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Why I Run

I originally published this post back in 2015, before the injury I struggled with for over a year. In rereading my 2015 post, I realized that while it still rings true, my perspective has changed a bit, and I felt that it needed updated. 

Why do you run so much? Ask my students, my family, my friends. I shrug and give the simple answer: I run so much because I love it.

But my true reasons for running are deeper, and many. When people ask that question, they don’t really want my entire answer. But if they did, here’s what I’d say:

I run so much because I love it. I love the challenge of a hard training run or race: the fire in my legs, the ache in my lungs, the bile in my throat, all telling me that I’m giving it my all, that no matter the outcome, when the run is over and I collapse, I can be satisfied, knowing that I stretched my limits as far as I could.

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I love the euphoria following a win, and in a strange way, I love the despair following a loss — because it’s the losses that teach me, that make me analyze my weaknesses, that inspire me to work harder and come back fitter, stronger, faster than before.

I love the hard efforts, especially after an injured hamstring kept me running easy for months. But in some ways, that injury made me appreciate the easy runs even more. After being sidelined for weeks, running at all, no matter how slowly or sporadically, felt like meeting an old friend — the kind of friend who loves you and accepts you no matter how long you’ve been apart or how much has changed. While healthy, I’d taken for granted the easy runs, but returning from injury reminded me that nothing brings me peace like the serenity of a quiet early-morning run, bathed by the light of the rising sun, serenaded by the first birds of morning. Evening runs are special, too: the day’s stress melts away with the sweat, and as the miles tick away,  my mental storm clouds clear. Running helps me put my world in perspective. In both a figurative and the most literal sense, running keeps me grounded.

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I love the places running has taken me, from literal places — exploring a new city while travelling or moving,  discovering trail running and the beauty it brings — to mental journeys — pushing through a hard race to hit a once-impossible PR, slogging through crummy weather.

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Running has always been my alone time, my chance to regroup and calm the chatter in my head. But running also gives me a social outlet, a chance to meet similar-minded friends, a way to connect without my usual awkward shyness. Running helped me meet people after we moved. It connects me with trail runners more experienced than I. And running brought me a sisterhood in the form of the Skirt Sports community. The solo runs are wonderful, but I’ve learned that running with others creates a bond unlike any other.

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It doesn’t matter if I’m running trails — the mountains, the streams, the wildlife, the uneven terrain keeping me from obsessing about pace and holding me in the moment — or if I’m running roads — the pavement pressing against my feet, my lungs burning, the miles passing faster and faster– or even if I’m running on the treadmill, zoning out to mindless television and playing mental games. Wherever I am, running is my happy place, my stress-relief, my alone time, my friend-maker, my self-awareness enhancer. And I love it.

That is why I run so much.

 

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Horsetooth Half Marathon Training, Weeks 7-8

Looks as though my blog is becoming just a training log, eh? Oh well. It’s better than not blogging at all, right?

As my mileage is building back up, I’ve been feeling pretty good. I’m really trying to listen to my body, as apparently this hamstring thing is just one of those nagging injuries that never really goes away, so I want to keep it in check while getting myself back in shape. That means being less of a slave to my training plan than I ever have been before — it used to be that no matter how I felt or what was happening in my life, if the plan said to run 8 miles, I ran 8 miles, dang it. I’m working hard to break that mindset, stay healthy, and organize my training around my life, rather than vice-versa.

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Keeping some perspective on why I run. Headband from Skirt Sports. You can use code 841SONN for 15%. (Not an affiliate link, just making your life easier. You’re welcome.)  

Here’s how it’s gone the last two weeks:

Week 7: February 19-25

Monday: This was a wicked-cold week., and it felt worse since Colorado’s had such a mild winter. We had a high of something like 13 degrees on Monday, and I needed to lift in addition to running. We also had snow on the ground, and I knew that if I ran in the cold and got all wet and gross, I would just get in my nice, warm car and drive home for a nice, warm shower. So I hit the treadmill for 8 miles of “hill” intervals, then lifted.

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This is my “taking a selfie at the gym is awkward” face. 

Tuesday: My PT doesn’t want me running more than 5 miles on the treadmill, and I found out why: the ol’ hammy was pretty sore on Tuesday. I listened to it  (praise me, please), and did a made-up-by-me spin bike session for 40 minutes, then did some core work.

Wednesday: I couldn’t take any more indoor stuff, so even though it was still cold and icy, I bundled up and headed out for 8.3. I was an ice cube when I got home, but ice cubing is better than indooring.
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Thursday: Rest day.

Friday: Again, it was super cold, and again, I needed to lift some weights, so again, I hit the treadmill. Capped it at 5 like not-an-idiot.

Saturday: We had a Skirt Sports Ambassador meet-up, which are always super fun. We ran along the Boulder Creek Path (I think? Goose Creek Path? Something Creek Path). There was nobody my pace, so I jogged along with a few different groups and sometimes alone for 6 miles. Then, we had an oatmeal bar and tried not to buy all the things. Even though we’re supposed to take lots of pictures and spread the love at these things, I’m the actual worst and only took two pictures, neither of which turned out. Just imagine a lot of women having a good time, okay?

Sunday: Finally, the weather turned, and Sunday was in the 40s: perfect for 10 miles with 3 at goal pace. Last time I did this workout, my splits were way off. This time was much better: the goal pace miles were 6:55, 6:53, 6:55. I don’t think that “just under 7” is my goal pace for Horsetooth, because of the hills, but it is for the Skirt Sports 13er in June, so that’s what I’m basing training paces on.
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Week 7 Total Mileage: 37.3

Week 8: February 26-March 4

Monday: 3.6-mile recovery run, nice and slow, followed by a bunch of stretching and foam rolling.

Tuesday: 7 miles easy, then strength training. If last week was brutally cold and snow, this week more than made up for it. I was in capris and a T-shirt and got too hot.

Wednesday: Tempo intervals: 3-mile warm-up, 3×1-mile at tempo with 90 seconds rest, 3(ish)-mile cool down. I did the tempo part on hills because I guess tempo intervals don’t suck enough already? Either way, it was a beautiful day and a good, solid run.

Thursday: Yoga to stretch out yesterday’s hard workout

Friday: It was 65 degrees. I  told myself to stay at work and get some things done, but… it was 65 degrees. So I ran 8 glorious miles, then strength trained. I regret nothing.

Saturday: Another downright amazing day of weather. I hoped to run some trails in the foothills, but after last week’s snow and this week’s sun, all the trail reports said they were a muddy mess. Instead, I ran 14 miles on the Poudre Trail (a paved bike path that connects Greeley to Fort Collins). My legs were a bit tired from Friday’s workout, so I took it easy,  especially at the beginning, and just enjoyed soaking up the sun.
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Sunday: My training plan said 4 miles, but my body (especially Mr. Hammy) was tired and a little sore after yesterday’s long run, so I rested. See that? I may actually be getting wiser in my old age.

Week 8 Total Mileage: 41.6.

These last two weeks felt good. I feel like I’m slowly returning to myself, and that’s a really, really good feeling.

 

I ask the same questions every time. Tell me something new. 

 

Horsetooth Half Marathon Training, Weeks 4-6

I was doing so well with the regular blogging … for a few weeks. And then, as I often do, I fell off the blogging bandwagon. In an effort to reboard the wagon, I’m back tonight with a recap of the last three weeks of training. A three-week day-by-day would be all sorts of boring, I think, so I’ll hit the high points.

Week 4: January 29-February 4
32 miles run
One day of cross-training (cycling)
Three days of strength training
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That week, I had my first tempo run in ages. The workout was 7 miles total, with 2 at tempo. It felt better than I worried it might. I also had a ten-miler with three at goal pace. I don’t really know what goal pace is, to be honest, so I shot for around 7-minute miles. That was hard, but not impossible. Overall, a pretty decent week of getting back in shape.

Week 5: February 5-11
39 miles run
Three days of strength training

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Freezing my buns off around mile 2 of the Sweetheart Classic. Yay for free race pics!

Highlights of last week included my first weekday eight-miler (a fartlek run) in quite some time, running in Denver before a conference, and the Loveland Sweetheart Classic 4-mile race. The day of the race was 11 degrees and snowing. It was cold and miserable and awesome all at the same time. I’ll write a separate post for a race recap.

Week 6: February 12-19
We’ll go the day-by-day route for this week:

Monday:  30 minutes easy cycling, then strength training

Tuesday: 6 easy miles, then core work
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Wednesday: 8 miles with the last three progressing to tempo

Thursday: Rest day. We had parent-teacher conferences, and the weekend forecast looked lovely, so that sounded like a perfect combination of reasons to rest Thursday and run the next three days.

Friday: I had the day off, thanks to conferences the night before. Although I spent most of the day grading and emailing parents who didn’t come to conferences but whom I needed to talk to, I took a break in the morning for 8 hilly miles, then another in the afternoon for some gym time.

Saturday: 4 recovery miles, plus core

Sunday: 13 miles. It was 50 degrees at 8:00 a.m. Colorado is weird.

Total: 39 miles, two days of strength

I’m still feeling rather out of shape, but I feel a bit stronger and fitter every day. I’m also relearning to balance higher mileage, strength training, and, you know, life.

What’s on your race calendar?

How do you balance training and life?

 

Horsetooth Half Marathon Training, Weeks 2-3

Look at me, blogging three weeks in a row! It’s almost as though I’ve achieved work-life balance… but it may be more that I’m choosing different things to ignore. Whatevs. (Do people still say that? I don’t think they do).

Anyway, I’m plugging right along with training for the Horsetooth Half. I’m feeling good, getting a little fitter all the time, and starting to feel more and more like my old self. Here are the deets (I’m all about the ’90s slang today) from the last two weeks.

Monday, Jan. 15

I felt the need for a day off (see Week 1’s recap), and I had the day off work and just a couple of days left on the 30-day unlimited yoga pass I bought in December. I took the day off running and went to hot yoga instead. I like hot yoga now. Then I went to physical therapy in the afternoon. Self-care for the win!

Tuesday, Jan. 16

Short hill repeats: 10 x 30-second hill sprints, 5.2 miles total with warm-up and cool-down. My favorite hill for short repeats — which is my favorite because it’s close and there’s never any traffic — was PACKED with cars that day. Turns out, the highway construction nearby is detouring cars on my favorite road. For several months. Guess I need to find a new hill. Whomp whomp.

Wednesday, January 17

Rode the spin bike (and forgot to log it in Strava, I just realized) and did some strength work.

Thursday, January 18

6 miles easy plus 4 strides. I am so loving the longer days.

Friday, January 19

4 easy miles, followed by strength training

Saturday, January 20

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Horsetooth is hilly, so I need to run big hills. The weather was lovely, and a big storm was rolling in overnight. Clearly, the combination of these meant I needed to trail run. I headed up to Fort Collins for a climb up Towers Road. If you’re not familiar with Towers, here’s what you need to know:
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Someday, I will run the whole thing. Saturday, I did a decent bit of hiking. 10 miles total.

Sunday, January 21

Rest. It’s rare for me, especially now that I’m uninjured, to run only 4 days a week, but my body was begging for rest after Saturday’s workout, and if that injury taught me one thing, it’s to let the body rest when the body wants to rest. Plus it was snow-storming out, so it really was a perfect day for rest.

Week 2 Total Miles: 25.2

Monday, January 22

3.1 easy miles, then strength training.

Tuesday. January 23

6 x 2-minutes at 10k pace, 2-minutes recovery. 5 miles total, with warm-up and cool-down. I had an after-school training that required an early-morning treadmill run. I’ve managed to avoid those for most of this winter, so having to do one morning wasn’t SO bad.

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Tried to take an artsy picture for Instagram. Artsy and 4:30 a.m. do not mix well.

Wednesday, January 24

4 miles easy, then strength training.

Thursday, January 25

6 miles plus 4 strides. I tried to take a cool jumping picture. Instead, I made this face and did this with my arms:
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I’m SO COOL.

Friday, January 26

Rest day! I had a meeting-slash-happy-hour and then a basketball game, and decided that rest was better than another early workout. Look at me, trying to be smart. It only took me 32 years.

Saturday, January 27

Jordan had a meeting and I had a haircut, both in Loveland, so I dropped him at his meeting, then ran, then took my gross, sweaty head to the hairdresser. Yes, I tipped well. My training plan said 5 miles, but the clock said “Stop or you’ll be late” at 4. Oh well; that one mile probably won’t make or break my race in April. (That’s sarcasm, FYI).

Sunday, January 28

11-mile long run on the hilliest route I can run without having to drive anywhere. It was lovely. Welcome to Colorado, where we run in short skirts while there’s still snow on the ground.

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Week 3 Total Miles: 33.1

If you looked only at these two weeks, you’d think I was egregiously breaking the 10-percent rule, but worry not: I’ve been consistently running 30-35 miles/week for several weeks; last week was just a weird one.

The upcoming week brings my first tempo run in 1.5 years and a fast-finish long run, which I haven’t done in… I don’t even know how long. Should be interesting.

What are you training for?

Does anyone still even read this blog? If you do, say hi!

Gear Review: SKINS DNAmic Compression Tights

As a not-very-big, not-very-popular, and not-very-consistent blogger, I’m not exactly inundated with emails from gear companies offering to send free product in exchange for a review. When I do get such requests, I don’t always say “yes,” either: it has to be a product that looks like something I’d actually use, and I make sure the company knows that I’ll give an honest (not necessarily favorable) review. Even so, when I get a product that I don’t love, I sometimes struggle to write that review: I got this thing for free, and now I’m ragging on it? Such was the case when I received a free pair of SKINS DNAmic compression tights.

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I got the tights early last fall, but a combination of the freakishly warm Colorado season and my still-low mileage kept me from wearing them enough to give them a fair review. Now, I’ve worn them for several hikes, a few runs, and a handful of post-run recovery days, so I feel like I have enough perspective.

My overall verdict: I give them a C. My students would tell you that I grade hard, so here are my reasons, and you can decide for yourself if they’re worth a try:

Pros

  • Cute. The pair I got was purple, with cute mesh cut-outs on the calves. I’ve gotten several compliments on them.
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    Please excuse my glaring white sock. Fashion-forward I am not. 

    A couple of times, when going from trail to town, I just pulled a skirt over the tights and put on boots or sandals (it’s Colorado; you never know which to wear), and that made a cute, easy outfit. Since the science is iffy on compression gear while running but more definitive on its benefits after exercise, the cuteness factor is a BIG plus: You can wear them out and about without looking like you’re in recovery mode.

  • True to size. The size chart on the website was spot on.
  • Comfortable, for compression tights. I’ve had some compression gear that makes me feel like a sausage. These don’t, but they still feel like they’re tight enough to get the benefits of compression.
  • Nice base layer. I’ve worn them under my hiking pants on a couple of cold hikes, and they’re just the right weight.
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This picture and the one above were taken on an October hike to Cub Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. They are by far the prettiest pictures I’ve taken while trying these tights. 

Cons

  • No drawstring. I’m what the fashion websites call “rectangle-shaped,” so it’s almost impossible for me to find workout pants/tights/shorts that stay up if they don’t have a drawstring. Constantly yanking up my britches is not super fun.
  • No crotch liner/gusseting. This is a family-friendly blog, so I’ll let you make the connection…
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    Layer them, for sure.  To be fair, I don’t know that they’re necessarily meant for wearing on their own, but it’s 2018. People wear leggings as pants (though I only do when running), so you should be aware of this little issue.
  • A little thin. All around, I prefer thicker material on compression tights, but that’s personal preference. If you wanted to wear underwear with them and not wear a skirt or shorts on top, you’ll definitely want to wear them as a baselayer/under a skirt.

So, I give these tights a C. I’ll keep wearing them as a base layer and after long runs, but I probably wouldn’t buy them for myself. If you want to buy them, though, or check out other SKINS gear, click here (not an affiliate link. I’m just helpful like that).

Do you wear compression gear? Have you tried SKINS? 

 

Horsetooth Half Marathon Training, Week 1

Remember when I used to write training recaps? Perhaps more accurately, remember when I used to train? And then I got The Injury That Wouldn’t End, so I couldn’t train and didn’t blog. Well, (knock on wood) those days are over. I’ve got a race on the calendar and a training plan to get me there so I can race it, not just run it like I have the last few races.

Training kicked off last Monday. Before I get into the details of the week, I’ll give you some of my basic goals for this training plan and explain how it’s different from my pre-injury days:

  • 5-6 runs per week, with 1 day of cross training. My physical therapist has suggested NOT running 6 days a week, every week, just yet. So one week I’ll run 6 days, and the next I’ll run 5, replacing one run with a cross training session, most likely on the spin bike. My gym doesn’t have spin classes, but they do have spin bikes, and I can make my own workout via apps and Pinterest.
  • 3 days of strength training (or two days of strength + 1 of yoga).  I lost a lot of strength when I was injured, and I’m building that back. Plus, I need strength to prevent another injury and to power me up the hills of Horsetooth. Which brings me to…
  • Hills. All the hills. Because the course looks like this:
    Horsetooth Half Marathon Course Elevation Profile
    (source)
    I’ve got a combination of short hill repeats, long hill repeats, and hilly tempo runs on my schedule, and I’m trying to make my long runs as hilly as possible. The Fort Collins Running Club is hosting some training runs on the course, so I’m planning to hit a few of those, too.
  • Stretching, mobility work, and PT exercises. I do. not. want. to. get. injured. again. So I’m doing everything I can to avoid it. I recently read Ready to Run by Kelly Starrett (review coming soon-ish), and I’m devoting about 10 minutes per night to mobility stuff I learned from his book. I’m also still doing my physical therapy exercises almost every day to keep the old injury from sneaking back up on me.
  • Rest. Don’t worry when you see that there’s no rest day on the weekly recap you’re about to read. I fully understand the importance of rest and know that neglecting to rest is as bad as (or worse than) neglecting tough workouts. I’ve got some scheduled rest days and will not hesitate to take unscheduled ones if my body asks for them.

That’s the general idea. Here are the specifics from this week:

Monday: 3.1 easy miles plus four strides, followed by strength work.

Tuesday: Fartlek workout: 15-minute warm-up, 6 x 2-minutes at 10k pace with 2-minutes recovery, 15-minute cool down; 5.5 miles total. Followed by core work and stretching. Side note: This is what I wore. In January. In Colorado.
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Wednesday: Indoor cycling intervals for 30 minutes, then strength training.

Thursday: 6 easy miles, plus 4 strides, followed by core work and stretching

Friday: I had the day off (it was technically a teacher work day, but we can work from home), so I strength trained in the morning, then took a mid-day break from working and ran an easy 4.

Saturday: 5 miles easy. Neglected my core work because I was cold. Excuses, excuses.

Sunday: 10 miles. Thought I was choosing a hillier route than it was, but it was fun to explore a new-to-me loop. Plus it was an absolutely gorgeous day.
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Want to follow me on Strava? I don’t do much on it, but you can follow me here.

Total Mileage: 33.6

My other big goal for this training cycle is to see how fit and fast I can be compared to where I am now, not where I was three years ago. If I start comparing times and mileage to pre-injury, pre-move me, I’ll get down, and that’s silly. This is where I am, and who I am, today, and that’s okay. Here’s to Week 2!

What are you training for right now? Races? Adventures? Life?

How’s the weather where you are? Colorado is weird — 30 degrees one day and 60 the next.

One Word for 2018: Connect

For the last couple of years, I’ve forgone New Year’s resolutions in favor of the “one word” concept. Last year’s word was “stability,” and, as I wrote in my 2017 wrap-up post,  I feel like I made some progress with stability in my life last year. Over the last few weeks, as I looked ahead to 2018, choosing my one word was easy, as it’s something I’ve been lacking in the last year and a half since we moved back to the Front Range.

My one word for 2018, then, is “Connect.” Making new friends and deeper-than-work connections has been tough for me. I know this isn’t just a “me” issue — articles like this one and this one have popped up several time on sites I follow — and I know there isn’t an overnight solution, but that connection piece is missing in my life right now, and this year, I want to remedy that.

I also want to work on retaining and strengthening my existing relationships. Too often, I’ve gone without talking to my friends and family because I’m “so busy,” and I want to prioritize the people I care about.

As an introvert, I know that meeting this goal might be hard at times. It will mean saying “yes” to invites that I’d normally turn down because I won’t know anyone, or they’re for a weeknight, or whatever. It will mean extending invitations that might get turned down, and it will mean putting myself in situations outside my comfort zone. But the rewards (I hope) will be worth it.

What’s your New Year’s Resolution/goal(s)/word?

Any tips for making friends as a thirty-something without kids?

Reflections on 2017

At this time last year, as I looked back at 2016 and toward 2017, I chose a one-word intention for 2017: stability. As I wrote in last year’s year-end post,  2016 had been a year of change, and all I wanted for 2017 was to feel settled and stable, recommitting to old habits and forming new ones in everything from work to running to blogging to relationships.

As the five of you who still follow this blog have noticed, my blogging was anything but habitual and stable, and that’s kind of how the rest of my life felt, too, for much of 2017. Stabilizing was more of a process, and a slower one, than I anticipated.  I wrote in last year’s post, “I want to work on continuing to make this house feel like our home, through painting and completing lots of the other projects that need done. I want to meet people and build friendships  in our new community. I want to finish out this school year and immediately start working on making next year better, now that I’ll know how things are done and what is expected at my new school. . . . [regarding running,]  I literally need to focus on stability: strengthening, stretching, and foam rolling my muscles to keep this injury healing and prevent others from popping up.” Here’s how all of that went:

The House

Still a major work in progress. We got office furniture and new windows (holy expensive!) and window coverings, and Jordan painted our bathroom; the rest of the house is still waiting for fresh paint, new carpet, etc. It still doesn’t really feel like home to me, but I hope it’s getting there.

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New windows, new curtains. And a Christmas tree.
The Relationships

Also still a work in progress. I tried to start a running group, but that fizzled out due to a lack of interest (and I was as much at fault as anyone, often not showing up myself). I’m a true introvert, and building new relationships is hard for me, but this is an area in which I really want to improve. More on this in my New Year’s post, as this is going to be a big focus area for 2018.

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At least I have my Skirt Sports sisters!

The Work

 

This school year has been a bit better, but teaching is one of those always-changing, always-busy jobs, and while I got better about work-life balance this year, it’s still an area for improvement.

The Running

I was overly optimistic last December, when I wrote, “I think I’m finally recovering from this injury.” After several more setbacks, I finally got smart and went to physical therapy (in May. I’m a slow learner). Now, finally, I’m uninjured and working my way back into shape. Twenty-seventeen wasn’t much of a running year, but especially in the latter quarter of the year, I really honed in on my goal of stability, diligently doing my PT exercises, adding more strength and cross training, and zoning in on my running form. After a few more weeks of base building, I think I’ll be ready to actually start training again …  for real this time. Now I just need to settle on a goal race!

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Also needed for 2018: More trail runs!
2017 Highlights

While not everything in 2017 went as smoothly and stably as I’d hoped at this time last year, it was still a good year, and I don’t want to end this post sounding disappointed in myself or my 2017 — I’m not. Here’s a photo dump of some of the best parts of the year:

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February: Still injured, but placing in my AG at the Loveland Sweetheart Classic 4-Miler
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March: Climbing the Manitou Incline with colleagues to kick off Spring Break
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June: Skirt Sports Ambassador Retreat
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June/July: Southwestern Colorado trip (posts here, here, here, and here)

 

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July: Trip to see my parents… complete with trying to learn hula-hooping tricks
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October: Winning my AG at the Westy Half Marathon

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All year: More mountain time than I’ve had for a long time. This alone makes the move worth it!
And so ends 2017. Here’s to new friends, new adventures, and new growth in 2018!

What were the highlights of your 2017?

 

Westy Half Marathon Recap

Back in June, when my physical therapist told me not to run the Skirt Sports 13er, I was disappointed, to say the least. But when 3W Races let me transfer my entry to another race, I felt a little better — at least I hadn’t lost my registration fee. I chose to transfer to the Westy Half Marathon at the end of October, thinking that I’d have plenty of time to heal up and get back in shape.

I was half right. I’m 90% healed and healthy, but in shape I am not. In the weeks leading up to the race, my PT had approved long runs of 12, 13, and 14 miles, plus the barest semblance of speed work (I’m talking a few fartleks and hill repeats). I knew I was far from fast shape, but I was happy to be racing at all.

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Lining up. That sun was getting concerningly warm for the outfit I was wearing.

The race started at 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Not knowing how long parking and packet pick-up would take, J and I left home around 6:15 and arrived around 7 — much earlier than we needed to. Parking was a breeze, and packet pick-up took about 30 seconds. Luckily, the Westin across from the start line had warm bathrooms and comfy chairs. We hung out in there for a while, and then I headed out for a one-mile warm-up jog… on which I realized that my weather app had lied to me and my full tights and long sleeves were going to be a bit much for the warm Colorado sunshine. But there was nothing I could do about it now, so I shrugged, peed one more time, and lined up at the start.

Since I knew I wasn’t in speedy shape, I had a pretty simple race plan: run at or slightly faster than normal long run pace for the first half, then pick it up a bit from miles 7-10, and then, if I felt good, lay the hammer down for the last 5k. To help myself keep it easy, I lined up farther back than I normally would … which ended up being too far back, and I had to weave a little before I settled in. No matter: I just relaxed and enjoyed the lovely views as the trail wound through a nice little open space.

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Trying to settle in to a comfortable pace. Photo courtesy of 3W.

The course went up a small hill around mile 2, looped around the open space, and dropped back down, then left the open space for maybe half a mile of road running before rejoining the bike path. Miles 4-6.5ish were uphill, and those same miles repeated as 6.5ish-8, so running down was WAY more fun. I felt good at the half, so as planned, I kicked it up just a little, passing a few people as I went. I didn’t see many women ahead of me after the turnaround, but I didn’t want to think about racing just yet. I focused on relaxing, grabbing a drink at the aid station, and enjoying the downhill flow.

At this point, I started reeling people in. I passed a few men and kept a brown ponytail in my sights for a few miles. Finally, when we hit the same slight uphill at mile 11 that we’d hit at mile 2, I passed her. Mile 11 ended up being my fastest of the race, thanks to that little surge.

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Another photo courtesy of 3W Races

As I entered the final mile, the half course rejoined the 5k course, and I got stuck a few times behind some walkers. At that point, I was starting to tire, but still feeling pretty good, for being out of shape. The finish line loomed ahead, so I gave one last push and crossed in 1:41:35 — 10 minutes slower than my PR, but good enough for fourth place and first in my age group. Gotta love small races!

Even though this wasn’t a fast-for-me race, I’m happy with how it went. This was the smartest I’d ever paced myself — I usually go out too fast and pay for it later — and I’m hoping I can apply that lesson to future, more race-y races.

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I was too warm for the weather, but I LOVE these Three-Pocket Tights from Skirt Sports. If you like them too, use code FALL20WIN for 20% off.

The Westy Half is a delightful little race: about 150 runners, a beautiful course, a pint glass for AG placing, free photos, and the nicest volunteers and race staff you’ll ever meet. I’d run it again, for sure, and I highly recommend it as a great fall half!

What’s your best recent race story?

Are you a smart pacer, or do you start too fast like I usually do?

Slowly Bouncing Back

Every time I blog, I promise to post more regularly… and yet, this last gap between posts may be the biggest yet. I thought this school year would be better than last, now that I’ve been at my “new” school for over a year, but I’m still often drowning in a sea of grading, planning, and most of all, meetings. So. Many. Meetings.

That’s all, of course, just an excuse for not writing more. I need to prioritize it. But I started this post not to make excuses, but to update whatever readers I may still have, so here goes:

Running

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Slowly but surely, I’m feeling more like myself all the time. I’m back to 5-6 runs a week and got up to a 14-mile long run last weekend. I’m even running a half marathon tomorrow. When I got injured (read: finally admitted I was injured) and couldn’t run the Skirt Sports 13er, 3W Races let me transfer to another of their events: the Westy Half in Westminster. My recovery has been slow, and I’ve done no speed work for over a year, so my time will not be fast (for me), but that’s okay. It’ll feel good just to be out there.

I’ve been working with Jennifer Watson of Watson Wellness in Fort Collins, and I credit her with getting my running back to almost-normal. If you’re looking for a physical therapist in Northern Colorado, I can’t recommend her highly enough. I’m still seeing her once a month or so, and she’s helping to keep my body functioning.

I also need to acknoweldge that my strength training has been lacking. I think I need to rejoin a gym, as I’m just not doing the at-home stuff I should be, and even when I do, I don’t have heavy weights at home. Especially when it’s cold, I tend to run, come home, and get straight into the warm shower. I’m thinking that if I pay for a gym membership, I’ll be more likely to make myself go lift some weights. I’m looking at Anytime Fitness, since there’s one five minutes from my school and one being built about 1.5 miles from my house. Anybody know about Anytime? Are they worth the money?

Races

I’m starting to feel healthy enough to make longer-term racing plans. I’d really like to BQ again and head back to Boston in 2019, which means I need to run a spring marathon. I’m thinking Colfax in May; I did it once, years ago, liked it, and said I’d be back, but I haven’t run it since. My concern is the time that marathon training takes, which sounds crazy. I used to teach, train hard, and go to grad school. I don’t know if I’m really that much busier at this job or if I’m just out of the habit of scheduling long training sessions. I guess I’ll just have to make it a priority and get ‘er done!

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From my long run last weekend. Not a bad view. 

Other races I’m thinking about this winter/spring are the Yeti Chase in January, the Loveland Sweetheart Classic in February, and the Horsetooth Half in April. Those are all tentative, and we’ll just have to see how my fitness, budget, and calendar all work together to make them happen!

Life

Nothing all that exciting has been happening life-wise, just teaching and boring adult-type stuff. A couple of highlights, though:

  • Volunteering with Running Start.
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    The women of Running Start shivering before the race
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    …and my CSU socks. Gotta rep the alma mater!

    This charity pairs women who want to start running but have significant obstacles with women who have been running for a while, and they train for a 5k together. While my beginner got injured and couldn’t run the CSU Homecoming 5k (the graduation race), I still went, ran a bit with every pair, cheered at the end, and left proud and inspired. I definitely want to volunteer with Running Start again next year!

  • Fall hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park
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    A few weeks ago, on Jordan’s birthday weekend, we spent a day hiking in Rocky and playing in Estes Park. The colors were popping, the elk were bugling, and the day was beautiful; we thoroughly enjoyed our much-needed day away.

And that’s my life lately in a nutshell, I think. I will, for real this time, have some posts up more regularly; I’ve got a pair of tights I need to review and will have a race report up for Westy.

It’s good to be back in the blog world. Let me know what you’ve been up to!