on the plains, but I will make time for more trails!

How do you make time for what you love, even if it’s inconvenient?

What fitness activity are you not in shape for, even though you’re fit in other areas?

Getting Inspired with Skirt Sports and Melody Fairchild

On Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to attend Skirt Sports’ monthly clinic, this one featuring Melody Fairchild. A few weeks ago, Nicole DeBoom, Skirt Sports’ founder, had contacted me and the other Sweat Pink ambassadors who are running the 13er, hoping that we could meet her and each other before the race. Boulder’s a bit of a haul for me, but since it’s summer, I was able to go. And I’m so glad I did.

First, some background on Melody Fairchild: As Boulder high schooler, Melody accomplished some incredible feats — the first girl in the U.S. to  break 10 minutes in the 2-mile, winning Footlocker twice (she still holds the record), and losing only one race in her high school career. From there, she went to the University of Oregon, made the Olympic trials twice, and had professional success, as well. Now, she runs for Newton, coaches kids and adults, and travels the country presenting motivational speeches. To learn more about Melody, visit her website, melodyfairchild.com (which is also where I stole this picture).

Melody National Masters 5k 2014 - Big Win!

Back to Tuesday night: I arrived a bit early, as I always tend to do, and milled around the Skirt Sports boutique, picking out lots of things I wanted and reminding myself that I’d already spent my gift card. Then, Melody walked in and we started talking. I’ll admit that I was nervous and a bit star-struck, but she was so nice and down-to-earth that soon my nervousness receded. We talked about blogging, running, and her recent trip to Africa, and as we talked, other women begin to filter in, until the place was bustling.

Soon, Nicole herded us all into the back room, where Melody would present. Melody started by talking about her career — how she got started, the dark places she went through and how she overcame them, and how all those experiences shaped who she is now and led her to help young runners, especially young women, who struggle with the same pressures and difficulties. Even though Melody is incredibly talented, everything she discussed was relateable to all of us in the audience. She talked, for example, about why running is so transformative: whether you’re a little girl running up a canyon (as she once was) or an elite athlete, running changes who you are and your perspective. As you run, your outside perspective changes, she said, and so does your inside perspective. I loved that.

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One of my favorite gems from her speech was when she talked about thinking positively and trying to keep ourselves from mentally dwelling in dark places. She said, “If you think something enough, it becomes a belief. So you’d better make darn sure your thoughts are uplifting.” That hit home for me  — too often, my thoughts about myself, my abilities, etc., are anything but uplifting. Do I really want to believe all those negatives? No, no I do not.

That’s the message that Melody tries to bring the young athletes she works with, especially talented young women. As she discussed the struggles these youth endure, I found myself nodding, because I see those traits in my students, too — the drive for perfection and the extreme disappointment when they fall short, the mindset that failure is permanent and defining rather than something to learn from. Melody’s perspective gave me some new ideas and tools to use when I talk to my students as well as for myself.

Melody’s talk left me inspired and, of course, jonesing for a run. Luckily, Skirt Sports clinics also include a short group run, so we headed out on a gorgeous Boulder trail for an easy 30-minute run. By the time we got out there, the sun was setting, and the near-90-degrees heat had eased up a bit, thank goodness. On the run, I chatted with a few other women and ate a lot of gnats.

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After the run, Nicole took me on a tour of the Skirt Sports offices, which left me even more inspired. I love that the company is so focused on empowering women, not just on selling their product, which is evidenced in the programs they create (like these clinics and Kick Start, a program for new runners) and even in their advertising. Nicole showed me their design room, where I got a “sneak peak” at upcoming seasons (spoiler alert: They’ve got some really cute stuff coming out in the fall and next spring!). Then, we toured the warehouse, so now I know exactly where to go when I steal stuff (just kidding).

Skirt Sports founder Nicole DeBoom in the warehouse
Skirt Sports founder Nicole DeBoom in the warehouse

We ended the tour in Nicole’s office, where she still has her original business plan — a piece of yellow paper on which she did her first brainstorming for the company. Seeing how she’s taken her company from that one post-run brainstorm session into the amazing business it is today was pretty awesome.

I finally dragged myself away at 8:30, which meant I didn’t get home until 10:00 — a late Tuesday night for this grandma — but it was so worth it. I came home feeling inspired and empowered and wanting to spread that feeling. If you want in on some of this inspiring Skirt Sports action, it’s not too late to sign up for the 13er (or 10k, or 5k), which is next Sunday, June 14! Use the discount code SP20 for 20% on the real OR virtual races! (Full disclosure:  If you register and put my name as your referrer, I get a gift card. So… please do it). And if you’re local, definitely check out the Skirt Sports clinics on the first Tuesday of each month!

Image courtesy of Skirt Sports
Image courtesy of Skirt Sports

Who is inspiring you lately?

Are you running the 13er? If so, let’s meet up!